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How to Be Effective Pro-Life Student Group

Posted by Tony Listi on November 12, 2013

You owe it to both babies and mothers to be activists and organizers on your campus, not mere educators.

Morton Blackwell, president of the Leadership Institute, has an apt saying for the pro-life movement: “Pray as if it all depended on God; work as if it all depended on you.” While praying in front of an abortion facility has value, effective pro-life activists have to do more.

There are many other effective ways to spread your pro-life message and actually change policies on your campus:

  • Find out if the health clinic on your campus refers young mothers to a local Planned Parenthood or other abortion facility. Request that the clinic stop the referrals as a matter of human rights. Request pro-life resources be offered at the clinic. Document the response, preferably with video. Protest outside the clinic if your demands are not met.
  • Find out what your Women’s Resource Center on campus is saying and doing. Again, request pro-life resources be offered at the center and that pro-abortion promotion cease as a matter of human rights. Protest if you are ignored or dismissed.
  • Find out what your Women’s Studies and Ethics courses are teaching. Expose and combat pro-abortion bias in the curriculum. Demand balance in the classroom through protests and petitions.
  • Does your school or student government fund pro-abortion student groups and events? Request funding for your pro-life group and events and document the response. At a public university, your pro-life group cannot be denied funding because you are labeled a “political” or “religious” groupUse legal threats and pressure to achieve funding fairness and equality!
  • Identify and inform pro-life donors to your university. Ask them to protest the university’s pro-abortion policies and to threaten to withold their financial support from the university.
  • Campaign for and lobby pro-life legislators who will protect women and children from abortion.
  • Video Activism: Have a video camera with you at all times. Video your opposition. If someone wants to discuss the issue of abortion with you while you are recruiting or doing activism, get your camera out and start video recording your dialogue with that person. Click here to see an example! Edit and publish the video online. You can also deliberately try to engage fellow students in a discussion about abortion on camera too, if you wish. When dialoging with students, try to limit yourself to asking them difficult, clarifying questions rather than stating your own arguments and views.If you are in a public area, keep the camera rolling even if students want to talk but don’t want to be filmed. Let them walk away from you if they don’t want to be filmed. Know and follow recording laws in your state.
  • Host a pro-life speaker on campus: a woman who regrets her abortion (Silent No More), someone who was almost killed by abortion (e.g. Gianna JessenMelissa Ohden, or Rebecca Kiessling), or an ex-abortionist (e.g. John Bruchalski) or ex-abortion industry worker (e.g. Abby Johnson or Carol Everett). These speakers can share powerful personal testimonies and are well worth the time, money, and energy your group will invest in the speaker. Coordinate with other campuses to create a speaking tour and reduce costs.
  • Host a Genocide Awareness Project or Justice for All exhibit on your campus.
  • Set up a Cemetery of the Innocents on your campus. (A similar but cheaper way to do it is with chalk.)
  • Organize a Diaper Drive on campus to help the local crisis pregancy center and help young mothers choose life.
  • Fundraise for a charitable fund to financially support student mothers in need.
  • Participate in the Silent Day of Solidarity.
  • Execute an Empty Stroller/Carriage Protest on campus. Donate the baby strollers/carriages to the local crisis pregnancy center afterward.
  • Do a funeral procession on campus to remember those killed by abortion. Typically, this activism idea entails a blue coffin, a pink coffin, and a bagpipe player.
  • Obtain media coverage with some street theater. Someone in a Grim Reaper costume holding a good sign message (e.g. “Grim Reaper for ‘Choice.'”) gets the point across that abortion kills a human being and will attract media coverage (if you send press advisory), giving you the opportunity to spread a pro-life message. Don’t do this outside an abortion facility though!
  • Give out Cupcakes for Life (“because everyone deserves a birthday!”).
  • Protest the Vagina Monologues.
  • Sell white roses to raise money for the local crisis pregnancy center.
  • Show pro-life movies including Maafa 21Demographic WinterTillyAmazing GraceBloodMoney, and Bella
  • Organize a Rock for Life concert on your campus.
  • Write and send op-eds and letters to the editor into the campus and local papers. If they don’t get published, post them on CampusReform.org!
  • Promote family values on your campus.

Contact your Regional Field Coordinator (RFC) about your group’s activities before you do them so that your RFC can help you maximize the media coverage and publicity for your activities.

Take good pictures and video of your activities and post them on CampusReform.org! They will help you multiply the effect of your activities beyond one day and beyond your campus. Take good video of your opposition doing and saying outrageous things!

Reach out to local high schools (especially private, Christian ones), homeschool groups, and churches in your area. Help them start pro-life clubs. Coordinate your activities together.

A great way to become an excellent pro-life group is to imitate the best groups nationwide. Click here to see what Bears for Life at Baylor University did to win Students for Life of America’s Group of the Year award. I also highly recommend contacting and following the activities of Louisiana Students for Life, led by Dominique Monlezun. Their student pro-life network is very strong.

Contact your Regional Field Coordinator (RFC) for more guidance, assistance, and training.

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Why I Can’t Donate to Dallas Bishop’s Appeal

Posted by Tony Listi on February 17, 2013

Dear Bishop Kevin Farrell (and whoever reads this for him),

I cannot in good conscience donate to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal. I did last year but cannot this year.

While most of the causes the Appeal supports are good, I morally object to one program and thus cannot support the Appeal. I will make a donation directly to a Dallas diocesan mission/ministry rather than the Appeal itself.

The Catholic Charities program that teaches and assists illegal immigrants in taking advantage of government “welfare” programs is extremely imprudent, harmful, and thus immoral, despite the best of intentions by you and others, I’m sure.

While I support all of the Catholic Church’s truly charitable efforts to help the immigrant (legal or otherwise), I cannot in good conscience support Church activities that attempt to “help” anyone (especially non-citizens) with money taken from others by force of government, especially at the national level. I cannot in good conscience support Church activities that further strain irresponsible government finances, foster a culture of dependency and irresponsibility, lead to increased taxes on everyone, and harm the economic future of everyone.

I know that there are other active, faithful Catholics in the diocese who apply Catholic social teaching as I do according to prudence and similarly object to this program. I commend you for all the good work you do but hope you will take my objections and concerns seriously.

In all sincerity and humility,
Tony Listi

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God’s Grace Precedes Human Will But Is Not Irresistible

Posted by Tony Listi on June 3, 2012

Despite the misunderstandings and caricatures by Protestantism, Catholicism is quite clear that man cannot become righteous and justified apart from God. God’s grace must be at work at the beginning, middle, and end of the process of salvation.

How many Protestants have ever taken the time to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church to actually know with certainty what the Catholic Church teaches?

The following are excerpts from the Catechism explaining Catholic doctrines on the relationship among justification, grace, free will, and merit. Italicized emphases are mine.

1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high.

God’s grace ALWAYS comes first and precedes human will in the process of salvation, in conversion. That is what the Catholic Church teaches and has always taught. Unfortunately, some Calvinists have taken this truth of God’s grace and perverted it, saying that God’s grace is “irresistible” and overpowers human will.

1993 Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent:

When God touches man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight. (Council of Trent)

Grace, along with the justification it effects, is not something we deserve or can earn but something freely and generously given by God.

1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.

1998 This vocation to eternal life is supernatural. It depends entirely on God’s gratuitous initiative, for he alone can reveal and give himself. It surpasses the power of human intellect and will, as that of every other creature.

Even the reception of grace by human will must first be prepared by divine grace.

2001 The preparation of man for the reception of grace is already a work of grace. This latter is needed to arouse and sustain our collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity. God brings to completion in us what he has begun, “since he who completes his work by cooperating with our will began by working so that we might will it” (St. Augustine, De gratia et libero arbitrio, 17: PL 44, 901):

Indeed we also work, but we are only collaborating with God who works, for his mercy has gone before us. It has gone before us so that we may be healed, and follows us so that once healed, we may be given life; it goes before us so that we may be called, and follows us so that we may be glorified; it goes before us so that we may live devoutly, and follows us so that we may always live with God: for without him we can do nothing. (St. Augustine, De natura et gratia, 31: PL 44, 264.)

