"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks for Secular Investigations

The NYTimes has an AP story today on, yet, another damning report on the unholy pedophile priests and their protectors within the Catholic Church hierarchy:

DUBLIN (AP) -- Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in Dublin covered up decades of child abuse by priests to protect the church's reputation, an expert commission reported Thursday after a three-year investigation.

Abuse victims welcomed the report on the Dublin Archdiocese's mishandling of abuse complaints against its parish priests from 1975 to 2004. It followed a parallel report published in May into five decades of rape, beatings and other cruelty committed by Catholic orders of nuns and brothers nationwide in church-run schools, children's workhouses and orphanages from the 1930s to mid-1990s.

The government said the Dublin investigation ''shows clearly that a systemic, calculated perversion of power and trust was visited on helpless and innocent children in the archdiocese.''

''The perpetrators must continue to be brought to justice, and the people of Ireland must know that this can never happen again,'' the government said, also apologizing for the state's failure to hold church authorities accountable to the law.

The 720-page report -- delivered to the government in July but released Thursday after extensive legal vetting -- analyzes the cases of 46 priests against whom 320 complaints were filed. The 46 were selected from more than 150 Dublin priests implicated in molesting or raping boys and girls since 1940.

Other than the evil frauds who claim some form of celestial protection as their rightful due for their crimes against humanity, it is impossible to imagine any non-holy (irony alert) societal institution that would not be dismantled and burned at such repeated reports, with all of the guilty officials locked away for life or executed.

And so it seems fitting to share part of this piece of ecclesiastical history related to the emergence of celibacy within the priesthood and the economic motive that drove it. From the Irish Democrat:

Peter Berresford Ellis looks at the politics and philosophy behind the Catholic church's rules on marriage and celibacy

IN SPITE of the election of another conservative Pontiff, Benedict XVI in April of this year, liberal reformers in the Catholic Church are continuing their campaign for a return to a married priesthood.

However, the former Cardinal Joseph Alois Ratzinger [helpful background here], is clearly not some one who will look benignly on any attempts to liberalise the Church. He is known to be a firm supporter of Pope Paul VI's encyclical Sacerdotalis Caelibatus, which reaffirmed the prohibition on clerical marriages. Cardinal Ratzinger's Salt of the Earth: the Church at the end of the Millennium, published in 1997, showed no moderation of those views.

Some liberals argue that this attitude has been responsible for the rapid decline of members of the religious during the last thirty years. A month or so ago in Ireland, that fact that two young men were entering a seminary from one county was so unusual that it was reported as newsworthy.

In my opening I said 'a return to a married priesthood'. Yet many think that the Catholic priesthood has always been celibate one and that it was the Protestant movement in the sixteenth Century that allowed clergy to marry. Only from the twelfth Century AD did the Roman Church begin to enforce celibacy among its clerics.

In most religions, both ancient and modern, there have always been ascetics who believed that celibacy somehow brought them close to the deity. They have sublimated physical love, a natural life, in a dedication to whatever deity they worshipped. Celibacy within the western Christian movement was something that took many centuries to become a universally accepted idea; even then it was a means of causing schisms within that movement.

The first disciples of Jesus were, for the majority, married men: disciples such as Simon Bar-Jonah, nicknamed 'The Rock' (Petrus in Latin, Cephas in Greek), the man on whom Jesus is accepted as founding his Church and regarded as the first 'Pope'.

Evidence shows that many of the early Christian religious leaders were married men and women and, moreover, women often took a prominent role in the services. Even many centuries later, women in Gaul were officiating over the divine offices and other rituals and that called forth a rebuke from Rome.

One has to remember that the Christian movement, like most human movements from the religious to the political, was constantly changing and reforming. Indeed, it was with the third century that the teachings of Gnosticism began to argue that a person could not be married and be 'religiously perfect'. However, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, lists no less than 39 Popes as being married. Even the most conservative of Catholic scholars will accept that seven Bishops of Rome were married. Moreover, some of the Popes were succeeded by their sons in office.

