På www.chiesa skriver Sandro Magister en oversikt over Kirkens sølibatspraksis fra den første tid – både i vest og i øst. Fra begynnelsen av ble mange gifte menn ordinert til prester og biskoper, men da var forutsetningen alltid at de ikke skulle fortsette å leve sammen med sin kone; de skulle leve avholdende. …
For many more centuries, the Western Church continued to ordain married men, but always demanded that they renounce conjugal life and separate from their wives, after receiving their consent. Infractions were punished, but they were very frequent and widespread. In part to combat this, the Church started trying to select its priests from among the celibate.
In the East, however, from the end of the seventh century onward the Church held firm the absolute obligation of continence only for bishops, who were increasingly chosen from among monks rather than from among married men. With the lower clergy, it allowed the married to continue leading a conjugal life, with the obligation of continence only «on the days of service at the altar and of the celebration of the sacred mysteries.» This was established by the Second Council of Trullo in 691, a council never recognized as ecumenical by the Western Church.
From then until now, this is the discipline that has been in effect in the East, as also in the Churches of the Eastern rite that have returned to communion with the Church of Rome since the schism of 1054: absolute continence for bishops, and conjugal life permitted for the lower clergy. On the condition that marriage must always precede sacred ordination, and never follow it. …. ….
In the West, however, the Church reacted to the great political and religious crisis of the eleventh and twelfth centuries – with the reform called «Gregorian,» from the name of Pope Gregory VII – precisely by combating vigorously the two evils that were running rampant among the clergy: simony, meaning the buying and selling of ecclesiastical offices, and concubinage. …. ….
The later crises of the Western Church also saw the question of clerical celibacy in the forefront. One of the first acts of the Protestant Reformation was precisely the abolition of celibacy. At the Council of Trent, there were some who were pushing for a dispensation from the obligation of celibacy for Catholic priests as well. But the final decision was to keep the traditional discipline in full force.
Not only that. The Council of Trent required all of the dioceses to institute seminaries for the formation of the clergy. The result was that ordinations of married men fell dramatically, almost to the point of disappearing. For four centuries, almost all of the priests and bishops in the Catholic Church have been celibate, with the sole exception of the lower clergy of the Eastern rite Churches united with Rome, and of the former Protestant pastors with families who have been ordained priests, most of them from the Anglican Communion.
From the perception that Catholic priests are all celibate, the idea has spread that clerical celibacy consists in the prohibition of marriage. And therefore that «moving past» celibacy consists both in ordaining married men as priests and allowing them to continue living conjugal life, and in permitting celibate priests to marry.
After Vatican Council II, both of these requests have been advanced repeatedly in the Catholic Church, even by bishops and cardinals. But both of them are in clear contrast with the entire tradition of this Church itself, beginning from the apostolic era, and in the case of the second request with the tradition of the Eastern Churches as well, and therefore with the journey of ecumenism.
Also, the idea that «moving past» celibacy is the most appropriate choice for the Catholic Church of today is by no means shared by the reigning pope.
Going by what Benedict XVI says and does, his intention is the opposite: not to move past, but to confirm priestly celibacy, as a radical following of Jesus in service of all, all the more so at a crucial crossroads of civilization like the present. ….