A Brief History Of: Celibacy

Elliott Erwitt / Magnum

The Rev. Alberto Cutié made an attractive poster boy for the Roman Catholic Church: he's young, telegenic and the host of a popular Miami radio show. But since photos surfaced on May 5 showing the priest dubbed Padre Oprah frolicking with an attractive young woman, he's become a reluctant part of the centuries-old debate over clerical celibacy.

It wasn't until the 12th century that formal rules were established forbidding clergymen to have sex. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Peter himself had a mother-in-law (which would usually imply a wife as well). The ban had theological roots--abstaining from pleasures of the...

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