!! Book Review !! Celibacy in Crisis – The Unspoken, Unteachable State of the Church !
I finished several books this week as part of my Unschooled Master of Theology Program. You can check them all out here. In this frantic reading sprint, the second book I finished was Celibacy in Crisis, which was supposed to be a treatment of celibacy in the Church. I assumed the “crisis” portion of the title was referencing the lack of celibacy given the modern compromising culture we live in today, but instead, the bulk of the book focused on child abuse by the hands of priests. Despite this, I persisted and found some interesting ideas, even though it was a bit off the subject of my current research.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
The Book, The Crisis, The Misunderstanding
Yet another book I had high hopes for turned out to be deceptive (or I need to do a better job at skimming books before I commit to them). I thought this book would be about the crisis in celibacy as the new post-modern culture we are subjected to has eroded the legitimacy and thwarted the draw of these kinds of lifestyles and vocations. Instead, this book is predominately about the crisis that exists in the Catholic preisthood (and also in the Protestant clergy, though this is not really addressed in the book).
Do not mistake me. Sexual abuse at the hands of clergy is certainly a problem, and, according to the book, appears to be a major problem for a large portion of those who claim and those who actively aspire to celibacy as a lifelong state of living.
One of the key issues I see is lack of transparency. Of course, the real problem is not with how celibacy is developed, achieved, or practiced within the priestly and clerical profession, but that there is a profession to begin with.
The responsibility does not rest in the perpetrators or even in the church, though both are guilty of great and ineffable sins. Rather, the responsibility for priestly child abuse lays squarely on the shoulders of the parents who allow their children into circumstances that open them up to such risk.
There should be no priestly order in the first place. There should be no pastorate. Pastor is not even a term or title found in the bible (in the Greek), especially in the modern fabrications we have today.
The problem is parents have no sense of responsibility for their own child’s spiritual development, which is not a surprise, since they often feel no responsibility over their own spiritual development.
Celibacy should be exercised through monastic and hermitic expressions, in devotion to willing service to God, to the church proper (the body, not the building or an organization). Children should not be involved in the celibates’ life in any way.
Can or Should Celibacy Be Taught?
But, as I read this book, a persistent thought stuck with me. Is celibacy something that should be taught? Can it be taught? Should it be so prevalently encouraged, such as with a priestly order, given the words of caution by Paul?
Marriage is borne of, at least in our present age if in no other, out of weakness of the flesh, the inability to overcome the fleshly desires that reside within us (or whatever their purposes were originally intended).
It is important to consider first why we were given these urges to begin with. Why the physical, chemical, psychological draw between a man and a woman? Why does this draw take on such peculiar and bizarre diversities among the genders? Because of this its purpose cannot be solely for procreation. If it were, wouldn’t God have established it for humans more aligned to the animal kingdom (which is predominately for procreation and no other reason, by design).
And, if out of weakness, then it is a secondary state. Of course, the majority is mob rule, and the mob has successfully branded marriage, at least in the church, as the first and simultaneously, except for in Catholicism, celibacy has all but been rendered abnormal and extreme.
But, if one takes an honest reading of the biblical message, especially of the present age in biblical times (as well as our own today), it is hard to come away with anything but a clear picture of celibacy as the preferred state for this transitory existence, and certainly the only sanctioned state in eternity to come.
Jesus makes this clear, “when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven” (Mark 12:25; Matthew 22:30; Luke 20:35).
The afterlife has no provision for marriage, and, thus, no provision for sexual intercourse.
Why, then, would we entertain such an ephemeral state of being? Why would we invest our time, our energies, the whole of our being into a commitment so fraught with deception, instability, not to mention its sheer difficulty. Paul warned us but we refused to heed, “you will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you” (1 Corinthians 7:28). What was his solution to this issue?
Why? He answered this. “I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord….the married cares about the things of the world, how he can please his wife” and likewise for the wife who cares about how she can please her husband (1 Corinthians 7:32ff).
This book provides no discussion or examination of celibacy as it should be practiced. And rightly so, it only discusses the “crisis” in which it is focused: sexual abuse and the lack of actual celibacy among those who claim to practice it.
The Direction of My Research
In the future, I will be exploring this subject in my detail (of course, I mean the subject of celibacy and not the crisis of sexual abuse).
I’m intensely interested in the expression of what I would term “voluntary celibacy” from Christ’s words in Matthew 19:12, “there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.”
There is no other qualification given but the single qualification, “he who is able to accept it, let him accept it.” More accurately, this is found in the Greek, “He who is able to exist as such, let him exist as such.”
It is, as Paul puts it, a gift from God and each of us is given those gifts in diversity. There is no one else to consider, no one else to confer with.
But, why such little in the way of practical guidance? Is it because the gift of celibacy is not something that can be taught? Marriage, truly, is not a gift that can be taught. Credit all you want the marriage counselors and teachers throughout the world, but divorce is still 50% for believers and non-believers alike.
Marriage is hard and all the teaching in the world and all the books and all the counseling sessions can’t seem to help bring that percentage down even a little. In fact, divorce has gone up in modernity.
But, in the future, I would like to dig deeper into the what celibacy really, truly is. Is it something that exists by brute strength alone? Sheer will? A gift of God to those in whom he has gifted it, do they have then no temptation?
My celibacy is both a natural manifestation and a conscious choice. In fact, it has become a natural manifestation based on the conscious choice. Many would conclude I fear relationships and intimacy because of past hurts, past betrayals. But I would disagree.
I do not abstain because I fear getting hurt. I have made the conscious choice to abstain from this pattern. Yes, I was informed by hurt and betrayal. And, no one wants to be hurt or betrayed. But, these experiences simply woke me to the reality that I already knew, but refused to accept.
