Celibacy In Religion, Is It Natural?

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Celibacy is defined as the state of abstaining from marriage and sexual relations.

What is it?

Celibacy is a voluntary vow of sexual abstinence. In some cases, it can also be a promise to remain unmarried.

Celibacy looks different to each person, so there’s no single way to practice it.

Some people abstain from all sexual activity (including penetrative and non-penetrative sex), while others engage in things like outercourse.

Although celibacy is usually associated with religion, there are a number of reasons why someone might choose to remain celibate.

Whether you’re a curious observer or considering a lifestyle change, here are a few answers to the most commonly asked questions.

Is celibacy the same thing as abstinence?

Although many people use “celibacy” and “abstinence” interchangeably, there is a difference between the two terms.

Abstinence usually refers to the decision not to have penetrative sex. It’s typically limited to a specific period of time, such as until marriage.

Celibacy is a vow to remain abstinent over an extended period of time. For some, this may mean their entire life.

With both celibacy and abstinence, it’s ultimately up to the individual to determine what is and isn’t included in their lifestyle and what sexual activities they are or aren’t comfortable limiting.

In some cases, these limitations may be pre-determined by your religious or cultural practices.

Where does ‘chastity’ come in?

Chastity and celibacy are usually intertwined, especially if you’re taking a vow of celibacy for religious or cultural reasons.

People who are chaste make the conscious decision to control their thoughts, as well as their actions, as a way to signal purity or virtue.

In some religions, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this extends only until marriage.

Oftentimes, religious leaders promise lifetime chastity as a way to honor their commitment to their faith.powered by Rubicon Project

Can you engage in any physical activity at all?

It all depends on how you, or the beliefs you subscribe to, define celibacy.

Solo (masturbation)

For some, masturbation is a way to be sexually satisfied without breaking the commitment to celibacy.

It can also be a way to get to know your body on a deeper level without being sexually active with others.

Some people who practice celibacy may also partake in mutual masturbation, where they masturbate at the same time as their partner.

With a partner (outercourse)

On the other hand, some people who choose to be celibate still engage in some physical activities with others.

This involves outercourse, or non-penetrative sexual activity.

Some define outercourse as anything that doesn’t include penis-in-vagina (PIV) penetration.

Others define outercourse as anything that doesn’t include penetration of any kind.

In either definition, outercourse can come in the form of kissinghuggingmassaging, and dry humping.

For those who consider certain types of penetration outercourse, this could also include fingers, toy playoral sex, and anal sex.

While outercourse likely won’t lead to pregnancy, some forms (such as oral and anal) can pose the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Is celibacy always motivated by religion?

Some people are born into or adopt belief systems that encourage or require celibacy as a part of their practice.

But that doesn’t mean everyone who’s celibate is religious — there are many other reasons to adopt the practice.ADVERTISEMENTAccurate at-home STD test with treatment included

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Why do people choose to be celibate?

Few people have on solitary reason for being celibate. There are often several factors at play, even within organized belief systems.

If religion is a factor

Some people practice celibacy as a way to feel closer to their religion or commit to a higher power that they believe in.

Celibacy can also be a way to develop deeper relationships without settling down and committing all of their love to one individual. This is why some people expand their definition to include refraining from marriage.

If religion isn’t a factor

For some, celibacy is a way to feel more empowered. It can help move their attention away from relationships or sex and turn it inward, allowing them to focus on personal development.

For others, it could be medical decision following a diagnosis of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) as a way to prevent transmission.

For those who experience compulsive sexual behavior or sex addiction, celibacy could offer a way to recover.

It’s important to note that some people might confuse celibacy with asexuality, a lack of sexual attraction. Celibacy is a voluntary choice, whereas asexuality is a sexual orientation.

Are there any benefits to being celibate?

Potential benefits to becoming celibate include:

  • Overall, there’s very little risk of contracting an STI or STD. There’s still some degree of risk for those who practice forms of outercourse that include genital contact.
  • There’s little-to-no risk of unintended pregnancy.
  • It may reduce the amount of money spent on contraception, such as condoms. Other forms of birth control, such as the pill or hormonal IUD, may still be needed for other medical reasons.
  • It may provide space for you to get know your partner outside of sexual activity.
  • It may help you further understand the difference between physical and emotional attraction.
  • It may free up more time to focus on your career, friendships, or family.

Are there any downsides to being celibate?

Potential drawbacks to becoming celibate include:

  • It may be challenging to engage in romantic relationships, even if your partner is also celibate, if it introduces physical desire or pressure to engage in sexual activity.
  • Some might feel as though they’re missing out on key life experiences, such as marriage or children, by eliminating or limiting sexual activities.
  • Some might feel as though others judge their decision, which can lead to feelings of isolation.

What goes into the decision to be celibate?

Because celibacy is a major life decision, those who choose to be celibate tend to spend careful time and consideration before jumping right in.

Do your research

As mentioned, the definition of celibacy can vary a lot, so it’s important to do your research. Thorough, thoughtful education will help you decide what’s best for your personal version of celibacy.

Make the commitment

Whether you make a vow of celibacy to a religious organization or to yourself, this promise is something that takes practice and commitment to carry out.

Define your boundaries

As you begin to understand what your commitment to celibacy means for you, you can start outlining your boundaries. You may find that these boundaries evolve as you move through your practice.

How do you practice celibacy while dating or in marriage?

Some people who practice celibacy abstain from marriage entirely. Others continue to date or marry while limiting sexual activity. This can present its own challenges.

Communicate your needs and expectations

As with any relationship, it’s important for you and your partners to understand each other’s wants, needs, and expectations.

Even if all partners are celibate, it can be difficult to find a comfortable level of intimacy, so this requires honest conversation.

Explore other ways to be intimate

Sex isn’t the only way to be intimate. It can be helpful for you and your partner to engage in other forms of intimacy to find what works best for them — whether that’s through physical touch (like hugging or cuddling) or deep conversation.

Seek out or engage with a support system

Sometimes, it’s necessary to find an outside support system that can help you work through their feelings and provide unbiased advice. This could include friends, family, or a counselor.

Where does the notion of being ‘involuntary celibate’ come in?

Involuntary celibates, or incels, are a self-identified community of people who desire sexual activity but are unable to find partners who will engage in sexual intercourse.

Incels often create online communities that allows for other isolated individuals to unite and connect over their shared circumstance.

In recent years, though, the incel movement has quickly become a front for people to act violently in response to people who knowingly or unknowingly reject them.

Real Swingers of the Animal Kingdom

While gossip columnists may have full reign over the sex lives of Hollywood stars, scientists have invaded the habitats of some of the most infamous cheating animals to reveal some real life monkey business. Today’s red carpet headline: “Free-spirited bonobos seek perpetual orgies with any available male or female in any combination.”

In the animal kingdom, when it comes to mating, promiscuity is the rule rather than the exception. About 90 percent of mammals have multiple mates, and cheating on social mates is observed in almost all species. In fact, only 3 to 10 percent of mammals are even socially monogamous.

We’ve identified some animals with unusual mating practices and behaviors. Find out why these animals are such hot commodities and why evolution favors their promiscuous behavior.

It’s the planet’s awful truth worth gossiping about.

Think you have a good sex life? Think again.

Check out these swingers and how they make the scene:

  1. Fire-colored Beetles and Lightning Bugs Black Light Rave: Fire-colored beetles sometimes use toxic substances as aphrodisiacs. The male entices his mate by presenting a chemical offering known as cantharidinan, which is secreted from a gland in his head. More of the chemical is transferred to the female beetle in the male’s sperm. And she, in turn, transfers the chemical to her eggs, which are protected by the chemical from predators. And, talk about incredible diversity of approaches to sex — there are female lightning bugs that have one flash pattern to attract males of their own species with which to mate, and another that mimics the pattern of a different species. The false come-on is a trap — any males of the other species that respond are eaten.
  2. Honey Bee Queens Reign Supreme: In hives, females rule. Early in a queen’s life, she makes several mating flights and can mate with anywhere from one to more than 40 drones. When a queen flies by, the males mob her, deposit their sperm, and then subsequently die. While the drones may not appreciate this lethal affair, the worker bees in the colony prefer more promiscuous queen bees. In fact, the number of partners a honey bee queen has influences how attractive the queen is to the several thousand worker bees in the hive and how long her reign is likely to be. Promiscuity may also improve colony disease resistance by boosting the genetic diversity of her offspring. The queen stores and uses the sperm of all these males throughout her lifetime so she can focus on her most important job of laying eggs. In a successful hive, the bees are buzzing: “Long live the queen!”
  3. Bonobos Throw a Big Sex Party: Some animals do not conform to any mating system and engage in frequent sex with many partners. Probably the most well-known example are bonobo chimpanzees, known for the frequency, creativity, indiscernibility and variability in their sexual interactions. Both males and females mate with multiple partners to ease social tensions within the group and practice free love with bonobos of both sexes — even while hanging upside down.
  4. Desperately Seeking Topi Antelopes: Thirty days of unending sex makes for some tired topis. Over-amorous females, fertile only one day a year, seek out the most desirable males and hound them to absolute exhaustion. Biologists have observed that males often turn down mating opportunities — Say it ain’t so! That’s right — this species exhibits sexual behavior that’s the reverse of most animals, in that females are aggressive, while the males are standoff-ish. In the topi battle of the sexes, females take the lead — mating several times with each of about four males on average.
  5. Birds Make Desperate Housewives: The hedge sparrow has an incredible mating game that never seems to end. Even after the female sparrow has paired with a male, she keeps her eye out for other possibilities. Extramarital partners and sexual communes are common for these polyandrous females because it means they can have more offspring. Like the hedge sparrow, female barn swallows also shop around for multiple male sexual partners, and the males that are small, dark and handsome get the girls. The females judge the males by their looks, and if the male breast and belly feathers lose their sheen, it’s a cue to the female to start looking elsewhere for her next mate.
  6. Elephant Seal Beach Blanket Bingo: While you’re watching to make sure no one takes your towel-draped lounge chair on the beach, male elephant seals are watching to make sure no one takes their bathing beauties. Large, blubbery male elephant seals called “beach masters” protect their gals from other guys trying to move in on their territory. A single breeding bull may control a harem of 100 or more, and only the biggest and most fearsome bulls get to mate. The males only become beach masters after they duke it out amongst themselves with their pendulous noses and teeth. Fights can involve bloody clashes and repeated strikes until one male submits and the other one stands victorious.
  7. Jumping Spiders Dance Dance Revolution: A jumping spider is more than just a pretty face. These guys have hidden talents way beyond anything you’ve seen on reality shows, “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol.” Once onstage, the male spider attracts the gaze of the females, and then begins to coordinate an elaborate show involving singing and dancing. The females pick up the sound vibrations, while the male waves his front legs and zigzags in an intricate courtship “flamenco dance” routine. With his tufted legs straight up in the air, the male beats his abdomen and moves his legs rapidly. After a dramatic crescendo, he taps a female gently on the back and then tries to mount her. If the male doesn’t get it just right, he suffers a fate worse than a brutal critique from “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell. If his performance is flawed, he’s liable to end up as dinner.
  8. North American Elk Hoedown: It’s all about posturing and foreplay for these strapping guys. Bull elk compete with one another for the right to breed with a herd of females during a two-month long mating season. Depending on his level of experience, a bull elk can be the master of a harem of anywhere from 5 to 60 cows, as the female elk are called. Mature, antlered bulls compete for cows by displaying their antlers, necks and bodies, and emit strong, musky odors and “bugle.” If this “tough-guy” approach doesn’t work, the bulls may have a scuffle and put those antlers to good use.
  9. Bower Birds Build Love Shacks: In the name of love, bower birds may take out your garbage and rival even the best recycling program. These charmers will build elaborate structures, called bowers, out of everything from leaves and sticks to bottle caps and clothespins. And, that’s just the architecture. The males are also multi-talented interior designers, and may use a leaf or twig to paint the inner walls with a stain made from chewed plants, charcoal, and saliva. The bower serves to show off the male’s strength, and attract and seduce one or more mates. When a female arrives to inspect the structure, the male entertains her with an elaborate dance. Once the show is over, the female most often shows her approval by mating with the male and then flying off to build a nest in the neighborhood. Then the male is open for business again: Ladies welcome!
  10. Birds of Paradise Flash and Flutter: When it comes to courtship displays, these species are the fashion icons of the bird world, donning lacy feathers, head ribbons, shiny breast shields — even bonnets. In these elaborate “costumes,” the male birds put the moves on the ladies and launch into theatrical routines. Taking a step back in time, the birds get boogying and downright funky. They hop and shake, flap and flutter — until the female is won over by the male bird with the best feathers and razzle-dazzle display.

Celibacy Is Unnatural

In nature, all plants have sex. Trees burst into flowers, sway with the wind, attract bees with nectar, all so that their pollen can spread.  Flowers transform into fruits for animals and birds who can shed the seed far away from their shade and germinate into the next generation. In nature, all animals have sex. The cow has sex. The elephant has sex. The horse, lion and walrus have sex. Animals fight for mating rights. Birds indulge in complex mating rituals. Selection is highly competitive. They can be monogamous or polygamous. In some species, the female takes charge of the children. In others, it is the male.

