Married priests from the first centuries practiced celibacy








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March 8, 2010. Married or single priests from the early stages of Christianity practiced celibacy, according to a Vatican archaeologist.

During the first four centuries, married priests would renounce having intimate relationships with their wives, but they needed their the approval of their spouse.

Prof. Stefan Heid
Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology

“Abstinence wasn’t only for single priests, it was also for those who were married. Married priest who were from the time of the early Church until the Middle Ages, refrained from having relations with their wives. They were only able become priests if their wife agreed.”

Prof. Laurent Touze
Pontifical University of the Holy Cross

“During the time of the early Church all priests, deacons and bishops had to practice celibacy from the minute they were ordained.”

Then, towards the end of the IV century, Pope Siricius stressed the importance of celibacy in order to maintain continuity with the practice of earlier centuries.

The conference at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross made it clear that full continence of both single and married priests was a spontaneous imitation of Christ rather than a requirement.

Just as Jesus chose celibacy giving up a family in order to give himself to mankind, priests are called by God to imitate Jessus. In fact, the priest is able to better serve all people because he is more available.

Msgr. Angelo Amato
Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints

“Jesus was chaste, virgin, celibate and he defended it. His virginity distanced him from others, but it’s what made him able to show, compassion and forgiveness to others.”

Prof. Laurent Touze
Pontifical University of the Holy Cross

“Celibacy, as Christ demonstrated by giving himself on the cross is a precious gift. The priest is dedicated to the whole Church, especially those who entrusted him.”

Since celibacy has never been easy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, recalled the importance of carefully training priests so they live celibacy meaningfully with joy.

Just in case you didn’t know. The thing to remember is that celibacy for priests is a Latin Rite discipline based on the example given by Jesus and Paul. If I recall, many of the other apostles, such as Peter, were married. But as the Rome Reports points out, these early, married priest could only become such servants with their wife’s consent. This is consistent with Saint Paul’s exhortation on the marital relationship and celibacy in Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 7.

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