After 1965, and the close of the Second Vatican Council, a theological amnesia set in, thanks to the Modernists, and now this amnesia is so ingrained that in some cases it is nigh impossible to drive the truth home to people on certain subjects.
One of those subjects is the state of priestly celibacy. Thanks to Modernism, as well as other philosophical errors/heresies, most Catholics (again, including the Clergy) have no idea of what the Three C's are, and how they were imposed by the Church on the Major Orders of the Clergy (Major Orders is something most Catholics today also haven't heard about). So here are the Three C's and what they mean:
Celibacy: The state of being unmarried. Celibacy doesn't denote that an unmarried person is not sexually active, just that he isn't married.
Continence: The state of refraining from sexual relations. Continence is encouraged amongst the married for certain periods, as taught by St. Paul.
Chastity: The state of being pure, not only in sexual matters, but in all things. All Catholics should strive for the virtue of chastity, both single and married.
All three were imposed by the Church, in various degrees, since the beginning, and over time, as the Holy Spirit led the Church, the Church has tightened Her discipline on the Clergy.
The Apostolic Practise
When the Apostles were ordained as priests - and finally as bishops - they began the practise of clerical continence. Most of the Apostles - if not all of them - save St. John (who was celibate) had wives, including St. Peter  (the Gospels mention that Our Lord healed St. Peter's mother-in-law, but nowhere mentions if his wife was still alive. Let us assume she was.). However, after the Apostles were ordained, they ceased sexual relations with their wives, and this practise of clerical continence was passed down to their successors. In the Early Church, there were both celibate and married clergy, and St. Paul in his Epistles lays down the apostolic rule for married clergy. St. Paul himself was celibate, and even wishes all men to be celibate. However, all the clergy were to be continent, and refrain from sexual relations after ordination. If a married priest was widowed of his wife, he could not remarry.
Over the Centuries
As the centuries passed by, the Church began to organically move away from having married clergy, and toward a celibate clergy. The reasons given by the Church Fathers was not because Christ was celibate, but rather it was due to the nature of the Sacrifice they were to offer. The Levitical Priests of the Old Testament were to refrain from sexual relations with their wives during their time in the Temple offering the sacrifices, and this practise was carried on in the Catholic Church (who alone is the perfect fulfilment of the Jewish religion).
But, since Catholic priests are never "off-duty", as it were, and are required to serve the Lord and His Church continuously, it was just common sense that they perpetually refrained from sexual relations. In some cases, it was a bone of contention with the wives of some priests who could not bear the thought of never "knowing" their husbands again, and so the Church looked more to ordaining celibate men as it was far easier for them to be continent . This became the standard discipline in the Church from the Apostles onward. All the ranks of the Major Orders - sub-deacon, deacon, priest and bishop - were to be continent if they were married before ordination.
Eventually, in the 1100's, when the vast majority of the Church's clergy were celibate, the Holy See imposed celibacy on the entire clergy. The Holy See did not impose a novel discipline on the Church, as some assert, but rather made universal a practise that was already in place.
Following are quotes from Church Fathers showing the practises of the Early Church regarding the Priesthood and the Thee C's.
Tertullian, Ad Uxorem, 1:6-7 (c. 200)
"These precepts [of pagan religion] has the devil given to his servants, and he is heard! He challenges, forsooth, God's servants, by the continence of his own, as if on equal terms! Continent are even the priests of hell!...That whole halo which encircles the Church is represented (as consisting) of holiness. Priesthood is (a function) of widowhood and of celibacies among the nations. Of course (this is) in conformity with the devil's principle of rivalry. For the king of heathendom, the chief pontiff, to marry a second time is unlawful. How pleasing must holiness be to God, when even His enemy affects it!— not, of course, as having any affinity with anything good, but as contumeliously affecting what is pleasing to God the Lord."
Tertullian, Exhortation to Chastity, 8 (c. 207)
"Thus it comes to pass that all things are lawful, but not all are expedient, so long as it remains true that whoever has a permission granted is (thereby) tried, and is consequently judged during the process of trial in the case of the particular permission. Apostles, withal, had a licence to marry, and lead wives about (with them ). They had a licence, too, to live by the Gospel. But he who, when occasion required, did not use this right, provokes us to imitate his own example; teaching us that our probation consists in that wherein licence has laid the groundwork for the experimental proof of abstinence."
