C C V has carried the portraits of one senior Catholic cleric and an evangelical pastor, pontificating that the pandemic Covid – 19 is “chastisement, punishment or retribution for sins of abortion, fornication, homo-sexuality and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and (questioning) humans. It is an inappropriate and offending response in these troubled times.
Sex in the Christian context
It seems that, according to the views of the two persons, the Christian God has no business other than monitoring the sexual doings of humans. Does their God get vicarious and gratuitous pleasure by watching the various ways in which Christians engage themselves in sex. By the way, Christians constitute only 26% of the world population and Catholics including the non-practising ones, number only 1.28 billion of the world population at 7.8 billion, a mere 16%. Mercifully the major chunk of humans are out side the prying eyes of the Christian God. Have the senile cleric and the charlatan evangelical pastor checked up whether the Christian God keeps track of the sex acts of those who are not Christians? Do their god get worried about the sexual acts of other living creatures too? Come to think about it, even pollination is a sexual act!
What is sin?
According to The New Webster’s International Encyclopedia ”Sin or transgression” in Judeo-Christian tradition, is an unethical act considered as disobedience to the revealed Will of God. Sin may be viewed legally as crime – breaking God’s commandments – and so deserving punishment, or as an offence that grieves God – the loving Father.
According to the Bible, sin entered the world with Adam’s fall, and thereafter the human kind became innately sinful. Since sin is rooted in character and will, each sinner bears personal responsibility; so the need for repentance, confession, and absolution. Views as to what constitutes sin vary, being partly determined by church authority, social standards and one’s own conscience. The traditional ‘7 deadly sins’ are pride, covetousness, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth. The Roman Catholic church defines a mortal sin as a serious sin committed willingly and with clear knowledge of its wrongness; a venial sin is less grave; does not deprive the perpetrator of grace and need not be confessed to a cleric.
The alleged “fall of Adam” owing to his disobedience to his god’s injunction has to be examined in the historical context. “The fall of man”, the myth that tries to correlate the existence of suffering by humanity linked with some primal wrong doings in the bygone times is much older myth than the myth of Adam’s sin of disobedience. It occurs independently in many cultures.The “fall of man” according to the Bible, took place when the serpent tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge which according to Augustine is carnal knowledge of the couple out of their first sexual inter-course between them : the Original Sin.
(Incidentally the “Book of Job” is derived from much older myth of North Eastern sources. This myth could have been included in the Old Testament by some Authors, who would have been a widely travelled and highly knowledgeable Jew, familiar with the myths of Mesopotamia and Egypt and incorporated in the Bible between 600 and 200 BCE; Satan’s role included in 6th or 5th BCE) – Persian influence. (Source “Primal Myths” – Barbara Sprout – Director of Program in Religion – Hunter College, City University of New York.)
Sin in the Judeo-Christian context.
As stated ante, “Sin” in the Judeo-Christian tradition is “unethical act considered as a disobedience to the revealed will of God” or “breaking God’s commandments” or an “offence that grieves God, the Loving Father”.
The invoking of the name of God has been the most time tested and effective ploy for taking the credulous for a ride. This con game takes the trophy for cheating the gullible. What a preposterous suggestion that the Christian God revealed the blue print of sin to some select few clerics? People may even believe that God gave the Commandments as pictured in Cecil B. DeMille’s “Ten Commandments”. In the “Animal Farm”, Napoleon the pig, arrogated himself as equal to a human, so must be the case of the claim of some upstart having ‘“exclusive hotline to God/ Will”?
The Christian God is presented by the clerics as a killjoy, cranky, morose, ill willed, cantankerous old man, with no libido; who flies into a rage on seeing humans enjoying sex. The way in which the Christian God is presented by the ecclesiastical is the most comical one? It seems no human can hide his sexual trysts from the eagle eyes of this peeping Tom voyeur God ?.
The most idiotic joke: an auricular confession to a Catholic cleric disclosing the minutest details of unapproved sexual acts of the confessed as to the exact quantity of the body fluids emitted during the sex act into the ever eager ears of a Catholic cleric? Unpleasant smells, if any, would be turned into bewitching fragrance, by the uttering of the mumbo-jumbo of the cassock wearer. He may prefer detailed confessions of a female, whose sexual appetite is above normal, and who enjoys kinky sex. In the privacy of the enclosed confessional box. Soliciting of sexual favours during confession may be an enjoyable game to some. Many clerics are reportedly trophy winners in this area. Sex with no strings attached and that too free is the best of sex! Is it not?
Sex and gender roles in the Catholic Church.
Sex and gender roles in the Roman Catholic Church have been the subject of both intrigue and controversy throughout the church’s history. Some critics say that the teachings of Paul of Tarsus and Christian ecclesiastical, particularly scholastic theologians, perpetuated the notion that female inferiority is divinely ordained.
