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.
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.
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.