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Priestly celibacy was about power

PRESIDENT Duterte a few days ago said: “Priests should be allowed to marry. That’s the only solution [to] prevent sexual abuse. Even the gay ones, allow them to marry, same-sex marriage. I am in favor of that so the problem is over.”

If you were shocked that a president in a Catholic country could say that, read what a great Christian reformer, Martin Luther, said in the 16th century, an era during which the Church so controlled states and minds that it could order the burning at the stake of suspected witches and heretics:

“Nature never lets up, we are all driven to the secret sin. To say it crudely but honestly, if it doesn’t go into a woman, it goes into your shirt.”

What is astonishing in Luther’s insight is that it would take 400 years later for science to conclude just what he said, that one of mankind’s two primal urges is sex, without which our species would have been extinct as soon as it emerged 200,000 years ago. (The second of course is the instinct for survival, and the urges for this, to eat food and the automatic fight or flee response.)

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, would even claim in the 19th century that the suppression of sex results in depraved minds, which indeed the numerous cases of sexual abuses by Catholic priests are proving incontrovertibly.

Not equipped
Catholic priests haven’t been equipped to resist the hard-wiring in the human brain for sex. After all, this instinct developed in a span of 1.2 billion years, when sexual production, the fertilization of a female egg with a male sperm, as against asexual production (which still happens in some rare species such as jellyfish and blackworms) emerged.

There are religions which espouse celibacy—foremost are sects of Hindu asceticism (yogis), Taoism and Buddhism, principally Zen—as necessary for spiritual enlightenment, however that is defined.

But very importantly, these religions have practices that suppress the sexual instinct. Yogis and Taoists even claim that they have esoteric mental and physical practices that transform the sexual “essence” to mystic powers, such as clairvoyance and telekinesis.

These religions that espouse celibacy have one practice, disguised as reverence for life, which weakens the sexual urge: vegetarianism, which usually goes with the avoidance of spicy foods, mushrooms and alcohol. I’m not sure if the science behind that is solid, but these sects openly claim it does suppress the sexual urges. Catholic priests’ fondness for good food — and their dose of wine at Mass — indeed tends to prove the yogis’ and Buddhists’ claim.

Among the three religions that emerged from what is now called Israel (or Palestine?) — Judaism, Christianity and Islam (yes, Islam) — only the Roman Catholic Church, the biggest faction of Christianity, requires its clergy not to engage in sex. Even the other half of Christianity — the Greek Orthodox Church — allows priests to marry, who often have more than three children. (Several scholars have argued that Islam was an offshoot of Syrian Christianity, transformed into a war religion by the Arabs.)

Why the anomaly? Why ban such a primordial instinct that its prohibition will just be violated?

The Church’s official explanations doesn’t hold water at all.

“It is to emulate Jesus Christ, who didn’t marry.” But the easy reply by any commonsensical priest to that would be: “But I am not God and Man, only man, without divine powers to resist sex.”

That explanation is increasingly being disbelieved. More and more scholars are concluding that it was impossible that Yeshua was a bachelor. What was normal, and therefore need not be mentioned, in Israel at that time was for a 30-year-old man to be married, and not be a bachelor. (In traditional Philippine settings, if you’re not married at that age, people will automatically conclude you are gay.)

Sacerdotalis caelibatus, the title of Pope Paul 6th encyclical issued in 1967 that made celibacy a Church dogma, had such shallow arguments for celibacy, such as that which explained that this would give priests more time to tend to their flock.

A clue to why celibacy became required of Catholic priests is in the fact that it was only after a thousand years of the Church’s existence, or half of its life, that it was required of its clergy, by the Second Lateran Council of 1139.

Power in Europe
This was when the Church became such a power in Europe it rivalled the nobility as rulers of men. One explanation then is that the Church wanted to portray its priests as of a higher order of men than their rivals, the nobility, and their power to give up sex was proof of this.

A book by a former priest, Sex, Priests and Power: The Anatomy of Crisis (1995), claims that the “question at the time was who is the final power—the king or the church. If [the church] could control a person’s sex life, it could control their money, their employment, their benefice.” Another thesis in the book Under God points out that the ban on marriage was adopted to lift the status of priests at a time when their authority was being challenged by nobles.

Another explanation for the requirement of celibacy would be what I would call the “Eddie Villanueva” phenomenon, by which his son Joel got to be a senator as a result of his father’s influence and tax-free wealth — because of his activities that is really the profession of priests or bishops.

Imagine what would have happened if Cardinal Sin was allowed to have a family and children, and you would understand why the Church banned its people from marrying.

Church historians in fact have pointed out that before the ban on marriage issued in 1139 and still many decades after that, priests and bishops had children which they fast promoted to the higher echelons of the church. One of my favorite TV series, “The Borgias,” was historically accurate in its depiction of Pope Alexander 6th as grooming his son to be the next Pope, and had him made Cardinal.

Sexual predators
One argument for clerics’ celibacy is that there are many people who are celibate (by force or choice) or are bachelors all of their lives, and yet are not sexual predators.

But then these ordinary folks do not have the really awesome power of a Catholic priest and on a larger scale of a bishop, with people brainwashed for centuries that these are God’s representatives on earth, who can do no evil.

With such power, there have been hundreds of priests, bishops, or cardinals giving in to their sexual urges and who think they can get away with sexual abuse because of their power. They even justify it in their minds, as resulting from their devotion to their work as God’s representatives.