Tertullian, Exhortation to Chastity, 10
"For continence will be a mean whereby you will traffic in a mighty substance of sanctity; by parsimony of the flesh you will gain the Spirit. For let us ponder over our conscience itself, to see how different a man feels himself when he chances to be deprived of his wife. He savours spiritually. If he is making prayer to the Lord, he is near heaven. If he is bending over the Scriptures, he is wholly in them. If he is singing a psalm, he satisfies himself. If he is adjuring a demon, he is confident in himself. Accordingly, the apostle added the recommendation of a temporary abstinence for the sake of adding an efficacy to prayers, that we might know that what is profitable for a time should be always practiced by us, that it may be always profitable. Daily, every moment, prayer is necessary to men; of course continence is so too, since prayer is necessary. Prayer proceeds from conscience. If the conscience blush, prayer blushes. It is the spirit which conducts prayer to God. If the spirit be self-accused of a blushing conscience, how will it have the hardihood to conduct prayer to the altar; seeing that, if prayer blush, the holy minister (of prayer) itself is suffused too?"
Origen, 23rd Homily on Numbers (185-253)
"I will express what the words of the Apostle mean, but I am afraid that some will be saddened. Do not refuse yourselves to each other, unless through a mutual agreement for a given occasion, so as to free yourselves for prayer, and then come together again; it is therefore certain that perpetual sacrifice is impossible for those who are subject to the obligations of marriage...I therefore conclude that only the one vowed to perpetual chastity can offer the perpetual sacrifice."
Origen, 6th Homily on Leviticus (c. 250)
"There was yet another task for Moses. He did not go to the battlefield and did not fight [personally] with the enemy. What did he do? He prayed, and while he prayed, his people won the victory. When he let go his hands fell down, his people was vanquished and put to flight...Therefore, let the priests of the Church also pray without cease, so that the people he leads can win the victory over these invisible Amalekites, the demons hot in pursuit of those who want to live piously in Christ."
Ecclesiastical Canons of the Holy Apostles (c. 300)
Peter said: It would be better for the bishop not to be married; or else let him be the husband of one wife...
John said: There must therefore...be priests, who would have lived a long time in the world and would abstain in a certain way from relations with their wives.
Canon 33 of the Council of Elvira (305)
"It has seemed good to absolutely forbid the bishops, the priests, and the deacons, i.e., all the clerics in the service of the sacred ministry, to have relations with their wives and procreate children; should anyone do so, let him be excluded from the honor of the clergy."
Canon 29 of the First Council of Arles (314)
"Moreover, concerned with what is worthy, pure, and honest, we exhort our brothers in the episcopate to make sure that priests and deacons have no [sexual] relations with their wives, since they are serving the ministry everyday. Whoever will act against this decision will be deposed from the honor of the clergy."
Eusebius of Caesarea, Demonstratio Evangelicam I,9 (c. 320)
"It is fitting, according to the Scripture, that a bishop be the husband of an only wife. But this being understood, it behooves consecrated men, and those who are at the service of God's cult, to abstain thereafter from conjugal intercourse with their wives. As to those who were not judged worthy of such a holy ministry, Scripture grants them [conjugal intercourse] while saying quite clearly to all that marriage is honorable and the nuptial bed is without stain, and that God judges profligates and adulterers."
Canon 3 of the Council of Nicaea (325)
"The great Council has absolutely forbidden bishops, priests, and deacons - in other words, all members of the clergy - to have with them a sister-companion with the exception of a mother, a sister, an aunt, or, lastly, only those persons who are beyond any suspicion."
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, The 12th Catechesis, 25 (c. 350)
"To the most Pure and the Master of Purity it was fitting to be born from a pure bed. For if the one who is a good priest for the sake of Jesus abstains from relations with women, how could Jesus Himself be born of [the union] between a man and a woman?"
St. Ephrem the Syrian, Carmina Nisibena, (c. 363)
"It is not enough for the priest and his dignity - for it is the living body that he offers - to purify his soul, his tongue, and his hands and to make his whole body clear; he must at all times be absolutely pure, because he takes the places of mediator between God and mankind. Blessed be he who has purified his servants!"
