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24 July 2005 @ 02:49 am
The sky is falling! News at eleven.  
When I am not reading the blogs of conservative Catholics, I also read the blog of a conservative Hare Krishna devotee at siddhanta.com, where I found an article referencing gay men in the priesthood and how it relates to gay marriage and the gay monogamy proposal being discussed in ISKCON. The author, Krishna-kirti was quoting from an article by Stanley Kurtz in 2002. I looked up the article he was quoting from, and I would like to address some of the ideas raised. Here is the article by Stanley Kurtz:

Gay Priests and Gay Marriage: What the one issue has to do with the other

The major thesis of this article is that since gay men were allowed to become priests, they've subverted the normal, traditional celibacy and mores of the priesthood and this has led to the scandals and driven the pious heterosexuals out of the priesthood, and so if gays are allowed to marry they will similarly create a climate of adultery and non-monogamy that will destroy marriage for the good heterosexual couples--who apparently are all monagamous and not commiting adultery now. I guess serial monogamy counts as monogamy? Or the roughly 40-50 per cent of married people commiting adultery already has escaped his notice? (And that number is suspected to be under-reported.)

He also has confused homosexuality with pedophilia...but that's another issue.

I think Stanley Kurtz has not done his reading on the history of chastity--note I'm not saying celibacy, which is not an abstinence from sex but from marriage--in the priesthood, or he'd know that at various times in history priests have been far from chaste and that this has been deliberatly overlooked (nod-nod-wink-wink) by the more cynical people of those eras. Funny that in our days post-sexual-revolution we can be shocked by what was taken for granted in less permissive-seeming times, but there it is. In other places, priests actually became a problem to the women of the town.


Initially in the Church clerics were commonly married with children and it wasn't until the Church tried to monopolize the ultimately rewarding, celibate lifestyle for the clergy in 1059 that the issue of clerical celibacy came up. 1059 was when pope Nicholas II ordered clerical celibacy, and in 1123 and 1139 the first and second Lateran councils upheld the decision that clerics were no longer allowed to remain married. Their marriages were annulled and clerics were forced to dismiss their wives. (Bullough and Brundage, 32)

Unfortunately for the Church's reputation, once clerical celibacy was required, many didn't follow suit. Many times towns fiercely opposed clerical celibacy as it had a tendency to threaten the virtue of women in the town. Many priests posed a risk for young women and had a tendency to rape women of the town. This caused many towns to force their priests to marry with the hope of it keeping them out of trouble. Priests of the middle ages were also known to frequent brothels and bathhouses. Pope Alexander VI was widely known for having several mistresses and participating in orgies with other clergy members. (Williams and Echols, 86-87)

http://www.ithaca.edu/students/mdwyer1/pages/post.html


and

Concubinage and fornication persisted among the clergy throughout the fourteenth century, and not all authorities (i.e. bishops) made a concerted effort to discover and punish offenders, as they themselves were often engaging in similar behavior (Brundage, 474). According to Jacques Rossiaud, the clergy made up about twenty percent of the clientele of private brothels and bath-houses in Dijon, France during this period, and it seems the situation was similar all throughout Europe (Richards, 35). As a result of such behavior, the "lecherous cleric" was developed as a popular humorous figure by many medieval authors (Richards, 118).

However, for every priest that visited the brothels or preyed on "decent" women, there seems to have been another living (albeit in sin) with one partner in a relatively stable and long-term relationship, essentially as man and wife (Brundage, 475). In addition, although canon law decreed that all clergy members live in perpetual chastity, much of the general public was relieved to see them easing their sexual desires with the aid of prostitutes or concubines, instead of seducing their own "respectable" sisters, daughters and wives.

http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Italian_Studies/dweb/society/sex/sex-clergy.shtml


Nor are Church sex scandals in the present day limited to gay or pedophile activity:


PROBLEM PRIESTS AND A CHURCH IN NEED OF CONFESSION
By Jason Berry. Jason Berry is the author of "Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children."

News reports about African priests sexually abusing nuns have once again cast an unwelcome spotlight on the Vatican hierarchy's inability to deal with a problem that has shaken the modern church to its foundations. And it didn't come as a surprise: Sisters in five religious orders had sent detailed documents to Vatican authorities, who ignored them for years.

On March 16, the National Catholic Reporter--an independent weekly based in Kansas City, Mo., published a lengthy investigation that drew on reports by the sisters in scrutinizing a pattern in sub-Saharan Africa of women relegated to roles "culturally subservient to men." Another factor in the abuse, according to the Reporter, is that in "countries ravaged by HIV and AIDS, young nuns are sometimes seen as safe targets of sexual activity" by priests. Priests who impregnated nuns reportedly forced abortions. In one case, a priest presided over the funeral of a sister he had impregnated--she died having an abortion.

http://www.calltoaccountability.org/priestprobs.htm



These are just a few of many references that I found quite easily with a web search, although I had read many such accounts over the years of my reading and research on different religions. Basically every where I read about vows of chastity or celibacy, in any religion, I found accounts of monks, nuns, priests, or sadhus breaking those vows. Perhaps most humans just aren't cut out for that life?

In light of this failure of so many from different faiths trying to repress sexual desire altogether, it appears that allowing for sexual unions is preferable to suppressing them artificially--only to fail.

In any event, since priests through more than one age have violated celibacy and chastity rules, it seems to me to be a flawed analogy to say that gay priests have somehow singlehandedly ruined sexual restraint in the priesthood and therefore gays will do the same to marriage as an institution. It's also hard to see how heterosexuals in their separate homes are going to be influenced by the open marriages of either heterosexuals or homosexuals. One is either inclined to be monogamous or not. I have had friends over the years in open relationships, and never felt an inclination to do so myself--although I have no problem with the concept. It is simply not right for me.

The crux of this argument seems to be that unless everyone else is living up to my own religion's standards, I cannot succeed in doing so myself. Then how have I managed to be a vegetarian for over 30 years in a world filled with carnivores? The fact is, the many religions present in America have a variety of rules and regulations that are sometimes compatible with each other and sometimes completely at odds. I'm sure conservative Christians wouldn't thank me for trying to close down the slaughterhouses and make them follow my vegetarian ethic. So why should I follow their sexual prohibitions? Or take them more seriously than they take my vegetarian rules? By the standards of more than one religion, meat-eaters are going to hell as surely as conservative Christians say homosexuals are. Does that scare them? Or do they, as we do, shrug off the rules of another religion and go about the business of following their own? For each of us has the right and responsibility to decide for ourselves what we believe the Truth to be. In the end, we'll each find out if we were right--or wrong.

To answer Stanley Kurtz, yes, I think you are Chicken Little--and plenty of heterosexual marriages are non-monogamous already. Last time I looked, the sky was still in its rightful place.
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(note: Krishna-Kirti's article is here: http://siddhanta.com/archives/culture/000295.html )