Celibacy and greediness: This is why catholic priests have no children

Among some other reasons, maintaining the wealth of the church is one of the fundamental reasons for prohibiting priests from having children

Celibacy and greediness: This is why catholic priests have no children

At the beginning, Christianity did not require vows of chastity. In fact, some of the apostles, like St. Peter, were married. However, in the Council of Elvira of the fourth century it was established that all clerics should "abstain from their wives and having children". Then, at the Council of Nicea in 325, marriage was forbidden for priests who had already received their major orders.

Leer en español: ¿Celibato por avaricia? Esta es la razón por la que los sacerdotes no tienen hijos

The official reason given by the church to justify these measures is the idea that clerics should follow in Jesus' footsteps. However, there is another explanation for this, which goes back to the Pavia Synod held in 1018 where clerics were forbidden to leave church property to their families. In addition, Pope Nicholas II ordered that those married priests who did not repudiate their wives should be excommunicated.

Although the mandate of Nicholas II is no longer maintained, the concern over the issue of inheritance remains a reason for the Catholic Church to keep its clergy celibate. During the Middle Ages, the church accumulated a wealth of wealth, especially lands, which it still fears losing at the hands of the heirs of its clerics.



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Ítalo Fuentes, historian specialized in mediaeval and academic at the University of Chile, explained for the newspaper La Nación that "there is a decisive element for a centralized church like the Catholic Church. It is very convenient to have a common possession of the goods within the priestly bureaucracy, otherwise there may be a problem: if the priest has family and property, he can inherit them from his widow and children and that could mean the division of a patrimony that it is decisive within the institution".

Fuentes also recalls that "we must not forget that many empires, such as Chinese and Byzantine, occupied the system of eunuchs (castrated men) in their courts to avoid the division of property and maintain a certain domain of the institution. I would say that this practice is taken by the Church. It was a way to have ministers or bureaucrats very loyal to an institution. In addition to a theme of religious personal sacrifice, it is still a strategic issue. At the same time, it seems to be a structural element of a very intelligent centralized institution: it prevents that centralized institution from dividing itself ".

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What happens if priests have family?

While priests are more likely to decide to donate their possessions to the church after their death if they do not have a family, we can ask what would happen if they decide not to do so. Faced with this, the diocesan priest vice-dean of the Faculty of Theology of the Catholic University of Chile, Rodrigo Polanco, tells us that this decision would be practically impossible to take.

Polanco explains that "the religious priests (those who belong to congregations), as well as the nuns and monks, make a vow of poverty, then all the goods they have before and after being ordained go to be administered by the community. They can not own anything. Unlike them, diocesan priests (who belong directly to the bishopric), like bishops, can administer their property. But they have made a promise of total service to the apostolate of the Church, therefore, they have the moral commitment to use their goods for the good of evangelization and the poor ".

What happens when the priests have children?



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Despite the policies of the Catholic Church against the sexuality of its clerics, there are priests who have broken these policies and fathered children. Before Francis was elected pope, the children of the priests used to be unrecognized and their parents were listed as strangers on their birth certificates. However, last year Pope Francis announced the creation of a commission to address the issue of sexual abuse in the clergy, a commission that, according to the newspaper, "will also develop guidelines on how dioceses should respond to the issue of children of priests".

This decision was made following the publication by Irish bishops of guidelines as a "global model of action", which affirmed that priests who are parents should answer for their children in personal, legal, moral, and economic terms. Likewise, recently, Vincent Doyle, the unrecognized son of a priest, created the Coping International organization to ensure the rights of the children of members of the clergy.


LatinAmerican Post | Sofía Carreño
Translated from "¿Celibato por avaricia? Esta es la razón por la que los sacerdotes no tienen hijos"