Yup. Way back when, married guys could become priests. Even some of those oh-so-holy desert hermits, like the ones in the Bible, had wives! Although the hermit-y guys SUPPOSEDLY didn’t have sex with these women-they-lived-totally-alone-with-day-after-day-week-after-lonely-week. (Yeah. Right.) Hermit wives supposedly just did all the cooking and cleaning up:
- “Pick up scorpion.”
- “Eat it.” (avoid stinger).
Come on. How much cooking and cleaning is there to DO in a desert?
Now it is true that priests weren’t allowed to marry AFTER they became priests, only before, but their before-wives were allowed to keep living with them. Early Christians just weren’t as uptight about sexual matters as later ones. Then, a few hard#sses spoiled it for everyone.
St. Paul the Not Too Bad
The first spoilsport was the apostle Paul, but at least he had logic on his side:
He thought everyone should drop Sex For Fun because we should devote ourselves more completely to God. Less focus on our body gives more for the Spirit. But Paul realized we’re not all capable (willing!) of that much self-control, so he also said, basically, “Okay, if you MUST have sex, go ahead and marry, and then do your conjugal duty by each other.”
Even Paul, very sexist by today’s standards, felt that the duty was mutual: That husbands should satisfy their wives, too. That’s an apostolic creed (belief) I can get behind!
St. Augustine the Hypocrite
But then we come to the “great” St. Augustine. Prior to his saintliness, randy-man Augie had partaken freely–enthusiastically!–of sex. He’d even joked that when he’d decided on turning over a new spiritual leaf, he had prayed to God: “Give me chastity—but not yet.”. But the new Saintly Augie didn’t think anyone ELSE should enjoy themselves like he had.
What bugged him the most about sex was that one part of your body acts like it is the boss of all of you. The little brain runs the big brain. (Augie definitely had that right. Women had recognized the male little-brain phenomenon long before this: When an early cave-dude, Dah-Ahg, had swung his hairy noggin so fast to check out the sexy brow-ridge on the babe the next cave over, he wound up walking right into the first fire. Oh, how Pok and Neexa hooted scornfully at him!! Oral tradition tells us they actually coined two of pre-history’s first words: “Hot Babe”.)
Augustine was so full of himself he even came up with a brand new name for our little-brain parts–our privates–even though they had lots of perfectly good names already. Augie didn’t think the old names captured just how low-down dirty they were. He called them “pudenda” (“pew-DEN-duh”–that’s for more than one–just mine or yours would be a “puDENdum”) from the Latin root “pudere”—to be ashamed.
Aug decided that intercourse for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden must have been a lust-free “Insert Part A Into Part B.” kinda thing:
But then, evil Mr. Snakey slithered by, sprinkled lust dust on Adam and Eve’s naughty bits, and turned Eve into a dirty, dirty girl. That’s why we needed to cover up those bits with fig leaves. (Too bad it wasn’t fig newtons—that could have been fun, if a bit sticky!)
Other holier-than-thou types jumped on the no-no bandwagon and agreed with Augie, only even more so: Sex was icky, icky, icky. Clearly the most holy folk had the least sex. Priests should most definitely avoid it. It took the Church a few hundred years to force their way with this. And they’re still trying.
Lesbians? Cool. But no SELF-Pleasuring!
The Church almost entirely ignored female homosexuality. But if nuns were found using long hard objects in private (dildos), they were punished severely. So: Males thinking women-on-women action is totally hot goes WAY back–and so does the male fear of being outperformed by something that always stays hard. (Whenever we want it, baby!)
Gays? Less Cool. But No Biggie, Back Then.
For an uptight intolerant bunch of repressive control freaks, Church folk were remarkably tolerant of male homosexuality. The church had a “graduated scale” of tolerance: Males kissing males were punished less than two males masturbating, who were punished less than two having oral sex. The worst punishments were reserved for those discovered having anal sex. Fair-mindedly, for all of these, older participants or those who held high positions in the church were punished more than those under the age of 20.
For more than 500 years, “homosexuals were in fact treated no more harshly than were couples who practiced contraception.” (Reay Tannahill, Sex in History)
In other words, the Church gave the merest tippy-taps of a slap on the dangly wrist. (Drat. Now I’m definitely going to gay hell for saying THAT. At least there’ll be hardwood floors and good landscaping. Oooo! And Oscar Wilde!)
St. Thomas the Total Twerp
St. Thomas Aquinas bears a lot of the blame for the change. He wrote an argument “proving” that since the sexual organs were clearly designed by God for procreation (pro-cree-AY-shun–making babies), that was the only use for them, and anything else was verboten (vair-BOE-ten–not allowed): No anal sex or oral sex, whether you’re gay or straight. No sex for fun.
Unless you are like many young men, even today: You think that the more babies you help make, the more of a man you are, so your idea of fun is to try to make a baby every time you have sex. That makes you like a termite, or a cockroach. They make lots and LOTS of babies. In your case, you really DO have a pudendum (shameful part) between your legs–and between your ears.
Just Sorta Tacked On Bit:
Did You Know Every Priest Is Jesus’s Twin?
In 1977, at the height of feminism, the Church announced two reasons women still couldn’t be priests:
1) Jesus chose only men for his apostles
2) Each priest reminds his congregation of the actual physical Jesus, and female priests can’t do this.
Really? Do you mean to tell me that both skinny, 6’4″ red-headed Father Keavney, and short, fat, white-haired red-nosed Father Kerry BOTH reminded me of the SAME Jesus?
What about that day I was pulled out of Catechism class and Father Keavney literally screamed at me for daring to ASK A QUESTION? Was THAT supposed to remind me of Jesus, too? I guess that must have been from the Bible’s money-changers-in-the-temple scene. But it seems to me that my every-day Catechism teacher–pretty, petite Sister Bernadette–was a lot more Christ-like.
- This is the fourth in a series of posts based on information from “Sex in History” by Reay Tannahill. Misplaced my notes and have donated my book to the library, but I think most of the stuff here came from around page 160.
- I was never taught by a mean nun. All that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing were kind, caring women–even the strict ones–and I never witnessed a hand or wooden stick of any kind raised to a child in anger.