The So-Called Canons of Gregory the Illuminator (Armenia, c. 365)
"The priest who has taken a wife will have to do penance for seven years outside and then for two years inside the Church. He will not have the right to receive communion for an additional two years, and only then will he be admitted to communion."
Ambrosiaster, Commentary on 1st Epistle to Timothy (c. 380)
"Now there should be seven deacons, several priests (two per church), and only one bishop for each city, which is why they must abstain from any conjugal relations; they have to be present in church every day, and they do not have the necessary time to purify themselves properly after conjugal unions, as the priests of old used to do. They have to offer the sacrifice every week, and even if the liturgy is not offered every day in rural areas or in territories outside the empire, it is at least twice a week for the local people. And, moreover, there is no lack of sick people to baptize every day. Indeed, it was because they were not expected to go frequently to the temple and had a private life that the concession [to use their marital rights] was granted to the ancients [i.e., the Jewish priests of the Old Testament]. If the Apostle directs laymen to abstain temporarily in order to attend to prayer, how much more for deacons and priests, who must pray day and night for the people entrusted to them? Therefore, they must be purer than others because they are God's representatives."
Ambrosiaster, Quastiones Veteris et Novi Testamenti (c. 380)
"But people might say: If it is permitted and good to marry, why should priests not be authorized to take wives? In other words, in other words, why should ordained men not be permitted to be united [to wives]? There are indeed things that are not permitted to anyone, without exception; on the other hand, there are some things that are permitted at certain times but not at others. Fornication is never permitted to anyone; to do business is at times licit and at times illicit. Indeed, before becoming a priest, one may do business; once he is a cleric, he is not permitted to do so. And for a Christian it is at times permitted, and at times not, for him to unite himself with a wife.
...Is everything that is permitted in the presence of other people also permitted in the presence of the emperor? All the more so is it then in God's matters. This is why the priest must be more pure than others; indeed, he is seen as God's representative and is actually His vicar; so that what is permitted to others is not permitted to him; he must take every day the place of Christ, either by praying for the people or by offering [the sacrifice], or by administering baptism. It is not only to him that conjugal relations are forbidden, but also to his minister: he too must be all the more pure as the matters of his ministry are holy."
Letter of Pope Siricius to Bishop Himerius of Tarragona (385)
"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...Let us come now to the most sacred orders of clerics, which we learn from your report, beloved, are thus so scorned and disordered throughout your provinces, to the injury of religion which should be venerated, that we should be speaking with the voice of Jeremiah, "Who will give water to my head, or a fountain of tears to my eyes? And I shall weep for this people day and night." (Jer. 8:23) If, therefore, the blessed prophet says that tears are insufficient for him in lamenting the sins of the people, by how much grief can we be smitten when compelled to deplore the iniquities of those who are in our body, [we] to whom especially, according to blessed Paul, ceaselessly falls the daily concern and solicitude of all churches? "For who is weak and I am not weak? Who is offended and I do not burn?" (2 Cor. 11:29) 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"? (Lev. 20:7) 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." (Rom. 8:8-9). And where can the Spirit of God dwell except, as we read, in holy bodies?
And because a considerable number of those of whom we speak, as your holiness reported, lament that they lapsed in ignorance, we declare that mercy should not be denied to them, with this condition: if henceforth they strive to conduct themselves continently, they should continue as long as they live in that office which they held when they were caught, without any advancement in rank. 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. And because present examples forewarn us to be vigilant in the future, any bishop, priest, and deacon henceforth found in this situation--which we hope will not happen--should understand right now that every avenue of forgiveness from us for himself is blocked, because it is necessary that wounds which do not respond to the medication of a soothing compress should be excised with a knife."
St. Ambrose of Milan, De officiis ministrorum Book I: 258 (c. 385)
"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 an offering for them?"
