Married Priesthood: Maintain celibacy as the 'norm' but allow dispensations on a case by case basis

I’m not sure I understand the connection between a problem of homosexuality in the priesthood, and the potential for somehow addressing this through permitting (but not requiring) priests to come from the pool of married men. Same-sex attracted men would still (presumably) be interested in the priesthood at the same rate as before, since celibate priesthood would still be an option or the default under your proposal (and you’re trying to increase the pool, not hold it steady by adding some men and losing others). Is it your position that the Church is currently accepting same-sex attracted men into the priesthood knowingly and intentionally, for the sole reason that not enough other men are pursuing it (AKA are you arguing that the Church is willing to ordain people ill-fit for the role just to meet quotas… but if that were the case why wouldn’t they have done the desperate move of allowing married priests already?), and that therefore increasing the pool of other men pursuing it (specifically married men) would enable the hierarchy to stop their current program of knowingly ordaining same-sex attracted men despite believing they’re unfit for the role?

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen data to support that the above is what is happening (or that permitting dispensations for married priests would serve the role that the above proposal presumes)… rather, my understanding is that the orthodox seminaries only let same-sex attracted men through if the men are successful at deceiving the seminary, whereas the seminaries that ordain same-sex attracted men on purpose are doing it because they literally think it’s fine… so in neither case is the seminary making an intentional ‘sacrifice’ for lack of other men applying… but the above was honestly my best attempt at connecting those two dots you just put down.

Was the rationale I put together the way you were thinking of it?

If so, do you have evidence to support this position (or any of the other 3 positions, though you said that none of them are at “the heart of [your] platform”)?

You’ve said the celibacy discipline should be based on “the circumstances in the Church”. Then at the same time, you’ve acknowledged that the circumstances I mentioned (plus the homosexuality one you raised) are the ones you’re thinking of… but they’re not “the heart” of why you’re pushing for this.

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I’m honestly not trolling you. I’m honestly trying to figure out where your proposal is coming from, and I’m just not seeing that you’ve actually explained it. You’ve certainly said many words, and the words are related to the topic… But I don’t see a comprehensive argument supported by evidence. Are you mostly just thinking out loud right now, and proposing an action while throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall to see if anything sticks, but not yet claiming to know whether anything sticks? Or have you investigated and believe you can show evidence of the rationale that ‘sticks’ and can persuade us to follow your proposal (in which case, please, feel free to share/clarify!) :slight_smile:

PS again, I’m really not opposed (on a fundamental level) to married priests in the Latin rite. I was confirmed by a fantastic Anglican-convert married Catholic priest. But even most of these Anglican convert married priests (and their wives), when asked, say they do not support expanding the practice of married priesthood further. And I just think we need to be able to give a persuasive, good reason before making a change. I’m sincerely open to hearing it – I’m just not persuaded yet. I think I might be as on-the-fence as it’s possible to be on this one. There are reasons why, when I consider them, I lean strongly towards wanting to permit the dispensations… And then there are reasons why, when I consider them, I lean strongly towards wanting to preserve the tradition of celibacy-only (with the dispensations for Protestant converts still acceptable).

PPS actually no, I would argue that none of the three are true. I listed those to see what your arguments were, but I didn’t mean them to be statements of undisputed fact. Just, they are positions that it is possible for a person to hold, and I was checking to see if you hold them (which is sounds like you do).

In fact I think the best evidence supports the opposite on one of these (i.e. married men are actually statistically way more likely to abuse children), I don’t know if we have any evidence at all on one of the others (i.e. on the numbers of married men who, with their wives, are realistically prepared and qualified for the husband to become a priest), and the third is a philosophical/theological debate with no obvious ‘right’ answer.

So to be clear, everything you’ve said is “true” is actually subject to debate (not that I’m trying to start that debate here; and I don’t think you’re trying to start it either, since you’ve emphasized that all these things that you think are true are nonetheless not the reason why you’re arguing our time “needs” married priests).

What I, and I think others, are wondering – is what then do you think the reasons are, in terms of “the needs of our time”, that requires your proposal? Because you’ve listed several things (all of which are subject to legitimate debate) while also saying that none of them are your reason, or at least are not the heart of your reason.

What is the heart of your reason?

As of now it appears that those who prayed for no big change in the status quo as a result of the post-Amazon Synod exhortation have been heard.


You might like this article:

The author debunks the myth that celibacy is from the Middle Ages and states that it is from Apostolic times.


But, as I said, it’s one reason you suggest?

I did. :wink:

Yeah, but they’re not the justification / substantiation for it.

For some, I suspect, it is.


That’s funny.

All along, I’ve been asking “please demonstrate that the action meets the stated object”, but no one has attempted that analysis!

Really? An analysis that demonstrates that this will likely not work is “weak”? Especially in light of the fact that no one is offering any evidence that it will “meet the need”? If you say so… :man_shrugging:

I did that, too. :wink:

Huh? Not following you. It’s about ministers in the western world, which is as close as you’re going to get.

Ouch. No, they haven’t, at least not in a way that has helped the problem. Conclusion: your premise, and therefore your conclusion, fail to hold.

Friend, a better argument for you to make would be to show that the proposed solution will solve the asserted problem. :wink:


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Feb 12, 2020: Roma locuta; causa finita est. (Rome has spoken; the case is closed.)

The Register seems to think you still might get another shot at it, down the line

Just wait… Germany will speak up next. :wink:

From your mouth to God’s - er, Cardinal Marx’s ear


Thank you. May God and His Holy Mother help His Church!

Roma locuta; sed causa finita non est. (Rome has spoken but the case is not closed.)


