Clerical Celibacy - Background

Background

In some Christian churches, such as the Latin Rite Catholic Church and some Eastern Catholic Churches, priests and bishops must as a rule remain unmarried, while in others, such as the Eastern Orthodox Church, the churches of Oriental Orthodoxy and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches, married men may be ordained as deacons or priests, but may not remarry if their wife dies. Since celibacy is seen as a consequence of the obligation of continence, it implies abstinence from sexual relationships. The Code of Canon Law prescribes:

Clerics are to behave with due prudence towards persons whose company can endanger their obligation to observe continence or give rise to scandal among the faithful.

In some Christian churches, a vow of chastity is made by members of religious orders or monastic communities, along with vows of poverty and obedience, in order to imitate the life of Jesus of Nazareth, see also Evangelical counsels. This vow of chastity, made by people not all of whom are clergy, is different from what is the obligation, not a vow, of clerical continence and celibacy

Celibacy for religious and monastics (monks and sisters/nuns) and for bishops is upheld by both the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Christian traditions. Bishops must be unmarried men or widowers; a married man cannot become a bishop. In Latin Rite Catholicism and in some Eastern Catholic Churches, most priests are celibate men. Exceptions are admitted and there are over 200 married Catholic priests who converted from the Anglican Communion and Protestant faiths. In most Orthodox traditions and in some Eastern Catholic Churches men who are already married may be ordained priests, but priests may not marry after ordination.

Neither the Catholic nor the Orthodox tradition considers the rule of clerical celibacy to be an unchangeable dogma, but instead as a rule that could be adjusted if the Church thought it appropriate and to which exceptions are admitted.

From the time of the first ecumenical council the Christian church forbids voluntary physical castration, and the alleged self-castration of the theologian Origen was used to discredit him.

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