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The need for chastity in celibacy


A religious upbringing and my longing to be a priest
Brian Sewell Writer
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It was very central to my life. I was brought up by my mother as a Roman Catholic and my stepfather was an Anglican and rather anti-Catholic. So there was a conflict here, but I’d been baptised as a Catholic and was confirmed as a member of the Church of England. And even so, I felt myself to be a Catholic. I felt intensely involved with Catholic ritual and the Latinity of it, as it was in those days, because very little was in English and everything was… everything was made, as it were, remote and graceful and beautiful by being in Latin.

And I thought, very seriously at one… for quite a number of years, that I would like, more than anything else, to be a priest. And it affected my life in a way, because at the age of 18 or so, at school, I had been having sex with anybody who came along, and... it was a very sexy school, I have to say. I don’t think it’s the same nowadays, but everybody was constantly having sex with everybody else, singly and in groups, and it… anyway, that’s an aside. At the age of 18, I said to myself: I have to stop this. If I’m ever to think seriously about being a priest, if I’m to do anything about it, then I must get this devil under control. And so I tried, and I tried very hard, and it now sounds impossible, but with the exception of one man, I had no physical sex with anybody from the age of 18 to very nearly my 28th birthday. 

Born in England, Brian Sewell (1931-2015) was considered to be one of Britain’s most prominent and outspoken art critics. He was educated at the Courtauld Institute of Art and subsequently became an art critic for the London Evening Standard; he received numerous awards for his work in journalism. Sewell also presented several television documentaries, including an arts travelogue called The Naked Pilgrim in 2003. He talked candidly about the prejudice he endured because of his sexuality.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Latin, Latinity

Duration: 2 minutes, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2013

Date story went live: 04 July 2013