There is breaking news coming out of Boston:
A Harvard professor has identified what appears to be a scrap of fourth century Egyptian papyrus that contains the first known explicit reference to Jesus as married, a discovery that could fuel the millennia-old debate about priestly celibacy in the Catholic church.
Of course, journalistic pot-stirring aside, this discovery will actually generate no controversy and will likely go entirely unnoticed in the debate about priestly celibacy. Why? It’s not because the document is already facing serious scholarly doubts about its authenticity. It’s also not because even the professor in question admits that the content of the papyrus in no way constitutes evidence that Jesus was actually married. This discovery, even if it is authentic, will mean absolutely nothing to the question of clerical celibacy because it isn’t news to the Catholics. They, like everyone else remotely versed in the issues, already knows that numerous late antique heterodox sects believed that Jesus was married. They, probably rightly, lump them in with the people who thought Christ was a phantom and the people who thought, as a boy, he turned clay into pigeons.
If the Catholic Church can find a way to cope with the fact that Peter, ostensibly the first pope, was married, they can certainly ignore the fact that some fourth century fringe groups speculated that Jesus was too. And they will ignore it. And so should you.