What Would Happen if Roman Catholic Priests Were Allowed to Have Sex


September 25 2018

By Alex Norcia; illustrated by Nico Teitel

Probably more priests. But with the Church under scrutiny over sex scandals across the planet, it might happen sooner than you think.

In 1521, four years after a German priest named Martin Luther is said to have nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, the outlaw retired to Wartburg Castle to hide from his inquisitors. There, he translated the New Testament from Greek into his native German, and began a period he referred to as his “Patmos”—an allusion to the small Greek island where the Book of Revelation was apparently written. He delved into his studies, refining polemics against the sale of indulgences (paying the Church money in exchange for salvation), and for the idea of sola fide, that God forgives on faith alone (regardless of one’s “works”).

These would become some of the most commonly known divisions between Catholicism and Protestantism. But what’s sometimes forgotten, amid the general shattering of European politics that soon followed, is where the theologian came down on sexuality and marriage. At Wartburg, he wrote to Nicolas Gerbel, a jurist and scholar of canon law, laying out his views clearly.

“Kiss and rekiss your wife,” he insisted. “Let her love and be loved. You are fortunate in having overcome, by an honorable marriage, that celibacy in which one is a prey to devouring fires and to unclean ideas. That unhappy state of a single person, male or female, reveals to me each hour of the day so many horrors, that nothing sounds in my ear as bad as the name of monk or nun or priest. A married life is a paradise, even where all else is wanting.”

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