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Most Catholic Quotes of Earliest Church Fathers on Papacy & Eucharist

Posted by Tony Listi on September 14, 2013

Pope Clement of Rome (d. c. 101)
“But if certain people should disobey what has been said by him [God] through us [the Church at Rome], let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no small sin and danger…. Right is it, therefore, to approach examples so good and so many, and submit the neck and fulfill the part of obedience, in order that, undisturbed by vain sedition, we may attain unto the goal set before us in truth wholly free from blame. Joy and gladness will you afford us, if you become obedient to the words written by us and through the Holy Spirit root out the lawless wrath of your jealousy according to the intercession which we have made for peace and unity in this letter. (Letter to the Corinthians 59:1)

Ignatius of Antioch (50 – c. 110)
“They abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, because they [heretics] refuse to acknowledge that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and which the Father by his goodness raised up.” (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 6:2)

Justin Martyr (100-165)
“For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, ‘This do in remembrance of Me, (Luke 22:19) this is My body;’ and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, ‘This is My blood;’ and gave it to them alone.” (First Apology, chapter 65 & 66)

Irenaeus (130-202)
“Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.” (Against Heresies, 3, 3, 2)

“Then, again, how can they say that the flesh, which is nourished with the body of the Lord and with His blood, goes to corruption, and does not partake of life? Let them, therefore, either alter their opinion, or cease from offering the things just mentioned. But our opinion is in accordance with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn establishes our opinion. For we offer to Him His own, announcing consistently the fellowship and union of the flesh and Spirit. For as the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity.” (Against Heresies, IV, 18, 5)

“When, therefore, the mingled cup and the manufactured bread receives the Word of God, and the Eucharist of the blood and the body of Christ is made, from which things the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they affirm that the flesh is incapable of receiving the gift of God, which is life eternal, which [flesh] is nourished from the body and blood of the Lord, and is a member of Him?—even as the blessed Paul declares in his Epistle to the Ephesians, that ‘we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.’ He does not speak these words of some spiritual and invisible man, for a spirit has not bones nor flesh; but [he refers to] that dispensation [by which the Lord became] an actual man, consisting of flesh, and nerves, and bones,—that [flesh] which is nourished by the cup, which is His blood, and receives increase from the bread, which is His body.” (Against Heresies, V, 2, 3)

“Moreover, how could the Lord, with any justice, if He belonged to another father, have acknowledged the bread to be His body, while He took it from that creation to which we belong, and affirmed the mixed cup to be His blood?” (Against Heresies, IV, 33, 2)

“But vain in every respect are they [heretics] who despise the entire dispensation of God, and disallow the salvation of the flesh, and treat with contempt its regeneration, maintaining that it is not capable of incorruption. But if this indeed do not attain salvation, then neither did the Lord redeem us with His blood, nor is the cup of the Eucharist the communion of His blood, nor the bread which we break the communion of His body. For blood can only come from veins and flesh, and whatsoever else makes up the substance of man, such as the Word of God was actually made. By His own blood he redeemed us, as also His apostle declares, ‘In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the remission of sins.’ And as we are His members, we are also nourished by means of the creation (and He Himself grants the creation to us, for He causes His sun to rise, and sends rain when He wills ). He has acknowledged the cup (which is a part of the creation) as His own blood, from which He bedews our blood; and the bread (also a part of the creation) He has established as His own body, from which He gives increase to our bodies. And just as a cutting from the vine planted in the ground fructifies in its season, or as a grain of wheat falling into the earth and becoming decomposed, rises with manifold increase by the Spirit of God, who contains all things, and then, through the wisdom of God, serves for the use of men, and having received the Word of God, becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ; so also our bodies, being nourished by it, and deposited in the earth, and suffering decomposition there, shall rise at their appointed time….” (Against Heresies, V, 2, 2)

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-c. 215)
“…the blessed Peter, the chosen, the pre-eminent, the first of the disciples, for whom alone and Himself the Savior paid tribute (Matthew 17:27)….” (Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? 21)

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Commentary on Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians

Posted by Tony Listi on October 17, 2010

St. Polycarp was Bishop of Smyrna and a very early Church father and martyr who lived from 69 to 155 AD. From the writings of St. Irenaeus (b. ca. 115-142), we know that Polycarp was taught by the original Apostles (John in particular), had talked with those who had seen Jesus, and received his episcopate from the Apostles.

In his letter to the Philippians, he rejects sola fide, upholds the necessity of obedience for salvation/heaven, undermines the rationale behind sola Scriptura, affirms the divine authority of Church officials (deacons and presbyters), confirms the presence of virgins in the early Church, commands fear of God, says to avoid heretics who bear the name “Christian” in falsehood and hypocrisy, upholds apostolic tradition, exhorts perseverance in the faith in order to be saved, and quotes from the so-called “apocrypha.”
He also fills the letter with verses from the New Testament.

