Godly Sex

October 12, 2006 | By | 12 Replies More

On a lark, I looked up celibacy as it pertains to Roman Catholic priests.  OK, not on a lark.  I am a recovering Catholic, 35 years in remission.  But back to my story.  I had heard that many priests are actually married.  I wanted to know more.  Here’s what about.com has to say:

You aren’t likely to hear a great deal about married Roman Catholic priests, but they do exist. First there are the priests who are part of the Eastern Catholic Churches, also known as the Eastern Rite, who can be found in places like the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, the Ukraine, and other nations along the border between Western and Eastern Christianity. These churches are under the jurisdiction of the Vatican and they recognize the authority of the pope; however, their practices and traditions are much closer to those of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and one of those traditions is allowing priests to marry.

They are Roman Catholic priests and many are married – so many, in fact, that some estimates place their number at around 20% of all Roman Catholic priests in the world. This would mean that 20% of all Roman Catholic priests are officially and legally married, even though celibacy continues to be a requirement. But marriage is not limited to priests who are part of the Eastern Catholic Churches – we can also find about 100 Catholic priests in America who are married and who are part of the Western Catholicism that comes to mind when most think of Roman Catholicism.

I’m naive about many religious customs, I’ll admit.  But I’ve never heard that marriage has been an impediment to those 20% of priests doing their jobs.  If being married were a problem, the Church would have cut those married priests loose, right?  But they are still priests.

Despite the good productivity of all of those married priests, the Catholic church adamantly refuses to allow unmarried priests to get married.  What’s really going on?  I can almost predict that Jason Rayl would (correctly) jump in to remind me that the church sees the human body as naughty–especially the sex organs–and they just can’t bear to think of the remaining 80% of their priests doing those naughty kinds of things.  Those priests might find it pleasurable to have sex with a woman.  And then … and then… they might do it again and again.  And then–God forbid–the nuns would want it too.  These disturbing thoughts would certainly keep the highest ranking clergy up all night, soaking in their own panicky sweat, pondering the images of their subordinates home in their cozy beds cuddling with their spouses. Despite the fact that this sort of thought didn’t apparently bother St. Peter, who was married.

Or is it that the high clergy can’t bear to think of all of those priests being influenced by wives?  Good grief!  Those wives might convince their priests husbands that it’s OK to use birth control to decide when and if to have babies.  They might convince their husbands that women shouldn’t be second-class citizens in the church.  And Jesus said (somewhere, I’m sure) that women are “second-class citizens.”  I think it’s somewhere in St. Paul’s writings.

It wasn’t until 1139, with the Second Lateran Council, that celibacy was made mandatory for all priests.  But there were many exceptions to that rule.  Quite a few “exceptional” popes, as it turns out.

Check out the Wikipedia article on Pope Alexander IV, for example.  He was Pope for ten years, starting in 1492. This guy’s rap sheet was extensive–it makes me wonder who listens to the confessions of Popes.  This excerpt will give you an idea of how bad things got:

But it was not long before his passion for endowing his relatives at the church’s and his neighbours’ expense became manifest. To that end he was ready to commit any crime and to plunge all Italy into war. Alexander VI had four children by his mistress (Vannozza dei Cattani), three sons and a daughter: Giovanni, Cesare, Goffredo (or Giuffre) and Lucrezia.

That youngest daughter was really special.  Lucrezia ended up marrying “Giovanni Sforza, lord of Pesaro, the ceremony being celebrated at the Vatican Palace with unparalleled magnificence.”  Wikipedia even shows us a Janet-Jacksonesque painting of Lucrezia, one that no doubt made her pop proud.  Oh, Lordy!

I know several Catholic fellows who are currently married, guys who were each in the seminary until they were tempted to leave as a result of the charms of members the fairer sex. I suspect that they would each give up their psychologist, letter carrier, lawyer and teacher jobs so that they could lend a hand to their morally misguided Church in a leadership capacity–if only priests were allowed to marry.  It sure seems like the Church could use some new blood. Most Catholics I know think of it as a good Sunday as long as their priest’s sermon is not insulting or boring.  That’s an incredibly low bar for men who supposedly serve as God’s special representatives on Earth.

I’ve been told “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic.”  If that’s true, I’ve never really left the Church.  Yet I won’t be in a position to help out if the marriage ban is lifted, since I don’t believe in things like virgin birth, walking dead people, cannibalistic ceremonies or that Big Fatherly Fellow who condemns many of his children to everlasting torture. Such things simply don’t have a ring of truth to me.  Other than those belief-impediments, though, I too would be there to lend a hand as a married cleryman, I can assure you.