Animals also indulge in what lawyers and judges call ‘unnatural’ sex (revealing their poor knowledge of zoology). The male has sex with the male. The female has sex with the female. There are species where animals can become, or at least behave, or simply appear, as male or female, as situation demands. As of 1999, nearly 1,500 species, ranging from primates to gut worms, have been observed engaging in same-sex behaviours; this is well documented in about 500 species.

But no animal and plant is known to be celibate. The a-jiva (inanimate objects) and the nir-jiva (dead creatures) do not have sex because they cannot have sex. The sa-jiva (animate creatures) must have sex if they want their species to survive. And they must have a lot of sex for they have to ensure there are enough numbers of offspring to make up for losses to predators who hunt and eat their young for their own survival.

So we see that while abstinence and celibacy does occur in nature, it is not a desirable outcome for the animal being force to practice it. In nature only the strongest and healthiest male specimen gets to mate. In many cases he mates with multiple females to spread his superior genes to the next generation. This is how evolution progresses and species adapt and become more successful. In some species homosexual behavior is present, due to reduce access to fertile females.

There is no homophobia in the animal kingdom

Think being gay is unnatural? Then look no further than the animal kingdom, where homosexuality is very common. Studies suggest that around 1,500 animal species practice same-sex coupling, from fish to birds and mammals.

It’s no secret that some humans are homosexual, but did you know that the behavior is also very common in the animal kingdom? In fact, studies suggest that around 1,500 animal species are known to practice regular same-sex coupling – from insects and fish to birds and mammals – with the actual number likely being even higher.

“Being homosexual is very common and no problem in the natural world at all. In fact, we see more heterophobia than homophobia in the animal kingdom,” Jasper Buikx, biologist at Amsterdam’s ARTIS Zoo, told DW in an interview.

There are many reasons why these animals engage in homosexual activity. Sometimes, it’s due to a lack of heterosexual partners, other times it’s just for pleasure and in still other cases it’s about forming social bonds or settling fights.

Most of these animals aren’t purely homosexual – they  also mate with the opposite gender, at least for procreation purposes. But there are a few examples of long-term exclusively gay relationships in the animal kingdom, with some of them even ending up forming a family.

This baby chick hatched after two male gay vultures built a nest and took turns sitting on an abandoned egg

Two gay male vultures successfully hatch an egg together

The latest example occurred at the ARTIS Zoo in Amsterdam, where two male griffon vultures recently successfully hatched an egg together and are now raising the baby chick.

Griffon vultures are monogamous animals and the Amsterdam lovebirds have been a couple for years. According to their zookeeper Job van Tol, they’re quite picky animals and once they’ve chosen a partner they tend to stick with it. 

For several breeding seasons, the two male vultures have been seen mating, building nests and trying to start a family, says van Tol. But of course, they weren’t able to for biological reasons.

That is, until zoo staff discovered an abandoned egg, which they tested to see if it was fertile. When they discovered it was, they gave it to the gay vulture couple, which immediately started caring for it, taking turns sitting on the egg to keep it warm until it hatched.

“We just wanted to give them the opportunity to breed the egg and raise the chick,” van Tol told DW in an interview.

The chick has been growing more quickly than any other chick in the zoo thanks to its gay foster dads

“We were very nervous if it would work, as this is the first time we tried anything like this. But they couldn’t have done a better job. The chick is already as big as its foster dads.”

The chick is currently two months old and is doing very well. As soon as it was born, the gay foster parents kept fulfilling their parental duties: foraging for food, feeding the chick and defending the nest. All tasks were split evenly – as is the case with all vulture parents.

“That’s why it doesn’t matter if you have a homosexual or a heterosexual couple raising a chick. A gay couple can do the job just as well,” van Tol said.

In about a month’s time, the chick will learn how to fly from the nest and will then become independent and leave its gay foster parents.

“We’re just so happy this worked out. Seeing a baby chick being successfully raised by two male vultures has been one of the most special moments of my career.”

Gay bird couples are very common

The Dutch duo is not an isolated example. At New York’s Central Park Zoo, two male chinstrap penguins, which were a couple for about six years, also nurtured a fertilized egg together and raised the young chick that hatched.

Birds, such as vultures, geese and ducks, are known for pairing with one partner for life, so those who choose a same-sex partner will stick with it. And that happens more often than you might think. When you see a colony of black-headed gulls for instance, you can be sure that almost every tenth pair is a lesbian couple.

The Laysan albatross, which nests in Hawaii, is also known for its large number of homosexual partnerships. Around 30 percent of the pairings on the island of Oahu, for instance, are made up of two females.

And around 20 percent of swan couples are homosexual as well. 

Bonobos are known for seeking sexual pleasure; they copulate extremely frequently, including with the same sex

Homosexual activity strengthens social bonds in the animal kingdom

Other animals engage in homosexual activity too – but not as exclusively and long-term as some birds do.

Take bonobos for instance. Almost all of these apes are entirely bisexual, as sex to them is about more than reproduction. Just like us humans, they have sex for fun, and they do so with both sexes. Same-sex bonobo pairs have been seen performing fellatio, massaging each other’s genitals and kissing each other.

And they use sex to cement social bonds and settle disputes. Male bonobos that have had a fight often perform “penis fencing” – genital-to genital touching – to reduce tension.

It’s a similar story with male lions, which often band together with their brothers to lead the pride. To ensure loyalty, they strengthen their bonds by having sex with each other.

And even bottlenose dolphins display homosexual behavior, which helps members of the group form strong social bonds.

Lions sometimes love the same sex as well

How do we define if an animal is actually gay?

So how do we know if an animal is actually gay? It’s very difficult for researchers to determine whether an animal is purely homosexual because unlike with humans, you can’t really ask animals what they feel, you can only interpret their behavior.

“What you can see from our gay vulture couple in Amsterdam is that they keep coming back to each other. They really have a strong bond,” van Tol said.

“Of course I cannot ask them why that is and if they consider themselves to be exclusively homosexual. But it’s their choice to come back to each other and that really says something.”

One researcher in the US gave male domesticated sheep the choice between a female and a male partner and found that between six and 12 percent of the rams always picked another ram to mate with.

Further researchfound that the rams that preferred mating with other males had slightly different brains. The hypothalamus, the part of their brain responsible for releasing sex hormones, was in fact smaller in the homosexual rams, which supports the theory that purely homosexual animals do exist.

Studies suggest that up to 8 percent of males in flocks of sheep prefer other males, even when fertile females are around

Homosexuality still a taboo in the scientific world

Interpreting homosexual behavior in animals remains tricky territory for researchers. The topic needs more research, according to Buikx, as there is not enough data to draw concrete conclusions from. However, homosexuality is still a taboo in the scientific world.

“There have been very few scientists that have been focusing on the subject because it’s been regarded as something that isn’t very positive for your scientific career. We need to spread the message that homosexuality shouldn’t be a taboo.”

That’s one of the reasons why Buikx has been organizing special tours through the ARTIS Zoo for Amsterdam’s Gay Pride event for the past 5 years, where he introduces visitors to all the homosexual animals living there.

“We use that as a scientific way to show people that homosexuality is very common in the animal kingdom and is not a threat to evolution. There is room for homosexuals, bisexuals, heterosexuals – everything is natural. What’s very unnatural are homophobia and all those kinds of taboos that are still present in a lot of societies on our planet.”

While homosexuality is present in the animal kingdom, I am in no way saying that I am for or against this activity in our species. I am just stating that it happens and in many cases is natural in many animal species. What I am saying is that homosexual behavior dose not serve a function in the continuance of a particular species. For a species to be successful there needs to be some form of reproduction and same sex relations does not provide this. So you can take it any way you want. What I have shown that forced celibacy can result in this behavior. Sex is natural in the animal kingdom, and the drive for a species to survive is incredible strong. Now what separates us from most of the animal kingdom is free will and conscious thought. The vast majority of the human species knows what is right and what is wrong. They also know what form of sexual activities are acceptable and even legal. What I am referring to is nonconsensual sex and pedophilia. Forced abstinence may give those individuals with low moral and ethical standards to opt to this avenue of sexual release. I will discuss further in this article.

What religions practice celibacy as part of its practices?

Islam, Judaism, and Christianity

Celibacy was not part of the original practices of Islam, and most of the famous Islamic saints were married. Even among bands of Sufi mystics, such as the dervishes, celibacy was exceptional (see Sufism). Muslims believe that marriage is a gift from God or a kind of service to God. Islamic celibacy, where it exists, is a matter of personal spiritual advancement or enthusiasm rather than sacerdotal purity or institutional control.

Celibacy has played little role in Judaism, in which marriage and raising children are understood as holy obligations. The prophet Jeremiah, who apparently chose not to have children, is the only prophet who did not marry. Even in biblical times, however, there were prescribed periods of sexual abstinence in connection with rituals and sacrifices and the prosecution of holy wars. In post-biblical times, some members of the Essene sect, according to the historian Josephus, rejected marriage, and the medieval Talmudic scholar Ben Azzai remained celibate. Traditionally, unmarried males cannot assume leadership positions in the Jewish community.

In the subapostolic period (the late 1st and early 2nd centuries) some Christian thinkers took the extreme view that all Christians should renounce marriage. More moderate positions were developed to defend marriage against the view that the flesh and all matter were evil and to defend celibacy against the widespread sexual license of the times. Many writers held that marriage was good but that celibacy was better.

The pre-Christian idea that sexual activity was particularly wrong for those who officiated at the altar was assimilated by Christians, and it thus became common for ordained men to give up sexual relations with their wives. The regional Council of Elvira in Spain (c. AD 306) decreed that all priests and bishops, married or not, should abstain from sexual relations. The ecumenical Council of Nicaea (AD 325) declined to make such a prohibition but did forbid priests to live with women other than their mothers, sisters, or aunts. The position of the Eastern churches was made clear by the decrees of the Quinisext Council in 692: bishops must be celibate, but ordained priests, deacons, and subdeacons could continue in existing marriages.

The subsequent history of celibacy in the Western church is a bit more complicated and reveals the ambivalence found in Paul. The monastic tradition and its celibate lifestyle were adopted in the Western church in the 4th century. In the later part of that century, the Church Fathers, especially Saints Ambrose and Augustineendorsed celibacy in their writings and personal lives. Although it was not as rigorously enforced in the early Middle Ages, the practice of clerical celibacy was promoted as part of the Carolingian reform of the church in the 8th and 9th centuries. Official church teachings continued to emphasize the importance of clerical celibacy, though as late as the 10th century many priests and even some bishops had wives.

As part of their attempt to restore the independence and integrity of the clergy, the supporters of the Gregorian reform movement of the 11th century sought to enforce clerical celibacy. Their efforts were made part of church law at the first and second Lateran Councils (1123 and 1139), which abolished clerical marriage and thus established the official and still-existing position of the Roman Catholic church.

The issue of clerical celibacy arose again in the 15th and 16th centuries, when the church became increasingly secularized and numerous clerics, including Pope Alexander VI, fathered children. Although the Roman Catholic church remained committed to the ideal of clerical celibacy, the churches of the Reformation—the Lutheran church, the Church of England (Anglican Communion), the Reformed church, and others—rejected it. Indeed, the leader of the Reformation, Martin Luther, renounced his vow of celibacy, married the former nun Katherina von Bora, and raised a family with her. Opposition to clerical celibacy remained the norm in Protestant countries after the Reformation. In the 18th century, however, Ann Lee, the founder of the Christian millenarian sect known as the Shakers, established celibacy as the standard for all members of her church. About 1845 monastic orders began to reappear in the Church of England, and about a century later small Protestant monastic groups were founded on the continent of Europe.

Clerical celibacy once again became a cause of ferment in the Roman Catholic church during and after the Second Vatican Council (1962–65). The council permitted a married diaconate. After the council, the number of priests seeking to leave the priesthood to marry vastly increased, and many European and American Catholics began to urge that celibacy for priests be made optional. Nevertheless, Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the traditional rule on clerical celibacy in his encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus (June 23, 1967). The pope returned to the New Testament texts: for the sake of Christ and the coming kingdom of heaven, the priest must be totally free of domestic responsibilities; he must witness by his way of life to the transcendent reality that fills and grips him. Paul’s teachings on clerical celibacy were reaffirmed by Pope John Paul II.

In the early 21st century, revelations that thousands of priests in Australia, Europe, and the United States had committed acts of child molestation prompted calls for reconsideration of the rule on clerical celibacy. Although the church hierarchy resisted these pleas, it did eventually take steps to ensure that such crimes would not be committed again. Meanwhile, some defenders of the church publicly emphasized that celibacy does not lead inevitably to pedophilia, noting that the vast majority of priests had honored their vows.

When Did the Catholic Church Decide Priests Should Be Celibate?

The belief that religious figures should be celibate began long before the birth of Christianity. Ancient Druid priests were thought to have been celibate and Aztec temple priests were expected to remain sexually abstinent. Other pre-Christian sects mandated that the people chosen for their sacrificial offerings must be pure, meaning that they had never engaged in sex.

