Sunday, February 28, 2010

Is Mandatory Celibacy A Form Of Heresy?

Pope Gregory VII was no friend of married clergy or their wives.

The following is an excerpt from a longer article posted on Clerical Whispers. The article makes an interesting case concerning the 'heresy' of priestly celibacy. It's an interesting read in it's totality, and I encourage readers to take in the whole article. Maybe as just a way to kill time before the Olympic Gold Medal hockey game.

Speaking of which, no matter if the USA wins, it will not be another 'miracle on ice'. Both the Canadian and American teams are fully comprised of NHL professionals. In some respects it's a cross boarder NHL all star game. It's not a national referendum. Now if only Brian Rafalski would take the current resurrection of his game back to the Redwings...., but I digress from more important matters.

The Medieval Papacy

For more than 700 years after Constantine, Roman Emperors and later European monarchs controlled papal elections and personally appointed bishops and abbots who served at their discretion, not the Pope’s.

Monasteries and dioceses brought great wealth to these secular lords through Simony, although little accrued to Rome.

During all that time bishops and priests were married and Churches became Sacramental filling stations owned by mercenary clerics who willed them to family heirs, who then often bought and sold these valuable offices. (Hmmm, perhaps this could be another version of Monopoly.)

The Church had a strong need to curb priestly heirs’ power and corruption, and this problem was solved when Popes submitted to the Emperor’s secular authority, with agreement that Cardinals alone would elect future popes. (This needs more explanation, but perhaps I should read the book this whole article is based on: Illicit Celibacy and the Deposit of Faith.)

Finally, after a 700-year struggle, and desiring to eliminate future loss of wealth and control over married clerics, mandatory celibacy laws preventing future heirs were finally instituted.

Again, no vow was sought as it is today, it was demanded.

Failed Vatican efforts to end priestly marriage had continued sporadically until 1139 AD, and Pope Innocent II’s desire to seize clerical wealth and property.

Then, asserting that apostolic continence was the first priestly tradition, Innocent II reached back 700 years to Popes Damasus’ and Siricius’ use of Gnostic-Christian legend in support of his new effort to subdue the priesthood.

Previously, three councils in the 11th century had failed to end priestly marriage by selling wives and children of priests into slavery, with proceeds accruing to the Vatican treasury.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux correctly prophesied in 1135 AD, “Take from the Church an honorable marriage bed, and do you not fill it with concubineage, incest, homosexuality, and every kind of uncleanness?”

But Pope Gregory VII stated, “The Church cannot escape from the laity unless priests first escape the clutches of their wives.” (This is really quite a statement on a number of levels. In truth, it's very, very gnostic and not very Christian.)

Doctrine vs. Discipline

To justify modern papal demands for priestly celibacy, the Church today denies celibacy is a Church doctrine, claiming it is merely an ancient discipline freely initiated by the apostles.

This defense arose only after Vatican Council I in 1870, when the Church infallibly declared that “some new doctrine” may not be added to the Deposit of Faith.

Prior to that time the law was taught as a doctrine because all Church teachings that are claimed to be from the apostles are doctrines.

But, in order to retain control over the priesthood, the Church now denies the law of mandatory celibacy is a Church doctrine that changes Christ’s Sacramental doctrine of priestly matrimony, thus denying the Sacramental grace of matrimony originally given to them by Jesus.

This new terminology was necessary in order to obscure the reality that mandatory celibacy actually alters Jesus’ teaching.

At this point it is important for Catholics to understand the Church’s definition of ‘heretic’: “One who, having accepted the faith of Christ, corrupts its Doctrine.”

Today Christ’s original doctrine, allowing priests to marry and propagate, has been changed.

All popes from Innocent II until Benedictine XVI have knowingly supported this law and are therefore partakers of heresy.

Today St. Peter could not become a priest, because he was married.

The ‘discipline’ of apostolic continence is historically false. There is absolutely no evidence from the Deposit of Faith, none.

