Clerical Marriage

  • Medieval Era
  • 2 mins

By Crusader1307

A long debated and controversial subject, The current stance on Priests and other Roman Catholic Clergy marrying is taboo. Ordained Clergy within The Western Rite Church is forbidden (with very few exception, many of these allowing only Ordained Protestant Clergy already married who convert). Although much laxer that their Western Brothers, The Orthodox Church allows Clergy marriage (but with very specific regulations applied). But historically, this was not always so in The Western Church.
The practice of married Clergy was not an issue in the 9th Century. In fact, it was encouraged. By definition, while a local Parrish Priest was also the “spiritual” Head of a Region, he was also very much in charge of all Church lands and property. Often, he could illicit more Authority and power (backed by Rome), over local Nobility (and in some cases, even Royalty). It was seen, much as with Noble marriages – a way of consolidation of power and wealth. Priests, Deacons, Bishops and Cardinals who married produced children. These children as such had Inheritance Rights – strictly spelled out in The Middle Ages.
When the Son of the Clergy grew up, it was expected that he would become his Father’s replacement. Conversely, if a Daughter was born – she would join an Order. By this set of regulations, it not only ensured that The Churches wealth remained in place – it also maintained a steady flow of Religious Candidates. The “arrangement” worked well until the 11th Century.
Cases began to advance themselves in the major Catholic Churches of German, France and England – which involved young men (and women), who did not wish to follow in their Religious parents “footsteps”. Rather, seeing a at times large fortune, they refused to join Orders and petitioned Courts and Royalty for Inheritance Rights.
Massive amounts of monies and of course lands – slowly began to be “awarded” to these “errant” children. The Church had but one course of action – create the “condition” of Celibacy. Religious Orders were no longer allowed to marry. Consequently, even the “physical act” of relation was declared a mortal sin (often punished with death).
While this condition existed in The West, The East took a much different view. An Orthodox Clergy could marry, but if children came into The World – he was often removed from direct Parrish Control. If no Children came about, his marriage was “valid” until his Spouse died. The Clergy could never again re-marry. All restrictions are still in place within both factions of The Church, even today.