Monday 18th November 2019

Home » Our Catholic Faith » Currently Reading:

The Authority Of Bishops… Celibacy Among The Early Christians

January 6, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 7

I have heard from many a Catholic the idea that the early Church had no teaching on celibacy. It was supposedly a medieval imposition of the Latin Church upon the faithful. The early Christians, they say, took God’s commandment to “Be fruitful and multiply” seriously.
But such people fail to see the context, the hints in the Old Testament pointing to a future celibacy, the difference between commandment and counsel, the teachings of Jesus Himself and especially of St. Paul, who explicitly recommends celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The early Christians laid down their lives for Jesus Christ: They were martyred right, left, and center — crucified, burned alive, eaten by wild beasts, beheaded, flayed alive, starved to death, every kind of cruelty was done to them — and their faith was unshaken.
Their fidelity is to be both admired and imitated. Now, what did they believe about celibacy? I will quote only those writers who lived before the Council of Carthage (AD 397) when the canon of the New Testament as we know it today was definitely accepted by the Catholic Church, and all the other books then in wide circulation was considered as apocryphal. That makes the New Testament a distinctively Roman Catholic collection of books.
St. Jerome, who translated the whole Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, wrote: “The Virgin Christ and the Virgin Mary have dedicated in themselves the principle of virginity for both sexes. The apostles were either virgins or remained continent after their marriages. Those persons chosen to be bishops, presbyters or deacons, are either virgins or widowers; or certainly, having once received the priesthood, they remain forever chaste” (Letter to Pammachius, AD 392-393).
The bond of absolute celibacy was regarded by the fathers of the Church as a kind of spiritual marriage which weds the soul of Christ. Some of them consequently place any violation of chastity by a consecrated soul on a par with adultery.
For instance, St. John Chrysostom, one of the greatest Gospel preachers of all times, explaining that a priest who leaves the priesthood to get married commits adultery says:
“I do agree with you that marriage is legitimate. For it is written, ‘marriage is honorable, and the marriage-bed is undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge (Heb. 13:4).’ But it is no longer possible for you to preserve the legitimate conditions of marriage. For if a person who has been joined to the heavenly Bridegroom afterwards deserts Him and joins himself to a woman, the act is adultery even if you call it a myriad of times over; or rather, it is much worse than adultery as God is better than man.
“Do not be deceived by anyone’s saying, ‘God has not forbidden marriage.’ I know that as well as you. He has not forbidden marriage; but He has forbidden adultery, which is what you are contemplating” (To the fallen Theodore, a monk who wanted to become a lawyer and marry).
St. Epiphanius explains the Church teaching of celibacy for the priests who had been married:
“In point of fact a call to the holy priesthood of God, since the coming of Christ and because of the exceeding greatness of the honor of the priesthood, is not approved for those who, after a first marriage and their wife having died, enter upon a second marriage. And the holy Church of God has kept watch over this [discipline] unfailingly and strictly. But even one who is husband of one wife, if she is still living and still bearing children, is not approved; but after one marriage, if a husband keep continent or, if his wife has died, he remains a widower, he may be approved [for all degrees of the priesthood]” (Panacea Against all Heresies, AD 374-377).
Tertullian, in his The Demurrer Against the Heretics, written around the year 200, referring to the heresy of Mithraism, comments on the various forms of plagiarism of Catholic practices made by them, and writes: “What must we say to limiting his high priest to a single marriage? He too has his virgins, he too has his celibates.”
Celibacy was such a common practice among Christians that the heretics practiced it too, in order to appear to be like the Christians.
St. Justin Martyr lived in the second century and was the first great apologist, and a defender of the Christian faith against the paganism of Rome. He wrote: “Many men and women of sixty and seventy years of age have been inspired since childhood by the teaching of Christ to keep themselves intact” (Apologia I pro Christ. C.15; P.G. VI, 349).
St. Augustine, like St. Paul, was a great convert whose teachings inspired Christians for many centuries. He wrote: “Attend upon the Lamb, because, the Lamb’s flesh, too, is virgin flesh….You have good cause to attend upon him wherever He goes, by virginity of mind and body. What is attendance but another name for imitation? For Christ suffered for our sakes, and left you His own example, as the Apostle Peter says, ‘You were to follow in His footsteps’” (St. Augustine, De Sancta Virginitate, c. 22; P.L. XL, 407).
Not only individual scholars wrote in defense of celibacy, but also the Church councils maintained the same salutary discipline inspired by St. Paul. As early as the year 300, still during persecution times, the discipline of clerical celibacy was proclaimed by the Council of Elvira:
Canon 33: “It is determined that bishops, presbyters, and deacons, or all clerics stationed in the ministry, are to restrain themselves completely and are to keep themselves away from their wives and are not to beget children. Anyone who does beget children is to be expelled from the honor of the clerical state.”
It should be noted that there are no historical records about any revolt, complaint, protest, petitions, or sit-ins coming from marriage-minded clergy or laity against that council. Celibacy was already so common among the clergy that the Council of Elvira dealt with the remaining exceptions of married men being ordained to the priesthood.
Shortly thereafter, the Council of Neocaesarea, held between the years 314-325, determined that “if a presbyter has married a wife, let him be removed from the ranks. But if he has fornicated or committed adultery, let him be thrust out completely and let him subject himself to penance” (canon 1).