Not only does grace allow for cooperation with human will, but grace also demands and obliges man to freely and willfully respond to and cooperate with grace.

2002 God’s free initiative demands man’s free response, for God has created man in his image by conferring on him, along with freedom, the power to know him and love him. The soul only enters freely into the communion of love. God immediately touches and directly moves the heart of man. He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only he can satisfy. The promises of “eternal life” respond, beyond all hope, to this desire….

Any merit of man originates first with the grace of God. But some men and women receive more grace and/or choose to cooperate more fully with that grace.

2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.

2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. the fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man’s free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man’s merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life….

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How a Coalition of Conservative Student Groups (Including College Republicans) Should Work

Posted by Tony Listi on July 7, 2011

Many conservative students are involved in partisan groups like the College Republicans and see non-partisan groups as redundant, unnecessary, and unimportant.

But in fact, non-partisan, conservative groups have several advantages over partisan groups:

Principle over Party or Person: Conservative groups are more likely to actually be and stay conservative. Their mission is to stay loyal to timeless, unchanging principles rather than to party platforms that may change over time or to politicians that will sacrifice principles out of fear and self-interest. What is the point of winning if you aren’t going to use your power and influence to promote conservative principles and policies?

Greater Dedication: Because non-partisan groups are explicitly and inherently about principle, the members of those groups are naturally going to be more dedicated. People who are more dedicated to a principled cause itself than to any party or person are the most dedicated people in the world.

Resources Available: The resources available to non-partisan, conservative groups are much greater than those available to partisan groups. There are a wide variety of conservative non-profits like the Leadership Institute that cannot and do not engage in or support partisan politics.

Click here to take a look at all the wonderful benefits that non-partisan student groups recognized by the Leadership Institute can take advantage of! Take notice of the publicity/media relations and fundraising assistance in particular.

Larger Pool for Recruitment and Support: More Americans identify as conservative than with any party affiliation.

But just because non-partisan, conservative groups have these advantages doesn’t mean that partisan groups are unnecessary or do not fulfill a vital role in a conservative coalition of campus groups.

In order to develop as many dedicated and effective young conservative leaders as possible and to win political battles on campus and beyond, a coalition of many conservative groups is necessary.

The more groups on any given campus the better, provided each has an effective leader-organizer. The left has tons of student groups on the typical campus, not just the College Democrats, and they are successful because of it. Conservatives should have just as many groups, if not more.

Specialization is key to movement success:

Quality: Specialized, single-issue groups usually attract and can harness students and non-student supporters with more dedication and enthusiasm.

Leadership Development: More groups means more opportunities for students to take leadership roles and develop as leaders.

Division of Labor: Specialized, single-issue groups can also do more regular, ongoing, and effective outreach and activism on their issue area than a general conservative group which must split its time, resources, and energy among many issues. Why have one group do everything and accomplish little when you can have many groups each focusing on their one issue and accomplish a lot?

Quantity: Specialization also brings more people into the movement overall than would otherwise join with only one general conservative group. It also helps diffuse tension among students on the center-right who don’t agree on every issue.

Here are eight groups that a complete conservative campus coalition would include:

Partisan and non-partisan groups play different activism roles in the campus coalition.

Non-partisan, conservative student groups should focus their activist efforts on the campus, culturally and institutionally, and on Republican primary campaigns and elections. Partisan groups like the College Republicans should focus on general elections, hopefully after a principled conservative has won the Republican nomination. Non-partisan, conservative groups should help conservatives win Republican primaries; College Republicans should then help get those conservative Republicans elected.

The activism of non-partisan, conservative student groups should push the political culture, the collective political conversation on campus, as far to the right as possible. That way the College Republicans can occupy a more middle position on a political spectrum that has been shifted to the right. (Click here to learn more about this strategy called shifting the Overton Window!) College Republicans chapter leaders need to consciously understand this strategy and not join in on the left’s attempts to push back against and discredit this shift. Republicans should not throw conservative movement activists under the bus.

If both partisan and non-partisan groups understand the big picture of the coalition and how their role fits into that big picture, both the conservative movement and the Republican Party on campus will achieve more political victories.

How will this conservative coalition on campus come to be?

The general conservative group should be the foundation of the coalition. It should play a crucial role in establishing and maintaining the campus coalition. This group should become a permanent, established group on campus, serving as a human resources department for the movement on campus:

  • Identifying, recruiting, and training new leaders to start the other coalition groups
  • Educating about and instilling dedication for conservative principles
  • Providing the other coalition member groups with manpower, research, training, and other guidance and assistance
  • Directing the coalition on two crucial, mutually beneficial projects: a campus canvass and a donor/alumni canvass.

Working together, the members of the coalition can help each other identify the hot-button issues of students, donors, alumni, parents, and other supporters and channel them to the appropriate group where they will be most dedicated. Their time, energy, labor, resources, and funds are crucial to real change on a campus and beyond.

This coalition only works when student leaders see the effectiveness of and embrace the necessity of movement politics and coordination. Little, if any, individual group’s self-interest is sacrificed, for the gains more than make up for the investment in teamwork. The coalition also requires leaders to get along with each other and work together even if they don’t agree 100% on all the issues. It will require dedication, but the rewards are immense and enduring!

A few organizational features of this coalition of groups will enable it to operate effectively in practice:

Interlocking Membership/Joint Group Meetings: Initially, if one is starting from scratch, a group of eight or fewer cadre conservatives could each become the leader of one conservative “group” in the coalition and be a member of the other coalition “groups.” These student groups could hold joint meetings to discuss their progress in building up the membership of their individual groups. Each leader could help the others recruit for their groups. Organization building should be the focus of the joint meetings.

Coalition Leaders Meetings: As the membership of each individual group grows, joint meetings should give way to separate meetings for each individual coalition group. The joint group meetings should transform into meetings for just the leaders of the individual coalition groups. Inter-coalition communication and coordination and joint canvass and activism projects should be the focus of these meetings.

To start a non-partisan, conservative group on your campus today, contact your Regional Field Coordinator for advice, assistance, and many kinds of support all along the way.

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Hypocrisy, Abuse, and Truth in the Catholic Church

Posted by Tony Listi on August 15, 2010

Hypocrisy and abuse are no proof of error; they are proof of weak, sinful human beings. To point to hypocrisy or abuse in argumentation is an ad hominem fallacy, a fallacy that many dissenters to and enemies of the Catholic Church employ over and over again.

The distinction between abstract/absolute ideas and and individual actions is crucial to the acceptance of the Catholic faith (or any belief system for that matter). Yet many people are unable to understand or unwilling to accept this crucial distinction. 

If the saints of the Church are not proof of the truth of Catholic doctrines, then neither are corrupt clergy proof of the error of Catholic doctrines. Doctrinal truth is not dependent on the character of individual men and women but upon the Holy Spirit acting through the offices of pope and bishop, who declare what is true doctrine (1 Tim 4:11, 6:2-5; Titus 1:13, 2:1, 15).

St. Peter and St. Paul were both sinners and hypocrites, as Scripture tells us. Peter is rebuked by Paul because of Peter’s hypocrisy in declaring no food unclean and circumcision unnecessary at the Council of Jerusalem yet drawing away from the Gentiles in fear of “the circumcision party” (Gal 2:12-14; Act 11:1-18, 15:6-14). Paul too showed himself to be a hypocrite to Christian teaching in his trivial quarrel with Barnabas over John Mark and in his other sins (Act 15:37-40; Rom 7:14-25).

Did the sins of Peter and Paul make their teachings any less true? Of course not!

Truth does not cease being truth just because an individual acts sinfully and in contradiction to truth that he knows to be true and has preached to be true. This truth about truth is true even in the case of popes, bishops, and priests.  The sins of clergy or individual lay Catholics have not and cannot change Catholic truths, which Catholic clergy, esp. the popes, have merely preserved and passed on since the time of the original apostles.

So it doesn’t matter how many times you bring up the Crusades, Inquisition, adulterous popes and clergy, individual Catholics complicit in the Holocaust, leftist Catholics like Nancy Pelosi, pedophile priests, abuse of annulments, or any other scandal, whether real or false: NONE of these things have changed Catholic doctrine over time. Nor could they.

