I am a reality television hound but one new show I won’t be watching when it debuts on A&E on April 16 is a new show called God or the Girl. Here is the official blurp about God or the Girl from the A&E website:

This five-part documentary series follows four young men through the emotionally wrenching final weeks that lead up to the most important decision of their lives – whether to become Catholic priests or not. Traveling with his brother to the Catholic celebration of World Youth Day in Germany, Joe also looks forward to reconnecting with Anna, the love of his life. In Columbus, Dan leads his youth group of high schoolers in protest prayer outside an abortion clinic, sparking a conflict with pro-choice college students. Mike is thrilled to see soul mate and girlfriend Aly, but her visit exacerbates tensions with his mentor, Father Pauselli. And Steve makes a nerve-wracking journey home, finally telling his best friends about his aspirations toward the priesthood.

Is God or the Girl being intentionally offensive and provocative by premiering on Easter Sunday this year? Is there anything wrong with the dramatic setup for God or the Girl? I’m not Catholic but the idea of this show — the title God or the Girl alone — sickens me as being tasteless and unnecessary and rather cruel to True Believers of the Catholic faith.

Will God or the Girl cheapen the process of becoming a priest? I was taught young men who dedicate their lives to the priesthood were Called By God to that role. When you are Called to serve Him — as an uncle of mine was similarly Called to serve the Episcopalian church as a priest 45 years ago — it is a serious certainty that leaves zero room for doubt: If you doubt your Calling then it is not God who has called you.

The young men in the God or the Girl reality show — just by reading the description of the show alone — are already doubting and bleeding and rotten and uncertain and slosh-footed in their resolution to join the priesthood. Is the Catholic Church that desperate to accept them? The television commercials promoting God or the Girl show most of the young men in tears of hysteria as they struggle with their choice between intimacy with a woman and a life serving the Lord. Just watching the promos for the God or the Girl one cannot help but wonder how those young men could ever be true priesthood material.

I also wonder if the Catholic Church was formally involved in the God or the Girl. I cannot imagine the Church would approve of such meandering uncertainty about the priesthood in a time of crisis begging the Last Days and full of waffling change and wallowing self-pity. The Catholic Church demands dedication from, and offers absolution to, its young priests and to doubt that covenant before the relationship even begins cannot beg a harbinger of determined lifetime resolution to come.

Would a show like God or the Girl be more effective or less effective if Catholic priests were allowed to marry and to raise families — or is the impending vow of celibacy the engine that drives the drama, conflict and irrevocable change in this television reality program?

27 Comments

  1. I am not a Catholic, in fact I am not a very ‘’religious/ ritualistic’’ person by nature. I write ‘’Hinduism’’ in place of religion where it is needed, otherwise my identity will be jeopardized.
    I haven’t watched the ‘’show’’ either.
    But this ‘’God or girl’’ seems to be an eternal and universal tension on earth, more or less in every religion. Wanting to be with the ‘’girl of his’’ is a normal phenomena for any human being, why is it assumed/ viewed/ suspected as a hindrance to perform the service of God?

  2. Hi Katha —
    I am not religious, either, and I am not Catholic — but a lot of my friends and people I respect are deeply religious so I have some exposure to the central argument of this reality show and the possible ramifications it could have throughout the Catholic church.
    The show has not been on yet. It will debut on Easter Sunday.
    I agree choosing between God and a woman is a universal tension — but when those who are called to the priesthood by God the idea of doubting that calling – as demonstrated in the television series — is a break in the covenant of the Lord and a mandate for service.
    If you are truly called to serve then why would you ever stop to doubt that calling in the form of a woman?
    The idea of the show then seems to be these young men THINK they have been called by God to serve as Catholic priests and they are torn between bodily desire and eternal dedication to the Holy Spirit – and that is an interesting tearing of the spirit — but in my limited catechism that is not a calling at all but rather a misunderstanding of the forces at work in nature and, by default, the Catholic church would never even allow them to begin the process of priesthood because they are doubters instead of determined believers.

  3. Oh, and for those who may not know — the Catholic church currently does not allow its priests to marry or to engage in sexual relations or to father children (at one time in history priests were allowed to marry and have children) – priests today are required to take a “Vow of Celibacy” that requires that dedication:
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03481a.htm
    There is also a poverty vow:
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12324a.htm
    Women are not allowed to be ordained priests in the Catholic Church.
    http://www.womenpriests.org/default.asp

  4. Ok, now I got it.
    You are right, if I have to choose one (either God or my partner) in my life, if that is mandatory and I agree to choose God – then there should be no melodrama over it because then I am doubting my faith and I am not clear to my own conscience.

  5. Right!
    There may be something more political going on though, in that the church might enjoy this crises of faith in the television show because it demonstrates straight men who want to be priests — and that does battle, on a Public Relations front, the ongoing notion some share that some priests in the Catholic church are Gay because, the notion goes, only Gay men would give up sex with a woman and to live the rest of their lives with other men.
    There was a time in the history of the Catholic Church where priests were allowed to marry and have children — but then the idea of property and death and who owned what became really sticky and the Vow of Celibacy was set in place by the Pope to rectify that problem. Single men with no children leave no property or church assets for others to claim in the event of their death.

