This is the second part of the extract from Edgar Davie's book examining, through the very logical thinking an engineer might bring to the subject, where the Church teaching on Mandatory Celibacy for the priesthood came from, and whether it might be mandatory celicacy that is a major contributor to the present clergy sex crisis? Mr Davie's conclusion, after a long study, is that Mandatory Celibacy actually conflicts with what Jesus Christ thought and taught and is an ancient Gnostic heresy that has never been corrected in the Western Catholic Church.
The Coming Catholic Reformation
[To read Part I click HERE]
The term, Gnosticism, derives from the Greek word for new and secret knowledge, gnosis, which refers to mystically arrived at understanding of the world — not through revelation from God in the Old Testament. This ascetic and dualistic philosophy is best articulated in Plato's dialogues c.425BC; the material world is an imperfect realization of a divine spirit. Such a view puts a premium on asceticism, which is why the Gnostics preached celibacy and vegetarianism; earthly appetites chain us to the profane material world, eschewing them brings us closer to divinity. Therefore the body was to be subjugated by denial of earthly pleasures such as sex, wine, and animal flesh. A lower and higher morality was believed to exist; venerated semi-divine ascetics claimed a higher moral nobility, occupying a separate spiritual aristocracy elevated above the common man. For that reason married men were considered incapable of living the semi-divine contemplative life and freeing themselves from the body while engaging in marital sex. Today, Church teaching describes celibate priests in a similar manner.
Ascetic celibacy was so pervasive during the time of Christ that it captured the great Jewish scholar Philo of Alexandria, Egypt, a peer of Jesus who was first to interpret scripture in an allegorical manner, allowing him to draw parallels between Old Testament prophets and Greek philosophers such as Plato. Orthodox Jewish attitudes toward paganism were clear, though: pagans were shunned, considered unclean, forbidden to eat at the same table, their beliefs condemned, and marriage to Jewish-Christians denied. Gnosticism fell well outside the accepted Jewish traditions. The figure of Jesus, nonetheless, would still be quite appealing to followers of Gnostic beliefs; Jesus was seen in Gnostic interpretations as merely a temporary manifestation of God in human, material form and was not actually crucified, believing He was essentially immaterial in His divinity.
Gnosticism presented the greatest influence of foreign teaching, going against the grain of Jewish-Christian monotheism. Initially, Christianity was based on three sources: The Old Testament, the words of Christ, and the teaching of the Apostles. St. Paul pointed out the importance of Old Testament scripture when he spoke of its use by Christians, "Ever since you were a child you have known the Holy Scripture … that leads to salvation in Jesus Christ. All scripture is inspired by God and can be used for teaching, for refuting error…" (2 Timothy 3:16). On the other hand, divinized humans such as Jesus were accepted, and the pagan world soon sought ways to separate the Christ of love and forgiveness from what they saw as a villainous Old Testament God.
Modern Christians reading of this epoch in history often fail to appreciate Gnosticism's universal influence that threatened Christianity. Across the Empire this new religion of Christ the Lord, from the time of its movement outside the Jewish world in which it was first preached, was immediately brought up against the world wide influence of philosophical mystics and moral teachers, with their disciples and adepts, to see the affinity between their beliefs and those of the new arrival, the Christ, who had risen from the dead.
A Century of Change
With this new generation of teachers came change. In 137AD Bishop Cerdo of Syria surprised Rome when he began to preach the necessity of celibacy as a means of rejecting the body; he taught priests should imitate Jesus who appeared without birth, and therefore had no physical body. Bishop Cerdo's followers across the Empire continued to exist into the third century. Cerdo's contemporary in 140AD, Bishop Marcion, ordained by his Bishop father in Sinope, Turkey, also taught Jesus had no physical body, and that His death was only a hallucination. Marcion believed with the Gnostics that matter was evil, including bodily functions, and thus celibacy was imperative for salvation, and believing God to be an evil god he rejected the Old Testament Jewish God. St. Polycarp taught Marcion briefly but would later call him a "satan". Marcion's followers continued into the fourth century. In 160AD Bishop Valentinus of Alexandria, Egypt, asserted himself to be a successor of the apostles. He taught Jesus was the creation of 30 sexually compatible pairs of "Aeons", from the ineffable unengendered parent, Silence (a god). Salvation, he taught, came through gnosis of the savior. Later in c.170AD Montanus of Phyrgia became a great threat to the Church. Originally a castrated priest of the Goddess Cybele, Montanus claimed to personally be an incarnation of the Holy Spirit. He declared himself possessed by God who spoke directly through his mouth, uttering prophesies proclaiming: "I am the Father, the Word and the Paracleat". This movement extended from Africa to France, and in his day captured the brilliant scholar Tertullian as a follower. Tertullian remains prominent among modern day celibacy apologists who continue to identify him as a "Church Father".
