Priests, Marriage of

Priests, Marriage of The obligation of perpetual virginity imposed by the Church of Rome upon those who receive higher orders has been spoken of in another article. SEE CELIBACY. In the ancient Church married men (but no bigamists) were sometimes received into priesthood, without dissolution of their matrimony; but it was never allowed to one who had received higher orders to marry. If such a case occurred, the service of the Church had to be renounced. In the West we find, in the middle of the 10th century (Conc. August. can. 1), the ordinance that the bishops, priests, deacons, and subdeacons who contract marriage are to be deposed from their functions. Hence it would seem plain that the orders were not then considered as an impediment to marriage, while the solemn vow was considered as such (Conc. Troisliens, cap. 1, a, 909). The Lateran Council of 1123 declares the matrimony contracted by a priest, etc., as one to be dissolved (disjungi, can. 21); that of 1139 declares it not existing at all (matrimonium non esse censemus, can. 7). The Council of Trent (sess. 24:can. 9) repeated the same declaration, and, in virtue of the powers of the Church (Song 4; Song 1. c.), puts the orders again into the number of the dissolving impediments to matrimony. The same council decreed, further, that sons of clergymen cannot discharge a clerical function in a place where their father is or was in office (sess. 25:cap. 15, De ref.). 'The Greek Church imposes celibacy on the higher dignitaries-the bishops-but not on the priests and lower functionaries of the Church. The latter cannot, it is true, marry after receiving the orders, but are allowed to continue in the matrimonial relations contracted before ordination. But no second marriage is tolerated. The Russian Church, however, refuses ordination to her priests as long as they are unmarried, i.e. ordains only married men. If the priest becomes a widower, he retires to monastic life. In the Greek Oriental Church there are unmarried priests: they remain in office after the death of their wives, unless they prefer to marry again. In Greece married priests are distinguished from the unmarried ones by their head-gear: the former wear very low round hats. See Lea, Sacerdotal Celibacy (Index, under Marriage).

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