Married Men Called to Priesthood


#1

I am aware of the reasons for a celibate priesthood in the Roman Church and that the majority of Eastern Catholic Churches allow for a married priesthood (I believe one or two might not, but I could be wrong) in accordance with their traditions. However, my question is concerning what the Church teaches regarding vocations in relation to this discrepancy.

I was wondering what the Church’s teaching is on Roman Catholic married men feeling called to a vocation of priesthood. With married men in the vast majority of the Eastern Churches and exceptions allowing for married (former Anglican priests) or formally married ( in the case of the death of a wife) Roman Rite priests, it seems to be that married men are certainly called to serve as priests. How, then, does the Church reconcile this with a celibate Roman priesthood?

Does God not call married Roman Catholics to the priesthood? Is the vocation of a married permanent deacon equivalent to that of a married Eastern Catholic or former Protestant priest? Or is there another way that the Church approaches this issue?

Thank you, and I am sorry if this is in the wrong area of the forum.


#2

You might think about contacting your Archdiocese’s director of vocations. They deal with this issue on a regular basis. Rather that viewing it as a discrepancy, it must be considered for what it is: a discipline which has substantial scriptural support.

Such discernment, done properly, can be absolutely agonizing and take years to complete. The answer you receive may not be what you anticipated. Just saying.


#3

When a spouse dies the marriage ends. A man called to the priesthood after the death of his wife is NOT married. This is a wholly separate issue than currently married men becoming priests.


#4

To answer your last paragraph, no, a married priest is not equivalent to a married deacon; a deacon is a deacon, married or not, Eastern Catholic or Latin; and a priest is a priest, married or not, Eastern Catholic or Latin.

In terms of your question, “does God not call married Roman Catholics to the priesthood?”, how would anyone know a call is from God? In some sects, all males, or all persons, are ordained as teenagers because they are considered “called” by God.
Obviously, the RC Church has to discern, “is this individual who feels the call, truly called”; and also, make general rules for groups of persons.

Celibacy fits into Eastern Catholic ordination standards. For instance, only celibate priests can become bishops, and only celibates can belong to religious orders, male or female. If a married priest becomes widowed, he cannot remarry. In the Latin Church, celibacy is carried further regarding diocesan priests, though exceptions have been made in specific rare situations.

Should the Latin RC Church expand those exceptions now? Maybe. If the Church did, there still would be limitations: the marriage must be stable, there would be thorough review of the family situation. Are there young children, special needs children, young adults with significant issues? It would not be an automatic, open door.

I tend to be much more cautious about it than I was back in the 1960s, when marriage was in far better condition than it is today. Not only is the rate of marriage breakups skyrocketing, but parents are dealing with young adults with drug addictions, having to take custody of grandchildren, etc. The Church has to look at how ordination would impact on ****that ****sacrament, which is a greater challenge now.

In any event, the Church has to help discern if “the Call” to ordination, or for that matter, to get married, is a call from God. There are other callers.


#5

I don’t see that it’s such a big deal. There is no single path to happiness and there is no single way to please God. Through discernment one chooses the path one feels will best suit them. That being said I don’t mind the idea of married priests: it could happen sooner than we think.


#6

This type of meddling in regional affairs was part of the cause of the Reformation. How can the Church take away a right that the its priests used to have (and still do in the catholic east) and at the same time claim that right and wrong are constant and do not change with history?


#7

It’s a matter of discipline, not dogma. Thus the Church can change it as it sees fit.

On one hand, I totally “get” why the Church would limit priesthood to single men. Wives and kids take much, if not most of one’s focus. I’m genuinely less-good at my job because I have to move time to my family that I’d otherwise devote to it.

On the other hand, I think as a practical matter it would behoove the Church to allow married dudes back in as a way to solve the shortage of priests in the western world. I think it would have a trickle-down effect of revitalization as more men could consider the call when they were barred from considering before. The social echoes of “home grown” priests would reach more local ears than would occur by bringing someone in from another nation to serve the function (although I’m still very glad they’re willing to do it) even if they don’t serve in the parish they grew up in.

“Hey, did you know Barb and Jim’s boy became one of them “cat-lick” priests?”

As a caveat, I would still be very, very VERY hesitant to admit married men into the bishopric.


#8

Steve - Rome placed that placed the discipline on area’s under the Patriarch of Rome. NOT the whole Catholic Church. The Pope NEVER tried for force Constantinople do to the same before the Great Schism.

It’s no different from the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Patriarch of Moscow, etc enforcing disciplines on his Patriarchy.

Addtionally, the East didn’t have many of the logistical issues that the West did with married priests.


#9

We also have to remember that back then, priests were not allowed to have sex with their wives. This was true in the East and the West.

But priests still would have sex, so mandatory celibacy was put into to prevent the priests from sinning. This is just ONE of the many reasons for the discipline.


#10

I was talking about catholics in the east. Greeks, Lebanese, etc.


