Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture

Research Article

The Origins of Clerical Celibacy in the Western Church

Charles A. Frazee

In the present discussion within the Roman Catholic Church over the requirement of clerical celibacy, the arguments generally center on the ascetical value of the practice. Pope Paul VI speaks of celibacy as a “precious jewel” leading to a life of selflessness for the man who seeks to follow Jesus Christ in the priesthood. When priests themselves talk about the subject, it is often in terms of its symbolic value as a total commitment to the service of the Lord. It is further seen as a practical measure, following Saint Paul's view that the unmarried state frees the ordained minister from the cares of personal family life so that he may devote himself entirely to the concerns of the whole Christian community.

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