Pope Siricius, Cum in Utum Decretal (386)
"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, said, "Leave yourselves free for prayer" (1 Cor. 7:5). If lay people are asked to be continent so that their prayers are granted, all the more so a priest who should be ready at any moment, thanks to an 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?...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 one does believe that this [is permitted] because it is written, "He must have not 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 a continence that one should observe. 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)
...The question is not one of ordering new precepts, but we wish through this letter to have people observe those that either through apathy or laziness on the part of some have been neglected. They are, however, matters that have been established by an apostolic constitution and by a constitution of the Fathers, as it is written, "Stand firm, then, brothers and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter". (2 Thess. 2:15)
St. Jerome, Commentary on the Epistle to Titus (c. 389)
"But if laymen are asked to abstain from relations with their wives for the sake of prayer, what should one then think of the bishop, of him who must be able to present spotless offerings to God every day, for his own sins and for those of the people? This is why, together with meekness, patience, sobriety, temperance, unselfishness, hospitality, and good will, the bishop especially - in a more pronounced way than lay people - must practice the chastity proper to his state, and, so to speak, priestly purity, so that not only will he abstain from impure acts, but his spirit, meant to consecrate the Body of Christ, will be freed from whims of eye and wanderings of mind...
Let the bishop also practice abstinence: not only, as some think, with respect to carnal desires and the embraces with his wife, but also with respect to all that troubles the soul..."
Canon 3 of the Council of Carthage (390)
"Bishop Genthelius says: As was previously said, it is fitting that the holy bishops and priests of God as well as the Levites; i.e., those who are in the service of the divine sacraments, observe perfect continence, so that they may obtain in all simplicity what they are asking from God; what the apostles taught and what antiquity itself observed, let us also endeavor to keep.
The bishops declared unanimously: It pleases us all that bishop, priest and deacon, guardians of purity, abstain from conjugal intercourse with their wives, so that those who serve the altar may keep a perfect chastity."
St. Jerome, Against Jovinian, Book I:34 (393)
"For [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. Either permit priests to perform the work of marriage with the result that virginity and marriage are on a par: or if it is unlawful for priests to touch their wives, they are so far holy in that they imitate virgin chastity.
But something more follows. 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. 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."
St. Jerome, Letter 48 To Pammachius, sec. 10, 21
"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 married 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 conjugal act...
...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 among virgins and widows. Shall there be but one reward, then, for hunger and for excess, for filth and for finery, for sackcloth and for silk?"
Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion, Heresy 48 (c. 395)
"And indeed, through a certain balance, the Word of God, who said in the Gospel "if you want to be perfect", condescending to the manner in which men were fashioned and to their frailty, assuredly rejoices when those who can manifest their piety by choosing to practice virginity, chastity and continence, but also honors monogamy; and as if he prefigured precisely the charisms of the priesthood [by choice] of former monogamists practicing continence or of men living continually in virginity, it is in the same way that his apostles regulated, with wisdom and sanctity, the ecclesiastical canon of the priesthood."
Epiphanius, Panarion, Heresy 59 (c. 395)
"Since the Incarnation of Christ, the holy Word of God does not admit to the priesthood the monogamists who, after the death of their wives, have contracted a second marriage, because of the exceptional honor of the priesthood. And it is observed by the Holy Church of God without fail. But the man who continues to live with his wife and sire children is not admitted by the Church as a deacon, priest or bishop, even if he is the husband of an only wife; [only] he who, having been monogamous, observes continence or is a widower; [this is observed] especially where the ecclesiastical canons are exact."
Epiphanius of Salamis, Expositio Fidei
"Lacking virgins, [priests are recruited] among the monks; if there are not enough monks for the ministry, [they are recruited] from among men who observe continence with their wives or among the exmonogamists who are widowers; but in her [the Church] admitting a remarried man to the priesthood is not permitted; even if he observes continence or is a widower, he is rejected from the order of bishops, priests, deacons and subdeacons."
Dominus Inter Decretal, attributed to Siricius (384-399) or Innocent I (401-417)
"We know, very dear brothers, many bishops [have let themselves be led] by a most human presumption and hastened to alter the tradition of the Fathers with great prejudice to the reputation attached to their dignity; they thus fell into the darkness of heresy while taking pleasure in the plaudits of men instead of endeavoring to receive their reward from God...If you want to know, with the integrity of faith, what the true observances are, kindly give a welcoming attention to what I am going to say.
...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 to preach continence and integrity to a widow or virgin, or 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 the 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 to soil what is holy when holy things are for holy people?
