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That this same salutary discipline was rigorously enforced by our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, we learn from the most authentic sources.
In a cannon framed in the eighth century, at the period when archbishop Egbert governed the see of York, we read the following injunction :: “ Let priests by no means marry wives, but love the church.” And again occurs the following peremptory mandate :" If a priestor deacon should take a wife, let him lose his rank 1."
What answer will the wisdom of the catechist frame to all these grave authorities? Will he continue to repeat with his friends, in the true spirit of ignorance and misrepresentation, that the law of clerical celibacy is a tyrannical injunction, introduced by the Popes, during the middle ages, for political purposes, and that it is condemned even by writers in our own communion? The first of these pleas has been amply refuted ; of the second, it may be briefly observed, that the opinion of any individual, however respectable, can have no weight, till the church shall think proper to make an alteration in her discipline. But let us hear the specific objections produced by the catechist.
I. He says, that St. Paul permits bishops and
I Wilks Conc. Vol. I. 112. can. 160 Sacerdotes autem nequaquam uxores ducant, sed ecclesiam diligant. Item 133, can. 1. Si presbyter vel diaconus uxorem ducat, perdat ordinem suum. Item 134. can. 5. it. 136.
priests to marry, as appears from 1 Tim. iii. 2, 11.' Tit. i. 6.
Truly the całechist grossly mistakes the meaning of St. Paul, if he imagines that these passages give a license to bishops and priests to marry. It was indeed customary in that age of fervour, when sanctity pervaded every class of Christians, often to select married persons to fill the highest dignities of the church. Many of the brightest ornaments that have dignified her history, have been taken from that station. But even here the church has shewn extreme delicacy; for she has always declined to choose those who had been twice married. A second marriage, though lawful, has been deemed an indication of a sensual attachment to carnal plea
A bishop or a priest is thus required to be a husband of one wife; piãs yuvaixòs dinę; he must be one who has not engaged in a second marriage.
Whenever the choice was made among married men for candidates for holy orders, the persons thus chosen lived ever afterwords in a state of continency; and of this fact, St. Jerom is an unexceptionable witness. His words are so clear on the subject, that language cannot supply information in a more perpicuous form. “ The apostles,” says he, “ were either virgins, or lived in a state of continence after marriage. Bishops, priests, deacons, are either selected among virgins or widowers ; or at
least they are to observe continence after their priesthood till death?” After this let the reader judge of the degree of confidence to be reposed in the assertions of the catechist.
II. Then, adds the catechist, St. Paul says to all men in general, it is better to marry than to burn?. I must correct the statement of this writer, by a short but necessary distinction. St. Paul unquestionably allows all men to marry, provided they have not contracted any previous obligation to remain single; and in the absence of a sacred engagement, it is surely better to employ the remedy provided to allay human concupiscence, than to indulge passion in opposition to the divine will. But where a solemn engagement to observe continence has been contracted, as is practised by the Catholic clergy, St. Paul no more allows marriage, than he does to the wanton widow, whom he consigns to damnation, for betraying her first faith ; or, in other words, for violating an obligation precisely of the same nature and description as that, which is contracted by the clergy of the Catholic church'.
III. Then, says the catechist, St. Paul calls
· Apostoli vel virgines, vel post nuptias continentes.' Episcopi, presbyteri, diaconi, aut virgines eliguntur, aut vidui; aut certé post: sacerdotium in æternum pudici. St. Hier. Epist. 50. Vid. etiam Origen. Hoń. 17 in Luc. et St. Epiphan. hæres. 59. * 1 Cor. vii. 9.
forbidding to marry, the doctrine of devils”. To thee, O catechist, I reply ; shame and confusion on the man, who can thus distort the divine ora. cles for his own malignant purposes. St. Paul, in his passage referred to, is speaking of some who were to rise in latter times, alluding to the Manichees, Marcionites, and others, who broached doctrines subversive of civil society; which, by anticipation, are justly stigmatized by St. Paul. But if prohibition to marry, directed to those who are bound by vow to observe continence, is to be denominated the doctrine of devils, St. Paul himself, in the estimation of the catechist, will be guilty of this atrocious offence, by forbidding the faithless widow to marry”.
IV. Then, says this writer, so deeply versed in biblical learning, St. Peter was a married man, and a Pope. Truly so ; but has the catechist yet to learn, that he left ALL to follow Christ? Let him open the gospel, and read attentively the
here referred to V. The same observation may be extended to the conduct of the eminent personages in the primitive church, if the authority of the learned and illustrious St. Jerom, the ornament of the fourth age, may be allowed to possess more weight, than the unsupported assertions of an anonymous catechist in the nineteenth century*. 11 Tim. iv. 1. 3.
Vid. loc. cit. .: St. Matt. xix. 27, 28, 29. 4 Vid. St. Hier. loc. cit.
VI. Then the catechist refers to the practice of the Greek church on the subject. Let him know, that it was never the discipline of either the Latin or Greek churches to suffer the clergy to marry after ordination; and that the ancient Greek church was fully as rigorous in enforcing clerical celibacy as the Catholic church is at this period'. As to the practice of the Greek church, at ‘a later date, it certainly became more easy in allowing clergymen to cohabit with wives, whom they had espoused before their entrance into holy orders. But this is no rule for the members of the Catholic church, until the present discipline shall be altered or modified by competent authority.
VII. The conduct of Paphnutius, as might be expected, is not accurately stated by the catechist. He did not assert that clergymen should generally be permitted to cohabit with their wives ; on the contrary, he was of opinion, that those who came unmarried into the clergy, should always remain single, agreeably to the ancient discipline of the church. What he insisted upon with so much force was, that where clergymen were permitted by the custom of certain places to cohabit with wives whom they had espoused before ordination, they might not be obliged to separate by any new law. But what his own
! Vid. St. Epiphan. loc. cit.