Talk:Clerical celibacy

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It may be the case that not all Christian churches prohibit sex outside of marriage, but isn't it true of all churches with clerical celibacy rules? Maybe I can be persuaded otherwise, but for now I am inclined to think so, and that is the reason for my recent edit. Michael Hardy 00:10, 20 Feb 2004 (UTC)

If the reasons for clerical celibacy in the Catholic Church are reworked to be separately presented as 1. theological 2. practical and 3. historical, then this entry will gain wholesome NPOV balance. Wetman 03:06, 20 Feb 2004 (UTC).

As I understand it, the reasons for clerical celibacy within the church initally had to do more with the practical concerns than any spirtual concerns when first enacted. Such as questions of inheritance and property.
JesseG 05:09, Jun 8, 2005 (UTC)

Perhaps some sociological note be wise. Just think about the consequences for heritage and accumulation of wealth.

Another note, bishops at least were often chosen from among the monastics, who typically would have already taken vows of celibacy and many times vows of poverty as well. In these cases, they wouldn't be accumulating any great amounts of wealth, but would not have biological progeny either. Wesley 16:01, 2 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Buddhist monks[edit]

Aren't Buddhist monks celibate?

That's already noted in the first paragraph. --Preost 00:32, Feb 9, 2005 (UTC)
Not really, many, including the Dalai Lama are acually asexual as opposed to celibate, because they lack the normal desires. True celibates, like most Catholic priests, have these desires underneath but are repressing them.

Yeah right. I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. Buddhism has a long tradition of celibacy starting with the Buddha. If you want to bash Catholics then you have to include the Dalai Lama. One previous Dalai Lama had real problems remaining celibate. In fact he didn't even try. Child abuse in Buddhist monasteries in not at all unknown.

Comments such as the one I have deleted are completely unfounded and inappropriate. Thebike 03:59, 7 November 2006 (UTC)

Vow of celibacy?[edit]

It was my understanding that clerics took a vow of chastity, but not a vow of celibacy. Celibacy was a mandates practice, but not something which was vowed. john k

Clerics do not take a vow of celibacy. Technically, a secular cleric (i.e. a diocesan priest) makes a promise to the church, with God as witness, to remain celibate. This is an oath, not a vow. However, if a cleric belongs to a religious order or congregation, he takes a vow of chastity along with vows of poverty and obedience. Those are direct promises to God. Pmadrid 22:12, 20 Jun 2005 (UTC)


YES. Unmarried pastors in the ELCA/ELCIC cannot have sex. A pastor cannot cohabit without marrying. To say that they don't have to sign a pledge is irrelevant. To my knowledge, nobody does. Gay pastors don't sign a pledge, they just minister with the undertanding that they do so conditional on their celibacy. Same for straight pastors. I am not going to engage in an edit war, so lets resolve this here please. Carolynparrishfan 12:18, 5 October 2005 (UTC)

I don't think it fits. These requirements are found all throughout Christianity. It has nothing to do with clerical celibacy. It even generally applies to all members of Christianity -- the only difference is that they aren't responsible as role models in the same way a cleric is. Crushti (talk) 00:58, 30 December 2008 (UTC)


It's a bit misleading to say that gay men are "bound by exactly the same rules" as straights. If the rules are no sex outside of heterosexual marriage (which is not an viable option for gays) then the deck is stacked. It gives a false sense of equality. The fact is that heterosexual Mormon clergymen can form loving, lifelong partnerships, and gay ones can't. I am reminded of the recent parliamentary debate over the Civil Marriage Act in which Jason Kenney asserted that the law as it existed then was fair because gays could legally get married--to members of the opposite sex. A novel argument, but silly and question-begging nonetheless. Carolynparrishfan 17:22, 20 April 2006 (UTC)

Early History[edit]

I'm gathering some information on apostolic tradition and early church practice on this subject. I'm new as a wikipedia editor, so you will have to excuse mistakes (non-technical, that is). (I hope I did the right thing opening this new talk section.) Doc 07:31, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

