When did celibacy start being a requirement for priests?

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  1. Robie Benve profile image96
    Robie Benveposted 8 years ago

    When did celibacy start being a requirement for priests?

    As Catholic, celibacy for priests has always been a given to me, but I started to wonder: why?  I don't remember Jesus saying anything to Peter about being celibate. Was he? When did it all start and who decided it was going to be a requirement for Holy Orders?
    The question does not want to be controversial, I am just curious about when did priests begin to be celibate?

  2. Attikos profile image75
    Attikosposted 8 years ago

    Peter was married, according to the Gospels. His mother in law is mentioned more than once. Paul hints that most of the Apostles were. There is no early tradition of celibacy among priests of the church, though it had become at least not unusual by the time of the Nicean Councils.

    It was not a fast rule until 530, when the Byzantine Emperor Justinian outlawed it, annulled all existing priestly marriages, and declared the children of those marriages to be illegitimate. His purpose was to stop the by then common and corrupt practice of priests and especially bishops taking possession of and title to church property and leaving it their wives and offspring. The moral justification used to defend celibacy since that time, which is to say that a priest must be married solely to the church, was a later invention, not an original motive.

    1. Robie Benve profile image96
      Robie Benveposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      I was pretty sure it must have gone somehow like that. Thanks a lot for your answer. smile

    2. willrodgers profile image60
      willrodgersposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      good answer

  3. wingedcentaur profile image66
    wingedcentaurposted 8 years ago

    Hi, Robie Benve! How's it going?

    A historian, Christopher Tyerman, published a book: "God's War: A New History of the Crusades." I believe it is page 6; anyway, he talks about an eleventh century reform program put on by the Catholic leadership. It was a moral and educational reform program.

    One of the features of this program was, for the first time, the official institutionalization of priestly celibacy. Tyerman explains that the reason for this was that the Catholic leadership wanted to cut off the possibility of Church property being inheritable by the illegitimate children of the priests.

    1. Robie Benve profile image96
      Robie Benveposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      Sounds like an interesting book, thanks for your answer. smile

  4. willrodgers profile image60
    willrodgersposted 8 years ago

    I believe it was in the 4th century [Council of Carthage], but my comical side says it was after they established convents.  I am   sure St Augustine had a lot to do with it since he  squandered his  youth whoring and drinking. Many if not all the Apostles were married. Originally the "Church" just asked the elder priests to abstain from sex, they were too old anyway.  Gradually it became the idea that a man could not serve two masters, God and his sexual desires.  In any event it is a man made law and there is no scriptural base for this practice.

    1. Robie Benve profile image96
      Robie Benveposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      I thought it probably was a man made law, thanks for your answer. smile

    2. manatita44 profile image82
      manatita44posted 8 years agoin reply to this

      Be discriminatory, Robbie.
      I have practised meditation and celibacy for many years. Purity is crucial to attract the Higher forces. The body is mystical and will not sustain the Higher Light while engaging in a sensuous life. Be slow and steady.

  5. Edward J. Palumbo profile image85
    Edward J. Palumboposted 8 years ago

    If memory serves, the Council of Elvira in the year 306 AD was the first to declare that priests who fathered children were to be removed as clerics, but the Council of Nicea (325 AD), the matter was stressed in the context that the priest should be "married" to the Church and not concerned or constrained by priorities as a husband and father. I can find no Biblical support for this (the apostles Peter and Paul were married), and Protestant ministers can be married. I consider it more effective in ministry to address marital counseling as a married man.

    1. Edward J. Palumbo profile image85
      Edward J. Palumboposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      Paul studied "at the feet of Gamaliel", a doctor of Mosaic Law. He would not have been accepted for study UNLESS he was married. The Pharisees taught that a man unmarried by age 20 was half a man. Paul was a widow or his wife left at his conversion.

  6. manatita44 profile image82
    manatita44posted 8 years ago

    I don't know Robbie.

    Both the Christ and Paul allude to this. Both seemed to have practised celibacy and I have to believe that it was also practised before them. The Christ was said to be from a sect called the Essenes, and they did practice this.

    The Eastern Yogi's say that the seminal fluid is changed into a vital force called Mehda, which is necessary for developing psychic powers and for becoming more receptive to the Higher Light. I have read many of the Christian saints and they all speak of the necessity of purity. Indeed its also in other Orders and found among Eastern Saints.

    I have written an entire chapter in my book on this and I can send it to you or you can obtain this on amazon. The title is My Guru, Sri Chinmoy: Life And Teachings by Manatita. It's in Chapter 13. Much peace.

    1. Edward J. Palumbo profile image85
      Edward J. Palumboposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      Paul, a well educated man, actually had a trade as a tentmaker and he was married, but his marriage took a lower priority to his ministry.

    2. manatita44 profile image82
      manatita44posted 8 years agoin reply to this

      Edward, Sri Ramakrisha was married and so was the Buddha, Sri Krishna,  Ananda Mai Ma and others. We know that St. Augustine and Francis both lived early questionable lives. Purity is really a very different cup of tea, whether in marriage or single.

    3. Attikos profile image75
      Attikosposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      I am unaware of any evidence Paul was married. Could you cite it, please?

      The term "tentmaker," by the way, probably means "leatherworker." Tents would have been a large part of that trade, but not all of it.

    4. Edward J. Palumbo profile image85
      Edward J. Palumboposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      In 1 Corinthians 7:8, Paul identifies himself as "agamos", ("unmarried" in Greek). "Agamos" is also used to describe a widower who was married but is no longer. As a Pharisee, it would have been culturally unusual for Paul to have remained unmarried.

    5. Attikos profile image75
      Attikosposted 8 years agoin reply to this

      It would have been equally unusual for Jesus to have remained a bachelor, but there is no reason other than that, and one or two questionable apocryphal statements, that he did. For Paul any indication of marriage is hopelessly weak, it seems to me.

  7. profile image61
    ElleBeeposted 8 years ago

    I am not 100% sure on this one.  I do know that in modern times celibacy is common practice for priesthood but not necessarily a requirement (of course if they take vows of celibacy they are required to honor them, but this is why priests can be married in Eastern Catholic Churches and why Lutheran and Anglican ministers who convert can be ordained in the Catholic Church even if they have wives/families already).

    One of my uncles (who studied in seminary) told me that it became common practice when Mass began being celebrated daily.  It was traditional for the priest to abstain from sex the evening before saying Mass.  When Mass began to be celebrated daily this presented a conflict between the priestly and marital vocations. 

    Like I said, not sure if this is right but it was something I heard.


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