Is there a rainbow at the end of the cloud? Is there a silver lining in the horizon?
Pope Francis has said that “the pleasures of a well cooked meal or a loving sexual intercourse are ‘divine’. “Pleasure comes directly from God,it is neither Catholic nor Christian nor anything else, it is simply divine”, he adds. He believes, “they have unjustly fallen victim to ‘overzealousness’ on the part of the Catholic Church in the past. Pope Francis admitted this was “wrong interpretation of the Christian message, something that existed in the church in the past”. “The Church has condemned inhuman, brutish, vulgar pleasure, but on the other hand accepted human, simple, moral pleasure” he adds. These observations are quoted in the book “Terra Futura” of Carlo Pertini, published on this September 9.
But just wait holding the breath. The Mea Culpa is personal, not the official view of the Catholic Church.The track record of the Church: “nothing good comes out of Rome”. The history of the Church shows that for every step forward, the Mafia in Rome— the Curia—will retaliate by taking at least two steps backward. At any rate, the immense wealth that got accumulated over a period of 1700 years is the reason that holds the Church together; the cabal entrenched in Vatican, will not allow it to let go.
It is possible that the Pope Francis could be despatched for ever by some means sinister. The most preferred form of assassination resorted in Rome, even before the Common Era, was poisoning. It is a good thing that Pope Francis stays outside the Vatican labyrinthine quarters where murder is a sophisticated art. The Pope is also prudent to cook his own meals. The chances of his meeting the fate of John Paul I, who was determined to clean up the Augean Stable— the notorious Vatican Bank — cannot be ruled out. Pope Francis could be forced to abdicate, as happened to the fictional Pope Gregory XVII, in the Morris West novel “The Clowns of God” or driven out of Vatican in disgrace. Obscurantism and sexual pessimism may come back with vengeance, judging from the murky history of the Church. The Church may even split asunder horizontally and vertically; Malachi may have the last laugh – could Francis be the last pope? Wait and see.
The ancient roots Judeo-Christian sexual prohibitions
“It is regrettable that Augustine’s influence and the negative appraisal of sexuality, based on his own struggles to be chaste, has impacted negatively with Christian tradition” (Thomas Raush S. J. Chair of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University).
Dr. Ronny West, says that the roots of Judeo-Christian sexual prohibitions spring from the ancient Jewish tribal laws. During those early times, wives were treated as “properity” of the husbands; laws were specifically codified to protect livestock, “wives” and dwellings. The beliefs among different groups ranged from approval of prostitution, homosexuality, sex with slaves and easy divorcing of recalcitrant wives.
Augustine of Hippo, who admitted of having major problems with his unbridled crave for sex, shaped the Christian views on this primary human instinct. Augustine’s problems with his insatiable sexuality were so pronounced that modern-day psychology would list them as “obsessive- compulsive bordering to psychotic”. His ideas, initially converged towards Manichaen mind-vs-body views, popular in his times. Augustine led a wanton and lascivious life. The debauchee fornicator Augustine’s sexual experiences were illicit and guilt-provoking. At the age of 30, he left his low class mistress of 15 years, a willing accomplice to his sexual perversions, along with his illegitimate son born to her, for an advantageous marriage proposal mooted by his mother Monica, with a 10 year old rich heiress. The marriage proposal fizzled out; his son whom he doted on died. Augustine was always been career minded. The embittered, but opportunistic Augustine converted himself to Christianity and in double quick time became a bishop of the rich and powerful diocese of Milan. This insatiable sexual fiend thereafter viewed the “flesh” as wicked and flawed. The Church elevated this rake to sainthood for his preposterous theory that Adam’s disobedience of having sex with Eve, brought death for humans. Augustine postulated that children born to parents, who experience conjugal pleasure in the sex act, would carry the odium of “Original Sin” in perpetuity.
Given Augustine’s strong anti-sex views, it is baffling that this tainted man was sainted by the Church. Augustine approved prostitution as necessary for society. “If you expel prostitution from society, you will unsettle everything on account of lusts” he said.
Thomas Aquinas, another major influence in Christianity, also felt that prostitution was a necessary evil for a society. “More modern Christian scholars say a stronger word than “regrettable” for the damage that thesemen’s wrapped up views have done over the centuries — especially when it comes to women.
