The Catholic Church officially testifies that in the earliest times of the Church there were married clergymen. Bishops, priest and even Popes who were married before receiving the mantle of Church leadership:
“It is clear from the New Testament (Mk 1:29-31; Mt 8:14-15; Lk 4:38-39; 1 Tim 3:2, 12; Tit 1:6) that at least the Apostle Peter had been married, and that bishops, presbyters and deacons of the Primitive Church were often family men. It is also clear from epigraphy, the testimony of the Fathers, synodal legislation, papal decretals and other sources that in the following centuries, a married clergy, in greater or lesser numbers was a normal feature of the life of the Church. Even married popes are known to us.1 And yet, paradoxically, one has to desist, when faced with this incontrovertible fact, from assuming that this necessarily excluded the co-existence of an obligatory celibacy discipline.” (from the “Priestly celibacy in patristics and in
These are Some Popes that were Married:
1. St Peter
Saint Peter (Simon Peter), whose mother-in-law is mentioned in the Gospel verses Matthew 8:14–15, Luke 4:38, Mark 1:29–31 and who was healed by Jesus at her home in Capernaum. This clearly depicts Peter as a married man, and 1 Cor. 9:5 suggests Peter’s wife accompanied him on his mission. Clement of Alexandria notes that “Peter and Philip begat children” and writes: “When the blessed Peter saw his own wife led out to die, he rejoiced because of her summons and her return home, and called to her very encouragingly and comfortingly, addressing her by name, and saying, ‘Remember the Lord.’ Such was the marriage of the blessed, and their perfect disposition toward those dearest to them.” Later legends, dating from the 6th century onwards, suggested that Peter had a daughter – identified as Saint Petronilla. This, however, is likely to be a result of the similarity of their names.
2. Pope St. Hormisdas
He was born at Frosinone, Campagna di Roma, Italy. Before becoming a Roman deacon, Hormisdas was married, and his son would in turn become Pope under the name of Silverius. During the Laurentian schism, Hormisdas was one of the most prominent clerical partisans of Pope Symmachus. He was notary at the synod held at St. Peter’s in 502. Two letters of Magnus Felix Ennodius, bishop of Pavia, survive addressed to him, written when the latter tried to regain horses and money he had lent the Pope.
3. Pope Adrian II
After the death of St. Nicholas I, the Roman clergy and people elected, much against his will, the venerable Cardinal Adrian, universally beloved for his charity and amiability, descended from a Roman family which had already given two pontiffs to the Church, Stephen III and Sergius II. Adrian was now seventy-five years old, and twice before had refused the dignity. He had been married before taking orders, and his old age was saddened by a domestic tragedy. As pope, he followed closely in the footsteps of his energetic predecessor. He strove to maintain peace among the greedy and incompetent descendants of Charlemagne.
4. Pope John XVII
Pope John XVII was Pope for about seven months from 16 May to 6 November 1003.
Before entering the priesthood, Sicco had been married and had three sons who also entered Holy Orders:
- John, Bishop of Praeneste
- Peter, a Deacon
- Andrew, a Secundicerius
He died on 6 November 1003 and was buried in the Lateran Basilica between the two doors of the principal facade. According to John the Deacon, his epitaph began by stating that “here is the tomb of the supreme John, who is said to be Pope, for so he was called.”
5. Pope Clement VI
Born at Saint-Gilles on the Rhone, 23 November, year unknown; elected at Perugia 5 February, 1265; d. at Viterbo, 29 November, 1268. After the death of Urban IV (2 October, 1264), the cardinals, assembled in conclave at Perugia, discussed for four months the momentous question whether the Church should continue the war to the end against the House of Hohenstaufen by calling in Charles of Anjou, the youngest brother of St. Louis of France, or find some other means of securing the independence of the papacy. No other solution offering itself, the only possible course was to unite upon the Cardinal-Bishop of Sabina, by birth a Frenchman and a subject of Charles. Guido Le Gros was of noble extraction. When his mother died, his father, the knight Foulquois, entered a Carthusian monastery where he ended a saintly life. Guido married, and for a short time wielded the spear and the sword. Then devoting himself to the study of law under the able direction of the famous Durandus, he gained a national reputation as an advocate. St. Louis, who entertained a great respect and affection for him, took him into his cabinet and made him one of his trusted councillors. His wife died, leaving him two daughters, whereupon he imitated his father to the extent that he gave up worldly concerns and took Holy orders.
.. His first act was to forbid any of his relatives to come to the Curia, or to attempt to derive any sort of temporal advantage from his elevation. Suitors for the hands of his daughters were admonished that their prospective brides were “children not of the pope, but of Guido Grossus”, and that their dowers should be extremely modest. The two ladies later preferred the seclusion of the convent.