Jesus lived a chaste life and never married and at one point in the Bible is referred to as a eunuch (Matthew 19:12), though most scholars believe that this was intended metaphorically. The implication was that Jesus lived a celibate life like a eunuch.  ( This assertion has come under closer scrutiny after new historical documents have recently come to light, that may point to Jesus actually being married with children.) Many of his disciples were also chaste and celibate. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, recommends celibacy for women:  “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.” (1 Cor. 7:8-9) But the early Christian church had no hard and fast rule against clergy marrying and having children. Peter, a Galilee fisherman, whom the Catholic Church considers the first Pope, was married. Some Popes were the sons of Popes.

The first written mandate requiring priests to be chaste came in AD 304. Canon 33 of the Council of Elvira stated that all”bishops, presbyters, and deacons and all other clerics” were to”abstain completely from their wives and not to have children.” A short time later, in 325, the Council of Nicea, convened by Constantine, rejected a ban on priests marrying requested by Spanish clerics.

The practice of priestly celibacy began to spread in the Western Church in the early Middle Ages. In the early 11th century Pope Benedict VIII responded to the decline in priestly morality by issuing a rule prohibiting the children of priests from inheriting property. A few decades later Pope Gregory VII issued a decree against clerical marriages.

The Church was a thousand years old before it definitively took a stand in favor of celibacy in the twelfth century at the Second Lateran Council held in 1139, when a rule was approved forbidding priests to marry. In 1563, the Council of Trent reaffirmed the tradition of celibacy.

Several explanations have been offered for the decision of the Church to adopt celibacy. Barry University’s Ed Sunshine told Knight-Ridder that the policy was initiated to distinguish the clergy as a special group:”A celibate clergy became the paradigm of separation from the sinful world.” A.W. Richard Sipe, a former priest and author of Sex, Priests and Power: The Anatomy of Crisis (1995), told Knight-Ridder that the”question at the time was who is the final power — the king or the church. If [the church] could control a person’s sex life, it could control their money, their employment, their benefice.” Garry Wills suggested in Under God that the ban on marriage was adopted to lift the status of priests at a time when their authority was being challenged by nobles and others.

Protestants early on took exception to celibacy, arguing that it promoted masturbation, homosexuality and illicit fornication. Martin Luther singled out masturbation as one of the gravest offenses likely to be committed by those who were celibate.”Nature never lets up,” Luther warned,”we are all driven to the secret sin. To say it crudely but honestly, if it doesn’t go into a woman, it goes into your shirt.” American Protestants in the 17th century, fearful of radical religious sects like the Shakers that celebrated celibacy, came out foursquare against the practice.

The Roman Catholic Church’s position today is derived from the Council of Trent. Celibacy is considered an important part of the priesthood, a sign of a priest’s commitment to God and service. Today, though, there are some exceptions to the rule of unmarried clergy. Anglican ministers who were already married when they joined the Catholic Church are allowed to remain married if they choose to join the priesthood.

The Catholic Church distinguishes between dogma and regulations. The male-only priesthood is Catholic dogma, irreversible by papal decree. The ban on marriage is considered a regulation. As Knight-Ridder put it,”That means the pope could change it overnight if he wished.”

The first modern scholar to make a comprehensive study of church celibacy was Henry Charles Lea over a century ago. Lea, a Protestant critical of the Catholic Church, closed his long book with the following statement:

“We may be on the eve of great changes, but it is not easy to anticipate a change so radical as that which would permit the abolition of celibacy. The traditions of the past must first be forgotten; the hopes of the future must first be abandoned. The Latin church is the most wonderful structure in history, and ere its leaders can consent to such a reform they must confess that its career, so full of proud recollections, has been an error.”

Celibacy and the Catholic Church

Celibacy is the formal and solemn oath to never enter the married state. In the Catholic Church, men who take Holy Orders and become priests and women who become nuns take a vow of celibacy. Celibate men and women willingly relinquish their right to marry in order to devote themselves completely and totally to God and his Church.

Celibacy and the male priesthood are two separate and distinct issues and entities, even though they overlap in practice. Celibacy is a discipline of the Church that isn’t absolute; exceptions and modifications have been made through the centuries. But the male priesthood is a part of doctrine and divine law that can never be changed or altered by any pope or council.

The Catholic Church doesn’t teach (and never taught) that all clergy must be celibate. From day one, Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Byzantine, have consistently and perennially had the option of married clergy. Only in the United States is celibacy imposed and forced on the Byzantine Catholic clergy. Both the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches maintain that only celibate priests can become bishops.

A man may be ordained when he’s single or married if he’s Eastern Catholic, but after ordination, a single cleric can’t marry, and a married cleric can’t remarry if his wife dies, unless they have small children and he receives a dispensation from Rome. Marriage must precede ordination according to Eastern tradition, or it can never be received.

The reason for a celibate priesthood is partly political. From the fifth to eighth centuries, the most powerful and influential person in the West was the Catholic pope in the absence of a strong ruler in Europe. Kings, princes, barons, earls, dukes, counts, and other nobility married first to make political alliances and second to establish families. Mandatory celibacy prevented the clergy from getting involved in the intrigue of who marries whom. Mandatory celibacy ensured that the priests were preoccupied with Church work and had no ties or interests in local politics among the fighting factions, which were trying to establish the infant nation states.

The Catholic Church uses the Bible as part of its reasoning for priestly celibacy. Jesus Christ never married and was celibate, and passages in Matthew (19:12) and first Corinthians (7:8 and 7:27–34, 38) affirm the value of celibacy.

Mandatory celibacy for the priesthood is a discipline of the Church, not a doctrine or a dogma. Theoretically, any pope could modify or dissolve mandatory celibacy at any time, but it’s highly improbable, because it’s been part of the Western Church’s priesthood since the fourth century. Additionally, the Church teaches and affirms that celibacy isn’t just a sacrifice; it’s also a gift.

Why Does the Catholic Church Insist on Celibacy?

Recently, the Catholic Church has begun an internal conversation about ordaining married men as priests. This move would mark a significant change from what has been the settled policy of the Latin Church for a thousand years, under which priests are required to remain celibate. This conversation has been prompted in part by the recent crisis of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, which some argue is at least partly a consequence of the Church’s strictures against priests marrying. The declining numbers of Catholic priests in recent years has also created pressure for the Church to open the priesthood to more candidates, and to not exclude religiously educated and virtuous Catholic men simply because they are married. Moreover, the Church is experiencing a dearth of clerical talent in many parts of the world, and allowing the ordination of married priests may help staff Catholic diocese in which there are not presently any available priests.

Married priests already exist in the Eastern Catholic churches as well as in the Anglican ordinariates first established by Benedict XVI. Because of this, many Catholics have seen a golden occasion in the recent Synod of Amazonia for Pope Francis to provide access to the priesthood to married men, opening the door after thousand years of prohibition in the Latin rite.

This potentially drastic change in Church policy has not come to pass, however. Pope Francis has decided to maintain a long and wonderful tradition that respects celibacy for ordained priests as a special gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church and to humanity, even if it means a reduction in the number of priests.

What does celibacy offer to the Catholic Church and to humanity that has compelled all the recent popes to protect it so forcefully? Why has Benedict XVI, who remained silent on church matters after his renunciation, decided to speak now in defense of celibacy together with Cardinal Robert Sarah?

In my opinion, the most profound and sharp response to this issue was given by a holy religious woman, when she said to me— undoubtedly speaking from her own experience—that a celibate person does not marry, because that person considers all other persons his or her brothers and sisters, and therefore any sexual activity could be considered somewhat incestuous by definition.

Celibacy is a source of love, fraternal communion, and selfless service to humanity.

The celibate person does not disrespect marriage but values it, although it is transcended. To be single is premarital, but celibacy is transmarital. Celibacy uplifts marriage and highlights its divine component. That is why the highest matrimony was that virginal matrimony between the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. There is no celibacy without the marriage institution to stand in contrast, and without celibacy, marriage can be trivialized.

Celibacy is a type of falling in love with the divine. It is a divine gift that has to be freely accepted without impositions. The celibate person channels all eros, all desire for possessive love, to God, and from God to all other people. The celibate person aspires to love as only God loves: with infinite love that is equal for everybody. The married person loves God through his or her partner, while the celibate person loves everybody in God. Celibacy should be seen as a consequence of a divine encounter and not necessarily the best way to serve God.

Understood this way, celibacy contributes to the spiritualization of the world in a different way than marriage does. Marriage forms families, but celibacy protects humanity as family, elevating and spiritualizing the human family. Marriage is centered on a particular love, while celibacy is centered in universal love. Celibacy is a gift that humanizes divine love. Christian marriage is a sacramental covenant that turns human love into divine love.

Celibacy is a source of love, fraternal communion, and selfless service to humanity. The celibate person looks at the world from the top down, as from the top of a mountain, operating from the spiritual to the material. The married person sees the world from the bottom up, from the sides of the hill, operating from the material to the spiritual. The celibate person admires the virtue, effort, and the capacity for sacrifice in the married person, while the married person admires, in turn, the contemplative capacity of the celibate person even while living in the middle of the world and the desire to be of service to any human being, to every child of God without distinction of race, gender, or religion.

Both the world and the Church are enriched by celibacy. It is a prophetic treasure in our pragmatic and materialistic society. We have been taught by the classics that the perfect redemption of eros is achieved by concentrating on agape.

Celibacy is a Paradox, but a Joyful One

As a Catholic, the question of celibacy is important to me. It is one of those Catholic “peculiarities”, like the Papacy and our colorful history and our challenging moral teachings, that provoke either the admiration or the contempt of the outside world.

As a priest, celibacy is important to me because it is the backdrop, even the framework, in which I live my daily life–much as a wife and children do for other men.

As a seminary rector, however, celibacy takes on a particularly decisive quality. It is in forming young men for the celibate priesthood where the magnitude and the beauty and the struggle of celibacy shows itself in starkest relief. I love my vocation and am very happy as a celibate priest, but I also remember that at first I was appalled by the notion of being celibate and realize that it can be a difficult journey at times. I am continually challenged to take my own celibacy seriously if I am going to propose it to the young men in formation.

A father encouraging his son to embrace the joys and the trials of marriage has the same experience. Marriage, like celibacy, has its share of difficulties. In recommending marriage, the father is asking his son to do a difficult thing, one that might involve suffering, but one that is noble and worthwhile. As one father once asked me, “What father could stand before his son and ask him to do something that is not good for them?”

Yet I’m afraid that that is precisely what many, even some faithful Catholics, believe: that celibacy is in fact “not good for them.” Requiring celibacy of priests, this thinking goes, means calling them to an impossible ideal. It is unthinkable to live a full life without sexual relations and without the emotional bonds of ordinary family life. Many see celibacy as unnatural and unscriptural, and at least partly responsible for the sexual abuse crisis in the Church today. Still others see it as promoting an unhealthy clerical culture that has allowed sexual abuse to flourish.

For reasons that I explore in Why Celibacy?: Reclaiming the Fatherhood of the Priest, I believe that every one of these statements is false. False–but also understandable. Many celibate priests, after all, clearly have been unfaithful to their promises, and with tragic consequences. We can, and must, do better in calling our priests to authentic fidelity and accountability.

It begins with a proper appraisal of celibacy itself. One of the reasons I wrote this book is to acknowledge the sacrifice that accompanies the charism. By foregoing natural fatherhood, a priest gives up a treasure of immeasurable worth. The other reason I wrote it, however, is to explore what is too often left unsaid: the extraordinary beauty and yes, the joy, of a celibate life well lived. The book has given me fresh confidence in my work as seminary rector as I ask spiritual sons to embrace something difficult that, when well lived, will be a source of joy and grace to the Church, to the world, and indeed to themselves.

In the past three months I have been gratified by many positive reactions to the book. Recently a seminarian told me that the book has “fired him up” to become a priest and a spiritual father–and now he wants to learn how to be a better son of our Father in heaven, since every man learns fatherhood by being a son. A younger priest told me that he now looks at his priesthood–and his people–differently, with a more robust understanding of his own spiritual paternity. An older priest told me that the book puts into words things that he has always believed and lived by, but never quite articulated. Perhaps the most unexpected responses have come from natural fathers who tell me that the book has given new insights into their own fatherhood–and revealed an entirely new dimension of spiritual fatherhood: their own.

Speaking for myself, however, I must say that the book has had a more personal effect. It has given me the chance to speak to many priests about their own experience of celibacy, and I am more convinced than ever that it is a powerful force for good in the world. The renewal of the celibate priesthood, in reclaiming its true ordering to spiritual fatherhood, will allow its impact to flourish once again. It has helped me continue to stand before seminarians and, with ever-deeper conviction, encourage them to embrace their tremendous vocation to celibate priestly paternity.

It is true: celibacy is one of the peculiarities of our faith, in the full sense of the word.  It is a paradox. The highest manifestation of human paternity, in the order of grace, is lived by men who are not even married. I pray that this book may help renew our confidence that this beautiful charism which is given to priests, to the Church, and indeed to the whole world, is a source of abundant life.

Celibacy – it is just not natural

By Brian Sewell

As a sometime Catholic who has gone far beyond the slightly shamefaced agnosticism of the merely l apsed and now believes nothing of his former faith, I had not thought to express any view on the current scandalmongering about priests who woo their altar boys, but one particularly spiteful headline in a broadsheet changed my wind. “Who,” it asked, echoing the words attributed to Henry II that led to the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, “will rid us of paedophile priests?” That echo chilled my soul.

