5 Myths about Celibacy: Guest Response

Intentious thoroughly respects all points of view, so we encourage our readers to rebut articles as much as agree with them. Often, we are approached with comments so considered and well written that occasionally, we may choose to publish one as a stand-alone piece. Today, Intentious is publishing a special guest piece from a reader who wishes to remain anonymous. It is a response to our popular article “5 Myths about Celibacy“, published on June 17th.

For those unfamiliar with the context of the original article, you can read it here.

 

As a person studying for the Catholic priesthood, I read your article “5 Myths about Celibacy” and I just thought you might want to hear the perspective of a celibate person (and informed Catholic) on each of your “myths”.

 

Myth 1. Celibacy is in the Bible.

I’ve never heard this doubted before. It is definitely there.

1 Cor 7:1 is not clear, but if you had read on, you would have seen that Paul is clearly in favour of celibacy. He was celibate himself. (1 Cor 7:8).

Jesus did himself refer to the sacrifice of celibacy positively. Matt 19:12.

And celibate communities began to form very early in the Church of their own initiative and volition and they still continue.

The reason why Peter had children is because he was married before he began to follow Christ.

Of course, the Church says you can be married and follow Jesus. Celibacy is an extra sign of commitment.

 

Myth 2. Priests have always been celibate.

Debunking this is technically correct. Priests have not always been celibate. Even now some Eastern Rite Churches (who are part of the Catholic Church) have married priests and there are exceptions for special cases in the Western Church.

However, clerical celibacy has been a continuous tradition in the Western Church from early times whether it was formally declared or not.

It is interesting that you mention the Council of Trullo. This was not a legitimate council because the Pope at the time opposed it and only Eastern bishops were present, but it is still very relevant. The reason the council allowed married men to be ordained (not for clergy to get married) was because the West had a strong tradition of celibate clergy and the East were separating themselves from that. The council even forbade priests to dismiss their wives when ordained.

Clearly they were addressing an existing practice.

In fact, all councils only ever spoke when heresies or false practices came up. That is why clerical celibacy was never formally declared until the second millennium. It was so widely accepted in the West that it didn’t need to be said.

Celibacy isn’t strictly necessary, but it is particularly fitting to priestly life. I won’t go into the whole theology of priesthood, but basically, our belief is that Christ lived and died for us, founded a line of priests and gave them the incredible power to transmit the benefits of that sacrifice to the whole world and even make Jesus himself truly present. Celibacy, therefore, imitates Christ’s sacrifice, which the priest makes present.

That is why priests are preferably chosen from unmarried men. However, regarding priests getting married: that has always been forbidden.

Basically, this is because in becoming a priest you give yourself to God (through the Church) completely and you are not yours to then give to someone else.

It can happen in the other order because it is done with the consent of the wife.

 

Myth 3. Homosexuality is more harmful than celibacy

Celibacy is not harmful at all, and homosexuality is a very complicated issue. First let me provide some balance for your “statistics.”

You shouldn’t get statistics from Kinsey. Apart from being out of date, he was a sick, sexual addict whose scientific rigour is highly questioned.

Modern surveys show that approximately 2-3% of the population identifies as gay.

Homosexuality has not “been observed in thousands of different species”. Even so, it is very rare in animals and only occurs in situations of extreme stress or unnatural conditions.

It has not been equated with heterosexuality in any culture we know of in history.

With regard to discussing its “harmfulness”:

  • Homosexuals have much higher rates of infidelity.
  • They also have higher rates of cancer.

A survey of 21-26 year olds in New Zealand found:

  • 71.4% of homosexuals suffer from depression (compared to 14.5% average)
  • 28.6% attempt suicidal acts (compared to 1.6%)

Whether there is a connection between homosexuality and sex abuse, I’m not sure. Statistics I’ve seen so far are suggestive, but inconclusive. However, in the clerical abuse scandals in America, 81% of the victims were boys and most of them were post-pubescent, so it is not surprising that Cardinal Bertone drew the conclusion he did.

