Celibacy for Priests: Not for Financial Reasons

To the Editor:

Responding to the article by Bill Keller, “Sex and the Single Priest”, and the letters that followed, one point was missed. Celibacy in biblical textthe Latin Church did not come about because of financial considerations. Having researched this topic, it became evident to me that the rise of celibacy in the West started with Pope Gregory I who replaced lay leaders in Rome with monks, and promoted monks as the standard for all clergy.

This was reinforced by the laity because monks were better educated, and more available. Secular priests needed to have jobs to support their families. Moreover, the vast majority had too few possessions to be an issue. The only big land owners were bishops, who, as in the Orthodox Church, could have been required to be celibate without requiring celibacy for the lower clergy.

At the time of the Renaissance, when the secular clergy were more educated, and communities were able to financially support a married clergy, the laity wanted married priests. This movement, however, was cut short by the Reformation when priests seeking marriage went with the Protestants, and those accepting celibacy stayed with the Roman Church.

Robert A., Chicago IL

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