The Ten Commandments
A book by Joseph Lewis
The Seventh Commandment
Sacred and Profane Prostitution
In endeavoring to determine what is meant by the word "adultery" as used in this Commandment, much might be taken for granted as not coming within its scope, but no analysis would be complete if it did not take into consideration prostitution.
The transition from sacred to secular prostitution was so imperceptible that it is hardly possible to determine when the former ended and the latter began. The only marked difference was in the deviation of the revenue. It is notorious that the Church had a monopoly on prostitution for centuries and that it was one of the most fruitful sources of its wealth. Havelock Ellis states that "the origin of prostitution is to be found primarily in a religious custom...." [*36]
St. Augustine said: "Suppress prostitution, and capricious lusts will overthrow society." [*37] St. Jerome recognized prostitution and argued that, "as Mary Magdalene had been saved, so might any prostitute who repented...." In 1431, at the Council of Basle, a high Church dignitary presented a discourse on the subject of prostitution in which he implied that it was the only safeguard of good morals. [*38]
A brothel called the "Abbey" was instituted in the papal city of Avignon under the patronage of Queen Joanna of Naples. It was regulated by strict rules after the model of religious houses, and none but good Christians were admitted. Jews and Infidels were not permitted to enter; so sacred an institution was not to be "corrupted" or "contaminated." To maintain its strictly religious air, it was closed on Good Friday and Easter. Its women were housed in cloister-like buildings, adjoining the churches, which are still commonly spoken of as "abbeys." What a commentary on religion as a means of moral uplift, when the prostitute can ply her trade but not when it interferes with her religious duties!
Pope Julius II instituted a similar brothel in Rome, and the foundation prospered under the patronage of Leo X and Clement VII. Part of the proceeds were devoted to providing for the comfort of the Holy Sisters of the Order of St. Mary Magdalene. [*39] By the time of the Reformation it was estimated that there were more than 100,000 prostitutes in London, mainly supported by ecclesiastics. [*40]
When brothels were forbidden in the City of London, prostitution was carried on close to the palaces of the high bishops, who not only had jurisdiction over but profited substantially from them. So notorious were these enterprises that the women inmates were called "Winchester Geese." In Shakespeare's Henry VI, Humphrey, Duke of Gloster, reproached the Bishop of Winchester with "Thou that giv'st whores indulgences to sin." [*41] In 1321, Edward II approved the sale of a lupinar to a cardinal who evidently considered it a profitable investment for sacerdotal funds. [*42] In Antwerp, even today, it is stated on excellent authority, the prostitutes of the regular brothels proceed in a body on certain feast days to the churches, carrying candles which they dedicate to the Holy Virgin, fervently praying to her for the success of their affairs. [*43]
In Eastern Islam, where there are more males than females, the young girls who remain unmarried and offer themselves to men are looked upon as public benefactors. [*44]
Sacred prostitution was incumbent upon all women and existed throughout Europe, Asia and Northern Africa. Religious prostitutes were called "servants of God," and even as late as the second century sacred prostitution was still an honorable practice for women of good birth who felt the "call" to live the "divine life under the influence of divine inspiration." [*45]
In India and elsewhere, women who failed to bear children by their husbands visited the temples to perform fertility "rites." They remained overnight at the temples, where they were visited by priests who impersonated the terrible god. They returned home the following day, firmly convinced that a miracle had occurred -- that the god had condescended to cohabit with them and that they would have a child. [*46]
The Eskimo women think themselves happy if one of their "holy" men cohabits with them.
In Phoenician temples, women prostituted themselves for hire in the belief that they thereby won the favor of the divinity. Among the Amorites it was a law that "she who was about to marry should sit in fornication seven days by the gate." In Lydia all girls were obliged to act as prostitutes before marriage.
Cutting off the hair of girls who become nuns probably had its origin in the custom which prevailed in Byblos, where the surrender of a woman's virginity to a "stranger" could be atoned for by shaving off her hair. When girls become Catholic nuns, they are mystically married to the Divine Bridegroom. [*47]
At the memorial shrine of Al-Uzza at Mecca, it is the practice for women to offer themselves to the holy pilgrims. Children born of such unions are looked on as divinely blessed. [*48]
Among the Yezidis, a semi-Christian sect in Armenia, the priests who travel in itinerant groups select a "wife," if only for a day or two, at each place they stop at. The women who are chosen consider themselves lucky, because they are then regarded as having become holy.