 

Celibacy and Sex Abuse in the Priesthood

In my opinion, the clerical abuse in the West was a result of pro-homosexual bishops or seminaries deliberately pushing a disproportional number of homosexuals through the seminary and even encouraging them to be homosexually active in order to try and force a change in Church teaching.

This left a large group of priests who: had homosexual inclinations; were not properly trained for their priesthood; were not used to practising sexual self-control; and suddenly found themselves isolated in a parish. Sadly, many of them gave in to temptation.

With regards to celibacy, statistical surveys have shown that there is no correlation between celibacy and pedophilia, and celibates are actually below the average. It’s just that it is more newsworthy when a priest does it (and fair enough. They should have higher standards). There are pockets where clerical abuse is above average (vice loves company), but the vast, vast majority of priests fully fulfil their vows of celibacy.

With regards to this statement:

“Without access to the natural sexual outlet of women, men start screwing little boys because they’re at least accessible.” Apart from the gross debasement of men it completely misunderstands sexuality. Sexual desire isn’t like a hunger that you satisfy and then it goes away. It is (at least for men) usually addictive. The more sexual stimulation you have, the more you need. This is most evident in pornography addiction.”

And this one:

“The tiny proportion of men who never have sex (which includes masturbation) are usually severely handicapped”…

How do you justify such ridiculous statements?
I know dozens of priests, religious and unmarried men (including myself) that personally prove this wrong.

 

Myth 4: Celibacy doesn’t include masturbation.

Debunking this myth, according to Catholic belief, is incorrect. Sexual activity anywhere outside marriage is against the Church’s moral teaching.

Basically, sexuality is seen as an incredibly powerful gift. It is ungrateful to use it simply to pleasure ourselves, and it is in fact physically and emotionally damaging to use it outside its proper context. Humans are complex machines with a finely balanced chemical and hormonal system, and this system is in fact quite fragile compared to the emotional and chemical activity that sexuality involves. The Church, out of charity, tells her people this (and anyone who will listen) for their own sake.

Sexual arousal is not the core of our being. Lust is something that can be controlled and should be eliminated as much as possible. Love is the core of our being.

Marriage is the most natural way of expressing love, and sex is the core of marriage. There are other ways of satisfying the emotional needs that sex in marriage satisfies.

 

Myth 5: Catholic Clergy are celibate.

It is true that some catholic clergy break their vows of celibacy. This doesn’t mean it isn’t a good ideal.

 

Church Control

With regards to your rant about Church control, etc. I have several points to make.

  • By canon law, a bishop has to take care of his priests: heretical or not (Can 384, 281:2, 1350).
  • That is why there are plenty of priests who are more than happy to hurl abuse at the the Church. There is in fact money and popularity waiting for any priest who wants to publicly attack the Church.
  • The Church has never approved the selling of indulgences or absolutions. Yes, there was a time when some priests tried to sell indulgences. That’s why it was formally forbidden (Council of Trent, Session 25, Decree on Indulgences).
  • The Pope fasts, does penance, works very hard (look at John Paul II’s work towards the end of his life) and is celibate himself.
  • If someone chooses to be Catholic, they choose the Church as it is. No one is forced to do anything.
  • If someone enters the priesthood, they freely choose the priesthood as it is.
  • The Church has no responsibility whatsoever to ‘represent us’. We represent ourselves by choosing to be a part of it.

 

And finally: I am a happy, healthy young man. I would very much like to be married, but I am choosing the life of the celibate priest and it is completely my own decision, and I am grateful to the Church for making and recommending this vocation for me.

 

Christ ordaining the Apostles. Image Source: http://tasteandsee2.blogspot.com/2010_10_31_archive.html

 

If you or someone you know would like to publish an official response to one of our articles, feel free to email it to us at intentiousinfo (at) gmail (dot) com for consideration, or let us know in the articles comments.

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Categories: Beliefs, Morals

Author:Andrew Beato

CEO, Chief Editor and founder of Intentious. Passionate comment enthusiast, amateur philosopher, Quora contributor, audiobook and general knowledge addict.

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