Sexual regulation by the church accounted for a great amount of literature and time. Canon disapproved sexual acts include pre-marital sex, lust, masturbation, adultery, bestiality, homosexuality, and any sort of sex outside marriage. The church looked at sex as an inclination related to original sin. Prostitution although sinful was tolerated. Without the availability of prostitutes, men might go for defloration of virgins. Although the law attempted to strictly regulate prostitution, whorehouses abounded disguised as bath houses or operated in secret within hotels and private residences. Outside the official public brothels, prostitution was rampant in public bath houses, in inns and taverns. It was common knowledge and was tolerated.
Although the church developed very strict regulations on sexual activity to sustain its institutional and psychological structure of the Middle Ages, it had a hard time enforcing these regulations. Not only did common people deviate from the rules, but the clerics themselves did not follow their own laws. Fornication was seen as a serious sin and a canonical crime and those convicted were required to pay fines and court costs (money washes away all kinds of depravities, does it not?). Violators were often subject to public humiliation ranging from public confessions and pleas for forgiveness of the community (often by kneeling at the entrance of a church and begging those entered for mercy) to public whipping in the church yard or marketplace; being paraded around the church “bare chested and bearing a lighted candle”before the Sunday Mass. Some offenders were made to wear special cloths while others were flogged. Those caught had to fast or abstain from meat, wine, and sex for set period of time. Other punishments ranged from cutting of hair and pillory to prison and expulsion.
Not all punishments were equal; punishments for sexual crimes differed between genders and social classes. When convicted of adultery, males would be fined in church courts rather than publicly flogged like the convicted females. Females had their head shaved and were subject to expulsion from their homes, separation from their children, and the confiscation of their dowry. The wounds of the male would heal over time, but the woman was reduced to,”penury”, forced to live in poverty for the remainder of her life. The woman of higher class was allowed to repent in private. Common prostitutes were banned from churches, but no prosecution for their “male clientele”.
The Church expresses grave moral concern about instances where sexual expression is sought outside marriage or in which the procreation function within marriage is deliberately frustrated (e.g., the use of artificial contraception).
According to the catechism of the Catholic Church “conjugal love…aims at deeply personal unity, a unity that is beyond union in one flesh; leads to forming one heart and soul, since the marriage bond is to be the sign of the love between God and humanity.
Among what are considered sins gravely contrary to chastity are masturbation, fornication, pornography, homosexual practices and artificial contraception. Procurements for abortion, in addition to being considered grave matter under the conditions envisaged by the canon law, would call for the penalty of excommunication, “by the very commission of the offence.
The Genesis creation narrative provide insights into anthropology that inform Catholic theology of sexuality. The following verses are frequently cited in Catholic studies of sexual morality.
1.27 “And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them”
2:25 “Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh. And they were both naked: to wit, Adam and his wife: and were not shamed.
Two of the Ten Commandments directly addresses sexual morality forbidding adultery and covetousness of the wife of one’s neighbour.
Jesus comments on these commandments in the Gospel of Matthew:
You have heard that it was to them old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Augustine of Hippo, considered a saint and church father, by the Catholic Church, having lived a hedonistic lifestyle in his early youth, later followed the strictly dualistic religion of Manichaeism, which was deeply hostile to the material world, despising sexual activity. Eventually, under the influence of his Catholic Christian mother Monica, Augustine converted to Christianity, wrote his “Confessions” including details of the sexually related aspects.
The Catholic Church, with alacrity, latched on this debauchee’s perverted view on human sexuality to inject guilt complex in the psyche of its followers and keep them in the state of sin all the times. What better tool to control the credulous and keep them at the mercy of the Church?
In her book “Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven” Uta Ranke-Heinemann says that three discussions on marriage in the New Testament (Matthew 19, Corinthians 7 and Ephesians 5:22-32 do not refer to generating children, which later became consistently emphasised in Catholic moral doctrine as the primary purpose of sexual relations.”The view that marriage is primarily intended for the purpose of procreation dominated the early Christianity, and upheld by many Church Fathers. During the Middle Ages the question of when to intercourse when it was not, was very important. Intercourse was prohibited on all Sundays and all the many feast days, as well as 20 days before Christmas, all the 40 days before Easter, and often before Pentecost as well as three or more days before receiving Communion (which at that time was offered a few times a year). This forbidden days altogether totalled about 40% of each year. Some church leaders warned believers that children conceived on holy days would be born leprous, epileptic, diabolically possessed, or crippled. Penalties of 20 to 40 days of strict fasting on bread and water were imposed on transgressors. Intercourse was forbidden during the menstrual period and after child birth, “since physicians mistakenly believed that the blood of a menstruating woman or who has just given birth was poisonous”. It was forbidden during pregnancy. Christian theologians including Pope Gregory I held that abstinence should continue till the baby was weaned.