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Category: American Culture, Psychology Cognition, Religion, Reproductive Rights, Sex, Whimsy

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (12)

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  1. Askkaren2 says:

    I found your article interesting and thought provoking, however, I am not sure why you have a question regarding what the Catholic church requires from their clerymen if you don't believe in, as you put it "the big fatherly fellow"….I affectionately refer to Him as My Father, My Lord, My Savior and so many other wonderful names. It touches my heart deeply when I read or hear someone that doesn't know who God is or believe that He is.

    Oh my heart hopes and prays that you come to know Him. It's a depressing thought to me and a hopeless exsistence for me if I believed that human kind began because of some masvie explosion in the heavenlies.

    Beloved, I came to the realization a long time ago that you can not read the bible with your natural mind, because without the revelation of who God is and what He came to earth to accomplish; The bible would appear to be a wonderful book with a collection of fanciful stories. When you get the revelation of who God truly is straight from the heart of God, everything becomes new and your life will change. I believe with my whole heart that the bible is the inspired word of God and that he never intended to send people to hell., not at all, you see hell was created for satan and his angles…that's why the bible tells us to choose this day who you will serve. With that said here is my comment….

    Regarding priest marrying? I would rather they marry than fall into sin that would not only destroy their lives, but destroy the lives of others. Be encouraged God is always near….

  2. Jason Rayl says:

    One response to Erich, one to Askkaren.

    To Erich: the celibacy issue came about as a combination of concerns, and just like the Crusades the economic concern, which solidified the decision, didn't end up in many of the documents. The church was concerned with inherited office, just like any other temporal power. Sons of bishops stood to inherit a great deal in some areas. It was simpler to make it illegal for priests to marry so there could be no confusion over who actually owned church property–mainly, the office itself. Bastards rarely inherited anything anyway.

    Over time, the custom acquired all the other less worldy arguments to sustain it–that it is a distraction to the truly devout to love another human being and be committed to them when one must be committed utterly to god. Of course exceptions have been made. You ought to look into the deal cut in Africa, where the Catholic Church allows that the situation is such there that such a rule would be impossible to enforce.

    To Askkaren–in other words, once one has a psychotic break with reality, the "truth" of scripture becomes clear? Why would god play so cruel a trick on people after having given them an intellect with which to unlock the very nature of the universe? The natural mind, as you call it, is all we have. We can distort it, damage it, twist it, and alter it so that once trustworthy perceptions no longer match up with the world. Whenever you make the argument that someone must surrender reason to understand, you are talking nonsense. If what is being "not understood" is not amendable to reason, it's probably nonsense.

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    Askkaren writes: "It’s a depressing thought to me and a hopeless exsistence for me if I believed that human kind began because of some masvie explosion in the heavenlies." Please, Askkaren, read and comment on my post about this very subject: http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=362.

  4. grumpypilgrim says:

    As a non-Catholic (and non-Christian), I've always wondered why celibacy is a requirement for priesthood. To me, denying one of life's most basic drives is utterly bizarre and unnatural, and I don't understand why something bizarre and unnatural would be God's will. Absent a very twisted interpretation of the New Testament, why do some Christians focus so much attention on, for example, the "unnatural" concepts of abortion or same-sex relationships, while ignoring the equally unnatural concept of celebacy?

    The answer, of course, is that the Catholic church has elevated its own traditions to a theological status equal to that of the Bible, and Catholic traditions say that celebate priests are holy, while abortion and same-sex relationships are not.

  5. Jason Rayl says:

    I'd rather everything started with a massive explosion (which is grossly inappropriate description of the Big Bang, but one we may be stuck with for some time) than from some all powerful magician going "Abracadabra, allikazam, give me a universe 'cause I am that I am!"

  6. John says:

    Yet the big bang theory is not all its cracked up to be. It is not as solid as many like to think. For example, according to the big bang, the universe ought to be evenly distributed. But it is not. So scientists had to develop the theory of dark matter. As far as I know dark matter has yet to be proven.

  7. Dan Klarmann says:

    The evenly distributed from the monobloc idea has too many flaws. Any colloidial solution with attractive particles will clump at its earliest opportunity, no matter how perfectly even it started out. The quark soup of the first few hours of Big Bang type expansion would have begun clumping before it was cool enough for hydrogen to form. That's simple chaos math.

    As for dark matter, that theory is necessary to describe the way that the rate of expansion appears to be changing over the last few billion years. It has nothing to do with the clumping.

    I'm still a skeptic on dark matter. I prefer the competing theory (not mine) that there is a sub-factor of the gravitational constant that changes with age (or maybe inter-galactic mass density). This is a modification to Newton about as subtle compared to General Relativity as GR was to Newton's original. And it doesn't require defining a new class of imperceptible matter. Can you say, "Aether"?

    We may have an answer on these subtleties in the next few decades.

