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Question
Are traditional priests ever allowed to have wives?

Answer
       Priestly celibacy has a biblical basis in the evangelical counsel of
Our Lord as relayed in St. Matthew's Gospel (19:12), in St. Luke's Gospel
(20:35), also taken up by St. Paul in his First Epistle to the Corinthians
(7:8-9, 25-27, and especially 32-33), and confirmed by St. John in the
Apocalypse (14:4).  It is clear that once the Apostles received the call,
they did not lead a married life.

       The tradition of priestly celibacy was solemnly proclaimed by the
Council of Nicaea, the First Ecumenical Council, in 325.  Canon No. 3,
unanimously approved by the Fathers, admitted of no exceptions
whatsoever.  The Council considered that the prohibition imposed thereby on
all bishops, priests, and deacons against having a wife absolute.  All
subsequent councils that have addressed the subject have renewed this
interdiction.

       Not only would it be a violation of Sacred Tradition to blot out a
custom decreed for 2,000 years to be absolutely obligatory, but also one
must recognize that priestly celibacy is to be seen not merely as of
ecclesiastical institution, but part of what is more broadly known in
Catholic moral theology as "divine positive law," initiated by Christ and
His Apostles.  That is, it is not merely disciplinary in nature.

       The Council of Elvira in 304 stated that all bishops, priests, and
deacons, and all other clerics should abstain completely from marrying.

       The Council of Carthage in 390 stated that celibacy is of
Apostolic origin.

       St. Epiphanius of Salamis (ca. 315-403):  "It is the Apostles
themselves who decreed this law."

       St. Jerome (ca. 342-420):  "Priests and deacons must be either
virgins or widowers before being ordained, or at least observe perpetual
continence after their ordination....  If married men find this
difficult to endure, they should not turn against me, but rather against
Holy Writ and the entire ecclesiastical order."

       Pope St. Innocent I (401-417):  "This is not a matter of imposing
upon the clergy new and arbitrary obligations, but rather of reminding
them of those which the tradition of the Apostles and the Fathers has
transmitted to us."

       St. Peter Damian (1007-1072) wrote:  "No one can be ignorant of
the fact that all the Fathers of the Catholic Church unanimously imposed
the inviolable rule of continence on clerics in major orders."

       The Second Lateran Council of 1139 confirmed that clergy are
forbidden to marry.

       There is a reason for this Tradition.  The cleric in major orders,
by virtue of his ordination, contracts a marriage with the Church, and
he cannot be a bigamist.  St. Jerome in his treatise "Adversus
Jovinianum," bases priestly celibacy on the virginity of Christ.

       The universal law of priestly celibacy confirmed by the Council of
Nicaea applied, and still applies, to the Eastern Church as well as the
Western.  It is noteworthy that at that Council, the Easterns (Greeks)
made up the overwhelming majority.  Previously, the Council of Neo-
Caesarea (314) had reminded all Eastern clerics in major orders of the
inviolability of this law under pain of deposition.

       The Eastern Church began at a late date to violate its own law of
celibacy.  The Quinisext Council of 692, which St. Bede the Venerable
(673-735) called "a reprobate synod," breached the Apostolic Tradition
concerning the celibacy of clerics by declaring that "all clerics except
bishops may continue in wedlock."  The popes refused to endorse the
conclusions of the Council in the mater of celibacy, and the Eastern
Church planted the seeds of its schism.

       The German scholar, Stefan Heid, in his book, Celibacy in the Early
Church, demonstrates that continence-celibacy after ordination to the
priesthood was the absolute norm from the start -- even for the separated
married ordinand -- a triumph of grace over nature, so to speak.  The
Eastern practice we now see was a mitigation of the rule, not, as the Modernists
like to claim, the original practice from which the Roman Catholic Church
diverged.  

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Fr. Michael

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A traditional Catholic priest, who provides forthright answers to questions FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF TRADITIONAL CATHOLICISM (not the New Order) on topics pertaining to TRADITIONAL Roman Catholicism, including theology, the Bible, Church history, the Latin language, liturgy (especially the Traditional Latin Mass), and music (especially Gregorian chant), and current events in the Catholic Church.

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