04 July 2011

Patristic Quote of the Day

A Spanish bishop named Carterius, old in years and in the priesthood has married two wives, one before he was baptized, and, she having died, another since he has passed through the laver; and you are of opinion that he has violated the precept of the apostle, who in his list of episcopal qualifications commands that a bishop shall be “the husband of one wife.” I am surprised that you have pilloried an individual when the whole world is filled with persons ordained in similar circumstances; I do not mean presbyters or clergy of lower rank, but speak only of bishops of whom if I were to enumerate them all one by one I should gather a sufficient number to surpass the crowd which attended the synod of Ariminum. -- Jerome, Letter LXIX (HT: Pr. Curtis - 4th century witness to the marriage also of bishops, let alone presbyters...how, um, Apostolic - 1 Cor. 9:5 - and Lutheran - AC XXIII!)

9 comments:

Ps-Iosifson said...

Hey, is the Pope Catholic, too?!

Perhaps the average, uncatechized, historically ignorant in the pew may not realize that apostles (except for John and Paul) and bishops were often married, but this, um, apostolic reality is, um, not unknown and not a surprise.

The issue of clerical and episcopal celibacy - and whether marriages contracted prior to baptism count or not as one's marriage to "one wife" - has never been about whether Apostles or bishops ever married.

The common tradition around the vast majority of Christendom through the centuries is that only the unmarried may become bishops (in the West, this was (inconsistently) extended to priests at an early date. This is more akin to the requirements a given church body has for ordination. The requirement of an MDiv from Concordia Seminary does not abrogate the fact that a high school drop out 'could' be ordained in the LCMS - the tradition would simply never allow it to happen for a variety of good and not so good, sometimes outdated reasons.

Ps-Iosifson said...

I wonder how the LCMS clergy roster would be effected if divorced or remarried men were excluded.

Officially, the canons St. Jerome is assuming also require both the candidate for ministry and his spouse to have been virgins when they were married, he can have no skin blemishes or disfigurements, neither can have been actors or dancers or bartenders, none can hold a second job, etc.

William Weedon said...

Well, the point really is just that still in the fourth century St. Jerome knew of many bishops who were married. The later practice that forbade bishops their wives (and in the West, priests their wives as well), no matter how wide spread it finally became, is not a practice that St. Jerome seems to know.

Ps-Iosifson said...

Bishops have been required to be celibate from the 6th or 7th centuries, in the East, and he has been required to be a monk since the 14th century. That's prior to the canon of Scripture being universally accepted and acclaimed.

What Jerome is really talking about is the fact that "The Greek Church as well as the Latin accepted the principle, that whoever had taken holy orders before marriage, ought not to be married afterwards."

William Weedon said...

So does the first 500 years and the marriage of priests and bishops have anything to say to communions who hold this to be unacceptable practice today?

Ps-Iosifson said...

For those who don't quote the Fathers and Councils and the Church's tradition like they're authoritative or impressive, that first 500 years has a lot to say.

William Weedon said...

I'm not sure at all what you're saying with that, but I would hope that particular churches whose traditions moved beyond that of a practice witnessed in the Scriptures and in the early Fathers would be kindly disposed toward a particular church that returned to the earlier practice witnessed in both Scripture and the Fathers.

Ps-Iosifson said...

I agree, we should return to the earliest practice of choosing illiterate fishermen as ministers, and then wait around until tongues of fire fully enlighten them. We should also return to diversity in when we celebrate Easter - you know, since that was the earlier practice.

"Early" does not mean 'necessary' or 'better', and tradition doesn't mean jettison at will for fear of legalism.

William Weedon said...

Lord, have mercy. I think you are mixing apples with oranges. No one is arguing for a repristination of NT practice, nor a repristination of Patristic practice from the fourth century or so. Lutherans simply note that it was a false development in the church when clergy were forbidden marriage. No later church practice trumps the clear witness of Sacred Scripture on this; and that our reading of that Scripture is no novum is shown by the fact that what we advocate is congruent with the church's practice for a number of centuries.