Ronny West poses the question “Why weren’t Augustine’s views just ignored by the priestcraft of the day?” The obvious answer: these views served the political, economic and religious interests establishment. In particular, they served to protect the lopsided views of a male-dominated religion. The male-centric Church feared women who enjoyed sex; condemned them as being “evil”. Later in history, they were dealt with as “witches”; tortured and burned to death while being alive.
The priest-craft understood that by controlling the sex life of their subjects, they could attain iron-clad control over the personal and spiritual lives of its followers. The threat of an eternal hell of fire-and-brimstone, not only bolstered this control; it also allowed the church to commercialise the ‘forgiveness of sexual sin”. It is pertinent in this context to point that sexual predisposition is inherently and solidly programmed into the human DNA for “survival of the species”.
In the milieu of treating sex as an aberration, husbands and wives were obliged to look at rabbis and priests ( name sake celibates, mostly ) for advice, rather than turn to each other for sexual permissions. The early religious laws were very restrictive in governing “when and how often” sex between married partners should take place; this stipulation even degenerated to the point of limiting sex to the so called “missionary position”.
At one point of time, the Catholic Church had “sex police”; married couples could be burned at the stake, if they were caught “having sex with women on top”. Sexual satisfaction was considered the prerogative of male alone. Sex for women was meant only for conceiving children. It was deemed sinful for the female to enjoy sex; such females would end up in hell, was the belief. For instance, as late as 1916, Rome decreed that a wife faced by a husband wearing a condom must resist him “as she would a rapist…the proper thing to do with a pretty woman was to reflect on her end, when she will become food for the worms” (Hilary Mantel).
Even after the abandonment of the view of treating women as “property”, the male dominated church felt it necessary to control women through religion. (Despite the lack of biblical evidence, Mary Magdalene was presented as a prostitute). Recently discovered documents reveal that Mary Magdalene was the favourite disciple of Jesus — “the one he most loved” whom “he kissed on the mouth” (Gospel of Philip), “the one who understood Jesus”; the “most powerful’ among his disciples.
The Catholic Church effectively banned birth control, because it would result in the enjoyment of sex without the fear of the female partner getting pregnant after every sexual intercourse.
Before the advent of the printing press and the easy availability of the scriptures, the priestcraft routinely “shielded” their folks “from matters they shouldn’t be in the know of”.
Because of centuries of the “sex-is-sin” thinking — a thinking that has been conveyed through the so called “traditional values”, duly supported by law — sex became besmirched as an embarrassing and taboo subject.
Those who stick to the prevailing religious paradigm tend to dread, more liberated yet morally superior views on responsible and humane sexuality. Consequently the wielders of power attempt to control the sexuality of everyone. Consensual sex is considered “Illicit” and destructive to the society. But in today’s world, these antiquated beliefs have become redundant and meaningless. Eventually sex may evolve into a natural human activity, a significant and special component of relationships, devoid of the sense of guilt, shame, and psychological fears that have infested the psyche of many people for too long.
Sex, Sin and the Church
The Christian God is presented by the clerics as a killjoy, cranky, morose, ill-willed, cantankerous old man with no libido; who flies into rage on seeing humans enjoying sex. It it would appear that no human can hide his/her sexual trysts from the prying eyes of this Peeping Tom voyeur god.
In the February 1981 issue of Atlantic magazine, Francis X. Murphy observed“ In the midst of a general audience in the Vatican last October, Pope John Paul II said “If a man gazed on his wife lustfully, he has committed adultery with her in his heart” (This sanctimonious humbug coveted a married Polish lady and carried on with her a putrid liaison thereby violating the 7thcommandment “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife”. This “actor turned zealot” — Morris West— was elevated to sainthood in a tearing hurry before his sleazy behaviour came to public knowledge).
A misogynistic prejudice has pervaded the Church’s moral thoughts down the ages, based on the myth of Eve as the person, who enticed Adam to disobey the command of God not eat the “forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge” i.e., carnal knowledge of Eveby Adam, a concept later affirmed by Stoic rhetoric. The early Christian Churchmen from Tertullian to Cyprian in the third century, Jerome and John Chrysostum in the fifth century, delighted in denigrating womanhood as the source of human race’s downfall.