That this is an historical fact is a tangible testament to the unique work and presence of the Holy Spirit in the Roman Catholic Church, which has preserved correct doctrine without change for about 2000 years. Jesus was not lying when He said that His Church built upon the Rock of Cephas would not fail.

The Roman Catholic Church is holy, not because its leaders and members have been or are sinless but because by the power of the Holy Spirit it possesses certain and true doctrines without error, doctrines that can be traced historically through Church history back to the beginning. “If the root is holy, so are the branches” (Rom 11:16).

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Clerical Celibacy: Scriptural and Historical Proofs

Posted by Tony Listi on December 20, 2009

Lately, I’ve been hearing objections to the Catholic imposition of celibacy on its clergy. Celibacy is not mandated in the Catholic Church in the same way that certain irreversible dogmas are. But while the practice could be changed in theory, it is disciplinary and desirable. And it is upheld by Scripture, the historical traditions of the early Church, and reason.

Ultimately, resistance to clerical celibacy must boil down to a rejection of the one true Christian (Catholic) understanding of sex, marriage, chastity, sacrament, the role of the pastor, and Church authority/Roman primacy.

Scriptural Proofs (emphases mine of course)

Jesus himself, St. John the Baptist, St. Paul, and the prophet Jeremiah were all celibate their entire lives. Jewish tradition also regard Elijah and Elisha to have been celibate.

Only Catholicism actually takes the following sacred verses seriously and incorporates them into its doctrine and practice.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said,

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it. (Mt 19:12)

Why are non-Catholics unable to receive this truth from our Lord? Why do none of them embrace this highest standard and make themselves “eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven”? Why do they hold none of their members to this highest standard?

St. Paul said in great detail in 1 Corinthians 7:7-38:

I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion . . . Every one should remain in the state in which he was called . . . . Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. But if you marry, you do not sin . . . Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. . . I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; But the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord . . . So that he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.

Non-Catholics arbitrarily ignore these sacred and fairly straightforward verses. Moreover, St. Paul in particular aptly summarizes the reasonableness of celibacy. There is nothing I can think of to add to his argument.

How can Protestants criticize Catholicism for demanding that its clerics be like St. Paul, for demanding of its clerics the higher standard of celibacy that St. Paul wished/preferred for ALL Christians?

The Gospel of St. Matthew (19:27-29) tells us that those of the Twelve Apostles who had wives, especially St. Peter, left the company of their wives:

Then Peter said to him in reply, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.

The Gospel of St. Luke (18:28-30) confirms this fact and more explicitly with regard to wives:

Then Peter said, “We have given up our possessions and followed you.” He said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive (back) an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come.”

Specifically with regard to Peter, Mark 1:30-31 provides circumstantial evidence that Peter’s wife may have died or lived separately by the time he was following Jesus:

Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

Where is Peter’s wife in this scene? If she were alive or living in the same house, wouldn’t she have served the men?

In 1 Tim 5:9-12, St. Paul speaks of women who have made a voluntary pledge to be celibate:

Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years old, married only once, with a reputation for good works, namely, that she has raised children, practiced hospitality, washed the feet of the holy ones, helped those in distress, involved herself in every good work. But exclude younger widows, for when their sensuality estranges them from Christ, they want to marry and will incur condemnation for breaking their first pledge.

St. John in his Revelation (14:3-5) speaks of unmarried virgins who have remained faithful to God and entered the kingdom:

They were singing (what seemed to be) a new hymn before the throne, before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn this hymn except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been ransomed from the earth. These are they who were not defiled with women; they are virgins and these are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been ransomed as the firstfruits of the human race for God and the Lamb. On their lips no deceit has been found; they are unblemished.

Yes, I am aware of 1 Tim 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6, which say that a deacon or bishop should be “the husband of one wife.” However, the Apostle’s desire that other men might be as himself (1 Corinthians 7:7-8, already quoted) precludes the inference that he wished all ministers of the Gospel to be married.  This direction to Timothy and Titus is restrictive, not injunctive; it excludes men who have married more than once, but it does not impose marriage as a necessary condition. Also and importantly, these verses are silent on the issue of sexual intercourse. They speak of Church leaders potentially having children, not begetting them. To state the obvious, having a wife (and children) does not necessitate intercourse with her.

Moreover, the early Church fathers interpreted these verses to mean a prohibition against the ordination of remarried laymen, not against the ordination of virgins, who were actually preferred (Origen (and here), Tertullian, Ambrose, Jerome, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine, Pope Siricius, Epiphanius, Apostolic Canons)

And I am also quite aware of 1 Cor 9:3-6. Please see the commentary below of Tertullian and Pope Clement of Alexandria on this verse.

Even in the Old Testament there are proofs of the propriety of celibacy for men of God who undertake holy endeavors. According to Jewish tradition, Moses did not have marital relations with his wife Zipporah after his encounter with God in the burning bush. Also, before Moses went to meet God and receive the 10 Commandments, he orders the Israelites to purify themselves by abstaining from sex (Exodus 19:15): “He warned them, ‘Be ready for the third day. Have no intercourse with any woman.'”

God tells the prophet Jeremiah that he is to be celibate: “This message came to me from the LORD: Do not marry any woman; you shall not have sons or daughters in this place” (Jer 16:1-2).

David and his men are permitted to eat the holy temple bread because they have abstained from sexual relations with their wives:

“Now what have you on hand? Give me five loaves, or whatever you can find.” But the priest replied to David, “I have no ordinary bread on hand, only holy bread; if the men have abstained from women, you may eat some of that.” David answered the priest: “We have indeed been segregated from women as on previous occasions. Whenever I go on a journey, all the young men are consecrated–even for a secular journey. All the more so today, when they are consecrated at arms!” (1 Sam 21:4-6)

Historical Tradition: Early Fathers and Councils (emphases mine)

There can be no dispute that virginity was always held in honor historically in the Church, and that large numbers of the clergy practiced it or separated from their wives if they were already married . While there was no commandment for virginity, celibacy/continency was a general rule going back to apostolic times. Specifically, though many clergy had wives, they were expected to be wholly abstinent from sexual intercourse after their ordination.

Tertullian writes (circa 204-212 AD) commending the clergy and devoted women who practice celibacy:

How many men, therefore, and how many women, in Ecclesiastical Orders, owe their position to continence, who have preferred to be wedded to God; who have restored the honour of their flesh, and who have already dedicated themselves as sons of that (future) age, by slaying in themselves the concupiscence of lust, and that whole (propensity) which could not be admitted within Paradise! Whence it is presumable that such as shall wish to be received within Paradise, ought at last to begin to cease from that thing from which Paradise is intact.

In his On Monogamy, Tertullian explains 1 Cor 9:3-6, saying that the wives and female companions of the apostles were merely ministers to them, not sex partners:

The rest [of the Twelve], while I do not find them married I must of necessity understand to have been either eunuchs or continent. Nor indeed, if, among the Greeks, in accordance with the carelessness of custom, women and wives are classed under a common name— however, there is a name proper to wives— shall we therefore so interpret Paul as if he demonstrates the apostles to have had wives? For if he were disputing about marriages, as he does in the sequel, where the apostle could better have named some particular example, it would appear right for him to say, For have we not the power of leading about wives, like the other apostles and Cephas? But when he subjoins those (expressions) which show his abstinence from (insisting on) the supply of maintenance, saying, For have we not the power of eating and drinking? he does not demonstrate that wives were led about by the apostles, whom even such as have not still have the power of eating and drinking; but simply women, who used to minister to them in the same way (as they did) when accompanying the Lord.

Pope St. Clement of Alexandria (died circa. 215) concurs:

Even Paul did not hesitate in one letter to address his consort. The only reason why he did not take her about with him was that it would have been an inconvenience for his ministry. Accordingly he says in a letter: “Have we not a right to take about with us a wife that is a sister like the other apostles?”  But the latter, in accordance with their particular ministry, devoted themselves to preaching without any distraction, and took their wives with them not as women with whom they had marriage relations, but as sisters, that they might be their fellow-ministers in dealing with housewives. It was through them that the Lord’s teaching penetrated also the women’s quarters without any scandal being aroused.