As an aside note (to prepare you on this): in my church (Free Apostolic Church of Pentecost, Greece; will consider weather to create an entry) the rule is that deacons and presbyters (and thus bishops, being presbyters) are required to be married and having children. There is biblical as well as historical evidence that this was apostolic tradition and the practice of the early church. My contribution effort will be only to expose the historical evidence (fully referenced). The collective effort on this area should be perhaps on listing major denominations and which side they belong to (along with variations). Thank you for any comments. Doc 07:53, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

Required to be married and having children? This is a bit strong. Permitted maybe. I'd like to see your evidence for this. Even before Clerical celibacy was made universal to all Latin Rite priets it was still a common practice. The Apostles became celibate, if they were not so before-hand, after they were called to follow Christ. In the Gospel (I can't remember where, and I'm paraphrasing) one of the Apostles asks Christ Isn't it then better not to marry at all? Jesus answered that this was not for everyone but only those who had been called. Also the passage 1 Corinthians 7 may shed some light on the matter Thebike 10:16, 3 November 2006 (UTC)

The article cites various "Councils" of the Church that determined priestly celibacy, but these "Councils" were but local Synods. The "Council" of Elvira was a local Synod that affected only "Spain." [The modern country of Spain did not then exist - reason for quotes]. Only local bishops participated. 22:13, 7 November 2006 (UTC)

@ Thebike: To play Devil's advocate, what evidence do we have of apostolic celibacy other than Paul's? Peter, for example, had a mother-in-law (Luke 4.38). It has always seemed to me that 1 Tim. 3.1-7 gives at least permission and possibly a preference for bishops to be married. This is not to dispute that celibacy was common in the 2nd century; but I would want to have good evidence for celibacy in the apostolic era before assuming that we can read the 2nd century back into the 1st. jrcagle 02:20, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

Celibacy in the RC church[edit]

I'm not a fan of celibacy in church leadership, but I can't imagine that this paragraph fits under the NPOV guidelines:

Behind the image of a celibate Jesus is sexism that supports a social system giving men dominance. The thought of a non-celibate Jesus was an anathema to the Church Fathers of the first centuries who established the connection between sex and sin. St Ambrose wrote that, "The ministerial office must be kept pure and unspoiled and must not be defiled by coitus." St. Augustine (354-430) became the Church's greatest advocate for celibacy. He felt sex was always tainted and the "original sin" of Adam could only be passed on by intercourse and conception. St. Augustine said he considered an erect penis a visible sign of man's inner revolt against God.

I've tagged that section as POV with the hope that it can be re-worked by someone with specific knowledge of the issue. jrcagle 02:13, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

I eliminated the following unfounded phrase:

Priests who had descendants had heirs. Heirs were problematic because the sanctuary and other possessions of the local church would go to them. By eliminating heirs, the church no longer had a problem holding onto property.

That is not supported by history and is rhetorically biased by basing a conclusion that is not related to the cause -- sort of like saying no one can shout fire in a crowded theater because the government wants to control how people think and what they say. If someone wants to discuss heirs they must do it academically.

Needs More Facts Re: Success Rates (a la Sipe Survey)...? I am having a hard time finding info to back this up, please help if you can: A while back I watched a show on viewer-supported LinkTV where a thorough discussion of celibacy in the Church included statistics that seemed to go farther, and were more recent (I think) than the Sipes survey, of how only 20% of RC Priests really are celibate, and the other 80% are "trying" but failing (either with use of porn/masturbation or people). It went further still by discussing how this really created an environment whereby Priests were prevented from maturing emotionally and psychosexually - creating an accident waiting to happen. If facts like those exist they should certainly be included in a wikipedia page on clerical celibacy, don't you think? Personally, I would go further to say that society at large should take a more Parental point of view and not come down so hard on "offending priests" but steer them towards education and therapy, instead of prison or de-frocking, knowing how easy it is to cure (or make whole) offenders who come to terms with their own underlying needs (dopamine) and the effects of offenses on the populations they serve (be they adults or children). Why is this just a history page, devoid of any recent perspective? -OasisMike I've learned a new way of thinking. (talk) 14:24, 12 October 2012 (UTC)

