The Catholic Church still castigates masturbation

Celibacy, misogyny and the search for pain: How the Church robbed us of lust

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The bedtime demon in the Konstanz World Chronicle, approx. 1450, Berlin. Picture: pinterest

Celibacy, misogyny and the search for pain: How the Church robbed us of lust

What the witch hunt has to do with suppressed instincts and why the cross traumatized the western world. An uncomfortable stroll through the history of Christian sexuality.

We want to start with Paul, the early Christian missionary and first theologian. With the man who fell from his horse on the way to Damascus, blinded by a glistening light from the sky and from then on no longer persecuted the Christians, but baptized them - as the voice of Jesus told him to do. At least that's what the Acts of the Apostles tells us.

His interpretation of the Bible was decisive for centuries - yes, unfortunately it still is.

"Conversion of Paul", painted by Caravaggio (1602): In art, Paul (approx. 10–60) was mostly depicted on foot until the 12th century, later on a horse, from which he fell blinded. Picture: wikipedia

There are a lot of theories about Paul's vision, one suggests that the zealous missionary suffered from hallucinatory fits caused by epilepsy. The famous church critic Karlheinz Deschner describes him in his "Sexualgeschichte des Christianentums" in the usual biting and ironic manner as a "small, bow-legged, bald man, full to the brim with sexual complexes" - and on top of that "probably impotent from childhood".

We can banish this into the realm of speculation with a smile. But the sex hatred actually drips from his letters. We owe it largely to Paul that the body becomes "the body of death". Everything he wants means "enmity against God". The Christian must "torture and enslave his body".

Paul: The key witness for celibacy

He regarded marriage as a necessary evil, as a "remedy for fornication". So if you absolutely need a wife, you should just get married. However, this shining example naturally recommended to his Christ children their own, most godly way of life - the celibate and celibate.

"I would have preferred everyone to be who I am."


Those who are already married should better keep their hands off their wife, because this makes divine salvation much easier to achieve.

As a result, marriage is held in low esteem - and with it the woman becomes the epitome of all vices, wickedness and sins, the curse of the man.

He rises to become a key witness for celibacy, which he recommended to all Christians, as he himself admits, without an order from the Lord. Jesus teaches nothing about this, even his disciples had wives. In the Old Testament there are purity laws that ban everything sexual from the sacred realm. Celibacy is also based on the idea that the impurity of married life makes worship impossible. But at no point does the Bible call for permanent renunciation.

It was not until the 11th and 12th centuries that the idea of ​​the sacrament of marriage and thus the declaration of consensus in front of a priest emerged. Until the 16th century, marriages that were not held by the church were also recognized. Photo: wikimedia

At the Synod of Elvira in 306 it is determined that all worshipers of God must abstain from deposition of their wives on punishment. Intercourse with one's own wife was gradually considered to be just as filthy and indecent as intercourse with an adulteress or prostitute. The Holy Council of Toledo required 653 to sell incontinent women priests into slavery.

Killing a married priest was legal, but it was forbidden for him to love his wife. In the middle of the 11th century, Pope Leo IX. all women of Rome who lived with clergymen to be slaves of his palace. In 1139 Pope Innocent II decided to annul the marriage of priests. What was previously threatened with punishments such as torture, fasting and excommunication has now completely lost its validity. Singleness became compulsory.

But with the chastity that the Doctor of the Church Augustine (354-430) extolled as a source of spiritual freedom, the opposite was true - and it is still the case. Whoever tries to control his sex drive will be controlled by it. Or as Luther once put it: A man who is compelled to abstain “thinks of whoring day and night like a mad dog”.

The sin of lust.Picture:

Turning sex into something forbidden only increased its importance immeasurably. All the unsuccessful celibacy decrees, all the countless love tragedies, all the cruel abuses, the hopeless fight against nature, for what?

Because an unmoved clergy secures the Lord's business. Firstly because it is cheaper, and secondly because it is always available. Not to be forgotten is the fact that the Church has been ruled almost without exception by old men through all ages. "Tired, impotent and sadistic," as Deschner puts it, "they demand celibacy."