Origen (185-254 AD) in his Homilies on Leviticus seems to contrast the spiritual offspring of the priests of the New Law with the natural offspring begotten in wedlock by the priests of the Old (In Levit. Hom. vi, no. 6).

Similarly, Eusebius (c. 265-340 AD) compares the relationship of Old Testament patriarchs and of Christian leaders to women and children. He says,

But in our days there are many external interests that draw us away, and involve us in uncongenial thoughts, and seduce us from our zeal for the things which please God. The word of the Gospel teaching certainly gives this as the cause of the limitation of marriage, when it says…

Eusebius then continues by quoting St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (7:29-35) as I did above. Most strikingly, he then says,

I am glad to say we are able to provide teachers and preachers of the word of holiness, free from all ties of life and anxious thoughts. And in our day these men are necessarily devoted to celibacy that they may have leisure for higher things; they have undertaken to bring up not one or two children but a prodigious number, and to educate them in godliness, and to care for their life generally.

On the top of all this, if we carefully examine the lives of the ancient men [of the Old Testament] of whom I am speaking, we shall find that they had children in early life, but later on abstained and ceased from having them…. To this I must refer the student, only warning him that according to the laws of the new covenant the producing of children is certainly not forbidden, but the provisions are similar to those followed by the ancient men of God. “For a bishop,” says the Scripture, “must be the husband of one wife.” Yet it is fitting that those in the priesthood and occupied in the service of God, should abstain after ordination from the intercourse of marriage.

The Spanish Council of Elvira (c. 300-315) in Canon 33 imposed celibacy on bishops, priests, and deacons. It applied only to clergy in Spain and is the oldest positive ecclesiastical ordinance for celibacy.

The Council of Ancyra (314) assumed that celibacy was the traditional norm in Canon 10. Marriage was allowed only as a concession/dispensation to a deacon from the bishop:

They who have been made deacons, declaring when they were ordained that they must marry, because they were not able to abide so, and who afterwards have married, shall continue in their ministry, because it was conceded to them by the bishop.  But if any were silent on this matter, undertaking at their ordination to abide as they were, and afterwards proceeded to marriage, these shall cease from the diaconate.

The Council of Neo-Caesarea (315) is even more stringent in Canon 1:

If a presbyter marry, let him be removed from his order; but if he commit fornication or adultery, let him be altogether cast out [i.e. of communion] and put to penance.

The Council of Nicaea (325) did not impose celibacy but did say in Canon 3:

The great Synod has stringently forbidden any bishop, presbyter, deacon, or any one of the clergy whatever, to have a subintroducta dwelling with him, except only a mother, or sister, or aunt, or such persons only as are beyond all suspicion.

No bishop, priest, or deacon was to have any woman living in the house with him, unless it were his mother, sister, or aunt, or at any rate persons against whom no suspicion could lodge. The clear implication is that clergy are to have no sexual relations after their ordination.

In writing about the birth of Jesus, St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 315-386) urges that the minister of the altar who serves God properly abstains from marriage/sex:

For it became Him who is most pure, and a teacher of purity, to have come forth from a pure bride-chamber. For if he who well fulfills the office of a priest of Jesus abstains from a wife, how should Jesus Himself be born of man and woman?

In his Panarion or Against Heresies (374-377), St. Epiphanius writes most vehemently in favor of clerical celibacy:

…in particular through those who observe continence after a single marriage and those who persevere in virginity, as also his apostles ordered in the ecclesiastical rule of the priesthood in the spirit of good order and religion.

He says also:

Holy Church respects the dignity of the priesthood to such a point that she does not admit to the diaconate, the priesthood, or the episcopate, no nor even to the subdiaconate, anyone still living in marriage and begetting children. She accepts only him who if married gives up his wife or has lost her by death, especially in those places where the ecclesiastical canons are strictly attended to.

While acknowledging that in some localities priests and deacons had children, Epiphanius argues against it and urges that the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit has always disapproved of that allowance.

St. Jerome writes in his famous (or should be famous) treatise “The Perpetual Virginity of Mary” (c. 383) that though marriage may be a holy relationship, it presents a hindrance to prayer, and that virginity is more consonant with God’s will:

I do not deny that holy women are found both among widows and those who have husbands; but they are such as have ceased to be wives, or such as, even in the close bond of marriage, imitate virgin chastity.

In Jerome’s Against Jovinianus (393), he says that the apostles abandoned their marriages but not their wives, confirming Tertullian’s and Clement’s interpretation of 1 Cor 9:3-6:

In accordance with this rule Peter and the other Apostles (I must give Jovinianus something now and then out of my abundance) had indeed wives, but those which they had taken before they knew the Gospel. But once they were received into the Apostolate, they forsook the offices of marriage. For when Peter, representing the Apostles, says to the Lord: (Matthew 19:27) Lo we have left all and followed you, the Lord answered him, (Luke 18:29-30) Verily I say unto you, there is no man that has left house or wife, or brethren, or parents, or children for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this time, and in the world to come eternal life. But if, in order to show that all the Apostles had wives, he meets us with the words Have we no right to lead about women or wives (for γυνή in Greek has both meanings) even as the rest of the apostles, and Cephas, and the brethren of the Lord? let him add what is found in the Greek copies, Have we no right to lead about women that are sisters, or wives? This makes it clear that the writer referred to other holy women, who, in accordance with Jewish custom, ministered to their teachers of their substance, as we read was the practice with even our Lord himself. Where there is a previous reference to eating and drinking, and the outlay of money, and mention is afterward made of women that are sisters, it is quite clear, as we have said, that we must understand, not wives, but those women who ministered of their substance.

Jerome says that St. Paul “is anxious throughout the whole discussion to give virginity the preference over marriage” but that the early apostles “made the rules for fresh believers somewhat lighter that they might not in alarm shrink from keeping them.” And he continues, demanding celibacy of the bishop:

For he [St. Paul] does not say: Let a bishop be chosen who marries one wife and begets children; but who marries one wife, and has his children in subjection and well disciplined. You surely admit that he is no bishop who during his episcopate begets children. The reverse is the case— if he be discovered, he will not be bound by the ordinary obligations of a husband, but will be condemned as an adulterer….

He then demands celibacy/continence of the priest:

A layman, or any believer, cannot pray unless he abstain from sexual intercourse. Now a priest must always offer sacrifices for the people: he must therefore always pray. And if he must always pray, he must always be released from the duties of marriage. For even under the old law they who used to offer sacrifices for the people not only remained in their houses, but purified themselves for the occasion by separating from their wives, nor would they drink wine or strong drink which are wont to stimulate lust.

St. Jerome gives preference to ordaining virgins, saying that the only reason non-virgins have been accepted into the priesthood is for practical, numerical reasons:

That married men are elected to the priesthood, I do not deny: the number of virgins is not so great as that of the priests required. Does it follow that because all the strongest men are chosen for the army, weaker men should not be taken as well? All cannot be strong. If an army were constituted of strength only, and numbers went for nothing, the feebler men might be rejected. As it is, men of second or third-rate strength are chosen, that the army may have its full numerical complement.

St. Jerome apparently could not foresee the future consequences of admitting “men of second or third-rate strength” to the priesthood, namely widespread clerical corruption of all sorts (including nepotism) that stains the history of the Catholic Church.

In Jerome’s Against Vigilantius (c. 406), he rips those bishops who ordain men not committed to continency:

Shameful to relate, there are bishops who are said to be associated with him in his wickedness— if at least they are to be called bishops— who ordain no deacons but such as have been previously married who credit no celibate with chastity— nay, rather, who show clearly what measure of holiness of life they can claim by indulging in evil suspicions of all men, and, unless the candidates for ordination appear before them with pregnant wives, and infants wailing in the arms of their mothers, will not administer to them Christ’s ordinance. What are the Churches of the East to do? What is to become of the Egyptian Churches and those belonging to the Apostolic Seat, which accept for the ministry only men who are virgins, or those who practice continency, or, if married, abandon their conjugal rights?