Religious celibacy[edit]

This article should be renamed Religious celibacy and the there should be as large a section dedicated to Buddhism as any other religion. I know that anti-Catholic bigots want to pretend that celibacy only exists within Catholicism, but the reality is that it is even more important in Buddhism. Wikipedia should not allow bigots to leave people uneducated on the real history of religious celibacy which predates the birth of Christ. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Crashloans (talkcontribs) 02:07, August 22, 2007 (UTC).

Clerical celebacy is currently of much higher notability than celibacy in other religions. It is up to bigots to get themselves educated. To this end Wikipedia supplies NPOV material for whoever chooses to read it. -- Alan Liefting talk 02:36, 22 August 2007 (UTC)

Celibacy is most prominent is Buddhism, not in Christianity. Yet, Wikipedia only has a few sentences on celibacy in Buddhism. Christianty is more prominent in the west and that's why you think it's more notable, but in reality, religious celibacy oringinated in and is most prominent in Buddhism. Crashloans 17:24, 22 August 2007 (UTC)

Well, certainly you can add material on Buddhism. But if reiligious celibacy practiced in Buddhism is not clerical celibacy, then perhaps the celibacy of Catholic priests is the most prominent example of celibacy that can properly be called clerical, so it doesn't seem so innacurate to feature it prominently. Michael Hardy 00:29, 23 August 2007 (UTC)

Clerical celibacy in Sub-Saharan Africa[edit]

There are reports that bishops and priests in Sub-Saharan Africa have special problems with celibacy because of ancient cultural rules that a tribal chief can never be celibate. I don't have any numbers or statistics on this, but it would be interesting if valuable information could be gathered on the subject. ADM (talk) 16:35, 21 March 2009 (UTC)

Clerical celibacy vs. homosexuality[edit]

Some gay activists, such as Peter Thatchell, have argued that Cardinal John Henry Newman was gay because of his friendly relationship with Ambrose St. John. However, given Newman's resolute advocacy of Catholic clerical celibacy, it would certainly be more prudent to characterize this as a latter-day form of adelphopoiesis, just a spiritual relationship between two very Christian men. One could even argue that Newman was homophobic, since he held the pro-chastity epistles of St. Paul and other scriptures to be inerrant, and since he was quite likely a sacerdotal virgin, which in itself indicates a hostility to all forms of sex and related sins. ADM (talk) 02:05, 8 April 2009 (UTC)

I really don't see a contradiction here I'm afraid. You can be homosexual without being sexually active. I think you're confusing the two issues. Nor is it beyond the realms of reason to assume a homosexual can be homophobic - particularly if he is convinced that the teaching of his/her faith is firmly against the practice of homosexual acts (or at least sexual acts outside of marriage).
What is beyond debate is that Newman clearly derived a close emotional and spiritual attachment from his relationship with St. John - on the nature of this specific relationship the question ultimately is whether he viewed this as an intense friendship (perhaps adelphopoiesis) or a friendship underpinned by a physical or emotional attraction?
But even if we establish that it was the former rather than the latter, that does still not discount the likelihood that Newman was ultimately homosexual. We must forget that there is nothing in Catholic doctrine that proscribes an individual from simply have a homosexual orientation. Nor do you have to be a "gay activist" to draw that conclusionContaldo80 (talk) 13:43, 8 April 2009 (UTC)
I disagree, since perhaps 99.9 % of homosexuals have been sexually active at one time or another, unlike adelphopoiesis, which oftens amounts to a form of clerical celibacy/virginity. If you could find evidence that at least 10 % of self-described homosexuals were not sexually active at all, the argument would maybe hold, but it doesn't since the sexual part is intrinsic to the gay culture and the gay identity (cf word homo"sex"uality). The Catholic Church has also clearly rejected the idea that serious homosexuals can be chaste, it has even published a document about it called Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders. ADM (talk) 18:40, 8 April 2009 (UTC)

