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From the article


"The clear and consistent teaching of the Fathers is that it is impure and impious for a man to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice to God if he is sexually active.

This will be demonstrated further in this article as we examine the plethora of patristic canons and commentary on this question. But for now it is noteworthy that this principle explains several problems very conveniently. First, it introduces a distinction between celibacy and continence, which is too often lacking in our modern discussions. It usually happens that the discussion devolves down to whether or not the Church can or cannot have married priests - or what a married priesthood has looked like historically - rather than questioning to what extent continence was enjoined upon the priesthood, married or otherwise, which is the real question.

In other words, to ask whether a priest could or could not be married is not the same as to ask whether he is expected to be continent. Celibacy is a very narrow concept; it means both the inability of a priest to contract marriage as well as the exclusive selection of priests from among bachelors. Clearly, the Church has not always mandated celibacy. There have been married priests and married bishops and married deacons, and anyone who denies this is in simple ignorance of history. Continence, on the other hand, is a much broader concept. It means the absence of any sexual activity on the part of the ordained, whether they are married or not. We do not dispute that there were married clerics; this point is settled historically. What needs to be examined and settled is whether these married clerics were sexually active - whether they made use of their conjugal rights - or whether they practiced continence. And, if they practiced continence, whether they did so by pious custom or because of positive legislation compelling them to be continent."

This is a very thorough evaluation of the question of priestly continence, I definitely think it is worth a read
http://unamsanctamcatholicam.com/history...hurch.html


Yes, yes, yes!  The meanings of "celibacy" and "sexual continence" are constantly being confused whenever this matter is discussed.  Folks love to point out the fact that St. Peter had a wife, as if we Catholics, who consider him our first Pope, just aren't aware of that fact. Well, no duh! But that doesn't mean he didn't practice sexual continence -- at the very, very least, for some time period before he approached the altar.  And given that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is offered daily, that sorta means sexual continence, period.

I think some of the more "progressive" priests (I hate how the word "progressive" is used these days!) willfully exploit folks' ignorance of the meaning of "celibacy." "Oh, I'm celibate!" says the priest who spends his evening cruising the Castro district. And he's being "honest" about it; he's not married.

I'm a big believer in priestly celibacy (and, it goes without saying, continence). The only thing that worries me about it is the idea that some people take from it -- i.e., that sex is "dirty" or "bad" or "sinful." Though those ideas don't logically follow from the expectation of continence, it seems that for some people, that's their "take away" idea.  But it's the same sort of logic that'd see Fridays' abstinence from meat as "really" saying that eating meat is sinful, which simply isn't the case. It's a discipline expected for good reason, just as is clerical sexual continence.

This is a great article, clearly written and easy to follow, considering the antiquity of the references.
Thanks for posting this...
It will certainly come in handy when talking about celibate clergy at the water cooler.
I don't understand. What is the point of being married if you're not going to make use of your marital rights? It's one thing to abstain from sex for a time, the way the OT high priests did. And another thing to say they gave up sex altogether. I thought the teaching of the Catholic Church was that a marriage that was not consummated or "open to life" was invalid. Isn't this the argument they use against same-sex marriage? That such a union is unnatural because it can't possibly be consummated? I mean, personally I don't care if a couple - any couple - mutually decides to forego sex for whatever reason. But why is sexual abstinence mandatory for a married person, priest or layman? And then you've got the Orthodox, whose priesthood goes back to antiquity. Do they practice sexual continence? If so, do they keep a wife simply for the sake of companionship or because of financial matters? because they took a vow to provide for her? How does this square with "marriage" in the Biblical sense, as in the two become one flesh (Genesis 1)?

I can understand that if the wife dies, a priest or deacon should not remarry. If he's not going to treat a wife like a wife, and a woman, then he's better off single and so is she.
(08-05-2014, 04:13 PM)SCG Wrote: [ -> ]I don't understand. What is the point of being married if you're not going to make use of your marital rights?

You could ask the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph that question.

Marriage has two ends:

  1. Primarily: Generation of children, and creation of an environment in which they can be properly formed and educated (i.e. a family)
  2. Secondarily: Mutual support and happiness of the spouses

A couple is not strictly obliged to achieve the primary end, so an infertile couple's marriage is just as much a marriage even if no children result.

Just as well, for a higher purpose and with discernment and necessary protections against sin in place, a couple could choose to observe a period of continence. But if for a period, then perpetually as well.

