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Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality and the Catholic Church Paperback – October 1, 1991


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (October 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140165002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140165005
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,181,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A bestseller in Europe, this erudite, impassioned attack on the Catholic Church's hostility toward sexual pleasure, women and the body is sure to spark controversy. German Catholic theologian Ranke-Heinemann argues that the historic Jesus opposed biases against women and evinced a positive attitude toward marriage but celibate theologians misinterpreted his message as a call to renounce marriage. Theology became the business of bachelors; sex was equated with sin. Excoriating the Church Fathers for their contemptuous attitude toward women, the author reviews the Church's positions on infanticide and abortion (often said to be the same), its revulsion for homosexuality and its "embittered struggle" against contraception. The Virgin Birth, she contends, is a New Testament metaphor, not a historical event. For expressing this opinion, she lost her ecclesiastical license to teach at a German university in 1987. Her scholarly polemic in Heinegg's flowing translation is crammed with absorbing sexual and religious lore.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This broadside against the Catholic church's approach to sexuality portrays it as misogynistic, guilt-inducing, and joyless. The author accuses the church of ignoring Jesus' loving attitude toward women and the healthy sexuality of Judaism, adopting instead the jaundiced attitude of Gnosticism and Stoicism. She has almost nothing favorable to say concerning scores of theologians and church lead ers: Augustine, whom Ranke-Heinemann believes was mentally ill, and Aquinas are discussed in especially unfavorable terms. The author was ousted from the Catholic theology chair at the University of Essen in Germany because of her writings on Mariology, and this work is already a cause celebre in Europe. It's easy to see why. Interested laypeople will want to explore the controversy for themselves.
- Richard S. Watts, San Bernardino Cty . Lib., Cal.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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The book is heavily referenced.
pegasus74
"Catholic celibacy has pagan roots. The prescriptions of celibate purity derive from the Stone Age of religious consciousness."
Steven H. Propp
The audacity which with the writer lies about and distorts reality is really rather astonishing.
Marilyn F.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Brian Griffith on February 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a book of gloriously passionate and meticulous scholarship. Why, Ranke-Heinemann asks, did the church turn from forbidding priests the right to divorce their wives at the Council of Nicea (in 325), to requiring all priests to dump their families in 1074? Why did this demand arise in the Latin Church, and not in the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Coptic Church, or in Judaism?

Sometime around the year 1000, the Latin Church hierarchy shifted from trying to end sex in clerical families, to a goal of ending the families period. The question of how to do this was both practical and moral. Because speaking directly on the issue of divorce, Jesus said that if a man and woman really loved each other unconditionally, they would never find reason to end their relationship. Taking these words legalistically, the Western Church had long taught that the only moral justification for divorce was adultery. And if that was their doctrine, how could the clergy justify divorcing their mainly loyal wives en masse?

When Christianity became Rome's official religion, most clergymen still believed that having wives was a good thing, and marriage helped prepare a man for religious leadership. As the Jews expected their rabbis to be married, so most Christians expected the same of their priests. If a priest was not married, most adults in the community would assume there was something wrong with him. A bachelor priest seemed immature. Marriage was a school of life, and if a man had not learned its lessons, how could he teach those who had?

Ranke-Heinemann traces the movement for enforced celibacy through an ecclesiastical struggle lasting over 700 years. Her presentation of the arguments pro and con is so revealing, that these chapters alone are well worth the price of the book.
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42 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Dr. John Switzer on March 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book was a revelation for me. It opened up avenues for research and exploration that I was not yet ready to open on my own.
Did you ever have an intuition that everything was not as simple and rosey as some would have you believe? Did you ever think that there was more to the story than was being revealed? If so, then this book is an excellent resource for you for topics such as misogyny, celibacy, sexuality, family planning and morality.
I am a Roman Catholic and a religious educator, but far from finding the book to be shocking or full of "dirty words," I found it to be an insightful challenge to the church to return again to the central teaching of Jesus and to turn away from its obsession with genitalia and what people do with them. There is more to faith than that. And only by embracing the truth of our past can we grow beyond it.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
What they made of Uta Ranke-Heinemann in the faculty of theology at Heidelberg doesn't bear thinking about. But I would point out to Cardinal O'Connor that the only "dirty words" in this book issue from the mouths and pens of Catholic clerics. If anything I would say that the author is too restrained. She is, after all, recording more than nineteen hundred years of the most maddeningly-illogical, puerile, foul-mouthed, dyspeptic and vicious misogyny being perpetrated in the name of the "universal church". That her anger seeps through so rarely is a great testimony to her control. The facts, as she clearly sees, speak for themselves.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 9, 1998
Format: Paperback
This scholarly but accessible book details the way in which a deep mistrust of pleasure, and therefore women, came to be a defining characteristic of the Christian church. Focusing particularly on Roman Catholicism, Ranke-Heinemann shows that marginalization of women and sexual repression are not inherent in Catholic belief, but have taken center stage over centuries of interpretation by celibate men.

Cardinal O'Connor argues that this book is like "scrawling dirty words about the church". As a long-lapsed Catholic girl, I disagree. This view of a forgiving, inclusive church is the only thing that could ever get me to go back to Mass. Publicity like this is exactly what the church needs.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Steven H. Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on July 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
Uta Ranke-Heinemann (born 1927) is a German theologian and author, who holds the chair of History of Religion at the University of Duisburg-Essen. She was appointed the first female professor of Catholic Theology in Germany, but was removed from her chair because she taught that Mary's virgin birth should be interpreted symbolically. She has also written Putting Away Childish Things: The Virgin Birth, the Empty Tomb, and Other Fairy Tales You Dont't Need to Believe to Have a Living Faith.

Here are some representative quotations from the book:

"It is not true that Christianity brought self-control and asceticism to a pagan world that delighted in pleasure and the body. Rather, hostility to pleasure and the body are a legacy of Antiquity that has been singularly preserved to this day in Christianity." (Pg. 9)
"However significant Augustine's conversion may have been for theology, it was a disaster for married people." (Pg. 78)
"For Augustine hatred of pleasure was still more important than his emphasis on the procreative purpose of every conjugal act." (Pg. 97)
"Catholic celibacy has pagan roots. The prescriptions of celibate purity derive from the Stone Age of religious consciousness." (Pg. 99)
"Such absurdities are the result of a mistaken sexual morality that after almost two thousand years is still not ready to give up its usurped dominion over the bedrooms of married people." (Pg.
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