Phipps' study gives a comprehensive, historically-based account of the commitment of the Roman Catholic Church to a celibate priesthood. His position is, he states, 'conservative, not radical. Mandatory celibacy is relatively new-fangled, having appeared during the last half of the church's existence. The innovation was imposed in the feudal and crusading era, a dark period for the Church.' Phipps' understanding comes from probing ancient religious texts, from the careful study of church history, and by finding studies that provide factual assessments of the general individual and cultural consequences of celibacy. He avoids unrepresentative journalistic anecdote and provides balance, by allowing celibate advocates and church representatives to speak for themselves. The book is distinguished by its application of a modern methodology to biblical texts in examination of the biblical justifications for celibacy.
William Phipps is Professor Emeritus of Religion and Philosophy at Davis and Elkins College. His numerous books on sexual themes in biblical and church history include Genesis and Gender, Was Jesus Married? and Influential Theologians on Wo/Man. He lives in Richmond, Virginia.