Question on ordination and marriage


#1

This is a tricky question to ask clearly. Let me be as precise as possible, and PLEASE read it carefully before offering your opinion. I've tried asking people this before and inevitably I get an answer to a different question. Thanks.

Since married men CAN be ordained to Holy Orders, why is it impossible for such a man to marry again after ordination if his wife pre-deceases him?

I know that it is not allowed. I'm not asking about that. I'm asking about the underlying reason. Specifically, I'm wondering what the difference between the pre-existing marriage that was done before ordination and one after ordination. There must be a difference, since one is allowed and one is not.

I'm not asking about why priests can't be married, I understand what a vow of chastity made by an unmarried man means. I'm only asking about men who were already married when ordained, the specific reason they cannot marry again if their spouse dies.

Thanks very much for your replies.


#2

[quote="Burdensome1, post:1, topic:304883"]
Since married men CAN be ordained to Holy Orders, why is it impossible for such a man to marry again after ordination if his wife pre-deceases him?

[/quote]

Hi, Burdensome!

First off, it's not 'impossible', per se. There is an exception that would allow a widower permanent deacon to marry again -- but, it would have to be an exceptional case (that is, there would be a need both on the part of the deacon (e.g., he has young child(ren) who need a mother) and on the part of the Church (who needs that deacon to continue in ministry).

That being said, we have to look at what a deacon is promising at the time of his ordination. If he is unmarried, he is asked to promise celibacy -- that is, he promises not to get married. If he is married, he cannot be asked to 'undo' his sacramental marriage. However, if his marriage terminates natually (i.e., by the death of his wife), he is held to the same standard that any (unmarried) man is held to at the time of his ordination: no marriage following ordination.

So, it's more that the ordination of married men to the permanent diaconate is something that cannot break the sacramental bond of marriage, than it is that a widower deacon is not permitted to remarry. Does that make sense?

Specifically, I'm wondering what the difference between the pre-existing marriage that was done before ordination and one after ordination. There must be a difference, since one is allowed and one is not.

The difference is that the pre-existing marriage is both valid and pre-existing! Once entering the clerical state, however, a man cannot marry. A widower falls under that circumstance: he cannot marry (again) as a single man who is in the clerical state.


#3

I am a permanent deacon and at the time of my ordination (Dec 18, 1977) I accepted an oath of celibacy. This is a requirement for all Latin Rite ordinations either to the priesthood or to the diaconate.


#4

Hmm. Were you married at the time of your ordination? If so, then you didn’t make a promise of celibacy. :wink:


#5

[quote="Burdensome1, post:1, topic:304883"]
This is a tricky question to ask clearly. Let me be as precise as possible, and PLEASE read it carefully before offering your opinion. I've tried asking people this before and inevitably I get an answer to a different question. Thanks.

Since married men CAN be ordained to Holy Orders, why is it impossible for such a man to marry again after ordination if his wife pre-deceases him?

*I know that it is not allowed.... *

Thanks very much for your replies.

[/quote]

That is precisely why; marriage after ordination is against Canon Law (Church Law).

It is not technically impossible; a priest could be laiticized (defrocked), and his vow of celibacy (remain unmarried) could be dispensed, allowing him to remarry. Such drastic steps are rare though.


#6

[quote="Gorgias, post:4, topic:304883"]
Hmm. Were you married at the time of your ordination? If so, then you didn't make a promise of celibacy. ;)

[/quote]

They make a vow to remain celibate should their spouse predecease them.


#7

If a married priest or deacon has a wife who dies, the man is now single. Single men are not allowed to marry after ordination.


#8

The reason why a ordained man cannot marry after ordination is simply because the Church has chosen it to be that way. Since this is not divine law, it can be dispensed, and has in a limited number of cases.


#9

It is a discipline of the Catholic church and the Orthodox Church as well.


#10

I have this argument often with a friend who is an agnostic. He thinks it is every man's right to have sex, and cannot understand how a man could give up this right.

He cannot see that by denying themselves a wife and family, priests are freeing themselves to be in God's service 24/7, unencumbered by property, and family obligations and worries. Just look at the time that married clergy in other denominations put into their parish work, and the trouble that causes with wives and children feeling neglected. An unmarried priest is available to be sent anywhere in the world at an hour's notice. Try doing that with a married man!


#11

[quote="runningdude, post:6, topic:304883"]
They make a vow to remain celibate should their spouse predecease them.

[/quote]

Hmm... I don't recall this. As I recall (from the most recent ordination of deacons that I attended), the single men had one additional promise that the married men did not make. I do not recall a promise being made by the married men that the single men did not make.

In other words, as you mentioned, it's a juridical issue -- it is a matter of Church law, not a matter of the promises made at ordination. (However, as I don't have the ritual sitting in front of me, I can't quote for you the part where the ordinands make their promises...)


#12

That is precisely why; marriage after ordination is against Canon Law (Church Law).

Yes, thank you, as noted I am aware of that fact, I was asking about the underlying theological reason for this legal fact.

It is a discipline of the Catholic church and the Orthodox Church as well.

