Clerical Celibacy (letter)

Clerical Celibacy (letter)

Fr Adrian Head

Philip Holberton, in his letter in the December-January AD2000, quoted from the Catholic Encyclopaedia about the intervention of a Bishop Paphnutius in the Council at Nicea.

However, in the April 2003 issue of Homiletic and Pastoral Review, in an article by Hugh Ballantyne called "The Origins of Priestly Celibacy", we read:

"Scholarly doubts about Paphnutius date back to Bernold of Constance and Pope Gregory VII in the eleventh century. In the sixteenth century Cardinals Baronius and Bellarmine both argued that the legend was untrustworthy. In 1761 the Bollandist scholar Stiltnick concluded that it was a forgery.

"Finally in 1968 Friedhelm Winkelmann showed that the Paphnutius episode was a 'hagiographic fabulation'. There was indeed a monk called Paphnutius, but he was probably not a bishop and he was certainly not present at the Council of Nicaea. However, if the Paphnutius episode is now dismissed as a fake, then the one and only real argument for a married clergy in the early Church collapses.

"In 1969 Christian Cocchini SJ completed his doctoral thesis at the Institute Catholique, on the history of clerical celibacy. The president of the examiners who approved his dissertation was Cardinal Danielou. Fr Cocchini's mastery of the sources from the New Testament to the seventh century is unequalled.

"After Fr Cocchini it is no longer possible to believe the old conventional wisdom based upon Funk (cf. the Bickell-Funk public debate). The contrary is now clear. From the beginnings of the Church, and throughout the Greco-Latin world, a single rule prevailed: priests were celibate; or else, if they had married before ordination, they and their wives promised to live together thereafter without the use of the marriage. This rule was an Apostolic norm; it was proclaimed and practised by the Apostles; and that norm in turn was founded upon the example of our Lord himself.

"Besides Fr Christian Cocchini SJ, one can refer to books written by Alfons Cardinal Stickler and Stefan Heid."

Quorn, SA