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Aug-03-2013 01:11printcomments

The Fallacy of Celibacy

When we humans attempt to ignore our basic instincts we often suffer irreparable damage to ourselves and to those around us.

Married clergy
Courtesy: patheos.com

(PORTLAND, OR) - All creatures are controlled by urges and instincts. A spider is born knowing just how to create the complicated geometric pattern we call a web. Can you imagine having to teach a baby spider how to build a web? Go this way, now anchor it here, then go back over there, no, this way!” Can you imagine having to teach a duck to fly south? They just jump up into the air and go and they somehow know when they arrive there. Oh, I'm here now” they must think. They know where they are and they know when they get there, without any previous instruction. When we know what we must do without being taught we are acting on instinct. The most primal of urges begin when we enter puberty. Teens know how to have sex without any previous instruction.

Youngsters are controlled by developing instincts that we call “raging hormones.” Humans are unable to ignore this instinct. Instincts that are impossible to ignore and we are unable to control are in fact irresistible forces. We can do little to thwart what is irresistible, the instinct to eat, the instinct to find shelter, the instinct to mate. It helps to think of these forces as similar to water. Water rushes downhill, seeking whatever unknown might be ahead until it gets to the sea where it finds completion. Any attempts to thwart water's downhill destiny can only be temporary, because the irresistible force can't stop. Sure, water can be dammed and maintained in a pool behind an obstruction but only until it brims over the top and rushes again to its inevitable conclusion. Water cannot be contained and instinct cannot be contained. It must be fulfilled. I best learned the power of the full force of water on the North Shore of Hawaii. Standing on the beach I foolishly tried to maintain an upright stance against an incoming mountainous curling wave. I was hit by the force and sound of an oncoming train, and tumbled back to humility, made acutely aware of my insignificance and my inability to oppose a force of nature.


When we humans attempt to ignore our basic instincts we often suffer irreparable damage to ourselves and to those around us. Thwarting the mating instinct, for example, has been akin to the Devil plaguing the Catholic ministry, for hundreds of years. The following quote is taken from the National Catholic Review Magazine and demonstrates the emotional cost and distress of one priest and the woman he wanted to marry.

“During my first three years of ordained ministry as a priest, I fell in love with a woman youth minister at my parish. I had questioned the discipline of celibacy before, and I began to seriously question and struggle with it again.” The unrelenting instinct to mate is overpowering.

“I began to feel that God was calling me in a different direction, that celibacy might not be my calling. Coupled with the struggle over celibacy, I questioned the Roman Catholic Church's treatment of women, laypeople and homosexuals. The establishment in Rome was becoming more rigid and moving the church backwards. It came to the point where I could not imagine being happy in 20 years if I remained in the ministry of the Roman Catholic Church. I felt God was calling me to pursue something else.” (The irresistible force.)

This priest quit the Catholic Church and married his sweetheart. He could now be fulfilled as a man. And I am positive that once in their marriage bed they knew just what to do without any previous instruction. The water had reached the ocean. The spider had completed its web. The duck had flown South.


Should anyone seek counsel from a priest, on matters of sexual intimacy and marriage? Counsel from a man allegedly a virgin and never married? I am reminded of the Gypsy fortune teller machine I saw when my Dad took me to a carnival as a child. “Ask any question,” said the sign “and the gypsy will answer.”

Is a young unmarried virgin priest any more qualified to answer life's questions than the coin operated gypsy fortune teller? The irresistible instinct to mate doesn't care if you are married or not, in a committed relationship or not or emotionally unattached. The instinct keeps whispering forcefully in your ear, “Mate! Mate! pro-cree-ate!” Instinct has but one purpose, the survival of the species. Ignored, we humans, male and female, feel the pressure. We say our “biological clock is ticking.”

So why does the Catholic religion dictate celibacy? Because Jesus Christ remained celibate, they answer. Why is a vow of poverty imposed on priests? Because Jesus lived in poverty is the answer again. I think this is admirable naivety! Jesus Christ was the son of God, and therefore Godlike. His biological clock was not ticking. And if Jesus needed something, food, shelter, a donkey for transportation, he just arranged for it to happen, in much the same way he turned water into wine. And again, when he was finished with his purpose here on earth, he simply left, vanishing into the either, promising to return again.

