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<<  The Catechism of the Catholic Church Today!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church Today on the Clerical celibacy in the Priesthood.


  • The Catechism Today
  • All the Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states on this issue:


1579 All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate "for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 19:12) Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to "the affairs of the Lord," (1 Corinthians 7:32) they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church's minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God. (cf. Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis 16)


1580 In the Eastern Churches a different discipline has been in force for many centuries: while bishops are chosen solely from among celibates, married men can be ordained as deacons and priests. This practice has long been considered legitimate; these priests exercise a fruitful ministry within their communities. (cf. Vatican II, Presbyterorum Ordinis 16) Moreover, priestly celibacy is held in great honor in the Eastern Churches and many priests have freely chosen it for the sake of the Kingdom of God. In the East as in the West a man who has already received the sacrament of Holy Orders can no longer marry.


In Brief


1599 In the Latin Church the sacrament of Holy Orders for the presbyterate is normally conferred only on candidates who are ready to embrace celibacy freely and who publicly manifest their intention of staying celibate for the love of God's kingdom and the service of men.


Again, note in Catechism, paragraph 1580 that clerical celibacy is a discipline, not a doctrine.




  1. Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253)
    St. Eusebius of Vercelli, (A.D. 283-371)
    St. Cyril of Jerusalem, (A.D. 315-386)
    St. Epiphanius of Salamis, (A.D. 332-403)
    Pope St. Siricius, (A.D. c.334-398)
    St. Ambrose of Milan, (A.D. 340-396)
    Pope St. Innocent I, (A.D. c.350-417)
    Pope St. Leo I, ( A.D. c.391-461)
Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253), Alexandrian; born in Egypt, philosopher, theologian, writer.

"It is certain that the unceasing sacrifice is impeded by those who serve the necessities of wedlock. Wherefore it appears to me, that it belongs to him alone to offer the unceasing sacrifice, who has devoted himself to an unceasing and perpetual chastity."

Hom, xxiii. in Numer. n. 3, p. 358.
Hom. vi. in Levit. n. 6, p. 218,
cf. Comment, in Matt. Tom. xiv. n. 22, p. 645.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 228

St. Eusebius of Vercelli, (A.D. 283-371), Sardinian; bishop.

"The Word says: It seems fit that a bishop be the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2). Besides, it seems proper that those who have been consecrated, and who are engaged in the ministry of God, restrain themselves for the future from all matrimonial commerce; whereas, all they who have not been found worthy of so high and sacred office, the Lord allows, and well-nigh proclaims to all, that marriage (is) honorable, and the bed undefiled, but fornicators and adulterers God judges."

Dem. Evang. L. i. c. ix. p. 33.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 228

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, (A.D. 315-386), Palestinian; ordained by Maximus, he was made bishop of Jerusalem in A.D. 345; scholar and Doctor of the Church. None of his writings have been preserved to us, except eighteen catechetical instructions addressed to catechumens, and five mystagogic discourses addressed to neophytes.

"For it behooved the purest, and the teacher of purity, to come forth from a pure bed-chamber; for if he, who fulfills well the office of a priest of Jesus, refrains himself from woman, how was Jesus Himself to be born of man and woman?"

Catech. xii. n. 25, p. 176.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 228

St. Epiphanius of Salamis, (A.D. 332-403), Palestinian; bishop, abbot, scholar.

"He (Christ) honors one wedlock, and in a special manner adorned, as a pattern, with the gifts of the priesthood, those who, after being once married, were continent or who had preserved their purity spotless ; even as His Apostles becomingly and holily established, as a law of the Church, for the priesthood"

T. i. Adv. Hæres. (48) p. 410
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 228-229

"Him that is living in wedlock and begetting children, even though the husband of one wife, the holy Church of God does not receive, as deacon, priest, or bishop, but him only who refrains from that one wife, or is a widower; and this especially where the canons of the Church are strictly observed."

Ib. Hæres. 59, p. 496.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 229

Pope St. Siricius, (A.D. c.334-398), an active Pope, involved in the administration of the Church and the handling of various factions and viewpoints within it; author of two decrees concerning clerical celibacy. The decree of A.D. 385 stated that priests should stop cohabiting with their wives.

"Let us now come to the most sacred orders of clerics, whom, from the intimation of your friendliness, we find so despised arid in such confusion, that we must say with the mouth of Jeremias, who will give water to my head, mid a fountain of tears to my eyes f and I will weep day and night for this people (ix. 1). ... For we have learnt that many priests and Levites, for a long period after their consecration, have begotten offspring, both from their own wives, and also from shameful connection ; and that they defend their crime on this plea, that in the Old Testament we read that liberty was granted to the priests and ministers to beget children. [Having replied to this he continues :] The Lord Jesus, when He had enlightened us by His coming, proclaims in the Gospel that He came not to destroy but to fulfill (Matthew 5.) And therefore would He have the Church, whose spouse He is, to shine with the splendor of chastity, that, in the day of judgment, when He shall come again, He may find it, as by His Apostle He instituted it, without spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5.) By the indissoluble law of which ordinances, all we priests and Levites are bound, that, from the day of our ordination, we yield up our hearts and bodies to sobriety and chastity, if we would, in all things, be pleasing to our God in those sacrifices which we daily offer. . . . And because some few of those concerning whom we are speaking, lament, as your holiness has reported, that they have fallen through ignorance, to such we say that mercy is not to be denied, on this condition, that, without any increase of honor, they continue, as long as they live, in that office in which their crime was detected, if so be, however, that they have since been careful to show themselves continent. Whereas, those who rest on the excuse of an unlawful privilege, so as to assert that this is allowed them by the old law, let them know that they are deposed, by the authority of the apostolic see, from every ecclesiastical honor, which they have unworthily used, and never can handle the venerable mysteries, of which they have deprived themselves, while longing after obscene pleasures (appetites). And for that the present examples warn us to take precautions for the future : If any bishop, priest, and deacon (which we would not have) shall be henceforward found such, let him even now understand that every access to mercy is closed by us ; for it is necessary that wounds be cut out with the knife, when the remedy of fomentations has not affected them."

Ep. ad Himer. Tarrac. Episc. n. 7, col. 1019-20.
T. ii. Labbe. See also Ep. Episc. per Afric. n. iv. col. 1029-30. Ibid.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 229-23

St. Ambrose of Milan, (A.D. 340-396), German; reluctantly made bishop in the A.D. 374., Doctor of the Church. He closed a great and glorious career in A.D. 396. We have his life by Paulinus.

"You who virgins in body, of modesty untainted, aliens even from the conjugal fellowship are fully aware that the ministry is to be exhibited blameless, and spotless, and not to be violated by any marital commerce, have received the grace of the ministry."

T. ii. L. i. de Offic. Ministr. c. 50, p. 66.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 229

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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