5 Myths about Celibacy

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.

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Categories: Beliefs, Morals, Health, Medicine

Author:Jason Sutherland

Resist the temptation to assume that you're always right or wrong. Never succumb to thinking you're so insignificant to trust your own thoughts and feelings. Always be responsible and listen carefully to others before passing judgement. Don't trust governments bearing stolen goods.

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26 Comments on “5 Myths about Celibacy”

  1. June 17, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

    If only the early church Synods had included The Gospel of Eve, but, alas, it seems to have disappeared even from the apocrypha over the centuries, thanks to Epiphanius & Co, whose only aspiration in life seemed to be to inhibit sexual activity. It inspired ‘depravity’ of all varieties, from ‘free love’ to ‘coitus interruptus’ and eating semen as an act of religious piety. Bye-bye, 2,000 years of Christian celibacy. Whatever pages Epiphanius didn’t get to set fire to are probably hiding in some hidden corner of the Vatican library along with all the other real treasures… I need a research permit.

    • June 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

      Those Vatican archives are allegedly full of more scandal than this website and cover over a thousand years. Alas, with the ever increasing likelihood of legal action against the Holy See I’m afraid they might just burn them all to avoid the public getting hold on them. We need a Vatileaks website!

      Though, the Vatican library does allow access to material from before 1939 so the only documents they’re likely to have will relate to Nazi and Fascist collusion and covering up sex abuse of minors.

  2. Paul
    June 18, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    To understand celibacy you need to understand why a person would choose to be a priest.
    It is sad, but very very true that most Catholics are brought up not knowing the first thing about their faith…. then they wonder why they don’t understand it!!

    • June 18, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

      I too wish Catholics were far more informed about their religion. The one that I come across a lot is how many Catholics believe that the Church teaches that transubstantiation (aka, the Eucharist) is a symbolic event when it’s not supposed to be symbolic at all. Eucharist is Greek for “The true Christ” and means that the bread and wine literally turn into the body and blood of Jesus… well at least that’s what the Church teaches. But like Fox News viewers and WMDs in Iraq, many Catholics think it’s supposed to be symbolic only.

      • Paul
        June 18, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

        tip of the iceberg my friend! I find it’s the WHY that even ‘educated’ Catholics often don’t know. How can anyone take you seriously if you have no idea WHY you do the things you do or believe the things you believe? There must be a reason. People just need to devote some time to finding it!

        • June 19, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

          I’m deep into that “Learn The Bible In 24 Hours” course (because of exactly what Jason says: lack of education on the religion in my youth) and he actually says the same thing. That there are a number of things which even educated Christians (but for this argument, Catholics in particular) choose to deny, taking transubstantiation as the example, just so that they don’t have to feel terribly confused and at odds about what they believe in. By the way, I strongly recommend that series. It’s pro-Christianity, of course. But it’s got a lot of interesting studies and historical clarifications in it. Very well researched I’ve found.

  3. June 19, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    Halfway through this, I was caught by and became curious about Genesis 38:9-10, where you talk about it relating to Masturbation, so I Googled it further. Turns out this passage is ambiguous when only read as 1 verse. When read in context of the whole passage, that “wicked deed” was not that Onan masturbated, it was that he deliberately went against his father’s orders to produce offspring to continue the family line. In Genesis, continuation of the family line was a big deal, and when the eldest son died, it was holy tradition for the next eldest to produce offspring with the surviving widow. This was called “Levirate Marriage”. So in rebelling and not “perform his duty” in this role, he became wicked in the eyes of the Lord which earned him his death, apparently. Also, as a technicality, it’s not even masturbation as he was having sex with a woman at the time he ejaculated.

    There are 2 passages in the Bible that directly concern masturbation. The first is Leviticus 15:16:
    “And if any man’s seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even. And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even.” …which doesnt’ sound so bad. Certainly not worthy of death.

    The second is in Matthew 5:28-30, and again isn’t actually concerned with masturbation, it’s concerned with imagining being an adulterer… ie: lusting after another man’s wife.

    • June 19, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

      http://ecclesia.org/truth/masturbation.html = further reading on this side-topic

    • June 20, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

      Hahaha, this is almost word for word the conversation I had with someone after they read the post. I’ll copy (with editing) and paste it from Skype:

      Although the Bible only mentions masturbation three times:

      First in Genesis:
      “And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.”

      Next in Leviticus:
      “And if any man’s seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even. And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even.”

