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“As Matrimony, in the Evangelical Law, excels, through Christ, the primitive contracts, it is justly to be numbered among the Sacraments of that law; and so the Fathers, the Councils, and universal tradition have always taught.” “If any man says that it is not truly and properly one of the seven Sacraments, instituted by Jesus Christ, but that it is an institution only of the Church, and does not confer grace,-let him be anathema.” (1.) (Conc. Trid. Sess. XXIV. Can. 1.) And “ if any man says, a Churchman in holy orders may marry or contract marriage, and that when it is contracted it is good and valid, notwithstanding any ecclesiastical law to the contrary, or that any who have vowed continence, may contract marriage, let him be anathema,” (Id. Can. 9,) for, “ it is an unworthy deed, that those persons who ought to be the holy vessels of the Lord, should debase themselves so far as to become the vile slaves of chambering uncleanness.” (Conc. Lat. Sec. Can. VI. Apud Labbe, Vol. X. p. 1003.) (2.) “Whosoever shall say, that the state of Matrimony is to be preferred to the state of virginity or single life, and that it is not better, or more blessed, to continue in virginity or single life, let him be accursed.” (Conc. Trid. Se88. XXIV. Can. 10.)
(1.) The tenth Canon of the Synod of Neo-Cæsarea shows the sense of the Fathers on this subject : “ If Deacons declare, at the time of their ordination, that they would marry; they should not be deprived of their functions if they did marry.”
Siricius, who died A. D. 398, was the first Pope who forbad the marriage of the Clergy; but it is probable that this prohibition was but little attended to, as the Celibacy of the Clergy seems not to have been completely established till the Papacy of Gregory VII., at the end of the eleventh century.
(2.) Pope GREGORY VII. had already caused the marriage of the Clergy to be prohibited in the 13th Canon of the first Roman Council, which was held A. D. 1074. (See Labbe, Vol. X. p. 326.) His view seems to have been, to separate them as much as possible from all other interests than that of the Church; and to bring them into an almost total dependence upon his authority, to the end that all temporal power might, in a high degree, and with greater facility, be subjugated to the Papal jurisdiction. “ It is a greater wickedness,” says Bellarmine, “ for an ecclesiastical
marry than to commit fornication; because he which is so married is made unable to keep his vow, the which he that committeth fornication is not.” (De Mon. Lib. II. c. 34.)
Men with wives and families belonging to them, are connected in a thousand ways, with the country in which they live; they exist beyond themselves, and the welfare of those nearest to them is inseparable from their own.
Our families also are pledges which we give of our fidelity to our country; we cannot be unfaithful to her, without involving in its consequences those who are as dear to us as ourselves; we rejoice in her prosperity, or are afflicted at her misfortunes, not for ourselves only, but because we anticipate the good or evil which may result from each to our connexions, and to our posterity. By such ties has Providence been pleased to bind mankind together, and to make them, not detached individuals, but members of aggregate bodies, connected by common affections and common interests. To the union thus formed by nature, Religion, well understood, gives additional strength and consistency.
When, however, the Popes began to form plans of ambition and power, it appeared how useful it would be to have bodies of men, in different countries, detached as much as possible from local affections and interests, ready to rank themselves under their orders, and to pay an implicit obedience to their paramount commands. Nothing could be so effectual for this purpose as the Celibacy of the Clergy; they formed bodies of the above description.
These motives cannot be better explained, than in the words of Cardinal Rodolpho Pio di Carpi in a Consistory, where the application made to the Council of Trent by the King of France and the French Bishops, for the administration of the Sacrament in both kinds to the Laity, was under the consideration of Pope Pius IV. and his Cardinals. After stating that, if this were granted, they would proceed to demand the Marriage of Priests, and the use of the Vulgar Tongue in the administration of the Sacraments,' he goes on to say, “That if Priests were allowed to marry, the consequence would be, that having families, wives, and children, they would no longer depend on the Pope, but on their own Sovereigns; and their affection for their children would make them comply with any thing to the prejudice of the Church. They would also endeavour to make their benefices hereditary; and in a very short time the Apostolic See would be confined within the limits of Rome itself. That before Celibacy was established, this See derived no advantage from other nations and countries; but by means of it became possessed of so many benefices, of which, by the Marriage of Priests, it would in a short time be deprived.'
