August 05, 2003

Frustrated Catholics

Posted by shonk at 08:07 PM in Ramblings | TrackBack

I keep coming up with what I think are good, or at least interesting, ideas, only to realize moments later that somebody else has already come up with the same idea. For example, I was thinking today that, if the Catholic Church had an inclination, it could be one of the greatest operational organizations in the world. And by operational organization, I mean anything from the CIA to Amnesty International. After all, the sheer excess of energy available to it due to the pent-up sex drives of its celibate clergy is pretty overwhelming when you try to quantify it. You can see evidence of this in the number of languages spoken by the Pope, the academic achievements of the Jesuits, the rather amazing efforts of missionaries and so on.

Just when I sat down to write about this revelation of mine, I realized that this energy has already been tapped throughout European history. You've got the sheer organizational prowess and deviousness of the Inquisition, the massive output of the scholastics and the rather incredible deeds of the missionary priests in the new world (for good as well as ill; just look up Father de las Casas for evidence of the former). In fact, there is perhaps no other organization in the world that could have accomplished some of these things (which isn't to say that all of them should have been accomplished); the manic ministrations of the massively sexually frustrated are hard to match.

Usually, when confronted by the reality that my idea is not a new one, I push on ahead, expanding on the original theory in hopes of stumbling across something original, or at least shocking, despite the evidence suggesting that either is unlikely. Needless to say, this time is no exception. After all, one need only read The Decameron or Don Quijote or the history of Alexander VI's papacy to know that celibacy amongst the clergy has, in large measure, been a myth throughout most of history and the "common man" knew it. Perhaps, then, the celibacy rule was in earlier times more of a guideline or a long-term goal than a strict rule of behavior. On the other hand, it isn't hard to argue that, as powerful as the Catholic Church was in, say, medieval Spain, it wasn't necessary for its clergy to strictly follow the rules in order to garner respect, wealth and power, whereas in modern times, when competition, especially from fundamentalist sects, is much stronger, the church must appear to follow its own rules more strictly. In fact, one could argue that it is only the modern world's obsession with hypocrisy (due, in part, to attractive alternatives) that has resulted in the sorts of crises seen most obviously in the Boston Archiocese. A crazy theory no doubt (and supported by no citations), but something worth thinking about.