Nascent Christianity in the pagan world manifested itself in variant ways and Gnostic-Christianity occupied the majority of dioceses across the Empire under bishops such as those above. We are aware of only those who were excommunicated, not necessarily because they demanded celibacy when no celibacy law existed, but because they rejected the Old Testament that, while rarely used was considered important. It would be this confusing century that fertilized the celibacy movement among Churchmen of the next century.
After 170AD the Church remained a marginalized and illicit religion, but one becoming an important movement tolerated by emperors and gaining converts among intellectual pagan philosophers who became influential teachers in major centers of Christianity; they would come to be known as Patristic Fathers. By then the Old Testament was recognized to be a valid part of Christ's Jewish tradition but Jewish Laws requiring priestly marriage were contrary to their life-long philosophies. Desiring to obviate Old Testament restrictions they selected only New Testament writings of their choosing, along with a plethora of influential, gnostically-inspired writings supporting their celibacy views — putting the two testaments in contradiction. Though devout and pious men, they belittled Christianity's Jewish roots and conceived a new celibate hierarchical priesthood above average priests, nearly all of whom were still married. The first to solve the problem of Old Testament restrictions was Tertullian. Tertullian insisted that since the Jews had rejected the Christ, the Old Testament was no longer in force and must be interpreted spiritually, providing new philosophical interpretations that forever changed Christianity's view of sex. With this new interpretive license supporting Gnostic philosophies, contrary to apostolic teaching, they were re-introduced.
During their life the apostles rejected Gnostic teaching that now re-appeared in Gnostic gospels, such as the Gospel of the Egyptians, based in part on teaching that St. Paul condemned when he said "Hypocrites will come saying marriage is forbidden". Aware of such Gnosticism in his day, St Paul cautioned his disciple Timothy to be careful what he taught, and to "Have nothing to do with pointless philosophical discussions and agnostic beliefs of the knowledge which is not knowledge at all; by adopting this some have gone away from the faith." (1Timothy 6:20) A century after St. Paul this gospel was accepted by Bishop St. Clement of Alexandria c.212AD, a converted Stoic philosopher and life-long celibate who conceived a new "Spiritual-Gnostic Christianity". He preached the superiority of celibate priests, but clearly understood he could not force priests under his authority to remain celibate, because no prohibition against priestly marriage existed.
St. Clement was among a stream of brilliant second and third century converts from pagan religions who brought their ascetic philosophy with them. With these Patristic Fathers came the seeds of mandatory celibacy, as well as an anti-Semitic rejection of most Jewish traditions, and a misogynistic fear of female temptations. St. Justin Martyr 160AD, a Pythagorean and Stoic philosopher and virulent anti-Semite condemned Jewish circumcision, but supported voluntary castration for priests. The first "Anti-Pope", Hippolytus c.212AD, a converted Greek philosopher, became the first Roman Presbyter to challenge Pope Callistus for ordaining married men. Tertullian c.230AD, a pagan lawyer and later Montanist, abandoned his wife saying, "Do you know that you are Eve? The judgment of God pronounced upon your sex lives on in this age. You are the gateway of the devil, you desecrated that fatal tree, you first betrayed the law of God…you deserve death and it was the son of God who had to die."; St. Jerome c.385AD, a pagan lawyer, believed all intercourse is impure between husband and wife except for acts specifically intended to procreate. He considered conjugal love a sin, and from his teaching came the prohibition of birth control as practiced by Jewish-Christians. St. Ambrose 390AD stated, "Remember, God took the rib from Adam's body, not a part of His soul, to make her. She was not made in the image of God like man." By the time of Ambrose teachers such as these had successfully laid a foundation for celibacy's superiority, and prohibition of contraception as practiced in the Deposit of Faith.
The Gnostic Myth
Following Emperor Constantine's acceptance of Christianity in 313AD, papal desire for mandatory celibacy increased, supported by a largely celibate hierarchy desiring to elevate all priests to the semi-divine status of their Gnostic rivals. Across the Empire, gnostic priests and philosophers were venerated as the only true mediators between God and man. An incident in 363AD forced the issue when Emperor Julian began a religious reformation intended to crush the Church and to restore Rome's ancient Hellenistic beliefs; fortunately he died before completing his mission. But, fearing a pagan resurgence in 385AD, Pope Siricius declared the apostles had abandoned marital sex in order to imitate Jesus' lifestyle, and instituted for the first time in Church history, a new law, the Law of Continence. He demanded priests and their wives cease marital intercourse under threat of expulsion from the priesthood, a clear violation of the Sacrament of Matrimony as taught by St. Paul (1 Cor.7:1-7). With unabashed hubris, many celibacy apologists today concede the law was based upon "Fabricated pseudo-apostolic constitutions acknowledged to contain errors". These documents first appeared during the third century — two hundred years after Christ — purporting to be "orally transmitted norms" handed down from the Apostles, and claimed to have been "observed since the most remote antiquity". Based solely on this apocrypha Siricius declared: "What the Apostles taught and what antiquity itself observed, let us also endeavor to keep". This law originated from a Gnostic myth.
