Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Celibacy, the state of being unmarried; but the term is generally applied to the state of forced abstention from marriage under sanction of an oath, and of punishments incurred by those who marry. It is by no means confined to Christianity; the Romans had their vestal virgins, and the Buddhist priests are celibate. It arose gradually as a practice in the Christian Church. The Scriptures in some places give a high place to virginity as the better state for those who feel a call to it, and in the second century it had grown into a pious custom. In the fourth century marriage was discouraged after ordination, and in 305 the doctrine was inculcated that priests should live in continence, although married. Hildebrand (Pope Gregory VII.) in the eleventh century declared the marriage of priests sinful and invalid. But the doctrine was vigorously resisted by the priests, and, though the name of wife was refused to the priest's consort, his retention of her was winked at and often made the occasion of extorting a tax from the priest on account of his focaria or hearth-mate. Clerical celibacy is now of almost universal requirement in the Roman Church, except in the part of the Eastern Church which acknowledges the jurisdiction of the Pope, where priests are allowed to retain wives married before ordination. But married priests cannot become bishops.