Some years ago, when Scotland Yard was engaged in arresting ring after ring of paedophiles, I thought it might be useful to confront one or two of these offenders to discover something of the mentality that leads them to practise adult sexual activities with children often so young that they amount not to sexual abuse, but to physical abuses quite appalling in their implications. The two men willing to talk to me were plausible dissemblers, scheming and deceitful, single-minded in the management of their lives so that their contacts with children had a seeming legitimacy. Intellectually corrupt and utterly without scruple, their activities mock the term paedophilia, for theirs is not a love of children but a selfish self-love that is merciless.

Mine, I know, were not scientific enquiries, only anecdote and visceral response to men who are neither hetero nor homosexual, but sexual opportunists to whom the bodies of children are necessary adjuncts, the damage done, even the lives destroyed, of not the slightest consequence. Love is not part of their carnal bargain. This may be true too of some priests, but not, I suspect, of many. My own experience of Catholic priests as a boy and a young man is that they behaved with absolute probity and one in particular with profound and melancholy wisdom, no “roving hands … behind, before, above, between, below”, and they managed their chastity and celibacy without a hint of inner conflict.

Perhaps men then could be more easily reconciled to chastity and celibacy – but I doubt it. Sexual provocation now invades every aspect of men’s lives, all forms of communication, information, entertainment, literature and art constantly reminding us that we are sexual animals, even a car is advertised as a sperm puncturing an egg and conscious sexual reference is the Muzak of our day. Perhaps this constant drip-feeding has a numbing effect on our sexual appetites – we are aware of them, but without hunger we have no urgent need to satisfy them. Never have we talked so openly of male and female masturbation; in the women’s prison of a television serial the prisoners conspire to import vibrators, and for many a post-watershed entertainer wanking has become a standing joke. Perhaps if priests had the same easy access to the fringes of pornography, even pornography itself, they would be less inclined to engage in sex with boys – but that kind of sex in the head, so to speak, would be as much to break the vow of chastity as to make the beast with two backs.

Consider that vow. Chastity, achieved through the discipline of sexual abstinence, is perceived as a gift from God that brings the priest into close, uncluttered contact with his maker. Celibacy, the practice of chastity, is not, however, a law of God, but a law of the Church and therefore of men.

The Gospels give no clear teaching on chastity and Christ’s view of sexual misdemeanour seems to have been profoundly liberal; the view of early hermits and monks, most of them half starved, some troubled by sexual yearnings for their brothers, is perfectly encapsulated in “Judge not him who is guilty of fornication … for He who said ‘Thou shalt not fornicate’ said also ‘Thou shalt not judge’.” Saint Paul, however, the driving force of what was to prevail as the Church’s view of sexuality, was far less generous and, willy-nilly, celibacy became a general requirement of monks and priests in the Catholic west.

How many priests in the lifetime of Christianity have achieved perfect chastity? Is chastity even a remotely reasonable sacrifice to demand of a man who is whole and not a eunuch? “Give me chastity and continence – but not yet,” prayed St Augustine at the end of the fourth century; Aldous Huxley considered chastity the most unnatural, the most masochist of sexual perversions; and Voltaire, too, damned it as a vice, the vice that forces men into masturbation.

Must clerical celibacy be a mandate of the Church? It was not always so. When the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the cornerstone of the Counter-Reformation against Luther, Calvin and all the other Protestants, established chastity as well as poverty and obedience as the obligatory vows of the religious life, it imposed an intolerable burden on many men who were to be its priests – poverty and obedience can be consciously cultivated, but chastity has to contend with the uncontrollable unconscious.

Poverty, obedience and chastity were the weapons with which the worldly church of the Renaissance declared that it was no longer the preserve of wealth, power, concubinage, incest and sodomy. Poverty and obedience need not be questioned, chastity must be. Celibacy should be a matter of choice for those few to whom it offers a spiritual reality, not a compulsion for the many who might, married or settled in a comfortable sexual relationship, be good and happy priests. The sexual failures of the clergy bring the Church into disrepute and the Church must now consider the strong probabilities that compulsory celibacy hinders the fulfilment of a priest’s vocation and occasionally drives him into aberrant acts with boys. Such a priest is not, by nature, a paedophile; chastity is so unnatural a condition for most men that, for some, what many deem unnatural sexual acts are the entirely natural consequence.

The institutions of the Catholic Church are, perhaps, not wholly unlike prisons in which we know that homosexual activity is not uncommon among men who are not necessarily queer. Anecdotal evidence suggests that homosexual activity in the prison camps of the Second World War was not uncommon, indeed that it was a form of exchange and merchandise. It is probable that in all wholly closed male groups, homosexual activity is to some extent inevitable and, where it is not mutually willing, that there is some element of erotic excitement in the exercise of power and compulsion. Boys – as priests know from having been boys themselves – are sexually curious, experimental, often not averse to instruction, inclined to keep their adventuring secret from parents and not wholly disinclined to allow a second bite at the cherry; to frustrated priests they must seem very tempting. Surrender to that temptation is a symptom, not a cause – the cause is the unnatural rule of celibacy and the frustrated sexuality that stems from it. The Pope must change his views on this, as on so many other sexual matters.

Nature tells us celibacy is not natural, the Catholic Church should listen

ARCHBISHOP Denis Hart thinks celibacy is “a wonderful vocation” but it’s a dark undercurrent of thought at the royal commission into child sex abuse.

THE ongoing Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse has already shone some welcome light into a variety of dark places.

One such place is the Catholic Church’s requirement for its priests to remain celibate. Physical intimacy with a significant other is a normal and fundamental part of human existence. It can’t be a good idea for priests to repress that urge.

When asked about this a few days ago, the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, described celibacy as “fulfilling” and a “wonderful vocation”. He also refused to accept a sexual life was necessary for all people. On which planet is the Archbishop living?

In the animal kingdom, the desire to procreate and ensure one’s genes continue is a powerful innate force. Male lions fight each other, sometimes to the death, for access to females. Adult elephants will form a protective ring around a sickly youngster to keep predators at bay.

The human world is really not very different. Middle-aged men buy expensive sports cars, dye their hair and bleach their teeth in an effort to impress women.

And on a more serious note, adults of either gender will go to extraordinary lengths to protect and nurture their children.

So why should we listen to a group of men who deny themselves this important facet of humanity?

I’m not saying celibacy necessarily leads to child sexual abuse, although that dark undercurrent of thought is undoubtedly present at the royal commission. But I do find it odd that when a couple decide to get married in the Catholic Church, they’re forced to undergo several sessions of counselling by their local priest.

In most professions experience is highly regarded as a guide to the quality of advice on offer. It’s unclear, then, exactly what words of wisdom on marriage, sex and the birth of children a celibate priest might impart.

Most other branches of Christianity have no problem with married religious leaders. And in the Jewish faith prospective rabbis are expected to have several children before being admitted to the calling. Catholicism actually permits married Anglican preachers who rediscover Rome’s embrace to retain their wives.

There’s no good reason to prevent Catholic priests being happy in the institution of marriage. Or unhappy, as the case may be …

So now that I have been dancing around the actual premise for this article, let us discuss the meat and potatoes so to speak. I have spent so much time discussing all the aspects of Celibacy in both the animal kingdom and in our society and also discussing it in religion, so that you would have a better understanding of a very difficult topic. Now I want to discuss is if there is a correlation between celibacy and sexual abuse in the Catholic church. I have also shown that this practice only exists in the catholic church. I will discuss in the addendum section the percentages of sexual abuse in the major religions to help to prove or to disprove the assertion that catholic celibacy vows leads to greater levels of sexual abuse. I will also cover the topic if the vows of celibacy dilutes the quality of personnel in the catholic church.

Does Celibacy Contribute to Clerical Sex Abuse?

The John Jay Report indicated that 4.0% of all priests in the US between 1950 and 2002 had been accused of sexual abuse of a minor. This datum, and the numerous commentaries surrounding the horrific news of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, have been cited as evidence against the discipline of celibacy in the Roman Catholic clergy. Prominent psychotherapists, such as Richard Sipe, have argued that celibacy has been a factor contributing to criminal sexual conduct by clerics over the last half-century. Even Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna recently suggested that the issue of priestly celibacy should not be ignored in discussions of the sex-abuse scandals in Europe.

The argument against priestly celibacy– the argument that celibacy is a contributing factor in sexual abuse– has never been examined in the context of statistics showing abuse rates in other clerical populations that do not require celibacy. Such a comparison between clergy populations is critical, because if celibacy were a major factor in the abuse over the last half-century, then one would expect to see much lower abuse rates in the clergy of other communions. If on the contrary celibacy were unrelated (or even a safeguard against abuse) then the other clergy groups would likely show comparable or even higher levels of abuse.

Suppose a population of non-celibate male clergy, say Australian Anglican clergy, over an 18-year period displayed an abuse rate of 3.8%: just 0.2% lower than the 4% rate found among American Catholic priests. What would such a finding tell us about celibacy as a causal factor in clerical sex abuse? Not much, unless you’re willing to stake your argument against celibacy on 2/10s of 1%.

Consider that the most rigorous scientific test on whether celibacy contributes to sex abuse of minors can never be performed. Such a test would require random assignment of men to religious communions for the purposes of training and ministry—obviously, an impossible test to undertake. Absent such an experiment, we are left to examine statistical reports of abuse rates between different communions. A good comparison might be between Roman Catholic clergy who are celibate, and the Eastern Catholic clergy in the same countries, many of whom are not celibate. Unfortunately, such a report does not exist. Our next best comparison might be found with the Anglican clergy. Here too, no report provides the exact abuse rate comparisons between Roman and Anglican clergy. However, one report does provide the number of abusive Anglican clergy over an 18-year period. Here’s how this writer used that report to reach the 3.8% figure noted above:

In May 2009, a little-publicized report was issued by the Australian Anglican Church, entitled Child Sexual Abuse in the Anglican Church, by Parkinson, Oates & Jayakody. The report obtained information on abuse charges from 17 of the 23 Australian Anglican dioceses between 1990 and 2008. According to its authors, the report analyzed a survey of:

…all concluded cases of reported child sexual abuse since 1990 within the church by clergy and church workers. The study did not include reported cases from Anglican schools or Anglican children homes. Accused persons were categorised in the survey as either clergy, candidates for clergy, pastoral employees or volunteers… A complainant was defined as less than 18 years of age at the time of the alleged sexual abuse. [p. 13]

The Anglican report gives considerable attention to the question of patterns of abuse between Anglican and Catholic clergy:

A key finding of this study is the similarities in pattern of abuse found between the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches. Similarities were found in patterns of male victim characteristics, location and types of abuse, accused person characteristics, and delayed reporting and disclosure of abuse.

This similarity is despite significant differences in the nature of clergy vocations (the Anglican Church does not require singleness or celibacy). The similarity between the Anglican and Catholic churches is also despite significant differences in ministry involving children. [p. 39—parentheses in the original]

Curiously, the Anglican report does not address any direct comparison between the levels or rates of abuse in the Australian church and other churches, and it does not provide statistical data for the percentages of abusive clergy compared to the population of all Australian Anglican clergy. However, this writer was able to estimate a range of rates of clergy abuse based on several authoritative sources, including the Australian government census data on the number of male Anglican clergy, as well as reports by the Church of England on the rates of attrition and ordination of male clergy between 1990 and 2007.

Here are the basic data: the 1991 Australian government census of Anglican clergy counted 2,029 male clergy. We do not have the rates of ordination and attrition for the Australian Anglican clergy but we do have the Church of England statistics between 1991 and 2007, which show an average male ordination rate of 2.3% per year, and male attrition rate of 3.8% per year (overall, the male clergy in England declined by 1/3 from 1990 to 2007.) If the ordination rate can be used as a surrogate for all newly installed clergy, then this rate when applied to the church in Australia would yield an estimate of 720 additional clergy over the 18 years. This nets an estimate of 119.5 male clergy per diocese for the reporting period. Parkinson et al. data suggest that there were 4.6 male clergy abusers per diocese between 1990 and 2008, which yields an estimated clergy abuser rate of 3.8% (4.6 / 119.5). The ordination and attrition rates come from all British Isles dioceses, and these may not yield the best estimates for Australia. For estimating the abuser rate, the more important of the two is the ordination rate. Hence it would be useful to create a range of ordination estimates; cutting the rate in half, yields an abuser rate estimate of 4.4%, whereas doubling the ordination rate yields an abuser rate estimate of 3.0%. The range in values contains the Roman Catholic rate of 4.0%, and in either extreme is not far distant from it.

If we use the Catholic-Anglican comparison of clergy abuse rates as one instance in the surrogate for the Celibate-Not Celibate comparison, the difference in the abuser rates is very small indeed. If we further take into account the decades over which the abuse is occurring, the abuser rate for Celibates may be somewhat lower than that of the non-Celibates, but this analysis has yet to be made.

Forced Celibacy Leads to Catholic Sex Abuse

A new five-year research study has analyzed the systemic reasons why the abuse of children has plagued the Catholic Church worldwide. The report called “Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: An Interpretive Review of the Literature and Public Inquiry Reports” was published by the Centre for Global Research at RMIT University in Australia.

