ABSTRACT

The marriage of priests and nuns was tangible evidence of a religious change that was apparent to all, and a visible sign of the rejection of the laws and traditions of the Catholic church. However, clerical marriage was no less controversial in the middle decades of the century than it had been at the start. The printed debate was still very much alive, and the position of the married clergy, at least in some parts of Europe, still precarious and contested. Forty years of clerical marriage had begun to erode the apparent novelty of the practice, and presented the Catholic church with a problem that was practical and pastoral, as well as disciplinary. Just as the evangelical defence of clerical marriage had drawn upon the history of the church, and the writings of Fathers, Catholic polemicists marshalled both history and patristic tradition to the defence of the celibate priesthood.