I find hard to believe that Newman was really gay, from a NPOV, and not from any sort of homophobic reasons. I´ve read some of his writtings and about his life, like his "Apologia Pro Vita Sua", and I find surprising that he never adresses any sort of sexual issues about his youth. I suppose that if he had gay tendencies during his youth, this would have marked him, since his Anglican and Catholic beliefs wouldn´t have allowed it. I really do think that he might have been a sublimated heterossexual, like St. Paul who also didn´t have great opinion on women. We also can´t forget that all the innuendo about his homosexual tendencies were made by deeply anti-Catholic people, like Charles Kingsley, who openly disagreed with the Catholic doctrine of celibacy. (talk) 23:53, 9 April 2009 (UTC)

[S]ince perhaps 99.9 % of homosexuals have been sexually active at one time or another? Yikes, that's a rather unhelpful stance. And many heterosexuals are also not sexually active so it's smarter just to back off that pointy argument that conflates being gay only with sexual acts. The Vatican has a rather laughable history concerning enlightened thoughts as to human sexual bahaviours and sexualities so let's not take their admonishments shaming LGBT people as a proper guide to anything except how they officially have characterized the subject. The core issues remain the same that we go by reliable sources and try to present the issues NPOV. We also have to put on the filters of what someone who today would be called gay would be called back then and how they themselves would self-identify. NPOV means we present the information and let the reader decide. -- Banjeboi 21:02, 13 April 2009 (UTC)

Thanks Benjiboy, eminently sensible. As to the comment above that 99.9% of homosexuals have been sexually active, I had a good laugh. I would really like to see the source behind that - it seems to me extremely naive. If you are sexually orientated towards the same sex then it does not follow that you need to be sexually active with a member of the same-sex! Otherwise current Catholic teaching would quickly unravel... "The Catholic Church has also clearly rejected the idea that serious homosexuals can be chaste". What's a "serious homosexual" by the way - is it a professional qualification? Do you need a certificate to count? I don't think anyone is arguing the point that Newman would have understood himself to be 'gay' in the modern sense of the world; or that he was sexually active. Nevertheless it is legitimate to set out the case (backed by sources and references of course) that explore whether he remained a (albeit repressed) homosexual. Contaldo80 (talk) 09:38, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

John Henry Newman sexual orientation remains unknown. Anyway, he sublimated it, rather then repressed it, from a Catholic viewpoint, based on the belief that celibacy is a superior state to marriage. Buddhist monks also sublimate their sexuality, in a similar and often more efficient way to Catholic priests. I repeat that there isn´t any sort of evidence that if he ever had any sort of same sex tendencies during his youth or life. He seems to have sublimated easily is sexuality, from what we can interpret from his own writtings, like his "Apologia Pro Vita Sua". (talk) 22:47, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

"Sublimate" = to divert the energy of (a sexual or other biological impulse) from its immediate goal to one of a more acceptable social, moral, or aesthetic nature or use. "Repress" = to keep under control, check, or suppress (desires, feelings, actions, tears, etc.).
I don't really see such a big distinction between the two I'm afraid - seems to me a case of semantics. I agree there is no evidence to suggest Newman was sexually active; it is, however, legitimate to set out the case that Newman was likely to have been homosexual in orientation (even though such feelings may have been repressed or 'sublimated'). Although I disagree with your assertion that it is relatively "easy" to sublimate one's sexuality. Contaldo80 (talk) 10:27, 15 April 2009 (UTC)

