Married Monks

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A brief history

Some think today that Monastic life is bound by ascetical practices expressed typically in the vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience, called the evangelical counsels.

But celibacy is an aberration and not a part of the original Church established by Christ. The English word celibacy derives from the Latin caelibatus, "state of being unmarried". Being caelibatus or being a virgin as mentioned in Revelation[1] may not have meant being unmarried.

  • "Many of the early monks and nuns married— They lived in their own houses— These persons led stricter lives than others in their ordinary dwellings — They gave much time to devotions and Bible study — Such was the course of Pelagius — Bingham on married monks — Athanasius on monks who were fathers of children— Augustine's statement— Many of St. Patrick's monks and "virgins of Christ" were no doubt married— Devoted much time to Scripture reading— Probably conducted cottage Bible schools very extensively— There is no evidence that Patrick ever established a monastery."
  • "... St. Augustine, writing against the hereticks who called themselves " Apostolics," says : "They arrogantly assumed to them- selves that name because they rejected all from their communion who had either wives or estates, of which sort the Catholic church had many, both monks and clergy."
  • "And yet, the greatest theologian of the Christian ages, during Patrick's ministry in Ireland, denounced the heretical Apostolics for excommunicating the many monks and clergy of the Catholic church who had either wives or estates." [2]

Peter and the apostles that Jesus chose were, for the most part, married men. The New Testament implies that women presided at Eucharistic meals in the early Church established by Christ. In the Second and Third Century most priests were married.

But things changed as a different Church rose to power. From the beginning God created man and woman to be one flesh, but there was an influence that crept into the church to divide and conquer what God joined together.

Katharine M. Rogers claims in The Troublesome Helpmate that, "The foundations of early Christian misogyny — its guilt about sex, its insistence on female subjection, its dread of female seduction — are all in St. Paul's epistles."

Others will say it is not really there. In Feminist Literary Studies: An Introduction K. K. Ruthven argues that the "legacy of Christian misogyny was consolidated by the so-called 'Fathers' of the Church, like Tertullian, who thought a woman was 'a temple built over a sewer' and 'the gateway of the devil'.

In 306 a Council of Elvira, in Spain, decreed that a priest who sleeps with his wife the night before Mass will lose his job. Decree #43

By 325 at the Council of Nicea some chose to exercise authority one over the other and decreed that after ordination a priest could not marry and also proclaimed the Nicene Creed.

Later in 352 another Council of Laodicea ruled that women are not to be ordained. This suggests that before this time there was ordination of women. Both Paul and Peter talked highly of women, and early Christians were marked if not mocked for their stand on equality of both men and women as vessels and instruments of the Holy Spirit.

Pope Damasus who had overturned the popular choice for "bishop of Rome" in 366 declared that priests could continue to marry, but that they were not allowed to express their love intimately with their wives. Those who opposed the presence of women in the Church, as wives of their husbands, also favored and used force of arms to secure their position.

Jerome, around 400 AD, believed that women were bad news for men and that they were uncontrollable, excessively passioned, and unreasonable. Although, the writings and opinions of Jerome and others were enormously influential in defining what has been historically touted as the Church in the medieval world.

Did Paul really put women down because he talks of "every woman that prayeth or prophesieth". David M. Scholer, a biblical scholar at Fuller Theological Seminary, stated that the verse Galatians 3:28 ("There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus") is "the fundamental Pauline theological basis for the inclusion of women and men as equal and mutual partners in all of the ministries of the church. It would appear that the natural state of a woman or a man is married and any conclusions to the contrary seem to fly in the face of God’s creative instincts.

  • "And the LORD God said, [It is] not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." Genesis 2:18
  • “And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.” Genesis 2:22

Jerome inferred that women were inferior “they degraded men.”[3]

  • “And Adam said, This [is] now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Genesis 2:23, 24

By 385 we see Siricius left his wife and children in order to become a pope, although there is little evidence such office existed at that time. He even went so far as to decree that priests may no longer sleep with their wives, but he was unable to enforce compliance.

By the 4th century, Augustine who knew most Christian priests and monks were married, wrote, “Nothing is so powerful in drawing the spirit of a man downwards as the caresses of a woman.” Of course there was equal criticism against such misogyny,[4] but to the victor goes the power to rewrite history.

Later at the 2nd Council of Tours in 567, it was said that any cleric found in bed with his wife would be excommunicated for a year and reduced to the lay state. This seems to have nothing to do with Christ, who is not seen telling his apostles things like this, and it directly contradicts the teachings of Paul.

The Pope Pelagius II offered a policy that no one was to bother married priests, as long as they did not hand over church property to wives or children. Here is where you find the motivation for celibacy.

The Church was growing in power and wealth, and with that, a desire to control. Divide and conquer was the plan used to undermine God's natural union of man and women.

During the 7th century we find the majority of priest in France were married. And as late as the 8th Century, St. Boniface reported that in Germany there were almost no bishop or priest who were celibate.

But we also see Pope Gregory “the Great” saying that all sexual desire is sinful in itself. But by 1930 Pope Pius XI would shift back to sex can be good and holy.

The Church was not homogenous, and many ideas had crept into the thinking of Christians and clerics alike. Monasticism was often trying to impose an unnatural purity, and behind walls of cloistered abbeys where men began to exercise authority more than brotherhood, unnatural approaches to relationships and life began to bear their fruit.

Ninth Century.

Council of Aix-la-Chapelle in 836 admitted that abortions and infanticide took place in convents and monasteries. Bishop Ulrich who would be declared a saint, argued from scripture and common sense that the only way to purify the church from the worst excesses of celibacy was to permit priests to marry.

As late as the 11th Century, a Benedict IX dispensed himself from celibacy and resigned as Pope in order to marry, but by 1074 Pope Gregory VII decreed that you must first pledge celibacy before you are to be ordained and that ‘priests [must] first escape from the clutches of their wives.’ By 1095, Pope Urban II ordered the first bloody Crusade. He empowered the Norman ruler Roger I to appoint bishops from the top down, and they collected taxes for the Church and forwarded them on to Rome.

The Synod of Melfi enforces clerical celibacy by granting to secular rulers the authority to reduce the wives of clerics to slavery and children were abandoned.

While 12th Century Popes Calistus II and Innocent II during the First and Second Lateran Councils decreed that clerical marriages were invalid, Pope John Paul II said "Celibacy is not essential to the Priesthood." This may at least bring in debate over the 1869 claim in the First Vatican Council to the infallibility of pope.

Celibacy was about control and property. Even in different imperial kingdoms, those in charge of the treasury were sometimes required to be virgins or celibate, even to the point of becoming eunuchs. But that was not the way of the early Church or Christ.

All of this imposed rules of Celibacy and top down rule would go away if people would simply listen to Christ and if the Church would return to being the Benefactors who do not exercise authority one over the other.

  • "Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures" Dr. Johnson Rasselas

Monks | Minister | Titular Servants | Elder | Deacon | Bishop | Overseer |
ordain | appoint | Orders | Religious Orders | Rules of St Benedict |
Married Monks | Mendicant | Lost Monks | Monasticism | Modern Monastic life |
Churches | Levites | Vow of poverty | All things common | Guidelines |
Liturgy | Priests | Eucharist | Daily ministration | Christian conflict |
Diocletianic Persecution | Altars | Fringes | Breeches | Red heifer | Sabbath |


  1. Revelation 14:4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, [being] the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.
  3. World Civilizations Richard Hooker
  4. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including the degradation of women, sexual discrimination, violence against women, and reducing women to sexual objects. Misogyny can be found within many mythologies an religions of the ancient world.