Followers Of Christ

The priest is called to follow in Christ’s footsteps in every aspect he is able to. The height of the Imitatio Christi involves living a life of virginity or celibacy: “If priests and religious, and all who are in any way consecrated to the service of God, observe perfect chastity, they do so because their Divine Master remained a virgin for the duration of his life on earth” (Pius XII, encyclical Sacra Virginitas).
But there are priests and bishops who do not respect their vows, being womanizers or homosexuals. The answer is simple: Abusus not tollit usum — the abuse does not destroy the use.
The discipline of priestly celibacy is part and parcel of the Christian understanding of the grandeur of the priest state, as demonstrated by Sacred Scripture, the faith of the early Christians and early councils. Among the Eastern Rite Catholics there are both celibate and married clergy, but bishops are never married, not even among the separated Orthodox Churches. But they constitute a very small minority compared to the Latin rite.
Next article: The hierarchy of orders in the Church.

+ + +

(Raymond de Souza, KM, is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. Website: www. RaymonddeSouza.com.)

Share Button

2019 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Twitter Feed

On Sunday December 1st I will celebrate the 35th anniversary of my ordination to the holy priesthood at the 11 AM Mass at Church of the Holy Family 315 E 47 Street (between 1st and 2nd Aves), NY, NY. A reception will follow in the church hall. You are cordially invited to attend

ENOUGH. I accept our stewardship of the earth, as a gift of the Lord, the divine artist and source of the gift. But "eco-side" is an insane example of removing the human person, God's greatest gift, from the plan of salvation.

Deacon Greg Kandra on Twitter

“Pope Francis called on the international community to recognize ecocide as a “crime against peace.” https://t.co/66yU2lqe1s via @De...

twitter.com

I encourage you to view this video & to grow in awareness of the threats to the Deposit of Faith, the treasure house of truth in Jesus Christ. Let us all work to Guard the Deposit of Faith........:Guarding the Deposit of Faith via @YouTube

Load More...

Pope compares politicians who persecute gays, Jews to Hitler

Pope Francis denounced the persecution of gay people on Friday and compared public officials who stoke hatred and anti-gay sentiment to Hitler. Francis delivered his remarks at an international conference on criminal law at the Vatican City, Reuters reported. “It is…Continue Reading

7-year-old whose mom tried to ‘transition’ him chooses to attend school as a boy

DALLAS, Texas, November 5, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Seven-year-old James Younger, whose mother enrolled him in kindergarten as a “girl,” has finally been able to attend school as a boy for the first time. James’ parents’ fight over whether he should…Continue Reading

Cardinal Dolan on Biden communion denial: ‘I wouldn’t do it’

Washington D.C., Oct 31, 2019 / 04:58 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York has responded to questions about the denial of Holy Communion to former Vice President Joe Biden last Sunday. On an Oct. 31…Continue Reading