      And most famously in Matthew, although some Christians don’t believe he was referring to masturbation here… hard to tell… personally, I think he was.
      “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

      In the case of Onan it isn’t clear if God killed him because he masturbated or because he didn’t want to get his brother’s wife pregnant. Onan inherited his brother’s wife in much the same way as one inherits any other property. (But you’re also correct Bitto, the Jewish religion is based on a race mythology surprisingly and ironically similar to Nazi ideology).
      The reason why I think Matthew meant masturbation was because Saint Augustine allegedly castrated himself because of those verses. Interestingly Leviticus pretty much says, “Just wash up afterwards and you’re ok” <– that's the old testament being far more civil than the new.

      • Paul
        June 20, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

        For the catholic church the bible is not the only source of truth. There is a rich theology behind teachings. It is easy to prove (as above) that teachings do not come directly from off hand passages.

        • June 21, 2011 at 9:05 am #

          Here you’re touching on the very cause of the reformation. The Protestants reasoned that if the Bible was the word of god then why were they using other sources of theology? Surely if the Bible is the source people should go directly to the source. Martin Luther gets a bad rap in Catholic schools but in reality he just wanted the common people to read the Bible for themselves and make up their own mind. Many people rightly criticised the Catholic church on the grounds that they’d just made things up and pretended it was in Bible. Of course at the time the public were forbidden to know what was in the Bible and they were furious when they found out it wasn’t what they were being told in Church.

          • Paul
            June 21, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

            Luther definitely gets a bad rap. (well he is often misunderstood anyway).
            Luther taught me a new word – cantankerous!!
            It took centuries for some of his teachings to eventually be promoted by the church.

            ‘other sources of theology’ = God himself.
            Looking at JUST the bible is like not going to lectures because you already have the notes.

  4. June 19, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    Well written article and as a whole I agree with it. Although Catholic by birth and childhood I now prefer to retreat to a more general “Christianity” so that a) I can distance myself from the many ridiculously superfluous laws of the Catholic church, and b) mould my own spirituality in accordance with the way I believe the early Christians and Jesus himself intended. There’s a lot of, as you say Jason, business greed associated with bloated controlled organisations, and the Catholic Church is bloatware.

    Also, I applaud your comment on a “Vatileaks” website~!! If anyone can ever come up with some texts that would cause a stir, by all means let’s become that site 😉 On the other hand, what made it into the Bible is at least remarkably consistent.

    • June 20, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

      Have you heard about the theory that Pope John Paul (the first) was murdered by the Church because he was trying to rid the Vatican bank of corruption? I’d heard about it but I was unaware just how suspicious his death was and how the Vatican prevented the coroner from an investigation. It is not surprising that the Vatican and Mafia are both from Italy.

  5. June 24, 2011 at 12:06 am #

    The pope is a chair.
    If you get the joke, good on you. Means you know how catholicism was formed.

    • June 24, 2011 at 11:39 am #

      Judging from your picture I think I know what you mean. Apparently the Church has been involved in child sex scandals for as long as it existed, but Geoffrey Robertson quotes (in “The Case of the Pope”) a 12th century Bishop warning that forced celibacy will lead to sexual perversion and his words were so sage they could have been said today. It makes one wonder how many centuries of sexual abuse the Church has been covering up.

  6. Anonymous
    July 30, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

    Jason – your mention of a website called vatileaks – well there now is.
    Check out http://www.vatileaks.com

  7. July 30, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    Re: Have you heard about the theory that Pope John Paul (the first) was murdered by the Church because he was trying to rid the Vatican bank of corruption? I’d heard about it but I was unaware just how suspicious his death was and how the Vatican prevented the coroner from an investigation. It is not surprising that the Vatican and Mafia are both from Italy.
    Pope John Paul the first was murdered to prevent him from cleaning up the vatican bank. the plot was conceived by 12 cardinals

    • August 1, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

      Wow! How long has Vatileaks been around? 🙂

      • February 17, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

        Vatileaks has been around since middle of 2011. Last week vatileaks was getting a visit rate of around 400 per week. In the last 48 hours vatileaks just recorded over 8000 visits. A search on the word “vatileaks” 7 months ago only came up with one mention on your great website. Now do a search on vatileaks in Google and up come 40500 results….now we need staff to respond to the mountains of emails and new information coming in……please donate.

  8. angie
    January 17, 2013 at 2:13 am #

    Your wrong Jesus speaks of celibates.

    “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”

    Jesus identifies three groups of males for whom the unmarried state is better:
    bullet Those men without functioning genitals capable of impregnating a woman.
    bullet Those who have been intentionally castrated.
    bullet Those who voluntarily abstain from sexual relations with women.

  9. angie
    January 17, 2013 at 2:24 am #

    But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion

    paul said this. He said its best for widows and the unmarried to remind single like him. Paul was celibate

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