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BRIEF HISTORY
OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH




THE YEAR 300 - CELIBACY, MARRIAGE AND HOLY COMMUNION

In the year 300 A.D., due to difficulties in communication between the churches, the different local churches adopted varied disciplines. Though in all the differences, all recognized the supremacy of the Pope in Rome. 

Celibacy was practised from the beginning of the Church by most of the clergy, though this was not declared officially as an obligation throughout the Church. The first priests were chosen from the first converts and apparently some of the married men, shining in holiness, were chosen for ordination, as Peter was. 

The official imposition of celibacy upon all the clergy started in Spain at the Council of Elvira (305). About 315, in two local councils in Galatia and Cappadocia, it became official that priests should not marry. 

Though in the Council of Nicea a lively discussion went on forbidding all married bishops and priests to live with their wives, the advise of Paphnutius was accepted to follow the 'ancient tradition' which prohibited marriage after ordination. 

In a Council held at Rome under Pope Siricius in 386, the imposition of continence upon all bishops, priests and deacons became, to some extent, universal. St. Jerome and St. Ambrose spoke strongly in its favor. And non-observance was sporadic and due more to ignorance or pure human weakness. 

From the beginning, the Church maintained the indissolubility of marriage; and anyone who departed from it was to be excluded from Holy Communion. 

The Church also was very strict in prohibiting the marriage of near relatives, forbidding the intermarriage of first cousins. 

St. Justin described the universal practice of receiving Holy Communion as early as the second century, adding: "No one is permitted to partake of it unless he believes, is baptized and lives as Christ had lived." 

 

 

 

 

(updated 03-11-02)

 

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