Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Is Celibacy Possible?

The recent controversy of alleged raping of an excommunicated nun by the former Principal of St.Joseph College, Trichy has once again brought to the fore the question of practicality of celibacy practised by Roman Catholic Priests.

In fact the condition that the RC Priests should practice celibacy or to remain unmarried was not there till 1130 AD i.e. upto almost 1100 years after the Christ was born!

In the early days, the Priests were allowed to marry and have children just like the other branches of Christianity commonly known as the Proestants. Even though the elders of the Church were not in favour of this trend and several attempts were made to correct it they could not succeed till 1139 when a general council was summoned by Pope Innocent II and held in the Lateran basilica. At the end of the meet the Council decreed "that the law of continence and the purity pleasing to God might be propagated among ecclesiastical persons and those in holy orders, we decree that where bishops, priests, deacons, subdeacons, canons regular, monks and professed lay brothers have presumed to take wives and so transgress this holy precept, they are to be separated from their partners. For we do not deem there to be a marriage which, it is agreed, has been contracted against ecclesiastical law."

However, it is interesting to note that Jesus Christ himself did not insist on celibacy as the first head of the Church, St. Peter, was himself a married man though he was said to have given up all his worldly possessions to follow Jesus. Jesus knew very well the limitations of human ability to practice celibacy as he says (Mathew:19:11):"This teaching (not marrying) does not apply to everyone, but only to those whom God has given it.... and others (who) do not marry for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let him who can accept this teaching do so."

In 1 Corinthians 7:1-9, 25-40, St Paul says that it's fine to be idealistically commited to not marrying in order to devote one's life wholly to the service of God but if you can't handle it, you could be setting ourself up for spiritual disaster - we have seen how some churhes have had to deal with horrendous sins of fornication, adultery, and perversion because their priests were not able to contain their sexuality. He further says that "it is better to marry that burning with passion."

Yes, it is better to give up celibacy than burning with passion for sex which finally leads to adultery.

It has also been observed by several historians that the Church was in fact forced to bring Celibacy as a precondition for the aspiring RC Priests for fear of losing huge properties owned by the Church across the globe as several Clerics who were allowed to marry bequeathed the Church properties to their wife and children. The historians therefore surmise that Celibacy was introduced more as a man-made rule to protect one of the worldly belongings of the Church than as a virtue.

The Church instead of accepting its own folly of forcing Celibacy on Priests for such earthly reasons declared that a married person would not be able to do justice to his ecclesiastical duties to justify its act. "An unmarried man concerns himself with the Lord's work, because he is trying to please the Lord. But a married man conerns himself with worldly matters, because he wants to please his wife; and so he is pulled in two directions."

It maybe true as a married person has to face the day-to-day problems of running a family, as well. We have also recently read in the papers about a CSI Bishop swindling crores of Church money to the benefit of his family and a son of another Hindu seer selling properties belonging to the Temple, taking advantage of advanced age of his father!

If the actual reason behind enforcing Celibacy is only to ensure the rights of the Church over its Property it can very well achieve its aim by taking away the selling rights of the Priests through a decree instead of depriving them of the worldly pleasures, which has become a burning issue these days.

The ongoing controversy of the Church remaining a mute spectator when several hundres of its Priests were indulging in pedophilia, especially in Western countries, is also one of the offshoot of this practice of forcing celibacy on the Priests.

The time has therefore come for the Church to subject itself to an introspection and analyse the practicality of practicing Celibacy and come to a practical solution.

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