Another book I have read, “Cops, Crooks, and Clergy” by Jim Harvey, takes on the issue of celibacy in the priesthood. Harvey was a Portland Oregon police officer who retired after rising through the ranks to Captain. On retiring from police work, Harvey returned to his first love, the Catholic church and became a priest, receiving his M. Div from Mt. Angel (Oregon) Seminary. His observations on the priesthood are presented here in thumbnail sketches and amount to an indictment of the celibacy requirement found in the Catholic Church.

Father Jim Harvey was certainly an overachiever by anyone’s measure, a college graduate, active duty Army officer, husband and father of six, police officer, detective, lieutenant, and Captain, and finally a Catholic priest! He brought to the priesthood unmeasurable common sense and life experience, all of which were ignored by the fortress mentality of Catholic dogma.

At his California parish, Father Harvey became the “go to” guy for those wanting to marry. He states, “And because I had been married before becoming a priest, many couples asked for appointments with me.” Discussing the church with another priest, he says, “The Church's style of leadership could only be described as medieval. It's feudalism.” On decrying the poor treatment of priests in their housing and eating needs, he writes, “priests were not chattel, but human beings. I found poor leadership prevalent within the church.”


Father Harvey continues, “The main lesson for the church is this: There is an urgent need for change. To be willing to grow in understanding and praxis. Much of our doctrine is based on the thinking of ancient people with a limited vision of the world. We need to be open to new views of God's work. I think that a married priesthood is the answer for many, a home and a healthy sexual relationship. There will still be those who choose to be celibate. That's fine for them. Today's requirement of celibacy also restricts the selection base for the priesthood. That's a more important fact. The Church suffers, not only from the lower numbers of candidates, but loses people of considerable ability by anchoring itself in a middle ages mentality and praxis.” To Harvey's statements I can add only Amen!

The Catholic church’s futile attempts to enforce rules on irresistible human instincts can only lead to a dishonest and cheating priesthood, and a priest who has cheated on his personal integrity and his priestly vows has also cheated on his parishioners. He stands before them, cloaked in holy hypocrisy, delivering a homily (sermon) he doesn't really believe in. He has become a crook of the soul, like a policeman that uses the cloak of his badge to steal.

Instincts are imposed on us by God and nature, to guide and direct a confused humanity. My advise is this: Don't stand in the way of a duck flying South!

Authors perspective: Much ado is made over the significance of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. I believe in the immaculate conception, however, continuing to refer to Mary, (a blessed woman to be sure) as a virgin is probably not accurate. She was after all a married woman.

Works Cited

Fichter, S. (2009). “When Priests Leave the Church.” The National Catholic Review Magazine.

Harvey, J (2007). Cops, Crooks and Clergy Outskirts Press Denver Colorado.

Please feel free to peruse my personal website, for your reading pleasure, with articles written about me and editorials and essays that I've written myself.

https://sites.google.com/a/pdx.edu/don-l-dupay/

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Donald Lee Dupay was a police officer for the Portland, Oregon police bureau, from 1961 to 1977. After five years service as a patrol officer Don was promoted to detective where he worked all the specialty units, morals, auto theft, checks, safe, burglary, special missions, and homicide. He was also an officer coach, instructing others on how to be productive detectives and teaching criminal investigation subjects at the police academy. Don witnessed the unintended consequences of the war on drugs that caused some of the officers in his department to become corrupt. Frustrated by that corruption he quit his job as a homicide detective and became the director of security at a major Portland hotel for several years.

Don has long thought we should legalize the so-called "consensual crimes" of drug distribution and use so we can stop killing each other over our failed drug policies. In his presentations Don offers an interesting perspective on additional unintended consequences - "collateral damage" - the countless innocent lives destroyed by drug prohibition.

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Vic August 3, 2013 10:06 am (Pacific time)

Spot on ! Great article...Thanks !

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