The imposed “choice”

By Ruth Davenport

Let’s talk about no sex, baby.

CNN recently posted a poll on its website, accompanying an article on the Vatican’s "new" predicament over the astounding rates of child molestation among Catholic priests. The poll asked if the Catholic Church should outlaw the requirement of celibacy among the priesthood. I, like the whopping majority of CNN readers, submitted a vote in the affirmative.

I didn’t do it because I believe that celibacy is the cause of pedophilia. The literature says there’s no direct link between celibacy and child molestation and I believe in literature. Choosing to not engage in sex shouldn’t logically predispose a man to engage in acts of a sexual nature with children.

However, please note I said "choose."

One never truly chooses celibacy; others invariably choose it for you, be they members of the opposite sex or a militaristic orthodoxy. My concern with celibacy in the Catholic Church is that it’s mandatory. Entering the priesthood requires the unequivocal relinquishment of all carnal activities and that’s a mistake. The Vatican is likely painfully aware of the consequences of forcing someone to give up the one universal primal desire but why didn’t they learn after the first few hundred incidents?

Sexual tension always finds an outlet. Some people channel the energy productively but some–throttled both metaphorically by their doctrine and literally by a collar–can’t be expected to control the need manifesting itself at inopportune times. If a physiologically normal, red-blooded man is denied both physical intimacy and any discourse on said denial as a theological precept, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the trust, affection and physical proximity of young, hmm, altar boys perhaps, would weaken their resolve to the point where blood is thicker and more compelling than water–or sacramental wine if you will.

Aside from the fact that prohibiting physical relations puts a priest out of touch in the most fundamental sense with the rest of the procreating human race, this policy runs counter to teachings in the good ol’ book itself. Read it in Genesis: "…the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone…" I may be liberal in my interpretations, but the Almighty probably wasn’t looking to hook Adam up with a bocce ball partner. Even if Catholic teachings are rooted in the Old Testament, there’s 1 Timothy spoiling all the fun in the New: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Forbidding to marry… which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth."

Not just dumb–a doctrine of the devil, no less. If priests choose to be celibate of their own volition, let them. But the choice must be theirs to make.

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