Monday, April 11, 2005

Celibacy: Doctrine of Demons

It's pretty common to hear fundamentalist Christians prove [sic] from Scripture that priestly is a doctrine of demons, referring to 1 Tim 4:1-3. But when you hear it from the stature of Pastor Paul McCain, LCMS... well, it's just disappointing.

First, the Catholic Church does not forbid marriage. I'm Catholic. I'm married. Whoops.

"Oh" -- you object -- "but that's obviously not what Pastor Paul is saying; everyone knows that the Catholic Church forbids marriage for priests."

True, priestly celibacy is the discipline for Latin-rite Catholics. But that's beside the point, because St. Paul says that the doctrine of demons is to forbid marriage, period, no qualifiers. And the Catholic Church doesn't do that.

Second -- and more importantly -- St. Paul is referring to the already-present gnostic tendency among early Christians, a tendency (which became a full-blown heresy in the 2nd century) to see all matter as bad and only spirit as good. (And the sacramental nature of the Church pretty well indicates that it ain't gnostic.) I don't know of any Pauline scholar who doesn't argue that Paul is thinking of gnostics here, but that doesn't matter -- it's good enough for Pastor Paul to misapply for his own purposes.

I could care less whether or not Pastor McCain is being nice or not... I'm more disappointed that he reads Scripture with such a strong anti-papist bias, and as a result misunderstands the real meaning of the text.

Worse yet, the broader context is that he thinks celibacy is what accounts for priestly sex abuse of children. How he explains sex abuse by married clergy among Protestant communities is indeed a puzzle.

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