In 306 CE, a group of western Catholic bishops met at the Council of Elvira and adopted the first anti-sex canon, although they stopped short of banning marriage (i.e., priests could remain married but had to practice celibacy). Then in 1039, Pope Leo IX imposed celibacy on all clergy, a decision that contributed to the Great Schism of 1054, when the Catholic Church split. The priests who formed the Eastern Orthodox Church have always maintained that the Catholic celibacy rule is man-made, as opposed to Divine law.
On October 20, 2009, the Catholic Church reversed nearly two thousand years of doctrinal (although not actual) celibacy. Can you guess why?
Is the Vatican ready to admit that the early Christian bishops were allowed to marry and have children? “Therefore, a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once …. He must manage his household well, keeping his children under control with perfect dignity; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of the church of God?” (First Letter to Timothy 3:2).
Perhaps the Pope no longer can justify the ban, particularly since Saint Peter – one of Jesus’ primary apostles and the first Pope of Rome according to Catholic history – was married. (See Gospel of Mark 1:30).
Or maybe after paying two billion dollars to victims of priest-perpetrated sexual abuse, the Vatican has learned that forced celibacy often leads to closet homosexuality and pedophilia.
Or perhaps the Pope – former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (a/k/a the Office of the Inquisition) – now feels empowered to institute needed change. After all, in the minds of compassionate and educated people, the Church’s antiquated dogma on celibacy, birth control, divorce, and female and gay priests, is offensive and contrary to the teachings of Jesus.
Unfortunately, though, none of the above reasons explain why the Catholic Church has reversed two thousand years of self-imposed celibacy. The truth is that the Vatican is relaxing the rule in order to poach priests from the Anglican Church, which permits its priests to marry. The Vatican is hoping to capture some of the 80 million Anglicans worldwide, including 3.2 million members of the U.S. Episcopal Church.
But why would an Anglican want to return to the mother church? Apparently, there are Anglican and Episcopalian parishes that would rather submit to the Pope than be subjected to priests who are female or gay. Thus, the Vatican is trying to lure away priests and laity who – like the all-boys club in Rome – suffer from misogyny and homophobia. Of course, the new guidelines from Rome do not apply to Catholic priests, who are expected to remain celibate.
Oh Lord, when will the Catholics learn what master Jesus came here to teach?