For example, former Minneapolis priest Gilbert Gustafson who was convicted of sexually abusing a boy said in an interview: “I was depleting myself but loving the work. I loved preaching; I loved presiding at Eucharist. I developed a sense of entitlement. I work so hard. I need something for me. So, I am going to take something for me. What I took was acting out: I enacted in real life the fantasies that had been in me for years about sex with young teenage boys.”

Ironic, isn’t it? The ban on sex for Catholic priests was about the Church thinking that that would strengthen its power in society. Their priests’ power over the minds of boys and women prodded them to violate that ban, and the reports on these have had the effect of weakening the Church’s power.


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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Mahal Canang

    Good day sir Boby.

    I would ask permission to post this on my wall?
    Thank you.

    1. Admin

      Please go ahead

  2. Arisia Matchka

    I love reading your columns. This is a very good explanation, but it is only part of the reasons for centuries (millenium) of sexual abuse; ESPECIALLY by members of the clergy.

    The missing part here is that, in reality, rape, and sexual abuse are not simply crimes about sex that are only committed by those who deny their human urges and desires. Instead, they are truly violent crimes that are all about power, hated, and control over others.

    Many sexually active men have committed sexual crimes; even men who DO give in to their natural desires on a regular basis.

    The power and superiority of the Priests comes with a very dark “flip-side of the coin” so-to-speak. Both superiority, as well as familiarity breed contempt.

    In the case of the Priests, add to this that same sense of entitlement Gustafson mentioned but on a much larger scale.

    For around 1700 years the Catholic Church has set the Priests up above both God and Jesus. For centuries they banned the laity from even reading the Bible for themselves claiming that only THE PRIESTS were allowed to read the words of God and Jesus (basing that on Old Testament verses which were taken out of context).

    In many churches, the Priests even told their congregation to pray to THEM because they were appointed to be the middlemen between the congregation and God/Jesus. THEY would answer the prayers that were within their power, and pass on the larger prayers that needed God’s attention.

    In other congregations they also claimed they were there to “help keep God in line” because, according to them, he was so powerful he sometimes forgot us mere humans, and even forgot his own Commandments. The Commandment “Thou Shalt not murder” (lo tirtsach in Hebrew) was changed to “Thou shall not kill” to assist this explanation.

    According to them, after God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments, including “Thou shall not kill”, they finally reached Canaan whereby God ordered the Israelites to kill all the inhabitants and take back the land – in direct violation of “Thou shall not kill”!

    Then, to make matters even worse, is the flawed process of taking confessions. In the confessional booth, people are taught to believe that it’s NOT THE SAME PRIEST THEY SEE EVERY DAY listening to them confess their sins.

    In some miraculous way, they are lead led to believe that GOD HIMSELF IS LISTENING TO THEIR CONFESSIONS IN PRIVATE when, instead, it is simply the Priest himself “gathering Intel against the members of the congregation”!

    So, in addition to bring the leader of the congregation the Priest also has knowledge of each person’s deepest, darkest sins which were only intended for the ears of God or Jesus!

    This only served to instill them with pride, and as the saying goes, pride goeth before a fall! So, in addition to giving in to their human needs, there was a feeling of superiority on their part, coupled with contempt and, sometimes, disgust, towards these depraved humans who made up their own congregation.

    This is why the incidents of sexual abuse were directed ONLY towards members of their congregation and not people outside the Church! They only had power and authority in the eyes of the members of their congregation, not to those who were not part of their “family”.

    Add to that the secret knowledge they held about every member of the congregation, and they had the means to act on their desires. If a woman confessed to either promiscuity, or having sexual fantasies, they inevitably ended up in the bed of the Priest.

    Plus, the Priest could use his position of power, and authority to intimidate the victim into remaining silent. In our modern day world, this is now called Sexual Harassment and is considered to be a crime, almost as heinous as murder.

    So this isn’t a simple case of a celibate person “falling off the wagon” so-to-speak and giving in to “natural desires” the same way a reformed alcoholic might get weak and have a drink.

    Instead, it is a heinous crime of violence, hate, envy, and abuse of power, against a defenseless person coupled with the fear and intimidation of what they could do to that person if they ever revealed the truth!

    To make matters even worse, in 1946 there was a meeting among the Catholic Priests, Bishops, etc., in which they systematically changed the accepted definitions of certain Greek words found in the Bible to make them mean something else, and to cover most of their own sins

    Two words, in particular, were changed to downplay the severity of the sin of pederasty and sleeping with prostitutes, as found in 1Cor.6:9.

    The first of these two altered words was “arsenokoitai” (αρσενοχοιται) – which originally meant “men bedders” or the men who slept with prostitutes. The second altered word was “malakoi” (μαλαχοι) – which literally meant “soft” and, in this verse, referred to young boys who were kidnapped and forced into prostitution (often by powerful men, and the Priests themselves) to be used for pederasty.

    The meanings of these two words were respectively changed to mean “homosexual” and “effeminate” thereby COMPLETELY changing the meaning of
    1Cor.6:9 from an admonishing of Priests (and other powerful men) against sleeping with prostitutes and engaging in pederasty into an official attack against homosexuality and men who appeared effeminate!

    By 1958 these changes (and many others) had been adopted by almost all Christian denominations thereby completely changing the meanings of ALL THE ORIGINAL BIBLE verses containing them!

    To put this into perspective, this now eliminated pederasty and fornication committed by the Priests from even being considered as sins!

    It is interesting to note, that, before these changes were made in 1946, the ONE AND ONLY VERSE MENTIONING HOMOSEXUALITY in the Bible was Leviticus18:22, and, as with all such sins, ONLY THE ACT OF SEX ITSELF was considered to be the sin. No where in the Bible is love ever considered to be a sin; instead, it is a requirement in our treatment of others!

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