I have greatly rejoiced with you in our Lord Jesus Christ…because the strong root of your faith, spoken of in days (Philippians 1:5) long gone by, endures even until now, and brings forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ…. knowing that “by grace you are saved, not of works,” (Ephesians 2:8-9) but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.

The “strong root” Polycarp refers to is St. Paul. Yes, we are saved by grace because we are forgiven through grace. Grace is at work in the beginning, during, and at the end of the process of salvation. We cannot earn our salvation because we cannot earn forgiveness. But we do have to bear fruit in proportion to our ability and talents, even if the fruit is not the cause of forgiveness. Polycarp has more to say on the issue of salvation:

But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness; “not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing,” (1 Peter 3:9) or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing, but being mindful of what the Lord said in His teaching….

Notice that obedience to God’s law and avoidance of sin are conditions for being raised up to heaven.

 For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom (2 Peter 3:15) of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and steadfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter….

Polycarp explains how the early churches were taught: primarily in person by Paul and only by letter when he was absent from them. Why on earth then should Christian doctrine be limited to letters that were driven by random circumstances? Why do Protestants reject the Word of God taught by the apostles in person to the early churches and passed down in the writings of the leaders of these early churches?

… let us teach, first of all, ourselves to walk in the commandments of the Lord. Next, [teach] your wives [to walk] in the faith given to them, and in love and purity tenderly loving their own husbands in all truth, and loving all [others] equally in all chastity; and to train up their children in the knowledge and fear of God.

Polycarp implicitly affirms the authority of husband over wife. He also implies that mothers have a responsibility to train their children to be holy (not that fathers don’t too).

Knowing, then, that “God is not mocked,” (Galatians 6:7) we ought to walk worthy of His commandment and glory. In like manner should the deacons be blameless before the face of His righteousness, as being the servants of God and Christ, and not of men.

Again, we mock God if we say we have faith and yet transgress his commandments. The Christian (especially a leader of the Church) must be obedient. Also, he mentions a specific office in the Church: the diaconate. He will go on to mention the other office of presbyter.

If we please Him in this present world, we shall receive also the future world, according as He has promised to us that He will raise us again from the dead, and that if we live worthily of Him, “we shall also reign together with Him,” (2 Timothy 2:12) provided only we believe…. they should be cut off from the lusts that are in the world, since “every lust wars against the spirit” (1 Peter 2:11); and “neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God,”  (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) nor those who do things inconsistent and unbecoming.

Again, he emphasizes the necessity of both belief andliving worthily if we wish to reign in heaven with Jesus. He then emphasizes the necessity of avoiding sin and of behavior consistent with belief in order to inherit the kingdom of God.

Wherefore, it is needful to abstain from all these things, being subject to the presbyters and deacons, as unto God and Christ. The virgins also must walk in a blameless and pure conscience.

Notice what great authority these Church officials have: they are to be obeyed as one would obey God and Jesus. And notice that virginity is not at all foreign to Christianity and the early Church.

Let us then serve Him in fear, and with all reverence, even as He Himself has commanded us, and as the apostles who preached the Gospel unto us, and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Lord [have alike taught us].

We are to fear God always. He is our Lord. There is no contradiction between fear and love. Those we love we fear; those we fear we love. How is this? Because it is a fear of falling short of the love the other deserves.

Let us be zealous in the pursuit of that which is good, keeping ourselves from causes of offense, from false brethren, and from those who in hypocrisy bear the name of the Lord, and draw away vain men into error.

If you do not have a zeal for the good and the true, then you are not living the Christian life. The Christian is to avoid heretics who fancy themselves to be Christians but who are not.

…whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from the beginning (Jude 3); “watching unto prayer” (1 Peter 4:7), and persevering in fasting; beseeching in our supplications the all-seeing God “not to lead us into temptation” (Matthew 6:13; Matthew 26:41), as the Lord has said: “The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak”  (Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38).

Heresy is typically the result of lusts of some kind. How do we know for certain what is true doctrine? By embracing the Word that has been handed down from the beginning to the saints by the apostles.

Let us then continually persevere in our hope, and the earnest of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ….

The Christian must be “earnest” about the faith. We must “continually persevere in our hope” if we wish to enter the kingdom of God.

I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as you have seen [set] before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles. [This do] in the assurance that all these have not run in vain (Philippians 2:16; Galatians 2:2), but in faith and righteousness, and that they are [now] in their due place in the presence of the Lord, with whom also they suffered.

Polycarp urges the Philippians to be obedient to the Word that they received from the apostles and their successors and ministers. Christians can be assured that the apostles are in heaven and did not run in vain. But Christians should not be overly confident to the point of certainty about their own eternal fate. If the apostles, especially Paul, did not express such certainty about his own fate, neither should we.

