I was initially going to call this post: Wolves in Shepherd's Clothing. As I intended to lay out a psychodynamic analysis of enforced celibacy within the Catholic Church. But as I read and pondered and analyzed, I came to see a multitude of ethical, moral and yes, even spiritual dilemmas. All because of enforced celibacy and the mixed-up muddle it's created around it.
Let me begin with a couple of metaphors which came to me:
Kafka's Metamorphosis - the story of a man who wakes up one morning as a cockroach.I hate to be the one to say it. But I believe these two images are apt descriptions of some things happening - right now - in the Catholic Church.
The Emperor's New Clothes - the story of a deluded man who paraded naked, with only a child to speak up and question the received wisdom: But he isn't wearing anything!
So why am I wasting your time on a church that so many good folks right here at the Cafe have left? Because this entity, the Catholic Church, which claims a moral right to dictate doctrine and behavior, is an actual member of the UN, claiming status as a State (Vatican City), and is meddling more and more in the internal affairs and politics of other nations. Also, as a moral beacon (that to which it aspires), it has been sadly lacking in an ability to analyze the ethics (dare I say, morality?) of its own prelates and clergy - all the while intruding on the bedrooms of people everywhere.
Before I get back to my images, let me draw your attention to something I came across in a wonderful little pamphlet on The Way of Humility:
The risk clearly grows when one theorizes about humility without having any authentic experience of it. As Pseudo-Macarius noted: Christianity runs the risk of getting carried away bit by bit beyond its limits so that it will end up having the same significance as atheism.Sometimes people can get into such a pickle, when they make one wrong turn and, instead of turning back, spend centuries justifying it, denying it's not working, and trying to impose analogous wrong turns on everybody else. That's what we have here, folks!
[Andre Louf quoting a 4th century spiritual guide]
Instead of acknowledging a mistake - enforced clerical celibacy - we have a Metamorphosis - something akin to a gigantic beetle sitting atop a decaying caste system, where supposedly celibate men - without any authentic experience (see Andre Louf above) - are theorizing about sexual relationships. And mind you, those prelates who secretly have sex are doing so in an abusive, exploitative manner, betraying the very ideals they subscribe to, as well as the people they pretend to "love". So, a Metamorphosis. A cancerous deformation. And on top of that - cloaked in fancy clothes! Indeed, the opposite of the Emperor in the story. For the clothes are real. But underneath the miter, the gold brocade, the fancy slippers? Well, you tell me!
I feel badly writing all this. Honestly! But it must be said. Honestly.
I see a bunch of problems here. So many problems it's hard to disentangle them. All traced back to enforced celibacy. The first thing is to create a kind of caste system. Clergy are somehow elevated - "pure" souls who have "overcome" sexual desire. Well.... good luck with that one! (As Mr. TheraP says succinctly: "They're going against nature!") If someone is called to celibacy, fine. But that is within the monastic tradition, where humility is practiced. And you'll never see an authentic monk whose demeanor suggests a a different caste from you.
The biggest problem with the caste system is that "holy celibates" - in particular the ones with the fanciest clothes - have deemed themselves the guardians of all "teaching" - whether they have authentic experience (see Andre Louf above) or not. Not only that, like the Old Testament Book of Leviticus, you have a purity system going. Where those who are supposedly most pure - the men in the lavish dresses - are denying to the non-clergy even freedom of conscience - with regard to behavior which the lavishly dressed profess not to do.
Instead of analyzing the ethics of all love relationships, including their own, we have a bunch of well-heeled prelates dictating a kind of celibacy even to the married. Expecting them not to use birth control and so on. (Except for those women the priests have sex with, of course.) And dictating celibacy to gay people! (Except for those gay people the priests have sex with, of course.) See what I mean? One wrong turn! And so many problems!
Two more ideas came to me:
Stanley Milgram's Obedience to Authority - a study of how someone dressed in a lab coat can induce ordinary people to subject others to what they believe is excruciating abuse.Do you notice the caste system at work in both these images? Someone wearing different clothing can get ordinary people to follow their commands. And placing someone in the "role of authority" can induce ordinary people bit by bit (see Pseudo-Macarius above) to abuse others, deemed to be a lower caste.