While attributing mankind’s woes to the lubricious enticements of woman, preachers with awe-inspiring inconsistency harped upon, wife’s rendering the conjugal contracted in marriage, by giving her husband the sole use of her body. It was taken for granted that the sex act had been created for the man’s convenience. Most women in the Christian tradition were taught that there was something distasteful about sex. Nevertheless, she is called upon to submit toher husband’s advances with some regularity to keep peace in the household and to beget children. Few Christian wives, even the educated ones, had any idea that, biologically, the sex act was made for the woman. Paul’s injunction “Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the Church” was interpreted in a mystical sense, divorced from any connection with conjugal affection and coital satisfaction. This puritanical tendency infected Christian thinking from late second century until shortly before Vatican Council II (1962-1965) which was upside by John Paul II and his henchman “panzer Cardinal” Ratzinger, a later a pope. The teaching of the Church on human sexuality had been reduced in most preconciliar moral textbooks to the inhuman prescription: ‘’It isgrievously sinful for the unmarriedto deliberately procure or accept even the mildest degree of venereal pleasure; it is equally sinful to think, say or do anything with the intention of rousing even the smallest degree of this pleasure’’
As late as 1944, Pious XII has opined: ‘If the exclusive aim of nature or its primary intent had been the mutual giving and possessing of husband and wife in pleasure and delight; if nature had arranged that act only to make their personal experience joyous in the highest degree, and not as an incentive in the service of life; then the Creator would have made use of another plan in the formation of the marital act’’. What a twisted logic!
In direct opposition to to that papal statement,Vatican Council II declared: ‘’ (Conjugal) love is uniquely expressed and perfected in the marital act. The actions within marriage by which a couple are united intimately and in chastity are noble and worthy ones. Expressed in a manner that is truly human; these actions signify and promote the mutual giving the spouses and enrich each other with joyful and thankful will’’.
Despite the achievement of Vatican II, a preconciliar sexophobia seems to have resurfaced within the Church’s hierarchy later. To be sure the Polish Pontiff has frequently displayed the Manichaean; the streak of sexual embarrassment predominates in Vatican thinking.
Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven?
In her book “Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven” (1998), Uta Ranke-Heinemann, Ph. D. and erstwhile Professor of Catholic Theology at the University of Essen, Germany,after meticulous research, concludes that hatred of pleasure, in particular sexual pleasure, is all pervading in Catholicism. “During the entire Middle Ages, the questions of when intercourse was allowed and when not, were enormously important”. Intercourse was banned on all Sundays, all feast days, 20 days before Christmas, 40 days before Easter, 30 days before Pentecost, and three or more days before receiving Communion. Penance was to be weeks of fasting on only bread and water. Pope Gregory I decreed that abstinence should continue until a baby is weaned. Some clerics taught that babies are born physically deformed or mentally challenged because parents conceived them during one of these forbidden days. According to Heinemann, from June 3, 1916, the official dogma from Rome banned sex with condom as taboo: “marital chastity requires its martyrs”.
The author also criticises the denial of marriage to those who are “perpetually” sexually impotent. The Canon distinguishes meticulously, different types of impotence; impotentia oeundi — the inability to achieve satisfactory natural erection and generandi impotentia which indicates the failure of the sperms to fertilise the female. In these circumstances marriages are denied by the Church. The author states “it is inhuman that the church to determine that a woman cannot love a man who is unable to copulate due to a degree of injury, and that the couple should, therefore, live celebrate and separate lives until the end of their days”
Women is seen as an inferior being by the Church.The rejection of the marriage proposal of Paul of Tarsus,to the daughter of his teacher, seems to have turned him into a misogamist hater of all women.The influence of Stoic philosophy and its off shoot Manichaeism, apparently had influenced Paul’s thinking. Augustine of Hippo was attracted to Manichaeism before he became a Roman Catholic.Christian scholastic theologians perpetrated the notion that female inferiority is divinely ordained.
Sexual regulation became the main preoccupation of the Church. The Canon disapproved premarital sexual intercourse; sex as a source of enjoyment decoupled from procreative end; sex outside marriage; sexual engagement by men and women beyond reproductive age; homosexual sex etc. Human sexuality is dealt with by the Church with extreme ferocity. But prostitution was condoned on the premise that without the availability of prostitutes, men would deflower virgins. Whore houses abounded disguised as bathing joints. Prostitution was rampant in taverns, inns and even private houses. The so-called celibate clerics and nuns also indulged in clandestine sex. Thus the Church met with abject failure in enforcing its regulations on sexual matters.