Stand fast, therefore, in these things, and follow the example of the Lord, being firm and unchangeable in the faith, loving the brotherhood (1 Peter 2:17), and being attached to one another, joined together in the truth….

Therefore, because we have no certainty of our faith, we must willfully “stand fast” and be “firm and unchangeable in the faith.” Only in this way will we be worthy of entering heaven. Also, Christian are to be one, “joined together in the truth,” not separated by schisms.

When you can do good, defer it not, because “alms delivers from death” (Tobit 4:10, Tobit 12:9).

Polycarp quotes from the misnamed “apocrypha.” Moreover, he quotes verses that would surely make the Protestant very uncomfortable. Though faith has primacy, alms-giving, which is a good work, can contribute to salvation as well. In fact, the false Protestant dichotomy between faith and good works is what this entire letter rejects. It is impossible to separate the two theologically when it comes to salvation.

For if a man cannot govern himself in such matters, how shall he enjoin them on others? If a man does not keep himself from covetousness, he shall be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as one of the heathen. But who of us are ignorant of the judgment of the Lord?

The “Christian” who does not obey God’s commandments will be judged among those who have no faith, among the heathens, those who have rejected the faith.

I am greatly grieved for Valens, who was once a presbyter among you, because he so little understands the place that was given him [in the Church]…. to whom may the Lord grant true repentance! And be then moderate in regard to this matter, and “do not count such as enemies” (2 Thessalonians 3:15), but call them back as suffering and straying members, that you may save your whole body. For by so acting you shall edify yourselves (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Even priests can fall into heresy and sin. All Christians who fall into sin must be truly repentant to gain forgiveness and regain the state of grace. Catholics should call upon all who stray from the Body of Christ to return.

…and may He bestow on you a lot and portion among His saints….

Again, heaven is not assured with certainty.

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St. Irenaeus’ Confirmation All Catholic Doctrines (2nd c. AD)

Posted by Tony Listi on May 23, 2010

St. Irenaeus (b. ca. 115-142), in his Against Heresies, confirms almost every core Catholic doctrine: Roman/papal supremacy, the sacrifice of the Mass, transubstantiation in the Eucharist, the continuation of the earthly priesthood, the crucial mission and authority of the institutional Church, Church authority over Scriptural interpretations, the existence and authority of unchangeable and unbroken apostolic Tradition and succession through bishops, the necessity of obedience (as well as repentance and forgiveness) for salvation, denunciations of schismatics, Mary as the new Eve and as a cause of our salvation, prayers for the dead, the activity of the saints, etc.

Moreover, his work is filled with citations of Scripture.

He begins the work by acknowledging the plausibility of the heresies:

Inasmuch as certain men have set the truth aside, and bring in lying words and vain genealogies, which, as the apostle says, “minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith,” and by means of their craftily-constructed plausibilities draw away the minds of the inexperienced and take them captive, [I have felt constrained, my dear friend, to compose the following treatise in order to expose and counteract their machinations.] These men falsify the oracles of God, and prove themselves evil interpreters of the good word of revelation…. By means of specious and plausible words, they cunningly allure the simple-minded to inquire into their system; but they nevertheless clumsily destroy them, while they initiate them into their blasphemous and impious opinions respecting the Demiurge; and these simple ones are unable, even in such a matter, to distinguish falsehood from truth.

How do these heretics rationalize their heresy? Like all heretics, they use Scripture and claim superior understanding or mystical assistance in its interpretation:

They tell us, however, that this knowledge has not been openly divulged, because all are not capable of receiving it, but has been mystically revealed by the Saviour through means of parables to those qualified for understanding it.

Protestants have all these “experts” in exegesis for rationalizing their interpretations. When “reason” fails (as it always does, for there are endless plausible interpretations in isolation from Church tradition/history), the mystical and arbitrary support of the “Holy Spirit” supplies certainty for them.

Such, then, is the account which they all give of their Pleroma, and of the formation of the universe, striving, as they do, to adapt the good words of revelation to their own wicked inventions. And it is not only from the writings of the evangelists and the apostles that they endeavour to derive proofs for their opinions by means of perverse interpretations and deceitful expositions: they deal in the same way with the law and the prophets, which contain many parables and allegories that can frequently be drawn into various senses, according to the kind of exegesis to which they are subjected. And others of them, with great craftiness, adapted such parts of Scripture to their own figments, lead away captive from the truth those who do not retain a steadfast faith in one God, the Father Almighty, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Heretics by no means avoid or flee from Scripture. They are eager to make Scripture fit within their preconceived, dogmatic, heretical theology and worldview. And it’s easily done by those of creative imagination and “craftiness.” For Scripture passages “can frequently be drawn into various senses, according to the kind of exegesis to which they are subjected.”