  8. Jason Rayl says:

    Actually, you're a bit behind. Unevenness in the expanding universe is part of the picture, even without dark matter. Check out Brian Greene's recent book, The Fabric of the Cosmos.

    The fact is, though, that even an incomplete picture based on a working theory is superior to a completely unobtainable picture based on wishful thinking–um, faith. That elements of what theory told us we should find given the basic premise have proven to be true goes further in suggesting the theory is valid than all the fervant devotion can ever do for an assertion without the possibility of (material) proof.

  9. grumpypilgrim says:

    To John's comment about the Big Bang theory, I have some knowledge of space physics and yet have never understood why some cosmologists suggest that the universe should be evenly distributed. I am not aware of any explosion that produces a uniform distribution of debris; therefore, an uneven distribution of matter in a Big Bang-created universe seems perfectly reasonable to me. Furthermore, even if matter might have been evenly distributed at the very beginning, the expansion of the Universe seems, logically, to have been chaotic, which would seem to me to distrupt any initial uniformity. The notion is similar to that of a butterfly fluttering in Bolivia changing the path of a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean. Even tiny disuniformities in the early universe could easily lead to very large disuniformities in today's universe. At least, so it seems to me.

    However, all of this is well outside the scope of my expertise, and John's as well, I would suppose. It is also well outside the scope of Erich's initial post.

  10. John says:

    I would say that, in all reality, just about every thing on this website is beyond anyone's expertise. The point is that the big bang theory still is not agreed upon as a single uniform theory by any scientists or lay person as

    the above replies suggest. The big bang, evolution, and the old age of the earth are all pontificated and hyped with certainty through the press with many made up or hypothetical situations shown to the public including our children. But this is intellectual robbery because the definition of science has been hijacked by those who fail to see the difference between observational science or operational science and origins science. Just look at the most recent claim that embryos in the very process of dividing were found fossilized in rock claimed to be 550 million years old. Here is what one researcher had to say.

    "It is amazing that such delicate biological structures can be preserved in such an ancient deposit," said Professor Xiao.

    Exactly! Amazing indeed!

    "The fact that you can catch cells in process of division or in the process of dividing is astonishing because we are talking about little blobs of jelly," said Whitey Hagadorn of Amherst College in Massachusetts, who led the study.

    That is astonishing! A half a billion years and still preserved. When the thinking mind looks at the data, they do not suggest millions of years could have preserved structures like that. How could little blobs of jelly be preserved with such detail under the slow processes that supposedly led to their fossilization? But it does make sense, if one believes in catastrophism, as even some evolutionists are admitting. This is just one of the many cases where the evidence actually supports the Biblical model. We would predict that under a catastrophic event such as a world wide flood, some things would be buried and fossilized very quickly.

    Read on:

    "Inside, the team found kidney-shaped structures which they believe could be nuclei or other subcellular components.

    Most look like modern-day blastocysts — little balls of cells that are formed soon after conception. These early embryos divide, but not in perfect timing says the article."

    The half billion year old cells look like modern day blastocysts. Exactly what you would predict under the biblical model.

    Just look how the media spins the facts and makes a sensational story in the first line:

    "Six hundred million years ago, in what is now China, a small, sponge-like animal laid eggs that started to divide into embryos."

    Now read the last sentence, hidden at the end of the story:

    "Hagadorn said no one knows what kind of animals would have grown from these embryos, but guessed it might be a sponge-like creature."

    This is the kind of journalism that people are gobbling up and believing that all of this is a sure thing.

    The Bible says that God strethed out the heavens. This correlates well with an expanding universe. It amazes me that some would rather believe that the universe started from a giant, pointless explosion, and will end in a pointless last breath, than believing that a Creator created the universe and gave humans a reason for living with eternal implications. It must comfort them to think that they will not have to give an account of themselves on the day of judgement. But that doesn't mean that they will not have to.

  11. Erich Vieth says:

    John:

    I’ve enjoyed the back and forth between you and several of our authors. I won’t comment on your entire previous comment, but I will focus on your denouement:

    It amazes me that some would rather believe that the universe started from a giant, pointless explosion, and will end in a pointless last breath, than believing that a Creator created the universe and gave humans a reason for living with eternal implications. It must comfort them to think that they will not have to give an account of themselves on the day of judgment. But that doesn’t mean that they will not have to.

    This passage begins with a blatant non-sequitur.  Whether meaningful things can evolve from things that don't appear to have meaning is a serious topic bolstered by much investigation and evidence in support.  You can't simply brush Mr. Darwin off the table with one simple swipe. 

    Nor do I agree with your assumption that the universe would be “pointless” without a God to begin it all. How it all began has nothing to do with the organizational structures and the emotional relationships we now see in higher organisms such as human animals. Dolphins and chimpanzees don’t believe in God, but there are thousands of recorded instances where things matter to these animals (and also, of course, to human animals). They stick up for each other and they care for their young. Life is not “pointless” to them.