...There must be only one profession of faith for the Catholic bishops; this was decreed by apostolic rule. Therefore, if there is one faith, there should also be one tradition. If there is one tradition, there must be one discipline observed by all the churches. Indeed, the churches were established in very diverse regions, but throughout the whole world the Church is called "one" thanks to the unity of the Catholic faith."
St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on 1 Timothy, Cap. III, Homily X (c. 397)
"If then the married man has worldly concerns, and if, on the other hand, a bishop should not have them, how can the Apostle say, "the husband of an only wife"? Some say that we are dealing here with the case of a man who has been freed from his wife [i.e., a widower]; if such is not the case, it is permissible that he be a man having a wife and living as if he did not have one. At that time this was indeed rightly permitted because of the prevailing situation. For it was possible to lead such a life honorably if one wished to do so. Indeed, though it is difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, there have frequently been rich people who did so; the same is true for marriage."
Canon 8 of the Council of Turin (398)
Can 8: "As to those who have been ordained in spite of this prohibition, or who, during their ministry, have sired children, the synod decreed with authority that they should not be permitted to reach the higher ranks of the orders."
1st Council of Toledo, Canon 1 (400)
"It seems good that the deacons be men who have kept their integrity by leading chaste and continent lives; even if they have wives, let such men be established in the ministry; however, if there are some who, even before the Lusitanian bishops had pronounced the interdict, did not observe continence with their wives, let them not be granted the honor of the priesthood; if a priest, before the said interdict, had children, let him not be admitted to the episcopate."
Pope Innocent I, Letter to Victricius of Rouen (404)
"Moreover, the Church must absolutely maintain what is worthy, pure, and honest, to wit: the priest and deacon must have no relations with their wives, because they are very busy every day with the necessities of their ministry; in fact it is written, 'Be holy, for I am the Lord your God.'...Indeed, if Paul writes to the Corinthians, 'Abstain for a while so as to free yourselves for prayer', and recommends this to lay people, how much more then must priests, whose function is to pray and offer ceaseless sacrifice, always abstain from a relation of that nature? If anyone has been soiled with carnal concupiscence, with what audacity would he dare to offer the sacrifice?
...But this one believes, perhaps, that this thing is permitted because it is written, 'The husband of an only wife". [The Apostle] did not talk about a man persisting in his desire to beget, but with regard to the continence to be observed in the future. In effect, he did not admit those who lacked perfect bodily integrity, he who said, "I should like everybody to be like me"; and he speaks even more openly, "But those who are unspiritual cannot please God; as to you, you are not anymore unspiritual but spiritual.'"
Pope Innocent I, Letter to Exupery of Toulouse (405)
"You have asked what behavior one must have with regard to the men who exercise the functions of deacon or priest and do not keep or have not kept continence, begetting children. The teaching of the divine laws with regard to them is very clear, and Bishop Siricius, of blessed memory, has set forth obvious instructions: those who do not observe continence, while they are established in such functions, must be deprived of all ecclesiastical dignity and must not be admitted to the ministry; the exercise of this ministry is, indeed, reserved only to the continent."
St. Jerome, Against Vigilantius, 2 (406)
"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 See, which accept for the ministry only men who are virgins, or those who practice continence, or, if married, abandon their conjugal rights?"
Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (410)
Can. 3: "On the fact that outsider women must not live anymore with clerics, as was the prior custom - with respect to the outsider women we will do all that is stipulated in the synod [reference to Canon 3 of Nicaea on "outsider women"]; now any bishop, deacon, subdeacon or cleric living among women, and not alone, chastely, and in a holy way, as befits the ministry of the Church, men and women being separated, will not be admitted to the ministry of the Church."
De septem ordinibus (Anonymous, c. 417)
"Because of the ancient custom and the damage to the priesthood that can result from it, do not give your wife power over your soul...Of course, you must love your wife, but as you love the Church or the temple of God; pray with her, read with her, abstain from conjugal relations, commune at the altar and not in the acts of the flesh. As to her, she must also venerate you, because of the law that unites you, not desire you because of the customary ending [of the common life]: you know indeed quite well that the use of marriage is forbidden you as soon as you learn that you will become a bishop."