Early modern theology:
In the Counter Reformation and early modern periods, theologians continued to write on issues relating to sexual morality and marriage one example being Giovanni Maria Chiericato (Joannes Clericatti) and his “Decisioned de Matrimonoio”.
Casti connubil (Latin: “of chaste wedlock”) is a papal encyclical promulgated by Pope Pious XI on December 1930 in response to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion approving artificial contraception. It stressed the sanctity of marriage, prohibited Catholics from using any form of artificial birth control, and reaffirmed the prohibition on abortion. It also explained the authority of church doctrine on moral matters and advocated that the civil governments follow the lead of the church in this area.
Pope Paul VI rejecting the majority report of Pontifical Commission on Birth control, confirmed the Catholic Church’s traditional teaching on contraception in Humanae Vitae, declaring artificial contraception evil.
John Paul II said in Familiaris consortio:….contraception……leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love”
In January 2015, during the return flight from a visit to Philippines Pope Francis was asked by a German journalist for his thoughts on the findings of some polls that most Filipinos think the population growth in the country, with each woman having an average of three children, is one of the reasons for its poverty, and many there disagree with Catholic teaching on contraception, he replied that the key is “responsible parenthood”. “Some people think that – excuse my expression here – that in order to be good Catholics, we have to be like rabbits. No responsible parenthood. This is clear and that is why in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors, one can search; and I know so many ways that are licit and that have helped this.” He also said Pope Paul VI’s teaching was prophetic, in view of the drop of the birth rate in some countries to little more than one child per woman.
The Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily deceases. For example, the use of hormonal contraception as treatment for endometriosis rather than with contraceptive intent is not considered to conflict in any way with Catholic teaching. The use of condoms to prevent decease is a more complex issue. Unlike drugs and surgical procedures, the Church’s position was that using condoms during sex, for any purpose, is morally corruptive and thus sin. The issues surrounding the Catholic Church and use of condoms to prevent AIDS became highly controversial since 1990.
The list of the ecclesiastical higher up who do not toe the official line of the Church in so far as using condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS is rather long. They include Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach .Barcelona, Spain, Cardinal John Onalyekan , Abuja,Nigeria, Cardinal Peter Turkson, Cape Coast, Ghana, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, Montreal, Canada, Bishop Hans Joachen Jaschke, Hamburg, Germany, Cardinal Christian Wiyghan Tumi, Cameron, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, Italy, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, Mexico, Cardinal Georges Cottier, Pontifical Household, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Conner, England, Bishop Januario Torgal Ferreira, Portugal, Bishop Emirutus Antonio Celso de Queiros , São Paulo, Brazil, Fr. Michael J. Kelly, HIV/AIDS humanitarian worker, Zambia, Fr. Enda Mac Donaugh, National University, Maynootu, Ireland, Sister Carol Baltosiewich, N.Y. The list of ecclesiastical higher-ups who support the use of condoms to prevent transmission of HIV/AIDS too many to include here. In November 2010 even Pope Benedict XVI endorsed the use of condom to prevent AIDS.
The stark fact: AiDS not controlled by praying to Virgin Mary but by using condoms during sex. When it comes to sex, the stipulations of the Church are dismissed with contempt many Catholics.
The double standard of the Church is clearly exposed in permitting abortions in the case of nuns who became pregnant as a result of rapes by Congolese soldiers during the civil war in that country.
Much of the Church’s detailed doctrines derive from the principle that “sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive (between spouses); purposes”. Because sex is considered chaste only within context of marriage, it has come to be called the “nuptial act”in Catholic discourse. Among Catholics, the nuptial act is considered to be the conjoining of a man and woman through sexual intercourse, deemed as an act of love between two married persons, and viewed in this way, a gift from God.
Maura O’Donohoe, the courageous Catholic nun.
Maura O’Donohoe (2nd March 1933 to 3rd May 2015, aged 82), was a missionary Catholic nun from Ireland and a medical doctor who spent much of her life ministering in in Africa. She treated AIDS patients in Africa. Also distributed condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS defying The ban of the Church. She also confronted the Vatican with the evidence that at the height of the HIV-Aids endemic, some priests in Africa were demanding sex from nuns for fear of being infected by other women. But Vatican chose omertà and cover up; did not take any action against the offender clerics.
This humane nun will never be included in the roster of Catholic saints simply because she advocated the use of condoms to prevent HIV/AIDS in the course of a normal human activity; sainthood is reserved for haters of body and life.
Canon Laws governing Catholic marriages
Over a period of time, the Church has put in place elaborate set of Canon laws that seek to govern the Catholic marriage including secret marriages (of clergy), desolation of marriage and other related issues, (Canons 1955 to 1165).