In Egypt, the "holy" men go about naked. Women who desire to have children kneel before them. Not infrequently a priest will seize a woman and cohabit with her in the public street. No resentment is felt; indeed, the victim considers it a great blessing and her companions congratulate her on having been selected by the "representative of God." In recent times, in Damascus, the activities of one of these "saints" were so outrageous that the pasha had to put him in prison. [*49]
Religious prostitution of the Babylonian type was supposed to have been nothing but ordinary immorality practiced under the cloak of religion. It has been represented as an act by which the worshiper sacrificed her most precious possession to the deity. [*50]
Among the Ewe-speaking people of the Slave Coast, the business of the priestess of the god to whom she is dedicated is that of prostitution. The best-looking girls between the ages of ten and twelve are put in an institution where they remain for three years, learning the chants and dances peculiar to the worship of the gods and submitting themselves to the priests and the inmates of the male seminaries. [*51] Children born of such unions belong to the gods. In India, dancing girls are attached to a great many temples. They feel honored when the priests in charge select them for sexual enjoyment. Among the Veddas, if an adult female cannot get anyone to marry her, she may be dedicated to a free life in the name of Yellamma, who is their patron deity. [*52] Among many Semitic tribes, girls were "consecrated" to a goddess of prostitution such as Ishtar. [*53]
If adultery is a sin, children should be prevented from being born of an adulterous union, and women who have been guilty of promiscuity should not be permitted to attain superior positions in life. Neither condition, however, prevails. On the contrary, the courtesans of Greece were noted for their intelligence and were by far the most important women of their time. They exercised more influence on the thought of their day than have women in any other age of the world. They were sought after not only for their physical charms and beauty, but also for their advice in worldly matters. Their salons sparkled with brilliant conversation, and social and political problems were first discussed with them.
Aspasia, who was as famous for her brilliance as for her beauty, was the passionate love of Pericles. She is said to have instructed him in eloquence and to have composed some of his famous orations. She was continually consulted on affairs of state, and Socrates, like other philosophers, attended her assemblies.
Socrates himself admitted his indebtedness to a courtesan named Diotimas. The gentle manners and disinterested affection of a courtesan named Bacchis were recalled and deeply mourned when her death was announced. [*54] She was the mistress of the orator Hyperides, and her fidelity has become a legend of a woman's devotion to the man she loves.
Lais, whose matchless figure and lovely face had no equal except it be her remarkable wit and encyclopedic information, was extremely influential. She refused a fabulous sum from the orator Demosthenes for a sexual embrace, but willingly gave her charms to the ragged cynic Diogenes and the still more poverty-stricken philosopher Aristippus. [*55]
The courtesan Pythionice was sent by Alexander the Great to be the companion of his treasurer, Harpalus. She graced the palace and ruled Babylon with unusual ability. At her death, she was buried in a tomb that cost more than a king's ransom.
Leontium, whose lover was the great philosopher Epicurus, was herself a woman of rare ability, and the author of several books. A Milesian prostitute named Thargelia accompanied Xerxes on his invasion of Greece. Thargelia married the king of Thessaly.
The Empress Theodore was a notorious prostitute, yet is credited with liberalizing the law of Justinian. Radadopis, who led the life of a prostitute in Egypt, became one of the leading citizens of her time, acquired wealth, and is even reputed to have had sufficient money and intelligence to build a pyramid. [*56]
Religious Festivals and Sexual Promiscuity
Many of the religious festivals today are survivals of the belief, based upon sympathetic magic, that unrestrained sexual indulgence at harvest time increases the fertility of the land. During the yam festival, in Ashanti, the chief religious function of the year, the sexual behavior of the people is unrestrained. Sexual relations are freely indulged in by all attending, and no man is allowed to have intercourse with his wife. [*57] In Morocco and North Africa, the most solemn religious feasts are made occasions for sexual license and prostitution. During early Christian times, May Day was notoriously the occasion for sexual license.
Alphonse de Liguori declared that in some parts of Italy the celebration in honor of the Holy Virgin was utterly profane. He warned the participants to stay away from the sanctuaries during the festivals, "for on such occasions," he said, "the Devil gains more profit than the Blessed Virgin derives honor from it." In the same kind of celebration among the Portuguese of Brazil, the women celebrants have an orgiastic dance in which they sing: "Eu cago Fogo! Donna Maria quer lamber."
