CHIEF ARTICLES OF THE FAITH
The Marriage of Priests
1 Complaints about unchaste priests are common. 2 Platina writes that it is for this reason that Pope Pius is reported to have said that although there are reasons why marriage was taken away from priests, there are far more important reasons why it should be given back. 3 Since our priests wanted to avoid these open scandals, they married wives and taught that it was lawful for them to enter into marriage. 4 First, because Paul says, “Because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife” and “It is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:2, 9b).
5 Second, Christ says, “Not everyone can receive this saying” (Matthew 19:11), where He teaches that not everyone is able to lead a single life. God created human beings for procreation (Genesis 1:28). 6 It is not within a person’s power, without God giving a unique gift, to change this creation. ‹For it is clear, as many have confessed, that no good, honest, chaste life, no Christian, sincere, upright conduct has resulted from the attempt to lead a single life. Instead, a horrible, fearful unrest and torment of conscience has been felt by many until the end.› 7 Therefore, those who are not able to lead a single life ought to marry. 8 No human law, no vow, can destroy God’s commandment and ordinance. 9 For these reasons the priests teach that it is lawful for them to marry wives.
10 It is clear that in the Ancient Church priests were married men. 11 For Paul says, “An overseer must be the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2). 12 Four hundred years ago in Germany, for the first time, priests were violently forced to lead a single life. They offered such resistance that when the Archbishop of Mainz was about to publish the pope’s decree about celibacy, he was almost killed in a riot by enraged priests. 13 This matter was handled so harshly that not only was marriage forbidden in the future, but existing marriages were torn apart, contrary to all laws, both divine and human. This was even contrary to canon law itself, as made by not only popes, but also by the most celebrated synods.
14 Seeing that man’s nature is gradually growing weaker as the world grows older, it is good to be on guard to make sure no more vices work their way into Germany.
15 Furthermore, God ordained marriage to be a help against human weakness. 16 Canon law itself says that the old rigor ought to be relaxed now and then, in these latter times, because of human weakness. We wish this would also be done in this matter. 17 We expect that at some point churches will lack pastors if marriage continues to be forbidden.
18 While God’s commandment is in force, and the custom of the Church is well known, impure celibacy will cause many scandals, adulteries, and other crimes that deserve punishment from just rulers. In light of all this, it is incredibly cruel that the marriage of priests is forbidden. 19 God has commanded that marriage be honored. 20 Marriage is most highly honored in the laws of all well-ordered commonwealths, even among the heathen. 21 But now men, even priests, are cruelly put to death, contrary to the intent of canon law, for no other reason than that they are married. 22 Paul, in 1 Timothy 4, says that a doctrine of demons forbids marriage (vv. 1–3). 23 This is clearly seen by how laws against marriage are enforced with such penalties.
24 Since no human law can destroy God’s command, neither can it be done by any vow. 25 So Cyprian advises women who do not keep the promise they made to remain chaste, that they should marry. He says (Book I, Epistle XI), “If they are unwilling or unable to persevere, it is better for them to marry than to fall into the fire by their lusts. They should certainly give no offense to their brothers and sisters.” 26 And even canon law shows some leniency toward those who have taken vows before the proper age, as has been the case up to this point.