When did the Church Really put the Brakes on Married Priest?


When did the Church Really put the Brakes on Married Priest? I have read it was as late as the 1540’s - 1550’s


It varied a lot by region and Rite. In the Latin Rite celibacy was always preferred, but Bishops in many areas gave dispensations to allow married Priests very freely. Switzerland was an area with a largely married Priesthood. In general I think the turn towards enforcing celibacy started gaining steam around 1100-1200.

In the East, a married parish Priesthood was always the norm, still is, with celebacy for Monastics and Bishops.

God Bless


It has been the norm from the beginning. with various early councils codifying it in different countries/regions.

For example:

In Spaint the with the Council of Evira ( 295), in France with the Council of Ancyra i(314), and Italy (including Rome itself) with the Council of Trullo (692).

St. Jerome writes (AD 393 ): “The apostles have either been virgins or, though married, have lived celibate lives. Those persons who are chosen to be bishops, priests, and deacons are either virgins or widowers; or at least when once they have received the priesthood, are vowed to perpetual chastity.”

It was later reaffirmed in many councils that came after.


The First Lateran Council (1123 AD) imposed universal celibacy for all Latin-rite clergy, and has been in practice ever since.


But even with the Latin-Rite calling for celibacy of their priest in the 1100’s, the vow of priestly celibacy was not codified until the late 1400’s or early 1500’s. Seems like the current celibacy vows for our priest have only been around for 500yrs or so.


The issue was taken up at the Ecumenical Council of Nicea (325) and rejected as a mandate.

Trullo, so we are told was not accepted by the Latin church, or is just on this issue?

St. Jerome writes (AD 393 ): “The apostles have either been virgins or, though married, have lived celibate lives. Those persons who are chosen to be bishops, priests, and deacons are either virgins or widowers; or at least when once they have received the priesthood, are vowed to perpetual chastity.”

It was later reaffirmed in many councils that came after.

Unfortunately St. Jerome was not above finding alternative theories when tradition didn’t sit well with this own ideas (I praise marriage, but it is because they give me virgins. (Jerome’s Letter XXII to Eustochium, section 20 on-line)).

Case in point, the explanation of Christ’s brothers as cousins: the unanimous traditions were that they were step brothers, but that didn’t fit Jerome’s ideas on celibacy and the Holy Family.

In this case, tradition preserve’s St. Peter’s words to his wife before his martyrdom (they’re quoted in Eusebius, History of the Church). And St. Paul mentions the Apostles bringing their wives along, including St. Peter. But again, this wouldn’t sit well with St. Jerome’s ideas. And since there is reference to children of the Apostles, including St. Peter’s, Jerome is going to have to cite some authority on this.


[LEFT]From Roman MT. Cholij’s “[/FONT]Priestly celibacy in patristics and in the history of the Church” (January 1, 1993):
[INDENT]Lateran II, c. 7, reiterating the declaration of the Council of Pisa *(1135), *also declared marriages contracted subsequent to ordination to be not only prohibited, but non-existent (… *matrimonium non esse censemus). *At times, this Council is wrongly interpreted as having introduced for the first time the general law of celibacy, with only unmarried men being admitted to the priesthood . . .

. . .

**In the third and final period of the Council of Trent **(1562-3), and despite considerable pressures, all suggestions that the Catholic Church should modify and mitigate its rules of celibacy were rejected . . . The Council, in Session XXIII, also voted in favour of founding seminaries to prepare candidates from their youth for the celibate life. **The discipline of continence by this time had meant in practice that only an unmarried man would be ordained. . .

(Emphasis Added)
** [/INDENT]


The discipline and sacrifice of celibacy for our Lord and his Church are well grounded, the fact remains there is:

  1. Plenty of historical precedence in the Church for married Priests.

  2. That Jesus’ first sacrament and gift to us after the Resurrection was “Ordaining” married and single men on Pentecost.


Celibacy of the Clergy

…In the history of clerical celibacy conciliar legislation marks the second period during which the law took definite shape both in the East and in the West. The earliest enactment on the subject is that of the Spanish Council of Elvira (between 295 and 302) in canon xxxiii. It imposes celibacy upon the three higher orders of the clergy, bishops, priests, and deacons. If they continue to live with their wives and beget children after their ordination they are to be deposed.


But what is the point of debating this? Yes, there have historically been married priests in the Latin rite. There has also historically been many celibates in the orders of the priesthood. Ordaining married men was (and is) valid and pastoral. Requiring candidates for priesthood is the current discipline. The discipline has been reviewed frequently and the opinion of those in charge is that it is the better path at this time. We are free to disagree about the **discipline **but there is nothing wrong or undesireable about a celibate priesthood. You don’t have to go to Scripture or Tradition to argue against a discipline. You are welcome to your opinion but it is the opinion of the Pope that wins.


