Celibacy (целібат; tselibat). The unmarried state of clergy, known in both Eastern and Western Christianity. The practice of the Eastern churches, which trace their origin to the Byzantine church, was permanently codified by the Council of Trullo (692): priests, deacons, and subdeacons may continue a marriage entered into before ordination; men who have remarried cannot be ordained; and a priest or deacon cannot remarry after the death of his wife. The Council of Trullo also sanctioned the norms for a candidate to the episcopacy: he must be celibate, widowed, or, if married, must separate permanently from his wife.

This legislation was in force when Christianity was adopted in Ukraine (see Christianization of Ukraine). The pastoral clergy were married, while the bishops were chosen from among the monastic clergy, although it was not rare for widowers to be raised to the episcopacy after taking monastic vows. This is the canonical norm (see Canon law) now in force in the Ukrainian Orthodox church.

When the Ukrainian and Belarusian church hierarchy joined the Catholic church in the Church Union of Berestia (1595), the bishops were aware of the possibility that Rome might impose celibacy on their clergy. Therefore, they sought express approval of a married priesthood. This they received in the bull Magnus Dominus from Pope Clement VIII: ‘Priestly marriages remain intact with the exception of bigamous ones.’

The freedom to elect marriage before ordination remained uncontested in the Ukrainian Uniate church (see Greek Catholic church) until the First World War. An attempt to enact mandatory celibacy at the Lviv Synod (1891), favored by the papal representative, failed. A conference of the three bishops of Halych metropoly finally adopted celibacy. However, Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, not wishing to challenge the statute of the Church Union of Berestia, understood this step as favoring optional celibacy. He reserved half of the places in the Greek Catholic Theological Academy for married candidates. Two other bishops (Hryhorii Khomyshyn and Yosafat Kotsylovsky) did not follow him in this measure and from 1924 refused to ordain married men. Three other eparchies (Mukachevo eparchy and Prešov eparchy in Czechoslovakia and Križevci eparchy in Yugoslavia) did not follow this practice of making celibacy mandatory.

The situation developed differently in the diaspora. In the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Argentina the Ukrainian Catholic community had its beginnings in the 1880s–1890s, when large groups of immigrants from Galicia and Transcarpathia settled there permanently. A circular letter of the Congregation for the Propagation of Faith of 1 October 1890, addressed to the Ukrainian bishops of Austria-Hungary, forbade married priests to minister among their compatriots in America. This measure was repeated several times, although it was not fully observed. The majority of priests who went to the United States were married men who took with them their wives and children. Most of those who went to Canada and Brazil were monks.

The opposition of Rome, at the insistence of the local hierarchy of the Latin rite, to married clergy led to a movement by many of the priests and faithful to join the Russian Orthodox church. The prohibition of a married clergy was omitted in the decree Cum Episcopo of 17 August 1914, which established separate Ukrainian Catholic jurisdiction in the United States. However, it was reinstated in 1929 and enforced with vigor. This led to a secession in the Ruthenian exarchate of Pittsburgh (see Pittsburgh metropoly), when about 100,000 church members left to form an Orthodox eparchy under the patriarch of Constantinople.

With the new influx of Ukrainian immigrants from Western Europe after the Second World War, the Roman Curia consented to their being ministered by married priests from Ukraine. But this appeared to be an exceptional measure; the prohibition against ordaining married candidates or bringing them from Europe to the Ukrainians in the Americas and Australia was repeated several times in the 1970s. Still, married ordained priests in Europe, once they emigrate to the United States or Canada, are tolerated and are permitted to serve as priests. The Roman Curia also applies the rule on celibacy to Ukrainian Catholic communities in Western Europe and, more recently, in Poland. The Ukrainians in Galicia, Transcarpathia, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia were not affected by this prohibition. The Ukrainian Catholic lay movement and the priests of the Society of Saint Andrew are advocating married priesthood in the diaspora, although without much success in the Vatican.

Bilaniuk, Petro B.T. ‘Celibacy and Eastern Tradition,’ in Celibacy: The Necessary Option, ed George H. Frein (New York 1968)
Pospishil, Victor J. Compulsory Celibacy for the Eastern Catholics in the Americas (Toronto 1977)

Victor Pospishil

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]

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