Among the North American Indians, sexual promiscuity was part of almost every religious ritual. Young women vied for the honor of having relations with the chief of the tribe. The Patagonians believe that drought and famine can be relieved by having their women offer themselves to the first strangers they meet. [*58] The prevalence of this custom to appease the anger of the gods has been definitely established by anthropological authorities. It was probably because of this belief that David's wives were to be given to his neighbors for sexual enjoyment in order to atone for his many crimes. Nakedness and the exposure of the female body has also been considered pleasing to the gods. According to St. Cyril of Jerusalem, the Manichaeans regarded rain as the effect of amatory excitement on the part of the Deity. [*59]
Among the Peruvians, festival celebrations are part of the religious ceremony. After severe fasts and abstinence, men and women are assembled naked and at a given signal run a race and every man cohabits with the woman he catches. [*60]
In Central America, among the Pipeles, on the night that seeds are planted, certain persons are especially appointed to perform the sexual act at the exact moment the seed is deposited in the ground. Children born of these unions are regarded as possessing divine gifts and are accounted great prophets. [*61]
Is not the denial of the natural functions of the body just as wrong as their abuse? Is not one extreme just as contrary to nature as the other? If man possesses certain fundamental and necessary desires, are they not to be satisfied? If, under the influence of religious fanaticism, the flesh is mortified in an attempt to suppress the natural functions of the body, is this not just as wrong as the unrestrained indulgence of those functions? Virginity and chastity are desirable virtues at certain times and under certain conditions, but they become perversions as substitutes for marriage. Physically abnormal was the man who said, "He that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better." [*62] The religious celibate denounced sexual congress as a pollution of the soul and an affront to God. Many believed that married people were incapable of salvation.
St. John Chrysostom crystallized the thought of the Christian Fathers when he said: "Marriage is good, but virginity is better than marriage. If you would have my candid opinion on the matter, it is that I consider virginity to be as high above marriage as the heavens are above the earth." St. Thomas Aquinas said that virginity alone could make us equal to the angels.
These "inspired" opinions were confirmed by the decrees of the synods, and are embodied in the canon of the Council of Trent, in which it is laid down that "whosoever saith that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity or in celibacy, than to enter marriage, let him be anathema." [*63]
The Church taught that when a woman marries, she should feel the deepest sorrow for the loss of her virginity; also that if anyone felt the slightest passion in nudity with the opposite sex, he was a depraved human being. "Every woman," said Clement of Alexandria, "ought to be filled with shame at the thought that she is a woman." He stoutly maintained that marriage and fornication were not the same, but that the difference between marriage and adultery was so fine that it resolved itself into a mere legal fiction. [*64] Tertullian said that a "stain upon our chastity is accounted by us as more dreadful than any punishment or any death." He recommended abstinence for the sake of adding to the efficacy of prayer.
Both these early Church Fathers condemned married life, and considered it their duty to dissuade women from cohabiting with their husbands. A woman who deserted her husband was an object of admiration. Anyone guilty of sexual intercourse, whether married or not, they thundered, could not enter heaven on the day of resurrection. St. Ambrose said that "married people ought to blush at the state in which they are living." He maintained that the race was born in a state of virginity and that to change that state was to deface the work of the Creator! Both St. Ambrose and Tertullian declared that the extinction of the human race was preferable to its propagation by sexual congress! Bishop Gregory of Nyssa held that Adam and Eve had been created sexless, and that the phrase "male and female created He them" referred to a subsequent act necessitated by Adam's disobedience. Had it not been for this disobedience, the propagation of life would have been accomplished by some mode of vegetation! [*65]
St. Thomas Aquinas felt that marriage and the satisfaction of the sexual desires were obstacles to the love of God. He believed that salvation could be purchased by stifling human affections. The mortification of the flesh and suppression of the sexual impulse was thought to appease an angry God. [*66]
The imposition of continence and mortification of the flesh was merely another manifestation of the religious principle that suffering is pleasing in the sight of God and that the more man suffers here, the less he will endure hereafter. The joys of life were supposed to be inventions of the Devil. Sin and sex became synonymous terms. Gregory VII prescribed continence for priests and "looked with abhorrence on the contamination of the holy sacerdotal character, even in its lowest degree, by any sexual connection." [*67]
The mere thought that Mary, the mother of Jesus, had other children by her husband in the normal, natural way is repugnant to some devout people.
