Like many young Catholics, I was never informed about anything useful about the Catholic Church. I was never told how it was formed, how it existed in the early years or the kinds of people it included. Nor was I told just how bizarre and constantly changing it was. One of the things I was never properly informed about was celibacy. In fact this joke was the closest thing I had to a rational explanation behind celibacy:
A joke about celibacy:
Pope John Paul II dies. He gets to Heaven and asks Saint Peter if he could look up the original version of the Bible because he’d always wanted to make sure the monks in the monasteries had copied it down precisely.
St. Peter says, “Certainly Pope John Paul II. Over there you’ll find the original manuscript of the Bible.”
John Paul II thanks him and off he goes to look at the manuscript. About 3 hours pass when all of a sudden, a loud cry and then sobs of moaning are coming from the room.
St. Peter rushes in and says, “What is wrong Pope?”
John Paul II says, “It says CELEBRATE… not CELIBATE…”
This joke (and the many variations of it) tells you something that I and many Catholic school children worked out intuitively: that celibacy is cruel and unusual punishment, even for the God who told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar. But besides this, this joke just perpetuates a whole bunch of myths that the Church seems to have no interest in informing people about, especially not it’s adherents. Here is my five favourite myths about Celibacy.
Myth one: Celibacy is in the Bible
Nope. It ain’t there. The bible says nothing about it. I know a lot of folks say that Corinthians I 7:1 explains that being a virgin is a good thing, but the next verse clarifies this to be the case if you’re unmarried. Besides, Jesus never commented on this topic and the most interesting thing of all: Peter, the first Pope, was married and had kids. The first pope was a married man with children. Think about that, also some of the other apostles were married too, so the Bible, if anything, says being married and a follower of Jesus is fine. That’s why most protestant clergy get married because the Bible tells them indirectly that it’s good.
Myth two: priests have always been celibate
Wrong. The first time celibacy came up was in 325 AD at the council of Nicea and it was quashed, no priest wanted it. In 692 AD at the Council of Trullo it was reasserted that priests had the right to marry. In fact it wasn’t until 1022 AD (priests couldn’t marry after taking their vows, but marriage before this was allowed) and later 1123 AD at the first Lateran Council that priests were finally forced into celibacy. Forced into it because the Pope wanted to keep property in the Church. Think of it this way, if a medieval man dies, his kids inherit his property. If the man is a priest then this is bad news because his property goes to the kids and not the Church. But with forced celibacy the dead priest’s assets go to the Church. In one generation the Catholic Church turned into a big cash cow. It was very easy too, what woman would want to marry a man who can’t give her children any inheritance? This legal change immediately struck all priests off the medieval eligible bachelor’s list and probably made them very lonely and grumpy.
Of course today it is still really important for the Church financially, with the billions of dollars the Church is giving away in settlements for sexual abuse of children in its care it just can’t afford to pay for the rent, food, necessities and education of the clergy’s wives, husbands and children. In short, celibacy was and is all about saving money and not about being more spiritual. I mean, birth control is condemned by the church why would they not want their clergy to reproduce?
Myth three: homosexuality is more harmful than celibacy
Cardinal Tarsicio Bertone, official spokesperson for the Pope, infamously came out and said “Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and pedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true. That is the problem.” Which would be great, except the opposite is actually true. Maybe he didn’t have his reading glasses on when he was doing his research?
Homosexuality is natural and has been observed in thousands of different species. Homosexual tendencies can be found in 46% of men, according to Dr. Alfred Kinsey, who also pointed out that 37% of men report having a homosexual encounter in their lives. The tiny proportion of men who never have sex (which includes masturbation) are usually severely handicapped. In fact, it is completely unnatural to not have sex, how does a completely asexual organism reproduce? Homosexuals at least have a part to play in the survival of species, but there is insufficient space in this article to cover that today.
However, if you want to know what a celibate society is like just google “Afghanistan’s dirty secret” and recoil in horror at a culture were half the men have sex with little boys because they can’t even be seen talking to women. In other words, without access to the natural sexual outlet of women, men start screwing little boys because they’re at least accessible.
Myth four: celibacy doesn’t include masturbation
Ok, I know what you’re thinking, if it wasn’t until 1123 that the Church prohibited priests from being married then they probably weren’t so demented as to make masturbation a crime. I mean, masturbation is one of the greatest single joys in life, what messed up sadist would want to take away such an innocent private joy such as the completely natural and harmless rubbing of ones own private parts?
Actually no, the Church has been against masturbation right from the start. In fact, unlike celibacy, masturbation is actually in the Bible and it’s a mortal sin. Genesis 38:9-10 makes it clear: if you masturbate you die. So yes, priests aren’t allowed to ever have any kind of sexual outlet. Even though sexuality is at the very core of being human.
Myth five: Catholic clergy are celibate
Rubbish. According to a recent survey 12% of priests have lovers and 30% have had sexual intercourse since taking their vows. Most priests want to get married and that’s only the priests who had the guts to own up to it in one country. The church hierarchy actually avoids promoting any priests who don’t toe the official line. This means that there can be no real change in church policy because only the conservatives are promoted to leadership positions. I know this because I read each and every dossier for the most recent appointments of cardinals by the current pope (there were about 60 of them) and for every liberal cardinal there were 20 conservative ones. The church is not a democracy, it says on its website that it is an absolute monarchy and it has a policy of making sure that all liberal voices are silenced like what happened in Queensland earlier this year.
The fact is, by forcing priests to be celibate the church can exercise absolute control over them. Without a family to support them individual clerics are threatened with the real danger of homelessness if they dare question the church’s policies.
To conclude, it is time Catholics woke up to the fact that their church isn’t a charity but a business that sells absolution and indulgences. It is greedy and obsessed with getting into new markets (missionaries) and to getting a monopoly on the faith market. It is brutal in its treatment of staff and the working conditions it forces on them. It is no wonder they turn into pedophiles under the inhumane pressure they are put under. Can you imagine a company that justifies torturing its employees on the grounds that they took a vow of poverty when they joined? Meanwhile the CEO is dining luxuriously in an Italian castle! For goodness sakes Catholics, the pope does not represent you. A representative is by definition elected by the people for the people, you don’t elect your pope and he is accountable to no one, not even to god. Stop taking this lightly, stand up and retake your church because it has taken you prisoner.