How does St. Irenaeus know with certainty that the doctrines in question are heresy? He tells us the apostles did not “deliver” such doctrines to the Church:

Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions…. In like manner do these persons patch together old wives’ fables, and then endeavour, by violently drawing away from their proper connection, words, expressions, and parables whenever found, to adapt the oracles of God to their baseless fictions.

All heretics know they have to find support within Scripture, otherwise they would have no support whatsoever for their errors and/or lies, for the authority and unchanging tradition of the Church always stand firmly against them.

Irenaeus condemns the heretics and offers a conclusive coup de grace which proves they are heretics:

You see, my friend, the method which these men employ to deceive themselves, while they abuse the Scriptures by endeavouring to support their own system out of them. For this reason, I have brought forward their modes of expressing themselves, that thus you might understand the deceitfulness of their procedure, and the wickedness of their error….

But since what may prove a finishing-stroke to this exhibition is wanting, so that any one, on following out their farce to the end, may then at once append an argument which shall overthrow it, we have judged it well to point out, first of all, in what respects the very fathers of this fable differ among themselves, as if they were inspired by different spirits of error. For this very fact forms an a priori proof that the truth proclaimed by the Church is immoveable, and that the theories of these men are but a tissue of falsehoods.

The clearest indication that a certain denomination is heretical is that their leaders keep dividing and schisming among themselves. At first there was only Luther; then came Calvin, Zwingli, and a horde of others. Now there are innumerable heretical sects that have sprung from the seed of Luther’s Revolution. There are now many different synods or conventions within mainstream Protestant lines. In many cases, Christianity has been degraded into a private, individual religion, cut off from any resemblance to the original apostolic faith that proclaims the true Church is of one Mind and one Body.

So how is the Christian to know which exegesis of and approach to Scripture is correct? Irenaus tells us that Holy Tradition, handed down unchanged historically from the apostles and universally throughout the world, is our assurance:

The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: … [Irenaeus gives a creed]

…but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning [of their Christian course], and others from [the date of] their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory. 

The true faith is received from the Church, not mystically or rationally divined from Scripture by individual believers. Notice also that immortality and salvation are given to those who are obedient to God’s commandments, which is perseverance in His love. “Faith alone” in some purely abstract/mental sense is not enough.

As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shines everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it.

Truth does not change. The Christian faith could not change in the 2nd century AD. It was already complete and perfect. Moreover, the true Church preserves the faith in its purity and hands it on, nothing more or less. Thus any later deviations from the Holy Tradition of the Church are by definition heretical, including the man-made traditions of the Protestant Revolution which popped into existence in the 16th century.

It does not follow because men are endowed with greater and less degrees of intelligence, that they should therefore change the subject-matter [of the faith] itself, and should conceive of some other God besides Him who is the Framer, Maker, and Preserver of this universe, (as if He were not sufficient for them), or of another Christ, or another Only-begotten. But the fact referred to simply implies this, that one may [more accurately than another] bring out the meaning of those things which have been spoken in parables, and accommodate them to the general scheme of the faith….

God never intended for individual intelligence or reason in and of itself to determine doctrine authoritatively, not to mention change it.

…as these teachers who are destitute of truly divine wisdom maintain; while the Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said.

It is the catholic, the universal, Church that possesses the true faith.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Pope Siricius, Papal Authority, and Catholic Doctrines (4th c. AD)

Posted by Tony Listi on April 10, 2010

In 385 Pope Siricius responded back to a letter from Bishop Himerius of Tarragona (Spain) with regard to clerical discipline (Directa decretal). He clearly exercises papal authority according to Catholic doctrine. This is just one of several ecclesiastical letters that popes sent to bishops, exercising their Petrine authority.

The account which you, brother, directed to our predecessor of holy memory Damasus, found me now installed in his see because the Lord thus ordained.

Papal authority is passed down in a line of succession.

When we read that [account] more carefully in an assembly of brethren, we found to the degree we had hoped to recognize things which ought to be praised and much which was worthy of reprimand and correction.

The Church of Rome gives “reprimand and correction” to this other church.

And since it is necessary for us to succeed to the labors and responsibilities of him whom, through the grace of God, we succeeded in honor, having first given notice, as was necessary, of my promotion, we do not refuse, as the Lord deigns to inspire, a proper response to your inquiry in every point.

Again, there is a succession. One of  the “labors and responsibilities” of the Church of Rome is to give a “proper response” to all doctrinal questions. The very fact that another bishop wrote to the bishop of Rome for guidance is significant. Notice it is the office that is important here. Pope Siricius felt obliged to respond back, even though it was addressed to his predecessor.

For in view of our office there is no freedom for us, on whom a zeal for the Christian religion is incumbent greater than on all others, to dissimulate or to be silent.

Again, the Church of Rome cannot “dissimulate” or “be silent” on doctrinal issues important “for the Christian religion.” In fact, it has a “greater” responsibility “than…all others,” all other churches.

We bear the burdens of all who are oppressed, or rather the blessed apostle Peter, who in all things protects and preserves us, the heirs, as we trust, of his administration, bears them in us.

The responsibilities and “burdens” of the Church of Rome, including response to doctrinal questions, is attributed to St. Peter, of whom Pope Siricius and his ministers claim to be the “heirs.” Moreover, it is St. Peter himself and “his administration” which “protects and preserves” the Church of Rome. He continues to bear the burdens of the Church even after death.

On the first page of your letter, therefore, you indicated that multitudes who were baptized by the impious Arians were hastening to the catholic faith, and that certain of our brothers wished to baptize these same people again.

Notice “catholic faith.” There was only one universal faith, not several, despite the presence of heresies like Arianism.

This is not allowed, since both the Apostle forbids and the canons oppose doing it; and after the Council of Rimini was annulled, the general decrees sent to the provinces by my predecessor of venerable memory Liberius prohibit it.

The Apostle? I believe this to be a title for St. Paul. The canons are Church law. Notice that the previous pope sent “general decrees…to the provinces” prohibiting a certain practice. Seems demonstrate that the bishop of Rome had authority over other churches in the Roman Empire. Pope Siricius appeals to past tradition to justify his judgment, not Scripture or any arbitrary, egocentric whims.

We unite these people, and the Novatianists and other heretics, to the assembly of catholics, just as it was constituted in the synod, solely through invocation of the sevenfold Spirit by imposition of the bishop’s hand. Indeed all the East and the West preserves this practice, and it is also inappropriate henceforth for you to deviate from that path, if you do not wish to be separated from our company by synodal sentence.

Notice that true Christian are called “catholics,” those who adhere to the catholic (universal) faith throughout the Church. Also, Pope Siricius threatens this church of Tarragona with excommunication if they do not adhere to this universal practice for readmitting certain heretics into the Church.

Then follows objectionable confusion, in need of correction, about those who are about to be baptized just as it pleases each and every one of them.

Pope Siricius goes on to discuss more “objectionable confusion, in need of correction” with regard to when new members of the Church should be baptized.

Our fellow priests–we speak in indignation–not by reason of any authority but by temerity alone presume this, so that throngs of people, as you report, attain the mystery of baptism randomly and freely at Christmas, or Epiphany, and also on the feasts of the apostles or martyrs, although both with us and in all churches the Lord’s Resurrection and Pentecost claim this privilege specially for themselves. On these days alone through the year is it proper for the complete rites of baptism to be bestowed on those coming to the faith, but only on those select people who applied forty or more days earlier, and were cleansed by exorcisms, daily prayers, and fasts, so that the precept of the Apostle is fulfilled that with old leaven having been driven out, new dough comes into being.

Notice that “priests” perform the baptism. Notice that the Church of Rome speaks “in indignation” against these priests who, without “any authority” but rather with defiant “temerity,” perform baptisms “randomly and freely” at different times of the year. Pope Siricius informs the bishop that “with us and in all churches the Lord’s Resurrection and Pentecost” are the only “proper” days for this sacrament.

But just as we say that sacred Paschal reverence in no way ought to be diminished, so we wish for the waters of sacred baptism to be of assistance with all speed to infants, who because of age are not yet able to speak, and to those for whom in any emergency it is needed, lest the destruction of our souls be at stake if, the salutary font being denied to those seeking it, someone departing from the world loses both the kingdom and life….

Infant baptism is clearly upheld as sound doctrine. Also, the “waters” are necessary for the sacrament. Baptism is not merely mental acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Enough error on this matter! All priests who do not wish to be torn from the solidity of the apostolic rock, upon which Christ built the universal Church, should now hold the aforementioned rule.

This is quite a strong passage! Pope Siricius declares what is in error and demands that it stop. Otherwise, those deviant priests and churches will be removed from the steadfast Rock of the Apostle Peter “upon which Christ built the universal Church” (Mt 16:18). Lacking the “solidity of the apostolic rock,” their souls will then be in danger to the floods of evil and sin. Read the rest of this entry »

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Papal Authority and Early Heresies in the 1st Millennium AD

Posted by Tony Listi on March 21, 2010

The Church was institutionally united (allowing for some temporary schisms) up to 1054, under the supreme jurisdiction of the papacy. The Roman See, with its bishop, the pope, was the supreme arbiter of orthodoxy in the Church universal in the early centuries. If Rome had this supreme role for the first 1000 years or so of Church history, why should one believe that it hasn’t always held this supremacy according to the teachings of the apostles (esp. St. Peter and St. Paul, who were martyred in Rome)?

There is abundant historical evidence for papal supremacy, especially in Rome’s relation to the Eastern Church, which was very frequently plagued with heresies that virtually every Christian today acknowledges as heresy, perhaps unconsciously so, thanks to Rome (Where’s the gratitude, non-Catholics??):

Marcionism rejected the Old Testament and its God, said to be different from the God of love in the New Testament, and made a complete dichotomy between law and grace. Marcion (d.c.160) came from northeastern Turkey and migrated to Rome but was promptly excommunicated in 144. The heresy was checked by 200 in Rome but lasted for several centuries in the East.

Montanism was an apocalyptic sect that denied the divinely-established nature of the Church. Montanus, who began prophesying in 172, came from central Turkey (which became the heresy’s center of operations). Opposition to Montanism was spearheaded by Pope Eleutherus (175-89), and it was condemned by Pope Zephyrinus (198-217).

Modalism (also known as Sabellianism) denied the full Personhood of all three Persons of the Trinity, and believed that God operated through mere “modes” or the transferral of power. Theodotus (2nd cent.) came from Byzantium to Rome, only to be excommunicated by Pope Victor (c.189-98). His disciple, also named Theodotus (early 3rd century) was condemned by Pope Zephyrinus (198-217). Artemon (3rd century) was teaching in Rome, c.235, but was excommunicated. Sabellius (fl.. 215) was excommunicated by Pope Callistus I.

Novatianism was a rigorist schism, stating that persons who fell away under persecution or who were guilty of serious sin could not be absolved. Its theology was otherwise orthodox. Novatian (d.258), a Roman presbyter, started the schism in 250. In 251 it was condemned by a Roman Synod and Pope Cornelius, and Novatian became an “antipope.” His views were approved at Antioch.

Donatism held that sacraments administered by unworthy priests were invalid, and practiced re-baptism. The sect flourished in Africa, around Carthage. It began in 311 and was condemned by Pope Miltiades (311-14), who also came from Africa, in 313.

Arianism held that Jesus was created by the Father. In trinitarian Christianity, Christ and the Holy Spirit are both equal to, uncreated, and co-eternal with God the Father. Arius (c.256-336), the heresiarch, was based in Alexandria and died in Constantinople. In a Council at Antioch in 341, the majority of 97 Eastern bishops subscribed to a form of semi-Arianism, whereas in a Council at Rome in the same year, under Pope Julius I, the trinitarian St. Athanasius was vindicated by over 50 Italian bishops. The western-dominated Council of Sardica (Sofia) in 343 again upheld Athanasius’ orthodoxy, whereas the eastern Council of Sirmium in 351 espoused Arianism, which in turn was rejected by the western Councils of Arles (353) and Milan (355). Learn more about St. Athanasius’ appeal to Rome by clicking here.

Pelagianism is the heretical doctrine that man can make steps toward salvation by his own efforts, without Divine Grace. Pelagius cleared himself at a Synod at Jerusalem around 416, but was condemned at Carthage and Milevis in 416 and excommunicated by Pope Innocent I in the same year. Pope Zosimus reaffirmed this judgment in 418, as did the ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431.

Nestorianism contends that there are two persons in Christ (Divine and human) and denies that Mary is the Mother of God incarnate. Orthodox, Catholic Christianity holds to one Divine Person — a Godman. Nestorius (d. c.451) studied at a monastery at Antioch and became Patriarch of Constantinople from 428 to 431, having been condemned by Pope Celestine I in the Council at Rome in 430 (after both sides of the controversy appealed to Rome). The ecumenical Council at Ephesus in 431 repeated the Roman condemnation, after which Eastern bishops predominantly from Syria, Persia and Assyria withdrew from the Catholic Church.

Monophysitism was a heresy which held that Christ had one Divine Nature, as opposed to the orthodox and Catholic belief in two Natures (Divine and human). The Henoticon, a semi-Monophysite document was widely acknowledged in the East, but never at Rome. The cowriters of the Henoticon are thought to be Acacius, Patriarch of Constantinople (471-89), and Peter Mongo, Patriarch of Alexandria (477-90). Both were Monophysites who rejected the Council of Chalcedon. Monophysitism was an advanced type of Alexandrian theology. Pope Leo the Great dominated the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451, which repudiated Monophysitism.

Monothelitism is the heretical belief that Christ had one will (Divine), whereas in orthodox, Catholic Christian dogma, Christ has both Divine and human wills. Sergius (d.638), Patriarch of Constantinople from 610 to 638, was the most influential exponent of Monotheletism. The Ecthesis, a Monothelite statement issued by Emperor Heraclius, was accepted by Councils at Constantinople in 638 and 639, but was finally rejected at the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 680, which confirmed the decisions of Pope Agatho and the Synod at Rome in 679.

The Iconoclastic Controversy, a great upheaval of the 8th and 9th centuries, was spurred on notably by Monophysitism and influenced by Islam. This heresy held that images in worship were idolatrous and evil. It was initiated by Eastern Emperors Leo II (717-41), who deposed Germanus (c.634-c.733), Patriarch of Constantinople (715-30) — who appealed to Pope Gregory III. Gregory held two Synods at Rome condemning Leo’s supporters in 731. In 784 Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople, initiated negotiations with Pope Adrian I. The Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in 787 condemned the Iconoclasts. The Iconoclast Controversy was a major contributor towards the enduring schism between East and West.

Rome never succumbed to any of these heresies. Rather, it was the popes and local synods who vigorously attacked and denounced these heresies, often resorting to excommunication.

In the first millennium of Christianity’s existence,  the Roman See and the papacy were absolutely necessary for the purpose of upholding Christian orthodoxy (literally, correct doctrine) and preserving apostolic Tradition. It still is and always will be.

(This post was adapted from Dave Armstrong’s Orthodoxy and Catholicism: A Comparison)

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Commentary on St. Ignatius’ Letter to the Ephesians

Posted by Tony Listi on February 28, 2010

St. Ignatius (d. circa. 98-117 AD) was the bishop of Syria and perhaps the earliest Church father whose writings we have. His letter to the Ephesians is one of the earliest and most explicitly Catholic writings of the fathers that I’ve ever read.

Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus, in Asia….

As with virtually all letters of Scripture and the early fathers, only one Church is affirmed; it just happens to be at different places physically on the earth.

I received, therefore, your whole multitude in the name of God, through Onesimus, a man of inexpressible love, and your bishop in the flesh, whom I pray you by Jesus Christ to love, and that you would all seek to be like him.

This is perhaps the same Onesimus who was a slave of Philemon and whom St. Paul converted. Ignatius prays that the Ephesians will love and imitate Onesimus.

After praise for Onesimus and his subordinate ministers, he continues:

It is therefore befitting that you should in every way glorify Jesus Christ, who has glorified you, that by a unanimous obedience “you may be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment, and may all speak the same thing concerning the same thing” (1 Corinthians 1:10), and that, being subject to the bishop and the presbytery, you may in all respects be sanctified…. But inasmuch as love suffers me not to be silent in regard to you, I have therefore taken upon me first to exhort you that you would all run together in accordance with the will of God. For even Jesus Christ, our inseparable life, is the [manifested] will of the Father; as also bishops, settled everywhere to the utmost bounds [of the earth], are so by the will of Jesus Christ. Wherefore it is fitting that you should run together in accordance with the will of your bishop, which thing also you do.

Ignatius exhorts the Ephesians to “unanimous obedience” to the doctrinal teachings of their bishop, not to rely on Scripture alone (there was no New Testament anyway then). Through this obedience to the bishop and his ministers, the flock is sanctified in all respects. It is not up to the individual believer to decide what true, correct doctrine is. Unity of mind, judgment, action, and speech are necessary. Moreover and strikingly, the will of the bishop is identified with the will of God. The necessity and authority of the bishops is “so by the will of Jesus Christ.”

It is profitable, therefore, that you should live in an unblameable unity, that thus you may always enjoy communion with God. For if I in this brief space of time, have enjoyed such fellowship with your bishop — I mean not of a mere human, but of a spiritual nature— how much more do I reckon you happy who are so joined to him as the Church is to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ is to the Father, that so all things may agree in unity!

Unity, unity, unity. This is a constant theme of this letter and other letters by Ignatius.

Let no man deceive himself: if any one be not within the altar, he is deprived of the bread of God.

This is a reference to the Eucharist. Those outside of the Church are not part of the Body of Christ and thus do not receive the Body of Christ at the altar.

For if the prayer of one or two possesses (Matthew 18:19) such power, how much more that of the bishop and the whole Church! He, therefore, that does not assemble with the Church, has even by this manifested his pride, and condemned himself. For it is written, “God resists the proud.” Let us be careful, then, not to set ourselves in opposition to the bishop, in order that we may be subject to God.

Again, authority and power rests with the bishop and the Church universal (the catholic Church). Those who separate themselves from the catholic Church out of pride condemn themselves. Again, the will of the bishop is identified with the will of God.

For we ought to receive every one whom the Master of the house sends to be over His household, (Matthew 24:25) as we would do Him that sent him. It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord Himself. And indeed Onesimus himself greatly commends your good order in God, that you all live according to the truth, and that no sect has any dwelling-place among you. Nor, indeed, do you hearken to any one rather than to Jesus Christ speaking in truth.

Again, the bishop is identified with “the Lord Himself,” as an overseer designated by “the Master” who must be obeyed. The bishop creates “good order in God” so that Christians may “live according to the truth” and that no denomination/sect disobedient to the bishop is tolerated among them. Sects do not arise if there is “unanimous obedience” to the bishop, but when the disobedient cannot be reconciled, they must be expelled from the communion in which the one, true Church dwells. Thus Martin Luther and other heretics sealed their own fate with regard to the Church.

For some are in the habit of carrying about the name [of Jesus Christ] in wicked guile, while yet they practise things unworthy of God, whom you must flee as you would wild beasts. For they are ravening dogs, who bite secretly, against whom you must be on your guard, inasmuch as they are men who can scarcely be cured.

There are many wicked people who call themselves “Christian” but who are not worthy of the Name. The true Christian must be on guard against them and avoid them.

Let not then any one deceive you, as indeed you are not deceived, inasmuch as you are wholly devoted to God. For since there is no strife raging among you which might distress you, you are certainly living in accordance with God’s will. I am far inferior to you, and require to be sanctified by your Church of Ephesus, so renowned throughout the world. They that are carnal cannot do those things which are spiritual, nor they that are spiritual the things which are carnal; even as faith cannot do the works of unbelief, nor unbelief the works of faith. But even those things which you do according to the flesh are spiritual; for you do all things in Jesus Christ.

The faithful can be deceived and fall away. Strife in a church is caused by false, deceitful teachers and is a sign that God’s will is not being done. Ignatius also powerfully expresses the Catholic position that faith and works are intimately and inseparably joined together. If you “do the works of  unbelief,” then you do not have faith or salvation.

The last times have come upon us. Let us therefore be of a reverent spirit, and fear the long-suffering of God, that it tend not to our condemnation. For let us either stand in awe of the wrath to come, or show regard for the grace which is at present displayed— one of two things. Only [in one way or another] let us be found in Christ Jesus unto the true life. Apart from Him, let nothing attract you, for whom I bear about these bonds, these spiritual jewels, by which may I arise through your prayers, of which I entreat I may always be a partaker, that I may be found in the lot of the Christians of Ephesus, who have always been of the same mind with the apostles through the power of Jesus Christ.

We should fear God. Notice that Ignatius does not discount the possibility of any Christian’s condemnation by God. He does not speak as one assured of his own salvation. One does not “get saved”; one is “found in Christ Jesus unto the true life.” Salvation comes from always being “of the same mind with the apostles.”

Take heed, then, often to come together to give thanks to God, and show forth His praise. For when you assemble frequently in the same place, the powers of Satan are destroyed, and the destruction at which he aims is prevented by the unity of your faith.

This is a reference to the Eucharist (Greek eucharistia, thanksgiving). Again, “unity of faith” destroys the powers of Satan. Schisms empower Satan.

No man [truly] making a profession of faith sins; (1 John 3:7) nor does he that possesses love hate any one. The tree is made manifest by its fruit; (Matthew 12:33) so those that profess themselves to be Christians shall be recognised by their conduct. For there is not now a demand for mere profession, but that a man be found continuing in the power of faith to the end.

Real faith is evident from sinlessness, obedience, and good works. “Mere profession” is not enough to be saved; one must continue “in the power of faith to the end.” And the power of faith is the power to avoid all mortal sin and bear good fruit.

Do not err, my brethren (James 1:16). Those that corrupt families shall not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). If, then, those who do this as respects the flesh have suffered death, how much more shall this be the case with any one who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such an one becoming defiled [in this way], shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall every one that hearkens unto him.

Error and consequent sin effect death, not salvation. Just as those who corrupt their bodies in sins of the flesh (and don’t receive forgiveness) suffer death in hell, so those who wickedly corrupt the “faith of God” and listen to these corrupters “shall go away into everlasting fire.”

Be not anointed with the bad odour of the doctrine of the prince of this world; let him not lead you away captive from the life which is set before you. And why are we not all prudent, since we have received the knowledge of God, which is Jesus Christ? Why do we foolishly perish, not recognising the gift which the Lord has of a truth sent to us?

Again, Christians can fall away from the faith and be damned; they can be led away from the Christian life like a captive in war. Knowledge of the truth is not enough to keep the Christian from perishing foolishly; discipline of the will is necessary to tame the body and evil desires of the heart.

Especially [will I do this ] if the Lord make known to me that you come together man by man in common through grace, individually, in one faith, and in Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David according to the flesh, being both the Son of man and the Son of God, so that you obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but [which causes] that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ.

Again and in conclusion, another reemphasis that there is only “one faith,” that one must “obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind,” and that one must break “one and the same bread.” The faith (body of true doctrines), the Church leadership, and the Eucharist together all proclaim the oneness and unity of the Body of Christ. Moreover, the Eucharistic “bread” is not merely memorial but effective as “the medicine of immortality,” “the antidote” to death, and the cause of eternal life in Jesus.

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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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