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Friday, May 20, 2005

Celibacy and Star Wars

This PunditGuy post is making the rounds of the blogosphere this morning. It compares the Jedi to Catholic priests and claims that Anakin's fall, resulting greatly from his marriage to Amidala, can be seen as support for the Catholic Church's requirement that it's priests be Celibate. I doubt that is something that Lucas intended, but an interesting idea anyway. I think that Catholic Priests being celibate is a mistake that the Catholic Church has made. However, not being Catholic, it is not a huge concern of mine. The various reasons advanced for Celibacy by different cultures and individuals are interesting however. I think we can safely dismiss the notion of females being a naturally corrupting influence or sex being evil in and of itself without further comment. There are however two other interesting reasons for a Celibate or monastic life that I have seen. One, mentioned in this Anchoress post on the post above is:

Yes, Jedi are celibate, just like Catholic priests (and for that matter, Buddhist monks, who never seemto take any heat for their celibacy.) I have had many conversations re celibacy with both. A Buddhist monk once told me that celibacy was seen as means of conserving the particular “chi” or “kundalini” or force, or energy of sexuality, which is “life-giving,” in order that that energy may be “converted,” so to speak, into something higher and finer, for the benefit not only of themselves but of the world. “In that chi,” he told me, “there is healing and renewal, for the world.” Celibate catholic priests, including one in my family, have said something similar to me - that by not using their sexual energy, they are able to “offer it” for the world. Heck, for that matter, I recall once reading Al Pacino say he always went celibate when he prepared for a new role because the stored sexual energy added force to his performance. (He screams so much, lately, I wonder if he shouldn’t have sex, instead.)
I don't have much to add on this. If, or how, abstaining from sexual release allows energy to be converted to another purpose such things are a mystery to me, and not one that I intend to explore. There is however, another fully rational reason for an organization or group to promote celibacy. Loyalty. One of the best explanations of this concept can be found in A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin (I highly recommend the series if you like Fantasy and have the patience to wait for the series to be finished.) It is explained well in this summary of the novel:
Aemon tells Jon why the sworn brothers do not wed, and it is because love is the bane of honor and duty, and the Night’s Watch cannot afford men with divided loyalties. He tells Jon that a day comes in every man’s life when he must choose between his vows of duty and his loyalty toward his family.
This, I think, is the best explanation for Anakin's failure. We are designed, by God or nature, to be willing to abandon all else for the one we love when needed. For the most part, this is a good thing, but certainly one can make the argument that when a higher purpose needs to be served, when the guardianship of humanity is on the shoulders of a select group that loyalty to that group must not be challenged by anything else. Historically of course, one can make good claims that this was the primary motivation for the Catholic Church's demand for celibate priests as well. Whether the duties of a Priest are similar enough to those the Jedi Order, or the sworn brothers of the Night's Watch, is something I will not comment in detail on. Suffice it to say, I have my doubts. This need for absolute unwavering loyalty is not readily apparent in most aspects of our modern world (which is probably a good thing, as we would probably have great difficulty in finding recruits) but one can readily imagine a Secret Service agent, for example, being willing to die for the President, but being unwilling to let his wife and child die in order to protect the President. Certainly it is clear that at times at least, love is the bane of honor and duty. Anakin would agree with that.


Anonymous GUYK said...

As one who doesn't believe that celibacy proves a damn thing except leaving a celibate frustrated I find the conclusion by the pundit as far out as Star Wars.

There is a difference in not having a family so not to have devided loyalties than in remaining celibate. Armies of the past, the Roman legions for example, requested that their troops remain single-but not celibate. I see celibacy by anyone as self inflicted punishment more than anything holy or altruistic. But, of course I do not believe there are many altruists to begin with.

5/20/2005 01:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

guyk is confused about the meaning of the word "celibate."

A vow of celibacy is a vow to not marry. Ordinary Catholic priests take vows of celibacy, not chastity; they are required to remain chaste because they are unmarried and the Church forbids sex outside of marriage, not because they have vowed to go without sex.

" Armies of the past, the Roman legions for example, requested that their troops remain single-but not celibate."

What you apparently mean to say here is that the troops were required to be celibate, but not required to be chaste, which I expect, from the rest of the opinions you've expressed, is just fine by you.

6/03/2005 01:15:00 AM  
Blogger Totus_2us said...

I hope you don't mind me throwing out a few opinions here.

Being a Catholic, and in fact a supporter of Priestly celibacy, I may have some controversial views but I'd like to throw them out there anyway.

The blogger made a good point about mixed loyalties with regard to being married and having a family. A priest's first priority ought to be to the Church in general and his parish in particular; if he were to have a family, of course, his priorities would lie elsewhere.

There is another, more theological reason for this celibacy. In order to preside over several of the Sacraments (particularly Holy Eucharist and Confession), it is not he but Christ who performs the Sacrament. That is to say, the priest merely 'goes through the motions', but it is the power of God through the priest which actually performs the Sacrament. This mystery (a mystery because we cannot fully understand exactly how this works, we just know that all things are possible with God) is known as the priest working 'In Personal Chrsti', or 'In the person of Christ'.

Furthermore, the Church teaches that Christ is, in a mystical sense (again, mystical because we cannot explain exactly how it works) married to the Church. He gives himself totally to her, and she recieves that love and returns it to Him. Christ himself draws this parallel in Ephesians 5, when he says "Husbands, love your wives even as Christ loved the Church." For any interested Catholics out there, Pope John Paul II the Great's work Theology of the Body goes into this in much more depth. It is also synthesized in a commentary by Christopher West.

Anyway, since priests act In Persona Christi, and Christ is married to the Church, priests are symbolically married to the Church. They owe their primary alliegance to her.

These are merely reasons why the Church teaches what she does; this is not a teaching on Faith and Morals (in which she claims to be infallible), but rather a discipline, like fasting on Good Friday. It can theoretically be changed. I don't believe that it ever will be, but it theoretically could be.

I'm sure nobody actually read this entire thing, but if you ever wondered, it is a decent summary. God bless.

7/30/2005 09:02:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

Thanks for the insight Totus,

I don't want to offend anyone's beliefs, but the Catholic church didn't require celibacy of it's Preists until well into the Middle Ages. There is pretty good reason to believe that the primary motivations were political and economic, rather than spiritual.

That of course doesn't tell us whether it was a good idea or not, and certainly it is concievable that God would use baser motivations to achieve his ends.

8/01/2005 05:29:00 AM  

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