Celibacy’s History, Psycho-Sexually Compromised Churchmen Now

     Gabino Zavala is a figurative and literal Father  discovered to have hidden the fact that he has two adult children. He resigned from his position as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Mr. Zavala’s children live with their mother somewhere outside California. The Los Angeles Archdiocese hasn’t released the names of the children and has offered to help fund their college education.

     The Church, of course, has not always demanded celibacy of its priests. Historians of the earliest Christians agree that Peter was married and Church clerics were routinely married and were clearly permitted to engage in sex until the Council of Elvira early in the fourth century. Then, later, on 10 February 385, Directa Dicretal, issued by Pope Siricius, demanded what the order called “clerical continence”. Marriage, per se, wasn’t the issue:  tens of thousands of priests were then married. Siricius was after having  priests abstain from sex with their wives. Actual practice varied widely from realm to realm as late as the twelfth century. By the end of the year-over year Council of Trent, in the mid-1500s, the Church had reiterated and now quite firmly, its demand that all clerics not only abstain from sex but that they must not marry as well.

     From that point on, the rule was fairly well seen as universal within the Universal Church.

     Mr  Zavala’s falling off the cliff aside, and while I admire the LA Archdiocese for taking care of his kids’ schooling costs, I’m amazed the issue had to arise. It seems ludicrous.

    No one can say with (objective, historical) certainty whether or not Jesus was celibate, a virgin, until he was roughly murdered at roughly thirty-three. What we can say with confidence is that northern Palestinian Jewish men were expected to marry and did. There is absolutely no reason to imagine, except in highly speculative, retrojective, multi-layered hindsight, that the tiny village carpenter’s boy and later itinerant, deeply ethical, if not rather revolutionary Torah-teacher, would have ditched the expectations of his family and thousands of years of Jewish tradition.

     The New Testament’s Wedding Scene at Cana (Gsp. John, Ch. 2, in which he provides quite a lot more wine than appears to be at hand in the wine-skins) is almost certainly a retrojective rendering of Jesus’ own wedding celebration. There really is no other reason for the writer to have insisted on including it:  no wedding couple is named, nor does the scene move the plot forward. And by this point in the narratives –John’s is the fourth of the canonized gospels, written several generations after the crucifixion– one hardly needs yet another (and in this case, a comparatively mundane) miracle:  God’s voice had long since boomed approval from the sky at his baptism, fish and loaves had multiplied, people were healed and raised, and so on. It must have been included to highlight and memorialize  his friends’ own long-remembered joy over their (now long-dead, long-mourned) rabbi’s exultant moment of personal happiness.

     Mazal Tov!

     And yet since the beginning, sexual relations have been themselves officially suspect and later, for clerics, banned.

     Some questions in light of recent history: 

.  Has it been a worthwhile retrojection, a worthwhile re-invention of what a Jewish man’s life was in that time and place?

.  How many hundreds of millions of abandoned and abused children have been victim to an ideology that needlessly insists that a Jew so deeply a part of his culture could not have been the fully human man he must have been?

. Is insisting on the fellow’s celibacy so crucial to the far broader faith, a Faith of Resurrection and Grace, of Good Works and  Charity…is the insistence on his abstention from sex so critical that a worldwide institution allows itself to continue to harbor sexual criminals, the psycho-sexually-compromised, so many ill men who yearn for respectability and cover, emotionally deranged men who as yet sully the millions of good and decent men and women of this faith?

These acts, Mr  Zavala’s, too, have as a common root the willful subversion of everything we know about Jewish men of Jesus’ era and environment. It would be one thing if no one were harmed:  no one should care when consenting adults do and do not have sex. No one should care when religious beliefs are, in practice, harmless. When the unstable are welcomed and given power over the lives of children, though, it matters, and it matters far beyond the reach of faith.


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