Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Marching up and down
A priest friend of mine suggests most priests are somewhere on the autistic spectrum, most of us are fairly 'functioning' but really we share a great number of autistic characteristics. He suggests that most of us tend to see things in black and white - maybe with a few shades of grey, that we tend to enjoy repetitive regime and shy away from the spontaneous, that we are not good at multi-tasking, that we tend to resent change, that we tend to be 'intellectual' rather than 'feeling', that we prefer to monologue rather than dialogue.
I must admit I have been inclined to agree with him, or simply to admit that living on one's own as a celibate, without a wife and family there is no-one to challenge one's behaviour and the nature of priesthood encourages introspection and solitude.
I was talking to a recently retired army officer about this recently, he was talking about marriage break up amongst the young officers he was training, what I described as some of the character traits of a celibate priest he saw as being present in army officers and soldiers generally adding, 'that is why they actually like marching up and down or a barracks full of correctly laid out kit'. Last night he phoned me to say he been talking to his brother a lawyer about our conversation, he recognised these things are present amongst male lawyers too, 'especially the bit about things being black and white, legal or illegal, some lawyers have an obsession with the abstract conception of truth'.
Talking to one of my parishioners who has been suffering with a long term minor illness, which causes him irritation rather than pain, I urge him to go to the doctor, he has been refusing, the bottom line seems to be that he can't be bothered with the 'fuss' of getting a doctor, making an appointment, talking about his lifestyle etc., I think my priest friend might suggest this was autistic behaviour. Thinking about it, it seems to be pretty characteristic of so many of the men who are homeless, for many there is help but they simply can't get it together to jump through the various hoops to get it.
One of my concerns in Brighton is the high rate of young men who commit suicide, without statistics to prove anything, just the accounts of family and friends, young men tend to kill themselves without discussing it whilst women tend to self harm are willing to get counselling or some kind of help. Invariably friends and family have said that they didn't think anything was seriously wrong when a young man is found dead but then men even if they have fallen apart inside tend to wash their faces brush their hair and carry on regardless until they can't any more.
Psychologists suggest that young men tend to be more prone to taking risks, I don't see that many young women skateboarding in the traffic on Brighton's main roads. We are attracted to danger, to risk, to the big idea. What I am trying to say is that what my priest friend describes as 'autistic' is actually just being a man. It is significant that what he regards it as being aberrant and he is not alone many educationalists, counsellors or psychologists would agree with him. Men like things simple and clear, we like things ordered and disciplined, we respond well to risk, complexity and subtlety tend to scare us.
I think that this is why the Traditional Mass and Traditional Catholicism appeal to men, it is not touchy feely, it involves discipline order, I say that as an aside, what I find concerning is that as society becomes more complex and there are more hoops to jump through more and more young men will find difficulty in coping.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake