The oft-repeated claim that priests cannot effectively advise people about sex and marriage is false.
Consider this: If you had a brain tumor, would you look for a cure from someone who has one and is dying of it, . . . or from someone who has studied neuromedicine thoroughly and has cured hundreds of patients?
If you have automobile trouble, do you consult a friend whose car has broken down, or take it to a qualified mechanic?
Likewise, If you had a marriage or sexual problem, would you really rather talk with someone who has never formally studied the matter but has had three failed marriages, or aborted a couple of children, or can’t stand their spouse, . . . or with someone who has never been married but has studied marriage and sex issues and had literally thousands of counseling talks with people bringing him or her a wide variety of moral dilemmas to consider?
Certainly, there are psychological counselors who have been married and can provide good advice, and people who have problems that don’t weigh on their conscience and don’t have deep moral implications can do very well by consulting them. But for people whose religious faith places a moral content on their sexual relationships, consulting a qualified minister seems to me their best option and a very good one indeed.
I know whom I would choose—and I am not a Catholic and don’t believe in requiring celibacy of ministers. The preference for someone who has studied something formally over someone who has practical experience but failed at the matter is simply common sense, and it is what we choose in any other realm. In this centrally important area, it makes all the more sense to go to the experts, regardless of their level of personal experience.