Yes, thanks for that, I know. I was asking about the theological reasoning behind the discipline.

If a married priest or deacon has a wife who dies, the man is now single. Single men are not allowed to marry after ordination.

Yes, thanks for pointing that out, I'm aware it is not allowed. I was asking about the theology underpinning this fact.

The reason why a ordained man cannot marry after ordination is simply because the Church has chosen it to be that way.

Thanks, I appreciate the response. Are you certain there is no theological reason at all? That's what I'm asking about.

An unmarried priest is available to be sent anywhere in the world at an hour's notice. Try doing that with a married man!

Yes, this is a good and well-known argument for priestly celibacy. However, I'm not sure this answers my question....if it did, wouldn't it simply be a reason not to admit married men to ordination at all?

They make a vow to remain celibate should their spouse predecease them.

Thanks, I'm aware that this is the current practice in the Roman Church...although as noted by some other posters here (and at least in our diocese) married men do not respond to this question by the Bishop during the ordination of deacons and so don't technically take this vow. However, their vow of obedience would suffice since since this is current practice everywhere.

However, if his marriage terminates natually (i.e., by the death of his wife), he is held to the same standard that any (unmarried) man is held to at the time of his ordination: no marriage following ordination.

Thanks for the reply. Yes he is. I am wondering why this is true.


As I noted in the OP, I have attempted to ask this before in other venues. I have never been able to get it phrased correctly to help people to work on the question I really have in mind. I'll try once more.

The disciplines of the Catholic Church usually have reasons behind them. I'm looking for this discipline's reason. It would seem that in the judgement of the Church, a man being married does not reduce his chance of success as a deacon, since so many married men are ordained deacons in many nations. If marriage is a good, and it does not interfere with the discharge of duties of a deacon, then what possible reason for preventing another marriage could there be?

Maybe there is none, I am aware that this is a possibility. If there is none, I would be interested to know that.

Thanks to everyone who responded.


#13

Hmm... were I you, then, I would go to the relevant Church documents that discuss Holy Orders (generally, though, they're discussing the priesthood) and read up on what they say about the value of celibacy. After all, you're just looking for the theological discussion of celibacy, right?

I would start with Sacerdotalis cealibatus . JPII's Pastores Dabo Vobis might also be a good resource. I believe that Presbyterorum ordinis speaks to it, too, but I'm not certain.

I don't know for sure, but I would guess that discussions on consecrated life would mention celibacy; Vita consecrata mentions it briefly, if memory serves.

Happy reading! ;)

(Edited to add: you didn't ask for a historical treatment of the question, but in case you're interested, The Biblical Foundation of Priestly Celibacy might be an interesting read...


#14

No..I'm not looking for a discussion of celibacy. I've read the Fr. Cochini book and the Cardinal Stickler book. Both fascinating. Both answer many questions. Neither addresses the question at hand, which is:

Why is a second marriage forbidden by law when a first was not? or, restated "Why is marriage made impossible after ordination for a man who did not promise actual celibacy or perfect chastity in ordination?". (we are certain these were not promised because these men continue to have sexual relations with their wives after ordination, as is common practice in the reformed permanent Diaconate).

The responses so far, vastly simplified:

1.Just Because
2.Marriage is not conducive to the discharge of duties

1 is not actually an answer, and #2 is an answer to a different question.

Thanks to all who are participating, I apologize for my inenptness in articulation.


#15

[quote="Gorgias, post:11, topic:304883"]
Hmm... I don't recall this. As I recall (from the most recent ordination of deacons that I attended), the single men had one additional promise that the married men did not make. I do not recall a promise being made by the married men that the single men did not make.

In other words, as you mentioned, it's a juridical issue -- it is a matter of Church law, not a matter of the promises made at ordination. (However, as I don't have the ritual sitting in front of me, I can't quote for you the part where the ordinands make their promises...)

[/quote]

If its not innumerated separately, then I'd image its implied. Falco's explanation I think hits the nail:

[quote="Falco, post:7, topic:304883"]
If a married priest or deacon has a wife who dies, the man is now single. Single men are not allowed to marry after ordination.

[emphasis added]

[/quote]


#16

(However, as I don’t have the ritual sitting in front of me, I can’t quote for you the part where the ordinands make their promises…)

I’m not sure there is perfect commonality of practice, at least in the USA, I can only comment on my diocese…but in any case, regardless of the words said, we can be quite sure that a man who intends to continue having sex with his wife is not promising (let’s get technical) perfect continence…nor can a currently married man promise “celibacy” in anything but a potential future form, although that begs the question of what a vow is if not perpetual.

Anyway, that’s not the question…they question is why the Church binds men to this practice (regardless of exactly how and to what degree they are being bound).

IF being married is not a detriment to the discharge of duties nor an impediment to ordination, why not let deacons be married again if their spouse dies?


#17

[quote="Burdensome1, post:16, topic:304883"]
I'm not sure there is perfect commonality of practice, at least in the USA, I can only comment on my diocese.

[/quote]

:bigyikes: Umm... one hopes that Holy Orders is one of those things that are part of the "commonality of practice"...!!!

