Non-celebate clergy/ Priests and Deacons


I ran across a really good article on married clergy in the Latin Rite. I thought it was worth sharing.

Marriage and the Priesthood: a Match Made in Heaven?

**March 1, 2013 AD **

**Sean Connolly **

It was recently my distinct displeasure to be roped into a debate about whether, under Canon Law, married deacons in the Latin Rite have an obligation to observe “perfect and perpetual continence.” Those arguing in favour of the obligation were remarkably passionate. One young lady even went so far as to say that she and her husband avoided liturgies officiated (she might have said “polluted”) by married clergy. They were also tenacious. No curial statement or pontifically sanctioned norms of formation could make them shut up, nor did brotherly love seem to urge them to adopt prudent cease-fire (or even to lighten their tone) in the interest of preserving the emotional health of the deacons and their wives that were involved in the discussion, the most intimate aspect of whose lives was being made the subject of a prolonged and often vicious public scrutiny.
The persistence with which many of these people pressed the issue leads me to think that their interest in the matter is hardly academic. This particular point of Canon Law instead seems to have presented them with an opportunity to attack and, in the right academic circles, attempt to destroy an institution which they view with disdain, a sexually active married clergy in the West.
Why such aversion?
Most people enjoy sex, but most people do not respect it. They view it as a guilty pleasure, even when it is legitimate. The primary end of marriage becomes for them a kind of constant reminder of their own imperfection. That they desire sex for something more than the propagation of the human race, and that they enjoy more about it than the pleasant hopes it conjures of little voices round about the hearth, bothers them. As a cure for concupiscence it is tolerable: as an expression of love it is unthinkable.
When they consider the possibility of a married clergy, then, they have to view it as a kind of concession to human weakness. Clergy should, as leaders of the community, be of exceeding holiness. As such, they reason, they should be able to refrain from such base things as sexual relations.
In the considerations that follow, I will deny neither the objective superiority of celibacy to marriage, nor the benefits of the discipline of mandatory celibacy. Nevertheless, I hope to explode all of those poisonous attitudes that colour the whole discussion of married clergy.
It helps me to retain a balanced outlook on life if I remember that every state in life is subject to abuse. Each state has its own peculiar pleasures and benefits that can be sought inordinately and enjoyed to sinful excess. Carthusians make a particular point of ensuring that the candidate is not embracing a life of austerity in the Charterhouse simply to avoid the cares and responsibilities of the world. St. Gregory the Great’s Life of St. Benedict provides countless illustrations of the extent to which monastic life in common can be perverted into a horrible caricature: at one point the monks attempt to murder the Saint for trying to shape them up.



I am a cradle Catholic and never encountered a married priest until about 13 years ago. Our parish was assigned a married priest who had converted from the Methodist faith and was given a special dispensation by Pope John Paul II. At first I was wary of him. I must say now that this priest is among the finest priests I have ever encountered. He has the devotion of a convert while being able to understand the role of husband and father. His administration of the Eucharist and other Sacraments lent to their holiness. There was a tragic incident where he had to give Last Rites to his own son. His emphasis and implementation of faith formation for children and adults was remarkable and outstanding. Our parish grew and grew and grew. By the way, his wife stays out of the picture and has no authority. She is just another member of the congregation.

Also among my favorite clergy are some married Deacons. They were used in the role of teacher in preparing families for Baptism and Confirmation.

Yes, Jesus was celebate. Yes, the priest is in the place of Jesus. I believe there are many good, holy men who happen to be married, that could serve our church in the role of priests or deacons just as the original married apostles served the church.


The “Peters argument” for diaconal continence was discussed here in great detail recently. It is unclear why he is so much more passionate than Rome on this matter. I read the responses on the link provided, and it is difficult to escape the sense that lurking beneath many of the statements is some sense that licit marital relations netween a deacon and his wife are both unseemly and in some sense polluting - thus the suggestion by one individual that continence from marital relations be exercised for 24 hours before a deacon exercised any of his diaconal authority.

This would seem to be both unworkable and insulting to the marital bond and relationship. So the vagaries of a parish schedule are to govern the intimate life of a deacon and his wife? “Sorry, hon, not tonight – I have a wake service tomorrow.” “Sorry - just got a call and have to substitute preach this weekend.”

While Rome may have its many Canons, I have frequently seen it opined that Americans are the truly legalistic ones.


I have never met a married priest, but it was a married deacon and his wife who helped me back into the Catholic Church when I came back briefly in 2011. I had never met a deacon before. He and his wife listened to me and helped me feel at ease.


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