Church authorities today can produce no legitimate evidence of its truth. It is myth disguised as doctrine.

It is a doctrinal impediment that intentionally alters Christ’s infallible teaching, it denies a Sacramental grace from God, a sanctifying grace given to Christians by the Son of God, and thus voids all Church claims of infallible teaching authority.


The author of the above article is the author of the book. I may have to get this book because the point he is making is somewhat critical. Is it in fact heresy to use a 'doctrine' to circumvent a direct teaching of Jesus or the Apostles? That particular teaching is the choice the disciples and early Christians were given about choosing marriage or celibacy, and the very clear directive of Paul that marriage was far preferable to attempting a life style one in fact couldn't live.

But of course this question has bigger ramifications. If the Church somehow has the power to circumnavigate Christ's instructions on the acceptability of monogamous marriage for the Apostles, how in the world can it then turn around and claim it doesn't have the power to ordain women?

Secondly, accepting the gnostic notion of sexual continence making one more spiritual has had huge repercussions on the nature and role of sexuality with in Catholicism. None of these repercussions has been very beneficial or healthy for Christians--especially women-- because in essence the exalted status of the Catholic priest was achieved by denying the God given role of women for men. Real spiritual men don't need female 'companionship' and in fact, should they accept such companionship, they have accepted a lesser spiritual state. So much for Genesis and God's intentions about male spiritual needs.

Celibacy, and the theology which supports it, really is a core root issue in Catholicism. It denies the role of women in salvation history, it produces a warped view of sexuality with regards to spirituality, and it produces enormous hypocrisy with in the priesthood. It really needs to be re evaluated. Finally, for the majority of priests, it does not provide for occasions of sanctity, it provides for occasions of sin and exploitation. It's well past time to reform this reform.


  1. Excellent points, but the Vatican won't give up that level of control so easily. They are also unwilling to admit they've ordained a lot of gay men, expect them to stay closeted, and then turn around and wrongly blame gay men for the pedophilia scandals when it is the Vatican's own governance that is to blame.

  2. “The Church cannot escape from the laity unless priests first escape the clutches of their wives.”

    That's it in a nutshell: AS Michael B Kelly has pointed out, it's all about creating a two-caste system: a celibate ruling class who have "escaped" from lay influence, and a subordinate caste of laity, sullied by the "impurity" of sexual expression. It's no wonder that Vatican theologians are so anxious to promote heir restrictive, dangerous views on body theology. Anything else would threaten their own power and control.

  3. I noticed that John J McNeil, in his most recent post, identifies feminiphobia as the real issue the Church has to face and overcome if it is to move forward.

    I've been thinking about this issue a great deal lately and it's one reason I haven't posted much. This notion of feminiphobia is very large onion with many many layers.

    I think this idea that the priesthood was elevated over the laity by denying the influence and necessity of the feminine is the single biggest distortion of what the Good News is all about. The creative power inherent in the melding of male and female energy is not just about biological procreation, it's about balanced creation period.

  4. When I think upon these things reported about what the Church hierarchy has allowed into the Church, including selling women and children into slavery, securing male dominance over the female it brings me to our current age in which the divorce rate is very high. I think this has a lot to do with feminiphobia too. Actually, the Church's doctrine leads to suicide for the human race. No wonder there are so many weapons of mass destruction in the world now. Even the shape of these missiles is male.

  5. Some thoughts:

    1) In the Old Testament, over and over we're told that we are a "nation of priests" and this is carried over into the New Testament.

    2) So if we all priests, then there needs to be a theological reason that distinguishes some, who are forced to be celibate from the rest, who are supposed to be "fruitful and multiply". (If you have a celibate priesthood, you have to deny birth control to the "fruitful" I guess, in order to make up for the "fruitless"!)

    3) And by the way, what happened to the priesthood of ALL the Faithful?

    4) I think we need to claim our baptismal priesthood. And stake our claim for married clergy upon that basis.

    5) But indeed the holiness of the priesthood of the people also needs to be recognized and along with it an end to clericalism.