Judge blocks Alabama law banning abortions, pro-lifers plan to appeal to Supreme Court

October 29, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Alabama’s ban on virtually all abortions will not take effect on November 15 as planned, thanks to a preliminary injunction issued Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson. In May, Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the Alabama…Continue Reading

Biden denied communion at South Carolina church over abortion stance, report says

Democratic front-runner Joe Biden was reportedly denied communion by a priest at a South Carolina Catholic church over the weekend. Biden, a lifelong Catholic, stopped by Saint Anthony Catholic Church in Florence on Sunday, but was denied Holy Communion by Father Robert E. Morey,…Continue Reading

Bishops call out Fr. James Martin for questioning if Bible is right to condemn homosexuality

October 24, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Fr. James Martin, S.J. is coming under fire from a U.S. bishop and a cardinal after a tweet appearing to question the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality. Yesterday afternoon, Fr. Martin posted the following to his…Continue Reading

Pope Francis appoints new head of Vatican security

Vatican City, Oct 15, 2019 / 04:39 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Tuesday appointed the second-in-command of Vatican security to head the City State’s national police force, after the resignation of the former chief Oct. 14. The pope named Oct. 15,…Continue Reading

Ecological ritual performed in Vatican gardens for pope’s tree planting ceremony

Vatican City, Oct 4, 2019 / 10:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis witnessed an indigenous performance at a tree planting ceremony in the Vatican gardens Friday, during which people held hands and bowed before carved images of pregnant women, one of…Continue Reading

Young man stuns courtroom by forgiving brother’s murderer, urging her to seek Christ

DALLAS, Texas, October 3, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — In an incredible display of human compassion, a young man whose brother was shot and killed forgave the cop who had been found guilty of his murder. Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger shot and…Continue Reading

Cardinal Ouellet defends priestly celibacy ahead of Amazon synod

Rome, Italy, Oct 2, 2019 / 11:35 am (CNA).- Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, presented a book Wednesday arguing that in the face of challenges, the Church should not grab at quick solutions, but seek to…Continue Reading

President Trump Defends Religious Freedom at UN, Announces Campaign to Protect Churches

President Donald Trump urged nations across the world to protect religious freedom Monday in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Trump, the first U.S. president to highlight religious freedom at the UN, said America will set aside $25…Continue Reading

Archbishop Harry Flynn dies at 86

Minneapolis, Minn., Sep 23, 2019 / 03:40 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Harry Flynn, a former leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, has died. Flynn died Sunday in the St. Paul rectory where he had spent his final days…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love

Cburke3

  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading

Catechism

Today . . .

Pope Francis proposes adding ‘ecological sin’ against ‘common home’ to catechism

VATICAN CITY, November 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis said today that he is thinking about adding the “‘ecological sin’ against our common home” to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “We have to introduce―we are thinking about it―to the Catechism of the Catholic Church the sin against ecology, the ‘ecological sin’ against our common home, because a duty is at stake,” Pope Francis told his hearers. The Argentinian pontiff made the remark in a…Continue Reading

Jury rules against Daleiden, pro-lifers who exposed Planned Parenthood’s sale of baby body parts

SAN FRANCISCO, California, November 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress undercover investigators have been found guilty of multiple crimes and must pay millions in damages to Planned Parenthood for the work they did in exposing organ harvesting on aborted babies. The jury of nine men and one woman released its verdict Friday afternoon after deliberating less than two days, even though the landmark civil trial

1 in 3 US bishops at fall meeting vote against calling abortion ‘pre-eminent’ issue

BALTIMORE, Maryland, November 12, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — American Catholic bishops showed today that the current pontificate has divided them on fighting abortion as a social justice priority, voting 143-69 to keep the issue “pre-eminent.” This morning during the Fall General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the bishops debated, and voted upon, a letter based on the USCCB’s document on political life, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizens.” At issue was the letter’s insistence…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: Pope would be leading a schism if he endorsed errors in Amazon Synod working doc

November 11, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the Church’s most outspoken defenders of perennial Catholic teaching, suggested that Pope Francis could be leading a “schism” if he were to put his “stamp” of approval on the Amazon Synod’s controversial working document that has been criticized by top-ranking prelates, including Burke, as constituting apostasy, heresy, and “false teaching”. The Cardinal made this comment in a wide-ranging interview with Ross Douthat that was published

">Bishop Strickland . . .

