Of 'viri probati' to alleviate the shortage of priests

The bishops’ conference of Brazil has formed a commission to study the possibility of ordaining married men as priests. The Google Translate version is here and the original French here.

PrayTell reports that 90% of all communities in the Amazon have no Sunday celebration of Mass. 70% have Mass two or three times a year. Kräutler’s diocese [Xinglu] has 800 communities and 27 priests.

Some issues that have to be considered when ordaining married men with families.

  1. Will these men be able to retain their secular employment to provide for their family?
    2.Will the extreme shortage of priests force these newly ordained into excess work that separates them from their families for certain length of time
    3.If these married men are unable to retain their current secular jobs then who is to support their family?
    4,Does the wife work outside the home and would this be sufficient to support them
    5.Should the local diocese provide them with a salary adequate to support the family

:hmmm: In England we have married Anglican priests that have converted, is this the same?


The married Anglican priests who were later ordained as Catholic priests were married before they became Catholic. They were clerics in their own tradition first.

The Brazilian bishops are talking about ordaining married men as Roman Catholic priests. This would be akin to the married men who are ordained as deacons, except in this case they would be ordained as priests.

One thing I’m not sure of from the very short article is whether they would be full-time priests, or would basically be sacramental ministers who had other jobs as well.

It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Oh I see.

Oh, the conundrums this will present. Books have been written of the difficulties of clerical marriages. A biggie is availability and the conflict of a married man obligated to meet the immediate needs of family vs the celibate priest sacrificially and wholeheartedly committed to God.

And then there is that special character of Holy Orders, the sacerdotal dignity……reserved not for all, but for those specially and mystically committed to a unique way of life.

I find the entire concept a dilution of something very divine and very special.

That’s nice in theory, but how do you reconcile the desire for celibate priests on the one hand, with the reality that we are talking about an area where 70% of the Amazon communities have Mass two or three times a year.

Here we’re so spoiled with the idea that “I don’t like the music at St. A’s so I’ll start going down the street to St. B’s instead.” How hard would it be to maintain your Christian faith at all – or to avoid getting drawn away to a Protestant community – when you can receive the sacraments only twice a year?

If you were a bishop with this problem, what other solutions do you see?

One thing I wonder is how many deacons they have and whether the deacons could bridge this sacramental gap. A regular Sunday communion service might not be ideal, but would be something. Deacons could also baptize and officiate at marriages.

I hope that you don’t mean our Eastern brothers, married priests, have less “sacerdotal dignity” than Latin rite priests, or for that matter, married Latin rite priests who came to us from Anglicanism.

And I believe the permanent diaconate provides a valuable model as to how many of the seeming conflicts between the married state and serving as a married priest can be worked out.

Take off your blinders friends. We’ve had married priests as the norm for parishes for longer than the Curia has been in existence. I promise, the world won’t end. :wink:

I’ve never been a fan of priestly marriage because of the possibility of a priestly caste forming separate from regular people and inheriting their position. Events like the french revolution and animosity towards Catholics would have been much greater if priestly marriage was allowed from the start. Times are different now and other church allow it but I still feel it could lead down some dangerous path in future.

First of all, Orders aren’t inherited, and benefices have gone the way of the dodo, so I really don’t understand the inheritance issue. And I would argue that it is the current system that if anything has established in effect a “priestly caste” “separate from regular people;” read anything about clericalism. A married clergy resident in the community and not isolated in a rectory, living a work/life/ministry/family balance far more resembles “regular people” than does the current arrangement in the West. I wouldn’t say that Protestant clergy, who live in this model, in any way have become a “ministerial caste.” And the whole idea of viri probati as I understand it is that such men would supplement traditional celibate Latin Rite clergy, not become the norm.

