- Celibate = unmarried (cælebs = single, unmarried)
- The Church has allowed married men to become priests. St. Peter, for example, was married.
- Continent = not having sexual relations
- The Church has
- always required all (married or celibate) clerics to be 100% continent and
- never allowed priests to marry after their ordinations.
The earliest condemnation of clerical incontinence is canon 33 of the Spanish Council of Elvira (ca. 305 A.D.):
- We decree that all bishops, priests and deacons in the service of the ministry are entirely forbidden to have conjugal relations with their wives and to beget children; should anyone do so, let him be excluded from the honour of the clergy.
Quoted in Priestly celibacy in patristics and in the history of the Church by Roman Cholij
Prior to Lateran II, clerics could contract valid marriages, but they were illicit (illegal). Lateran II made such marriages also invalid:
- Adhering to the path trod by our predecessors, the Roman pontiffs Gregory VII, Urban and Paschal, we prescribe that nobody is to hear the masses of those whom he knows to have wives or concubines. Indeed, that the law of continence and the purity pleasing to God might be propagated among ecclesiastical persons and those in holy orders, we decree that where bishops, priests, deacons, subdeacons, canons regular, monks and professed lay brothers have presumed to take wives and so transgress this holy precept, they are to be separated from their partners. For we do not deem there to be a [valid] marriage which, it is agreed, has been contracted against ecclesiastical law. Furthermore, when they have separated from each other, let them do a penance commensurate with such outrageous behaviour.
Lateran II also condemned
simony (buying/selling of ecclesiastical offices):
1. We decree that if anyone has been ordained simoniacally, he is to forfeit entirely the office which he illicitly usurped.
lay control over Church property:
25. If anyone receives provostships, prebends or other ecclesiastical benefices from the hand of a lay person, let him be deprived of the benefice unworthily received. For the decrees of the holy fathers state that lay people, no matter how devout they may be, have no power of disposal over ecclesiastical property.
sons of priests in active ministry:
21. We decree that sons of priests are to be removed from the ministries of the sacred altar unless they are living religiously in monasteries or canonries.
Thus, the reasons were not purely or primarily economic. The economic malfeasance was only a symptom of a deeper moral corruption.
Pope Innocent II, who convened Lateran II, was a strong reformer pope who had been in hiding the prior 8 years of Antipope Anacletus II's anti-papacy. Anacletus II came from a rich family who bought him the anti-papacy with a fortune made off economic crimes like usury. So, in this sense economic motives may have played a key role in Pope Innocent II's condemnation of "Nicolaitism" (priests living in marriage).