Let’s not argue continence or bishops. Bishops have historically been celibate. Priests have not.
Married priests have been with the Church from the beginning, even if the continence requirement has varied over the centuries. In fact, the Latin church is the anomaly, not the norm. Reading into Scripture what we want to see regarding this question does not help either. Celibacy is exalted, but there were married priests. There is no problem with that fact and should make no one uncomfortable.
I like celibacy. I would like to see it kept even though I would not object to having the question re-examined for the Latin church. But that does not necessitate us to find anything to contradict the fact that married priests, for the first centuries of the Church were a normal thing, that does not need scandalize us.
The reality is that priestly continence is an Apostolic Norm. From the beginning, continence was required for priest and bishop – for Early Church Tradition the most important studies are: Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy, by Fr. Christian Cochini, S.J.(Ignatius, San Francisco, 1990); The Case for Clerical Celibacy, by Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler (Ignatius, San Francisco, 1995); Celibacy in the Early Church, by Fr. Stefan Heid, (Ignatius, San Francisco, 2000).
There is no question that Priestly continence was the norm from the beginning and there were no legitimate exceptions.
Here is more testimony to the truth:
Fr. George William Rutler, in an article entitled* A Consistent theology of clerical celibacy *(Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Feb. 1989), notes that “Virginity and celibacy were not synonymous in the original ecclesiastical institution of celibacy. Those clerics whose marriages were recognized by the Church, and they were many, were expected to abstain from conjugal union after ordination. The new archeology shows that this was the case for all the Eastern Churches in the earliest centuries, and in a mitigated form later. In the Latin Church this was the clear rule throughout the first millenium, culminating in the laws of the Gregorian reform, especially as found in the First Lateran Council of 1123, and the Second Lateran Council of 1139…The discipline of the Second Lateran Council explicitly forbidding marriage after ordination was not an innovation in the observance of continence. Its prohibition of clerical marriage was only a regulation ensuring that the apostolic norm of abstinence would be better observed.”
While not a doctrine, an Apostolic “norm” means rules, including commands and prohibitions; “rule” means a prescribed guide for conduct; “prescribe” means issue commands or orders for; tradition means an inherited pattern of thought and action; custom means habitual practice of longstanding; practice means a customary way of acting; requirement means indispensable – the celibacy required for priests from the apostles was mandatory, and obligatory.
Priestly Celibacy and Its Roots in Christ … Interview with Fr McGovern
National Catholic REGISTER, May 19-25, 2002
“Recent scholarship on the history of celibacy in both the Easter and Western Church has shown that there is a considerable body of evidence in favour of the argument that priestly celibacy is of apostolic origin, based on Christ’s invitation to the Twelve to leave all things and follow him (cf. Mt 19:29). Indeed, John Paul II points out in his 1979 Holy Thursday *Letter to Priests *that celibacy is so closely linked to the language of the Gospel that it refers back to the teaching of Christ and to apostolic tradition.”