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For a Lady Pope

How is imposed celibacy perceived?


First of all it should be said that, in so far as laymen will never allow clerics to come and intrude in their private lives, they themselves are in no position to lecture priests about whether or not to practise celibacy. We have no right to play the moralists. Furthermore, we do not have to judge.

Yet we cannot ignore the investigations which have revealed the sexual behaviour adoptedby laymen, just as we cannot ignore those revealing sexual behaviour adopted by priests. In this way, we'll be able to check if the behaviour of the clerks is coherent with the commitments they make with their hierarchy.

Expression of man's sexuality and other feelings

Before dealing with the theme of this chapter and at the risk of seeming very empirical, it is necessary to approach the debate of  sexuality under  a  scientific angle. 

Man is not exclusively a spiritual being. He is also a very complex chemical machine which works independently of his will. To understand  the problem, it is necessary to have some physiological data. As far as sexuality is concerned,  man has, on the one hand, gonads which administer him each day an amount of hormones , among which testosterone, and, on the other hand, a daily production of spermatozoa. The number of spermatozoa produced in the testicles varies with the age and according to the individuals: it would be about 150 to 300 millions per day, to  be cut  by  half after 50 years .  Part of the excess of germinal cells is evacuated by wet dreams , or ejaculations which occur during    young men 's sleep. They can avoid this inconvenience by voluntarily releasing  (and at the same time taking  pleasure) their body from this inexhaustible production. The Church fought  against this solitary but very generalized  act,  by absolutely condemning it  and by considering it as perverse as  rape. It is a heresy on  human level.

If  nature provided  man with so many germinal cells ( about 4 thousand billion during a lifetime)), it is undoubtedly to encourage him to disseminate them (you must Grow and  multiply says God in the Genesis, 1,28).

Many  men are influenced by their instincts (the Church would say by their low instincts, though quite natural).So they feel  a sexual attraction towards people of the opposite sex. Others are more attracted towards  people of the same sex.  In any case  man lives in a community where social rules were laid down to channel the behaviours and sees  himself constrained to act under very restrictive relational conditions.

We all know that celibacy is a promise made during ordination, a promise that is  extremely binding in a society which has great difficulty in maintaining values of self-control. For a few decades, lots of films which twelve years old or even ten years old children are allowed to watch have been showing,  very suggestive, not to say dared scenes  . Web sites , magazines and most erotic moviesre accessible to all. To keep acool head (and the  rest) is  the privilege of supermen.

To live in a harsh environment

It is a fact that many priests are able to respect their celibacy honestly and courageously. Some polls show that a high proportion of the clergy are happy with their vocation. We have to admire these priests, all the more so when we know that celibacy is not a goal in itself but a way of making oneself more available for others.

Other priests experience celibacy as a suffering. It is often with a sense of guilt and underground life  that they know a woman or have sexual relations. Jesus taught us that we shouldn’t cast the first stone on an adulteress, as a consequence we shouldn’t cast stones ona priest who lives with a woman  or who would have intimate relations with a third person. Some behaviours, such as sexual abuse with  minors, are of course intolerable and should be punished in courts.

In addition, we insist on the interest to attentively read an article of this web site bearing on the difference between  celibacy and chastity.  It reminds us that the diocesan priest  makes the promise of celibacy to his bishop, whereas  the religious priest (the monk) takes the vow of chastity, obedience and poverty.

We noted the ambiguity that the Church maintained in connection with the interpretation to place on the sense of celibacy in  sacerdotal life. So, Benoît XVI insists on a life of chaste celibacy which  the function of priest involves even if the priest did not explicitly take the vow of chaste celibacy, but simply celibacy. Does the Church insist so much on a life of poverty which  the function of priest involves, even if the priest did not take the vow of poverty?

How do the priests really live  celibacy?

We present below the results of some investigations relating to the way in which  sacerdotal celibacy is lived.

In 1990, Richard SIPE, a former  Benedictine, now married and psychotherapi published his study spread out over nearly 25 years after having questioned approximately 1.500 priests in the United States. He concluded that 10% out of the American clergy respected  mature celibacy, 40% lived it more or less and  50% did not live it at all.

Theologist Hans Küng  referred to the works of Richard Sipe in particular to stigmatize the dangers of  obligatory celibacy and the bonds between devoted celibacy and paedophilia. Richars Sipe explains why the Roman system and the clerical culture enhance the priests'  psychosexual immaturity .. According to Richard Sipe, “the attitude and the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church  as far as human sexuality is concerned are false, as false as they were   previously about  heliocentrism.” He affirmed that approximately 6 to 10% of the Catholic priests are paedophiles.