No better example of Gnostic-Christian intrusion into Orthodox Church teaching exists than this anonymous document that first appeared in Syria c.230AD requiring abstinence for bishops and their wives; it was written by an unknown author, titled, Didascalia, or Catholic Teaching of the Twelve Apostles and the Holy Disciples of our Savior. Only in 1854AD was the source material for this document finally recognized to rely on two gnostic gospels, the Gospel of Peter and the Acts of Paul. The gnostic Gospel of Peter instructs us that Jesus did not suffer on the cross and was "assumed" directly from the cross to the presence of God. This gospel was among the first of several anti-Semitic tracts absolving Pilate of culpability in Jesus' death, assigning all guilt to "the Jews". The Acts of Paul more directly presents gnostic asceticism, as it pictures St. Paul traveling from city to city proclaiming, contrary to scripture, that all Christians who seek salvation must observe a life of total sexual abstinence. Originally Acts of Paul included a second book, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, describing a wealthy woman, Thecla, who shaved her head, baptized herself, and became a disciple of Paul. They are described as traveling the empire together; teaching salvation is limited only to Christians capable of embracing sexual chastity. Today, the Church is aware of the Gnosticism contained in these two books but continues to support the Didascalia, and based on such documents declares the apostles became sexually ascetic.
Not only does no evidence exist for such an original belief, the Didascalia is contrary to the writing of Apostolic Father Bishop Ignatius of Antioch, written a century before it appeared, and was unknown to the Patristics before the middle of the third century. And importantly, these demands of abstinence were rejected during the first Ecumenical Catholic Council at Nicaea 60 years earlier in 325AD, when mandatory celibacy was first rejected by the Church. But, relying solely on such apocrypha, Siricius prohibited the Sacrament of Matrimony for priests based on the Patristics' "spiritual interpretation" of the Old Testament, thus nullifying the doctrine of sacramental Matrimony for priests as it had been granted by Jesus. A flood of objections by married clerics ensued, supported by theologians such as Bishop Theododet of Cyrus who vociferously supported the "ancient tradition of married priests"; all to no avail.
Ultimately, Mandatory celibacy failed during the following 700 years when emperors and European rulers retained authority to freely designate married bishops and abbots in order to control the vast income of dioceses and monasteries under their authority; nearly all were owned by married clerics who were then taxed by their overlords, thus depriving the Vatican of great wealth. In essence it was their private business. Only in 1139AD was Pope Innocent II able to gain control over the ordination of all clerics by re-invoking the illicit edict of Siricius of 700 years earlier, thus gaining the wealth and property previously willed to heirs of bishops and cardinals. Prior to that time, efforts by the popes to separate priests from their legal wives while maintaining concubines themselves had failed, even by selling wives and children of priests into slavery, sanctioned by three Papal Synods of the 11th century.
History reveals the error of mandatory celibacy. At least 69 popes were legally married, including the first 14 down to Pope St. Victor I in 200AD. St. Paul wrote that he had the "…right to be accompanied by a Christian wife, as well as the brothers of the Lord and the other apostles, and Peter". (1 Corinthians 9:5) Supporting Paul's marriage Church Historian Eusebius quotes Clement of Alexandria c200AD saying, "St. Paul does not demur, in a certain epistle [Philippians 4:3], to mention his own wife". Paul's marriage was also acknowledged by renowned scripture scholar Origen c.215AD, who was himself castrated. Moreover, Clement informs us that Peter and his wife Perpetua were imprisoned together in Rome c.67, the year they were executed; some historians believe St. Peter's daughter Petronella was born after Jesus' death in 30AD and before he fled Jerusalem c.42AD. All of the apostles listed in Scripture remained faithful married men.
During the struggle to gain control over the priesthood in 1074AD Pope Gregory VII stated "The Church cannot escape from the laity unless priests first escape the clutches of their wives". To no avail St. Bernard of Clairvaux prophesied in 1135AD, "Take from the Church an honorable marriage bed, and do you not fill it with concubineage, incest, homosexuality, and every kind of uncleanness?"
