Have Any Popes Ever Been Married?

In the long history of the Catholic Church there have been a handful of married popes, including Saint Peter, who is considered the first pope. The reason married popes exist in history is because the rule against Catholic clergy taking wives was not always in play. According to the History News Network, the church had been in operation for more than 1,000 years before the rule against priests marrying was officially established in 1139. 

While it took some time for the Catholic Church to fully establish the rule, celibacy and the idea of virginal purity were not new. The History News Network reports Ancient Druid priests and Aztec temple priests are both believed to have abstained from sex in order to dedicate themselves fully to their otherworldly pursuits. 

But according to U.S. Catholic, a more practical reasoning for priests not to marry — and therefore remain celibate — had to do with the passing on of church property and benefits afforded to clergy to their wife and children after they died. In disallowing marriage, no one could make such financial claims on the church.

Several popes in history had wives

Still, as the rules were being hammered out, marriages happened. Besides Peter, whose wife is believed to have died before he became leader of the church (according to Catholic Straight Answers), there are at least six other men who were married and became popes. 

History Extra provides a helpful list of popes who were married: Felix III (483-492), St Hormisdas (514–523) (though he was widowed by the time he became pope, per History Extra), St. Silverus (Antonia) 536-537), St. Adrian II (867–872), and John XVII (1003). According to History Extra, Clement IV was once married, and then pope from 1265 to 1268, but as we know, that time frames doesn't jive with the church's declaration against clergy marrying.  

Britannica explains that in the case of Clement IV, he had been married before becoming pope, ordained a priest after his wife died around 1256. He ultimately became pope, though he once was married, meeting the criteria of a pope who had been married. 

While married or formerly married popes do exist in history, they are relatively rare. Today, the Roman Catholic Church upholds its rule against clergy marrying after they are ordained, though according to U.S. Catholic, "about 100 Episcopal and Lutheran married ministers who converted to Catholicism have been ordained as Roman Catholic priests." Since "any Roman Catholic male" can be elected pope, according to CNN, it's possible another married pope could come along someday.

Deadline reports that Discovery+ will stream a documentary on Pope Francis, titled Francesco, beginning March 28.