Lastly, in a letter to Pammachius, Jerome writes:

Again, when explaining the witness of the apostle to the Galatians, By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified, I have spoken to the following effect: Marriages also are works of the law. And for this reason there is a curse upon such as do not produce offspring. They are permitted, it is true, even under the Gospel; but it is one thing to concede an indulgence to what is a weakness and quite another to promise a reward to what is a virtue. See my express declaration that marriage is allowed in the Gospel, yet that those who are married cannot receive the rewards of chastity so long as they render their due one to another. If men feel indignant at this statement, let them vent their anger not on me but on the Holy Scriptures; nay, more, upon all bishops, presbyters, and deacons, and the whole company of priests and levites, who know that they cannot offer sacrifices if they fulfill the obligations of marriage….

Therefore, as I was going to say, the virgin Christ and the virgin Mary have dedicated in themselves the first fruits of virginity for both sexes. The apostles have either been virgins or, though married, have lived celibate lives. Those persons who are chosen to be bishops, priests, and deacons are either virgins or widowers; or at least when once they have received the priesthood, are vowed to perpetual chastity. Why do we delude ourselves and feel vexed if while we are continually straining after sexual indulgence, we find the palm of chastity denied to us? We wish to fare sumptuously, and to enjoy the embraces of our wives, yet at the same time we desire to reign with Christ virgins and widows. among Shall there be but one reward, then, for hunger and for excess, for filth and for finery, for sackcloth and for silk? Lazarus, (Luke 16:19-25) in his lifetime, received evil things, and the rich man, clothed in purple, fat and sleek, while he lived enjoyed the good things of the flesh but, now that they are dead, they occupy different positions. Misery has given place to satisfaction, and satisfaction to misery. And it rests with us whether we will follow Lazarus or the rich man.

St. Ambrose (340-397) writes in his On the Duties of the Clergy:

But ye know that the ministerial office must be kept pure and unspotted, and must not be defiled by conjugal intercourse; ye know this, I say, who have received the gifts of the sacred ministry, with pure bodies, and unspoilt modesty, and without ever having enjoyed conjugal intercourse. I am mentioning this, because in some out-of-the-way places, when they enter on the ministry, or even when they become priests, they have begotten children. They defend this on the ground of old custom, when, as it happened, the sacrifice was offered up at long intervals. However, even the people had to be purified two or three days beforehand, so as to come clean to the sacrifice, as we read in the Old Testament. They even used to wash their clothes. If such regard was paid in what was only the figure, how much ought it to be shown in the reality! Learn then, Priest and Levite, what it means to wash your clothes. You must have a pure body wherewith to offer up the sacraments. If the people were forbidden to approach their victim unless they washed their clothes, do you, while foul in heart and body, dare to make supplication for others? Do you dare to make anoffering for them?… You must show yourself continent and sober, and this needs temperance.

St. John Chrysostom (347-407) implies the high virtue of celibacy in his denunciation of envy among Christians:

For this cause, even if a man do miracles, have celibacy to show, and fasting, and lying on the bare ground, and does by this virtue advance even to the angels, yet shall he be most accursed of all, while he has this defect [of envy], and shall be a greater breaker of the Law than the adulterer, and the fornicator, and the robber, and the violator of supulchres.

Chrysostom also implies in his book On Priesthood the superiority of priests who have no wife or children:

For the recluse has but himself to fear for; or should he be forced to have the care of others they are easily counted: and if they be many, yet they are less than those in our Churches, and they give him who is set over them much lighter anxiety about them, not only on account of their fewness, but because they are all free from worldly concerns, and have neither wife nor children, nor any such thing to care about; and this makes them very deferential to their rulers, and allows them to share the same abode with them, so that they are able to take in their failings accurately at a glance and correct them, seeing that the constant supervision of a teacher is no little help towards advance in virtue. But of those who are subject to the Priest, the greater number are hampered with the cares of this life, and this makes them the slower in the performance of spiritual duties. Whence it is necessary for the teacher to sow every day (so to speak), in order that by its frequency at least, the word of doctrine may be able to be grasped by those who hear….. For the Priest ought not only to be thus pure as one who has been dignified with so high a ministry, but very discreet, and skilled in many matters, and to be as well versed in the affairs of this life as they who are engaged in the world, and yet to be free from them all more than the recluses who occupy the mountains. For since he must mix with men who have wives, and who bring up children, who possess servants, and are surrounded with wealth, and fill public positions, and are persons of influence, he too should be a many-sided man— I say many-sided, not unreal, nor yet fawning and hypocritical, but full of much freedom and assurance, and knowing how to adapt himself profitably, where the circumstances of the case require it, and to be both kind and severe, for it is not possible to treat all those under one’s charge on one plan, since neither is it well for physicians to apply one course of treatment to all their sick, nor for a pilot to know but one way of contending with the winds.

St. Augustine (354-430) writes in his On the Good of Marriage:

For what Christian men of our time being free from the marriage bond, having power to contain from all sexual intercourse, seeing it to be now a time, as it is written, not of embracing, but of abstaining from embrace, would not choose rather to keep virginal or widowed continence, than (now that there is no obligation from duty to human society) to endure tribulation of the flesh, without which marriages cannot be…. And this is so great a thing, that many at this day more easily abstain from all sexual intercourse their whole life through, than, if they are joined in marriage, observe the measure of not coming together except for the sake of children. Forsooth we have many brethren and partners in the heavenly inheritance of both sexes that are continent, whether they be such as have made trial of marriage, or such as are entirely free from all such intercourse: forsooth they are without number….

For there is not now necessity of begetting children, as there then was, when, even when wives bare children, it was allowed, in order to a more numerous posterity, to marry other wives in addition, which now is certainly not lawful. For the difference that separates times causes the due season to have so great force unto the justice and doing or not doing any thing, that now a man does better, if he marry not even one wife, unless he be unable to contain.

In 385 Pope Siricius responded back to a letter from Bishop Himerius of Tarragona with regard to clerical discipline (Directa decretal). He upholds priestly celibacy, writing:

For we learned that many priests and deacons of Christ, long after their ordination, have produced offspring both from their own wives and even through filthy liaisons, and defend their sin with this excuse, that it is read in the Old Testament that the opportunity to procreate was given to priests and ministers. Let him speak to me now, whoever is an addict of obscenities and a teacher of vices. If he thinks that here and there in the law of Moses the restraints of indulgence are relaxed by the Lord for sacred orders, why does He admonish those to whom the Holy of Holies was committed saying: “Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy”? Why indeed were priests ordered to live in the temple, far from their homes, in the year of their service? Just for this reason: so that they could not engage in physical contact even with wives, and that shining in integrity of conscience they might offer acceptable service to God. The period of service having been completed, use of wives was permitted to them for reason of succession alone, because no one from a tribe other than of Levi was directed to be admitted to the ministry of God. Whence the Lord Jesus, when he enlightened us by his advent, testified in the Gospel that he had come to fulfill the law not to destroy it. And he wished thus that the figure of the Church, whose bridegroom he is, radiate with the splendor of chastity, so that on the day of judgment when he comes again he can find her without stain and blemish, just as he taught through his Apostle. All we priests and deacons are bound by the unbreakable law of those sanctions, so that from the day of our ordination we subject our hearts and bodies to moderation and modesty in order that in every respect we might please our God in these sacrifices which daily we offer. “They who are in the flesh,” says the chosen vessel, “are unable to please God. But you are not now in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” And where can the Spirit of God dwell except, as we read, in holy bodies?… But those who lean on the excuse of an illicit privilege by asserting that this was conceded to them in the old law, let them know that they have been expelled by the authority of the apostolic see from every ecclesiastical office, which they used unworthily, nor can they ever touch the mysteries which ought to be venerated, of which they deprived themselves when they were obsessed with obscene desires…. Any cleric indeed who marries a widow or a second wife should thereupon be stripped of all privilege of ecclesiastical rank, with communion as only a layman conceded to him, which he can then have provided that he does nothing henceforth for which he should lose it. We certainly do not allow women in the houses of clerics, other than those alone whom the synod of Nicaea, for reasons only of necessities, permitted to live with them.