But perhaps it inay be said, that whatever temporal interests the Popes might have in the Celibacy of the Clergy, the nature of their office makes marriage improper; and therefore, that the rule which prohibits it was good; that their time and thoughts are to be entirely occupied in sacred functions; that love, even in its purest form, ought not to find admission into their minds; and that the consequent worldly cares attending a wife and family, were inconsistent with their situation, and incompatible with their duties. All this is very well, if you could procure Clergy made of materials different from those of which men are composed; if you
could have beings for that purpose without human affections, and without human passions, such as we might suppose angelic natures to be.
But having in fact no other materials than men to make use of, we must take them with all their natural dispositions about them; and endeavour, not to extinguish these, (which is impossible, but to regulate them in a manner most likely to produce virtuous and exemplary conduct in the persons, whose virtue and example is most important, from the influence their religious character gives them on the morals of the community at large.
Now nothing is more certain, than that the probability of men's acting well increases just in proportion, as the temptations to act ill are diminished. If, therefore, there be a class of persons, whose situations in society requires conduct peculiarly unexceptionable, from such persons all circumstances of a contrary tendency should be studiously removed. The application is very obvious. That impulse of nature, by which we are led to form connexions with the other sex, is one of the most powerful that belong to us, not, however, more powerful, than the important purposes for which it was given us, require; for our Creator adjusts our feelings to the use we have for them. This impulse, when properly directed, is productive of the greatest blessings; it forms one of the strongest ties by which human society is connected, and is therefore the object of laws in their earliest state; it is the true source of our domestic comfort and happiness, and tends to promote, in general, benevolent and virtuous dispositions. Such is its effect, when properly directed. But when, from dislike of reasonable restraint, indulgence is given to irregular passions, or prohibitions and impediments are opposed to those which cannot be suppressed, but might have been regulated, nothing occasions more disorder in human society and in human conduct. The mischief it does, is in proportion to the efficacy it might have had in doing good.
Laws, to be effectual, must be conformable to our nature, and founded on good sense; if they are not such, they, in a great measure, defeat themselves. Power may, to a certain degree, compel obedience to them; but they will be continually eluded, and eluded with impunity. When they shock our natural and general feelings, humane and reasonable men would rather let the transgressor go unpunished, than be punished with what appears to them disproportionate severity; or for a fault, which (considering natural infirmities) he could hardly help committing. They are ready to lay the blame on the unreasonable law, rather than on the unfortunate, though, perhaps, not quite innocent, transgressor.
If ever such remarks as the foregoing were true, they are true with respect to the Celibacy of the Roman Catholic Religious Orders and Clergy. That Church has in this instance laid a prohibition on a vast number of human beings, in a case, where all of mature age and understanding ought to be exclusively (allowing a reasonable attention to the authority and influence of parents and friends) judges for themselves. It may be said, perhaps, they do judge for themselves, when they engage in a religious profession, and make the vows required by it.' But ought young men, at an early period of life, with little knowledge of the world, and, perhaps, of themselves, destined often rather by their parents for an Ecclesiastical profession, than led to it by their own judgment or choice, to make vows, by their terms, irrevocable, concerning things not ordained by God, (as it is acknowledged, which afterwards, from a thousand circumstances, from temperament, from experience, from more extended views, they would give the world to recall ? Still less should poor young women, yet more inexperienced, more helpless, more subject to the tyranny of family arrangements made for narrow and pecuniary purposes, immure themselves in convents for life, without considering, or perhaps being suffered to consider, whether they were not better qualified for making amiable and affectionate wives, tender and attentive mothers; whether, as such, they would not be more happy in themselves, and contribute more to the happiness of others. The human mind shrinks from what is irrevocable; and the situation, which would only excite moderate uneasiness, if it admitted of change, when unchangeable, produces despair.
And what, in truth, has been the effect of Clerical Celibacy in the Church of Rome? Has it produced real chastity, any more than the renunciation of riches by some Orders, has been accompanied with real poverty? What judgment are we to form of the concurrent testimony of all times with respect to this?
It might be expected that the Popes, who imposed this law of Celibacy on their Clergy, would themselves set an example of strict obedience to it. Nothing less. They did not, indeed, marry; but concubinage supplied the place of Marriage. We hear their children spoken of as such by all historians, with as little reserve as the legitimate children of avowed marriage. It was the ambition of most of them to aggrandize their Sons; and the policy of a Papal reign was often wholly employed to procure