Married Preists? How do I answer

I was having a nice conversation w/ a protestant friend of mine about how one of our young parish priests is on medical leave and about how we are at a scarey point because of the shortage.
She asked if I thought that the church would ever allow Priests to be married and maybe that would be the answer to the shortage. She stated that Priests in the old testament were allowed to get married. (I don’t know my bible. Love my church, but didn’t have a clue what she was talking about) Wasn’t it Jesus who instituted the priesthood.

I told her I would ask my friends on Catholic Answers and get back to her. Give me some concrete info that I can share with her.

Sometimes, it is difficult to explain to a bible christian our traditions and beliefs in Rome. I just love my church enough to follow it’s teachings without questioning it.
Thanks for any answers

Could Rome allow this? Of course. However it’s extremely unlikely. It won’t solve anything, and would create new problems.

Celibacy can be traced back to the very earliest Church. It has become a discipline in the Roman rite, that a married man may not be ordained; but it is not an absolute discipline.

There are a number of issues at play in any conversation about celibacy, and they need to be sorted out and kept separate.

There seems to be a perception among some (at least, some of the comments and pronouncements out of Rome seem to indicate it) that there is some move to “do away with” celibacy. I do not know of any such proposal; but when the discussion comes up officially, that seems to be lingering about the response.

It has been suggested that the discipline be relaxed as to priests (the Roman rite allows for the ordination of one to permanent deacon who is already married), and Rome’s most recent response is that it is not going to happen. That does not mean that it could not happen in the future.

The comment often comes that if we allowed married men to be ordained, that the shortage of priests would be lessened. Actually, it appears that the shortage of priests is not necessarily a world-wide phenomenon, but rather seems to be more the issue in Europe and North and South America. And the cause, or causes of the shortage in those countries seems to run to issues more of secualrism, loss of faith (in the US about 1 out of every three Catholics attend Mass on a regular basis, and 50 years ago it was about 7 to 8 out of 10; Europe in many areas is down to 1 out of 10 or fewer), lack of catechesis, and lack of willingness to promote the vocation. That is starting to change in some areas but it is slow.

It is also noted that Protestant ministers numbers are down, and they allow married men to be ministers; so marriage in and of itself may not be the issue.

The Roman rite does allow married men to be ordained, but they are converts; mostly from the Episcopal/Anglican group, then Methodists and Lutherans, and there is one former Presbyterian (who is in my Archdiocese).

Much is made about priests not being able to serve their parish; that is a slap in the face to all Eastern rite priests who are married. It is purely a straw man arguement.

Celibacy is an identification with Christ, but is not intrinsic to the priesthood; the Eastern rites have ordained married men since the founding of the Church and its divisions into various rites.

It is not, however, a panacea to perceived ills - shortages or other ills. It is a separate vocation from the priesthood. but at this time in the Western rite, anyone who has not come from another Church (e.g. Anglican) will not be ordained if he is married.

There are many biblical reasons for a celibate priesthood, including Christ’s own example. I will not go in to those here.

It is important to note that when we speak of priestly celibacy, we are speaking of a discipline not a doctrine. Married men in the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches can be ordained as priests. It is a rule of the Latin Rite-- not an arbitrary rule but one developed out of the wisdom of the Church.

So, is it possible that married men might become priests? Yes, possible. However, it is unlikely Rome will change the discipline any time soon-- it has been recently reaffirmed as the norm for the Western church.

More to the point is whether or not a married priesthood would solve any “shortage” problem. The answer to that is: not likely. Protestant denominations are also experiencing clergy shortages, and so are the Jews. And, there is no celibacy requirement for them.

a priest nowadays can spend more than 50 hours per week working. Imagine if he gets married and has kids, how many hours do you think he productively spends for his parish.

It only creates more problems if priests get married.

Geeze… I am married with 3 kids… I cannot see how a man can be married with children and run a parish also along with all the stuff he has to do at home as well.

Just imagine the priests of today who cannot even handle distributing Holy Communion by themselves, send their Ext. Mins on sick calls and have communion services in place of Holy Mass twice a week- imagine them with families- what it would be like.


