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Subject: celibacy and the Irish Church
From: Dorothy Africa <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.
Date:Sun, 27 Feb 1994 17:15:42 -0500
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In response to Dennis Doyle, I can only offer to the discussion a few
landmarks on this murky topic picked-up during the past several years
picking through the genealogies of Irish ecclesiastical families.  There
is no special emphasis on virginity in pre-Christian Ireland beyond a
bit of the macho type (i.e. it's a good thing for girls) which doesn't
seem to matter much.  Unlike late antique notions of the celibate philospher,
there is no surviving evidence (that I know of) that such a secular ideal
of celibacy and intellect was available in Ireland for Christianity to latch
on to.  Druids (at least in the surviving tales which were recorded in a
Christian milieu) don't seem to have been.  On the otherhand land in Ireland
was a family, not an individual, possession, and skilled trades and what we
would call professions, while open to those of talent and ability, also
appear to have "run" in families.  The early canon collections in Ireland
regulate the dress of a priest's wife, and refer to the episcopa (the proper
title for a bishop's wife).  Contemplatives, i.e. monks, on the otherhand,
appear to have observed the celibacy rule.  As I understand, it was in about
the fifth century that the church began to advocate celibacy for secular
clergy, and that is about the time Christianity began to make it big in
Ireland.  From what I can tell, several ecclesiastical offices passed
within families, often father to son in the Irish church before the late
12C arrival of the Normans.  Since this is probably not of interest to others
on the net besides us early church history nuts, I will stop here and
let others have their say.
dca

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