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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary

Celibacy

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The state of unmarried persons. Celibate, or celibacy, is a word chiefly used in speaking of the single life of the popish clergy, or the obligation they are under to abstain from marriage. The church of Rome imposes an universal celibacy on all her clergy, from the pope to the lowest deacon and subdeacon. The advocates for this usage pretend that a vow of perpetual celibacy was required in the ancient church as a condition of ordination, even from the earliest apostolic ages. But the contrary is evident from numerous examples of bishops and archbishops who lived in a state of matrimony, without any prejudice to their ordination or their function. Neither our Lord nor his apostles laid the least restraint upon the connubial union: on the contrary, the Scriptures speak of it as honourable in all, without the least restriction as to persons. Hebrews 13:4 . Matthew 19:10 ; Matthew 19:12 . 1 Corinthians 7:2 ; 1 Corinthians 7:9 . St. Paul even assigns forbidding to marry as characteristic of the apostacy of the latter times, 1 Timothy 4:3 .

The fathers, without making any distinction between clergy and laity, asserted the lawfulness of the marriage of all Christians. Marriage was not forbidden to bishops in the Eastern church till the close of the seventh century. Celibacy was not imposed on the Western clergy in general till the end of the eleventh century, though attempts had been made long before. Superstitious zeal for a sanctimonious appearance in the clergy seems to have promoted it at first; and crafty policy, armed with power, no doubt rivetted this clog on the sacerdotal order in later periods of the church. Pope Gregory VII. appears in this business to have had a view to separate the clergy as much as possible from all other interests, and to bring them into a total dependence upon his authority; to the end that all temporal power might in a high degree be subjugated to the papal jurisdiction. Forbidding to marry, therefore, has evidently the mark of the beast upon it.

See MARRIAGE.


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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Celibacy'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/cbd/c/celibacy.html. 1802.

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