To the early Christian Fathers everything except absolute virginity was considered adultery; woman was regarded as "the tool of Satan." Hermes, the Shepherd, denounced all pleasure in sexual intercourse, the only excuse for which was propagation. He advocated that husband and wife should live as brother and sister! Justin Martyr preached "that total abstinence is a higher virtue and that sexual activity is unnecessary to life." St. Basil would speak to a woman only under extreme necessity. St. John of Lycopolis had not seen a woman for forty-eight years! St. Gregory suffered a haunting remorse because he chanced to touch the necklace of his niece. [*68]
A young Roman girl made a pilgrimage from Italy to Alexandria, to look at the face and obtain the prayers of St. Arsenius, into whose presence she forced herself. Quailing beneath his rebuff, she flung herself at his feet, imploring him with tears to grant her only request -- to remember her and to pray for her. "Remember you!" cried the indignant saint. "It shall be the prayer of my life that I may forget you." [**69] The Abbé Isaac, seeing a footprint of a woman on the road, became terribly agitated until he destroyed it for fear that "if a brother seeth it, he may fall." [*70]
When Linnaeus made his great discoveries in botany, religious people tried to suppress them on the ground that they were based on the discovery of the sexes in plants and were therefore calculated to cause immorality. [*71]
When a virtue is made of filth, cleanliness has no charm. When ignorance and superstition are considered the highest virtue, knowledge and intelligence are condemned as heresies. When celibacy is considered holy, marriage is condemned as a sin.
Under the delusion of this belief, an actual epidemic of religiously insane ascetics was produced. It would require an immense volume to record all the hideously vicious things they did to themselves in order to stifle their sexual desires. The following instances, though only a mere fragment, will give some idea of the extent of the perverted influence of religion.
St. Ammon had never seen himself naked. St. Besarion spent forty days and forty nights in the middle of thornbushes, and for forty years never lay down when he slept. St. Marcian restricted himself to one meal a day so that he would continually suffer the pangs of hunger. A sect known as "grazers" never lived under a roof, but spent their time on the mountainside, eating grass like the cattle.
Physical cleanliness was considered a pollution of the soul, and the most sainted ascetic was the one who became the most hideous mass of clotted filth. A virgin named Silva resolutely refused, on religious principles, to wash any part of her body except her fingers. St. Anthony was never guilty of washing his feet. St. Abraham for fifty years rigidly refused to wash either his face or his feet. St. Poemen consented to such an heretical act only when confronted by an old man who said that he had "learnt not to kill the body, but his passions." St. Euphraxia joined a convent of one hundred and thirty nuns who never washed their feet and who shuddered at the mention of a bath. [*72]
In order to live a life of chastity, men have been known to wear enormous rings on their prepuces so as to make sexual congress impossible. [*73] The Christian sects of Skots, during the reign of Catherine II and Alexander I of Russia, resorted to castration as their means of assuring chastity. They destroyed the testicles with a hot iron, calling the operation a baptism of fire. If burning the testicles did not prove successful in completely destroying the passion of the flesh, the penis itself was cut off. In women, the genitals were mutilated, and if that was not sufficient, the nipples of the breasts, and sometimes the entire breasts were amputated. To them, original sin did not consist in eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, but in relations between the sexes. [*74]
There is in existence the confession of a member of the Carthusian Order in the monastery of Vallis Dei, near Séez in Normandy. He had every virtue, was earnest in his devotions, and practiced mortification to an even greater degree than was prescribed by the severe rules of the order. He rarely slept on the couch provided for each brother, but passed his nights in prayer on the steps of the altar. In the hair shirt he wore next to his skin, he cultivated lice and maggots so assiduously that they were often seen crawling over his face. He scourged himself for every unhallowed wandering thought. But still the visions of sexual pleasures came to his mind. With all this laceration, the flesh would still assert itself, and he was tormented with evil desires which the sharp cords of the discipline failed to subdue. When he was forced to make frequent visits on business to the neighboring town, he never left the gate of his retreat without lamenting and expressing the fear that he should not return to it in the same virtuous condition in which he left. Although he preserved his virginity to old age, he nevertheless continually accused himself of having committed every sin possible to man. [*75] O Galilean, thou didst not conquer!
