How priests were introduced to celibacy

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How priests were introduced to celibacy

Roman Catholic priests were not always celibate with the first pope, Saint Peter a married man.


In the 1st century Peter, the first pope, was a married man and so were many of his successors until the 16th century.

  • 2nd and 3rd Century - The age of Gnosticism, when it was believed a person cannot be married and be perfect. However, most priests were married.

  • 4th Century - Council of Nicea decrees a priest could not marry after ordination; Council of Laodicea decreed priests may no longer sleep with their wives; Pope Siricius left his wife in order to become pope.

  • 6th Century - Pope Pelagius II's policy was not to bother married priests as long as they did not hand over church property to wives or children.

  • 7th Century - French documents show the majority of priests were married.

  • 8th Century - St Boniface reported to the Pope that in Germany almost no bishop or priest was celibate.

  • 11th Century - Pope Benedict IX dispensed himself from celibacy and resigned in order to marry; in 1095, Pope Urban II had priests' wives sold into slavery and children were abandoned.

  • 12th Century - Under Pope Calistus II, the First Lateran Council decreed that clerical marriages were invalid.

  • 15th Century - 50 per cent of priests are married and accepted by the people.

  • 16th Century - the Council of Trent states that celibacy and virginity are superior to marriage.

  • 20th Century - Second Vatican Council reaffirms the moral primacy of celibacy

  • 21st Century - Pope Francis shared the possibility of church discussion on celibacy when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires; he wrote that celibacy "is a matter of discipline, not of faith. It can change" but added "For the moment, I am in favour of maintaining celibacy, with all its pros and cons".

  • Information from Future Church and historical sources.