Celibacy and the Church

Posted: February 27, 2013 in History's Taboos, Taboo in the News

Sexuality is a major aspect of life that ties much of mankind together. Regardless of gender, race, or creed most humans find a need for sexuality. It then becomes curious that the Catholic Church would refuse to allow its priests to marry when sexuality is part of what makes a human a human.

Although a person does not need sexuality in order to actually be a human being, most, if not all human beings possess some sort of sexuality. Even asexuality speaks to sexuality’s impact in its denial of the very thing itself. Celibacy involves avoiding both marriage and sexual relations. But the recent sex scandals in the Catholic Church have made many reevaluate this stance, even going as far as calling to allow priests to marry. The very thought seems taboo to most of us. Yet not so long ago the opposite was true:

Married clergy were relatively common in the early Middle Ages, a time when the parish priest belonged as much to his village community as to the external community of the church. From the eleventh century onward, there was a movement of reform in the church that sought to draw a sharper distinction between clergy and laypeople, in part by forbidding priests to marry.1

The above passage shows us the cyclic nature of taboo. For a while now we have denied priests of sexuality, almost as if they are somehow less human than the rest us in terms of desire. But suppressing a thing, or disallowing a thing is not the same as its nonexistence.

The Western world emphasizes a censoring of sex while at the same time promoting it and using it to sell everything. Sometimes it is hard to watch a commercial break without watching a series of sexual references and innuendoes. How odd that we attack the very things we promote.

But why are we so afraid of sex? What is so taboo about sex and sexuality? about sexuality and faith? Would a priest be less of a priest because he has sex or marries? Do those who have sex really love God less?

These are the questions that we have to ask. And they are also the questions with multiple answers, yeses and noes.

But imagine a world of only celibates. Now, map out how many Homo sapiens exist?

1 Jeffrey L. Forgeng, Jeffrey L. Singman, Daily Life in Medieval Europe (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1999) eBook.

  1. Modern American Puritan attitudes toward sex differ from European. In Europe, they are astounded/bemused that sex can ruin an American politician. Italy has a porn star in their Parliament. It might be interesting to research and contrast different variations within Western culture. And the Eastern Orthodox church, which was unified with Catholic until the ~11th Century, still permits priests to marry.

    • bejamin4 says:

      That would be an good thing to compare. It is interesting how so many different places can have differing attitudes toward sex or anything for that matter. Thanks Cynthia for the comments.

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