To carry out his fanatical belief, St. Jerome stifled the longings of the flesh as described in his own words:
"How often, where I was living in the desert and the solitude that affords a savage dwelling place, parched by a burning sun, how often did I fancy myself amid the pleasures of Rome. I sought solitude because I was filled with bitterness. Sackcloth disfigured my misshapen limbs, and my skin had become by neglect as black as an Ethiopian's. Tears and groans were every day my portion. I, who from fear of hell had confined myself to that prison where I had no other companions but scorpions and wild beasts, fancied myself amongst bevies of young girls. My face was pale and my frame chilled with fasting; yet my mind was burning with the cravings of desire, and the fires of lust flared up from my flesh that was as that of a corpse. I do not blush to avow my abject misery.... So long as we are borne down by this frail body; so long as we have treason within this earthly vessel, so long as the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh, there can be no sure victory." [*76]
Tempted by an evil spirit in the guise of a beautiful maiden, St. Benedict of Nursia, finding his resolution to remain chaste on the point of yielding, threw himself into a thicket of brambles and nettles, through which he rolled until his naked body was lacerated from head to foot. The desires of the flesh were effectually conquered. [*77]
And to think that such "representatives of God" made our laws and governed our conduct for more than a thousand years. Is it any wonder that such a period was called the "Dark Ages"?
Female devotees of religious orders also mutilated themselves in order to stifle the natural impulses of sexual desire. The experiences of Sister Jeanne des Anges, Superior of the Convent of the Ursulines of London, are described in her autobiography: "These impurities and the fire of concupiscence which the evil spirit caused me to feel, beyond all that I can say, forced me to throw myself onto braziers of hot coal.... At other times, in the depth of winter, I have sometimes passed part of the night entirely naked in the snow or in tubs of icy water." [*78]
There seems to be no limit to the self-inflicted tortures that these religiously fanatical human beings endured for the sake of "purity." The blessed Angela de Fulginio tells us that, until forbidden by her confessor, she would place hot coals in her private parts, hoping by the use of material fire and heat to extinguish the burning lust that would surge through her body. [*79]
Mme. Guyon, who lived as late as the eighteenth century, is perhaps the most noted example of how the suppression of the natural sexual instincts distorts the mentality. She became "married" to God and would often acclaim that she loved him more than the most passionate lover his mistress. She craved "the love that thrills and burns and leaves one fainting in an inexpressible joy and pain." So strong did passion burn within her that she actually experienced an orgasm, which prompted her to say that if God would make sensual people feel as she did, they would give up their false pleasures of the flesh! The method by which she sought to stifle her sexual desires is too revolting to be recorded here. [*80]
The case of St. Marguerite Marie (1647-1690) varies only slightly. She was beatified in 1864 and only recently canonized. After seventeen months in a monastery, "she lay down on the pavement of the church, the sheet of the dead spread over her, and she rose again, radiant, for she was henceforth to be dead to the world." She had become the bride of Christ. The method she practiced to restrain her sexual feeling is too nauseating for repetition here, despite the fact that she hoped she would be able to do it every day. The following night Christ rewarded her for her self-mortification and held her in close embrace for two or three hours with her mouth pressed on his heart. Once, when Christ was crushing her by the weight of his love, he said to her: "Let me do my pleasure. There is time for everything. Now I want you to be the plaything of my love, and you must live thus without resistance, surrendered to my desires, allowing me to gratify myself at your expense." [*81] As Professor Leuba remarks, this took place not in the Dark Ages, but in the latter half of the last century, and is recorded by a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church.
To suppress sexual desires, Catherine St. Cloud placed her body on a red-hot stove, while Catherine Ebner cut a cross over her heart and tore the Christian symbol off her body. [*82]
Those women -- and there were many -- who pledged spiritual matrimony to Christ, but who were unable to resist sexual congress with unmarried ecclesiastics, were denied holy communion at their death and were branded as adulterers of Christ! It was contended that if an ordinary husband found his wife enjoying sexual congress with another man and was provoked to violence by jealousy, then what must be the indignation of Christ at such flagrant unfaithfulness! [*83] There was no expiation for "holy" adultery.
According to the rules of St. Caesarius for nuns, no male clothing was to be taken into the convents for the purpose of washing or mending. He feared that contact with male attire would stimulate the nuns' sexual desire for copulation or self-abuse.
