« AnteriorContinuar »
the church of Rome as in an error, for forbidding priests and clergymen to marry ?
1. Because St. Paul plainly permits a bishop and other clergy
men to marry. 1 Tim. iii. 2, 11. Tit. i. 6. 2. The same apostle saith to all men in general, “ It is better to marry
than to burn." 1 Cor. vii. 9. 3. The same apostle calls forbidding to marry, a doctrine of
devils. 1 Tim. iv. 1, 3. 4. St. Peter himself, an apostle, and a priest, and, in the sense
of the church of Rome, a Pope too, was a married man. 5. Several of the bishops of the primitive church were married
men, such as Spiridion, Chæremon, Hilary, and others. 6. The priests of the Greek church do not observe this law of
celibate, or single life. 7. The first Council of Nice approved of Paphnutis's opinion,
that clergymen ought to be permitted to cohabit with their wives.
The candid and learned catechist, in stating the question concerning the celibacy of the clergy in the Catholic church, cannot refrain from a slight degree of misrepresentation. He supposes, that Catholic clergymen are absolutely and unconditionally forbidden to marry: but the real truth is, that they are restrained by severe penalties from violating a solemn engagement, knowingly and deliberately formed. No one obliges them to contract this obligation ; it is a
matter of their own free and unbiassed choice, and to carry it into effect, they have every help which religion can supply. If they should fail in the observance of a sacred and solemn duty, they fall under the censure denounced by St. Paul against the faithless widows. When they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry, HAVING DAMNATION, because they have cast off their first faith? The Catholic church, therefore, prohibits in its clergy, what St. Paul stigmatizes in the wanton widow, a violation of a sacred vow, solemnly and deliberately made.
Does the catechist wish to know the real grounds, which induce the Catholic church to admit those only to holy orders, who are willing to contract this engagement? Let him not distort the real meaning of the apostle, in various passages, which I shall explain in the proper place; but let him turn to a text where scepticism cannot raise a doubt. The real policy of the Catholic church in this concern, is to be sought for in a plain and undisguised statement of St. Paul. But I would have
without carefulness. He that is unmarried, careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married, careth for the things of the world, how he may please his wife'. Listen, catechist, to a plain observation made by the great apostle. A state of celibacy leaves us free to pursue a holy vocation without care, without obstruction ; but the state of marriage involves the person who engages in it, in worldly concerns and anxious solicitude. If, therefore, the work of God should be performed not with negligence and indifference, but with religious zeal and holy fervour; if the salvation of souls demands the undivided care of the Christian minister, is it not highly proper and decorous, that the church should persevere in the plan which she has hitherto pursued ?
11 Tim. v. 11, 12.
? 1 Cor. vii. 32, 33.
If various situations in the service of temporal sovereigns often render inconvenient, and in many instances wholly preclude, the state of marriage; if numberless accidents constrain an immense mass of human beings to live unmarried, why should the church be debarred from claiming the undivided, the unobstructed care of its ministers? The catechist would probably have avoided, with extreme caution and reserve, all mention of this subject
, if he had reflected on the doctrine laid down in the very first act of the legislature, by which the established clergy were permitted to marry. In this statute of the second of Edward VI. it is declared, that. It were much to be desired, that priests and all others in holy orders might abstain from marriage, that thereby, being freed from the cares of wedlock, and abstracted from
the thoughts of domestical business, they might more diligently attend the ministry, and apply themselves unto their studies". Such is the language contained in this celebrated statute : and let me ask, with what share of decency can any writer, belonging to the establishment, reproach the Catholic church with error, in following a doctrine which is thus rationally and forcibly commended in such a quarter? Let the inconsiderate catechist, whenever in future he shall engage in a religious contest, beware of turning his own weapons against himself.
I am really conferring too much honour on the flimsy statements of the catechist, to shew their fallacy, by authentic documents of Christian antiquity; but, perhaps, a few substantial proofs of the discipline, pursued by the church in this matter, may not prove unacceptable to the reader. The law of celibacy, by which Catholic clergymen are bound, is purely ecclesiastical, but founded on the grave and solid reasons before cited from St. Paul, and sanctioned even by a Protestant legislature. It is unquestionably derived from a pious and sacred custom, which prevailed in the apostolic age. During the three first centuries, it was enforced by the general fervour which animated every breast, and maintained by the spirit of zeal, which inflamed the
See Heylin's Hist. Reform. Ed. VI. ad an. 1548, p. 67.
ministers of religion. In the fourth century, we find it established by positive injunctions. In the council of Elvira, held in 305, we observe direct commands addressed to all bishops, priests, deacons, and sub-deacons, to live in a state of continence, under pain of degradation from their rank? In the council of Neocæsarea, held about the same time, a similar law was framed under the same penalty. In the great council of Nice, it is strictly forbidden, that any clergyman should live in the society of a woman, except a mother, sister, aunt, or such as cannot excite suspiciono. A threat of degradation is pronounced against those who shall violate this injunction. So general was the observance of this law, that when about the close of the same century, St. Jerom wrote against Vigilantius, who censured the celibacy of the clergy, that learned father declared the conduct of his opponent to be an injury to the apostles and martyrs. He affirms it to be a general law of all the distinguished churches in the catholic world, to admit those only to holy orders who were unmarried, or lived in a state of continence; or who, if they had wives, should consent to a separation'.
I Can. 33
3 Can. 3. Vid. Carranz. fol, 33, 36, 45, 53. 5 Quæ (nempe ecclesiæ) aut virgines clericos accipiunt, aut continentes ; aut si uxores habuerint, mariti esse desistunt. St. Hier. contra Vigilant. libello 2° versus init.