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Is it possible that my sins could keep me from the priesthood?

Greg asks:

Dear Fr Anthony,

I am slightly confused, and a little sad too. For a while I have been thinking that perhaps God was calling me to be a priest, but I have several problems. I have done some pretty bad things (but nobody knows). I've used the web to see bad things, and done other things. I went to confession for this, but I just keep doing it. I don't know why. I was just wondering whether this is a definite sign that God would not want me to be a priest.

Dear Greg,

The whole area of our sexual tendencies, our tremendous weakness there, is humiliating. Especially when we know it is wrong and can't figure out why, if we know, we can't, just can't seem to overcome the problem, or even get to the bottom of it.

The fact is we are weak. The fact is the devil tempts us. The fact is that having such easy and private access to things over the web brings out our weakness even more. The fact is there is tons of this going on around us. How can you ever hope to pull out of it?

Fortunately, there are steps that you can take.

First you have to pray right. Always tell God why you need his help. Every time you pray, or go to Mass and Communion, tell him you are too weak on your own to correct your problem. You need his help. Tell him you need him to change you on the inside so you will want what is right as well as knowing it is right.

Then you need help, you need to open up your problem. You really need to get a spiritual director and a regular confessor. Speak with him clearly about the type of problem you are facing. This might be hard to do at the beginning, so if you find it too difficult to just come out and say it, write it down and give it to him to read. Say, this is what I want to say but can't, I’m too ashamed and it’s humiliating. Once you take this first step the going gets much easier. We would prefer to be able to work through it on our own and not have to let another person know our weakness, but you have already seen how that doesn’t work.

Third thing to do is set up a system of accountability with him. If the main reason we fall is our weakness, we need to have something that will shore us up. Be very concrete and focus on what can make the most difference: get a good filter, keep a log of what you access on the net and show it to your spiritual director when you meet with him, be careful who you cyber with. Take care of this first. Once you do this, move on to taking care of the other things, your thoughts, etc.

You will also have to take a look at how you spend your time. Make sure there is a healthy mix in your day between school, work, sports, prayer, helping others, a hobby that makes you interact personally with others (music, band, for example), get involved in a youth group, etc. The more time you are on your own in front of your screen, the more likely you will give in. Find good friends. Do worthwhile and fun things together. Be busy. A lot of this problem can be just inside your head, and often all you need is some oxygen.

These points will help you get started. It will take some time to roll back the habits you have fallen into, but it is possible, many others have been able to do it before you. Once you start making progress in this area, then you can get back to thinking about the priesthood and take it up with your spiritual director.

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