St. Augustine maintained that the fall of Eve in the Garden of Eden caused the sex organs to become the seat of lust. Based upon this belief, religious societies were formed where there were to be no sexual relations whatever. Under the influence of this religious insanity, Origen emasculated himself and wanted to exclude all women from heaven as a corrupting influence. A sect called the Valesians is said to have obtained proselytes by forcibly mutilating anyone unfortunate enough to fall into their hands. Sextus Philosophus, popularly known as Sextus II, openly advocated mutilation of the genitals. As a result of this mania, an epidemic broke out among the Christian Fathers and each outdid the other in self-castration. [*84]
There is no limit to fanaticism, particularly when mixed with religious fervor. The whole system of Christian asceticism was based on the impurity of sex; as a consequence, anything that tended to arouse sexual excitement was condemned as a sin.
The frightful results of trying to impose such perverted ideas of sex on the world are already too well known to be recorded here. Humanity is still struggling to free itself from the inhibitions with which this repressive and perverted system enslaved it.
The lives that were ruined, the labors that were lost, the mentalities that were poisoned, can well be imagined from these cases of enforced asceticism. This perverted and fanatical way of life deprived the world of the fruits of the labors of men of strong will and unfailing determination, men who could have contributed wealth to the world and been recompensed by the joys of creating.
The result of this perversion of the human body destroyed whatever element of love it contained, and made Christianity not only a religion of chastity, but a religion of implacable hatred of all that was natural to our nature. This stifling of the ties of human affection is one of the unforgivable crimes of the Church. By the suppression of the natural impulses of love, Christianity made perverts of her devout believers and soldiers of hate against all those "vicious" enough to love and laugh. Celibacy had an altogether different effect from what was intended. Not all were capable of suppressing the natural desires of their sexual natures. Being restricted from seeking a normal outlet for the passions of the flesh, the "pious" were forced to satisfy their sexual longings through prohibited channels. The result was that while celibacy produced fanatical asceticism on the one hand, it was also the cause of the most demoralizing promiscuity on the other. The gross immorality that followed the imposition of celibacy on the clergy can never be completely recorded. Priests became adulterers and corrupters of the home, and nunneries became notorious brothels. Authoritative writers of the Middle Ages tell of nunneries that were like brothels, and of the widespread prevalence of incest among the priests, many of whom lived with their mothers and sisters. [*85] John Knox committed adultery with his stepmother. Gregory, Bishop of Vercelli, was convicted of incest, having had relations with a widow betrothed to his uncle.
In an effort to impose celibacy on the priest, the clergyman's mother or sister was not permitted to sleep in the same house with him. Experience had taught them that no blood tie was strong enough to prevent sexual satisfaction. [**86] The hot passions of the body easily overpower the cool resolutions of the mind.
No wonder St. Bernard said that for men and women to live together without having sexual relations was a greater miracle than raising the dead. [*87]
Cardinal Peter d'Ailly declared that the immorality in the nunneries was so notorious that it was common for girls who wanted to enter a life of prostitution simply to take the veil. One of the reasons for the Church's denunciation of Savonarola was that he declared the nuns in the convents were no better than harlots, and that the whole fabric of morality was being corrupted by the adultery of members of the religious orders. [*88]
In order to remedy the evil of the widespread immorality existing in the nunneries, the Council of Saragossa forbade virgins to take the veil unless they were at least forty years of age. [*89]
When Sixtus III was tried for the seduction of a nun, he defended himself by repeating the story of the woman taken in adultery and quoted the words of Jesus: "He who is without sin should cast the first stone." The holy gentleman was not convicted. [*90]
In 1259, Alexander IV did not hesitate to declare that the people, instead of being reformed, were absolutely corrupted by the ministers who represented God on earth. Louis XV would amuse himself by causing the arrest of all ecclesiastics caught frequenting brothels. It never took long to secure several hundred. [*91] At one time in Spain the number of bastard children of the priests almost equaled the number of children of the laity! [*92]
Popes themselves furnished the examples for others to follow. Sergius III's bastard son sat in the pontifical chair, while John XII turned the Lateran Palace into a brothel. So notorious was his profligacy that women were deterred from going near the holy palace for fear of his promiscuous and unbridled lust. [*93] Pope John XXIII* was condemned for notorious incest, adultery, defilement and homicide. He confessed to having violated over two hundred maidens, including a number of nuns. After being deposed, he became Dean of the Sacred College! [*94] A hundred years later, the Archbishop of Canterbury made an endeavor to curb the licentiousness of a certain bishop whose mistress had confessed that she had borne him five children. The bishop admitted his guilt to the archbishop, but claimed immunity on the ground that the acts had taken place in the confessional! [*95] St. Brice, in the diocese of Tours, was the father of a child born unseasonably to a nun. [*96]
*[Editor's note: Written in 1946, this refers to the antipope Baldassare Cossa (1410-15), not to the much loved Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (1958-63).]
If ever the world needed an instance of the utter and impossible relation of morality to religion, it is presented in the cases already recorded. Martin Luther condemned celibacy as "angelical in appearance, but devilish in reality, and a fertile source of sin, vice and corruption." [*97]
Cesare Lombroso, reviewing the history and causes of immorality among the celibate priesthood, in his Crime: Its Causes and Remedies, says:
"In other cities, the right to commit fornication with impunity for a lifetime could be obtained by the payment of a quarter cask of wine to the bishop's officer, who drew this privilege from the canon De Dilectissimis in the decretals of the Pope."
Lea, after a thorough and most painstaking analysis of this situation, was forced to conclude:
"An absolution and indulgence grew to be a marketable commodity, it even became the interest of the traders in salvation to have a brisk demand for their wares. When infraction of the divine precepts could be redeemed with a few pence, it is not surprising if priest and people at length were led to look upon the violation of the Decalogue with the eye of the merchant and customer rather than with the spirit of the Lawgiver." [*98]
Clerical celibacy not only corrupted the morality of the community, but, far more pernicious, it corrupted youths who came in contact with the clergy while under their guidance. [*99]
If our sense of morality causes us to pass laws to prohibit polygamy, then why not laws to prohibit something far more detrimental to morality than a plurality of wives? If adultery is wrong, then the celibacy of priests is equally so. If the former is in violation of this Commandment, then the other is a secret perversion of it. [**100] How much longer will the moral conscience of mankind tolerate the unnatural and corrupting influence of sacerdotal celibates?
It is with reluctance that I discuss the institution of the confessional in relation to this Commandment. No one can read the history of that institution, however, without feeling that unscrupulous priests used it as a medium to commit adultery with their female parishioners under the guise of saving their souls.
This conduct eventually brought on the confessional the condemnation it deserved, but that did not erase the sorrow and misery female penitents had already suffered. The contagion of sexual corruption which such men spread through the medium of the confessional is hardly believable were it not for authentic court records and judicial evidence minutely detailed at the trials of these debauchers who preached that adultery was a mortal sin. [*101]
The Supreme Council of the Spanish Inquisition ruled that solicitation either before or after confession was no crime. Years of debate were required to determine whether a priest was guilty of violating his vows if he secured a girl for another priest's sexual pleasure. [*102]
Yet, despite the devious and subtle methods permitted in the confessional to commit adultery, many scandals were reported to the Church tribunal. Typical was the case of Hilario Caone, of Besançon, an uncurbed profligate who confessed that he had solicited with success some forty women while performing his duties in the Church of San Francisco de Paula of Seville. [*103] Fernando de Valdes confessed having solicited with successful results seven single and three married women and one pregnant woman while in confession! [*104] He openly boasted of his sexual conquests and made no secret of his illicit affairs with his female penitents while dispensing absolution!
Abbé Mallet, Canon of Cambria, seduced three Jewish girls and then procured their confinement in convents under the pretext that he was laboring for their conversion! One of the girls went insane as the result of her suffering. Although the Abbé was condemned for his acts of seduction, Church officials defended his conduct on the ground that any offense of religious proselytism was justified. This permitted the worst criminals to wear the cloaks of the martyrs of faith. [*105]
Priestly solicitation in the confessional became so brazen and shameless that Pope Pius IV issued a bull in 1561 to investigate and punish all confessors guilty of soliciting women during the act of confession. [*106]
Lea records a case which attracted a great deal of attention in his time. Antoine Mingrat, a priest of Saint Aupe, created scandal by his amours. He was attracted by a young married woman named Marie Gerin and he made a brutal but unsuccessful attack on her virtue. This made it necessary for him to dispose of her. He choked her to death in the parsonage and dragged the body three-quarters of a mile to another town, where he cut off the legs and threw the fragments into the river. He was simply transferred to Saint Quentin and allowed to continue his nefarious work without suffering the slightest punishment. [*107]
[Editor's Note: Mingrat was executed for his crime, says Encyclopædie Français. Click here for that discussion. -- PAM]
In a case recorded as late as 1898, a priest heard the confession of his laundress that she had once committed adultery. When she finished, he told her to wait for him in the anteroom. There, after some talk about his clothes, he made suggestive advances to her which she did not repulse. When she attended mass, he would beckon her to his confessional and make appointments to visit her at her house, finally taking and supporting her as his mistress. [*108]
History does not record a more revolting abuse of the confessional than that which occurred in our own time. Within the lifetime of the author, there floated down the Hudson River a bloodstained sack which contained the dismembered body of a woman. She had been brutally attacked and murdered. Once the woman's identity was established, it did not take the police of New York long to apprehend the culprit. Several days elapsed, however, before an arrest was made because the evidence of the crime pointed to a Catholic priest -- Father "Hans" (Johannes) Schmidt! Being inculcated early in life with the religion of Catholicism, he had been, since his pre-adolescent years, peculiarly affected by the rite of blood atonement, and as a result the sight of blood always had a sexually stimulating effect on him. In fact, so obsessed was he with the element of blood that he used to believe that he was God's favorite priest because on many occasions he imagined he saw real blood in the chalice.