  6. Hi David,
    I saw the commercials for God or the Girl on A&E yesterday and thought it looked like something I might check out.
    Since I haven’t heard much about the show — The Da Vinci Code is getting more attention lately from religious people debating popular entertainment — I decided to take a look to see what the Church might be thinking about God or the Girl.
    While it isn’t necessarily the official position of the church, the Catholic News Service gives a good indication of what church leaders are thinking. A CNS article was written by Harry Forbes, director of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, reviewing the new A&E show.
    Here’s what Forbes wrote for the CNS:

    Apart from the slightly sensational title — actually a misnomer as none of these devout men would ever consider abandoning God — the series created by Darryl Silver, Stephen David and David Eilenberg and executive-produced by Silver and Mark Wolper offers a surprisingly reverential treatment of a profound life passage.
    In its essentials, the series is as serious-minded as a public television documentary on the subject, albeit fitted out with all the trappings of “Survivor.”

    We won’t ruin the surprise of which of the four (if any) actually decides to enter the seminary, but the filmmakers have done all in their power to hook viewers, with standard pre-commercial teases and cliffhanger closes. And if those methods build a large audience for such an atypically religious-based series, then why not?

    An occasional crass expression and a few sexually related words and innuendo are the only flags among otherwise unobjectionable content.

    It looks like it could be a great show. Answering the call to become a priest is a spiritual subject that hasn’t been depicted in a television show. Turning your back on the pleasures of the world to live a life of material poverty in service of the Lord has to be a huge decision in today’s society where priests are often viewed with suspicion as much as reverance.
    There is a great shortage of priests, so maybe a show that gives insight into the process of becoming a priest will be good for the Church.
    Men who are considering the priesthood might be strengthened by a show about the choice of abandoning many of the pleasures of the world in order to answer God’s calling.

  7. As is the case with most things in life, there is always an exception to any rule.
    There are some married priests in the Catholic Church.
    It’s rare, but there is a special dispensation that allows married Episcopalian ministers to become priests.
    Writes Father William P. Saunders:

    The promise of celibacy is waived as a favor to those married clergy, given their particular circumstances and their desire to unite with the Catholic Church. However, the Holy Father has repeatedly affirmed the discipline of celibacy on Roman Catholic clergy of the Latin Rite. (Outside the United States, the Eastern Rites do not require the promise of celibacy except for bishops.)

  8. Hi Chris —
    I can see the value in the program from a “we have straight priests” POV for the church. That helps them a great deal. The title of the show — which, if you go on the A&E website is now “Registered” — is offending to me as a non-Catholic! I find it unnecessarily provocative in a bad way and while that title may titillate viewers into watching the show, I would hope the church would honor the difference between promotion and promise.

  9. Hey Chris —
    I know there are a few married priests in the church now — but is there an instance when a young man entered the Roman Catholic priesthood – took his vows — and then later married and had children and was permitted to stay ordained in the church in America?

  10. David,
    I think celibacy or abstinence can be practiced consciously, it can be restrained, controlled, if one wants to. If a human being doesn’t feel any kind of physical urge (be it straight, gay, lesbian……whatever…) then he/ she is not complete and according to Hinduism an incomplete person is not eligible to choose the path to serve God or spirituality. It is said/ known that this energy or power is channeled through a different direction to Spirituality.
    If one chooses to follow the path there should be no repentance.
    Regardless of being ‘’straight’’ or ‘’gay’’, I think the urge of getting sexual gratification is there for every human being which is very normal – only the method varies. Sacrificing the normal life for a greater cause is always applauded and it should be. Whether it is right or wrong, whether there should be any conflict between leading a normal life, getting married and practicing religion – that is a separate question.
    If any institution has to propagate/ publicize the fact then it automatically creates suspicion.

  11. Hi Katha —
    Thank you for sharing your interesting information.
    Some claim the Catholic Church marries its Nuns to Jesus and that marriage is fulfilling in every way — including sexual satisfaction. If you see a Nun wearing a ring on her wedding finger, she is one who has “married” Jesus.
    Others argue, especially in the case of priests, a vow of celibacy does not lead to zero sexual activity — it leads to sexual abuse: If you turn the desire inward and repress the powerful sexual urge, it seeps out of the body in unwanted behaviors.
    Other still argue that the Holy Communion — bread as body and wine as blood — and that exchange between priest placing a communion wafer on the tongues of his parishioners is a way of finding great sexual satisfaction between priest and God. The vessel in sharing “the body of Christ and the blood of Christ” is found in those kneeling before the priest. Some parishioners prefer to receive their communion wafer in their hand and not their tongue as you can reason why.