In 386, a Roman synod reaffirmed Pope Siricius’ edict forbidding priests and deacons to have conjugal intercourse with their wives and took steps to enforce it in the universal church. The Synod of Hippo (393) and other synods later reaffirmed clerical celibacy as well.

In that same year, Pope Siricius issued another decretal (Cum in unum) to various provinces, including the faraway churches of Africa. Again, he affirms clerical celibacy:

Moreover, as it is worthy, chaste, and honest to do so, this is what we advise: let the priests and Levites have no intercourse with their wives, inasmuch as they are absorbed in the daily duties of their ministries. Paul, when writing to the Corinthians, told them: “Leave yourself free for prayer” (1 Cor 7:5). If lay people are asked to be continent so that their prayers are answered, all the more so a priest should be ready at any moment, thanks to immaculate purity, and not fearing the obligation of offering the sacrifice or baptizing. Were he soiled by carnal concupiscence, what could he do? Would he excuse himself? With what shame, in what state of mind would he carry out his functions? What testimony of conscience, what merit would give him the trust to have his prayers granted, when it is said: “To all who are pure themselves, everything is pure; but to those who have been corrupted and lack faith, nothing can be pure” (Titus 1:5). Which is why I am exhorting, warning, supplicating: let us do away with this opprobrium that even the pagans can rightly hold against us. Perhaps does one believe that this [is permitted] because it is written: “He must not have been married more than once” (1 Tim 3:2). But [Paul] was not talking about [a man] persisting in his desire to beget; he spoke about the continence that one should observe [propter continentiam futuram]. He did not accept those who were not beyond reproach [in this matter] and he said: “I should like everyone to be like me” (1 Cor 7:7). And he stated even more clearly: “People who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God. Your interests, however, are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual” (Rom 8:8-9).

Around the same time as the aforementioned papal letter, yet another papal decretal (Dominus inter) of uncertain authorship also upholds clerical celibacy:

Here is what has been decided, first of all, with regard to bishops, priests, and deacons: those who have the responsibility of the divine sacrifice, and whose hands give the grace of baptism and consecrate the Body of Christ, are ordered by divine Scripture, and not only ourselves, to be very chaste; the Fathers themselves had ordered them to observe bodily continence. Let us not omit this point but explain the reason for it: how would a bishop or a priest dare preach continence and integrity to a widow or a virgin, or yet [how would he dare] exhort [spouses] to the chastity of the conjugal bed, if he himself is more concerned about begetting children for the world than begetting them for God? This is why we read in Scripture regarding these three ranks that the ministers of God are under obligation to observe purity; it is obvious that this is always a necessity for them; they must either give baptism or offer the sacrifice. Would an impure man dare soul what is holy when holy things are for holy people? It was thus that [the priests of the Old Testament] who offered sacrifices in the temple rightly stayed there without going out during the entire year they were on duty and had nothing to do with their homes. As to the idolaters, when they dedicate themselves to their impieties and immolate [sacrifices] to the demons, they impose on themselves continence with regard to women and also endeavor to keep themselves pure from [certain] foods; and you would ask me if the priest of the living God, who must offer spiritual sacrifices, must be constantly purified, if he must, in his whole flesh, be concerned about flesh? If commixture is defiling, it is obvious that the priest must be ready to carry out his celestial functions–he who has to supplicate on behalf of the sins of others–so that he himself not be found impure. If the lay people are told, “Leave yourselves free for prayer” (1 Cor 7:5), these men who put themselves first at the service of human procreation might have the title of priests, but they cannot have that dignity….

St. John Chrysostom in his Homilies on First Timothy (392-397) addresses head on the apparent contradiction between St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians and to Timothy:

If then he who is married cares for the things of the world (1 Corinthians 7:33), and a Bishop ought not to care for the things of the world, why does he say “the husband of one wife”? Some indeed think that he says this with reference to one who remains free from a wife. But if otherwise, he that has a wife may be as though he had none (1 Corinthians 7:29). For that liberty was then properly granted, as suited to the nature of the circumstances then existing. And it is very possible, if a man will, so to regulate his conduct. For as riches make it difficult to enter into the kingdom of Heaven, yet rich men have often entered in, so it is with marriage.

Thus, while it is possible for the bishop to be as he ought to be even with a wife (removed from cares of the world and continent), a wife and children make this possibility very difficult and rare for the average human being in the clerical service of God to achieve.

Canons 3 and 4 of the Council of Carthage (419) upheld clerical continence:

Aurelius the bishop said: When at the past council the matter on continency and chastity was considered, those three grades, which by a sort of bond are joined to chastity by their consecration, to wit bishops, presbyters, and deacons, so it seemed that it was becoming that the sacred rulers and priests of God as well as the Levites, or those who served at the divine sacraments, should be continent altogether, by which they would be able with singleness of heart to ask what they sought from the Lord: so that what the apostles taught and antiquity kept, that we might also keep.

Faustinus, the bishop of the Potentine Church, in the province of Picenum, a legate of the Roman Church, said: It seems good that a bishop, a presbyter, and a deacon, or whoever perform the sacraments, should be keepers of modesty and should abstain from their wives.

By all the bishops it was said: It is right that all who serve the altar should keep pudicity from all women.

By the time of Pope St. Leo the Great (440-461), the law of continency (no sexual relations whatsoever) for clerics was generally recognized in the West. Pope Leo sent a letter to Rusticus, bishop of Narbonne, answering his question specifically about whether clergy may have sex with their wives:

The law of continence is the same for the ministers of the altar as for bishops and priests, who when they were laymen or readers, could lawfully marry and have offspring.  But when they reached to the said ranks, what was before lawful ceased to be so.  And hence, in order that their wedlock may become spiritual instead of carnal, it behooves them not to put away their wives but to “have them as though they had them not” (1 Cor 7:29), whereby both the affection of their wives may be retained and the marriage functions cease.

The Council of Agde/Agatha in Gaul (506) prohibited subdeacons from from marrying.

The Council of Girona (517) allowed allows the wife of a cleric to live with her husband on the condition that she live with him as a sister with her brother (i.e. no sex).

The Code of Justinian (529-534) stipulated that a man must “neither have, nor have had, a wife or concubine; and have had no legitimate or natural children” in order to become a bishop.

Canon 22 of the Council of Clermont (535) reads:

When men are called to the sublime dignity of the priesthood and of the diaconate, let them totally repudiate the works of the world; chosen for the sacred mysteries, let them renounce carnal relations and change into fraternal affection the sexual intimacy they had had until then [with their wives]. And let every priest or deacon, after having, by God’s grace, received the [Levitical] blessing, immediately become the brother of his former wife. We have learned that some, aflame with the ardor of their passion, rejected the cincture of the [priestly] militia and returned to their vomit; they resumed conjugal life that was forbidden to them, and through an incest of sorts, brought prejudice against the splendor of priestly dignity, to such an extent that they even sired children. If someone has publicly committed this kind [of offense], let him be deprived forever from his dignity; he had [in any case] lost it when he had agreed [to commit] his offense.

Canon 2 of the third national council at Orleans (538) reads:

No cleric, from the subdiaconate upward, is entitled to take a wife into the new life he has chosen. If it happens that he already has one, he will not have relations with her anymore. Should he do so, he would be deposed of his functions, in conformity with the regulations of old canons, and would have to be content with lay communion.

The second Council of Tours (567) decreed that any cleric found in bed with his wife would be excommunicated for a year and reduced to the lay state. According to Canon 14, the wife of a bishop was not to live with him in the same house.

The Council of Trullo (692) made celibacy a requirement for the bishop but rebelled against the primacy of Rome with laxer requirements for priests and deacons.

There are so many different councils reiterating the obligation of clerical continence more or less (Council of Macon, Council of Auxerre, etc.).

For Further Reading:

Priestly Celibacy (very well done paper online)

Priestly Celibacy in Patristics and Church History (Vatican website document)

Apostolic Origins of Clerical Celibacy

Celibacy in the Early Church: The Beginnings of a Discipline of Obligatory Continence for Clerics in East and West

The Case for Clerical Celibacy: Its Historical Development & Theological Foundations

But those who lean on the excuse of an illicit privilege by asserting that this was conceded to them in the old law, let them know that they have been expelled by the authority of the apostolic see from every ecclesiastical office, which they used unworthily, nor can they ever touch the mysteries which ought to be venerated, of which they deprived themselves when they were obsessed with obscene desires.