Or to put it in the words of Pope Pius II (1405–1464):

“My hair is gray, my nerves are dry, my bones are rotten and my body is covered with wrinkles. I can no longer serve any woman for pleasure, and none myself. It is true that Venus flees me more than I do. "

Pope Pius II

Where he's right, he's right: Pope Pius II. Picture: wikipedia

The practice was, of course, extremely celibate. The fanatical inquisitor Robert the Bulgarian († after 1239) threatened women who were unwilling with the stake, while Bishop Heinrich von Basel left 20 offspring behind. Those who were satisfied with only one concubine were almost honorable.

"As long as the farmer has wives, the priest need not marry."

Medieval proverb

Around 700 joy girls accompanied the spiritual fathers to the Council of Constance (1414–1418), where Jan Hus was so deviously burned.

In the 16th century, the whore's rate, which could no longer be surpassed in terms of hypocrisy, was introduced: every priest, regardless of whether he was celibate or not, had to pay it to the bishop. Whoever did it with a nun paid more, and how much money all the bastards begotten poured into the church treasury!

Heinrich Lossow (1843–1897): “The Sin”. Picture: wikimedia

This shameless hustle and bustle also broke the collar of the Zurich reformer Zwingli:

"I know of no greater annoyance than not allowing priests to have wives, but allowing them to hold whores for payment."

Ulrich Zwingli, 1532

Zwingli (in the picture) married in 1524, Luther a year later, and even the rather prudish Calvin got married. picture: wikimedia

The Protestants immediately rejected celibacy, without, however, upgrading women. Catholics, however, continued to cling to it - unfortunately to this day.

Physical hostility and misogyny

If the ideal is chaste, woman must be the devil's gateway. For the man it means danger, seduction, wickedness. The only sinless woman is Mary, the Virgin and Mother of God - of whose eternal virginity no church father knew anything before the 3rd century and whose immaculate conception was raised to the dogma of faith after several battles only around 1854. In the bull of Pope Pius IX. it says:

«The doctrine that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first moment of her conception, was kept clean from every defect of original sin by the unique gift of grace and privilege of Almighty God, with regard to the merits of Christ Jesus, the Redeemer of mankind, is revealed by God and therefore to believe firmly and steadfastly of all believers. Therefore, if someone, what God forbids, presumes to think differently from what was determined by Us, he should know clearly that he has been condemned by his own judgment, that he was shipwrecked in his faith and fell away from the unity of the church , furthermore that he easily incurs the legally stipulated penalties if he dares to express his opinion externally in word or in writing or in any other way. "
From the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus, 1854

The more fervently Maria and her incomparable purity are praised, the more passionately Eva is hated - and with her all women who give birth normally and live naturally.

Allegory of virginity, painted by Hans Memling in the 15th century.Image: tumblr / rhade-zapan

They were not allowed to receive the consecrated host with bare hands, they were not allowed to sing in mass (for this they had to be castrati), not to menstruate or to attend church immediately after birth. Throughout the Middle Ages - and according to canon law until 1918 - they were allowed to be chastised, whipped, and spurred by their husbands "until the blood flows from a hundred wounds and they collapse as if dead." And they had to love him dearly for it. In 1591 in Wittenberg, the Lutherans discussed the question of whether women are human beings. In 1672 a work published there came to the end: «Foemina non est homo».

Misogyny culminated in the persecution of witches that darkened all of Europe from 1430 to 1780. The text that legitimized these outrageous crimes became one of the first bestsellers in the history of printed books: The "Hexenhammer" (1486) by Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer. There is no mention of witchers, because women are not only more carnal and stupid than men, but also weaker in faith.

The authors' proof is based on a hair-raising desecration of etymology: The Latin word “femina” comes from “fe-minus”, ie “fe” (= fides, belief) and “minus” (= less). So it is only logical that they become so easily victims of Satan.

Witch burnings, 14th century Image: The British Library

It was noticeable that the alleged duel with the devil was often placed under the authority of widowed or unmarried women, the useless members of society. During the trial, the women accused of witchcraft had to completely undress. Then they were shaved - for the search for the witch's mark. Needles were used to pierce all parts of the body, because freedom from pain was also considered a sign of a diabolical covenant.

Among the most excruciating tortures they confessed to having had anal intercourse with the foul-smelling, goat-footed devil, that he had seduced them with promises of marriage, that his penis had felt freezing and stone.