Just because the primary end is not achieved does not mean the secondary end is not. In a "Josephite" marriage, then, we have the secondary end achieved by living together, while the primary end is not frustrated (by contraception), but simply is forgone for a higher purpose.

The problem is that to live together while observing continence is, for most, a serious and unnecessary occasion of sin if kept up for a long time. So, it would be imprudent for most couples to not render and ask for the marital debt, and in general since this is the primary end of marriage, a "Josephite" marriage is an exception, not the rule.
(08-06-2014, 07:44 AM)MagisterMusicae Wrote: [ -> ]
(08-05-2014, 04:13 PM)SCG Wrote: [ -> ]I don't understand. What is the point of being married if you're not going to make use of your marital rights?

You could ask the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph that question.

I understand why Joseph didn’t touch the Blessed Virgin Mary. And I don’t have a problem with couples mutually consenting to live as brother and sister, especially if for a holy purpose or if they feel drawn to religious life (at which point I suppose they separate)….

I have a problem with married priests being forced into sexual continence either by law or by holy guilt. I have a problem with Catholic leaders and theologians talking out of both sides of their mouths. First they say marriage is not a marriage unless it is consummated, that neither party should deny the marital debt, and to be open to children. Then, with the other side of the mouth, they say it’s okay in some cases to have a “Josephite” marriage, to just be “friends.” (Makes you wonder, then, why impotency is an impediment to being married in the Church).

Some have even suggested that St. Peter abandoned his wife to follow Jesus. Yet St. Paul in his letter to Timothy gives us the qualifications of a “good bishop” – adding that if he can’t manage his household, he can’t manage the church. Well, you don’t manage your household by neglecting your duties as a husband.

Again, I don’t see a problem with a married priest fasting from sex for a short time, in order to approach the altar, just as we abstain from food for a short time before receiving Communion. The article, I believe, is talking about permanent continence in married priests. We’re sending the message that married people who are sexually active are somehow less holy than people who don’t have sex. It’s a twisted logic.
(08-06-2014, 09:39 AM)SCG Wrote: [ -> ]I understand why Joseph didn’t touch the Blessed Virgin Mary. And I don’t have a problem with couples mutually consenting to live as brother and sister, especially if for a holy purpose or if they feel drawn to religious life (at which point I suppose they separate)….

But then why a problem with clergy in major orders by the Apostolic tradition of the Church (and based on the old Mosaic tradition) being continent

And if they "approach the altar" daily, then such continence would necessarily be perpetual. Of course in the early Church not every priest was celebrating Mass each day, but this custom developed, and in came the necessity of perpetual chastity those in major orders, which naturally demands celibacy.

Of course when we talk about "Josephite" marriages, or married couples separating to enter religious life we are talking about an exceedingly rare thing. It has happened, but it is not the norm and would require an extraordinary grace to live well.

(08-06-2014, 09:39 AM)SCG Wrote: [ -> ]I have a problem with married priests being forced into sexual continence either by law or by holy guilt.

Latin clergy know the requirement of perpetual continence and celibacy. It is not forced. It is a man's free choice to enter religion or receive Orders. If he wants marriage, he can freely refuse.

It is no less free than marriage itself. If I choose to marry a particular woman, I may not have another. I freely consent to this if I marry. It is no more forced fidelity than the choice to enter religion or receive Orders is forced continence. It is also no more "holy guilt" that a married man not commit adultery, than that a priest be incontinent.

(08-06-2014, 09:39 AM)SCG Wrote: [ -> ]I have a problem with Catholic leaders and theologians talking out of both sides of their mouths. First they say marriage is not a marriage unless it is consummated, that neither party should deny the marital debt, and to be open to children. Then, with the other side of the mouth, they say it’s okay in some cases to have a “Josephite” marriage, to just be “friends.” (Makes you wonder, then, why impotency is an impediment to being married in the Church).

Then you misunderstand, or the "Catholic leaders" are garbling the truth.

Marriage is marriage as soon as the consent is given. Period.

If not consummated (matrimonium ratum non consummatum), a true marriage can be dissolved by the Pope. In this case it is not null, it was a real marriage. Only if consummation was impossible is it null.

For a serious and just reason a couple could decide never to consummate a marriage, but also not apply for its dissolution, thus it's a real marriage, and continues to be.

But for the great majority of married people, continence is not recommended (1 Cor 7.3-6)

(08-06-2014, 09:39 AM)SCG Wrote: [ -> ]Some have even suggested that St. Peter abandoned his wife to follow Jesus. Yet St. Paul in his letter to Timothy gives us the qualifications of a “good bishop” – adding that if he can’t manage his household, he can’t manage the church. Well, you don’t manage your household by neglecting your duties as a husband.