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The Error of the Supremacy of Private Judgment of Scripture (Cardinal Newman’s Analysis)

Posted by Tony Listi on December 15, 2009

[From: Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church (Via Media, Volume I), 1837, Lecture Six, from Newman’s Anglican period]

Private Judgment is a weapon which destroys error by the sacrifice of truth….

In the next place, let us consider what force prepossessions have in disqualifying us from searching Scripture dispassionately for ourselves. The multitude of men are hindered from forming their own views of doctrine, not only from the peculiar structure of the sacred Volume, but from the external bias which they ever receive from education and other causes. Without proving the influence of prejudice, which would be superfluous, let us consider some of the effects of it. For instance; one man sees the doctrine of absolute predestination in Scripture so clearly, as he considers, that he makes it almost an article of saving faith; another thinks it a most dangerous error. One man maintains, that the civil establishment of religion is commanded in Scripture, another that it is condemned by it. One man sees in Scripture the three evangelical Councils, another thinks them a device of the evil one. Such instances do not show that Scripture has no one certain meaning, but that it is not so distinct and prominent, as to force itself upon the minds of the many against their various prejudices. Nor do they prove that all prejudice is wrong; but that some particular prejudices are not true; and that, since it is impossible to be without some or other, it is expedient to impress the mind with that which is true; that is, with the faith taught by the Church Catholic, and ascertainable as matter of fact beyond the influence of prejudice.

Again: take the explanations in detail given by Protestants of particular texts of Scripture; they will be found to involve an inconsistency and want of intelligible principle, which shows how impossible it is for the mass of men to contemplate Scripture without imparting to it the colouring which they themselves have received in the course of their education. Nothing is more striking, in popular interpretations and discussions, than the amplitude of meaning which is sometimes allowed to the sacred text, compared with its assumed narrowness at other times. In some places it is liberally opened, at others it is kept close shut; sometimes a single word is developed into an argument, at another it is denied to mean anything specific and definite, anything but what is accidental and transient. At times the commentator is sensitively alive to the most distant allusions, at times he is impenetrable to any; at times he decides that the sacred text is figurative, at other times only literal;—without any assignable reason except that the particular religious persuasion to which he belongs requires such inconsistency. For instance, when Christ said to the Apostles, “Drink ye all of this,” He is considered to imply that all the laity should partake the cup: yet, when He said to them, “I am with you always,” He spoke to the original Apostles, exclusively of their successors in the ministry. When St. Paul speaks of “the man of sin,” he meant a succession of sinners; but when Christ said, “I give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” He does not mean a line of Peters. When St. Paul says of the Old Testament, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” he includes the New; yet when he says, “We are come to the city of the Living God,” he does not include the Church militant. “A fountain shall be opened for sin,” does not prove baptismal grace; but “Christ is unto us righteousness,” proves that He fulfils the law instead of us. “The fire must prove every man’s work,” is said to be a figure; yet, “Let no man judge you in meats and drinks,” is to be taken to the letter as an argument against fasting. “Do this in remembrance of Me,” is to be understood as a command; but, “Ye also ought to wash one another’s feet,” is not a command. “Let no man judge you in respect of a holyday, or of the Sabbath-days,” is an argument, not indeed against the Sabbath, but certainly against holydays. “Search the Scriptures,” is an argument for Scripture being the rule of faith; but “hold the Traditions,” is no argument in favour of Tradition. “Forbidding to marry” is a proof that Rome is Antichrist; but, “It is good for a man not to marry,” is no argument in favour of celibacy. The Sermon on the Mount contains no direction for Protestants to fast; but the second Commandment is plainly against Image Worship. The Romanist in using prayers in an unknown tongue is guilty of disobeying St. Paul; but the Protestant, in teaching justification by faith only, is not guilty of at once garbling St. Paul and contradicting St. James….

I am but showing the extreme inconsistency which is found in the popular mode of interpreting Scripture;—men profess to explain Scripture by itself and by reason, yet go by no rule, nor can give any account of their mode of proceeding. They take the most difficult points for granted, and say they go by common sense when they really go by prejudice. Doubtless Scripture is sometimes literal and sometimes figurative; it need not be literal here, because it is literal there; but, in many cases, the only way of determining when it is one and when the other, is to see how the early Church understood it. This is the Anglo-Catholic principle; we do not profess to judge of Scripture in greater matters by itself, but by means of an external guide. But the popular religion of the day does; and it finds itself unequal to its profession. It rebels against the voice of Antiquity, and becomes the victim of prejudice and a slave to Traditions of men. It interprets Scripture in a spirit of caprice, which might be made, and is made by others, to prove Romanism quite as well. And from all this I infer, not that Scripture has no one meaning in matters of doctrine, or that we do not know it, or that a man of high qualifications may not elicit it, but that the mass of men, if left to themselves, will not possess the faculty of reading it naturally and truly….

It is very observable how a latent prejudice can act in obscuring or rather annihilating certain passages of Scripture in the mental vision, which are ever so prominently presented to the bodily eyes. For instance, a man perhaps is in the habit of reading Scripture for years, and has no impression whatever produced on his mind by such portions of it as speak of God’s free grace, and the need of spiritual aid. These are at length suddenly and forcibly brought home to him; and then perhaps he changes his religious views altogether, and declares that Scripture has hitherto been to him nothing better than a sealed book. What security has he that in certain other respects it is not still hidden from him, as it was heretofore as regards the portions which have now unsettled him? Anglican divines will consider him still dark on certain other points of Scripture doctrine. Or, again, I would ask him what satisfactory sense he puts to our Lord’s words, “Verily, thou shalt in nowise come out thence till thou hast paid the very last farthing”? or, “Stand fast and hold the Traditions”? or, “Let them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord”? and whether a Roman Catholic might not as fairly accuse him of neglecting these texts still, as he at present considers certain other texts, to which he was before blind, the sum and substance of his religion?

Or, to take another and more painful illustration. The (so-called) Unitarians explain away the most explicit texts in behalf of our Lord’s divinity. These texts do not affect them at all. Let us consider how this is. When we come to inquire, we find that they have a preconceived notion in their minds that the substance of the Gospel lies in the doctrine of the Resurrection. This doctrine is their Christianity, their orthodoxy; it contains in it, as they think, the essence of the Revelation. When then they come to the texts in question, such as “Christ, who is over all, God, blessed for ever;” or, “The Word was God;” they have beforehand made up their minds, that, whatever these words mean, they can have no important meaning, because they do not refer to the Resurrection; for that alone they will allow to be important…. They are not confident, they are not careful, about their correctness; they do not mind altering them. They put forward whatever will stop or embarrass their opponent, nothing more. They use some anomalous criticism, or alter the stopping, or amend the text, and all because they have made up their minds already what the Gospel is, that some other doctrine is the whole of it, and that in consequence the question in dispute is very unimportant….

And so, in like manner, many a man insists on the words, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” who will not go on to our Lord’s answer, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.”[T]he mass of Christians bring their prejudices and impressions to the written word, as well as they, and find it easier to judge of the text by the spontaneous operation of habit and inclination, than by the active and independent exercise of their reason; in other words, they think inaccurately; they judge and feel by prejudice….