  12. Hi David,
    There are differences in practicing Hinduism too. The concept of the symbolic marriage with God is also there. One principle perceives the concept of sexual act as a way of spiritual union. Others channel this energy to Spirituality through meditation – they don’t encourage sexuality.
    I find all these differences very fascinating!

  13. Hi David,
    I don’t know if the church will ever let a priest be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest, then get married. I wonder if things will change if the priest shortage worsens.
    I had never heard of communion described as it was above. That’s pretty freaky!
    Eucharist is designed to transform us into the Body of Christ.
    Per American Catholic:

    In the Communion Rite, the petition of the Eucharistic Prayer is accomplished: We who eat and drink his Body and Blood are transformed into that Body. We become Christ’s presence in the world. We are commissioned to go forth to continue the mission of Christ to reconcile all things to his Father.

  14. Oh, and not to insult you any more than you may already be Chris…
    😀
    My friend was also much more graphic in his explanation of the communion ritual as sexual escapade than I am being here, but if you imagine the ritual from the innocent parishioner view and then analyze the experience again with an dispassionate and disinterested deconstructing Freudian eye – the scene is set with the parishioner kneeling before the priest, the open mouth of the parishioner, the tilting back of the head, the extension of the wet tongue waiting for delivery, the placement of a “body part” in the guise of a communion wafer on the trembling tongue by the priest towering above the subservient parishioner… and you can begin to see if a priest privately chose to use that ritual as a sexual fantasy or sexual release in the service of God… it would not be all that hard to accomplish.

  15. David!
    This reminds me of Sophie Nevue and the sexual ritual in which her Grand Pa was a participant and that caused the life long rift between them……..
    At times, truth is too hard to digest.

  16. Sorry about the previous post, it conveyed a wrong message.
    The sentence was supposed to be like this – Sophie Nevue and the sexual ritual she observed in which her Grand Pa was a participant and that caused the life long rift between them

  17. Very interesting connection, Katha!
    Patterns of behavior — when viewed semiotically, and not ritualistically — can reveal new truths that were previously inconceivable in relationships and images that were invisible to the eye and unimaginable to the mind before the analysis.

  18. I see it more and more. We as a society are hurting for true “belief”. I don’t mean spiritual alone, I mean belief in anything, values, self, law, spirituality, hell, even financial security. Everything seems transitive these days. The sad state of our media services, both fact based and entertainment mirrors this.
    People tend to think that spiritual faith is tailorable to them alone, which goes against the whole belief in faith. To tailor something till it fits denies belief, even in laws of man. I can’t go and tailor the alcohol laws just because I feel that I should be able to be drunk in public or drink and drive.
    I have always said, If you are a Catholic then be a Catholic, if you are a Budhist then be a Budhist, if you are an athiest then be an athiest, if you are a Scientologist then go hang out with Tom Cruise and leave me the hell alone.
    It is belief that often gets us through the day, it is the lack of belief that makes the world uncertain. In the movie Serenity, Sheppard Book tries to get Mal to believe. When Mal says he has no time for God, Book asks him why he always thinks he is talking about God when he mentions belief.
    Shows like the one you describe just show how far our lack of belief has gone. To think that someone would be about to make that kind of a lifetime commitment to be a spiritual leader to hundreds or thousands of belief seekers and not only has not yet come to terms with his decision, but then allows his lack of belief to be broadcast for the world is just insane.
    I for one would feel cheated if I were a Catholic and this guy was put into my Diocese.

  19. Eban!
    It is delightful to hear from you. I always enjoy your writing and I know you put a lot of time and effort into your comments and, for that, I thank you!
    You make a beautiful and engaging argument and you point out the obvious point I missed: What if a young man starring in “God or the Girl” does become a priest and then must face a congregation full of expectation and non-doubting, committed, belief.
    They would eat him alive and, perhaps, even brand him as uncertain or unwilling. The doubt in those hoping to be led gives great pause to matters of trust, certainty and desire to the cause.

  20. Hi David,
    Re the information from the professor at UTS:
    I’m glad that the procedure has been changed from the past. I wonder if what you described was a factor in the changed that happened after Vatican II.
    It is routine to have male and female lay eucharistic ministers participate in the distribution of the host and wine. Most people use the hand over hand method and kneeling isn’t required. Also, it is routine for most people to skip the communal wine chalise in these days of SARS, influenza, etc.

  21. Hey Chris —
    When I grew up on the Methodist Church we had small “shot glasses” of grape juice each person would drink and a cut up cube of bread that was distributed “cocktail party” style with each piece of bread pierced on a toothpick. I suppose that was a relatively clean delivery system from a Public Health standpoint now that I think about it…
    The Roman Catholic services I visited in Nebraska long ago and the Bronx recently were fully traditional with a communal wine chalice with wine and kneeling and wafers place on the tongue.
    In my church you could go to the front altar and take traditional communion with kneeling and communal drinking if you wished but it was mainly the small children and the elderly who made that choice.