Clerical Celibacy and the Influence of the Early Church Fathers

Date
2014-09-26
Authors
Staffelbach, Dennis
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
Abstract
"To those not married and to widows I have this to say: It would be well if they remain [celibate] as they are, even as I do myself; but if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. It is better to marry than to be on fire.” St. Paul the Apostle authored this mild exhortation. Though it is but a moderate admonition, Paul's advice to the unmarried is the most vehement anti-marital opinion in the Bible. If one were to juxtapose Paul's comments to later church writers, such as St. Augustine of Hippo, Paul’s marital views would seem almost laudatory. In comparing virginity and marriage, Augustine, in the fifth century, wrote: Holy virginity, relying in its own health and strength, has despised the remedies [referring to Ovid’s remedies of love] so that it may engage in glorious combat. I ask you to name the remedies it has despised. You will answer: Marriage.... Why do you praise the disease of lust, when you see a man will die of it unless the restraint of celibacy or conjugal remedy resists it?
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