    To the extent that you’re arguing that it takes God to infuse the sense of meaning that these other animals experience, you are suggesting something that no experiment can prove or disprove—in other words, you are making a claim that is devoid of meaning.

    I won’t be so presumptuous as to assert the non-existence of God as bluntly as this site. Similarly, though, I must question your own certitude that there is a God, in the absence of clear evidence. Yes, maybe there is one God. Maybe there’s no God. Maybe there are 87 Gods. If there’s only one God, maybe it’s Allah or maybe it’s a Fellow named “Fred,” whose sacred writings haven’t yet been discovered.

    Things aren’t more likely true just because someone (in this case, you) asserts them with persistence, creativity or energy. In my experience, the more energy I see someone spending to try to convince others of something, the more likely the thing is not true. When something is as obvious as you suggest, one only needs to whisper it once and everyone gets it. When something is obviously true, there is no need to indoctrinate children (e.g., the method displayed in the new movie, “Jesus Camp”) or to repeat the basics to adults Sunday after Sunday. There’s certainly no need to threaten people when the thing is palpably true, as you do when you warn us of the “day of judgment.” Really, John, there’s not need to threaten us with eternal damnation to get a point across, if there’s really any validity to your point.  In all sincerity, what's the difference between commanding someone to assert something he doesn't believe at the barrell of a gun or under the threat of going to hell?  In my mind, there's no difference.

    One more thing. Asserting that “God” is responsible for the universe doesn’t “explain” anything. “God” is a word, not an explanation. God becomes an explanation only to the extent that one can claim to understand God in a nuts and bolts way (“God is Love” doesn’t cut it). Some believers claim to know God, but I would side with the many believers who consider such a claim to be blasphemy. Can an un-dissected God inspire? Yes, absolutely. But a simple reference to "God" can’t explain.

  12. Jason Rayl says:

    "I would say that, in all reality, just about every thing on this website is beyond anyone’s expertise. The point is that the big bang theory still is not agreed upon as a single uniform theory by any scientists or lay person as the above replies suggest. The big bang, evolution, and the old age of the earth are all pontificated and hyped with certainty through the press with many made up or hypothetical situations shown to the public including our children. But this is intellectual robbery because the definition of science has been hijacked by those who fail to see the difference between observational science or operational science and origins science."

    Well, according to that, no one gets to have an informed opinion about anything. Where to start?

    Firstly, your opening line is an attack on another person's authority to disagree with you. Being unable to refute the argument on its own grounds, attack the arguer, deny authority, make it a superlative that includes yourself (since that implies sincere modesty) and then dismiss the argument as just a fantasy.

    Secondly, which scientists are you talking about who do not agree with the Big Bang et al? The only competing scientific theory to the expansionist view is the Steady State view, which has all but been discredited, especially since Fred Hoyle's death. Steady State is not supported by observation.

    The age of the Earth is not hypothetical, but well-established.

    Evolution is also well-accepted by the scientific community. The only thing not yet nailed down is the mechanism, not the fact that it happens.

    The press, by the way, usually gets it wrong and mis-states it, often, thus confusing the issue.

    Science is a method, not a definition. Observational science, Operational science, and Origin science are labels with no meaning since they are part and parcel of the same methodology. (By the way, just what is "operational science"? Do you mean technology? That's not science, but a by-product of science.) If anyone has done any "hikacking" it has been the "Creation Science" people, some of whom are scientists but who, for some reason, elect not to apply their training to this subject. Creation science is nothing more than Creation Assertion, with no methodology, no data, no theory, and no basis in observable fact. This is a non-argument.

    "The Bible says that God strethed out the heavens. This correlates well with an expanding universe. It amazes me that some would rather believe that the universe started from a giant, pointless explosion, and will end in a pointless last breath, than believing that a Creator created the universe and gave humans a reason for living with eternal implications. It must comfort them to think that they will not have to give an account of themselves on the day of judgement. But that doesn’t mean that they will not have to. "

    Because humans have the capacity to derive meaning for themselves, we assume we have purpose beyond our own short lives or those of our immediate family. This forms the basis of what is known as the Strong Anthropic Principle, which argues that the universe is the way it is because it led to us and could be no other way (among other things). This is egotistical beyond the bounds of rationality when you really think about it. There's probably some silicon=based or iron-based life form somewhere Out There that has come to the same conclusion and has a religion based on it which would completely contradict our religions, but who would gainsay them?

    So your last paragraph contains a threat. We will be judged. Boogieman tactics to frighten children. You begin by claiming none of us has the authority or expertise to make arguments about the nature of the universe and end by saying "if you do, you're in Big Trouble."

    If that's all you've got, then have a good life. I'll waste no more time with you.

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