Celibacy and Continence in the Priesthood according to the Church Fathers – A Study of Greek East & Latin West


ordination of augustine

The scandals which have broken out in the Roman Catholic Church over the past decades, particularly since the Summer of 2018, have caused many scholars and analysts to ponder whether the rule on celibacy for the ordained clergy might be a cause for the the grave acts of sexual misconduct. However much there is a connection to be made or not made, I wanted to devote an extensive article on the rule on priestly celibacy (abstention from married life) and continence (abstention from sexual intercourse, but not necessarily marriage) in the early Church Fathers.  Before I venture to do that, I would be remiss if I did not point the reader to a post already published by Unam Sanctam Catholicam on the subject, which is devoted mainly to citations from the early Church fathers and councils on this important matter. What I offer here is less citation (although I add ones not provided by Unam) and more commentary and reflection, particularly how this phenomena developed in both Eastern and Western Christendom. Although it is not always mentioned, the rule of priestly celibacy was one of the issues separating the ecclesial centers of Byzantium and the Latin West during the time of the great schism. It would be, therefore, all the more beneficial to see how the practice began from the earliest centuries.  Continue reading