• RSS Queering the Church

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • RSS Spirit of a Liberal

    • Where were you when … July 19, 2019
      Most of us remember where we were when the Twin Towers were attacked on 9-11. For folks my age or older, we remember the Kennedy assassination. Fifty years ago, Apollo 11 roared into history as I arrived in Vietnam. I wrote about those days in my embellished autobiographical novella entitled “Gonna Stick My Sword in […] [[ This is a content summary only. Vis […]
      Obie Holmen
    • Ten Questions for Trump Supporters May 6, 2019
      If you’re a Trump supporter, here’s a quiz for you in the quiet of your own thoughts. Don’t be defensive; dare to think long and hard and ponder the questions seriously. 1)  Why did Russia want Trump to win? 2)  Why do black voters overwhelmingly disapprove of Trump? Hispanics? LGBTQ? Women? 3)  Why does Trump […] [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my […]
      Obie Holmen
  • RSS There Will be Bread

    • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
  • RSS The Wild Reed

    • Carl Anderson: “Let the Music Play!” February 27, 2020
      .Today is the 75th anniversary of the birth of the late, great American singer and actor Carl Anderson (1945-2004), whom I've been honoring throughout February – the month of both his birth and death.This honoring concludes today with beauty and wisdom from Carl himself in the form of a quote and a song, connected thematically by music. Enjoy!I am still […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
    • A Lenten Resolution February 26, 2020
      Instead of giving up something for Lent, I’m planning to make a heartfelt offering. In times like these, it makes more sense to seek out daily causes for praise than daily reminders of lack. So here is my resolution: to find as many ordinary miracles as a waterlogged winter can put forth, as many resurrections as an eerily early springtime will allow. Tiny b […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Michael J. Bayly)
  • RSS Bilgrimage

  • RSS Enlightened Catholicism

  • RSS Far From Rome

    • the way ahead March 23, 2013
      My current blog is called the way ahead.
      noreply@blogger.com (PrickliestPear)
  • RSS The Gay Mystic

    • Ronan Park and Jack Vidgen: The Travails of Gay Pop Stars October 28, 2019
      (Jack Vidgen)Quite by accident, through a comment from a performance arts colleague of mine, I stumbled across the recent bios of two boy teen singing sensations, both of whom made a big splash worldwide 8 years ago. The first, Jack Vidgen, won Australia's Got Talent Contest in 2011 at the age of 14, primarily for his powerful renditions of Whitney Hust […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Unknown)
    • In The Closet of the Vatican: New Investigative Study February 22, 2019
      In the Closet of the Vatican: Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy - just published today, February 22nd, 2019.Thanks to Kittredge Cheery of the wonderful gay Christian blog,  QSpirit Blog, for the heads up about the publication of this major new investigative study into the secret homosexual double lives of many priests (and bishops and cardinals) in the vatican […]
      noreply@blogger.com (Unknown)
  • RSS The Jesus Manifesto

    • Another World is Neccessary: Anarchism, Christianity and the Race from the White House July 30, 2008
      I’ll be presenting at the upcoming Jesus Radicals conference in Columbus, Ohio. My session (on the relationship between Church and State) will be on Friday afternoon. If you’re in the area, drop by. I’d love to meet some of the folks who frequent this site. Here’s the info: August 15-16, 2008 St. John’s Episcopal 1003 W Town Columbus, OH [...]ShareThis […]
      Mark Van Steenwyk
  • RSS John McNeill: Spiritual Transformations

  • RSS Perspective

    • Count on Me February 28, 2020
      When I was in high school, I knew someone who became sort of famous - Craig Chaquico. He was very good with a guitar and was eventually asked to join the Jefferson Starship. In the video below you can see Craig at the beginning, on the far left, sitting on a chair and playing the guitar ...
      noreply@blogger.com (crystal)

The Myth of Clerical Celibacy, Revisited

One of the key points in the recent declaration by German theologians (now joined by others, worldwide), is the urgency of ending the current insistence on compulsory clerical celibacy. This is my cue to revisit, and expand on, some points I have made frequently on previous occasions.

When I wrote a series of posts on the problem of compulsory clerical celibacy nearly two years ago, I listed several problems with the rule:

  • It is not based on Scripture, but in fact contradicts Paul’s clear advice that celibacy is not for everyone.
  • It was not the practice of the early church, and was not compulsory for the first twelve centuries of Christianity -over half of Church history
  • The rule, when it became fixed, was not introduced as a matter of pastoral care, but to preserve church wealth and power
  • Celibacy has never been required for all clergy in the Eastern Orthodox Churches
  • It was swiftly rejected by the Protestant churches after the Reformation
  • It is still not required for all Catholic priests: it does not apply to those in the Eastern rite of the Roman church, nor to those who are already married, and are now converting from other denominations.
  • Many bishops and even national Bishops’ conferences have asked, either privately or formally, for the blanket ban to be relaxed.