Phillip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment - where ordinary students, dubbed the guards, quickly began to abuse other students, dubbed the prisoners, as a byproduct of enforcing discipline in an "experimental prison" study.
Compare these images to the Roman Catholic Church's ostracism of gay people and to their commands about sexual behavior in people's bedrooms. (Unless of course it pertains to the clergy. Where the caste system allows those in "different clothing" a different "ethic" - so long as it's kept secret, of course!)
See what I mean?
You have the priestly caste and the leper caste. And there's one more thing I want to bring into this. Something spiritual. But something which plays a very important role in this dysfunctional system, all derived from enforced celibacy and the resulting caste system. One of the biggest problems that results was clarified for me in that little pamphlet I mentioned above: The Way of Humility. The demand that someone meet a standard of perfection, complete celibacy, in the context of following a spiritual path leads to two traps: the vice of "pride" or "vanity" if one succeeds (a caste above!), on the one hand; or a "fall" from grace, on the other hand. In order to arrive at humility, according to the ascetics like Pseudo-Macarius, one needs to fall, over and over again. And to admit that. And repent. And change one's behavior. Thus, losing any pretense to be "better than" or a caste above.
But when priests fall, they hurt others. Unless they leave the priesthood. They expect the one they profess to "love" to keep the relationship secret. They expect the "beloved" to play second fiddle to their marriage to the church. They deny their love relationship. They deny their love partner. They deny their own children. All the while playing the "pure" shepherd - and pretending to lead the sheep. Whether it's a gay relationship or a straight relationship, it's hypocrisy. It's living a lie.
It's not the sex that's wrong. It's the treatment of the other that is wrong. Catholic priests who engage in sexual relationships, all the while staying in the priesthood, are exploiting and abusing the honest, caring feelings of other people. Their flocks. And the ones they secretly love. This latter betrayal is not usually clear to those whom they love - often not for many years. The beloved may feel "special," raised up to a high caste, but eventually it takes a terrible toll. For the one who wants to "love a Catholic priest" must do all the sacrificing. The priest's role comes first. There is never any "union" of two lives. The kind of self-sacrifice and equality that should be part of any "marriage" (whether actual marriage or simply a partnership of long years) will never come about. One party has dictated the terms of the relationship. And that is what abuse means. That is abuse of authority. That is exploitation.
Anyone in such a relationship is in denial if they fail to see they're being exploited. I have compassion for their plight. I have tremendous compassion for those laboring under enforced celibacy. But if you fall in love with someone and want to have an honest sexual relationship, which is not exploitative, by all means, leave your marriage first, leave your priesthood first. And if you refuse to do so, I cannot condone the behavior.
I have just come to an awful conclusion. The very same neocon principles, derived from Leo Strauss, which I summarized here would appear to be very similar to what we see flowing from within the Vatican, and dispersed to the "elite" upper caste prelates and clergy. I've reposted the list of these principles below:
Straussian/Neocon "Principles" 101 - (TheraP's cliff notes version):
So we have the "marriage" of the right-wing and the Catholic Church. No surprise that. But the coincidences with C-Street, The Family, Machiavellian plotting and even the Germanic origin of the pope and Leo Strauss give me great pause here. (Again, see the original post for more.)
[Synopsis above taken from the following sources: Shadia Drury, Brad deLong, Karen Kwiatkowski, Don Swift, Jeffrey Steinberg, and Danny Postel, who includes an extensive bibliography and interview with Shadia Drury, the Strauss expert.] (see original post for more info on these experts)
- Noble Lies (lies/secrecy as "virtue" - > 4,10,13)
- Perpetual War (war as "virtue" -> 5, 6, 8, 13)
- Fear of the masses and democracy (-> 4, 9)
- Government by an elite (covert rule of "the wise" -> 1,10)
- Instilling a sense of superiority in a nation (-> 8, 13)
- Stability/Unity via FEAR of an external threat (->13)
- Exploiting moral issues/religion's hold on the people (->1,13)
- National survival - supersedes the well-being of others (->2,5)
- Contempt for dissenters (->10,13)
- Those in power make the rules and call it justice (->1,13)
- Combination of religion and nationalism (->7,13)
- Fear - greatest ally of tyranny (->1,6,13)
- Manipulate the images (media, based on idea of Plato's cave)