No more so than anyone who goes into a profession. New attorneys spend about 70 to 80 hours a week when they are starting; a 50 hour week is pretty much an average week. CPAs do so especially during tax season. And doctors - long workdays and 24 hour on call. And the list goes on and on. The only people who make this claim are those who work 40 yours a week or less. That he couldn’t devote the necessary time is just hogwash. A married priest is capable of doing what is necessary to be productive in his parish. He needs to manage his time well, but so do all the others I mentioned, and others not mentioned.

You can’t compare any job to a priest’s job.
Sure, an attorney can work more hours than a priest, but does an attorney’s job always involve in bringing people to Jesus.

A priest has few thousands of souls to take care of.
When you become a priest, your family is your parish. You’re “married” to the parish.

Doesn’t the Bible say “a virgin does better than a married man”?

[1 Corinthians 7:31-34](“ Corinthians 7:31-34”)

31 And they that use this world, as if they used it not: for the fashion of this world passeth away. 32 But I would have you to be without solicitude. He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. 33 But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided. 34 And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband.

[1 Corinthians 7:37](“ Corinthians 7:37”)
37 For he that hath determined being steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but having power of his own will; and hath judged this in his heart, to keep his virgin, doth well.

I have to say that some of the responses in this thread are offensive to those Catholic Churches whose tradition is a married diocesan priesthood.

Priestly celibacy is only a discipline and it change and has changed in the past. Just look at all the converts from protestant groups who are married that get ordained to the priesthood in the Latin Church.

Having said that, I do not think that the Latin Church should change its discipline of celibacy. It will not fix the priestly shortage. Just look at the Catholic Churches that do not have this tradition, they are hurting just as bad. Just look at the protestant denominations, they are also experiencing a shortage in places.

I think part of the problem is the attitudes of the laity. I see it here at this forum and hear it in the parishes. Many of the laity, at least the vocal ones, think a priest should be on call 24x7. That he has no right to a private life, that he must be at the beck and call of them. That is not true. The laity must wake up and see that this kind of talk, as well as disrespect and criticism of priests does to those younger people who overhear it. It turns them off.

Of course, anything that we believe but others don’t can be called
"offensive". After all, it is the Church’s decision and we support the decision, we are not here to bash others who want to be married and become priest.

The Bible says it all. I hope they don’t say the Bible is “offensive”.

This is like saying that it is “normal” in an Eastern Rite church for a priest to be married. I sincerely doubt that. I am sure it is pretty much a small number of married men who are ordained in the Eastern Rites. It is also a fact that in the Eastern Rites an ordained priest, who was ordained when single CANNOT get married, and a priest who was married at the time of ordination cannot remarry should his wife die or they divorce, even if they get an annulment. Pretty sure- correct me if I am wrong please.


You should have noticed that I used the word “tradition” and not “normal”.

Only in North America. It is normal in Europe and the Middle East. The fact that it is not normal in America is not because of the Eastern Catholic Churches, rather it was imposed upon them by the Latin Church. It is one of the many latinizations that our Churches are currently shedding.

It is also a fact that in the Eastern Rites an ordained priest, who was ordained when single CANNOT get married, and a priest who was married at the time of ordination cannot remarry should his wife die or they divorce, even if they get an annulment. Pretty sure- correct me if I am wrong please.

This is true and no where I say otherwise. A married man may be ordained in the Eastern Catholic Churches just as he may be (with a dispensation from Rome) in the Latin Church.

As the OP, I must say that I am confused. I am a cradle Catholic looking to answer my confused protestant friend who believes solely in the bible (not tradition and Rome, like we do) about priests not being able to marry and I still am lost.

She challenged me, “Show me in the bible where it says a priest cannot marry.” I want to defend my faith.

Roman Rite, Eastern Rite, Latin Rite. I am Catholic and don’t understand that. How do I sit there and explain, “Well, in this Catholic tradition it is accepted, but in this one it is not.” Doesn’t that make us seem wishy washy?

Aaargh!! I do not expect to be spoonfed the faith. I do not know the nitty gritty like you all do. All I know is I love the Eucharist and what that stands for. I can defend that.