When he first met his victim, Anna Aumüller, who had come to him for confession, he said he fainted. Shortly thereafter, he began to cohabit with her. After this had continued for some time, he asked himself whether he was doing right. He knew he was offending the laws of the priesthood, but felt that if God had given him those feelings and the necessary faculties, he had the right to satisfy them. To make certain, he had sexual relations with her at the altar, meanwhile watching the chalice to see whether God would give him a sign expressing his disapproval. As there was no sign, he thought God approved. It is quite likely that he killed Anna Aumüller because she was pregnant. Perhaps the strangest thing about this atrocious case is the fact that when asked whether he was at peace with God, the murderer said he was! His conscience was clear.
Nor must we fail to mention another recent case where confession was the lure to seduction and adultery -- and finally murder. That is the case of the Rev. Joseph J. Leonard, a Catholic priest, and Mrs. Ruth Steinmetz, a comely bride of two weeks. It happened in the Knights of Columbus Hotel (now the Capitol Hotel) in New York City on the evening of November 26, 1934. [*109]
Mrs. Ruth Steinmetz and her husband came to New York on their honeymoon. She was seventeen and her husband a twenty-two-year-old divinity student. The Rev. Joseph J. Leonard was in New York on a visit. While Ruth Steinmetz and her husband were in the lobby of the hotel, she was approached by Father Leonard, who lost no time in making the acquaintance of the couple. He told them he was the Pastor of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary and spiritual director of the Morris Hall Home for the Aged at Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and asked how long it had been since Mrs. Steinmetz went to confession. When she guiltily admitted it was quite some time, the Rev. Joseph J. Leonard replied: "I will hear your confession, and I think you had better come to my room, where we won't be disturbed." So they went to the room where Father Joseph J. Leonard of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, had registered as "John J. Leonard of Trenton, New Jersey," while the young husband remained outside. The girl returned, however, within a few minutes to tell her husband that the priest had invited them to lunch. While at the restaurant, Father Leonard treated them to highballs, and drank so fast that his two young guests had great difficulty in keeping up with him. After lunch they returned to the hotel and went to the room occupied by the couple. Leonard suggested that Harry go to sleep, and the young husband fell into an alcoholic stupor. Suddenly awaking, he discovered that his wife and the priest were gone!
He hurriedly went to the priest's room and placed his ear against the keyhole. What he heard made him try to enter. The door was locked! He knocked, saying he was the bellboy. As Leonard opened the door, he pushed his way in and found the priest stripped.... Then he saw his wife, partly undressed, crouching beside the bed. He cried: "You can't do this to my wife!" Remembering that he had given the priest his loaded pistol to hold for him, the drunk-crazed youth took it from the priest's coat pocket and in frenzy cried: "She's my wife! You've -------- her, and now you are going to hell!" Five shots were fired. One penetrated the priest's back and entered the chest of the wife. The "confession" was over, but the priest and the wife were dead.
Church officials made haste to explain that Leonard had not been mentally well. This was also the explanation regarding the murderous action of Schmidt. Confession did not prove good for the souls of Ruth Steinmetz and Anna Aumüller; it merely brought about their deaths.
Of what value is the institution of the confessional to the morality of the community, when the preachers of a doctrine are guilty of committing the very acts which they condemn in others as a mortal sin?
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