Church morality has undoubtedly played a major role in igniting this pathological firework of sexual frustration. Without feeling guilty, one could offend these women, torture, rape and burn them with impunity. Restore order. The story of the witch hunt also tells the story of European sexuality, which has been punished as sinful for centuries.

"The Church did everything in its power so that the only form of sexuality that it permitted would bring as little pleasure and as much suffering as possible."

Bertrand Russell

Demons visit a couple in love. Fresco in a cemetery chapel on Holy Mount Athos, Greece. Image: pinterest

She raised everyone to schizophrenia, to procreation with a guilty conscience. Because reproduction was the only legitimate reason for married couples to sleep together. It came from God, sexual arousal, but lust was the result of the fall. And since then, original sin has been passed on from person to person through sexual intercourse. Thank you, Augustine, for defining all of humanity as a “rotten lump”, as a “wretched mass of sin”, for threatening eternal punishments in hell (“mildest kind”!) For little souls if they were not baptized.

Theologians write sentences like: "Anyone who loves his wife too much is an adulterer." Pope Alexander VII forbade spouses to kiss with tongue in the 17th century. There were times when you couldn't see your own wife naked.

The only legitimate coitus: the missionary position. The picture comes from a health textbook from the 14th century ("Tacuinum sanitatis"). Picture: wikimedia

Had the countless ecclesiastical abstinence laws been observed, one would have had to spend around eight months a year without sex. And of course the remaining four months could only be enjoyed in the missionary position. Disregarding such rules was always associated with the threat of tainted, leprous, overgrown, or devil-possessed children.

For centuries, adultery has been punished with the worst possible penalties. Under Constantine the Great (306–337) and his successors, "sacking" the adulterous was common; they were put in a sack with a snake, a monkey, a rooster or a dog and thrown into the sea. In most regions women were punished much more severely; loyalty was part of their area of ​​responsibility. In the early 17th century, a "repeat offender" was sentenced to death in Bern and Zurich. Until 1989, adultery in Switzerland was punished with a one-year prison sentence or a fine at the request of the injured party.

Hephaestus finds his wife Aphrodite in bed with Ares and ties the feet of the adulterers. In the «Rosenroman», approx. 1490. image: tumblr / demonagerie

The women who aborted, the homosexuals and the Christians who got involved with Jewish women fared just as badly: coitus between Christian and Jewish woman was as important as that with an animal.

Masturbation was considered a crime, and even the nocturnal ejaculation was punished with lashes in monasteries. It was a total waste of sperm and was considered so perverse in the 19th century that entire devices were created to prevent masturbation: cages with nails, thigh straps and padlocks that set off a bell alarm when a spontaneous erection occurred.

A rather harmless specimen from 1876: This tied the penis between the legs. Photo: studiblog

In order to be able to punish all these atrocities appropriately, the clerics felt compelled to disregard the biblical command, which is:

"You should not even speak of fornication and uncleanness, it is fitting for saints!"

Ephesians 5:29

The bus books are full to the brim with remarkable intimacies that create a real voyeurism - or even peculiarities? - reveal on the part of the clergy:

  • Traffic with a knothole: 20 days of fine with bread and water.
  • Long looking at one's own dishonorable parts of the body (genitals): close to a mortal sin.
  • Female masturbation (stroking, inserting a finger or a piece of wood, pressing the vagina against the edge of a table, rubbing genitals on the chair, inserting a chicken's beak into the vagina, luring a dog with bread and saliva to lick it, etc.): Fine by three years Water and bread.
  • A moral theologian discussed masturbating in front of a statue of the Blessed Virgin in 1876.

But this also shows that people hardly adhered to the iron rules of the church. And if you only look at the late medieval clothing, that is hardly surprising: enormous pubic capsules, penis quivers and articulated umbrellas as far as the eye can see. Being drunk was more the norm, and in the bathhouses, which were not really that different from brothels, it was not until the 16th century that it became customary to dress when visiting.

"Middle Ages, that means the alcohol poisoning of Europe."


Scene in a 15th century bathhouse. Image: wikimedia

But the business of sin was lucrative, the believers were supposed to do wrong again and again, because only then did they need priestly absolution. The Church raised millions of guilty consciences, and self-loathing was inevitably born out of them. Because obviously man as God created him was not good enough - and the ideal always remained unattainable.

