A Jesuit priest spoke at our annual Diocesan Convocation of clergy a few years ago. He retold part of a lecture he delivered on the sack of Rome by the Emperor Charles V in the sixteenth century. The Jesuit said: Nuns were being ravaged in the Piazzas and men were being murdered in the streets of Rome. It was so bad, that even the Cardinals and Bishops turned to Christ! Given what I’ve read and seen, I was not that surprised when I read today’s reports of a Vatican gay sex scandal. Heck, I’ve even seen the calendar; you can read about it here.
In his book “Freeing Celibacy” Father Donald Cozzens, PhD, a priest, psychologist and former President (Rector) of St. Mary’s Seminary in Ohio states the following on pages 49-50:
With notable exceptions, most of the calls for optional celibacy today come from Northern Europe, North America, Australia, Southwest Asia, Ireland, and England. Perhaps this reality manifests, although imperfectly, the kernel of truth contained in the over-generalized yet helpful distinction between Anglo-Saxon law and Latin or Mediterranean law. A law shaped by the Anglo-Saxon tradition understands compliance as the minimum. From a Latin or Mediterranean perspective, law is commonly understood as the ideal to which all should strive.
From the Anglo-Saxon perspective, minimal compliance with the law of celibacy is complete sexual continence in the state of consecrated singleness for the sake of the Kingdom. Lapses inevitable occur, but the law is understood as more than an ideal that may ultimately be beyond the reach of the priest. Compliance is expected.
The Latin approach, on the other hand, may see the law of celibacy from a more relaxed, easygoing perspective. The reasoning goes something like this: Of course church law calls priests to be celibate, but this is the ideal. The urges of the body and the longings of the heart place this ideal out of reach, at least for many priests. Try to be celibate, but don’t be fanatical about it. The latter understanding of the law may explain why there are fewer calls for a change in mandated celibacy from priests in Spain, and Italy than from priests in Northern Europe and North America.
When I studied Spanish Literature as an undergraduate, I recall the professor pointing out that the Spanish surname “Braganza” was reserved for the illegitimate children of Spanish priests. The priest was their “uncle” and raised them with the help of his “housekeeper.”
While all of this is certainly of cultural interest and provides a human insight into the institutional Catholic Church, it remains very disturbing on a deeper level. Anglo-Saxon and Latin notions of “Law” aside, it seems that the heart of the spiritual life is to become whole. To seek integrity, before God, before others and within one’s own self.
That is precisely what Same Sex Marriage Equality is all about. In attempting to ban same sex marriage, the current Mormon leadership, Catholic hierarchy and their partner, the National Organization for Marriage, are attempting to redefine Civil marriage laws according to their very narrow theological views. Furthermore, they are attempting to impose their theological views on all Americans. They are ignoring the Separation of Church and State clause of the Constitution and attempting to redefine civil marriage law for all Americans according to their religious views.
Father Cozzens says of celibacy “The urges of the body and the longings of the heart place this ideal out of reach.. Try to be celibate, but don’t be fanatical about it.” The historical truth is that this approach has not worked within the Catholic priesthood. It has led to double lives, emotionally wounded and psychosexually dysfunctional priests, bishops, cardinals and yes, popes. These people now wish to impose this model on LGBT people by manipulating voters through fear.
Banning same sex marriage is simply an attempt, by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to redefine Civil Marriage in America. They wish to impose their dysfunctional mode of life on Americans. They wish to require gays and lesbians to be celibate. Oh, but, wink, wink, don’t be fanatical about it, you can still have sex, just be discrete. As Maggie Gallagher of NOM says, “Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose” she just wants to ban same sex marriage. Ironically, she thereby promotes the very promiscuity which she condemns and employs in her propaganda to ban same sex marriage.
The Vatican has targeted same sex couples that want to live their lives openly and honestly. Today, the Italian police have revealed the double standards, which the hierarchy practices daily. Tomorrow, it may be a waiter at a four star restaurant who reveals that an American bishop, who fights to ban same sex marriage, dines regularly at the restaurant with his secret gay lover. If Father Cozzens' cultural assessment is correct, Americans will be far less tolerant than their Italian counterparts.