While married priests would not be the end of the world… obviously, I think it just masks very serious issues in most parishes:

  • Catholic teaching is not taken seriously enough, and so the sanctity of the Priesthood.
  • From my experience, there is a lack of strong and masculine role models in the Priesthood, leading to a dearth of males interested in going to Church compared to women.
  • Vocations are not pushed hard enough in Parishes.
  • Lack of belief in the Real Prescence

It’s no coincidence the Parishes who take the Church and her teachings the most seriously see the most vocations.

There are also strong barriers in conjugal relations for priests before the Holy Sacrifice.

I know an Orthodox priest who used to work in our company’s software testing dept.

Interestingly enough, he kept a stole in his desk, and was known to hear confessions if asked.

His parish was rather small, about 60 families, so it meant there were few duties during the week. It also meant that his parish was too small to financially support his family ( 6 kids)

So he worked during the week.

**A married clergy would create a larger pool of healthy priestly candidates, solving the current priest shortage. **
There are actually plenty of vocations today in faithful dioceses: Denver, Northern Virginia, and Lincoln, Nebraska, have great numbers of men entering the priesthood. If other dioceses, such as Milwaukee, want to answer the question of why they have so few vocations, the answer is simple: Challenge young men to a religious life that is demanding, countercultural, sacrificial, and loyal to the Holy Father and Catholic teaching. This is the surest way to guarantee a greater number of vocations.


In our diocese, we have a shortage of priests as well. Our bishop emeritus went to Africa to get them. They were available and they came. Some only come during the summer months to help fill in with vacations. No matter the geography, the above would hold true.

One thing I wonder is how many deacons they have and whether the deacons could bridge this sacramental gap. A regular Sunday communion service might not be ideal, but would be something.

Yes and no…the Mass can never be substituted for something else.

You must have missed my words “……reserved not for all, but for those specially and mystically committed to a unique way of life.”

or for that matter, married Latin rite priests who came to us from Anglicanism.

I’m quite familiar with the picture of a newly ordained Catholic priest offering Mass while his wife and 5 children sit in the front pew. Happened regularly in a former parish.

I just believe and the Church strongly affirms the benefits of celibate life. I will, however, not be in the least surprised if this discipline, like countless others before it, becomes null and void. Love this article:

Priestly Celibacy: An Absolute Necessity

This is the context within which yesterday’s radicals continue to rail against the unnatural, oppressive and out-of-touch nature of the celibate Catholic priesthood. They want priests to be natural, not supernatural. They want priests to be having sex just like the rest of us. What’s interesting is their critique has zero purchase among those living in the current chapter of the sexual revolution. Like so many online seductions, sex has become breathtakingly banal.

One or two might have come from Lutheranism as well.

That is a particularly “Roman Catholic” attitude.

The Catholic Church (not the “Roman Catholic Church”) has had married clergy since the time of Christ, right up to today. They are know as Eastern Rite Catholic Churches; and “dilution” is rather a disillusion.

It is also an illusion that all priests are “specifically and wholeheartedly committed to God” if that context presumes that they are focused on liturgy, sacraments, and the parish 24/7 & etc. only. There are numerous priests who teach, some are lawyers (and not Canon lawyers, but civil lawyers); doctors, and etc.

The special character of Holy Orders, the sacerdotal dignity - reserved for not all, but for those specifically and mystically committed to a unique way of life is in no way denigrated by being married (which, last time I checked, was also a sacrament), as the Eastern Rite Churches have shown the world (but apparently not a lot of Roman Catholics) since the time of Christ.

And that is in no way meant as a denigration of those who are called to celibacy. Including those who are called to celibacy but are not ordained, which includes professed brothers, and men who live a civilian life of celibacy.

It is not an “either/or”; it is a “both/and”.

More than one or two; and also from Methodists, and our archdiocese had one who had been a Presbyterian minister (ordained by then Archbishop, now Cardinal Levada).

That is hilarious, given the fact that the whole system is set up differently now in terms of preparation for ordination, and property laws within the Church have also changed. It has been a few centuries since this was an issue - like about ten or more.

So am I to take it that you are implying that Brazil as a whole is not faithful, because they have such a radical shortage of priests?

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