Researchers, Professor Des Cahill and Dr Peter Wilkinson are both ordained priests who resigned from church ministry in the 1970s. They came to the conclusion that the church’s policy on mandatory celibacy “has been and remains the major precipitating risk factor for child sexual abuse.”

Wilkinson is a founding member of Catholics for Renewal, a Melbourne-based group advocating for a renewed Catholic Church for the 21st century. Cahill, who assisted the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2015, said: “Many thousands of lives across the world have been badly damaged, if not destroyed, in the continuing and tragic saga of the sexual abuse of children, which can be traced back to New Testament times in the first century.” ”Peter Wilkinson and I set out to try to answer the question: Why has the Catholic Church and its priests and religious brothers, more than any other religious denomination, become synonymous with the sexual mistreatment of children?”

The authors outline a matrix of factors that have contributed to the tragedy – cultural, historical, organizational, social, psychological and theological. Among the report’s main findings is that — though homosexuality is not a direct cause of abuse — the deeply homophobic environment within the Church and its seminaries, based on the teaching that homosexuality is an intrinsically disordered state and that all gays must lead a celibate life, contributes to psychosexual immaturity.

Young and vulnerable Catholic children, especially boys, were and remain at risk from psychosexually immature, sexually deprived and deeply frustrated priests and religious brothers lacking intimacy, particularly those who have not resolved their own sexual identity and whose thinking is deeply distorted and mutated towards children.

Also, priest and religious predators have benefited from easy access to children in parishes and schools, particularly those living in one-priest presbyteries and with access to a car. The risk was especially high in countries like Australia and Ireland which historically had a large number of orphanages and residential schools.

After all, a study states that popes and bishops created a culture of secrecy, leading to a series of gross failures in transparency, accountability, openness and trust as they endeavored to protect the Church’s reputation as an all-holy institution above all else, even at the expense of children’s safety.

Is There a Link Between Priestly Celibacy and Sexual Abuse?

A psychiatrist on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors thinks those who say ‘Yes’ are being ‘much too simplistic.’

ROME — To say that clerical celibacy can lead to sex abuse is “much too simplistic,” because most abuse happens in the family, where the majority of the perpetrators are married men or other family members, a psychiatrist member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said.

In an interview with the Register Feb. 16, Baroness Sheila Hollins said any link between priestly celibacy and sex abuse is “complicated, and I think it would be much too simplistic to say celibacy is the cause of it, because in fact 80% of abuse happens in the family, where perpetrators are mostly going to be married men, but sometimes, of course, they may be other family members.”

She added that to end clerical celibacy in the hope it would “in some way change this is to miss the point of it.”

Hollins’ comments follow remarks made by Peter Saunders, a clerical-abuse survivor, who told a Vatican press conference Feb. 7 that despite a common perception clerical celibacy can lead to sex abuse of minors, most perpetrators likely had problems before entering the seminary.

“People don’t enter the priesthood and become child abusers; I don’t think that’s the case,” Saunders said. “I think that they had serious issues before entering holy orders.”

Although he said “far too many” clerics have committed sexual abuse of minors, “the vast majority of priests and religious will never hurt a child. I think it’s important to acknowledge that.” Saunders, who also sits on the 17-member commission, said that the term “pedophile” is overused and that the priests who abused him, rather than having any illness, “were very lonely.”

Lifestyle Needs to Be Addressed

In Feb. 16 comments to the Register, psychologist and Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, another member of the commission, also discounted any direct link between celibacy and being an abuser, “because, otherwise, all people who live a celibate life would abuse. Since this is not the case, there cannot be a single, mono-causal link.”

But he added: “That’s not to say, in some instances, people may choose celibacy in a more or less conscious or unconscious way to avoid sexuality and to avoid a deviant sexuality.” In such cases, he said, they “may choose celibacy so they can feel [they are] in a safe haven where they don’t need to confront it.”

Such an attitude, he said, “is absolutely nonsense,” as people “cannot simply shut away their sexuality” for years and decades. “So the attempt to cut off or put it in a fridge forever doesn’t work.”

He stressed that clinical pedophilia is a condition “whose onset is at the age of 16, that is, before anyone enters a seminary.” For this reason, he said, a celibate lifestyle “in a certain way may become too difficult to bear for the person in terms of loneliness and in pressure of not living a well-established and good, self-caring — in the best sense of the word — life.”

Father Zollner added that the commission is aware of many priests who have abused 10, 15 or 20 years after they have been ordained, “so it is not celibacy, but a certain lifestyle they have developed.”

“This mean

Celibacy and child abuse

Many people blame celibacy for Catholic sexual abuse. But it’s much more likely to have played a role in the cover-up.

What role did celibacy play in the Catholic crisis? The most popular argument seems to be that it played a simple and direct part, by producing sexual frustration which then found inappropriate outlets. But that has to be wrong. If paedophilia and the abuse of adolescents were solely a response to sexual frustration, it wouldn’t be perpetrated mostly people who are free to find sexual gratification elsewhere. And even in Ireland, it mostly was. The best figures I can find for this come from a 2002 government-sponsored report which says that 5.8% of all boys sexually abused were abused by clergy or religious. The corresponding figure for girls was 1.4%. So the overwhelming majority of child abuse in Ireland was carried out by people who were not bound to celibacy.

To some extent pedophilia and ephebephilia are the expressions of a preference for sex with children and adolescents even when adults are available. They aren’t just a matter of settling for the nearest and most vulnerable candidate, as some forms of the argument blaming celibacy suggest.

This line of argument can be taken too far: in particular, conservative Catholics have argued that the problem is entirely down to homosexuality in the priesthood. Their reasoning is that since 80% of the victims (at least in the USA) were male, this proves that most of the perpetrators were gay men. However, the most recent John Jay research explicitly disputed this. It claimed that much of the imbalance was accounted for by the much greater availability of boys to priests and religious. Homosexual acts are not always an expression of homosexual preference, otherwise there would be no straight men in US jails.

To think about this properly, we would need to know the number of priests in sexual relationships with consenting adults: unfortunately these figures are nowhere collected, though the psychologist and former Dominican Richard Sipe suggests in one of his books that in the Western world about 50% of all priests are in a sexual relationship (in the developing world the figure is generally agree to be much higher).

Obviously, celibacy is impossible for some people, and well-adjusted celibacy is extremely rare and difficult. But it does exist. The official Catholic claim is that all priests are capable of it, although they are a tiny minority of believers, and the evidence suggests that some are; of those who don’t, the majority clearly prefer adult women as partners. So I don’t think that celibacy, by itself, explains the original offences, though it did make the priesthood as a profession more attractive to men who were confused or in denial about their own sexuality.

But I do think that celibacy played an important role in the cover-up. The point about celibate brotherhoods is that they become just that – brotherhoods, in which your primary affectionate bonds are with your brothers. The institutional loyalty is rooted in this, and will not last without it. That is what will give you a sense that no one outside really understands, something which so easily modulates into a belief that the outside world is just wrong.

This kind of groupthink isn’t of course unique to Catholics, or even to religions in general. Shared hardship will always tend to weld together more closely any group it does not blow apart. But I think that corporate celibacy is a very powerful generator of group thinking, probably quite as powerful as bonobo-style corporate orgies would be.

The obvious danger of celibacy is that it forces lust into obscure and terrible channels. But the subtle danger is that it diverts love, affection and trust away from the dangerous inhabitants of the sexually active world around you and into your safe and fellow-celibate family. I know that the standard justification of a celibate priesthood is that it frees its members from particular and specific loyalties and enables them to serve and love all their parishioners equally. This isn’t nonsense: as any clergy spouse will tell you, a proper vocation does tend to squeeze out family life, and vice versa. But celibacy does not so much solve that problem as displace it. To live without any particular and specific group loyalties is almost impossible. If it’s hard not to put your family ahead of your parishioners, it must be even harder, deprived of a family, not to put your fellow celibates ahead of them.

All organizations and all institutions tend to cover up their own wrongdoing and to punish perceived disloyalty. There’s nothing unique to the Catholic priesthood about that. But the bonds of affection and of institutional loyalty which the celibacy of the priesthood engenders must have strengthened those tendencies to the point where they sometimes became pathological.

How views on priestly celibacy changed in Christian history

“Because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. … Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set of time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. This I say by way of concession, not of command.”

For Paul, marriage was a concession: He appears to view it reluctantly as merely an acceptable choice for those who cannot control themselves.

He goes on to say, “I wish that all were as I myself am,” implying at the very least that he is not married. And he confirms this in the passage that follows,

“To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practicing self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.”

Marriage, in Paul’s view, is the lesser choice. It is for those who cannot control themselves. Although difficult, remaining unmarried and choosing celibacy, seems to be the higher ideal.

Interpretations of Paul

As a a scholar of early Christianity, I know that Scriptural interpretations are always dynamic; Scripture is read and understood by different Christians in different time periods and places. So, it is not surprising that a short time later, Paul’s writings found new meaning as asceticism – the practices of self-control that included fasting, celibacy, and solitude –began to spread within Christianity.

A second-century expansion on the story of Paul, The Acts of Paul and Thecla, a largely fictional story about Paul’s missionary efforts in what is now modern Turkey, casts Paul primarily as a preacher of self-control and celibacy. In this story, Paul blesses “those who have wives as if they have them not.”

Such a phrase may sound strange to modern readers. But as monasticism grew within Christianity, some married Christian couples were faced with a problem: They did not want to divorce their spouses, because Scripture spoke against divorce. And yet they wanted to choose the life of celibacy. So these Christians chose to “live as brother and sister,” or “to have wives as if they had them not.”

At the same time, stories of failures to keep vows of celibacy abounded: stories of monks and nuns who lived together and bore children, stories of monks who took mistresses, and stories about behaviors that today would be considered sexual abuse.

These stories emphasized that temptation was always a problem for those who chose celibacy.

Celibacy and crisis

In the Middle Ages, the celibacy of the priesthood became a source of conflict between Christians. By the 11th century, it contributed to the formal schism between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

But the issues were far from resolved. Divergent views on mandatory celibacy for priests contributed to the reform movements in the 16th century. Martin Luther, a leader of the Protestant Reformation, argued that allowing priests to marry would prevent cases of sexual immorality. He drew upon Paul’s letters for support of his views.

On the other hand, leaders of the Catholic Church’s “Counter-Reformation,” a reform and renewal movement that had begun before Martin Luther, did not advocate marriage, but sought to address corrupt practices among the clergy.

Desiderius Erasmus, for example, a 16th century Catholic scholar, wrote a powerful critique of corruption in the Catholic Church. His views may well have been shaped by the fact that he himself was the illegitimate son of a Catholic priest.
One of the most important developments in this period was the creation of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, which sought to reform the priesthood in the face of accusations of sexual relations and corruption by, in part, improving the education of priests. In the founding rules of the Jesuit order, emphasis was placed on the importance of celibacy, training and preparation for missionary work, and serving the directives of the pope.

Pope Francis too is a Jesuit and has a long church history and tradition that he could draw from. The question is, at a time when the church is facing a crisis, will he show the way towards renewal and reform?

Is Priestly Celibacy at the Root of Catholic Church Scandals?

Anger, shock, and dismay over the latest sex-abuse scandals in their church are plaguing Catholics worldwide as they await a definitive statement from Pope Francis regarding allegations that the Vatican has helped cover up for abusive prelates. Meanwhile many blame the tradition of priestly celibacy for causing the sexual abuse of minors. The New York Times recently surveyed Catholics and former Catholics for their opinions. “Singular devotion to God via celibacy doesn’t seem to work with natural desire for sex by men,” wrote a female respondent from San Francisco. “Let’s move the church past vows of celibacy and refocus on faith, prayer, healing and good works.”

“The isolated and repressed nature of a celibate life inevitably stunts one’s ability to fully develop the normal range of human emotion,” postulated a man from Miami. “End celibacy and promote a clergy that embodies a healthy notion of human sexuality.”

This popular but unsubstantiated critique, oft repeated in the wake of sexual scandals involving Catholic priests, seems to follow the illogic that by forcing a man to lead a chaste lifestyle, the church is setting him up to abuse minors. Supposedly, if priests were allowed to marry, they would not have to resort to statutory rape and child molestation.

Such flawed judgment doesn’t hold up against an abundance of data to the contrary. The Children’s Assessment Center, a non-profit child advocacy group in Houston, Texas, offers a Child Sexual Abuse Facts page on its website, outlining results from volumes of government and independent research on abuse in general, outside of Catholic circles. While it is true that children who live with both biological parents are at the lowest risk of abuse, those who live with a single parent who has a live-in partner are 20 times more likely to become victims. The risk is also elevated for foster children and kids with single parents or a parent and step-parent. Clearly, marriage alone is not the solution for ending sexual exploitation of minors.

Furthermore, most sexual abuse by Catholic priests has been against boys and young men, as reported by The New American. Church leaders agree there is an obvious and even well-known undercurrent of homosexuality driving most of these abuse cases. Traditional marriage as defined by the Catholic Church — between a man and a woman — is not the remedy that springs to mind.

