Clerical Celibacy - Rules For Christian Clergy

Rules For Christian Clergy

Rules on celibacy differ between different religious traditions and churches:

  • In the Latin (Western) Catholic Church, since the Second Vatican Council mature married men who intend not to advance to priesthood may be ordained deacons and are referred to as "permanent deacons", but married men may not be ordained priests or bishops or even as "transitional deacons", nor may anyone marry after ordination. Since the start of the pontificate of Pope Pius XII (1939–1958), exceptions may be allowed for married Protestant ministers or Anglican clergy who convert to Catholicism and wish to become priests in the Catholic Church, provided their wives consent. The Roman Catholic Church considers Protestant and most Anglican ordinations invalid, while recognizing Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and some Anglican ordinations as valid. In some cases, laicized Catholic priests are allowed to marry by special dispensation. Additionally, dispensations can be granted for deacons whose wives have died to marry a second time, especially if they have young children to look after.
  • In Eastern Orthodox Churches, and Eastern Catholic Churches (which latter are in full communion with Rome), married men may be ordained to any order except as bishops, and one may not marry after ordination as a subdeacon. The Oriental Orthodox churches and the Assyrian Church of the East follow the same rules that hold in the Eastern Orthodox Church, with the exception of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which permits ordained deacons to marry. While some incorrectly believe all Orthodox bishops must be monks, in fact, according to church law, they simply may no longer be living with their wives if they are to be consecrated to the episcopacy. (The canons stipulate that they must also see to their wives' maintenance, for example Canon 12 of the Quinisext Council.) Typically, the wife of such a man will take up the monastic life herself, though this also is not required. There are many Orthodox bishops currently serving who have never been tonsured (formally initiated) to monastic orders. There are also many who are tonsured monastics but have never formally lived the monastic life. Further, a number of bishops are widowers, but because clergy cannot remarry after ordination, such a man must remain celibate after the death of his wife.
  • Churches of the Anglican Communion have no restrictions on the marriage of deacons, priests, bishops, or other ministers. Early Anglican Church clergy under Henry VIII were required to be celibate (see 6 Articles), but the requirement was eliminated by Edward VI. Some Anglo-Catholic priestly orders require their members to remain celibate, as do orders of all brothers and sisters.
  • Most Protestant traditions have no restrictions on the marriage of ministers or other clergy, except that in some circles divorced persons may not serve as pastors, and in practice the majority of pastors are married.

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