Fornication was viewed as a venal sin and a canonical crime. Those caught convicted were required to pay hefty fines and court costs. In Catholic mindset, money washes away all sins and depravities.
Violators of church laws on sex were often subjected to humiliation ranging from public confessions and pleas for forgiveness of the community often by kneeling at the entrance of the churches and begging for forgiveness from church attendees, public whipping in church yards/market places; being paraded around churches “bare chested” holding lighted candles before Sunday Masses. Some offenders were made to wear special clothes, while others were flogged; some are required to abstain from meat, wine and sex for set periods of time. Other punishments ranged between cutting of hair to the maximum, pillory, prison and even expulsion from the community.
Not all punishments for sexual crimes are equal, they differed between genders and social status. On conviction males were fined by church courts instead of being publicly flogged. Convicted females, however, had their heads shaved, banished from their homes.
But the likes of Borgia Pope Alexander VI (1492-1593 could indulge in all sorts of sex perversions with any number of mistresses and even with the prostitutes of Rome. Popes such as Julius II (1503- 1513), Paul III (1554-1549), Gregory XIII (1572-1585) fathered illegitimate children after receiving Holy Orders (?). Some popes were notorious homosexuals.
“The girls in St. Peter’s Square, who cheer the Pope have the pills in their pockets” observed Karl Cardinal Lehman, head of the German Bishop’s Conference, said German Newspaper “Frankfurter Alegemeine Sonategezeritung in July 2005, a rank exhibition of the dirty mind of a cleric. (Source –“Time” dated August 15, 2005).
The water of all the rivers in the world would not wash away the atrocities heaped on the humankind by the Catholic Church. The harm inflicted to the psyche of the credulous has been enormous. How many could be enliving in misery, burdened by guilt complex due to their sexual proclivities. Livingin consonance with the instincts embedded in human nature was presented as dirty by some skewed up minds. But make no mistake, history takes its retribution in the form of total rejection of Christianity by the modern world and empty churches.
A survey conducted by the Vicar of Rome in 2003, had shown that just 10% of young Romans belonged to the Church and those that did were unlikely to follow the basic tenets of Catholic doctrine. The text of the European Constitution, for example, omitted any mention of God, despite Vatican’s lobbying. The protests of Catholics failed to stop the legislation legalising gay marriage in Spain. Just 5% of Catholics born before 1981 abide by the diktats of the Church. The majority of Spaniards call themselves as “Catholico pera nopracticante (Catholics but not practising). According to a CIS survey done around 2005, only 25% of the so called Catholics go to churches at the most weekly. Sociologist Jose’ Antonio of Santiago University, Madrid’s Competense University says that countries of Europe “has undergone rapid secularisation process”. (Source —‘Time” ibid).
Will the Cardinals of Zero-Malabar/other denominations, Archbishops, Bishops and the KCBC have the moral courage to issue a circular conveying the welcome thinking of Pope Francis? Will they stopthe sham charismatic sex as sin peddlers and spewers of venom. Will they put an end to television channels telling outright lies about the Church and the so-called Holy Popes?
Those who studied the history of Christianity and the Church know what types of crooks, womanisers, drunkards, war mongers, some of the Most Holy (my foot) Popes have been. The “worst specimens” unfit to be called “human beings” strut about howling like rabid dogs? All these “faith healers” are now hiding in deep furrows with the dread of Covid – 19. Do they dare to expose themselves to the virus under the protection of their “holy water”,their “holy book” and their “inanities, insanities, and nostrums”? The charades are beamed through T. V. channels for the brainless “sheep”, mainly females infested by superstition to lap up.
The otherwise menacing and dangerous pandemic COVID-19 may put an end to the “soap operas/tamashas/verbal diarrhoea” peddled in churches to large congregations for months; may be for years.The flow of funds church coffers seems to have become trickles. All sympathies to the clerics denied of the emotion laden salacious details by over sexy but frustrated females about their sexual misdemeanours murmured into their eager ears in the enclosed confines of the confessional box.