celibacy

Latin: caelebs, unmarried

In the Latin Church and in its strictest sense a positive obligation imposed by ecclesiastical law on certain clerics of observing perfect chastity under vow. This obligation is the foundation of the negative side of celibacy, viz., the prohibition to marry or to use marriage rights if already married, for those who come under the law of celibacy. Following the lead of her Divine Founder the Church has always held celibacy and virginity, especially for the primitive Church demanding celibacy for the clergy; custom, however, introduced the obligation which was latterly confirmed by written legislation. From the time of Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), celibacy was imposed on all clerics in major orders; and though the practise did not always conform with the legislation, the Roman pontiffs always insisted on it. The present law of the Code repeats the previous legislation for the Latin Church for all clerics in major orders. Clerics in Sacred Orders, who presume to marry, even only civilly, are by that very act under excommunication specially reserved to the Holy See. They also lose any office they may hold without any declaration being necessary. Minor clerics are not obliged by the law of celibacy but if they attempt marriage they are thereby reduced to the lay state. Oriental clerics are not bound by these laws. They may not licitly, and more probably not validly marry after the reception of the subdeaconship. If they have been married before that time they may use marriage rights.