«Let us hate in ourselves what God hates! We begin to please God when we punish ourselves for what God displeases. "


The main measure of Christian perfection was the victory over oneself, the rebellion against existence, the killing of the body.

The search for pain

If the body is the “dung pit”, a “vessel of putrefaction, full of filth and hideousness”, then it must be properly tortured.

Self-mortification has been a practice for centuries, and not just among the clergy. Photo: scottnevinssuicide

Christian asceticism has existed since the fourth century. The Egyptian Copt Pachomios founded the first Christian monasteries and also formulated the associated drilling rules, from which the later monastic orders such as the Benedictines were inspired.

The near expectation was not fulfilled, Jesus did not rise from the dead and so the eternal bliss had to be shifted to the hereafter. A flight from the world began that split early Christianity into the political church and the ascetics turned away from the profane.

The veneration of saints began with the cult of martyrs, but when Christianity became the state religion under Emperor Constantine, the martyrs also disappeared. Thus the preservation of virginity, asceticism and self-mortification became a substitute for painful death in the name of faith.

The saints' legends tell of men and women who were murdered in mostly gruesome ways because of their Christian faith. In the picture: Saint Cyriacus († around 303). Picture: via ranker

Early ascetics in Mesopotamia grazed the grass from the ground like cattle. Apa Sophronias did this for seventy years stark naked by the Dead Sea. In Syria they let themselves be walled in for years in such a way that the sun inexorably withered them.

Arsenius (354–440), one of the great desert fathers, is reported to have wept for his sins incessantly in the Sahara. He put on a bib especially for his tears until his eyelids fell off from all these torrents of mourning.

In the Middle Ages and in modern times there are numerous examples of cruel self-torture; it was common among nuns and monks, especially among the mystics who sought a union with God. But for this the soul first had to be pure, i.e. the body and its unworthy desires had to be killed.

At least this was the view of the Dominican Heinrich Seuse, the perfect example of a self-mortifying mystic. He scourged himself daily and for eight years carried a cross with thirty nails on his back so that he could hit his fist so that the nails penetrated deep enough into the flesh. At night he let himself be tormented by vermin, but if he wanted to scratch himself, he left nothing but open wounds and rivers of blood - which were "a lovely sight" to him - because he also had pointed metal pins on his gloves.

Heinrich Seuse is attacked by demons, devils, people and animals, around 1350. On the left of the picture you can see his cross of nails. Picture: wikimedia

Only later did he come to the self-critical insight that it is better to endure the suffering God has given you instead of whipping yourself to pieces. As a pastor at the Dominican convent in Oetenbach in Zurich, he then tried to talk Elsbeth von Oye out of using her self-made pin whip.

There were also such painful movements among laypeople. The flagellants were Geissler platoons that spread epidemically across Europe, especially in the middle of the 14th century. They were an expression of late medieval popular piety at a time when the Pope could no longer be distinguished from a king with his secular demeanor. The Hundred Years War raged, and various tremors, bad harvests and famines darkened the world - and as if that weren't bad enough, the plague broke out around 1340.

Procession of the flagellants, painted by Francisco de Goya (ca.1812). Picture: wikimedia

The flagellants passed through this apocalyptic mood and lashed each other bloodily. With torches, their heads hidden in dark hoods, they each entered the cities in two rows.

The torment was sought in all possible ways. The pain should enable an intense experience of God - the suffering of the Passion of Christ was considered the royal road to salvation. The idea of ​​bearing pain and the associated reward runs like a red thread through the whole of Western history: starting with the woman who has to give birth to her child in pain due to Eve's fall, to the centuries of chastisement of children to Nietzsche's saying “What doesn't kill me makes me stronger”. The pain gets a meaning - and a spiritual one.

"The cross has traumatized the western world, tied psychological experience so deeply to itself that the pain can still be interpreted religiously in secular times."

Christoph Daxelmüller, cultural scientist

At the same time, the pain should fulfill the function of killing drives. Unfortunately, the same regions of the brain are active when feeling pain as when experiencing pleasure. Neuropsychologically, pleasure and pain belong together. Every experience is always shaped by both.

