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The Early Church Fathers on the Clerical celibacy in the Priesthood.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. Pope St. Innocent I, (A.D. c.350-417)
    Pope St. Leo I, ( A.D. c.391-461)
Pope St. Innocent I, (A.D. c.350-417) was pope from (A.D. 401 to 417), he lost no opportunity in maintaining and extending the authority of the Roman See as the ultimate resort for the settlement of all disputes.

"As is becoming and chaste and praiseworthy, the Church should by every means hold, that priests and levites have no commerce with their wives, seeing that they are engaged in the necessary duties of the daily ministry. For it is written, Be holy, because I the Lord your God am holy. [Having quoted the example of the priests of the old law, he continues :] How much more, from the day of their ordination, ought those priests and levites to preserve chastity, whose priesthood or ministry is not by (carnal) succession, and over whom a day passes not, wherein they are not engaged either in the divine sacrifices, or in the duty of baptizing. For if Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Abstain for a time that you may give yourselves to prayer", and enjoin this in fact upon laymen, how much more ought priests,— whose office it perpetually is to pray and sacrifice,— to refrain from such connection."

Ep. ii. ad Victr. n. 12, Galland. t. viii. p. 549.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Page 480

Pope St. Leo I, ( A.D. c.391-461), also known as Leo the Great, bishop of Rome (A.D. 440 to 461); an Italian aristocrat, remembered theologically for issuing the Tome of Leo, a document which was foundational to the debates of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon.

"For whereas, to those who are set without the order of clerics, it is lawful to indulge in the propagation of children; yet, in order to show forth the purity of perfect continency, carnal connection is not allowed even to subdeacons, that they also who have (wives) be as if they had none (1 Corinthians 7:29). And they who have not (wives) let them remain single. But if it be fit that this be observed in this order, which is the fourth from the head, how much more in the first, or the second, or the third (order) is it to be observed, that no one be esteemed worthy of the Levitical, or priestly, honor, or of the episcopal excellency, who is discovered not to have as yet refrained himself from the pleasures of wedlock."

T. i. Ep. xiv. Ad Anastasium Thessalon. Episc. n. 4, pp. 687-8.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 225



The clerical celibacy in the Catholic priesthood is a discipline. Therefore may it be changed, based on the times and circumstances of current generations in accordance with what our present pope and bishops believe is best of the faithful.


In the Greek and Latin churches the discipline is not the same: but in both, the advice of St. Paul served to establish the principle of the expediency of clerical celibacy. With the Greeks, no one, after Holy Orders, is now allowed to marry; but they that already have wives, they may receive Holy Orders, except the bishop, who must always be a single man.

Again, clerical celibacy is a discipline, not a doctrine.


The Church's Scriptures that support Clerical Celibacy:


If possible, Paul recommends living the single life.

8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do.

1 Corinthians 7:8

Paul gives his advice to those who are single.

25 Now concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. 26 I think that in view of the present distress it is well for a person to remain as he is. 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. 28 But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a girl marries she does not sin. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that.

1 Corinthians 7:25-28

Paul recommends being true to your vocation, whether one is living a married life or single life.

32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; 33 but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

1 Corinthians 7:32-35

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