Marriage is fraught with risk and danger. Raising children, maintaining a family, these are thankless endeavors, and only the lucky few manage to uncover a genuinely good spouse on which they can trust and in which that trust is honored and returned.
In the end, a healthy, functional marriage is the product of a LOT of hard, relentless work, and still, when all is said and done, a great deal of dumb luck.
The bulk of marriages seem, at least from the spectator view, to be futile exercises in self-brutality.
I made a choice after my marriage was terminated by my spouse. When things became tough for her, when work was required, she abandoned her vows, she betrayed my trust, and I was too late to discover she lied in the beginning and had been living a lie throughout. She did not leave divorce off the table as I did (or, as we had both agreed to do). She did not believe and accept true, self-less love as a lasting commitment. It was only a shallow, selfish, willful set of emotions from which she drew.
I remember the moment I realized, even the best of marriages begin with the same inherent risk. There is no way to determine from the beginning if the other person involved is genuine and honest and telling the truth. Not only this, but the risk is increased exponentially. Say the two invovled are both actually genuine in their vows. The reality of marriage remains in a state of fluid indeterminateness. At any moment, one of the participants can wake up and simply make a different choice. They can choose to stop loving their spouse. They can choose today as the day they are going lie, cheat, steal. I’ve seen this in countless marriages.
Yes, there are successful marriages. But, despite this, I am convinced these are the exception that proves the rule.
Having been “raised” up in my Christian faith as a protestant, I was denied literally any exposure to the celibate life. There was little discussion of it, and what there was seemed to circle around celibacy and singlehood being a transitory state of the young in the short period between childhood and marriage. Many a pastor counseled me to marry. Parents encouraged me to marry. Friends and family encouraged me to marry. All the while, all of their marriages, to one degree or another, were miserable states of existence.
Marriage and mating has a purpose, certainly. Both for the animal kingdom and for humanity, even in the garden of Eden, before the fall, God encouraged all living beings to procreate and spread across the earth.
My question then is, if there was marriage (or at least sex) in the pre-fallen paradise, why no sex (and no marriage) in eternity? Why are angels not allowed to marry or procreate? Why do all appearances of angelic beings seem to be male? Where are the female angels? Angels are obviously equipped for the task and are physically and genetically able to produce offspring.
What is really going on here?
Even more radical: what is God in relation to the act of sex? Does God have a gender? Does God have a body? Does he have a sex? Has God participated in the act of sex before? Is he able to? Is God celibate?
This book, in the end, was an informative read – for the most part. I would say I certainly need to do a much better job of reviewing a book before I commit to reading it so I am reading within my research interests and not sidetracked as I was with this book.
The crisis of sexual abuse at the hands of priests and clergy is a serious one. I’m rather surprised it is such an issue – much more of one that I had previously thought before reading this text.
But, I do think the public at large has lost its way in this issue. They will never truly solve this problem until they resolve the underlining issues that instigate it. 1. Parental supervision and responsibility. 2. Mistaken vocation of shepherd as a profession rather than an avocation.
Thankfully, I have been spared of the issues pertaining to priestly pressures. I have no interest in the Catholic religion, though I would consider a Catholic monastery that had an eremitic orientation.
But monasteries, like most religious institutions of the past, are dying. Those that are able to keep a foothold in viability and relevance have compromised so much on doctrine they are hardly recognizable as a Christian institution.
If you want to know more about the crisis of child abuse within the Catholic church and homosexual proclivities of it’s priests, this is a good book to start with. But, if you’re interested in knowing how one develops and embraces a celibate lifestyle, this book is not for you.
Until my next assignment….
Please consider supporting my writing, my unschooled studies, and my hermitic lifestyle by purchasing one or more of my books. I’m not supported by academia or have a lucrative corporate job – I’m just a mystical modern-day hermit trying to live out the life I believe God has called me to. So, any support you choose to provide is GREATLY appreciated.
Excerpt from Seeking Light Aurora:
Thomas opened the front door of the diner and leaned inside, holding himself up by the door frame.
“What’s the matter?” Terrance said, looking away from Peg and Carol. They were all huddled together at the counter.
“Her truck is still freaking out. I’ll try to keep her busy for as long as I can, but I’m running out of ideas.”
He looked over at Derrick who was quietly sitting at the back booth reading one of his books.
“You’ve got to keep her busy,” Terrance said. “We don’t have any other choice.”
“Look –” Thomas hesitated. “This isn’t all on me you know. I’ve already told you. I don’t know jack shit about trucks or engines. I’m sure as hell not a mechanic.”
“It’ll be fine,” Peg said.
“We all know there’s nothing I can do to fix that truck.” Thomas was shaking his head. “She’s going to figure out that something’s up. What if she starts asking questions?”
“Stall her,” Terrance said. “We just have to keep her busy for a little while. Remember, whatever it takes.”
“But, what about –” Carol had tears welling up.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Terrance said. “We’ve all been through this before.” He looked at Thomas. “Just take a deep breath and relax.”
“Relax my ass,” Thomas said. “Save that bullshit for her, okay?”
“Just keep her occupied in the garage as long as you possibly can. She’s focused right now on getting her truck fixed, so use that.”
“Whatever you say.” Thomas pushed off the door frame and let the door close behind him.
“It’s not going to work,” Carol said. “She’ll figure out something is wrong and that will be it.”
Terrance put his hand on Carol’s arm, gently trying to reassure her.
“It’ll work, Carol,” he said. “Have faith. It’ll work. Whatever it takes.”
Buy my book Seeking Light Aurora to find out what in the world is going on at this strange, out of the way diner in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness!
Click here and grab your copy today! Buy the three book omnibus and get the ENTIRE story for less!
But, you better strap in, because this is definitely not child’s play. People are getting hurt right and left – it just might be you next!