In the third century, a new abbot arrived at the monastery to oversee the monks who were copying the Bible by hand. He noticed that the monks were not copying from the original, so the abbot started checking copies against the original. Suddenly, he started sobbing, “It can’t be true! The original word was celebrate. A monk miscopied, left out an r, and now we’re all celibate.”
This story isn’t true, but there is another story equally as preposterous but truer.
It’s about a church father, Augustine (354–430 CE), who was later sainted. As a teen, Augustine’s dad labeled his son as sexually “restless.” His mother, a devout Christian, sent her son off to the university with these parting words: “Don’t fornicate.” Disregarding his mom’s advice, Augustine had a series of affairs with women (maybe men also), fathered a child with an unmarried woman, and later took a mistress while he was engaged to another woman.
Augustine graduated and became a professor. One Sunday, he went to a church to hear Bishop Ambrose, a brilliant orator and proud celibate. Whatever Ambrose said moved Augustine to break off his engagement, resign his professorship, and vow chastity and celibacy. (I’m glad I didn’t hear that sermon!) Augustine was baptized in 386 CE, went to Africa, and founded a celibate monastic community.
It gets worse. Augustine decided that a man’s semen was evil and the reason for humanity’s downfall. From this observation arose the doctrine of original sin, declaring all humans created from semen are bad. But, lucky us, the church can fix our original sin—primarily by controlling us and our guilt.
Celibacy was not compulsory until Pope Gregory VII declared such in 1074. However, inside information suggests that this edict was not about sex but inheritances and lots of free labor. Since celibate priests don’t have families, now their inheritances go to the church. Celibacy = money.
Despite Gregory’s edict, homosexuality still ran rampant, nuns had abortions, and priests got sexually transmitted diseases.
Now, nearly one thousand years later, celibacy sort of prevails—except for those clergy who have found other outlets (e.g., homosexuality, mistresses, pedophilia, consenting nuns) and those married Roman Catholic priests with children who are converts from Anglicanism or Lutheranism.
My question to the pope and other decision makers is, If those priests can stay married and do the job, why can’t all clergy have a choice?
Down with compulsory celibacy! Our sexuality is a beautiful part of our humanity. It can’t be canceled or neutered, though it can manifest itself in perverted ways (just look at the Roman Catholic Church).
Pope Francis, please end celibacy! Stop the charade. It is embarrassing to Christianity and the institutional church. Married clergy (gay and straight) do a great job.
Peace Love Joy Hope
- S. Jesus was married. See the Gospel of Mary.
Photo by Nazim Coskun on Unsplash