Sin takes place in oppressive structures; in the exploitation of man by man, in the domination and slavery of peoples, asymmetries in the relations between races and social classes. Sin emerges out of fundamental alienation and in the milieu of gross exploitation. In the regions of deprivation, ordinary people are not worried about what happens in other people’s bed rooms; they are concerned about their unbearable living conditions. Sin for most Catholics is sex. For the deprived third world countries, social and economic turmoils are the issues in focus. The Church generally identity itself with ruling classes and the established order. Often it stands solid on the side of oppressors, not with the oppressed. Catholicism continues to be obsessed about sex. The overwhelming majority of the people seems to have come to the conclusion that the Church is silly about the matter of sexual activities of people.
Vatican is forced to confront the difficulty of enforcing its discipline in the modern world. In the Western Catholicism, sex is driving a wedge between church leadership and the led. The gap between church teaching and the realities of Catholic life is growing wider all the time. The number of Catholic’s who fail to live up to the church’s ideals about sex, marriage and family life is growing all the time. Increasingly they conclude that the church and its teaching are irrelevant to their lives. Even in the superstitious and intellectually backward third world, the church’s writ on artificial contraception is not taken seriously as evidenced by the sharp drop in the birth rate among Catholics. They limit the number of their children not by playing the Vatican roulette viz., the rhythm method. The roar of the MGM lion is heard louder than the whimpers from Vatican.
The ideal of celibacy is rooted in the medieval superstition that the world is fundamentally evil. Celibacy is breached by the clerics by flouting it. Stories of pedophile Catholic clergy and their rampant sex abuse are coming out thick and fast all across the world.
From the fourth century onwards, the Church saw itself as the centre of the world and the world turned around the Church; the world showed servitude to the Church. But no more. The poor Christians of the world do not accept the idea that they will have to wait for the Kingdom of Heaven in the next life. Liberation from poverty and wants here and now is the goal.
It is high time that the Church to discard its obscurantist mind set that women are lesser human beings. “The human female has undergone dramatic changes during the course of her evolution —far more than the human male. Every woman has a beautiful body -– beautiful because it is the brilliant end-point of millions of years of evolution. The female body is loaded with amazing adjustments and subtle refinements that make it the most remarkable organism on the planet. In the bygone times, with the males away for hunting, the females were at the very centre of social life, gathering food and preparing it, rearing the young, and generally organising the tribal settlement”. They were the ones who domesticated animals and ventured into cultivation of food crops. One sex is not dominant over the other. There is a primeval balance between the human sexes – they are different but equal. In the beginning the woman was the Deity, the progenitor of life; the Earth Mother and the object of worship.
The world is beset with problems and issues impinging on the very survival of the human species; the degradation of the earth and environment as a result of the unbridled greed of some people in some countries who follow the Bible word by word; the cynical plundering of the nature: rough-shoding the weak and the deprived (in many cases for no fault of theirs): the unjust political and economic order. Added to these is the scourge, the pandemic Coronavirus. The world that comes out this ordeal is likely to be different from the one now existing.
The clerics may be forced to conduct their ceremonies in empty churches, may be for months together. The cash flow to the church coffers may become a trickle: the clerics may be forced to abandon their comfortable life styles; free lunches may come to an end. Most of them are not equipped with skills for gainful employment. The training they get from seminaries, at best, is suitable only for hoodwinking the credulous.
Hence the sanctimonious humbugs like the types under focus may desist from mouthing insanities and make the situation worse. Their message is an “ill wind that blows for nobody’s good”.
The eagle eyes of the Church seems to be concentrated on the genital organs of its members to the exclusion of all other issues.
Covid – 19 may lead to a paradigm shift in the social, political and economic spheres.
The future of the Church and its methods of functioning may have to be recalibrated to converge with the new realities. The sheer meaninglessness and uselessness of the rites and ceremonies of the Church may now be laid bare to its dumb followers; the incessant churching may not be the norm henceforward; “lockdowns “ and “social distancing” will ensure it. Some good may thus come out of the otherwise grim situation.
It will be human ingenuity that will taken on the pandemic Covid – 19; mumbling millions of “Hail Marys” will be of no avail. It is not the time for self flagellation and self blame but an opportunity to use the power of the grey cells inside one’s cranium to find ways to extricate humanity from the dire threat that has gripped it.
Nostrums of the religion may give temporary psychological reprieve from the fear of the virus, but no deity/god will come to the aid of humanity in these trying times. Humans have to confront the enemy and subdue it by applying own wits.
NOTE. The material for the main body of the article has been gleaned from Wikipedia and for the summing up indebted to Edward Stourton, the writer and Desmond Morris, the zoologist.