I was going to defer, but if we’re continuing the conversation, let’s look at a couple of Pope Francis’ arguments, which explicitly refute some of the ideas expressed in our discussion in this thread:

  • the crisis isn’t what it appears at first blush. It is somewhat present – or at least exacerbated – due to a desire by local priests to minister away from home, rather than in their own backyard:
  • It’s not about simply hoping for a greater number of ordained priests. From the article in the NYT:

My understanding (from the sidelines) is that there were definite statements (and perhaps more than statements) that those intending to become permanent deacons were told in no uncertain terms that this was not a route to priesthood; and I have heard both of the statement(s) and comments from more than one or two deacons that they have no intent to become priests, should the occasion arise that married men might be ordained a priest.

Now - I don’t make this comment presuming that every last permanent deacon out of the 18,000+ which we have, has no desire to be ordained a priest. I comment only in that this is what I have picked up along the way, and have not read either Ministeria quaedam or Diaconatus Ordinem or anything else associated with the “permanency” of the deaconate. I will leave that to others.

It is only in the last couple of years that it has become possible for a married man baptized as an RC to be ordained an EC priest, so there’s no data yet. Had the change dome 20 years earlier, though . . .

And even now, a married man seeing to change rite for the purpose of ordination is going to receive, at best, a frosty exception.

Sort of. It is the seminary of the Pittsburgh Metropolia (nee Ruthenian), but at least the (Pittsburgh/ruthenian) bishop of Parma has pulled has pulled his married seminarians, and is looking for other options. And he is a strong supporter of married priests (in fact, his brother is a married priest across town, with his kid in our parish school).

Note that for byzantines, both EC and EO, marriage is the norm, not “permitted.” The seminary that the priest above came from is exporting priests to the US and elsewhere, and they are all married. I don’t know if it has changed in recent years, but at least until somewhat recently (in church terms), the Russian Orthodox, for example, would not ordain a man until he was married.

Honestly, I genuinely believe they should really try pulling international priests out of the United States and Europe, and sending them to back to their regions in Africa, Asia, or South America where often priests are very desperately needed. It is actually the best argument (in my humble opinion) for not immediately allowing viri probati In areas without many priests. I’m skeptical it will work, but it should be at least be tried. A very likely side effect of pulling this band-aid off of the US Catholic Church, is that they will lose 15%-20% of their priests almost overnight, and they may be far more open to the idea of older married priests. I say go for it! Maybe I’m wrong…I dunno…however, I’m sure this band-aid desperately needs pulled though. I started a thread about exactly this about a year ago.

Yep. That’s my understanding of deacon formation in the U.S., as well.

That being said, I’d be remiss to bring to mind the story of priests in the U.S. in the '70s, who thought that priests would immanently be allowed to marry, despite that this wasn’t at all what the Church was saying. And then, when what happened wasn’t what they secretly wished for, they abandoned their vocation in surprising numbers.

Please consider that, often, these men want to minister here, rather than in their home countries. It would be interesting, indeed, to see an attempt to “recall” these priests on a massive scale.

The priests who left to get married were obviously not steeped in the history of the Catholic Church. Neither the Easterrn rites nor the Roman rite allowed priests to marry - and the Eastern rites continue to hold to that, with a minor exception of a married priest whos spouse dies, and he has young children.

What happened was that there were a large number of priests, pre-Vatican 2, who thought that Vatican 2 would allow priests to marry.

The issue of priests marrying was most likely nothing which was ever brought up in the seminary training, in part because little was said about the Eastern rites and their history, and in part because celibacy was mandatory and not much discussion was had about that either. In short, it wasn’t a topic of Church history - one would have to go digging to find it as ordination of married men had ended centuries before.

To a certain extent this is conjecture, and it would be difficult to do any research on it as those priests are now in 80’s and 90’s, if not already deceased. However, of the ones I knew, the best I can say is that there are two different vocations - celibacy and priesthood. One can have a vocation to both; or one can have a vocation to priesthood, but no vocation to celibacy; I have heard them describe it as their cross. Monks, entering a monastery, are entring into the vocation of celibacy. And they may, later, discern and be called to priesthood. Diocesan priests may be called to both, or to one and accept the other as the “cost” of fulfilling the vocation to priesthood.

I would be a bit hesitant to say they “abandoned” their vocation. Most of them found the matter to be wrenching, to say the least. And as I know priests who have been laicized, I don’t speak from theory. They live lives as best they can to follow Christ; the decision was wrenching, the process was likewise wrenching, and for decades they have been treated by the Church as marginal Catholics.

Which is another way of saying that we have not walked in their shoes, and it is easy to stand in judgement.

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Many disciplinary restrictions have been relaxed over the years. The pre-Communion fast, the Lenten fast (including abstaining from sexual relations withing marriage for the duration of the fasting period.) Why is it weird that this one has also been relaxed? We’ve gone pretty soft. :smirk:

I’m sure it was a difficult decision for them, and I’m sure that they’re living out the consequences of their decisions. What I’ve never understood is how someone could enter a lifelong commitment to celibacy under the presumption that it would soon change. That just seems irresponsible and unreasonable to me.

And then, to leave that lifelong commitment, because you never got what you were never promised in the first place? Woo… :thinking:

I guess I just don’t get it. :man_shrugging:

We cannot judge them. But neither should we make them heroes, which also has happened. (“He chose Love, to follow his heart rather than rules”).

The men I know, or know of, usually had other disagreements with the Church besides celibacy. It may be partly a generational issue, as men ordained in recent years are much less likely to leave for marriage, or other reasons.

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