Scripture is not so distinct in its announcements, as readers are morally or intellectually slow in receiving them. And if any one thinks that this avowal is derogatory to Scripture, I answer that Scripture was never intended to teach doctrine to the many; and if it was not given with this object, it argues no imperfection in it that it does not fulfil it. I repeat it; while Scripture is written by inspired men, with one and one only view of doctrine in their hearts and thoughts, even the Truth which was from the beginning, yet being written not to instruct in doctrine, but for those who were already instructed in it, not with direct announcements but with intimations and implications of the faith, the qualifications for rightly apprehending it are so rare and high, that a prudent man, to say nothing of piety, will not risk his salvation on the chance of his having them; but will read it with the aid of those subsidiary guides which ever have been supplied as if to meet our need. I would not deny as an abstract proposition that a Christian may gain the whole truth from the Scriptures, but would maintain that the chances are very seriously against a given individual…. Neither would I deny that individuals, whether from height of holiness, clearness of intellectual vision, or the immediate power of the Holy Ghost, have been and are able to penetrate through the sacred text into some portions of the divine system beyond, without external help from tradition, authority of doctors, and theology; though since that help has ever been given, as to the Church, so to the individual, it is difficult to prove that the individual has performed what the Church has never attempted. None, however, it would seem, but a complete and accurately moulded Christian, such as the world has never or scarcely seen, would be able to bring out harmoniously and perspicuously the divine characters in full, which lie hid from mortal eyes within the inspired letter of the revelation. And this, by the way, may be taken as one remarkable test, or at least characteristic of error, in the various denominations of religion which surround us; none of them embraces the whole Bible, none of them is able to interpret the whole, none of them has a key which will revolve through the entire compass of the wards which lie within. Each has its favourite text, and neglects the rest. None can solve the great secret and utter the mystery of its pages. One makes trial, then another: but one and all in turn are foiled. They retire, as the sages of Babylon, and make way for Daniel. The Church Catholic, the true Prophet of God, alone is able to tell the dream and its interpretation.

Posted in Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Religion and Theology, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Change of Heart on Evolution vs. Intelligent Design

Posted by Tony Listi on August 11, 2008

Dr. Ken Miller, a Roman Catholic professor of biology at Brown University, examines Intelligent Design as a political phenomenon and addresses two of its key objections: the paucity of intermediate organisms in the fossil record and, more importantly, Michael Behe’s theory of irreducible complexity. He takes these scientific objections to evolution seriously and then scientifically refutes them with specific examples. He does not dismiss such objections merely as “religious” and then end the discussion.

This video of his lecture has changed my view of the ID movement and my thinking on the science behind evolution. I’m more inclined to think evolution is a sound theory now.

It has not changed my belief that science should not be funded by the government nor that there is a hostile, secular, aggressively anti-religious bias within much of the scientific establishment and academia in general.

I am not a creationist and the Christian faith does not compel belief in creationism as literalist Protestants define it.

The natural process of evolution need not contradict the existence of God and his Providence. Thus, neither does it preclude the existence of morality. I mean, what would it say about morality if we really believed a material, natural process could influence its validity at all? That is what liberalism/secularism believes. Creationists make a dangerous misstep since their logic implies this too. Though evolution has certainly been used to justify horrible crimes, so has religion. And we should reject the flawed logic of such criminals that misuse both science and religion.

I am a big fan of Dinesh D’Souza’s biblical argument in defense of evolution:

“We read in Genesis 2:7 that ‘the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.’ Right away we notice something different: the Bible says that the universe was created out of nothing but it does not say that man was created out of nothing. Rather, it says that man was made or shaped from the existing substance of nature. ‘Dust thou art and to dust thou shall return.’ So the Bible is quite consistent with the idea that man is made up of atoms and molecules and shares the same DNA found in earthworms, whales, and monkeys.

It is true, however, that the creation account in Genesis does not prepare us for the discovery that man has about 98 percent of his DNA in common with apes. In his Descent of Man, Darwin writes that ‘man…still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.’ Our resistance to this is not religious; it is because we sense a significant chasm between ourselves and chimpanzees. Of course Darwin is not saying that man is descended from chimpanzees, only that apes and man are descended from a common ancestor. Whatever the merits of this theory, there is no reason to reject it purely on biblical grounds. Christians since medieval times have agreed with Aristotle that man is an animal–a ‘rational animal,’ but still an animal.

What makes man different, according to the Bible, is that God breathed an immaterial soul into him. Thus there is no theological problem in viewing the bodily frame of man as derived from other creatures. The Bible stresses God’s resolution, ‘Let us make man in our image.’ Christians have always understood God as a spiritual rather than a material being. Consequently if man is created in the ‘likeness’ of God, the resemblance is clearly not physical. When Jared Diamond in his book The Third Chimpanzee refers to humans as ‘little more than glorified chimpanzees,’ he is unwittingly making a Christian point. We may have common ancestors with the animals, but we are glorified animals.”

Posted in Christianity and Politics, Culture War, Education, Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, Government and Politics, Politics and Religion, Science and Politics, Science and Religion, Uncategorized, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Obama is Running for Messiah of the USA

Posted by Tony Listi on August 3, 2008

What a great ad by the McCain campaign! They need to keep this up.

Finally, a concrete demonstration of liberalism’s tendency to idolize the “divine powers” of its leaders and to identify the state as its god (statolatry).

Presumption was Hillary’s downfall, Obama would do well not to repeat her mistake.

Maybe this early primary season was the best thing that could have happened to John McCain. It is going to be hard for Obama to sustain the thoughtless enthusiasm and idolatry of his supporters all the way until November. Hard, but not impossible.

Posted in Christianity and Politics, Elections and Campaigns, Government and Politics, Just for Fun, Politics and Religion, Uncategorized, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Stork Economics

Posted by Tony Listi on July 28, 2008

Liberals have a childish understanding of economics.

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=1078

By James Kerian

If you ask a child where babies come from, you can get a lot of interesting answers, but traditionally the most common answer is that they come by stork. Children tend to have a similar understanding of economics. If you ask them where their allowance comes from, the two most likely responses are “Daddy’s wallet” and “Mommy’s purse.” In both cases, nothing is created, just transferred. Babies are transferred by storks, and wealth is transferred by parents.

If a child is blessed with good parents, they will soon learn that God makes babies and gives them as gifts to their families. Likewise, “God has given riches and wealth . . . this is the gift of God” (Eccl. 5:19). Most of us grow up to understand that God allows us to participate in the procreation of babies, but unfortunately very few ever realize that God allows us to participate in the procreation of wealth. Rather than procreation, most people assume what is commonly referred to as a zero-sum view of economics. In this view, wealth can neither be created nor destroyed but only transferred from one person to another. This, essentially, is stork economics.

It would be very sad if someone reached adulthood still believing that babies are delivered by stork. (This is the consummate fear of the “comprehensive” sex-ed lobby.) It could make it very difficult to start a family, at least without kidnapping or adoption. In the same manner, those who still believe in stork economics often find it very difficult to acquire wealth, or at least to create it.

While the method for procreating babies is extremely popular, the methods for procreating wealth are, unfortunately, much less attractive. The first method, hard work, is particularly unappealing. The second, ingenuity (both in technological development and efficient procedures), has its appeal but is not something that people like to have expected of them. The third, risk (the investment of time and resources), has glamor but obviously often leads to great disappointment. Nevertheless, these are the three things that have raised the wealth of humanity to the present age from a time when nearly the entire population of the planet was preoccupied with daily sustenance.

Since these methods for procreating wealth are relatively unattractive, there has to be some motivation—an expectation of fair recompense—for wealth to be created. When policymakers subscribe to stork economics, they inevitably deal serious damage to their economy. In their efforts to “fairly” distribute wealth, they remove the incentives for hard work, ingenuity, and risk and thus undermine the creation of the wealth they are attempting to allocate. This has happened repeatedly in varying degrees virtually everywhere—from the Soviet Union to the American welfare state to modern-day North Korea—but it always leaves the advocates of stork economics confused about the sudden absence of wealth. As John Chancellor once said of the Soviet Union on the NBC Nightly News: “The problem isn’t communism . . . the problem is shortages.”

Wealth, like life, can also be destroyed. If hard work, ingenuity, and risk are capable of carrying mankind away from sustenance living, then sloth, ignorance, and recklessness are just as capable of taking him back to it. Wealth should not be the preeminent concern of the Christian, and it is certainly of less importance than the immortal souls of our children. But if you should chance upon someone preaching that the gospel of “social justice” demands “wealth equity,” please take him aside and gently explain. I assure you, he’s old enough.

James Kerian is a mechanical engineer and small-business owner in Grafton, North Dakota.

Posted in American Culture, Economics, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Political Philosophy, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »