Thursday, May 1, 2008

Celibacy "Invented" in 1123?

About six months ago the D&C published a letter claiming that

Priests are celibate because of a political and economic decision made by the First Lateran Council of 1123 to halt corrupt practices during feudal times. Church leaders wanted to eliminate the inheritance of Church property by the male children of priests.

The letter was authored by Patricia LaRosa, a person I once knew as Patricia Boyce when she served as Pastoral Associate and then Parish Visitor at Our Lady of Mercy Church. Ms. LaRosa believes herself to be called to the priesthood and at last report is seeking ordination in the Episcopal Church.

I was reminded of Ms. LaRosa's letter by a recent comment posted by CliffM concerning Chava Redonnet's OpEd piece in yesterday's D&C. The comment repeated the allegations made by Ms. LaRosa.

Last October I submitted an answer to Ms. LaRosa's allegation which the D&C chose not to publish. This fable, however, refuses to die so I will self-publish my letter here:

In “Priests’ celibacy has political roots” the writer strongly implies that clerical celibacy was first imposed by the Catholic Church in 1123 for crass, materialistic reasons. The record, however, shows otherwise.

In 385 Pope St. Siricius wrote to another bishop about celibacy, saying “All priests … are bound by the indissoluble law of these sanctions, so that from the day of our ordination, we give up both our hearts and our bodies to continence and chastity.”

Five years later the Council of Carthage declared, “What the Apostles taught [concerning celibacy] and what antiquity itself observed, let us also endeavor to keep.”

It is quite clear from these and other records that by the end of the fourth century clerical celibacy was already a universal and what some bishops even saw as apostolic practice in the Church. It most certainly was not the result of political/economic machinations some 700+ years later.

All of which leaves one to wonder how (why?) a person holding two advanced religious degrees could be so misinformed on the subject.


Anonymous said...
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Rich Leonardi said...

Great LTE, Mike. I suspect they didn't run your letter because of the reference to the writer's background in your last paragraph. It could be construed as personal attack, especially if it comes from a "conservative." Call it a double-standard if you like -- and I think it indeed is -- but it's nonetheless one we must live by in these forums.

Mike said...

Yeah, Rich, I remembered thinking that last paragraph was something of a "gottcha." What I didn't say above is that the D&C printed the following below Ms. LaRosa's name at the bottom of her letter:

"The writer holds master's degrees in theology and divinity."

I thought that might open the door to my question a bit, but apparently not.