I´m a former Catholic and like I said before, I´ve read some of the Cardinal Newman writtings. I recommend you, since I don´t think you ever read it is "Apologia Pro Vita Sua". What I said was that "He seems to have sublimated easily is sexuality, from what we can interpret from his own writtings, like his "Apologia Pro Vita Sua"." I didn´t said it was easy for everyone, anyway, it depends of the people, their religion, their personality. Obviously also their sexual orientation. A former user did a huge confusion between "homosexuality" and "homosexual tendencies". This is far from being the same thing and it´s not the place to debate that. My point is that, from all that is known, his own writtings, his friends testimonies, even his enemies, there is nothing that points if he had homosexual inclinations during his youth or even if he was a sublimated homosexual. If he was really a sublimated homosexual, I find amazing that in any of his writtings he seems to indicate that. We can go to the definition of "asexual" more to define´s Newman sexuality. (talk) 16:57, 15 April 2009 (UTC)

It may follow to add something as seen from his writings Newman ______ and site some examples either in the text or footnotes. We should also look to the best sourcing from those who are familiar with his work and life as well. Again through a reality filter, I wouldn't expect religious scholars to dwell much on the physical yearnings but again, they certianly might. -- Banjeboi 01:17, 16 April 2009 (UTC)

I log in to Wikipedia rarely and haven't been following this debate at all closely. But I've read the majority of Newman's published writings, plus a certain amount of his letters and diaries, one full-length biography of him and several articles about him from various sources. A few things seem clear:

1. There isn't strong, unambiguous evidence about his sexual inclinations from his writings or well-attested contemporary biographical data.

2. Whatever evidence there is in said writings and biographical data needs interpretation of some kind, so we can't simply cite something from his writings as evidence of his sexuality here -- that would be Original Research.

3. So if we say anything about the subject at all, it should be in the form of attributing specific opinions about it to specific biographers or historians or whoever has said such things; and for balance we should cite more than one such opinion from more than one source, if possible.

I.e., IMO future debate here should be about what (more or less) reliable sources are worth citing on this point and how to do so, not about our own opinions about Newman's sexual inclinations, which are irrelevant to the process of editing this article. --Jim Henry (talk) 01:51, 16 April 2009 (UTC)

FWIW, the entire thread may be a red-herring but it's not a bad idea to have a thoughtful discussion. Looking at the current text and using your familiarity with the subject ... is there anything that should be changed? Is it basically accurate and NPOV? -- Banjeboi 03:41, 16 April 2009 (UTC)
The text of the section "Sexuality" is, as of today, pretty okay, except that it doesn't cite any sources arguing against Kingsley and Faber's assertions. I'm not sure offhand where to find such sources -- as far as I know most Newman biographers and scholars seem to have ignored these innuendos as not worth paying attention to, rather than trying to disprove them, but then I've read only a tiny fraction of the vast libraries of writing about Newman, vs. a pretty large proportion of Newman's own writing. --Jim Henry (talk) 15:29, 17 April 2009 (UTC)

Indeed this thread is a red herring - I've been wasting my time rather. Having read the text again it doesn't say that Newman was homosexual just that his sexuality is an issue of conjecture. I can't see anything it which is objectionable and the sources look balanced! If anything it is all very mild.... Nor sure why would expect to find clues to his sexuality in his writings either - he wasn't likely to have put them into print was he? And as far as I'm concerned there is no discernible difference between "homosexuality" and "homosexual tendencies". Contaldo80 (talk) 17:15, 16 April 2009 (UTC)

What people mean by the terms "gay" and "homosexual(ity)" varies a great deal from person to person; failing to have a generally agreed-upon definition, or to settle on an ad-hoc definition for any given discussion, leads to a lot of confusion (as in the thread above, where some posters were apparently assuming that if you call someone homosexual you are implying that they're sexually active). Some people have tried to popularize the term "same-sex attraction" as a more specific, less historically loaded term for a subset of what people mean by "homosexuality"; that is, indicating that someone is more or less attracted to people of the same sex, without implying that they're unchaste or that they have any subcultural affiliation with other people with similar sexual inclinations or any specific political or religious opinions about the licitness of same-sex unions or whatever... I don't have a dog in this terminology fight, but I wouldn't want to use any term without defining it in the context where I use it, because I wouldn't expect other people to understand by it what I mean by it. --Jim Henry (talk) 15:29, 17 April 2009 (UTC)
You're exactly right. I think there was confusion over terminology, and you've captured the issue rather succinctly above. Contaldo80 (talk) 15:37, 17 April 2009 (UTC)
To further clarify, perhaps, look again at what User:ADM was saying -- their use sometimes of the term "homosexual" tout court, sometimes qualifying it as "serious homosexuals" or "self-described homosexuals"... apparently meaning, as far as I can tell, "people attracted to persons of the same sex who also think that sexual activity with others of the same sex is licit, and consider this sexual attraction and/or sexual activity to be a significant aspect of their identity". (ADM, correct me if I've misread you.) A fair number of people use the term "homosexual" to mean that or something like it, which is why it's important to define it when you use it in a narrower sense. --Jim Henry (talk) 15:44, 17 April 2009 (UTC)

