Supi, celibacy is going to disappear,and you can marry me – or?
German Catholics have long manifested a discontent with clerical celibacy. One of Luther’s first acts was to abolish clerical celibacy; Germans currently criticize Zwangszölibat, compulsory celibacy, forced celibacy. As Cardinal Brandmüller points out, the term Zwangszölibat misrepresents the discipline; no one is forced to be celibate.
Now a third of German theologians have come out asking for an end to clerical celibacy (and also demanding women priests and the acceptance of gay couples and divorced and remarried couples while we’re at it).
The appeal, published in newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung’s Friday edition, called on the church’s leadership to stop excluding gay couples and remarried Christians.
“The Church also needs married priests and women holding positions in the clergy,” the appeal said—in clear defiance of the Vatican’s dogmas.
In Germany theologians need the Vatican’s approval to hold chairs of Catholic theology, so this situatSupim cleibacy is going to disappear,a nd oyu can marry me, or…ion is ripe for conflict.
Josef Ratzinger himself at one time had asked for a discussion of the possibility of married priests.
The background of this conflict is the tension between German (and other national) Catholicisms and ultramontane Catholicism espoused by the Vatican, and behind that at least in part are conflicting images of masculinity: the one that sees sexual expression as an almost universal, necessary, and good aspect of masculinity and the other that sees celibacy as an expression of masculine self-discipline.
During the Kulturkampf in German (c. 1875) the Catholic Church was attacked as feminized and perverse. This accusation stung Catholic men, and a reform group in Munich, the Krausgesellschaft, arose which tried to show that masculinity and Catholicism were compatible.
One of the aims of this group was the end of clerical celibacy, because it kept young men with healthy drives out of the priesthood and let in perverse types such as were exposed in a series of scandals around 1900 – scandals which turned out to be baseless. Furthermore, celibacy kept these healthy young German men from reproducing, and degenerate types, many of these Catholic reformers went on to say, were reproducing, and they should be sterilized. And German priests should produce German children because the Aryan race was the purest and most important race and the Jews were polluting it and… I think you can see where this ended up.
Historians have been puzzled why Nazism arose in Munich; later of course the conflict between Nazism and the Catholic Church was bitter, but at the beginning Catholic reformers – and remember, these were reformers – were espousing naturalist and racial theories in Munich. The young Heinrich Himmler was a pious Catholic university student in Munich.
This is not to say that the current crop of German reformers are racialists or Nazis, but the Vatican has a long memory, and suspects with justice that demands for a change in the discipline of clerical celibacy often lead to demands for radical changes in Christian doctrine. The theologians who coupled a demand for the end to clerical celibacy with a demand for the acceptance of homosexual couples have simply strengthened the Vatican’s determination not to make any major changes in the discipline of celibacy at this time.
(The information about the Krausgesellschaft comes from Derek Hastings’ article “Fears of a Feminized Church: Catholicism, Clerical Celibacy, and the Crisis of Masculinity in Wilhelmine Germany.”)
“…the one that sees sexual expression as an almost universal, necessary, and good aspect of masculinity and the other that sees celibacy as an expression of masculine self-discipline.” These are not necessarily logically inconsistent; each can complement the other. Their complementarity can exist when sexual expression is coupled with the male protective role of the female–here we have a view of valorous and good father, a key element of chivalry. Celibacy can be viewed as a completely dedicated rugged self-discipline directed to protecting the sanctuary, the eucharist, the holy of holies. Albeit, both of these views are antiquated anti-feminist. But a question arises of whether the abuse crisis would have occurred if Christian men, married and celibate alike, were throughly imbued with an attitude of chivalry.
A lot of German racialist theories started popping up in the late 19th century and early 20th century, many as the result of the philosophy of Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Also, in the late 19th century, a German movement called “Los von Rom” developed.
As far as the current German theologians are concerned, one shouldn’t be surprised, especially since the president of the German college of cardinals effectively denied in public that Christ bore the weight of God’s anger at human sin. If a major ecclesiastical figure can publicly repudiate a doctrine that all Christian churches hold (0r, at least, are supposed to hold), then anything is fair game.
What also makes the theologians’ demands suspicious is the linkage between married priests, female priests and same-sex couples. These issues, logically speaking, have nothing to do with each other! What would ordaining women and embracing same-sex marriage do to decrease clerical sex-abuse? I don’t think St. Peter Damian believed in either when he wrote “The Book of Gomorrah” in 1049. These theologians are disingenuous, at least, and despicable, at most, for taking advantage of a severe moral crisis to promote their own irrelevant agendas.
Father Michael Koening
Rick, call me a medievalist, but I think that the ideal of chivalry was one of the finest and truest standards of masculinity ever proposed. I believe you’re right that had there been more chivalry on the part of Catholic men (especially clergy).
Father Michael Koening
Sorry…Had there been more chivalry on the part of Christian men, the abuse crisis would not have happened.
Father Michael Koening: Chivalry appears to be unique to Christianity. It may be the result of the evolution of male virtue of courage (toughness and honor) joined with sacramental grace. There are only glimmers of it in the pagans (Odysseus perhaps). It allows for the presence of two opposing tendencies–aggression and tenderness–without diminishing either. It attenuates romance as an overarching attitude. It rejects all promiscuity, effeminacy and softness. It seems to be an antidote to homosexuality, and contains a character of decisiveness, moderated aggression, and especially honor. It is not too present with the bishops over the last half century, which may partly explain two things, (a) why the seminaries lost enrollment of more virile males and developed in some cases a gay subculture, and (b) why the bishops looked indecisive, and could not individually or collectively act honorably, to punish the perps and to treat the victims with tenderness. Rather they were soft on the perps and tended to ignore the victims injuries.
Where can I get a copy of Derek Hastings’ article “Fears of a Feminized Church: Catholicism, Clerical Celibacy, and the Crisis of Masculinity in Wilhelmine Germany.”
Is it available online?
Tony de New York
“If a major ecclesiastical figure can publicly repudiate a doctrine that all Christian churches hold (0r, at least, are supposed to hold), then anything is fair game.”
So sad but so TRUE!!
Anybody notices that those who signed the ‘Cologne declaration’ were over 200, now r 144? Ten years from now, there will be a few of them.
I do not know much about the German Catholic Church but I wonder why so many have left the Church in the light of sexual abuses of minors by the clergy. I would have thought that the most likely cause of their wanting to leave is their disgust with the way many clergy have seemed to have condoned such behaviour and not taken action to stop it. Much of the abuse of teenagers was surely of a same-sex nature. Indeed in the UK some of the campaigners for greater sexual liberation have, in the past, seemed to condone such behaviour. Yet here we have Catholic theologians seeming to suggest that greater sexual licence e.g. condoning same-sex acts is the answer to the problem. Is this not a non-sequitur?