It certainly hasn’t stemmed the tide of abuse in other religious organizations plagued by sex scandals. Liberty University law professor Basyle Tchividjian, a grandson of the late Southern Baptist minister Billy Graham, founded the non-profit organization GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) in 2003. Tchividjian has served the State of Florida as the chief prosecutor in the Sexual Crimes Division and also worked as attorney for the Child Advocacy Center in Daytona Beach. He believes that the problem of child sexual assault in evangelical circles rivals that in the Catholic Church. In fact, he told a 2013 Religion Newswriters Association conference, “I think we are worse.” Yet Protestant ministers are not bound by vows of celibacy and are permitted to marry.

As for pedophilia specifically, ending mandatory priestly celibacy in the Catholic Church would do nothing to stop predator priests. In the general population, “the majority of the men who molest boys are also married, divorced, widowed, or living with an adult partner,” as documented in The Stop Child Molestation Book by Gene Abel, M.D. This is because pedophilia is not just about satisfying lustful desires; the American Psychiatric Association defines pedophilia as a psychiatric disorder involving sexual attraction to prepubescent children. Obviously, marriage is not a “cure” for perversion.

Moreover, when the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops hired New York’s John Jay Institute to uncover The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010, researchers quickly acquitted the issue of celibacy. “Celibacy has been constant in the Catholic Church since the eleventh century,” noted the authors, “and could not account for the rise and subsequent decline of abuse cases from the 1960s through the 1980s,” which they found coincided precisely with the larger “sexual revolution” plaguing society in the 1960s and 1970s.

A further interesting defense of clerical celibacy comes out of pioneer days in the American West and is chronicled in a book entitled The Life of Father De Smet, S.J., Apostle of the Rocky Mountains by Fr. E. Laveille, S.J. It tells the story of native American tribes such as the Sioux, the Blackfeet, and the Flathead, who preferred Catholic “Black Robes” as they called priests, specifically because they were unmarried and could therefore devote all their time and energy to sacred work.

“What had they to do,” asked the Indians, “with married preachers, men who wore no crucifix, and said no rosary?” They wanted only the Black Robes to teach them how to serve God. They even went so far as to appeal to the President of the United States, asking that the married ministers might be recalled and Catholic priests sent in their place…. Such elevated, upright souls could, moreover, appreciate the chastity of the Catholic priesthood. With rare discernment, the Indian understood that, belonging as he does to all men, a priest cannot give himself to one person, and not for an instant did they hesitate to choose the Black Robe, who had consecrated his life to them, rather than the minister in lay dress, installed in a comfortable home with wife and children, devoted to the interests of his family, giving only the time that remained to distributing Bibles.

The Church Must Exorcise the Demon of Celibacy

As the number of accusations of sexual abuse of minors by priests has grown, officials of the Roman Catholic Church have been forced, under the glare of public scrutiny, to confront the problems plaguing the priesthood. Unfortunately, they’re unlikely to get to one of the principal roots of the problem: the church’s mandatory requirement of celibacy.

For priests who love their ministry but do not feel called to live a celibate life, the celibacy discipline is a continual torment, requiring them to sacrifice their desires for intimacy, marriage and fatherhood. Repression of these powerful human instincts over a lifetime can easily lead to profound loneliness and can foster a disposition toward sexual deviancy.

Nearly every study conducted over the past 35 years has shown that the primary motive for the departure of more than 100,000 Catholic priests is that they wanted to marry. The No.1 reason why young men do not enter the seminary is that they are not allowed to marry. One consequence of this celibacy requirement is ominous for the future of the priesthood: Seminary enrollment in the U.S. has plummeted from 48,000 in 1965 to less than 4,000 today.

The celibacy discipline is even more tenuous when considered historically. St. Peter, the first pope, was married, as were at least 39 others documented during the church’s first 12 centuries. Many of the clergy had wives. The Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church has experienced an unbroken tradition of married and celibate clergy for almost 2,000 years. Why was celibacy imposed on priests in the Roman Rite?

Responding to the moral excesses of the collapsing Roman Empire, some popes believed that all sexual intimacy, even conjugal love, was impure. Furthermore, the papacy wanted to control the appointments of bishops and the disbursement of church benefices. Starting in the 4th century, it attempted to address these concerns by ordering all married bishops and priests to abstain from sex with their wives. No conjugal intercourse, no children. Married bishops would have no sons to entrust with their ministry and property. The papacy would then gain control of the appointments of bishops and benefices.

Married clergy resisted, but increasingly restrictive laws, fines, imprisonment, public beatings and dismissals carried the day. At the second Lateran Council in 1139, the papacy enacted laws that nullified the marriages of priests, prohibited unmarried priests to marry and required aspirants to the priesthood to promise never to marry.

The imposition of this discipline defied human nature, degraded marriage and contradicted Jesus’ teaching that marriage is an inviolable blessing. It created a profound moral and institutional disorder.

The fallout continues to this day. Priests who want to marry must leave the priesthood. Mature men are barred from entering it for the sole reason that they are married. The all-male seminary environment makes it extremely difficult for teenage candidates for the priesthood to achieve sexual maturity. These factors drastically reduce both the number and quality of priests.

While there have been many celibates whose lives have been inspirations, the history of celibacy is littered with priests, bishops, cardinals and popes who have responded to the canonically mandated suppression of their natural instincts with sexual excess and perversion. Today’s scandals are part of an unbroken chain of abuses dating back to when celibacy laws were first imposed. The papacy should have listened to St. Paul’s warning: “Those who say marriage is forbidden are uttering the doctrine of demons.”

Celibacy does not cause pedophilia, any more than marriage causes pedophilia. Pedophilia is not caused by sexual abstinence, nor is it caused by conjugal love. Pedophiles are psychologically locked into associating sexual power and ecstasy with pre-puberty minors.

Effective management of the church’s sexual-abuse scandal will require apologies, restitution to the victims and punishment for the perpetrators and for those who protected or facilitated the abuse. But more is needed.

A worldwide council should be convened and, to be credible, must include, with a voting voice, laity as well as clergy. Its goal should be the restoration of the church’s credibility and the sexual integrity of the priesthood. Sexual-abuse victims and their families should have a pre-eminent voice in defining the healing they need and the guidelines that will prevent a recurrence of their tragedies. Finally, priests should be allowed to choose whether celibacy or marriage is the best way for them to serve the church.

This reform will not eliminate all pedophile priests, nor all clergy sexual abuse. But a married priesthood will make it harder for abuses to take root. More important, it will show, once again, that conjugal love and priestly ministry profoundly enrich the church, rather than undermine it.


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pbs.org, “3 of U.S.’s biggest religious denominations in turmoil over sex abuse, LGBT policy,” By David Crary; news.sky.com, “A ‘moral failing’: Report finds child sexual abuse prevalent in institutions across major UK religions: Between early 2015 and January 2020, of all known institutions where abuse had taken place, 11% (443 instances) were committed within a religious organization or setting. In one instance, a young boy was abused during Sunday school camps.” By Megan Baynes; ualberta.ca, “Researchers reveal patterns of sexual abuse in religious settings, Sociologists expose how perpetrators use trust, faith and authority to groom victims and keep abuse secret.” By Geoff McMaster; phys.org, “Researchers reveal patterns of sexual abuse in religious settings,” By Geoff McMaster; insidermonkey.com, “5 Most Sexually Liberated Churches or Religions in the World,” By Sieni Kimalainen; theguardian.com, “Sex abuse rife in other religions, says Vatican,” By Riazat Butt;


Did Jesus Have A Wife? Newly Discovered Ancient Text Reignites Debate

An ancient piece of text is reviving an equally ancient debate: Was Jesus Christ married?

Of course, most Christians believe that he wasn’t. But today, Harvard Professor of Divinity Karen King presented a scrap of papyrus that dates back to the fourth century. She told a gathering of scholars in Rome that written in Coptic was this surprising sentence: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’ “

“Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim,” King said in a press release. “This new gospel doesn’t prove that Jesus was married, but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage. From the very beginning, Christians disagreed about whether it was better not to marry, but it was over a century after Jesus’ death before they began appealing to Jesus’ marital status to support their positions.”

King adds that this new gospel also tells us that some early Christians believed that Jesus was indeed married.Article continues after sponsor message

The New York Times reports that the provenance of the fragment is not known because the owner asked to remain anonymous. Still, the Times reports, this ancient debate is relevant today:

“Even with many questions unsettled, the discovery could reignite the debate over whether Jesus was married, whether Mary Magdalene was his wife and whether he had a female disciple. These debates date to the early centuries of Christianity, scholars say. But they are relevant today, when global Christianity is roiling over the place of women in ministry and the boundaries of marriage.

“The discussion is particularly animated in the Roman Catholic Church, where despite calls for change, the Vatican has reiterated the teaching that the priesthood cannot be opened to women and married men because of the model set by Jesus.”

The Washington Post reports that in her announcement in Rome, King said that the Vatican had not yet responded to her findings. Harvard quotes two independent experts who believe the 3-inch fragment is authentic, both after examining the papyrus and the writing and after examining the language and grammar.

King and AnneMarie Luijendijk, an associate professor of religion at Princeton University, will present their hypothesis in the January 2013 issue of Harvard Theological Review journal.

Harvard has posted images of both sides of the fragment along with a line-by-line transcription and translation.

King points out that ultimate confirmation will come from further testing, especially of the chemical composition of the ink.

Update at 10:15 a.m. ET, Sept. 19: On Morning Edition today, NPR’s Barbara Bradley Hagerty reported that King says that while the scrap of papyrus is not evidence that Jesus was married, it is “quite clear evidence, in fact, that some Christians, probably in the second half of the second century … thought that Jesus had a wife.”

Barbara also talked with Darrell Bock, a New Testament scholar at the Dallas Theological Seminary, who says the scrap is an extraordinary discovery, but is at this point more of “an asterisk” regarding what is known about Jesus — and not enough to begin considering changes to any church’s theology.

Was Jesus ever Married with a Wife and Children?

A “married person must worry about the affairs of earth,” while the “unmarried person can serve the Lord without such distraction.” Christ’s entire person was taken up with obedience to the Father and laying his life down not for one woman but the entire church (Ephesians 5:25).

In 2014, The Lost Gospel by Simcha Jacobovici and Barrie Wilson joined the many books and articles to assert a culturally popular idea: That Jesus was married with children. Along with Dan Brown’s The Davinci Code and Karen L. King’s “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife,” The Lost Gospel perpetuates an ancient controversy.

Modern and Ancient Pursuit

When the Apostle Paul spoke to the Greeks about Jesus Christ (Acts 17), many in his audience were Gnostics. Their tradition is said to “embod[y] the core wisdom or knowledge of humanity” gained through experience. According to some scholars, Gnostics sought to “portray Jesus in a way that would illustrate their own myths and rituals.” They blended images of Christ as Paul described him with pictures of flawed gods who fulfilled physical desires.

In 2012, Karen L. King wrote about the discovery of a small piece of papyrus bearing the words “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’” and “‘she will be able to be my disciple.’” According to The Lost Gospelduring Jesus’ ministry, “he became engaged, got married, had sexual relations, and produced children.” The authors assert that their findings “are based on a 1,500-year-old manuscript which was discovered and rejected in the 1800s.”

Marriage and Identification

Many women in the Bible were identified as “wife of so-and-so.” When theories are put forth about Christ’s marriage, he is typically wed to Mary Magdalene; however, she is never introduced in the Bible as Mary-wife-of-Jesus. That would have cleared up confusion when the New Testament mentions a “Mary” without clarifying which one, yet no such descriptor is ever provided.

“In 1 Corinthians 9:5, Paul was defending the right to have a wife: ‘Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a wife, as the other apostles, and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas [Peter]?’” Paul does not say “if the Master was married, then we can be too.” Wouldn’t a comparison with Jesus as an earthly spouse offer greater weight in favor of this institution if it were true? His “silence speaks volumes.”

Sex and Sin

Sexual sin is identified in 1 Corinthians 6:9 as idolatry, adultery, and homosexuality. Sex within marriage is not sinful. Yet, that Jesus might have married, had sex, and been the father of children seems immoral. “It’s not that there is anything wrong or sinful with the idea of marriage,” says Katherine McReynolds, author of Women as Christ’s Disciples. “I don’t think there is anything wrong with the concept of Jesus being married. Marriage, after all, was invented by God.”

“Clement of Alexandria, […] a theologian who began teaching in Alexandria around AD 180,” said the same thing more than 1,800 years earlier. He “wrote against false teachers who had declared marriage taboo.”

Jesus’ role as our sinless Savior and his purported marriage do not present a contradiction or an inconsistency. Yet, Christians feel uncomfortable with the notion, perhaps because of our modern associations between a sexually active Jesus and movies like The Last Temptation of Christ in which Jesus had extra-marital sex with Mary Magdalene.

Was Jesus Ever Married?

There is no evidence that Jesus was married in the books that give us the history of his life. So anything that would suggest that Jesus was married is pure conjecture, and we would say usually being articulated by people who have some agenda to undo the biblical record and add something to it. So anybody who’s saying that Jesus was married is just making that up. There is no record of that in any historical account or any biblical account. 

