Clerical Celibacy - Clerical Continence in Christianity - Sixteenth Century

Sixteenth Century

While the 11th century Gregorian Reform's campaign against clerical marriage and concubinage met strong opposition, by the time of the Second Lateran Council it had won widespread support from lay and ecclesiastical leaders.

New opposition appeared in connection with the Protestant Reformation, not only on the part of the Reformers, but also among churchmen and others who remained in union with the see of Rome. Figures such as Panormitanus, Erasmus, Thomas Cajetan, and the Holy Roman Emperors Charles V, Ferdinand I and Maximilian II argued against it.

In practice, the discipline of clerical continence meant by then that only unmarried men were ordained. Thus, in the discussions that took place, no distinction was made between clerical continence and clerical celibacy.

The Reformers made abolition of clerical continence and celibacy a key element in their reform. They denounced it as opposed to the New Testament recommendation that a cleric should be "the husband of one wife" (see on 1 Timothy 3:2–4 above), the declared right of the apostles to take around with them a believing Christian as a wife (1 Corinthians 9:5) and the admonition, "Marriage should be honoured by all" (Hebrews 13:4). They blamed it for widespread sexual misconduct among the clergy.

Against the long-standing tradition of the Church in the East as well as in the West, which excluded marriage after ordination, Zwingli married in 1522, Luther in 1525, and Calvin in 1539. And against what had also become, though seemingly at a later date, a tradition in both East and West, the married Thomas Cranmer was made Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533.

The Council of Trent considered the matter and at its twenty-fourth session decreed that marriage after ordination was invalid: "If any one saith, that clerics constituted in sacred orders, or Regulars, who have solemnly professed chastity, are able to contract marriage, and that being contracted it is valid, notwithstanding the ecclesiastical law, or vow; and that the contrary is no thing else than to condemn marriage; and, that all who do not feel that they have the gift of chastity, even though they have made a vow thereof, may contract marriage; let him be anathema: seeing that God refuses not that gift to those who ask for it rightly, neither does He suffer us to be tempted above that which we are able" (canon 9).

It also decreed, concerning the relative dignity of marriage and celibacy: "If any one saith, that the marriage state is to be placed above the state of virginity, or of celibacy, and that it is not better and more blessed to remain in virginity, or in celibacy, than to be united in matrimony; let him be anathema."

Read more about this topic:  Clerical Celibacy, Clerical Continence in Christianity

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Famous quotes by sixteenth century:

    April is in my mistress’ face,
    And July in her eyes hath place,
    Within her bosom is September,
    But in her heart a cold December.
    —Unknown. Subject #4: July Subject #5: September Subject #6: December. All Seasons in One. . .

    Oxford Book of Sixteenth Century Verse, The. E. K. Chambers, comp. (1932)