Celibacy in the Early Church

Have people read this book, or any of the other books on celibacy put forward by Ignatius Press?

Also I found this on an SSPX page.

The Eastern Tradition

At this point we can anticipate the objection of certain Catholics who would be quick to cite the example of the Eastern Church, where there are married priests and deacons, not only in the schismatic Orthodox Church, but also in the Eastern Rites of the [Catholic] Church. But the fact is, the Council of Nicea established a universal law that applied, and still applies, to the Eastern Church as well as to that of the West; moreover, in that Council, it was the Greeks who made up the overwhelming majority. Even earlier, the Council of Neo-Caesarea (314 AD) had reminded all clerics of major orders in the East of the inviolability of this law under pain of deposition. In 405 AD, St. Jerome wrote against Vigilantius:

What do the churches of Egypt and the Orient do? They choose clerics who are virgins or continent; and if they have a wife, they cease to be husbands.

St. Jerome states a well-known fact: a married man was not ordained unless the two spouses had mutually consented to a life of perpetual continence.

The Eastern Church began at a late date inexorably to violate the sacrosanct law that their fathers had inculcated. This began with the Quinisext Council of 692.1 This marked one of the ways by which she became schismatic, because the popes refused to endorse the conclusions of the Council in the matter of celibacy. As for the popes who would grant a dispensation to the Orientals remaining Catholic, this was, ad duritiam cordis, because of the hardness of their hearts —in order to keep these clerics from becoming wholly schismatic.

On this subject St. Peter Damian (1007-1072) wrote:

No one can be ignorant of the fact that all the Fathers of the Catholic Church unanimously imposed the inviolable rule of continence on clerics in major orders. The Body of the Lord in the sacrament of the altar is the same as the one carried by the immaculate hands of the Virgin at Bethlehem. To be able to touch It, it is necessary to have pure hands, sanctified by perfect continence.

Nowadays in the Catholic Church we see deacons who step from the conjugal bed to the sanctuary.

Are these claims true? How well is the scholarship? Did the Eastern Church in fact break against a longstanding tradition? I simply do not have the resources to defend against some Romans who present this literature as showing that Continence in marriage and celibacy are encouraged.

It would be nice if they would cite which of the Canon’s of Nicea established unmarried priests as “law”. I can’t see it. :wink:

Its from an SSPX website, that alone should be a red flag that they have a pre-determined view of how clerical celibacy was viewed in the early church and that they are not interested in providing legitimate scholarship on the issue. Rather they just want to promote their ultra-montanist view of church history where latin praxis is universal and easterners are just exceptions to the rule.

Actually I think I found the canon they are refering to.

Bishops, Priests, and Deacons are forbidden, under Canon 3, from living with any woman, unless a mother, sister, or aunt, or a person above suspicion.

The purpose of this canon is to avoid scandal, it does not mention marital status. One would assume a wife is above suspicion. It’s reading too much into things.

I am told it is the tradition of the early church for her clerics to remain continent after marriage, and that this is the patristic norm and the eastern church deviated from it. The argument he used is some things don’t go well together. Such as Drinking and Driving. Drinking by itself can be good and driving transports people. But together it can be bad. By this, Sex in marriage is good, but when a man is ordained, sex for the couple is bad.

The idea of continence is to draw the persons in a marriage toward God and away from Earthly cares according to Chrysostom. Sex in of itself is not bad, but it does ground a person in this world. Whether by procreating more children and increasing his duties as a father or otherwise. But we should also not look at sex as a bad thing unless it preoccupies a person’s life, or becomes the core of how the couple expresses themselves. This leaves little room for Christ and spiritual ascent. The degree to which sex unites the couple will vary from couple to couple. On the one hand I think if the injunction is to lift up the couple that is good, but I think unless you have a very rare couple, it will be hard to completely abstain from sex without causing some disarray in the relationship.

Chrysostom especially praises couples who commit to live in continence, but it is always from their hearts. The church affirms abstaining from sex for both parishoners and clerics before the reception/consecration of the holy mysteries and during the great fast periods of the church, to focus on Christ. But I don’t see how perpetual continence would be to the edification of the couple unless they were both disposed to it already in their hearts. Whether because they are older and have since stopped having intercourse, or because they both have found they can express their love, their physical tenderness without sex. It’s vexing, since I see good in this injunction, but I feel somehow the injunction misses a point. But this person points to the Church Fathers and it being apostolic tradition and normally that’s something as a Byzantine I find myself always appealing to.

I was also pointed out this document by Pope Siricius
Help… =/

It is sin that makes a person impure, not conjugal love. Nor is celibacy a guarantee of sinlessness.

I remember this got mentioned in the Traditional Catholicism section of the forums a while ago. Ultimately, the issue is that nowhere in the Council of Nicaea is there any such canon. SSPX completely fabricated that claim. Besides, if the Church says that married men being ordained, and having conjugal relations, is alright, then who are we to disagree? SSPX and their supporters may put forth all the arguments they want, but what the Church says is what goes.

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