Canons 3, 4 and 25 of the Seventeenth Council of Carthage (419)
Can. 3: "Aurelius the bishop said: When at the past council the matter on continence 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."
Can. 4: "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."
Can. 25: "Bishop Aurelius said: As we have dealt with certain clerics, especially lectors, as regards continence with their wives, I would add, very dear brothers, what was confirmed in many synods, that the subdeacons who touch the sacred mysteries, and also the deacons, priests and bishops, in conformity with the ordinances concerning them, will abstain from their wives "as if they did not have one"; if they do not do so, they will be rejected from any ecclesiastical function. As to the other clerics [i.e., other than the major orders], they will be compelled to do so only at an advanced age. The whole synod said: What your holiness has regulated in justice, we confirm because it is worthy of the priesthood and pleasing to God."
Canons 21 and 22, Council of Orange (441)
"Can. 21: It pleases us that married men are not ordained anymore to the diaconate unless, with the firm intention of changing their lives, they have first made a profession of chastity.
Can. 22: But if someone is found who, after having received the Levitical blessing, does not observe continence with his wife, let him be forbidden to exercise his ministry."
Pope St. Leo the Great, Letter to Anastasius of Thessalonika (446)
"Indeed, if those who do not belong to the Order of clerics are free to enjoy carnal relations and beget children, we must, in order to manifest what is the purity of a perfect continence, not permit carnal relations even to the subdeacons, "so that those who have a wife be as if they did not have one" and those who do not have one remain single. If it befits this order - the fourth starting from the top - to observe [continence], how much more so the first, second and third must observe it; let no one be deemed apt for the Levitical or priestly dignity or for the supreme dignity of the episcopate if it is found that he has not yet put an end to conjugal pleasure."
2nd Council of Arles, Canons 2,3,43 and 44 (c. 452)
Can. 2: "One cannot elevate to the priesthood a man bound by marriage unless he has first converted [i.e., to continence]."
Can. 3: "If a cleric, starting from the order of the diaconate, dares to take with him a woman to 'console himself', let him be rejected from communion. An exception is to be made for his grandmother, mother, sister, niece, or a wife who has converted [to continence]. If she refuses to separate from the cleric, the woman will also be punished in the same way."
Can. 43: "It has seemed good, moreover, according to the decisions of this synod, not to ordain to the diaconate married men unless, in the firm intention of changing their lives, they first make a profession of chastity."
Can. 44: "But if someone is discovered, after having received the Levitical blessing, not to observe continence with his wife, let him be forbidden from exercising his ministry."
Pope St. Leo the Great to Rusticus of Narbonne (459)
"Inquis. III: About those who serve at the altar and are married, is it permitted for them to have conjugal relations?
Ans: The law of continence is the same for the ministers of the altar, for the bishops, and for the priests; when they were still lay people or lector, they could freely take a wife and sire children. But once they have reached the ranks mentioned above, what had been permitted is no longer so. This is why, in order for their union to change from carnal to spiritual, they must, without sending away their wives, live with them as if they did not have them, so that conjugal love be safeguarded and nuptial activity be ended."
1st Council of Tours, Canons 1 and 2 (461)
Can. 1: "In the first place, let the priests and ministers of the Church, of whom it is said, 'You are the light of the world', therefore lead a very holy life, inspired by the fear of God; let them direct their actions so as to be pleasing to divine clemency and to offer a good example to the faithful...If the faithful are advised to observe chastity, according to the doctrine of the Apostle, "so that those who have a wife be as though they did not have one", how much more the priests of God and deacons, attached to the service of the divine altar, must practice it; thus they will deserve, thanks to purity of heart as well as body, that their prayers reach God's ears when they devote themselves to supplicate on behalf of the people...consequently, if a layman is admonished to practice abstinence so as to be answered when he frees himself for prayer and presents his supplications to God, how much more priests and deacons; they must be ready at any moment to present themselves before God with assurance, in all purity and cleanliness, in case they would have to offer the sacrifice or baptize should the circumstances call for it. If they defiled themselves through carnal concupiscence, what excuse could they find; with what audacity would they dare to fulfill it; with what conscience, what merit, do they believe that they will be answered?"
