We are all familiar with the fact that St Peter was married before he was called by Jesus to become an apostle. The Gospel speaks about Peter’s mother-in-law being quite sick and Jesus coming to the house where he cured her. And then she served the men. Whether Peter had already lost his wife to death or not is questionable. Clement of Alexandria recorded a legend in which Peter and his wife met martyrdom at almost the same time. There is no record of Peter’s wife previous to Clement’s records. We will never know for sure on this side of life.
Pope Hormisdas (d. 523) was another married man. But we are pretty sure he was widowed. Previous to his becoming a deacon, he had been married and had a son who grew up to become a pope in his own right. Hormisdas was well known for his piety, his wealth and distinguished birth. He was one of the most notable clerics at the synod of Rome in 502 under the pope, Symmachus. At the Pope’s death, Hormisdas was consecrated and immediately began to clean up the last of the Laurentian schism, bringing adherents back to the fold. His largest project was to end the Acacian schism, separating the sees of Rome and Constantinople. In 519, peace between the two sees ended and a large celebration was held. But shortly after, some monks began to insist that only one of the Trinity was crucified. The pope ended the argument, suggesting that only those parts of their writing that was contrary to the teachings of the Church should be expunged.
Pope Adrian II (d. 872) married in his youth to a woman named Stephania, with whom he had a daughter. He was consecrated pope at an advanced age and they moved to the Lateran with him. However, they were kidnapped by Anastasius, the librarian and nephew of the bishop of Orte, and killed. During the five years of his papacy, Europe was chaotic, suffering from the fighting amongst Charlemagne’s successors. The bishop was a confidant of the emperor Louis II and kept Adrian under surveillance, making him submit to temporal authority.
Pope John XVII (d. 1003) was pope only seven months. He was married as a young man and had three sons who took Holy Orders, John, a bishop, Peter, a deacon and Andrew.
Pope Clement IV (d. 1268) was a Frenchman and was referred to as Guy le Gros (Guy the Fat). He married and was widowed young becoming the single father to two young girls. He left secular life after being a soldier and entered into Holy Orders. His daughters both joined the convent. Clement then became secretary to King Louis IX. His short papacy, only three years, was involved in politics. He helped Charles of Anjou, the French king’s brother, take over the rule of Naples. He renewed the condemnation of the Talmud. Clement and King James I of Aragon started negotiations with the Mongols although they never got very far. He also hired Thomas Aquinas as papal theologian, giving him more reknown.
No other popes are known to have been married and only Pope Adrian had a wife during his papacy, as far as we know. Eventually the Sacrament of Holy Orders was only opened to unmarried, celibate men.