St. Peter's wife is not mentioned in scripture, only his mother-in-law. For all we know St. Peter's was a widower. It is useless to speculate and then try to draw conclusions.

St. Paul does make this statement, but it has traditionally been interpreted that if a man was re-married after becoming a widower, he would be disqualifed from Orders as a "man of two wives", because this would tend to show an inability or unwillingness to be continent.

(08-06-2014, 09:39 AM)SCG Wrote: [ -> ]Again, I don’t see a problem with a married priest fasting from sex for a short time, in order to approach the altar, just as we abstain from food for a short time before receiving Communion. The article, I believe, is talking about permanent continence in married priests. We’re sending the message that married people who are sexually active are somehow less holy than people who don’t have sex. It’s a twisted logic.

Under the mosaic law, the "fast" was significant (i.e. days), not a mere few hours. If priests are celebrating Mass each day, we're effectively talking permanent continence. If permanent continence, then why not celibacy, since this removes the proximate occasion of sin. Also, we were not merely talking about celebrating Mass, since the deacon does not do this. Each time a man would approach the altar, or better put, each time a man would make a Communion he would need to have "fasted" since he was doing something holy. What about sick calls, where the priest physically receives the Eucharist in his hands, then carries it next to his heart to then pick it up once more and give it to an sick man. While not a Communion in the normal sense, he is approaching the altar and handling the Blessed Sacrament. Historically, this would have been done by the deacons at Mass, since the Blessed Sacrament was not reserved.

The outcome is that we are left with the necessity of a continent clergy if we are to follow the Patristic, Apostolic and Mosaic tradition.

Further, if you read another part of St. Paul (1 Cor 7.7,26) he does recommend celibacy and perpetual continence as a higher state.

In itself, consecrated continence/virginity is a higher state in life. That means a consecrated virgin or continent man has the potential to a higher degree of perfection and holiness. The rubber has to meet the road, however. Whether an individual is actually more perfect or holy is a different and subjective question.

Holiness depends on an individual fulfilling this potency. Thus a married man may be much holier than a priest, because of God's choice to give more grace, or simply because the married man corresponds more closely to the graces he does receive.
I understand that virginity or celibacy is a higher calling if it’s done for the sake of the kingdom. But celibacy is not a married person’s state of life.  So, I agree that if a priest who offers a daily sacrifice is going to be rendered a eunuch, he’s much better off living life as a single man. Yes, that makes a good case for an UNMARRIED priesthood.

But I’m really talking about a married priesthood. What about the Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Catholic who, as I said before, has had a married priesthood that goes back to antiquity. What about married Anglican priests who have been ordained as Catholic priests. Should they live in sexual continence with their wives? Are they expected to, even if there’s not a law forcing them to? Do you really think that such a marriage would make that man a better priest?
The author admits celibacy to be a discipline, but one that points to a dogma.  In this case, he argues that the dogma is that continence is necessary.

The case is not nearly as cut and dry as the author makes it out to be.  Just as there were those historically who argued for it that it must be mandatory, there were others who did not.

For his earliest quotes, the author relies on Tertullian and Origen.  The book cited from Tertullian was from his later Montanist days and the Montanists were much more strictly acetic in this regard than the orthodox believers.  Similarly, Origen had very extreme views on this matter, even going so far to castrate himself.  While they are sources of evidence of beliefs found at that time, they do not necessarily represent a universal belief in the Church.

For example, at around the same time as them, on the other side of the question, there is St. Clement of Alexandria, who taught the opposite:

St. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, bk. 3, ch. 12 Wrote:All the same, the Church fully receives the husband of one wife whether he be priest or deacon or layman, supposing always that he uses his marriage blamelessly, and such a one shall be saved in the begetting of children.

The article cites some local councils against it, but there were also local councils permitting it, such as the Council of Acyra in 314 which left it in the discretion of the bishop (this council, among other things, ruled on a case where two deacons had been ordained, one promising continence and the other saying he would not observe it.  Both ended up not observing it and the former was deprived of his office.  He appealed the decision, pointing to the other guy who was also not continent, but who got to carry on as usual and the Council ruled against him, affirming that it was in the discretion of the bishop to impose it or not).

The idea that Nicea I imposed continence does not seem to be held by many scholars I’ve seen on either side of the issue (the first time I saw this argument was in SSPX literature objecting to married deacons).

