medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

> > Episcopal bigamy is forbidden by 1 Timothy 3:2 "Now a bishop must
> be
> > above reproach, the husband of one wife."
> Does this mean that the bishop must have only one wife AT A TIME, ie
> a ban
> on polygamy;  or,  does it mean that the bishop may marry one wife
> but if he
> is widowed, is forbidden to remarry.

The latter. Polygamy, in the sense of having several wives at the same
time, has always and everywhere been forbidden to all Christians,
whether bishops or not.

The ancient discipline of the Church, however, stemming from this very
passage, is that bishops, priests and deacons only get one bite of the

This discipline is maintained most fully nowadays in the Orthodox
Church. They do not ordain married bishops, but their priests are
usually married, and if a priest's wife dies he is not permitted to

In the Catholic Church the movement towards clerical celibacy, over a
period of centuries, gradally eliminated the married priests (more or
less). Where they have been permitted again, in recent years, the
ancient law still applies. If my good lady should shuffle off this
mortal coil, I would not be at liberty to take another. She however is
bound by no such restriction, which introduces an asymmetry into our
marriage relationship.

However I can confidently say that, should I die young, and my wife
were to remarry, her new husband would not be a priest.



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