A brief history of polygamy, monogamy and celibacy in Christianity
I wrote this some time ago somewhere else, but thought it would be good to dust it off considering the current Christian backlash toward plural relationships such as polyamory and polygamy. Just a brief history of plural relationships in the Christian faith:
A brief history of celibacy in the Church. It all started in 305 CE at The Council of Elvira:
(Canon 33): It is decided that marriage be altogether prohibited to bishops, priests, and deacons, or to all clerics placed in the ministry, and that they keep away from their wives and not beget children; whoever does this, shall be deprived of the honor of the clerical office.
You see, before then it was allowable for Catholic priests to have multiple wives and concubines. To protect the Church’s wealth Pope Pelagius I (556 to 561 CE) made new priests agree that any children they had would not be eligible to inherit Church property, however the practice of plural wives and mistresses was still practiced.
Pope Gregory I (590 – 604 CE) later declared all son’s of priests “illegitimate” to further protect Church property (daughters were not a concern since women could not legally hold property anyway). Still the practice of multiple wives and mistresses continued.
Then, in 1022 Pope Benedict VIII (1012 – 1024 CE) banned all marriages and mistresses for priests and in 1139 Pope Innocent II (1130 – 1143 CE) voided all current marriages of priests and all incoming priests had to divorce their wives. Supporting the numerous wives of clergy and their children had almost bankrupted the Church by this time.
So there you have it. Why polygamy is no longer allowed in the Christian faith. The edict wasn’t from God, it came from the Catholic Church’s bean counters.