Can. 2: "Though it had been decided by the authority of our Fathers that the priest or deacon convicted of having accomplished the act of procreation be rejected from the Eucharistic communion, we have nevertheless decided, for our part, to temper the rigor of that law and to mitigate a decision that is otherwise legitimate; let the priest and deacon who remain attached with concupiscence to the conjugal life and continue to devote themselves to procreation not be promoted to a higher rank and not have the presumption of offering the sacrifice, nor take upon themselves ministry on behalf of the people. Let it be enough for them not to be rejected from communion."
2nd Council of Arles (c. 480)
"If a cleric, starting from the order of the diaconate, dares to take with him a woman for his consolation, let him be rejected from communion; an exception is made for a grandmother, a mother, sister, a daughter, niece, or a 'converted' wife."
Canon 1 of the 2nd Council of Toledo (531)
Can 1: "[Candidates for the priesthood] upon reaching the age of eighteen, they will be questioned by the bishop in the presence of the people and of all the clergy, to ascertain whether or not they want to marry...As to those whose free will, at the time of questioning, inspired them to marry, we cannot deny them the concession granted by the Apostles; married and having reached a later age, they will be able to aspire to Holy Orders, if they promise in common agreement [with their wives] to give up the works of the flesh."
Council of Orleans, Canon 17 (541)
Can. 17: "Let the priests and deacons not share the same bed or same room with their wives, lest they be suspected of having carnal relations and their reputation in religious life be therefore stained. Should some do so, let them be demoted from their functions in conformity with the old canons."
Council of Orleans, Canon 4 (549)
Can 4: "If a cleric who has received the [Levitical] blessing - in whatever area and at whatever rank - dares to return to the conjugal bed that is now forbidden him, he will be deposed from his function and from the honor of the Order he received until the end of his life, as stipulated by the canons of the ancient fathers; he will simply be conceded communion."
The Decrees of the Breviatio Ferrandi, North Africa (c. 546)
Decree 16: "Let the bishops, priests and deacons abstain from relations with their wives."
Decree 129: "When they reach the age of puberty, let the lectors be compelled either to marry or to make a profession of continence."
Council of Tours, Canons 13 & 20 (567)
Can. 13: "Let the bishop treat his wife as a sister, and let him rule all his house, the church as well as his home, in such a holy way that no motive of suspicion should arise..."
Can. 20: "Many archpriests, deacons and subdeacons of the countryside - although not all, to be sure - are held in suspicion by the people because they have a common life with their wives. This is why it has seemed good to observe the following: Each time an archpriest will reside in a village or will go to a country home, one of his appointed lectors, or at least another clergy member, will go with him and serve as his witness by sleeping in the same cell where he rests...Let the other priests, deacons and subdeacons of the countryside see to it that their servants reside with their respective wives; as to them, let them live separately, alone in their cells, to pray and sleep there...As to the archpriests who neglect to manifest such prudence with regard to their subordinates and do not guide them while themselves being careful to live separately, let them be urgently recalled to town by their bishop and confined in their cells for a full month on bread and water; thus they will do penance for the clergy entrusted to them, because no cleric is permitted, in conformity with the canons' decisions, to live in common with his wife."
Council of Macon, Canon 11 (c. 582)
Can. 11: "When men are elevated to the sublime dignity of the episcopate, the priesthood, or any degree of the honorary clergy, let them totally repudiate the works of the world; chosen for the sacred mysteries, let them renounce carnal intercourse and transform into fraternal affection the sexual intimacy they had until then [i.e., with their wives]. And let any man, after having, by God's grace, received the Levitical blessing, become immediately the brother of his former wife."
Council of Lyon, Canon 1 (583)
Can. 1: "The venerable fathers of past times made several decisions with authority; now that divine favor has permitted a progress of the faith, it is necessary that the salutary prudence of the bishops renew these decisions with improvements, in the interest of the clergy and the entire Catholic people [Here Lyon restates the famous Canon 3 of Nicaea concerning "outsider women"]...It has also seemed good to us that if men bound to wives in some way attain the Order of the diaconate or the priesthood, they should not only stay away from the beds of their wives, but abstain from seeing them every day. If, God forbid, after having received the blessing, they were to have children on account of familiar cohabitation with them, let them be deprived of the rank [corresponding to] their function."