#11

Huh? Orthodox and Eastern Catholic priests have children on a normal basis. How are they not having sex? Do you mean more days of the week were fasting or something?
Besides, not being able to have normal intercourse and having to do something else is still better than being alone by a long shot.


#12

In the Latin Church, a married man would be called to the Permanent Diaconate.

As FYI - my pastor told me that the Church has used the Permanent Diaconate as a test to see if removing the celibacy for priesthood requirement would work for the Latin Church. He said, that the Permanent Diaconate has proven that removing the requirement for celibacy would be disaster for the Latin Church, mainly due to logistical reasons.

  1. The Church believes that Matrimony is a sacrament, and that (like Holy Orders) Marriage is a vocation. One vocation must not conflict with another. So Holy Church teaches and instructs the Deacons that their marriage and wife comes first. Whenever there is a conflict between family and Church, the deacon is instructed that his family & wife come first. Many priests can count on their deacons to be there on Sunday to read the Gospel, but often Permanent Deacons cannot be counted on much more than that. I know parish Deacons who don’t take part in any parish activities outside of Sunday Mass due to family conflicts.

  2. The seminary program for the priesthood is currently not geared to support married men. Former Anglican Priests have much training & pastoral experience already under their belt, so they just take course to fill in the blanks, so it’s much different for them. And the Permanent Deacons don’t require the same training as priests (yes, they receive the Theology), because they typically do not receive the Philosophy training nor the pastoral training as Priests.

The strain the seminary years would put on a marriage are huge… much more so than a typical resident graduate program.

Plus, would the priestly candidate be required to be married before entering the Seminary? What about men who enter the seminary right out of high school? Would be allowed to date while in the seminary, or have few years off before ordination to search for a wife?

Because obviously, they have to be married before being ordained a Deacon.

  1. Salary & Rectory – Catholic Priests do not make enough money to support a family. Either the wife would need to work, or the Priest would need to have a secondary job (teacher at a Catholic School, College, etc) to help support his family. So he couldn’t be a full time priest at the parish unless the parish agrees to pay him more money.

And where would the married priest live? If a parish is only assigned one priest, then sure, the family could all live in the Rectory (assuming the Rectory isn’t also used as an office or parish center). But if the parish has more than one priest, there is an issue. Which means the priest & his family need more money so they can afford their own home.

  1. Catholic School for kids and college – naturally a priest is going to want to send his kids to Catholic School (or home school). So the parish would need to pay enough for the Catholic school or parish/diocese would need to absorb the costs to educate all children of priests for grades K-12 (if not including PreK)

  2. Priest’s work day schedule – priests work longer hours than we typically realize. They also need to be able to handle funerals, go to hospitals, visit the sick, etc. Many protestant and Orthodox priest/ministers can juggle this because they may have a few hundred people in their congregation. But Catholic Priests typically have several thousand people in their parish, and a priest is still responsible for all the Catholics who don’t show up to mass. I.E. a Catholic who hasn’t been Church in decades calls for a Priest when in the hospital, the priest needs to go.

This goes back to what the Church told the Permanent Deacons … your marriage comes first. But with married priests… this is a big problem because Deacons can’t administer the sacraments. Priests are the ones we need for Last Rites, etc. And while a Deacon can perform a Wedding or Funeral, a priest is still needed for a Wedding or Funeral Mass. So balancing family with the parish would be very difficult for a priest… causing a priest to feel like he’s failing at two vocations.

There is a very good reason why the majority of married Roman Catholic Priests are against a married priesthood. They know first hand how difficult it is compared to when they were Anglican Priests. This is also way many former Anglican Priest converts have not become Catholic Priests. A great example is Dr. Taylor Marshall (taylormarshall.com), he used to be a Episcopal Priest. Now as a Catholic, he’s discerned that he’s not called to the Priesthood and at this point not even to the Diaconate.

  1. Only realistic additional exception made to celibacy that I see is – the only possible exceptions I see (other than the Pastoral Provision already in place) is to allow secularly retired Permanent Deacons to become ordained as priests without receiving any financial benefits from the Church. Aka - their relationship and arrangement with the Church remains the same, except they become ordained to the priesthood so they can assist with confessions, anointment of the sick, last rites, wedding/funeral masses, and other masses.

I pray this helps.

God Bless


#13

When I lived WA, I visited the Greek Orthodox Church in Seattle. Part of the informative session given spoke about limitations the Greek Orthodox Church placed on married priests. Yes, the priest giving the tour was married, but he was limited to the pastoral level as for as the hierarchy was concerned.
St. Paul says that married need to be concerned about providing for the needs of their wives, while those who are single can concentrate on spiritual matters. They are not divided.
This is something to which I can relate, having “turned the head” of a man still thinking of returning to seminary when I met him. As difficult as it might have been, would I have released him for the Church? Yes.

