Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Power Structure of Celibacy & Its Contrast to the Pagan World

The following passage from Clement of Alexandria's Stromata reminded me of yet another way in which Christianity stood in contrast to not only pagan religions but pagan society in general. I have already mentioned the oft neglected point (particularly by liberals and feminists) that Judeo-Christianity stands nearly alone among the history of world religions as consistently possessing the male-only priesthood while other religions consistently allowed priestesses (and some exclusively). This is, of course, to be understood as significantly contrary to the hogwash liberals like to repeat ad-nauseum: Judaism/Christianity had a male-only priesthood because of mere cultural prejudice.

Down to business then:

Legislators, moreover, do not allow those who are unmarried to discharge the highest magisterial offices. For instance, the legislator of the Spartans imposed a fine not on bachelorhood only, but on monogamy, and late marriage, and single life. And the renowned Plato orders the man who has not married to pay a wife's maintenance into the public treasury, and to give to the magistrates a suitable sum of money as expenses. For if they shall not beget children, not having married, they produce, as far as in them lies, a scarcity of men, and dissolve states and the world that is composed of them, impiously doing away with divine generation. It is also unmanly and weak to shun living with a wife and children. For of that of which the loss is an evil, the possession is by all means a good; and this is the case with the rest of things. But the loss of children is, they say, among the chiefest evils: the possession of children is consequently a good thing; and if it be so, so also is marriage.
I find it more than just a bit interesting that Christianity (once again) adopted the very opposite practice of the pagan world's idea for its hierarchy. While the East has always allowed priests to marry, both East & West came to select celibate bishops exclusively. While the world discriminated against celibate (even monogamous) men the Church discriminated against the married (and certainly the polygamous) men.

This isn't meant to be an argument against those who would like to see the celibacy restrictions relaxed - but a reminder that we ought to be careful not to view the early Church through our own 21st century goggles. Remember me commenting on Uta Heinemann last month? Here's what she said about celibacy in the Church (and this is in the context of whether or not there are elements of liberalism within the Church):
One reason why the percentage of homosexuals in the Vatican is so high is because all that matters is that none of the bishops have a record of relationships with women. They must oppose birth control -- and of course, women priests are unacceptable. Christianity has become reduced to a credo of celibacy.
Reduced? Reduced from what... A credo of polygamy and discrimination against the celibates? Heinemann and those like her would presumably have us believe that the Catholic Church's enforcement of celibacy as a prerequisite for her hierarchy (especially for the bishops) is some sort of conspiracy to keep women from influencing the Church. As we examine history, however, that view comes up decidedly short.

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