Council of Auxerre, Canons 20 & 21 (late 6th century)
Can. 20: "If a priest, as we are ashamed to say, a deacon or a subdeacon has begotten children after having received the blessing [of Holy Orders] or committed adultery, without the archpriest informing the bishop or archdeacon, he will not take part in communion for a full year."
Can. 21: "It is not permitted for a priest, after having received the blessing, to sleep in the same bed as his wife, so as to get involved in sins of the flesh. The same is true for the deacon and the subdeacon."
Pope St. Gregory the Great to Peter, Subdeacon of Sicily (May, 591)
"Three years ago it was absolutely forbidden to subdeacons of the Churches of Sicily, according to the customs of the Roman Church, to have relations with their wives...This is why it seems good to me to request that all the bishops from now on should not allow themselves to ordain as subdeacon someone who would not have [first] promised to live in chastity...as to those who, on their part, [still] refused to abstain from relations with their wives after interdiction, we oppose their admission to the sacred Order, since no one can have access to the alter if his chastity has not been tested and recognized before receiving the ministry."
Pope St. Gregory the Great, To Symmachus, Defender (Book I, Letter 52 - June, 591)
"Moreover we desire that the priests who abide in Corsica shall be forbidden to live with women, except it may be a mother, or a sister, or a wife, the last being guided with chastity."
Pope St. Gregory the Great, to Leo, Bishop of Catania (July, 594)
"Many reports have informed us that there was a custom in the past, among you, permitting subdeacons to have relations with their wives. So that no one will again have the audacity to act in such a way, an interdicition was brought by Servus-Dei, deacon of our See, on the authority of our predecessor: those who were already united to wives had to choose between two things: either to abstain from conjugal relations or not to have the presumption to exercise their ministry under any pretext."
St. Isidore of Seville, De Ecclesiasticus Officiis (c. 615)
"Because they touch the sacred mysteries, it has seemed good to the Fathers that these men [subdeacons] be chaste and keep continence with their wives and be free of any carnal impurity, according to what had been commanded to them by the prophet" "Purify yourselves you who carry the vessels of the Lord.'"
4th Council of Toledo, Canons 21 (633)
Can. 21: "All those who have a rank in God's priesthood must be irreproachable as attested by St. Paul: the bishop must be irreproachable. It is therefore fitting that the priests of God be protected against the encroachments of sin, without stain, without defilement by acts of fornication; but let them live chastely and present themselves with purity to the celebration of the mysteries. Let us therefore abstain from every evil deed and remain free from carnal defilement so that, pure in body and purified in spirit, we can worthily reach the sacrifice of Christ and supplicate God for everyone's sins."
 The fact that St. Peter was married is often used by our adversaries to challenge the celibacy of both the Clergy and the Roman Pontiff, and many Catholics shrink from this fact, rather than taking up the challenge. St. Peter's marital status has absolutely no bearing on either his Office as the Prince of the Apostles, the sole Vicar of Jesus Christ and the Supreme Head of the Church on earth, nor does it impose any limits on his Solemn Magisterium. Nor, it must be stressed, does it bind his Successors to be married, either. Our Lord tolerated his marriage, as He tolerated the marriage of most of the Clergy, and the marital status especially of the Roman Pontiff has no limitation on the conference of the Petrine Munus by Christ on His Vicar. The Pope has the same authority regardless of whether he is married or not. However, that being said, it seems most appropriate that the Sovereign Pontiff, as the Vicar of Jesus Christ and the Visible Head of the Church, should perfectly imitate his Divine Master and Teacher in every way, and in doing so, should give himself entirely to the One Who gave Himself entirely to us. Ergo, the Roman Pontiff's celibate life is a perfect reflection of the celibacy of Christ Himself.
 A practical reason for celibate clergy was that in the Early Church the clergy held Church property in their own name on behalf of the Church (especially under the Roman Persecutions), and in cases of a priest or bishop dying, the clerics' families claimed the Church's property as their inheritance! Naturally, this was abominable to the Church, and so She - naturally - looked to ordaining more celibate men as a means of resolving this rather nasty and ugly problem.
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