Scripture tells us that Peter had a mother-in-law. It is correct that priestly celibacy is a discipline and not dogma. Church history tells us that certain abuses grew out of the married priesthood, and that celibacy became the enforced norm. Since it is a discipline, dispensations can be granted. Nobody knows if over the course of time, the priesthood will be re-opened with the same limitations as the Greek Orthodox Church.

In the meantime, I am glad that the Church has a married deaconate. For those men who have become deacons, it is my understanding that the wives study along with them. They play a vital part in the ministry as well.

If a widower is called to the priesthood, God will open the door for him. One of my pastors was a grandfather. His grown children were involved in the decision making process when he entered seminary.


#14

I appreciate all the responses, but it appears as if the conversation has strayed away from my initial question. I was wondering what the Church would say to a married Roman Catholic who feels a calling to the priesthood or how the Church interprets claims such as these. The Church can’t say that married men aren’t called to the vocation of a priesthood because they certainly are if one looks to the Eastern Churches. Would the Church see this as a calling to change one’s church sui iuris or does the Church teach that God would not call a married Roman Catholic to the priesthood at all, or would the Church provide another explanation?

I am not advocating for a married Roman clergy. I fully understand and respect the teaching of the Roman Church (of which I am a member). However, I recently met an Eastern priest who happens to be married, and the question arose after having met him.

Again, thank you all for the responses.


#15

No, the Church would not direct the person to a different Rite. If the Catholic is a Latin Catholic (Roman Rite), the Church would direct that man to the Permanent Diaconate.


#16

?

Married Byzantine Catholics are allowed to become Priests. Not sure about Maronite Catholics.


#17

I don’t know all the details, but I heard Tim Staples say that back in the first 1000 years of the Church, priests were not allowed to have sex with their wives.

Now, I’m not sure if that was all the time or if they had to refrain for a few days before Mass. I believe it is the later.

Either way, this became an issue in the West.

In the West we have daily Mass and most diocesan Priests pray the Mass everyday. So if they were required to abstain from sex for let’s say 24/48 hours before saying Mass, daily Mass would be an obstacle for a married Priest, limiting when he was allowed to have sex with his wife. Regardless, apparently many priests in the West sinned by not following the discipline.

as FYI - I’ve also read that this was/is a debate regarding the Church reinstituting the Permanent Diaconate to the West. There were discussion regarding whether a Deacon had to stop having sexual relations with his wife or not.

Again, I don’t know all the details


#18

Perhaps there’s another way to look at this question.
As a young girl, I considered becoming a nun, however I had the wrong reason.
I saw becoming a nun as a way to become a teacher for a young woman coming from a family without the resources to send me to college. In other words, I was looking at the vocation of becoming a nun for the wrong reason, with the wrong attitude.
Furthermore, I was stopped by the vows. I didn’t see any question with chastity (even if I didn’t quite know what that mean), but I wasn’t sure I could commit to poverty or obedience. I still had some growing up to do, to learn what was meant by spiritual poverty, as well as the true meaning of obedience as listening.
Later, a nun told me that even if I had been accepted into a convent for the wrong reasons (I did know what to write on the applications), and I was called, the right reason would be found.
One of the signs of a calling is “nun thoughts.” As I was having these nun thoughts, the correct reason did come. It was not becoming a nun in order to become something else (for example a teacher). It was using what I as a nun. I think the Dominican Sisters of Nashville use the word becoming rather than doing.
The priesthood, like any vocation, is not a job, but a way of life. God calls us into that life. Some he calls into secular life.
While I may eventually have discovered the correct reason to become a nun, there were impediments in the way of religious life.
Being married would serve as an impediment for a man who feels called to the priesthood. I did seek spiritual direction. There are other ways to serve in God’s Church. I learned that the age limits for nuns to enter convents had changed from 14 to 30 to 18 (rare) to 45 and up. There is a greater emphasis on candidates knowing something about life “in the world” before committing to the rigors of religious vocation.
It could be what appears as a call to the priesthood is a call to greater piety, or the deaconate. As mentioned earlier, this now entails the blessing and involvement of wife and family. Finally, if through tragic events, widowhood does ensue, the call to the priesthood and everything it entails will remain strong (after an appropriate mourning period). I did listen once to a priest who went through this. His sermons included stories about Peaches, his wife. He lost both her and his children in a tragic accident.


#19

FWIW (and oddly I just posted this in another section of the forum) I actually somewhat know a man who was in the seminary for the Latin Rite, met a Catholic woman, and then dropped out. He’s now finishing up in an Eastern Rite seminary. I’m pretty sure his intent is to become a married Eastern Rite priest.

I know that the Latin Rite won’t direct one of its members towards switching rites, but I’m also really familiar with somebody who was exploring that on his own and contacted someone in an official position in the Eastern Rite and who received a “no problem” reply. That surprised me, but as I knew the person very well I knew what the reply was at the time. That is, of course, different, but it was surprising.

I’m a bit surprised that it doesn’t happen more often actually.


#20

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