The Question of Doctrine and Heresy
It is acknowledged by all Catholic theologians that teaching from the New Testament and Holy Tradition (Deposit of Faith) is infallible Dogmatic Doctrine that may not be altered by papal teaching. This caused a great problem for mandatory celibacy. Restricted by this dogmatic limitation during Vatican Council I c.1870AD when papal infallibility was declared, limitations were also imposed on papal infallibility. Few Catholics realize that papal infallibility has limitations. Contained in the infallible Dogmatic Constitution of the Church we find this following papal limitation: "For the Holy Spirit was promised to successors of Peter not so that they might make known some new doctrine, but that they religiously guard and expound the Deposit of Faith transmitted by the apostles." Siricius first violated this infallibility limitation when he added "some new doctrine", mandatory celibacy, as have all popes from Pope Innocent II in 1139AD until Pope Benedict XVI today. Originally taught by Siricius as a doctrine from the Deposit of Faith, this illicit doctrine is today merely termed a discipline. Today, Church celibacy apologists attempt to deny the term doctrine, since it became apparent this onerous practice could no longer be defended as doctrine. This is where the matter rests today.
The law of mandatory celibacy and Pope Leo's Indulgences are the most devastating papal acts in Catholic history; celibacy is a papal doctrine denying a sacrament allowed by Christ, priestly Matrimony. The epicenter of this illicit doctrine today is the demand of perpetual celibacy contained in Canon Law: 1037. This required priestly vow is not made to God, but to a man, his bishop. Christ required no such vow; therefore this requirement subverts a doctrine of Christ by stripping the candidate of his free will to accept a sacrament granted by Christ. Even had the apostles freely elected to abandon sex with consent of their wives, it would have been their free will decision, but today that free will decision allowed by Christ is denied by our popes. Following two centuries of turmoil, and the Reformation, instigated by clerics, seminaries were established in order to indoctrinate future priests with a neo-history of celibacy. Today clerics and credentialed theologians are carefully insulated from celibacy's true history, therefore incapable of defending the law when faced with truth. For this reason the gnostic myth of apostolic chastity continues to be hidden, as priestly abuse has been hidden.
But one further understanding is necessary; a careful reading of historical Church teachings reveals devastating contradictions. St. Thomas Aquinas defines heresy as: "a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its doctrines". The term heresy cannot be used in a context that is not pejorative and offensive, but to the chagrin of those who will support the law of mandatory celibacy, it must be applied. The Doctrine of Christ permitting priestly matrimony has been "corrupted", not by our bishops but by our popes — including Benedict XVI today. Only the question of formal or material heresy remains. Today it must be asked, does papal infallibility exist or is it merely a theological tool of control over the Body of Christ? An important element of this law that Catholics must consider carefully is, today St. Peter would not be accepted into the priesthood because he was a married layman!
Mandatory Celibacy and Abuse
That illicit priestly sex entered the Church with mandatory celibacy cannot be denied. Before the New Testament was written, a book of instruction for Christian-Jews, The Didache, was used from c.45AD until well into the Second Century when unaffiliated traveling "prophets" preached the Gospel as they understood it. These "prophets" were often celibate, viewed with suspicion, and permitted to stay only three days; while we have no record of abuse we do find in The Didache, "You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication." As late as St. Ignatius, who after the Deposit of Faith condemned some celibates, we have no report of abuse; it is noteworthy, however, that the first failed attempt by Spanish bishops at Elvira, Spain, requiring priestly celibacy c.306AD, also issued a Canon, "Those who sexually abuse boys are not to receive communion, even at death". By that time problems existed.
It is pointless to go on — illicit clerical sex has existed, as it does today, since mandatory celibacy was forced upon the priesthood. Today Benedictine monk/priest A.W. Richard Sipe, a psychologist, who during his priestly career of 30 years taught at several seminaries, treated thousands of priests and victims; all were referred to him by Church authorities for therapy and counseling for their sexual problems. Fr. Sipe and his colleagues (other priests and psychologists) who have dedicated their careers to this field of study and ministry, acknowledge the following priestly formation in America: today, two percent have the gift of celibacy and perfect continence, another eight percent have willed themselves into formation of character necessary to live celibately; 90 percent are sexually active, 50 percent at all times and 40 percent occasionally. Only ten percent live out their celibacy commitment. Tragically, the public makes no distinctions and view all priests the same.
The Coming Reformation
The Protestant Reformation developed over a period of 35 years before it concluded with Christianity forever divided between Protestant and Catholic. Many Catholic activists groups today believe a Roman Catholic Reformation began in 2002, following revelation of priestly sex abuse in the United States; initially a large percentage of American Catholics rejected the magnitude of the problem, preferring to assign guilt to anti-Catholic activists in American media sources. Only eight years later Catholic denial is vanishing with reports from countries world wide where Catholicism is practiced; published incidents of legal action and conviction of abusive priests now appear daily. With today's ability for activist Catholic organizations around the globe to communicate and coordinate their actions, a universal Catholic Reformation unrecognized by the Vatican has already begun.
What are your thoughts on this commentary?