Boston Globe sees the end of the Roman Catholic Church's problems, and it is a monumental change that must occur.">
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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/16/10

"The Disease Calling Itself the Cure"

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There is an old joke that finds a few monks down in an archive pouring over ancient religious texts. The gloom and darkness are suddenly punctuated by the exclamation of a monk: "Holy heck!" he moans. "The word is "celebrate" not "celibate."

And well he has moaned since the Second Lateran Council of 1139 wherein it was decided that the cure for the problems of worldly inheritance among the Roman Catholic clergy would be to cut them off from progeny ... by celibacy.

What happened after that was a process of "natural selection" to the clergy--given the new rules--that slowly but surely selected for men in the clergy who could sustain a life of celibacy or a furtive pretense of it. But, moreover as, James Carroll writes in Sunday's Boston Globe, this intrusion into the human privacy of cleric divorced them, deliberately, from the laity among whom they moved and lived and sinned.

Carroll's essay is simply the best exposition of this subject I have ever read. He describes the nexus of power that the Council erected on this central focus of our humanity, our sexuality, our procreative freedom, our very existence. I believe with Carroll that the celibacy rule must and will be demolished and along with it nearly a millennium's worth of power politics emanating from the Church.

Things that happen take place in a context. The context of the Second Lateran Council was, broadly, feudalism. There were currents of modern finance and commerce building in Italy, but the essential fact was that of a strict hierarchy in civil life made plain by strict rules of property and subservience. Civil life was not nearly as separate from spiritual life. Medievalists will chafe at a three sentence definition of age, but the point is incontestable that we (western and eastern) are now quite different from what we were a thousand years ago.

The Roman Catholic Church needs to find the courage to address the issue. I believe that the changes between now and then include the salient feature upon which the Vatican can take its cue. That feature is literacy. No longer does a Pope have to deal with a majority clergy that cannot actually read, nor a laity, for that matter. With literacy comes freedom and the imposition of power over freedom brings revolution. It is up to Pope Benedict XVI, Joe Ratzinger of Nazi Germany, to find the courage and the way, for if he does not the Roman Catholic Church will collapse.


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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) a long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese (more...)

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