Now we want to be careful we don’t go too far to say that because Jesus was not married, marriage or sexuality are automatically evil in some way. Jesus’ disciples did marry. Jesus was at a stage of life where he gave up everything in order to perform the purposes of his father. So we have no evidence that he desired to be married or was married or that there was some part of his ministry that involved marriage does not mean that marriage is wrong or sexuality is wrong, which sometimes people draw the line too far in terms of using his marital status as a commentary on marriage, which would be inappropriate.

Expectations of Marriage

Was it sinful in Jesus’ society to remain unmarried? “It is often suggested that because Jesus was a teacher and functioned like a rabbi that he would have been married as well, since that was the Jewish custom.” Some articles argue that Jesus’ unmarried status was embarrassing to his mother, or that it was more than a custom but an expectation that Jesus marry.

However, a “married person must worry about the affairs of earth,” while the “unmarried person can serve the Lord without such distraction.” Christ’s entire person was taken up with obedience to the Father and laying his life down not for one woman but the entire church (Ephesians 5:25).

To be married and childless would have shamed Jesus’ wife. “Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3). Childlessness was depicted as shameful by Hannah, Elizabeth, and Sarah; like a rebuke from God. If Jesus had married, he would have felt this longing on his wife’s behalf and perhaps been conflicted about leaving her alone with children to raise.

A Celibate Savior

Some of the evidence for Jesus’ celibacy is implied, such as the “Roman church’s later view that priests should not be married” partially stemming “from the view that Jesus was not married.” During the second century AD, North African lawyer Tertullian described Jesus as “a lifelong celibate” who “had made God’s kingdom accessible to those who — like Jesus — never engaged in sexual relations.”

Celibacy was not demanded of the Christian, but McReynolds and others believe it makes better sense that Jesus remained celibate. He was on a “unique mission.” Jesus “stands in a long tradition of prophets that were set aside by special vows to God. And so, I think it does make a theological difference that he remained single and totally devoted to his mission.”

Bride of Christ

The scrap of papyrus discovered by Karen L. King refers to the wife of Jesus. Other manuscripts have indicated that Christ kissed a woman. Even if these manuscripts are legitimate, none of them provides evidence that Jesus was married or that he engaged in sinful relations with one or more women.

Firstly, “kissing served as a common greeting” and would have “suggested close friendship — not necessarily or even primarily a marital connection.” The word “joined” derived from manuscript evidence — “koinonos” in Greek — has been used in reference to “a fellow participant in a shared goal.”

In this case, “Paul had koinonos connections with Titus, Philemon, and the entire church at Corinth.” If the more cynical reader wants to evoke something homosexual from even this statement, consider Simon Peter: He “called himself a koinonos in God’s glory (1 Peter 5:1).” Koinonos does not point automatically to sexual relations.

Even the words “Jesus’ wife” from King’s manuscript can lead the reader astray. The English word “wife” is derived from “queen” and “words for ‘woman’ also double for “wife” in some languages.” There are connections to “weip — ‘to twist, turn, wrap,’ and also a “veiled person.” The New Testament Greek “guné” translates to “woman, bride, wife.”

The church is God’s bride. Paul refers to the church at Corinth as “a pure virgin” whom he “betrothed […] to one husband,” that is Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2). Since Christ is the bridegroom, the church is his bride; Christ is King, the body of believers is his queen. “Let us rejoice and exult […] for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure.” (Revelation 19:7-8).

Confusion and Faith

Why does the issue keep coming up? Every person is identified by sexuality, and culture is scandalized and confused by celibacy. That’s not new — the Flood was designed to wipe every kind of debauchery off the face of the earth, including sexual sin. Sodom and Gomorrah were traditionally singled out for destruction because these cities were “associated with homosexual acts” along with numerous other sins.

Today, various media promote sexual imagery to a wide audience. The language of 21st-century culture is littered with the jargon of sexualization. Why should Jesus be left out of the discussion? He must have at least had some kind of sexual leanings if he was human.

Christians actively promoting women’s rights might also want there to be a Mary-Wife-of-Jesus, the best example of female discipleship. Yet, Jesus’ choice not to marry reminds us that women’s identities come from the Father, not from their husbands (or lack of them). The New Testament “is filled with examples of female disciples.”

Christ legitimized women in a culture, which often reified and denigrated them. “Most frequently, women were regarded as second-class citizens.” Yet, Jesus “valued their fellowship, prayers, service, financial support, testimony and witness. He honored women, taught women, and ministered to women in thoughtful ways.”

But What if He Really Was Married?

Timothy Paul Jones, co-author of The DaVinci Codebreaker, said in an interview “if I woke up tomorrow morning and saw that archaeologists had exhumed incontrovertible evidence that Jesus was married, it wouldn’t destroy my faith. Jesus would still be the risen Lord.” Like many other biblical scholars, Jones realizes that the Christian faith “is not based on Jesus’ celibacy but on the Incarnation and the Resurrection.”

James Martin writes “a married man healing the sick, stilling storms and raising the dead is just as impressive as an unmarried man doing so” and “if a married man himself rises from the dead after being in a tomb for three days, I would be following him. Married or unmarried, Jesus is still the Son of God.”

3 of U.S.’s biggest religious denominations in turmoil over sex abuse, LGBT policy

It has been a wrenching season for three of America’s largest religious denominations, as sex-abuse scandals and a schism over LGBT inclusion fuel anguish and anger within the Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist and United Methodist churches. There’s rising concern that the crises will boost the ranks of young people disillusioned by organized religion.

“Every denomination is tremendously worried about retaining or attracting young people,” said Stephen Schneck, a political science professor at Catholic University. “The sex-abuse scandals will have a spillover effect on attitudes toward religion in general. I don’t think any denomination is going to not take a hit.”“You have very top-down, patriarchal institutions representing a kind of power that civil society has left behind.” – Natalia Imperatori-Lee, religious studies professor at Manhattan College

For the U.S. Catholic church, the clergy sex-abuse scandal that has unfolded over two decades expanded dramatically in recent months. Many dioceses have become targets of investigations since a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August detailed hundreds of cases of alleged abuse. In mid-February, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was expelled from the priesthood for sexually abusing minors and seminarians.

The Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination, confronted its own sex-abuse crisis three weeks ago in the form of an investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. The newspapers reported that hundreds of Southern Baptist clergy and staff had been accused of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years, including dozens who returned to church duties, while leaving more than 700 victims with little in the way of justice or apologies.

For both denominations, allegations of cover-ups and insufficient sympathy for victims have been as damaging in the public eye as the abuse itself.

The United Methodist Church, the largest mainline Protestant denomination, ended a pivotal conference Tuesday in a seemingly irreconcilable split over same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBT clergy. About 53 percent of the delegates voted to maintain bans on those practices and strengthen enforcement, dismaying centrists and liberals who favored LGBT inclusion and now are faced with the choice of leaving the UMC or considering acts of defiance from within.

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, whose Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, is the nation’s largest UMC congregation, said the outcome would push youthful pastors and other young adults away.

“Three out of four of millennials who live in the U.S. support same-sex marriage and do not want to be a part of a church that makes their friends feel like second-class Christians,” he told the conference. “Many of you have children and grandchildren who cannot imagine that we’re voting this way today. They wonder, have these people lost their minds?”

Since long before the current crises, most Christian denominations in the U.S. have been losing members. The most recent survey of the religious landscape by the Pew Research Center found that the biggest growth was in “unaffiliated” — people who described themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular.”

That latter group is known among contemporary religious leaders as the “nones.” Their ranks include many young people who want spirituality in their lives but are disenchanted with institutionalized religion.

“The ‘nones’ want their lives to make a difference, and they’re trying to figure out how,” said the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of the Christian social justice organization Sojourners. “They’re not going to join a religion that’s not making a difference or, worse yet, is full of hypocrisy.”

There have yet to be comprehensive surveys gauging how the latest crises have affected church membership and attendance. Nancy Ammerman, professor of the sociology of religion at Boston University’s School of Theology, suggests the impact will be significant.

“We see young adults who are overwhelmingly on the progressive side of sexuality issues and overwhelmingly not sitting still for sexual abuse of all kinds,” she said. “When they see religious leaders who aren’t on the right side of that, they’re more likely to say, ‘I’m done.’”

Any such developments will reinforce existing trends, Ammerman said. “If you’re already only going to church three or four times a year, if you’re moving from one place to another, your ties (with a church) have already gotten weak.”

While the three ongoing crises vary in key respects, there is important common ground: the increased outspokenness, organizing skills and social-media prowess of Catholic and Southern Baptist sex-abuse survivors and LGBT United Methodists.

“We’re in a historical moment where the marginalized voices will not be silenced,” said Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a religious studies professor at Manhattan College in New York. “Victims of sex abuse and LGBT communities have reached the breaking point.”

In the case of the Catholic and Southern Baptist churches, there’s been extra motivation for some critics because of those churches’ insistence on a male-only clergy.

“You have very top-down, patriarchal institutions representing a kind of power that civil society has left behind,” Imperatori-Lee said.

The months ahead will be challenging for the three denominations, notably for liberal United Methodists who must decide if they can abide under the LGBT bans they opposed.

U.S. Catholic bishops hold a national meeting in June. They will be weighing the exhortations of Pope Francis at the Vatican’s recent summit on sex-abuse prevention.

David Campbell, a University of Notre Dame political science professor who studies religion’s role in U.S. civic life, believes the exodus of white Catholics from the pews will be offset by an increase of Latinos even as the abuse crisis persists. But he predicts the church will suffer a significant drop in donations.

As for the Southern Baptist Convention, it formed a sexual-abuse study group last year that has not yet announced recommendations. Advocates for victims are watching closely to see if substantive steps are taken.

The Rev. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, takes heart from record-high enrollment at SBC seminaries.

“I do not believe the students on our campus represent a majority of their generation,” he said. “But they are the minority that is committed to the church.”

Yet Mohler says the SBC shouldn’t take these young people’s commitment for granted.

“They will be and should be offended if we do not handle the challenge of sexual abuse well,” he said. “We must do the right thing and do it without delay.”

At Howard University’s School of Divinity, Christian ethics professor Cheryl Sanders tells students aspiring to the ministry that they will be held more accountable than their predecessors. But she exhorts them to believe, despite the challenges, that their work will be essential.

“The fact is that people turn to the church when they have needs,” she said. “The church has a role even in spite of itself.”

A ‘moral failing’: Report finds child sexual abuse prevalent in institutions across major UK religions

Between early 2015 and January 2020, of all known institutions where abuse had taken place, 11% (443 instances) were committed within a religious organization or setting. In one instance, a young boy was abused during Sunday school camps.

Child sexual abuse is prevalent in faith institutions across most major religions in the UK, with a report accusing these organisations of “blatant hypocrisy” and “moral failings”.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) found “shocking” failings across a number of organisations, and cases of abuse perpetrated by religious followers.

Between early 2015 and January 2020, of all known institutions where abuse had taken place, 11% (443 instances) were committed within a religious organisation or setting.

Ten percent of suspects (726 people) were employed by – or somehow linked to – a religious organisation or setting.

However, there is likely to be “significant” under-reporting, the IICSA said, adding: “There is no way of knowing the true scale of such abuse.”

In one instance, four children were sexually abused when they were approximately nine years old whilst being taught the Quran by a teacher in a mosque. In 2017, the perpetrator was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in jail.

Another 10-year-old girl was abused by a church volunteer, but when her mother disclosed this to the police, the church minister said the abuser was “valued” and must be considered “innocent until proven guilty”. It was later discovered the abuser had been dismissed from a police force following charges of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.

Researchers reveal patterns of sexual abuse in religious settings

Sociologists expose how perpetrators use trust, faith and authority to groom victims and keep abuse secret.

A review of research on sexual abuse in religious settings showed a consistent pattern of abusers taking advantage of positions of power, trust and authority to “groom” children while maintaining secrecy. (Photo: Getty Images)

A recent literature review by a University of Alberta cult expert and his former graduate student paints a startling and consistent picture of institutional secrecy and widespread protection of those who abuse children in religious institutions “in ways that often differ from forms of manipulation in secular settings.”

It’s the first comprehensive study exposing patterns of sexual abuse in religious settings.

“A predator may spend weeks, months, even years grooming a child in order to violate them sexually,” said Susan Raine, a MacEwan University sociologist and co-author of the study with University of Alberta sociologist Stephen Kent.

Perpetrators are also difficult to identify, the researchers said, because they rarely conform to a single set of personality or other traits.

The findings demonstrate the need to “spend less time focusing on ‘stranger danger,’ and more time thinking about our immediate community involvement, or extended environment, and the potential there for grooming,” said Raine.

Raine and Kent examined the research on abuse in a number of religious denominations around the world to show “how some religious institutions and leadership figures in them can slowly cultivate children and their caregivers into harmful and illegal sexual activity.”

Those institutions include various branches of Christianity as well as cults and sectarian movements including the Children of God, the Branch Davidians, the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints as well as a Hindu ashram and the Devadasis.

“Because of religion’s institutional standing, religious grooming frequently takes place in a context of unquestioned faith placed in sex offenders by children, parents and staff,” they found.

The two researchers began their study after Kent was asked to provide expert testimony for a lawsuit in Vancouver accusing Bollywood choreographer and sect leader Shiamak Davar of sexually abusing two of his dance students in 2015.