...but in any case, regardless of the words said, we can be quite sure that a man who intends to continue having sex with his wife is not promising (let's get technical) perfect continence.

Different issue: 'celibacy' is about marriage; 'chastity' is about appropriate behavior in one's state of life. We're not talking about having sex, here... ;)

...nor can a currently married man promise "celibacy" in anything but a potential future form, although that begs the question of what a vow is if not perpetual.

:hmmm: I'm not sure what you're getting at -- a married man cannot promise celibacy: he's already not celibate!

Anyway, that's not the question...they question is why the Church binds men to this practice (regardless of exactly how and to what degree they are being bound).

In another thread, I pointed a poster to Sacerdotalis Caelibatus. I think you'll find answers to the question 'why?' in there... ;)

IF being married is not a detriment to the discharge of duties nor an impediment to ordination, why not let deacons be married again if their spouse dies?

Keep in mind that a big part of discernment and formation for the permanent diaconate involves the participation of a man's wife. In my diocese, at least, she must be fully on board and supportive, to the point that, if at any point, she says "no", the man leaves the formation program. Therefore, at the very least, you'd have to have a period of discernment and formation for the fiancee of a deacon. (Not saying that it's possible; just bringing up this consideration.)

Also, keep in mind that a solid, faithful, time-proven marriage is part of what's examined for married men discerning the diaconate. In other words, the diocese will want to know that your marriage can handle the stresses of ordained life, prior to presenting you as a candidate. A new marriage isn't the most prudent place in which to practice ministry...


#18

Also, keep in mind that a solid, faithful, time-proven marriage is part of what's examined for married men discerning the diaconate. In other words, the diocese will want to know that your marriage can handle the stresses of ordained life, prior to presenting you as a candidate. A new marriage isn't the most prudent place in which to practice ministry...

This is an attempted answer. Thank you. It does not contain any "yes/no" type of reasons, but more prudence considerations. They may be entirely valid, although they definitely point to a an intense period of engagement, not a ban on marriage.

Umm... one hopes that Holy Orders is one of those things that are part of the "commonality of practice"...!!!

Well, feel free to research the matter. Some diocese do perform ordinations of both transitional and permanent deacons at the same ceremony. The instruction given to the married men as to what do to do when the question of celibacy is posed to the candidates appears to vary, based upon internet anecdotes. That's why I said I can't rely on one common practice in this matter. I think the weird smiley you used indicates that we're not understanding each other.

And, yes, "celibacy", "chastity" and "continence" are distinct, but sometimes overlapping. Chastity for an unmarried ordained man includes continence and presupposes celibacy.


#19

[quote="Burdensome1, post:18, topic:304883"]
Well, feel free to research the matter. Some diocese do perform ordinations of both transitional and permanent deacons at the same ceremony.

[/quote]

Erm, no. I'm giving you my first-person experience, based on an ordination of transitional and permanent deacons in my diocese a few years back. With the exception of one question (i.e., promise), everyone answered. The other question was directed only at the single men (NB: this means transitional and (unmarried) permanent deacons) -- and it was the promise of celibacy.

The instruction given to the married men as to what do to do when the question of celibacy is posed to the candidates appears to vary, based upon internet anecdotes.

As part of the ritual? I've never seen anything that's part of the rite of ordination of deacons that refers to this. Unless you have seen such a thing, I think it's safe to relegate it to the realm of hearsay or FOAF stories... :shrug:


#20

[quote="Burdensome1, post:1, topic:304883"]
This is a tricky question to ask clearly. Let me be as precise as possible, and PLEASE read it carefully before offering your opinion. I've tried asking people this before and inevitably I get an answer to a different question. Thanks.

Since married men CAN be ordained to Holy Orders, why is it impossible for such a man to marry again after ordination if his wife pre-deceases him?

I know that it is not allowed. I'm not asking about that. I'm asking about the underlying reason. Specifically, I'm wondering what the difference between the pre-existing marriage that was done before ordination and one after ordination. There must be a difference, since one is allowed and one is not.

I'm not asking about why priests can't be married, I understand what a vow of chastity made by an unmarried man means. I'm only asking about men who were already married when ordained, the specific reason they cannot marry again if their spouse dies.

Thanks very much for your replies.

[/quote]

1 Timothy 3
[1] A faithful saying: if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. [2] It behoveth therefore a bishop to be blameless, the husband of one wife, sober, prudent, of good behaviour, chaste, given to hospitality, a teacher, [3] Not given to wine, no striker, but modest, not quarrelsome, not covetous, but [4] One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all chastity. [5] But if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God? [2] Of one wife: The meaning is not that every bishop should have a wife (for St. Paul himself had none), but that no one should be admitted to the holy orders of bishop, priest, or deacon, who had been married more than once.
[12] Let deacons be the husbands of one wife: who rule well their children, and their own houses. [13] For they that have ministered well, shall purchase to themselves a good degree, and much confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Also, consider that in the ancient diaconate one may be married at ordination. Ideally, continence is practiced so conjugal relations are abandoned at ordination.


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