Sex, women and the Catholic Church
The evil plan of popes, priests and nuns
I've just finished reading a horror story, and I don't like horror stories. A story of historical injustices, of man's inhumanity to man. A disturbing realisation that people claiming to be caring and loving could act the way they did. As I worked my way through the book I continually found myself muttering, 'Those ignorant, disgusting bastards!' The depressing and distressing part was that it was a true story, not some Stephen King novel. It was the story of the Catholic Church and the offensive, vile and debauched control it had over the lives of every man, woman and child that was within the reach of their slimy tentacles.
Of course we were already aware of the Catholic Church's dogmatic stance on celibacy for their clergy, and their harmful and ignorant views on contraception, abortion, homosexuality and the status of women. But we were stunned and ashamed on discovering the hidden depth of the appalling injustice humans could inflict on their fellow humans, all in the name of their loving God. The lengths they went to, the time and resources they spent on discussing the most minor aspect of sexual behaviour and how they might combat it was mind-boggling.
The book I'm referring to is 'Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality and the Catholic Church', written by Uta Ranke-Heinemann. She holds a Ph.D in Catholic theology.
We've all heard about the atrocities that were committed by devout Christians throughout history that led to the torture and senseless deaths of untold thousands, from the Inquisitions and anti-Semitic pogroms to the numerous Crusades and the execution of witches. Although it touched on witches, this book wasn't about those atrocities, it instead detailed the control that the church wanted over what happened in the bedrooms of ordinary Christians. And let's remember that for most of its history, and certainly for its formative centuries, every Christian was a Catholic. So it's no good saying you're a Protestant or Jehovah's Witness or whatever, every modern Christian is following a bastardised belief that is built on the foundation put down by the early Christian church fathers who 'formulated doctrines and codified religious observances'. Every modern non-Catholic Christian church still has, to varying degrees, problems with their stance on sex, contraception, abortion, homosexuality, the status of women and the role of women in their church. It's just that the Catholic Church has remained more dogmatic on all these issues. They are the Darth Vader version of Christianity, still planning for world domination in their crippled but still functioning Death Star battle station, commonly know as the Vatican.
So Catholic or not, if you acknowledge that the people who created the Christian Church, from Paul onwards, were grossly mistaken in their view on sex and women, then you are acknowledging that one of the very foundations of the Christian Church is flawed.
As you may know, the first pope, Peter, was married, as were the majority of popes, bishops and priests. Only after 1139 CE were priests no longer allowed to marry. Most everyone in the Bible, including Paul, was, or had been, married, except Jesus who must have seemed quite out of place for a Jew. If it happened today, people would no doubt say he was probably gay. As Rabbi Eleasar Ben-Asarja said, 'Whoever renounces marriage violates the commandment to increase and multiply; he is to be looked upon as a murderer who lessens the number of the beings created in the image of God.' It's easy to see why some people believe Jesus was in fact married. There is no hint that he wasn't, and as Ranke-Heinemann states, 'when Paul says that he knows of no saying by Jesus on celibacy, but can only present his personal opinion (1 Cor 7:25), that can hardly be made to square with the notion that Jesus was unmarried. Though Paul may have no saying by Jesus before him, if he could have cited the example of Jesus the celibate, he would hardly have been satisfied with pointing to the lack of a specific saying. There is no way he would have failed to mention the unusual example set by Jesus' own life — if Jesus had set it.'
But anyway, due to bogus pagan beliefs, bogus Gnostic beliefs and numerous misunderstandings derived from the Bible (also bogus), the early Church Fathers came to increasingly believe that celibacy and virginity were the ultimate stance one should adopt in the eyes of God. People such as Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Jerome, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Thus Christianity developed a hostility towards sex and a hatred of the pleasure derived from it.
And of course Mary, the alleged mother of Jesus, became the most unusual virgin, getting pregnant without having sex, giving birth without breaking her hymen, denying her husband sex for life, and having her future children that are mentioned in the Bible, the brothers and sisters of Jesus, being turned into his cousins. But as Ranke-Heinemann states, 'Virginity was not prized because Mary was a virgin, rather Mary was made a perpetual virgin because virginity was so highly prized.' Some church fathers even came to believe that Adam and Eve never had physical sex in the Garden of Eden.