According to the early 5th century historian Socrates, the Council of Nicea did indeed discuss the issue, but ultimately decided not to rule one way or the other:

Socrates, Church History, bk. 1, ch. 11 Wrote:It seemed fit to the bishops to introduce a new law into the Church, that those who were in holy orders, I speak of bishops, presbyters, and deacons, should have no conjugal intercourse with the wives whom they had married while still laymen. Now when discussion on this matter was impending, Paphnutius having arisen in the midst of the assembly of bishops, earnestly entreated them not to impose so heavy a yoke on the ministers of religion: asserting that 'marriage itself is honorable, and the bed undefiled' (Heb 13:4) urging before God that they ought not to injure the Church by too stringent restrictions. 'For all men,' said he, 'cannot bear the practice of rigid continence; neither perhaps would the chastity of the wife of each be preserved': and he termed the intercourse of a man with his lawful wife chastity. It would be sufficient, he thought, that such as had previously entered on their sacred calling should abjure matrimony, according to the ancient tradition of the Church: but that none should be separated from her to whom, while yet unordained, he had been united. And these sentiments he expressed, although himself without experience of marriage, and, to speak plainly, without ever having known a woman: for from a boy he had been brought up in a monastery, and was specially renowned above all men for his chastity. The whole assembly of the clergy assented to the reasoning of Paphnutius: wherefore they silenced all further debate on this point, leaving it to the discretion of those who were husbands to exercise abstinence if they so wished in reference to their wives.

In Book 5, Socrates discusses the customs and traditions that vary among the churches.  After discussing things like calendar dates, fasting rules, who could be a reader during the liturgy, etc., he comes to continence.  He notes that during his time continence is the general practice of East and West, but it is only a fixed rule in some places, while in others it is done of the free accord of the clergyman:

Socrates, Church History, Book 5, ch. 22 Wrote:I myself, also, learned of another custom in Thessaly. If a clergyman in that country, after taking orders, should sleep with his wife, whom he had legally married before his ordination, he would be degraded. In the East, indeed, all clergymen, and even the bishops themselves, abstain from their wives: but this they do of their own accord, and not by the necessity of any law; for there have been among them many bishops, who have had children by their lawful wives, during their episcopate.

The problem with this whole debate is that there is a lot of shaky ground on both sides.  This debate has been intense at other points of history and a lot of spurious stuff has been floated around. Sources commonly cited on both sides have their detractors who argue that certain canons, etc. were later additions.

Personally, I don't think the historical evidence is perfectly clear one way or the other; however, this issue is actually a perfect example of why we have a living Magisterium, and not just the Bible, a book of the Fathers, and a copy of Denzinger.  Even with those things, this one is difficult to discern.  The Church has, as far as I can tell, judged that continence is not absolutely required of the clergy, although it is held up as an ideal and often required by legislation, even very early on (well before celibacy was mandated). For example, when certain Eastern Churches who did not hold to absolute continence were reunited, they were permitted to keep their prevailing customs in this regard (only being limited occasionally in certain Latin-heavy areas through the imposition of celibacy) and this has been confirmed in more recent legislation as well.

It should be pointed out, that even traditions that come directly from the Apostles are not necessarily therefore revealed dogma and, if the legislator believes he has prudent and good reason, can be amended. Msgr. George Agius' classic book on Tradition and the Church makes the distinction between those truths revealed by God and handed on by the Church and those which he calls "simply-apostolic" which were instituted by the Apostles in their role as Church legislators-- and regarding which their successors have the same power.  Unfortunately, if I recall correctly, Agius doesn't weigh in on this particular issue, but the point is that even if a requirement of continence is of Apostolic origin, it doesn't mean the Church is approving of sin later by dispensing the requirement for certain Churches or individuals, or even for all clergy.

(Note, I do agree with the author that just because something is not dogmatic that it should therefore be tossed aside willy nilly without a proportionate reason).
(08-06-2014, 11:55 AM)SCG Wrote: [ -> ]But I’m really talking about a married priesthood. What about the Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Catholic who, as I said before, has had a married priesthood that goes back to antiquity. What about married Anglican priests who have been ordained as Catholic priests. Should they live in sexual continence with their wives? Are they expected to, even if there’s not a law forcing them to? Do you really think that such a marriage would make that man a better priest?

This is the main reason why married, continent clergy did not really last anywhere.  It didn't really work that well for very long.  As a result, two divergent approaches were taken: perpetual continence was simply not required of married priests in some places while in others celibacy was required of priests to help make continence easier.
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