    6) Lastly, you keep saying "the Church" - but is this any longer "the Church"? It may not be heresy, but the hierarchy may have wandered far afield from "Church" - as if it's the "one and only". IMVHO

  6. Quoting from the article "It is a doctrinal impediment that intentionally alters Christ’s infallible teaching, it denies a Sacramental grace from God, a sanctifying grace given to Christians by the Son of God, and thus voids all Church claims of infallible teaching authority."

    Christ's teachings are infallible. The Church's teachings via the institutional hierarchy is what it is - a deception and ploy in order to control people.

    I have severed all ties with the institutional Church. It is not worth defending. It is a sham. It is a shame. It is a disgrace!

  7. Therapy, I think you are very right in your points. For the last point- yes, it is the church leaders that have left the People of God not vice versa. I saw an interesting comment somewhere, it may have been on this board, that the Vatican should be made into a library and a museum (so it can be of use to all the People of God.)

    Butterfly you speak what would have been unspeakable for me 25 yrs. ago about giving up on the institution. I got so much from Catholic education that I could never have though that way then. My question several times has been, Where to now? This is not a question for what am I going to do but what of the youth that need good institutions? It saddens me to think that all the Catholic Institutions of Higher learning are loosing credibility associated with such a sinful leadership. They must speak truth or our children loose so much that might have informed them of how to live a godly life of love and progress. This type of vision of hope and love has been lost by our leaders. Has it also been lost in the Universities. Better to be declared not a Catholic University than to loose the integrity that must be a part of a good institution.

    I think our institution has bought into that we have found God the Father and He his mind is a prejudiced, homophobic, misogynous monitory system --CAPITALISM.

  8. The RCC institution has killed Christ. Better the Vatican State be turned into a museum.... it is already a museum.

  9. rdp46:

    Check out the Eastern Orthodox. I've found a lovely little parish, meditative Liturgy, focus on peace and justice issues (in terms apostolates), at least one young man is openly gay, a mix of cultures and languages. Preaching is related to the need for all of us to continually reform our lives (as part of a spiritual healing process) in accord with the central teachings of the Gospel. Pastor is married, of course. (Former Roman Catholic seminarian - of long, long ago. But he was already attracted to the Orthodox even then.)

    I can only speak for this one parish. But truly I feel at home. And I too would simply never have "thought" of looking elsewhere years ago. Just before Advent I felt "driven" to do so... for it simply became impossible to endure the suffering foisted upon us. The schizophrenic split between the true spirituality in the monastic tradition (especially the Benedictines and the Cistercians) versus the hierarchy, which seems to have abandoned the Gospel. (I mean where is the hierarchy showing us the Good News?)

    There is no need to suffer for a hierarchy gone off the rails. The Orthodox have preserved the faith!


    Let us never forget. The Resurrection was first announced to WOMEN! Who were not believed...

  10. Amid all the incoherence in the official 'company song' there is this:

    "...(the) Vatican Council I in 1870, when the Church infallibly declared that “some new doctrine” may not be added to the Deposit of Faith."

    Ummm......Vatican I infallibly declared via the ex cathedra proclaimation of the (new) 'Doctrine' of Infallibility that the Church was Infallible when it claimed to be speaking Infallibly, by virtue of the Doctrine of Infallibility, which it had Infallibly proclaimed.

    Any Questions?

    Just one: are we claiming this to be retroactive from 1870 - or only effective from 1870 onward?

    Naturally they claim the former - using (intentionally....) mistranslation of the words of Christ as..'proof'.

    There will be a pop quiz next week kids....:)

  11. "Ummm......Vatican I infallibly declared via the ex cathedra proclaimation of the (new) 'Doctrine' of Infallibility that the Church was Infallible when it claimed to be speaking Infallibly, by virtue of the Doctrine of Infallibility, which it had Infallibly proclaimed."

    I loved this. My mother, God rest her soul, distilled this down quite well and did it in four words: "Because I said so."