The scandals which have broken out in the Roman Catholic Church over the past decades, particularly since the Summer of 2018, have caused many scholars and analysts to ponder whether the rule on celibacy for the ordained clergy might be a cause for the the grave acts of sexual misconduct. However much there is a connection to be made or not made, I wanted to devote an extensive article on the rule on priestly celibacy (abstention from married life) and continence (abstention from sexual intercourse, but not necessarily marriage) in the early Church Fathers. Before I venture to do that, I would be remiss if I did not point the reader to a post already published by Unam Sanctam Catholicam on the subject, which is devoted mainly to citations from the early Church fathers and councils on this important matter. What I offer here is less citation (although I add ones not provided by Unam) and more commentary and reflection, particularly how this phenomena developed in both Eastern and Western Christendom. Although it is not always mentioned, the rule of priestly celibacy was one of the issues separating the ecclesial centers of Byzantium and the Latin West during the time of the great schism. It would be, therefore, all the more beneficial to see how the practice began from the earliest centuries. Continue reading
Pope Paschal II
This was written in reaction to Pope Paschal II’s capitulation to King Henry V’s insistence on lay investiture. Although the Pope only conceded to allow lay investiture to the King in light of harsh imprisonment, we have the following reaction to this from Godfrey of Vendome (1065- 1132), who was a French Benedictine, monk, Cardinal, and a strong supporter of the Papacy. He worked alongside many Popes during his life, and could hardly be seen as a Papal opponent. His epistolary consists mainly in his opposition to lay investiture, which he condemned as heresy and simony. As I was reading through Anglican historian Karl Morrison’s book on Tradition in the Western Church, I was fortunate to come across this little snippet, whose ocassion was to contend Paschal II’s concession to Henry V. To be fair to the Pope, he condmened lay investiture before and after his imprisonment, but his momentary concession afforded this interesting comment.
“Finally, [Abbot] Godfrey of Vendome, a member of the Sacred College, condemned on grounds of tradition Paschal II’s decree approving lay investiture. Some men claim, he wrote (ca. 1116), that the Roman Church can do whatever it pleases, and that by some dispensation it can even do other than the Scriptures command. But the Roman church could surely not do what Peter could not do, and , as Paul showed by resisting Peter to his face, Peter could not dissolve the law of the divine Scriptures. Rome, therefore, must use the power to bind and loose not according to its own will, but ‘according to the tradition of Christ’”
(Ep. ad Bernarium, MGH Ldl. 2, 688; taken from “Tradition and Authority in the Western Church: 300-1140”, Karl Morrison, pg. 310)