According to the estimates which were given, only a priest out of two would practise  abstinence. Among those who do not practise it, a priest out of three gives himself over to homosexuality, a priest out of five maritally lives  with a woman and the others have mistresses. The homosexuality of the priests remains a  taboo subject, but some people deeply tackled it  as Donald Cozzens, the former director of the  Holy MarySeminar in Cleveland, in Ohio.

We should consider these investigations with caution as Richard Sipe is a former monk who got married and who could have some recriminations against the Church.

Other works

Moreover other works of independent and specialized journalists also made thourough studies on the sexual behaviour of the priests. A Spanish journalist P.Rodriguez thus published a book in 1995 heading « La Vida sexual del Clero » (The sexual Life of the Clergy). Here a synthesis of hisestimates: « Segun nuestro estudi, estimamos que, entre los sacerdates actualmente en activo, un 95% de ellos se masturba, un 60% mantiene relaciones sexuales, un 26% soba a menores, un 20% realiza practicas de caracter homosexual, un 12% es exclusivamente homosexual y un 7% cometos abusos sexuales graves con menores. »  Let us translate: “according to our study, we estimate that, among the priests currently in activity, 95% of them masturbate, 60% have sexual relations, 26% paw minors, 12% are exclusively homosexual and 7% make serious sexual abuse on minors”.

The author continues: Starting from a sample of 354 priests in activity who have sexual relations, the analysis of the profiles of the sexual preferences shows that 53% of them have sex with adult women, 21% with adult men, 14% with minor boys and 12% with minor girls. If you understand Spanish,you can read the original text  i: « elaborado has to leave deuna will muestra of 354 sacerdotes in activo that maintienen relaciones sexuales, donde debuja el perfil of mow preferencia sexuales LED clero analizado, idiot el siguente resultado: el 53% mantiene relaciones sexuales con mujeres adultas, el 21% lohace con varones adultos, el 14% con menores varones , yel 12% con menores mujeres ».

In other words if 60% of the priests have sexual relations, 53% of them have with adult women (which amounts to 32 % of the priests), 21% with men ( 12,5% of the priests) and 26% with minors ( 15,5% of the priests).

This study  was published in 1995. At that time, the Vatican was already worried by serious problems of paedophilia in the United States. He kept silence when reading the works of P.Rodriguez.  He  knew, of course, that all the Church was confronted with the sexuality of the priests. He bet on the confidential aspect of the study. The general public remained ignorant of this work.

Few statistical studies dealt with the behaviour of sexual self-satisfaction practised by the clergy. Journalist P.Rodriguez gives figures mentioned here above, as he announces that 95% of the priests practise  masturbation. The Congregation for Doctrine and Faith considered in 1975, in the declaration Personna Humana on some questions of sexual ethics, concerning the solitary pleasure, that “ we cannot ensure that the Holy Scriptures reject this sin under a distinct name, yet the tradition of the Church understood that it was condemned in the New Testament when it speaks about “impurity”, of “impudicity ” or other vices contrary  to chastity and  continence. ” The Church recognizes that this act is not included in the Holy Scriptures. However, the Catechism published in 1997 condemns  masturbation in the same way as  rape. Moreover, the Church assimilated this act (masturbation) with  onanism which means any ejaculation outside the woman’s vagina. Act  named  coitus interruptus, a means of contraception that  the Church has always condemned with firmness and regarded as intrinsically bad.

The inflexible position of the Church  sound ridiculous when we hear that 95% of the clergy take  to  solitary pleasure (self-abuse).  Whom does  the Church laugh at Finally, what is  better? A priest who regularly finds compensation near a woman   or a priest who gives himself over to  solitary pleasure in order to evacuate the tension of his impulses. Is not the first attitude  an adult's one and the second  a teenager'sone?

In 2004, an independent study of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of New York, the John Jay report, was made public by the American Catholic Church. This report announces that 4 400 priests were accused of abuse of minors in the United States between 1950 and 2002, representing 4% of the totality of the 110.000 priests in function for this period. The number of minors victims of these abuses is estimated at 11 000[] among  which 67% are between 11 and 17 years old[].

The study of Pardini

In another book written by Gerard Pardini (“The marriage of the priests”) and published in 2005 by the Editions the Manuscript , we can find the following information  about the respect of  sacerdotal celibacy:

“Only the English-speaking universities have been studuing the subject for at lkeast fifteen-years. This period of time makes it possible to consider the figures which follow as reliable:

40% of the American priests have permanent sexual relations (cohabitation or renewed partnership)

50% of them admitted not respecting the vow of chastity

80% of the Peruvian and Bolivian priests have a partner

90% of the Malagasy priests have a concubine

60 to 70% of the Brazilian priests practise sexual relations in a quasi permanent way (stable cohabitation or frequent partnerships)

80 to 90% of the African clergy admits not respecting the vow of chastity; 20% of them have two female partners

60 to 70% of the German Catholic clergy admits having sexual relations

30% of the Western missionaries priests sent to South America and Africa admitted to having sexual relations during their stay in imitation of the local example.