The ascetic self-torture cannot serve to suppress sexual feelings; on the contrary, it leads at most to pleasure pain, to various forms of sadomasochism. The monk who tries to tame his penis with red-hot iron, the convent pupil who is scourged by her master, the supposed witch who is burned in front of the cheering mob.

Punishing the body in order to kill off lust: Already in the Talmud, pullution / ejaculation is warned during scourging. Photo: tumblr / demonagerie

These are all forms of crypto-sexual violence - self-imposed or involuntarily inflicted on others. And some of them are hard to beat in terms of cruelty:

In the 12th century the abbot Ailred von Reversby reported about a pregnant nun in Wattun monastery. The scandal was not to be made public, so the nuns discussed what to do with the sexually apostate. Some wanted to flay them, burn them or lay them on hot coals, while the gentler ones suggested that they be tied up - with bread and water - to be thrown into dungeon. The prisoner pleaded for her release, the monk she had fallen in love with wanted to come and fetch her.

The nuns elicited the agreed meeting point from her, where a veiled father and other brothers were waiting for him with clubs. When the monk came and tried to hug the figure, he was grabbed. The nuns forced their pregnant co-sister to emasculate the monk. Then they stuffed his bloody genitals into her mouth and dragged them both to the dungeon.

In the Brigittenkloster in Stralsund and in the Mariakron monastery, whole children's bodies were found buried in the secret chambers when they were demolished.

A monk seduces a nun, she becomes pregnant and throws her baby in the toilet. Depiction from the year 1327. Image: pastisaforeigncountry

In 1975, 796 baby skeletons were found in the small town of Tuam in western Ireland. But no one investigated - until the historian Catherine Corless took on the case.

The bones of the dead small children lay in a mass grave on the site of a former “mother and child” home for “fallen girls”. Single mothers or women who were still unmarried at the age of 30 and were therefore considered a danger to married men. The home was run by nuns from the Catholic Sisters of Bon Secours. They considered the children to be "the offspring of Satan" and accordingly received little care. A third of the children in Tuam died in the first year of life, on average one child died every two weeks - a statistic that belongs to the 17th century. In fact, they died between 1925 and 1961.

The required and mostly unattainable moral-ascetic attitude naturally did not always lead to such unspeakable bestialities. For centuries, the monasteries were also the driving force behind culture, medicine, philosophy and literature. One could consider this in the Freudian sense as a gigantic defensive performance of the human psyche. Carnal lust was profitably converted into accepted action.

But one has to go to great lengths to overlook the carnal wishes in the writings of the nuns and monks, especially those of the mystics. They were looking for transcendent experiences, longing for merging with the divine, which was also always experienced very physically.

"You have to read the fervent hymns of the monks to Mary and the even more fervent hymns by nuns to Jesus to understand this in its full depth."

Hans Hartmann, theologian

The mystic Mechthild von Magdeburg expressed her fiery love for Jesus very poetically. Picture: pinterest

Mechthild von Magdeburg (1207–1282) also felt the mystical marriage of her soul to Jesus "in all her limbs". "Oh Lord, you are sparing my dungeon too much!" She cries desperately. Teresa of Ávilas (1515–1582) heart was pierced by a golden arrow with a flickering point of fire, he pushed into it several times, penetrated into the bowels. And always with such experiences "pain and pronounced sweetness" are felt.

Some write of love lances and thrusting swords, others write that their "desire and lust lies in suckling" the baby Jesus. As a sign of her engagement to Jesus, St. Catherine of Siena wears his foreskin invisibly on her finger.

Saint Catherine of Siena resists the demons, approx. 1500. image: howlingpixel

Finally, the numerous nuns who are supposedly possessed by demons (Incubi) should not go unmentioned. In the 16th century, the Dutch doctor Johann Weyer, a fighter against the witch hunt, investigated such a case in the Nazareth monastery in Cologne. The nuns suffered from erotic convulsions, lay on their backs with closed eyes and performed coitus movements. One suffered from the idea of ​​being secretly visited by her lover - and soon infected the whole monastery with the mysterious spasms. They started after a couple of boys actually snuck into the monastery at night.

No wonder the world needed a Sigmund Freud afterwards. And no wonder, too, that behind every disorder, behind every neurosis, he sensed the repressed sex drive as the cause.

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