In an earlier post on the subject I realized I may have made a mistake, to the extent I did not take all things into consideration as it concerns the vice of effeminacy in a cleric or religious, or at least the perception of, by the faithful.
That said, I remembered a very good, serious post on the subject I had come across about a year earlier. It relates to seminary training and the vice of effeminacy. It offers some very good information and practical advice.
This is an article that I wrote during my years of seminary formation but I was advised to wait to have it published until after my priestly ordination. It deals with a touchy subject, that will offend many involved in the work of seminary formation, but with the current atmosphere of scandals and talk of a more thorough screening process for seminarians, I believe it is a topic that must be dealt with. Sioux Falls is a rural farming diocese that is having great success in vocations with both numbers and quality and one of the consistent complaints or difficulties our new seminarians have had in adjusting to seminary life is the issue of effeminacy. The fact of the matter is they are not used to and are uncomfortable living in an environment that is often effeminate. Recently one of our seminarians from a farm family was embarrassed to say that he would not want his brother to visit his dorm because of the way the men acted on his floor. While not, perhaps, stating it in the most precise manner it was understood by all when he said that many seminarians on his floor, “acted like a bunch of women.”
Saint Thomas includes effeminacy under the vices opposed to perseverance. It is from the Latin Mollities, which literally means “softness.” Mollities is the verb used in 1 Corinthians 6:9 which deals with the sexual sin of sodomy. It involves being inordinately passive or receptive. It may be true that some cultural prejudices are being revealed here with this comparison because a vice is a vice, whether it is found in a man or a woman, but it is also true that some vices are more perverse or disordered when found specifically in men or women.
What Saint Thomas means by persevering is when “a man does not forsake a good on account of long endurance or difficulties and toils.” An “effeminate man is one who withdraws from good on account of sorrows caused by lack of pleasures, yielding as it were to a weak motion.” Thomas states that this effeminacy is caused in two ways. First, by custom, where a man is accustomed to enjoy pleasures and it is, therefore, more difficult for him to endure the lack of them. Second, by natural disposition, less persevering through frailty of temperament, and this is where Thomas compares men with women and also mentions the homosexual act of sodomy and the receiver in this act as being effeminate or like a woman. The vice of delicacy for Thomas considers those who cannot endure toils or anything that diminishes pleasure, and thus delicacy is a kind of effeminacy. Thomas quotes from Deuteronomy 28:56, “The tender and delicate woman, that could not go upon the ground, nor set down her foot for softness.” In priestly or seminary life we are not called to such softness, and these issues must be addressed in formation.
Saint Thomas also speaks on modesty concerning the outward movements of the body. Here, he quotes Saint Ambrose in stating that, “Beauty of conduct consists in becoming behavior towards others, according to their sex and person.” Thomas states that, “Outward movements are a sign of the inward disposition” and quotes Ecclesiastics 19:29-30, “You can tell a person by his appearance . . . the way a person dresses, the way he laughs, the way he walks, tell you what he is.” Saint Ambrose adds that, “The habit of mind is seen in the gesture of the body,” and that “the body’s movement is an index of the soul.” Ambrose goes on to say, “Let nature guide the movement: if nature fail in any respect, surely effort will supply the defect.” This effort is lacking in almost all seminary formation. Such things should be noticed and discussed by seminary faculty in both external and internal formation, as they can often be signs of deeper issues.
Saint Thomas, moreover, asserts the truth that it is often from our outward movements that other men form their judgment about us. Thomas encourages us to study our outward movements so that if they are inordinate in any way, they may be corrected. Such things need to be addressed in formation because they have a definite effect on our ability to be and bring Christ to others. Does the seminary deal with a seminarian that sways when he walks, who has limp wrists, who acts like a drama queen or who lisps? It must. This not about a witch hunt but being honest enough to admit that such external behavior affects our ability to share Christ. I knew a seminarian that spoke in a very effeminate manner, and to his credit he recognized this impediment to his future preaching the Gospel, and on his own sought help from a speech instructor. The seminary did not see this glaring problem and did not move this man to get assistance. That is the problem.
When we are at the altar or preaching the Gospel, we are Jesus Christ and must do our best to image him to our people. Anything we do that takes people’s attention away from this reality must be addressed. Over dramatic movements, purposeful lisps, swaying, in short, effeminate behavior removes attention from Christ and His word and puts it on the priest. This is not just distracting to other men but I know my sisters will roll their eyes when the Liberace-like priest celebrates himself while celebrating the Mass. - Continue reading here.