Some ascetics, as in other religions, became hermits, shunning society, and removing themselves from 'worldly temptation'. Such was the idea of St Anthony (born c. AD 250) who took up residence in a deserted fort in Pispir on the Nile.

It was from these first Christian 'monks'- Anthony and Pachomius - that inspired the former Roman soldier named Martin, born c. AD 315 in Pannonia. He became a hermit in Gaul. By AD 370 he was also a bishop and founder of an entire community. He built his monastery at Marmoutier, in Celtic Gaul, that still shows its original Celtic name 'mor munntir', meaning 'place of the great family'. Martin became 'Father of Celtic Monasticism' and his ideas spread from Marmoutier to Celtic Britain and then to Ireland.

Yet at this stage, the majority of priests were married and their children often rose to office in the Church. The Pope St Damascus I (AD 366-384) was the son of the priest St Lorenzo. St Innocent I, who was Pope from AD 401-417, was son of Pope Anastasius I (399-401). Popes Boniface (AD 418-422), St Felix (AD 483-492), Anastasius II (AD 496-498) and St Agapitus I (AD 535-536) were all sons of priests, while St Silverus (AD 536-537) and John XI were sons of previous Popes and at least three more Popes were also sons of priests.

Even St Patrick (a British Celt from near Carlisle whose original name seems to have been Sochet 'silent one') was the son of a deacon (Cualfornius or Calpornius) who, in turn, was son of a priest (Potitus). One interesting point, Diaconus (now translated in modern terms) at this point was an ordained priest (see Acts 6: 1-6).

Ireland was not unique within the wider Christian Church in having married clergy and mixed-sex religious communities were found not confined to Ireland but through western Christendom.

Yet the ascetic group, advocating celibacy, grew stronger as a political force within the Christian movement. In AD 308 the Council of Elvira in Spain issued a decree that a priest who slept with his wife on the night before Mass could not perform the ceremony. In AD 325 the Council at Niceae argued that, after ordination, priests should not marry.

One fascinating point is that the Council of Laodicea in AD 352, ordered that women should no longer be ordained as priests. So women were being ordained as priests at this time. Early Irish references show that St Brigid of Kildare, (who died AD 525) herself was ordained as a bishop. She founded her conhospitae, or mixed, house with Bishop Conláed. St Hilary in Northumbria is also referred to as being ordained bishop.

In AD 494 Pope Gelasius I (492-496) decreed that woman could no longer be ordained as priests. It is fascinating, therefore, that we find Bishop Pelagio, in the twelfth century, complaining that women were still being ordained in the western Church and hearing confessions. K.J. Torjesen's book When Women Were Priests, discusses the implications of this.

In AD 385, Pope Siricius (AD 384-399), supporting the ascetic lobby, abandoned his wife and children, and ordered that priests should no longer sleep with their wives. But he did not go so far as prohibiting marriage.

Clerics marrying remained an unchanging factor of religious life through the sixth century. In AD 567, at the second Council at Tours, it was decided to recommend that any cleric found in bed with their wives should be forbidden to perform church rituals and reduced to a lay state. However in AD 580 Pope Pelagius II (AD 579-590) was not so much bothered with married clergy but with inheritance to their offspring. He ordered that married priests should not bequeath property acquired in their office as a member of the church to their sons or other heirs.

The Roman Church was becoming conscious of the value of property and wanted what had been acquired to remain within the church. Throughout the seventh century there is much documentary evidence showing that in Frankia and Gaul the majority of clerics, priests, abbots and bishops, were married. In the following century, St Boniface of Crediton (c. AD 675-755), comments that almost no priest, including bishops, in Germany followed the idea of celibacy.

Well into the ninth century, it was reported at the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle that the inhabitants of monasteries and convents were living together and that where the bishops and abbots were trying to enforce celibacy there were a number of abortions and infanticides taking place to cover up these relationships.

