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A Father to His Flock: In Defense of Priestly Celibacy

Our Lady spoke to St. Bridget a divine warning that seems to be a message directly from Heaven to His Holiness Pope Francis:

Know this too: that if some Pope concedes to priests a license to contract carnal marriage, God will condemn him to a sentence as great, in a spiritual way, as that which the law justly inflicts in a corporeal way on a man who has transgressed so gravely that he must have his eyes gouged out, his tongue and lips, nose and ears cut off, his hands and feet amputated, all his body’s blood spilled out to grow completely cold, and finally, his whole bloodless corpse cast out to be devoured by dogs and other wild beasts[.] … For that same pope would be totally deprived by God of his spiritual sight and hearing, and of his spiritual words and deeds. All his spiritual wisdom would grow completely cold; and finally, after his death, his soul would be cast out to be tortured eternally in hell so that there it might become the food of demons everlastingly and without end.”Our Lady told the Saint even Pope St. Gregory the Great would never have become a Saint, and in fact would have ended up losing his soul, if he was the one to overturn Celibacy.

Holy Father, are you listening? For us at 1P5 and throughout the traditional Catholic world, Catholic action to preserve clerical continence now becomes an urgent mission to save the pope’s soul.

Now, let’s look at some early Church canons that state that the norm of priestly celibacy and episcopal continence was established by the apostles and observed by antiquity itself.

Bishop Genethlius, according to the Council of Carthage (A.D. 390), says:

As was previously said, it is fitting that the holy bishops and priests of God as well as the Levites [meaning, Deacons]; 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.

Several years prior, we have 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.”

In the Council of Elvira, (309), Canon 33 reads, “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.

Thus, St. Epiphanius, praising the strict observance of this canonical rule, says:

Holy Church respects the dignity of the priesthood to such a point that she does not admit to the deaconate, the priesthood or the episcopate, nor even to the subdeaconate, anyone still living in marriage and begetting children. She accepts only him who if married gives up his wife or has lost her by death, especially in those places where the ecclesiastical canons are strictly attended to.

St. Jerome says in his Letter to Pammachius, “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.”

A careful study of the early Church Fathers will show they one and all highly praised celibacy as especially befitting priests in their ministry on the altar.

The Church came close to having a universal norm on celibacy even for simple priests, not merely bishops, at the Council of Nicaea.

Father William Saunders summarizes:

At the ecumenical Council of Nicea I (325), Bishop Hosius of Cordova proposed a decree mandating clerical celibacy, including for those clergy already married. Egyptian Bishop Paphnutius, unmarried himself, rose in protest, asserting that such a requirement would be too rigorous and imprudent. Rather, those members of the clergy already married should continue to be faithful to their wives, and those who were unmarried should personally decide whether or not to be celibate. As a consequence, no church-wide requirement for priests to be celibate was mandated. For the Western Church several popes decreed celibacy: Damasus I (384), Siricius (385), Innocent I (404), and Leo I (458). Local councils issued edicts imposing celibacy on the clergy: in Africa, Carthage (390, 401–19); in France, Orange (441) and Tours (461); and in Italy, Turin (398). By the time of Pope Leo I (d. 461), no bishop, priest, deacon, or subdeacon could be married. Nevertheless, the rules were not always as enforced as they should have been[.]

In the Eastern Church, a distinction was made between bishops and other clergy as to whether they had to be celibate. Emperor Justinian’s Code of Civil Law forbade anyone who had children or even nephews to be consecrated a bishop. The Council of Trullo (692) mandated that a bishop be celibate, and if he were married, he would have to separate from his wife before his consecration. Priests, deacons, and subdeacons were forbidden to marry after ordination, although they were to continue to fulfill their marital vows if married before ordination. These regulations still stand for most of the Eastern Churches.

However, as it turned out, it was decided by universal tradition (this is kept in both the Latin Rite and Eastern Catholic rites) that (1) bishops would be bound to perpetual continence (2); once ordained, a married priest, after the death of his wife, can never remarry; and (3) in Eastern Catholic rites (and rarely in the Western Latin rite), a married man, by dispensation, can be ordained. By principle bishops are exclusively chosen from perpetually continent men.

To conclude, let us heed the grave warning Our Lady gave St. Bridget so many centuries ago, that seems to have been specially intended for our time, when this venerable tradition — so highly extolled by the Church Fathers — is in great danger of being surrendered to a hedonistic age. The holy Fathers teach us that clerical celibacy is closely linked to the priest acting in persona Christi, that as minister of the Church and representative of her divine Spouse, he ought to preserve perfect chastity, so as to be able to be a father to his flock.

Our Lady concluded by telling St. Bridget that even Pope St. Gregory would have lost his soul — let those who believe that every word of the Pope is infallible also take note — “Yes, even if Saint Gregory the Pope had made this statute, in the aforesaid sentence he would never have obtained mercy from God if he had not humbly revoked his statute before his death” (Revelations of St. Bridget, Book VII, Chapter 10).

Let us pray for the pope that he doesn’t end up like that, and instead, like Pope St. Gregory, that he be a good and holy pope focused only on doing God’s Will for Holy Mother Church.

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