Most priests know far more about marriage than most married people do


Where to begin, looks like a block of swiss cheese. I’ll pass.


Back to the center.

My argument is that being married doesn’t give married people any uinque knowledge about the married lives of others which a priest can’t glean from a number of sources.

So it boils back down to the fact that a married person has knowledge of marriage that’s quite limited, limited to N = 1.

I also argue that owing to the priests role as Confessor, he can actually gain an enormous amount of information on marriage that a married person will never get. We don’t know what the norm for sin is!

A priest does.

Further a priests hears the excuses, the covering ups, the admissions, the justifications, the resentments, the reasons for the resentments, the stories, and on and on and on.

Married people will never GET NEAR that sort of knowledge.

And this knowledge is very useful as a priest tries to help the prodigal children “come to their senses” and attempt to begin again with God and with this spouse, family.

The core problems that start marriage problems aren’t unique to marriage, they just surface within a marriage context.

The core problems all trace back to a proper understanding of the effects of original sin: the loss of perfect dominion over our appetites and passions, a will and an intellect not fully in charge.

**And this is something the priest has been taught about…the nature and progression of sin, the effects of sin on the integrality of faculties of person, etc. Deep and good stuff. **

All married problems - all human problems - are traceable and understandable through the lens of human nature and its limits and tendencies.


It’s a really dicey business giving advice to people who are in the middle of experiences we haven’t had. Sometimes it’s necessary (like with a cardiologist), but support groups of people with similar experiences are a vital resource. Either one or the other isn’t good enough.

I think dealing with children with disability is a pretty good example of something you can hear about, but not really understand unless you’ve done it, and different disabilities are quite different. It can be a very, very lonely thing to have a child with a disability, because other people (even those who love us) simply do not understand the experience or what the demands involved are.


So, I could get a reasonable facsimile of your combat experience by playing enough Call of Duty?

How about a married therapist?


I get the distinct impression that your own experience of marriage, your own or that of your parents, weighs heavily on the immense negativity you seem to attach to it. Is that why you glorify the one class of people in the church who do not marry as somehow superior? After so many negative comments about married people, it’s a logical question to ask.


I suspect that a lot of happily married people barely talk at all about their marriages in confession.

So there’s a selection problem, in that priests see disproportionately more unhappy married people and don’t necessarily know a lot about the mechanics of how to have a peaceful, harmonious home.

There’s a lot of know-how to marriage that is more a skill, rather than having to do with vice or virtue. Not that virtue is unnecessary, but the know-how is just as important.


Wow! So, Our Blessed Lord cannot have empathy with married couples because ‘he has not shared in their experience’? :thinking:


Being the second person of the Holy Trinity is helpful here.


Some experiences are similar; some are not.

It takes a supple and lively mind to dig into the experience, to understand what virtues are tested by that experience or event, what human faculties are called upon in situation X and compare it (dispassionately, not with self-pitying justification) to another experience.

What are the virtues?

Let’s list the cardinals ones: prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude.

Of course under the cardinal virtues are many others, and this is where the harder work suggested above would be done by someone with the intelligence to do it.

Just an abbreviated list.

Respect for others
Studiosity (curiosity is the vice).


This is the sort of abstraction I was unwilling to make earlier. I don’t think this is a good mode of dialogue, even in obvious jest, and even when others break the 8th commandment against us. It just leads to folks belittling the experiences of others, for whatever pitiable or malicious reasons. Let them burn their strawmen; don’t add to the bonfire. Engage with Truth, instead.


And, so is sharing in the ministerial priesthood of the second Person of the Holy Trinity! The Eternal High Priest acts through, with, and in the ministerial priest; to say that the ministerial priest cannot have empathy with married couples is to say Our High Priest cannot!


I guarantee that a celibate priest has more knowledge and capability of empathizing with married couples than any married couples themselves. A celibate bishop wrote more on marriage that made it into Holy Scripture than any married patriarch, prophet, Apostle, etc. What was his name…? Oh, yeah, Saint Paul!



What I’m trying to get across to Edward_H is that just as I don’t have any analogous experiences to his military duty, priests don’t necessarily have analogous experience to married life, the amicably married don’t necessarily have analogous experience to people in abusive marriages, and people with healthy children don’t necessarily have analogous experiences to NICU families or families with autistic or otherwise seriously disabled children.

I think I’d also add that believing that believing that one has analogous experience is likely to be the product of lack of self-awareness, empathy, wisdom, etc.

A sensible person will understand fairly quickly, “I don’t have that experience or anything like it,” rather than trying to demonstrate that they have it.


BREAK BREAK Lima Six. You’ve completely missed the target. Standby for adjustment.

Marriage is grand, is spectacular, is as close to heaven on earth as I will get. It takes all of me, all of my bride of 30 plus years, every day.

The happy Cross of self-gift is NEVER far. It takes great love, constant self denial, and the happier and more eager the self gift the more joy one gets out of marriage.


Hopefully he can–but it’s not guaranteed.

That’s a pretty sweeping statement–that every single priest is better at empathy than every single married couple.

I don’t think it’s that hard when it’s going well–at least not in my experience.


Priests are married to the Church in a more intimate and radical way than non-priests!


Why must “empathy” be the criterion?

That’s secular psych speaking.

Presenting the truth to people in an effective way is the criterion. Bringing people to the truth is the end goal.


Except, I did not say that! I said he has the ‘capability’ - I did not say ‘that every single priest is better at empathy’; that is putting words into my mouth that were never there.


I think you are saying that true empathy is, to some extent, impossible. No one ever truly has the same experiences as anyone else.


A day that one hasn’t mortified oneself happily for one’s bride is a day lived with less love.

“No routine kisses” is some advice that I once got from…wait for it…

a priest of Opus Dei!


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