External Links[edit]

I recently placed a link to a blog that was talking about this exact subject from a Protestant, paleo-orthodox perspective but it was rejected. Why? The blog was thorough in citing its Scriptural sources, though it was undeniably biased (as apologetic religious articles are by nature). Is there a way to put the external link back up, without having it removed? I guess I really thought it fit the wikipedia guidlines. —Preceding unsigned comment added by The.famous.adventurer (talkcontribs) 09:20, 2 June 2009 (UTC)

See Wikipedia:Reliable_references#Self-published_sources. You are not yet "an established expert on the topic of the article whose work in the relevant field has previously been published by reliable third-party publications". Lima (talk) 13:15, 2 June 2009 (UTC)

Conversion of Married Protestant Priest[edit]

The social upheavals in some Protestant churches regarding the ordination of women and homosexuals into the priesthood has led to an increase in the number of Protestant priests who want to be affiliated with the Catholic Church. There have been some exceptions made for them. Is continence still required of them, or is this also an area where an exception has been made? Either way, should it be addressed in the main article? Ileanadu (talk) 17:31, 22 July 2010 (UTC)

Perhaps what I have now added to the already existing mention of this matter is enough. Esoglou (talk) 19:05, 22 July 2010 (UTC)
It's been in the article for several years. Search of the word "Protestant". —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:01, 22 July 2010 (UTC)

Contradiction regarding Clerical Celibacy for the Church of the East[edit]

The Introduction of this Article states that the Church of the East does not apply rule of celibacy for ordination not too dissimilar to the Anglican Church ("The Church of the East has not applied the rule of celibacy even for ordination to the episcopate"), while under the body regarding the summary of the Rules for Christian Clergy condtradicts this by saying that they follow the same rule as the Eastern Orthodox Church which enforces clerical celibacy for the episcopate ("...Assyrian Church of the East follow the same rules that hold in the Eastern Orthodox Church..."

Which one is it and where are the sources regarding this?


Former BabycakesBurger — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:34, 26 September 2014 (UTC)

Thanks for drawing attention to this. As it turns out, both statements needed to be corrected. Esoglou (talk) 18:18, 26 September 2014 (UTC)

A lot of work needed[edit]

Firstly, there is a lot of overlap between this article and celibacy. In fact, neither article seems sure of what it should cover. Celibacy's lead permits the idea of celibacy for non-religious reasons, but then restricts itself entirely to religious pursuits in the article. This article (clerical celibacy) attempts to embrace all religions, but really is overwhelmingly concerned with Christianity. The exact scope of each article needs to be determined.

Personally I feel this article should be redefined to cover only celibacy among Christian clergy. Sections for Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Protestant clergy will be given equal weight. Other religions can remain at the end with a brief discussion and a link to celibacy, which adequately covers the topic.

Secondly, the section "Clerical continence in Christianity" is way too long and overwhelmingly focused on the Latin (Western) Church. Perhaps there is room for some of this detail at Clerical celibacy (Catholic Church) but even then some of it will probably be chopped.

Lots of other issues besides this. I'm a bit busy now, but I'll reach out for a request for consensus soon. 8bitW (talk) 20:43, 2 February 2016 (UTC)