The likes of Augustine connected the transmission of original sin with sexual intercourse, or more precisely, sexual pleasure. But even these idiots realised that someone had to have sex or else humans would quickly die out. Sex was a necessary evil. So marriage was allowed, although not encouraged, since it was still better to live a virgin than worry about the human race. In fact the morons even calculated how much one would benefit on reaching heaven. Virgins would receive 100% heavenly reward, widows and widowers (because they had stopped having sex) would get 60%, and married people only 30%. So marriage and sex was begrudgingly permitted, but it was not under any circumstances to be enjoyed. Thomas Aquinas said that 'Marriage is aimed at procreation, and therefore the man who loves his wife too passionately contravenes the good of marriage and can be labelled an adulterer.' Jerome stated that, 'The begetting of children is allowed in marriage, but the feelings of sensual pleasure such as those had in the embraces of a harlot are damnable in a wife.' The likes of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Albert the Great considered sexual pleasure as 'evil, a punishment, filthy, defiling, ugly, shameful, sick, a degradation of the mind, a humiliation of reason by the flesh, common, debasing, humiliating, shared with the beasts, brutal, corrupted, depraved, infected and infecting'. And even worse, these descriptions are also transferred to women since they are the filthy things that men are coerced into having sex with.
The celibate hierarchy of the church has put considerable effort into the 'repression, defamation, and demonization of women'. They are seen as a tool of the Devil. Augustine tells us that Satan turned to Eve because she was 'the inferior of the human pair...' Their stupidity and disobedience brought sin into the world, and their continued presence only serves as a temptation to men. Albert the Great, the teacher of Thomas Aquinas, wrote that, 'Woman is less qualified [than man] for moral behaviour... [she is] inconstant and curious. When a woman has relations with a man, she would like, as much as possible, to be lying with another man at the same time. Woman knows nothing of fidelity. Believe me, if you give her your trust, you will be disappointed... Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his. Therefore she is unsure of herself. What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one's guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil... Thus in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman towards every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good'. Thanks to the Catholic Church, we learn that women are only born when something goes wrong following conception. Women are a mistake, a flawed and defective man, an inferior sample of humanity. Clement wrote that with women, 'the very consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame'. He even insisted that, like Muslim women today, women should be completely veiled, and for a time they were. The church insisted that wives must submit to sex if they fear violence from their husband. The question of whether the husband is wrong to threaten his wife didn't concern the church. On the other hand, if the husband attempts to use contraception, she must fight him as if he were a rapist. We learn that women are in a continual state of subordination to men. Woman have been silenced and deprived of their rights.
While the church leaders hated sex, and everything surrounding it, and still do, they weren't content to just live a celibate and virginal life themselves, they felt they had to force their twisted beliefs onto the rest of the world. Everyone from peasant to King had to be told that, 'Sexual intercourse is reprehensible and evil' and that, 'There can be no sexual pleasure without sin'. This of course required that popes, priests, bishops, deacons, monks etc must all take an obscene and detailed interest in the intimate sex life of every Christian on the planet. These ignorant fools must be made aware of the sins they are committing if they are having sex for any reason other than procreation, and the unspeakable punishments that await them if they stray from the path. Enjoying sex is forbidden. So is sex outside marriage. Sex with pregnant or menstruating women is forbidden, since if the woman is already pregnant or can't get pregnant then the purpose isn't procreation. Older people are forbidden from having sex, as are people that are sterile. Any sex act where conception isn't possible, such as oral sex, is deemed unnatural and forbidden. For the same reason, contraception is strictly forbidden. Any attempt to 'thwart the beginning of life' is a sin against God. An ancient form of contraception called coitus interruptus or the 'Withdrawal Method', withdrawing and ejaculating outside the vagina, should also be a big no no, as should the 'rhythm method' where women have sex at a point in their menstrual cycle when they are unlikely to get pregnant, and yet for reasons that defy logic, both methods are promoted by the Catholic Church as ways of preventing pregnancy. Why is controlling pregnancy by how or when you have sex not deemed contraception? The motivation for both is to have sex while preventing pregnancy, and consequently, an attempt to 'thwart the beginning of life'. Bloody hypocrites.
Augustine was also convinced that babies that died before they could be baptised — a great many in those days — would suffer for all eternity in the fires of Hell. To limit the number of babies going to hell, the church came up with a barbaric solution. During the birth process, if it's found that the mother and baby will both die if nature takes its course, the Catholic Church says no action must be taken to save the mother by terminating the baby. Even if it's believed that the baby will die within minutes after birth, the mother must not be saved instead. It is preferred that the mother is cut open, killing her in the process, just to get the baby out before it dies. This is so it can baptised before it dies and thus won't go to Hell. This baptising of a baby that will only live minutes is far more important to the Church than saving the mother's life. As late as 1930 the Vatican stated 'What could ever be a sufficient reason to justify the direct killing of an innocent being?' Certainly not saving the mother's life, the mere tool that God is using to bring forth new life. One of his contemporaries and critics, Bishop Julian of Eclanum, took my view of Augustine's disgusting stance, 'Augustine, you are far removed from religious feelings, from civilized thinking, indeed from healthy common sense, if you think that your God is capable of committing crimes against justice that are scarcely imaginable even for the barbarians'. Thankfully most Catholic hospitals now let the doctors decide whom they save, but this is still the way the Church would prefer it went. Inhuman bastards!
And naturally, once a life has started, abortion is also strictly forbidden. Of course in the early days you could still abort a fetus up to 80 days after conception with no punishment, since 'life' didn't start until God popped a soul in. The infallible Catholic Church has now changed its mind and reckons life now begins at conception. God must have improved his ensouling method since the early days. Ranke-Heinemann correctly states that the Catholic Church is far more concerned with the protection of potential kids than the protection of real kids on battlefields. The Catholic Church believes there are cases for 'just' wars, but there has never been a case for 'just' contraception or 'just' abortion. Even if doctors tell a woman that she will die if she becomes pregnant again, she still can't use contraception, but she must still submit to sex with her husband. The Catholic Church believes that there are many cases where the deliberate killing of young men can be justified, but destroying a group of cells that they see as a potential kid can never be justified. More thinking led astray by fairytales, putting more importance on the unborn rather than the living.
Even making yourself sterile is a sin according to the Catholic Church. Doing anything that prevents you from obeying God's commandment to go forth and multiply brings down his wrath and condemns you to damnation in Hell. Which makes you wonder why celibacy isn't a horrible sin as well? Isn't celibacy the most reliable form of contraception we have?
According to the church's belief that, 'There can be no sexual pleasure without sin', even if a virgin being raped unwillingly feels a fleeting pleasure or if a male has a nocturnal emission and feels pleasure, then both have sinned. Through no conscious choice they have both sinned and must be punished. Regarding those 'wet dreams', Ranke-Heinemann informs us that 'the peculiarly celibate problem of whether the nocturnal "pollutions" of priests and monks were sinful, and to what degree, kept moral theologians extremely busy. Their comments on the subject fill entire libraries.' These people were, and still are, seriously screwed up.
Masturbation of course was one of the more serious and really nasty sins. To show how disgusting their thinking was, they considered masturbation a worse sin than having sex with one's own mother. Why, well at least sex with your mother could result in a baby, masturbation can't. For the same reason rape is not as serious as masturbation since you might, if you're lucky, get your victim pregnant. So the next time a young man feels horny, the church will look more favorably on him if he goes out and rapes someone rather than succumbs to masturbation. Both are sins, but rape the lesser of the two. And let's remember that women masturbate as well as men, so they should solicit men in the streets for free sex rather than masturbate. In the 19th century, to protect women from this sin, a solution the church supported was clitoridectomy. This is what is now commonly called female circumcision, or more correctly, female genital mutilation. These people disgust me.
As regards sex acts, you've no doubt heard of the 'missionary position', sexual intercourse where the woman lies on her back and the man lies on top? I always thought that this was just a position preferred by prudish Victorian ministers and their wives, but no, it wasn't just a choice. Any other position was deemed unnatural and a sin. And strange as it may seem, according to the church, the many different sex acts and positions that modern people take for granted were largely unknown to many of the peasants. The church discovered rather embarrassingly that in their attempt to quiz their parishioners as to whether they were doing anything other than 'natural acts' in the 'missionary position', they had to describe activities that the peasants hadn't considered, but many were interested in trying after leaving the confessional box. Of course it makes you wonder how celibate priests became so knowledgeable about sex? Actually many of the early church fathers that argued for celibacy and came to hate women were no strangers to sex. Augustine for example lived with a woman for 12 years before kicking her out, but keeping their son. Unable to wait for his new wife in a planned marriage, he then took another lover. He also evidently dabbled with homosexuality in his teenage years. However, after marriage for clergy was banned, and the leaders of the church became fanatical in their hostility to sex and women, the mind boggles as to how these celibates continually thought about sex in order to condemn it, yet without deriving any pleasure from their thoughts. For normal people, thoughts of sexual acts are erotic and pleasurable. These priests must have so corrupted their thinking that for them visualizing sex with an attractive woman must have been like visualizing cleaning up vomit is for me.
One of the things the Catholic Church did in their attempt to enforce celibacy onto their clergy was to label the wives of priests as 'concubines', 'whores' and 'adulteresses'. One archbishop had the priest's wives thrown into prison or deported. Another bishop instructed the law to 'thrust its way into the rectories, fetch out the concubines, publicly whip them, and place them under arrest'. And things only got worse. If women were found in the house of a priest who weren't relatives, and this could be as innocent as a housekeeper or cook, they were to be sold into slavery by the bishop. Eventually even a priest's sisters, aunts and mother were banned from the house since the church decreed that too many 'horrible acts of incest have already taken place'. It's unbelievable the disgusting depths to which the church's imagination would sink.
Of course not all Christian priests, bishops, nuns etc. went along with this hostility towards sex and pleasure. This disagreement was one of the drivers of the Reformation, and many priests became Protestants only after issuing the Vatican with an ultimatum, let us get married, or else we walk. The Vatican of course wouldn't compromise.
It's hard for me to understand why people would rat on their spouse to a strange priest in a confessional box? Why not just keep mum? Why admit to a celibate priest that you've had erotic thoughts or had sex while you were pregnant? If he needs to ask, that means he doesn't know, and neither does his God. If God can't see his favourite priests screwing children, how can he see couples having oral sex? Do you have to be a little stupid to be religious? Why bring barbaric punishment down on yourself and your beloved spouse by discussing your private sex life in lurid detail with a man who may have never even seen a woman naked, and whose only experience with sex is a guilt ridden blowjob from a fellow priest? It's just scary that religious indoctrination as children can't in many cases be overridden by adult reasoning. Kids will believe all manner of silly nonsense, but why do religious people keep believing obvious nonsense when they grow up?
Other monsters from history that caused untold human suffering, such as the human sacrifices of the Aztec, the slaughter and pillaging of Genghis Khan, the genocidal schemes of the Nazis, Pol Pot and Stalin, have all been defeated, and are rightly used as examples of the evil that humans are capable of. So why is the bloody Catholic Church still here? Why are these monsters that hate sex and women and whose poison is still openly distributed in most towns and cites still treated with such respect and reverence? Why aren't they looked on in the same way that we view white supremacist groups, Neo-Nazis, holocaust deniers and pedophile rings? Why is hatred and discrimination against blacks now rightly seen as offensive, but it's still OK and even legal for the Catholic Church to discriminate against women, and if the truth be known, still hate them? Why, when we have discovered that the most widespread, insidious pedophile rings of modern times have been running from within the Catholic Church are they still allowed to encourage children to join their choirs and weekend retreats? Why should an organisation that has committed untold atrocities over the last 2000 years, while amassing obscene wealth taken from the poor, an organisation that has clearly indicated that it has no intention of changing its ways, be allowed to continue to harm the lives of present Catholics and go on to corrupt future generations?
And for non-Catholics, why should an organisation rooted entirely in primitive superstition be allowed to have so much influence on how we view issues such as genetic engineering, abortion, contraception, homosexuality and euthanasia? It's bad enough that they want to keep their fellow Catholics ignorant and compliant, but to have the arrogance that the rest of society should conform to their childish superstitions is nothing less than evil and totalitarian.
This leads me to my final point. I was disappointed with one aspect of the book per se, in that even though Ranke-Heinemann does a valuable job in exposing the shameful practices of the Catholic Church, she doesn't go further. She rightly calls for a halt to celibacy and the interference in the private sex lives of Catholics, and for the acceptance of women as equals, yet she still seemingly supports the Catholic Church. But why? After all, she has produced a mountain of evidence detailing, as she says, 2000 years of incompetence and nonsense. Her next book — 'Putting Away Childish Things' — 'exposes how the myths behind the Church's key doctrines — such as the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, the empty tomb — distort Jesus' real message'. At the end of this book she states, 'The crucial thing for us is Jesus' life. It's his voice that speaks to us and says more to us than any miracles, because it is the voice of God's mercy'. She's still a believer.
It amazes us that people can destroy the very foundations of their religion, come to realise that the stories they grew up with are pure fantasy, show the priests or ministers to be ignorant, delusional, and sometimes downright criminal, and yet they still keep going back to church. Probably not the same church, but one just down the road from it. A different priest, but one that tells most of the same old tired myths.
Authors: John L. Ateo, Rachel C.
'Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality and the Catholic Church' by Uta Ranke-Heinemann
Last Updated Sep 2009