Kent realized that although some scholars had written about sexual abuse in religion, “They had not identified the grooming process and the distinctive features of it.” After the lawsuit was settled out of court, he approached Raine to take on the project.

“The two of us had worked on projects before (including the successful book Scientology in Popular Culture) and I knew that she wrote fluently and quickly,” said Kent. “I provided her with initial ideas and suggestions, and she did most of the writing.”

The result is “the first of its kind to provide a theoretical framework for analyzing and discussing religiously based child and teen sexual grooming,” he said.

One of the best-known cases of such grooming in the Catholic Church was uncovered by the Boston Globe in 2002 and dramatized in the 2015 film Spotlight. The Globe revealed that John J. Geoghan, a former priest, had fondled or raped at least 130 children over three decades in some half-dozen Greater Boston parishes.

Eventually a widespread pattern of abuse in the church was exposed in Europe, Australia, Chile, Canada and the United States.

More shocking than the abuses themselves, said Raine, was the systemic cover-up that reached all the way up to the Vatican.

“And the relocation of priests to other churches, I think that was devastating for Catholics-a major breach of trust,” she said.

Abuse of authority

Raine and Kent define sexual grooming as the gradual sexualization of a relationship between a person with religious authority and a child or teen, “beginning with non-sexual touching that progresses over time to sexual contact, whereby the child may not even understand the abusive and improper nature of the behaviour.”

Perpetrators-who may include religious and spiritual leaders, volunteers, camp counsellors in religious-based camps, staff in religious schools and others associated with religious communities-prepare the child and significant adults and create the environment for the abuse, said Raine.

In addition to gaining access to a child, they aim to earn trust and compliance while maintaining secrecy to avoid disclosure. Often by the time the abuse actually happens, the child feels they have given consent, said Raine.

“Abusers draw not only on their positions of power and authority as adults, which is potent in and of itself, but also on assertions about God’s will-the ultimate unquestionable authority for religious adherents-and a figure that can inspire fear as much as it can awe and love.”

When abuse is disclosed, it is often met with skepticism or denial, even by the child’s family, she said.

“Because devotion to the institution shapes social identity, especially for more devout individuals, members of a religious community may be entirely suspicious of the victim’s claims, favouring instead the religious figure and his or her status and perceived credibility.”

In some cases, an entire society may be groomed, said Raine. She points to Ireland, where “a whole nation exhibited a ‘culture of disbelief’ towards abuse claims” after widespread revelations of abuse in the 1990s: “Members may have a greater loyalty to the institution than to the abused victim.”

In Nigeria, the researchers found that some Pentecostal pastors groomed children under the pretext of freeing them from demonic possession, using “exorcism” as a euphemism for sexual assault. The pastors were protected by “the absolute trust that the community has in them,” said Kent and Raine.

Family members without religious authority may also exploit the family’s faith in grooming a child, using familiar religious rhetoric and convincing the child that the abuse is perfectly acceptable in the eyes of God, said Raine.

While much of their evidence is disturbing, Raine warns against creating a “moral panic.”

“You don’t want people to start assuming that every hockey coach, priest, pastor or minister is going to try and groom and assault your child,” she said.

“But it’s important for people to understand that most sexual abuse doesn’t happen because somebody abducts your child from a public park. It’s usually a family member, extended family member or somebody they know in the community, whether religious or otherwise, who is most often responsible.”

Researchers reveal patterns of sexual abuse in religious settings

A recent literature review by a University of Alberta cult expert and his former graduate student paints a startling and consistent picture of institutional secrecy and widespread protection of those who abuse children in religious institutions “in ways that often differ from forms of manipulation in secular settings.”

It’s the first comprehensive study exposing patterns of sexual abuse in religious settings.

“A predator may spend weeks, months, even years grooming a child in order to violate them sexually,” said Susan Raine, a MacEwan University sociologist and co-author of the study with University of Alberta sociologist Stephen Kent.

Perpetrators are also difficult to identify, the researchers said, because they rarely conform to a single set of personality or other traits.

The findings demonstrate the need to “spend less time focusing on ‘stranger danger,’ and more time thinking about our immediate community involvement, or extended environment, and the potential there for grooming,” said Raine.

Raine and Kent examined the research on abuse in a number of religious denominations around the world to show “how some religious institutions and leadership figures in them can slowly cultivate children and their caregivers into harmful and illegal sexual activity.”

Those institutions include various branches of Christianity as well as cults and sectarian movements including the Children of God, the Branch Davidians, the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints as well as a Hindu ashram and the Devadasis.

“Because of religion’s institutional standing, religious grooming frequently takes place in a context of unquestioned faith placed in sex offenders by children, parents and staff,” they found.

The two researchers began their study after Kent was asked to provide expert testimony for a lawsuit in Vancouver accusing Bollywood choreographer and sect leader Shiamak Davar of sexually abusing two of his dance students in 2015.

Kent realized that although some scholars had written about sexual abuse in religion, “They had not identified the grooming process and the distinctive features of it.” After the lawsuit was settled out of court, he approached Raine to take on the project.

The result is “the first of its kind to provide a theoretical framework for analyzing and discussing religiously based child and teen sexual grooming,” he said.

One of the best-known cases of such grooming in the Catholic Church was uncovered by the Boston Globe in 2002 and dramatized in the 2015 film Spotlight. The Globe revealed that John J. Geoghan, a former priest, had fondled or raped at least 130 children over three decades in some half-dozen Greater Boston parishes.

Eventually a widespread pattern of abuse in the church was exposed in Europe, Australia, Chile, Canada and the United States.

More shocking than the abuses themselves, said Raine, was the systemic cover-up that reached all the way up to the Vatican.

“And the relocation of priests to other churches, I think that was devastating for Catholics—a major breach of trust,” she said.

Abuse of authority

Raine and Kent define sexual grooming as the gradual sexualization of a relationship between a person with religious authority and a child or teen, “beginning with non-sexual touching that progresses over time to sexual contact, whereby the child may not even understand the abusive and improper nature of the behaviour.”

Perpetrators—who may include religious and spiritual leaders, volunteers, camp counsellors in religious-based camps, staff in religious schools and others associated with religious communities—prepare the child and significant adults and create the environment for the abuse, said Raine.

In addition to gaining access to a child, they aim to earn trust and compliance while maintaining secrecy to avoid disclosure. Often by the time the abuse actually happens, the child feels they have given consent, said Raine.

“Abusers draw not only on their positions of power and authority as adults, which is potent in and of itself, but also on assertions about God’s will—the ultimate unquestionable authority for religious adherents—and a figure that can inspire fear as much as it can awe and love.”

When abuse is disclosed, it is often met with skepticism or denial, even by the child’s family, she said.

“Because devotion to the institution shapes social identity, especially for more devout individuals, members of a religious community may be entirely suspicious of the victim’s claims, favouring instead the religious figure and his or her status and perceived credibility.”

In some cases, an entire society may be groomed, said Raine. She points to Ireland, where “a whole nation exhibited a ‘culture of disbelief’ towards abuse claims” after widespread revelations of abuse in the 1990s: “Members may have a greater loyalty to the institution than to the abused victim.”

In Nigeria, the researchers found that some Pentecostal pastors groomed children under the pretext of freeing them from demonic possession, using “exorcism” as a euphemism for sexual assault. The pastors were protected by “the absolute trust that the community has in them,” said Kent and Raine.

Family members without religious authority may also exploit the family’s faith in grooming a child, using familiar religious rhetoric and convincing the child that the abuse is perfectly acceptable in the eyes of God, said Raine.

While much of their evidence is disturbing, Raine warns against creating a “moral panic.”

“You don’t want people to start assuming that every hockey coach, priest, pastor or minister is going to try and groom and assault your child,” she said.

“But it’s important for people to understand that most sexual abuse doesn’t happen because somebody abducts your child from a public park. It’s usually a family member, extended family member or somebody they know in the community, whether religious or otherwise, who is most often responsible.

Sex abuse rife in other religions, says Vatican

The Vatican has lashed out at criticism over its handling of its paedophilia crisis by saying the Catholic church was “busy cleaning its own house” and that the problems with clerical sex abuse in other churches were as big, if not bigger.

In a defiant and provocative statement, issued following a meeting of the UN human rights council in Geneva, the Holy See said the majority of Catholic clergy who committed such acts were not pedophiles but homosexuals attracted to sex with adolescent males.

He also quoted statistics from the Christian Scientist Monitor newspaper to show that most US churches being hit by child sex abuse allegations were Protestant and that sexual abuse within Jewish communities was common.

He added that sexual abuse was far more likely to be committed by family members, babysitters, friends, relatives or neighbours, and male children were quite often guilty of sexual molestation of other children.

The statement said that rather than paedophilia, it would “be more correct” to speak of ephebophilia, a homosexual attraction to adolescent males.

“Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90% belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17.”

The statement concluded: “As the Catholic church has been busy cleaning its own house, it would be good if other institutions and authorities, where the major part of abuses are reported, could do the same and inform the media about it.”

The Holy See launched its counter–attack after an international representative of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, Keith Porteous Wood, accused it of covering up child abuse and being in breach of several articles under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Porteous Wood said the Holy See had not contradicted any of his accusations. “The many thousands of victims of abuse deserve the international community to hold the Vatican to account, something it has been unwilling to do, so far. Both states and children’s organisations must unite to pressurise the Vatican to open its files, change its procedures worldwide, and report suspected abusers to civil authorities.”

Representatives from other religions were dismayed by the Holy See’s attempts to distance itself from controversy by pointing the finger at other faiths.

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, head of the New York Board of Rabbis, said: “Comparative tragedy is a dangerous path on which to travel. All of us need to look within our own communities. Child abuse is sinful and shameful and we must expel them immediately from our midst.”

A spokesman for the US Episcopal Church said measures for the prevention of sexual misconduct and the safeguarding of children had been in place for years.

Of all the world religions, Roman Catholicism has been hardest hit by sex abuse scandals. In the US, churches have paid more than $2bn (£1.25bn) in compensation to victims. In Ireland, reports into clerical sexual abuse have rocked both the Catholic hierarchy and the state.

The Ryan Report, published last May, revealed that beatings and humiliation by nuns and priests were common at institutions that held up to 30,000 children. A nine-year investigation found that Catholic priests and nuns for decades terrorized thousands of boys and girls, while government inspectors failed to stop the abuse.

5 Most Sexually Liberated Churches or Religions in the World

Have you ever wondered what are the most sexually liberated churches or religions in the world? Let’s find out.

Sexuality and religion (or church) seems like a rather delicate issue. Probably the first thing that comes to one’s mind when thinking of this are scandals that we often see in the media, about sexual child abuse in the Catholic Church. A survey in Australia from 2017, for example, revealed that tens of thousands of children were sexually abused in several last decades in various Australian institutions, including churches and schools. So much about one of the leading religions that believe in abstinence.

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On the other side, on the matter of Christianity and premarital intimacydifferent Christian denominations have different ideas and thoughts (as on other things as well). However, nowadays it is not easy to give the ultimate answer to this question. For example, as Christianity Today notes, there is no such thing as premarital sex, only marital and non-marital one. Others, nevertheless, say that it is a matter of different reading of the Bible, so that it can be OK. In the end, it seems that personal interpretation has a lot of impact on resolutions like this. The similar answer can be given to the question such as what is considered fornication. It is usually seen as a sin, explained as some kind of sexual intercourse between people who are not married to each other, but there are others who don’t think of it as something bad.5 Most Sexually Liberated Churches or Religions in the World


But we are here dealing with a different range of sexuality and religion. But before we get to those most sexually liberated churches or religions in the world, it might be interesting to take a look at related interesting facts. For example, do you know what are the most sexually active countries and cities? In case you don’t, take a look at 15 Most Sexually Active Countries in the World16 Most Sexually Active Cities in the World and 15 Most Sexually Open Countries in the World. These articles should satisfy your curiosity on the topic of sexual openness in various places.

What do you think – is there any impact of religion on sexual openness in these countries? It is hard to say since there are so many religions nowadays spread throughout all countries. First, in order to find out what are the most sexually liberated churches (and religions) in the world, it is good to ask what are all religions of the world. Now, that is really hard to say as there are around 4,300 different religions/churches recognized, and that number is changing. For example, Iceland has relatively recently re-established Germanic pagan beliefs, and now have a recognized and ever growing church Ásatrúarfélagið, or Asatru.

In the search of the most sexually liberated churches and religions, we approached this issue from many angles. We included most sexually active religions, religions opened to any kind of sexual activity pre and post marital, opened to homosexuality and LGBT, etc. We got some overall insights into these questions on places such as Psychology TodayThoughtCo. Then, after this, we went through searching particular religions/churches and their attitudes towards sex and sexuality, in order to check all those less mentioned in general studies and articles. These included some scientific researches, as well as other sources, as you will see further down on the list.

Nevertheless, you should be aware of the fact that is not easy to discuss religions on the matter of sexuality since religions are evolving and changing through time. For example, when talking about Hinduism and premarital relationships, we are on the shaking ground. Premarital sex was generally not preferred, but there are some exceptions for the royal family and high classes. But after seeing all those sexy scenes from Hindu temples, this all seems rather contradictory.

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