St Ulric of Augsburg (890-973) argued that the Holy Scriptures and logic demanded that the only way to purify the western Church from these worst excesses was to continue to allow the clerics to marry. He pointed out "When celibacy is imposed, priests will commit sins far worse than fornication." His letter on this matter was later claimed to be a forgery by the pro-celibacy lobby. Ulric's stand is discussed in Married Priests and the Reforming Papacy: the 11th Century debates.

Pope Benedict IX was elected when he was fifteen years old in 1032 because he was connected with the powerful Counts of Tusculum. He resigned the Papacy in order to marry. Gregory VI took over but Gregory was banished after a few months. Re-elected in 1045, the married Benedict IX was deposed by Clement II who died shortly after and Benedict IX was re-elected for a third time before finally being deposed in 1048.

Peter Damian (AD 1007-72) was a high-ranking ecclesiastic and theologian who became the leading advisor to successive Popes and drew them firmly into the celibacy camp. Peter Damian called the wives of clerics "harlots, prostitutes... unclean spirits, demigoddesses, sirens, witches" among other vicious rhetoric. He found an enthusiastic pupil in Hildebrand di Bonizio Aldobrandeschi of Sovana.

When Hildebrand was elected as Pope Gregory VII (AD 1073-1085), he declared, in 1074, that "priests must first escape the clutches of their wives", and then take a pledge of celibacy. But it was Pope Urban II, in 1095, who decided to order that the wives of priests be rounded up and sold into slavery, the money used to boost the Papal finances.

Riots took place in Germany, Italy and France as priests rejected this order. So far, no research has been done on how Ireland reacted to this order. Pope Urban even allowed the nobles to forcibly abduct the wives of priests and sell them into slavery.

When the Count of Veringen took part in this, he found his own wife murdered in her bed. Pope Calixtus II (AD 1119-1124) at the Lateran Council of 1123 decreed that all clerical marries were invalid, a decree later confirmed by Pope Innocent II (1130-1143). But, by the fifteenth Century, it was reported that 50 per cent of Catholic priests were still married but, of course, this figure actually shows that the long transition from marriage to celibacy had finally begun to take effect.

The Popes themselves were hardly obeying their own rules on celibacy. We know that Popes such as Innocent VIII (AD 1484-1492), Alexander VI (1492-1503), Julius II (1503-1513), Paul III (1534-1549), Pius IV (1559-1565) and Gregory XIII (1572-1585), each had many illegitimate children. Of these, one of the most notorious was Alexander VI (1492-1503), a Borgia Pope, who had seven illegitimate children when he was a cardinal and, as Pontiff had an affair with Giulia Farnese, a 19 year-old married girl.

In Ireland celibacy was not an issue in the early Church. Indeed, the decisions in the documentary recounting 'The First Synod of Patrick' simply takes married clerics for granted and says that "any cleric from ostiary to priest ...whose wife walks about with her head uncovered shall be despised by the laity and separated from the Church." Dr Patrick Power, in Sex and Marriage in Ancient Ireland (Mercier Press, 1976), points to the fact that a later Brehon Law actually grades ecclesiastical marriages indicating that married bishops and priests were allotted only two-thirds of the honour price of an unmarried bishop or priest.

In spite of attempts to 'sanitise' things by those who want to present celibacy as a strict rule of faith from early times, the evidence to the contrary is absolutely clear. Attempts to reduce bishops and abbots in Ireland to semi-religious officials holding hereditary office, sort of like managers for the community shows no understanding at all of early Irish society.

One of the problems has been that the surviving literature comes from a period when the scribes were members of the accepted orthodoxy of late medieval Rome and were writing with a consciousness of their new dogma. Superficial readings could easily mislead just as one encounters the new religion influencing the bowdlerisation of the concepts and themes of the original versions of Irish mythological tales. But not all the records could be successfully expunged.

As writers have tried to 'sanitise' references to married religious, they have presented many curious arguments. Some even argue that the Irish terms for 'monk' and 'nun' were used strictly in the same way as they were used in the late medieval Roman church, implying that any union between them was forbidden. . . .


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