I don’t think that this is a good argument against married priests. I worked 60-70 hours as a United Methodist minister, was married and had children. It wasn’t ideal but neither is working that many hours and not being married…but I did it.


And of course the Orthodoxy in America celebrate the Latin Church’s decision, for it was this imposition that almost overnight created much of Orthodoxy not in communion with Rome in America. The story has been told many times but most even on this board do not realize it. If Bishop Ireland and the Vatican had kept the agreement to allow married priests in the Eastern Catholic Churches of America Eastern Catholicism would today likely be much stronger than it is.


…and how many dedicated people don’t?

It only creates more problems if priests get married.

Really? After working all those hours they get to go home to an empty, lonely place - sounds like a recipe for a lot more problems than they would have if married.

You’re missing the point here. Catholicism isn’t merely the Latin Church. It’s a communion of 22 different Churches, each with their own discipline. Catholicism has both celibate and married Priests.

Some Rites within the Catholic Church do ordain married men (although a priest may not marry after ordination and married men may not become bishops, usually).

Priestly celibacy is a discipline so it can change, but it is based on sound doctrine, as well as long experience and common sense. It is also a charism, so a person diserning a vocation is well advise to discern the charism first, or at the same time.

Catholic parishes cannot support married priests with families, as Protestant or Jewish congregations do, because most refuse to tithe as their brothers do.

You are a Roman Catholic who belongs to the Latin church. What you probably don’t know is that there are over 20 other Catholic churches in full union with the Pope of Rome. Some people call them the “eastern rites,” but they are actually the Eastern and Oriental Catholic churches. They aren’t wannabee Catholics or quasi-Catholics or groups who use the name Catholic when they aren’t really–they are all real and true Catholics with the real and true Eucharist. They aren’t Roman Catholics, though. Two of the people in this thread are Ruthenian Catholic. They belong to the Byzantine Metropolitan Church sui iuris. One of them’s bishop is Bishop John of Parma, Ohio. Bishop John’s senior bishop is Metropolitan Basil of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Metropolitan Basil has ties to the Oriental Congregation in Rome. The Oriental Congregation is under Pope Benedict. Out of those 22 Eastern and Oriental Catholic Churches, 6 of them have their own patriarchs. Their patriarchs are in communion with Pope Benedict. The Eastern and Oriental Catholic churches have a different code of canon law than the Latin church. After the Eastern code of canon law, they also each have individual church laws. These laws allow them to ordain married men, as has been their unbroken tradition. They are fully Catholic, but they follow different customs, traditions, laws, hierarchical structure, prayers, liturgy, feast days, and more. It is a true testament to the universality of the Catholic Church that such diverse practice is found in unity.

I know this is a little confusing, but it is important you understand the above to understand the below.

The Latin church has a tradition of following the examples of St. Paul and of Jesus himself to have a celibate priesthood. This was not always the case, but it has evolved that way. The Eastern and Oriental Catholic churches retained the early church custom of having married men be ordained to the priesthood. The bishops are chosen from celibate priests, but parish priests are frequently and commonly married men. (Unlike someone above who hypothesized that it is not common, it is more common than celibate priests.) The reason this is more feasible is that the parish size is by necessity smaller. Only the priest dispenses communion. When people get tired of waiting half an hour to receive, they start bugging the men around to be ordained and start another parish. :slight_smile: Also, the sons and grandsons of priests are far more likely to enter the priesthood themselves as well. So the problem is not the work load of a priest in the west, but the lack of other priests to send some of that workload to.

There is no question that the Bible allows for married men to become priests, and even bishops. (Your friend’s church probably doesn’t have bishops. You might ask him why they aren’t following the Bible. ;)) The Latin church has called upon the tradition of the likes of St. Paul in currently restricting the priesthood to celibate men. While faithful Catholics may desire to see married men ordained in the Latin church in the future, they should not desire it as a cure to the shortage of priests. No windfall of deacons came forth after the allowance of married men to the permanent diaconate. The problem, as otjm stated very well, is a lack of faithful to call priests from.

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