The Church is well-informed

It is obvious that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is fully aware of the sexual life of her clergy. Yet, the most important thing for her is to continue to proclaim the obligatory celibacy, although  the priests stand do not respect this obligation.

It is the same with contraception. Lay people know it well. More than 95% of Catholic believers use artificial means of contraception to schedule births, whereas the Church continues to prohibit their use.

These reports lead us to some reflections: lack of courage of the Church to recognize the situation,  weakness of  obligatory celibacy, admiration for the will of some priests to honour their commitment, ,  respect for  priests who  accept their human condition for various reasons (hormones, loneliness.. while living the Gospel's values.

For the Catholic Church, the situation is disastrous, not because most priests are sexually active, but because the Church hides the problem and denies the hard reality. How long can this false language still be spoken? Whom does the Church finally mislead ?  Herself of course.

Rome has not understood  yet that the faithful prefer  transparency and  honesty rather than  lie. If the modern means of communication are taken into account , the Church is still living in the Middle Ages. The Vatican tries in vain to throw a chaste veil on this problem, but  nowadays everything comes out.

In his book, Gerard Pardini,  includes an extract of a conference of Lacordaire (1802-1861), stigmatizing the opinion of the time, that the Catholic Church hierarchy regrettably still stands up for: « The priest could be avaricious, proud, pharisee, his character will suffer from these shameful vices but nevertheless, as long as the sign of chastity will remain on his face, God and  men will forgive him much ».

Everyone is aware

Matters have changed for a few decades. The faithful are not moved any more to hear that such or such priest has relations with a woman. They will forgive a priest who has a relationship with a woman, but who does his job seriouslyand who shows charity.  They will have no regard for a priest who marks  the sign of chastity on his face and would be avaricious, proud, pharisee. The problem of the chastity of the priests does not interest the faithful. Moreover, they know now that the large majority of the priests do not put it into practice.

The Holy See must obviously be worried by the life of his priests. The clergy has enough theological knowledge to know that celibacy was never made  compulsory by Jesus, that it is a disciplinary rule imposed by the Church for patrimonial reasons, that Jesus never deals with sexual problems, that  sacerdotal celibacy is not a vow taken by the secular priests but a promise, that only the monks pronounce the vows of poverty, obedience and chastity, that the Eastern catholic churches have married priests, andfinally that the Catholic Church integrated married Anglican priests. 

All that to say that the celibacy related to priesthood remains a discussed question, even if the Vatican persists in considering useless to re-examine its application.

For centuries, the Church has hidden the sexual life of her clerks. If the bishops were indulgent toward their priests, it was because they knew that this life of celibacy  simply was  impossible and that they  themselves sinned. After the discovery of the paedophilia acts, the Christians realized that the sexuality of the men of the church was altogether very alive.

The investigations show that the sexual activity among clergy is extremely widespread. The innovation comes from the fact that this situation is now spread out over the public place, whereas the Church kept silence. The secret became an open secret.

This evolution is both sad and encouraging; sad because the Church misled her clergy by requiring a celibacy which she knew was hard to live; ,  encouraging, becausethe Church will not be able to lie any more. It is finally comforting, because that proves that  clerks are finally men like the others. Even if we can channel the nature, we cannot dominate it. « Man is neither angel nor animal, and the misfortune wants that who pretends to be the angel is the animal ”, thank you Blaise Pascal. Or let us quote  the well-known proverb, “Chase nature away, it will soon come back”. “What's bred in the bone comes out in the flesh”


The Church realizes that she has no control of the sexual activities of her single clerks and that she cannot intimidate anyone with her antiquated and unnatural obligations. The obsession of  sexual relations is like a boomerang returning to strike the Vatican in full face.

The problem is not to fight  celibacy.If some priests can live it, it is good that they can be happy in  abstinence. All the faithful must be conscious that, in this context, the challenge that these clerks issue for themselves can  only be obtained  with their support.

However, if this obligation is not bearable, let us adopt   St Paul's opinion: referring to  single people, he wrote (1 Horn, 7, 9): “if they cannot live in  continence, they had better  marry than  burn with desire. » This is wisdom. Why couldn't this wisdom apply to the priests?

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