I can now add some further observations that I was not then aware of:

  • Research shows that the majority of Catholics want an end to the policy.
  • As a young man, Joseph Ratzinger himself signed a document asking for the ban to end.
  • As pope, Benedict XVI has conceded that celibacy is difficult, but becomes possible when living in a supportive community of fellow priests. He can offer no advice on how it becomes “possible” for one who can not live in such a community, implicitly conceding that for many men, perhaps it is not (agreeing in this, with St Paul).
  • The only objection he raised in the interview to ending the rule was not not one of principle, but of practicality, saying there were questions as to how this could be arranged.

But the most serious difficulty to my mind, is that as a universal practice, even within the Roman rite, it is a myth – and a dangerous one. It is a myth, because it is a rule that is widely broken. Here’s Maureen Fiedler, at Huffington Post, referring to an interview with Fr Cutie, who left the church to marry, and now serves in the Episcopal Church instead:

In the course of the interview, he laid bare an open secret of the Catholic Church: a large percentage of Catholic priests, gay and straight, live as if celibacy were optional. Some have male partners; others have secret women friends and — quite commonly in Africa and Latin America — they have children. He noted that sometimes bishops even pay for the children to have a Catholic education. All this is tolerated if it does not become public and cause scandal.

Most likely, a good majority of Catholic priests keep their vow of celibacy, but there is no way to know for sure.

Note the observation that the bishops are even paying for the education of priests’ children. This flouting of the rule is tacitly accepted, in many parts of the world – at least, until the knowledge becomes just too uncomfortably public (This is not a new claim Vatican II, nearly half a century ago:

Loreto Sr. Luke Tobin often spoke of overhearing two bishops returning from a coffee break at the Second Vatican Council, where she was an observer.

“Why do they want to get married,” one Council father said to the other, “Let them have their women on the side.”

“Let them have their women on the side”, says the bishop – just don’t let it become public knowledge.

This is why the current system, of public rejection but private tolerance of priests’ sexual lives, is so damaging, to them and to the wider church – it forces them into a clerical closet, in a widespread conspiracy of silence (a theme that Bart will be expanding on in his post for Monday).

The closet, as gay men and/ lesbians have learned, is an uncomfortable place, damaging to one’s personal mental, emotional and even spiritual health. Our private closets are also damaging to the wider community – the Jewish lesbian theologian has shown how our closets are damaging to our friends and families.  Similarly, compulsory celibacy and the clerical closet between them are damaging to the wider church.

They deprive us of some excellent potential clergy, by driving away possible candidates who are unwilling to accept the rule, and ordained priests who find they can no longer live with either the continued practice, or the duplicity of the closet.

It introduces to the priesthood a disproportionate number of candidates who have not reached proper levels of psychosexual maturity, or have unresolved issues with their own sexuality

It is thus, intimately associated, albeit indirectly, with the problems of clerical sexual abuse, of children and adults

By leaving us under the pastoral care, including that in sexual and family matters, of men who can have no practical experience, and extremely limited theoretical training, in human sexuality, we all suffer under a form of spiritual and emotional abuse at the hands of the clergy.

This pointless, unjustifiable and dangerous policy has to go. As Maureen Fiedler  says, cocnluding her piece at Huffpost:

And, it’s important to note: priestly celibacy is not dogma. It is simply a disciplinary practice, and could be changed literally with a flick of the papal pen.

So, why wait? I know the powers-that-be in the Vatican are comfortable with current arrangements, but it would seem that the needs of ministry and the availability of the Eucharist [only priests can consecrate the Eucharist in the Catholic tradition] should trump everything else.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out what’s taking them so long.

Related Posts

The Myth of Priestly Celibacy

Clerical Abuse: How We Are All Victims

The Tyranny of the Clerical Closet

Confronting Power and Abuse in the Catholic Church

What About the Women?

The Myth of Clerical Celibacy, Again.

Son of a Priest, Son of a Bishop: Another Cost of Compulsory Celibacy

Celibacy and a Wounded Church: Readers’ Observations

Coming Out as a Religious Obligation: Micah and Justice.

Benedict’s Thoughts on Priesthood: Confused, Contradictory.

 

 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: