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Celibacy and Sexual Deviance by Priests
Many psychologists have suggested that clergy who take a vow of celibacy are more likely to engage in sexual deviance than clergy who are allowed to marry. Many others argue that this is completely untrue. This research paper aims to examine these points-of-view to either prove or disprove the relationship between celibacy and sexual deviances by priests.
In today's society, the Catholic Church is confronted with two important issues regarding sexuality. The first is the scandal of sexual abuse of children by priests, which is a highly publicized issue that it damaging the reputation of the Catholic Church in the United States. The second is the question of whether priest should take a vow of celibacy and remain unmarried.
In order to fully address this hypothesis, it is important to address these questions but not regard them as two aspects of one problem.
While the number of priests who have abused children is relatively low, the scandalous nature of the acts has made them highly visible. (Jenkins)The Catholic Church, which demands high standards of behavior from priests, has responded to the recent scandals by pointing out that there is no evidence that people who are celibate are more likely to abuse children. The majority of child sexual abuse, according to church representatives, takes place in the home and is perpetrated by people who are married.
Besides pedophilia, the Catholic Church has been dealing with other forms of sexual offenses by priests such as consensual sex, sex with male and female minors through enticement, and priests who sired children. (Berry) These would most probably constitute the lesser problem for the Church community, as they are far less publicized in the media and society. However, all of these acts have increased pressure on the Catholic Church to reconsider celibacy as a requirement.
Through extensive research on celibacy, religion and sexual deviation, this research paper has gathered a sufficient amount of evidence to prove that clergy members who vow celibacy are not more likely than those who do not vow celibacy to commit acts of sexual deviation.
In the Western Catholic Church, celibacy became universally practiced in the fourth century, beginning with St. Augustine's adoption of the monastic discipline for every one of his priests. (Burkett) In addition to the many practical reasons for this discipline, including the belief that it would discourage nepotism, the celibate lifestyle allowed priests to be more independent and available.
This ideal also called priests to live out the same witness as their brothers in monastic life. The Church hasn't changed its directives for celibacy, because over the centuries, it has realized the practical and spiritual value of the practice. Indeed, even in the Eastern Catholic Church, which includes a married clergy, the bishops are still chosen only from unmarried priests.
According to the Catholic Church, Christ revealed the true value and meaning of celibacy. Catholic priests have imitated Christ in their total gift of self to God and others through celibacy. (Coldrey) Although Christ raised marriage to the level of a sacrament that reveals the love and life of the Trinity, He was also a living witness to the life of the world to come. The Catholic Church holds that celibacy properly understood and lived frees a person to love and serve others as Christ did.
The practice of celibacy is an ancient tradition of the Catholic Church. However, the fact that the church has married priests indicates that this could change. Throughout the world, married clergy who came from other traditions have been ordained as Catholic priests. If the tradition of compulsory celibacy is preventing men from choosing the priesthood, many religious groups would say that the tradition should be reviewed.
Celibacy's main value is that it is the example of the way Jesus Christ himself lived. Jesus was celibate and poor, so the Catholic Church holds that this is the way a priest should conduct his life. (Burkett)
Issue of Celibacy
The issue of celibacy is brought up every time a new sexual deviance case is brought against a clergyman. Many people believe that if priests were allowed to marry, there would be less of a problem with deviant behavior. (Isely)
The idea behind celibacy is that priests voluntarily choose to remain single so that they may give themselves more fully to the work of God. However, many argue that there is a world of difference between that voluntary celibacy for the glory of God and the enforced celibacy of Romanism.
Myths on Celibacy
In order to fully understand the connection or lack of a connection between celibacy and sexual deviance, it is important to work past stereotypes and myths. According to Crisis Magazine, recent studies have been conducted to debunk some of the popular myths regarding Christianity. (Hudson) Below are the basic myths addressed in this report:
Myth #1 -- Catholic priests are more likely to become pedophiles than any other group of men. According to the report, this is a simply false statement. There is no existing evidence that this is true. Using and abusing children for sexual gratification of adults is an epidemic in all classes, professions, religions, and ethnic communities around the world.
This fact is supported by studies child pornography, incest, and child prostitution. Pedophilia among priests is relatively rare, as it affects only 0.3% of the entire population of clergy. This figure, which is cited in the book Pedophiles and Priests, is from the most comprehensive study to date, which found that merely one out of 2,252 priests considered over a thirty-year time frame was afflicted by pedophilia.
Myth #2 -- The celibate state of the priesthood leads to pedophilia. This myth is proved false by supporting studies that show that celibacy bears no causal relation to any type of deviant sexual addiction including pedophilia. The report indicates that married men are just as likely as celibate priests to sexually abuse children. In fact, the majority of sexual abusers are regressed heterosexual men who sexually abuse girls. Women are also found to be among those sexual abusers.
Myth #3 -- Married clergy would make pedophilia and other forms of sexual misconduct cease to exist. The report states that since neither being Catholic nor being celibate predisposes a person to develop pedophilia, a married clergy wouldn't solve the problem. It has been proven that healthy heterosexual men do not develop erotic attractions to children as a result of abstinence.
While it is true that no major evidence exists that celibacy leads to sexual deviation, there is a risk that some who choose celibate priesthood may not have dealt properly with his own sexuality. When trying to solve the problem of child abuse, the question of celibacy might be a dangerous distraction, leading to a false solution. If there is a solution, this research paper aims to find it.
This research paper will cover a variety of topics, including arguments for and against celibacy, the history of celibacy, recent case studies of priests and sexual deviance, and more. Through thorough research, this paper aims to uncover evidence that links celibacy to sexual deviance, or prove that there is none.
This research papers uses a variety of methods to present a valid argument regarding celibacy and sexual deviance. The paper will analyze the results of various surveys, sexual program evaluations, case studies, research papers, and historical sources to present a thorough argument for and against the connection between sexual deviances and celibacy.
The data will be collected from a variety of sources, including university libraries, the Internet and law journals. As additional sources for collecting data, the research paper will uncover details from strictly scripted anonymous interviews. Since I did not expect to be able to find many subjects who met our criteria who were willing to speak, I felt that this method would yield the most information from the few that I found.
The Argument Against the Connection
Many psychologists, historians and religious experts share the opinion that that there is nothing specifically related to celibacy about the sexual abuse of children or other sexually deviant behavior. (Berry) According to various studies and reports, many denominations and religious groups report abuse cases and some of the worst involve clergy members who are not celibate.
According to Philip Jenkins, a professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University, who has been studying issues such as child pornography and clergy abuse for many years, there is no evidence that clergy who take an oath of celibacy are more likely to engage in sexual deviance than clergy who are permitted to marry. (Jenkins)
My research of cases over the past 20 years indicates no evidence whatever that Catholic or other celibate clergy are more likely to be involved in misconduct or abuse than clergy of any other denomination - or indeed, than non-clergy. However determined news media may be to see this affair as a crisis of celibacy, the charge is just…[continue]
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Considering this, many have contended that once a priest's pedophilic drives have been revealed that "All minors are potential victims in [their] presence." (Wheeler, 2005). But this is analogous to saying that all women are in danger of having sexual relations with a heterosexual priest. Clearly, such an act is not necessarily a crime, as pedophilia is, but both opinions suggest that celibacy is impossible -- doubtlessly it is