The Costa and Celibacy

Pope Emeritus Benedict and Cardinal Sarah have just released a book in defence of clerical celibacy, just as Pope Francis is pondering relaxing the discipline, one that goes back to the origins of the priesthood, contrary to Protestant and Modernist revisionism (after all, Christ was a celibate). The underlying, central issue is continence, or the use of one’s sexuality, whether within marriage or not. But let us not quibble, for it seems the underlying battle is over the very nature of the Church, the priesthood, the Eucharist, human sexuality and other mysteries, and that war is coming more out in the open; likely a good thing, if not necessarily a pleasant one. May the truth win out, as it will, in the end.

On this day in 2012, in the more moderate climes of the Mediterranean, the cruise ship Costa Concordia, doing a near-shore ‘salute’, ran aground on uncharted rocks, tilted precipitously, filled with water, and eventually sank. It was not quite the disaster of the Titanic, which occurred in April, providentially precisely a century prior in 1912, but the behaviour of those aboard, and especially the captain, could not have been more different. Francesco Schettino – who was on the bridge with his paramour, Domneca Cermortan, both of them married to other people – may have been distracted. Perhaps he would have done better to live celibacy while captaining.  With most of the passengers still aboard the listing ship, Schettino claimed he ‘fell’ into a lifeboat, and refused to return to the ship, all while being urged to do so in the most vigorous of terms by the coastguard, in a tirade that went viral. Thirty-two people died; the captain survived.

A century prior, in another era and culture, Edward John Smith, the captain of the Titanic, went down with his ship, along many of the crew and the men. It was women and children first to the limited number of lifeboats, and whatever else might float in the frigid waters.

Captain Schettino is serving sixteen years for manslaughter; Captain Smith has gone to his eternal reward, having done his duty to the end. We may decide who had the better fate.

The Taal volcano erupting in the Philippines is adding to the apocalyptic atmosphere of late – spewing more carbon into the atmosphere than every Humvee ever made by GM. She could blow, or just let off some, shall we say, steam. Volcanologists are about as good at predicting as seismologists, or climatologists, for that matter. Some systems are just too complex and capricious for the human mind, and there will always be mysteries beyond us.