Advertisement3

News That Is Not News

By DONALD DeMARCO Back in 1973, when the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down, The New York Times editorialized that the Supreme Court had brought “an end to the emotional and divisive public argument.” In retrospect, this oracular statement appears not only completely wrong-headed, but actually somewhat comical. If anything, the divisiveness of the…Continue Reading

Bernie Leads His Party To Open Borders

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN Some 100 members of an American Mormon community in northern Mexico, nine of whom — women, children, toddlers — were massacred weeks ago on a lonely stretch of highway, just crossed over into Arizona. Other family members who have lived there for decades will follow. The atrocity was the work of…Continue Reading

U.S. Bishops’ Pro-Life Chair… Supports Dignity For Aborted Children Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. (ZENIT) — Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, sent a letter on October 31, 2019, to members of the U.S. Congress in support of S. 2590 and HR 4934, the Dignity for Aborted Children Act. In the letter, Archbishop Naumann cited the…Continue Reading

Cardinal Pell . . . Objected To Controversial Vatican Hospital Loan

By ED CONDON VATICAN CITY (CNA) — A 50 million euro loan request to secure the purchase of a bankrupt hospital was vetoed by George Pell Cardinal Pell and financial authorities at the Institute for Works of Religion, commonly called the Vatican Bank, before it was approved by the Holy See’s central bank, APSA, where…Continue Reading

Reverence: The Ultimate Form Of “Active Participation” In The Sacred Liturgy

By JAMES MONTI Over the decades since the Second Vatican Council, a lot has been said and debated concerning the concept of “active participation” in the Mass and how this should properly be defined. There has been a growing recognition and consensus that active participation is not about inventing external roles for everyone to play…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: In a recent weekly bulletin, Fr. George Rutler of the Church of St. Michael in New York City offered these perceptive comments: “ ‘Secularism’ is a religion with a non-creedal creed censuring those who do not believe in unbelief. Young people in the United States who claim to have ‘No Religion’ — called ‘Nones’ — now outnumber Catholics,…Continue Reading

">Guarding The Deposit Of The Faith

Bringing An Era To An End

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Thirty-Second Sunday In Ordinary Time (YR C) Readings: Mal. 3:19-20a 2 Thess. 3:7-12 Luke 21:5-19 In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells His listeners that the day would come when the Temple would be destroyed and not one stone would be left upon another. When the people asked what the sign would be to let…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Life Is Beautiful With Final Judgment In View

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The prospect of final judgment brings negative impressions, images, or emotions to mind for many. Sometimes it also does so for some who claim our Catholic faith. As a step along the way to spiritual maturity, we must often be purged of our childish or worldly impressions. With an authentic and deeper faith, the prospect…Continue Reading

God’s Plan… Embrace Glorious Chastity

By MOST REV. JOSEPH STRICKLAND (Editor’s Note: As Bishop Strickland has been traveling, he wasn’t able to submit a column for this week’s Wanderer. Instead, we reprint here, with permission, his reflections on chastity from his Bishop’s Blog of February 14, 2019.) + + + In the year 2019, we live in a world that’s off kilter. One of the…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Guido Maria Conforti

By CAROLE BRESLIN Many men and women who have established religious orders had to overcome various obstacles to obtain canonical approval. In addition to finding those persons with the same heart to serve God’s people, they must acquire housing, and find funding. These may be worldly concerns, but they are still important. Founders must also consider the statutes for their…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Joseph Pignatelli

By CAROLE BRESLIN Since the founding of the Society of Jesus in 1540 by St. Ignatius of Loyola up to the mid-eighteenth century, the order of priests and brothers had met with phenomenal success. But despite the high respect the Jesuits received from Popes, bishops, and kings, they eventually found themselves exiled and suppressed. The same bishop who started the…Continue Reading

Advertisement(2)