News Congratulations Programming Multimedia Questions and Answers See of Peter Pope John Paul II Pope Benedict XVI

Priestly Celibacy and First Use of the Word "Catholic"
Question from Genesius on 4/21/2005:
United States

I have two questions. When did priestly celibacy become part of the Roman Catholic Church? When did Christians start to refer to themselves as Catholics?

Answered on 5/4/2005:

Celibacy came into the Church with Jesus Christ who practiced celibacy Himself and counselled it "for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven" to "whoever can accept it"( Mt. 19:12). St. Paul also counselled celibacy (1 Cor. 7). We know that in the early Church there simply was not an abundance of celibates available for ministry. Neither paganism nor Judaism valued it, and so converts from both groups were likely to be already married. As the Church became legalized, it also became possible to require celibacy of the clergy, and some local Councils did, as early as the 300s. However, the final and definitive obligation did not come until the 11th century. Even today the Church does not say that celibacy and ordination are essentially connected, only that in the Western Church the Church has discerned that it is to be obliged as a more complete dedication to the Lord's ministry. I don't see that changing, ever.

As Christian heresies developed it became necessary to distinguish the followers of the orthodox faith coming from the apostles from that of those who claimed to be Christians, but taught gnosticism, or circumciscion (the Judaizers), or docetism or other heretics. Already by 107 AD, the Christians who followed the bishops appointed by the apostles were said to be Catholics and in the Catholic Church. During the patristic age (100-600 AD), the most commonly used adjective for the Church founded by Christ is "Catholic Church."


Click here to send this Question and Answer to a friend                    

Back to question list




Terms of Use