I hope you are not saying the married Priest would be inferior to celibate Priest.

As well Benedict did not make the ruling on celibacy he is simply carrying it forward at this time. Anything he is likely to change will with the great analytical and theological skills the Holy Spirit has given him.


Where did you infer that from? :eek:

I said nothing of the sort. I said, that in the judgement of the leaders of the Church, celibacy as the rule for priests has been deemed a better path for the Latin Rite at this time.


Ok, so even though you say the leaders deem celibacy a better path…hmmmm, I think I get your drift:confused: but we are splitting hairs at this point.

The bottom line is the Vatican could go back to married priests if and when the Holy Spirit guides them.


Did you ever see this article by Fr Ray Ryland, a married Catholic priest?

An Ancient Discipline
Unquestionably, sentiment in favor of optional celibacy for priests is growing, even among faithful Catholics. But there are two fundamental errors underlying this opinion, one historical, the other theological.

First, the historical error: People commonly believe that the Church mandated celibacy for her priests beginning in the fourth century or the twelfth century or somewhere in between. The fact is, priestly celibacy is an apostolic institution. 1 The connection of celibacy with priesthood was first revealed in Christ. We see that in its perfect embodiment, priesthood involves remaining free from all claims of marriage and parenthood. That freedom enabled God’s Son to be completely available for the working of the Father’s perfect will through Him (Cf. Jn 4:34).

When He called His successors, the apostles, “they left everything and followed him” (Lk 5:11). Later, Peter reminded Jesus, “We have left everything and followed you.” Then he asked, with typical candor, “What then will we have?” (Mt 19:27). Jesus replied, “There is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come” (Lk 19:29, emphasis added). Recall also that when Jesus taught the indissolubility of marriage, He also highly commended celibacy (Mt 19:12). And Paul himself strongly endorsed celibacy for more effective service to the Lord.

The disciplinary canons of the Council of Elvira in 305 are the Church’s earliest record regarding priestly celibacy. The council gave no explanation of its rulings, which were ancient and presumably well-known. Canon 33 forbade all married bishops, priests, and deacons from having sexual relations with their wives and begetting children. The council reminded the married clergy that they were bound by a vow of perpetual continence. Penalty for breaking that vow was deposition from the ministry. Commenting on this council, Pope Pius XI said that these canons, the “first written traces” of the “Law of Ecclesiastical Celibacy,” "presuppose a still earlier unwritten practice. " 2


Yes, the friends of Elvira (which might include Hosius who presided at Nicea) tried to slip its canon into Nicea. St. Paphnoutius of Egypt, and ascetic monk mangled by the persecusion (Constatine venerated his body as a living relic, as no one could believe he lived in it) objected, stating it was not a burden the Apostles had imposed, so why should their successors.


Not sure where Fr. Ryland is coming from saying “While advocates of a married priesthood will likely continue their efforts, they have neither history nor the contemporary Church on their side.”

Their is plenty of historical precedence for both married and celibate Roman Catholic Priest. If Jesus’ first sacrament and gift to us after the Resurrection was “Ordaining” married and single men on Pentecost and both were appropriate for 1500 yrs or so, it may be appropriate in the future if and when the Holy Spirit guides the Vatican.


Where’s he coming from? Probably from the angle that the priest is an icon of Christ and Christ was celibate.

Any prediction of what will happen in the future is just speculation, and the Pope has never given an indication that priestly celibacy will change.


I know plenty of very conservative and orthodox Clergy, Priest, Nuns, Brothers, etc. who believe we should go back to both married and celibate Priest, etc, the way the it was for the first 75% of church history. Fr. Ryland is untitled to his option and no one is saying your view of the status quo, celibate only, is heresy. Just ask any Jesuit Priest at your nearest Catholic University;) .

I am fine either way, I hope you have time to read the post above.


Fr Ryland is well informed about Church history, and he gives several citations to support his claim that celibacy is an apostolic tradition. In the 4th century, there were priests who were married, but they were forbidden to have conjugal relations with their wives.

Will the Church change her requirement for priestly celibacy? Only time will tell, but I don’t think so. If it does, I’m fine either way too.


This in light of Fr. Mary Francie’s announcement tonight, all the men and women who give their lives to God, with the discipline of celibacy deserve our prayers. He seems like such a good guy.

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