Time for married priests

For years I’ve defended clergical celibacy.

I spent a good many years celibate myself and I know that there are times it’s difficult, but it’s not at all impossible for a healthy adult male to be celibate. At least it wasn’t so horrible, etc., for me.

But reading on the recent Munich boys choir, and the ongoing, ongoing, ongoing----neverending ongoing—story about priestly sexual abuse----well, I’m starting to wonder if married priests aren’t such a bad idea.

NOTE: teachers and social workers are more likely than technical fields to have sexual predators. More and more, we’re uncovering cases of female teachers abusing boys. . . something I think the previous generations hadn’t much considered possible.

NOTE: it’s good to weed out persons with sexual difficulties/confusion prior to ordination. It’s good to see this happening.

NOTE: in the past, the best science on this subject, suggested that sexual predators could be retrained, “reformed,” and we should not condemn officials who acted in good faith upon the most recent scientific beliefs.

NOTE: in the past, what is now considered abuse was considered discipline and punishment. If you’re over the age of 50, you know much of what I mean. Things changed in the 1980s.

While the idea of married priests has many dimensions, I’m not convinced it would solve the specific problem of sexual abuse you are mentioning. There have been many married men, including married Protestant ministers, who have committed sexual abuse. Jerry Sandusky was married for years. The wives often seem to turn a blind eye to what is going on or in the worst case are complicit in covering up for their husbands.

The question has been posed at multiple synods (“viri probati”) and none yet have answered in the affirmative. The Church has indicated the question will remain open but it doesn’t seem a change that She believes is currently needed. :shrug:

as someone called to the Priesthood, i may be a bit partisan.

i do not think that celibacy has caused sexual perversions in the Priesthood.

if you were to get a statistic about the % of perverts in the general population and the % of perverts in the Priesthood, i would bet that the % is still much higher in the general population.

so i do not think that celibacy is necessarily the cause of any perversions. rather, it is human sinfulness that causes these things - and all people, whether Priest or layman, are prone to such things.

THAT BEING SAID, i would love for the Church to change this teaching. as much as I want to be married, I want to be a Priest even more. but yet, this means I have to sacrifice ever having a woman to make love to, to come home to, to pray with, to eat with, to spend life with. and the only reason this sacrifice does not crush me is because i know that Christ gives grace to bring a far greater joy than anything marriage could ever produce. and so i am willing to make the sacrifice, knowing that the rewards, both in this life and the next, far exceed any momentary suffering.

THAT BEING SAID, i would still prefer the Church to change this teaching and allow for Priests to be married. I understand the benefits of celibacy, but there are also benefits to married clergy as well. empathy and wisdom in the confessional for those going through marital troubles is one big benefit that married clergy have an advantage over celibate clergy.

OP, how would a priest being married help? How would the vocation to marriage make a difference or prevent the abuse of children?

Whenever someone talks about married men being allowed to become priests my first question is, “Where are all the vocations to the diaconate?” Either few men are called to this vocation or few are answering that call. I’d like to see more deacons or at least Catholics understanding the commitment that deacons and their wives (I’m referring about candidates and deacons who are married) make during their formation and after. The formation to the priesthood is even more rigorous and I’m not convinced that whole families and dioceses would be on board with that level of commitment.

I will start by saying that I’m not completely opposed to the idea of married priests in the Latin Church. I’ve always thought that allowing married men who meet very specific criteria (i.e. at least ten years as deacon, graduate degree in theology or canon law, permission and full support of wife, etc…) could possibly be ordained and serve in some kind of “auxiliary” capacity to assist pastors, though such men would be ineligible to serve as pastors themselves. These priests, while retaining their own employment, could be available to offer at least one Mass for each Sunday and holy day, and to hear confessions for one or two hours each week. They could of course also assist with other sacraments with permission of their pastor, and perhaps also serve as part-time chaplains at hospitals, schools and other organizations. I’m not holding my breath or saying that this should definitely happen, but I’m not opposed to it.

That said, ordaining married men is not a solution to sexual abuses. Unless you’re trying to say that single men are all closet pedophiles (which I don’t believe you are), then whether a man is married or celibate will have no bearing on how he views young boys sexually. A mentally healthy, moral man will not abuse anyone, no matter how sexually repressed he may feel. The true solution must include more intense psychological screenings to weed out those who are mentally unsuitable for the priesthood, and greater and more transparent cooperation with the authorities (short of violating the seal of confession) to remove and punish offenders, both for the sake of justice and to deter future offenses.

I agree with this post.

Also, I would like to point out that with homosexuality being more “accepted” in today’s secular society, active homosexual men are less likely to join the priesthood as a way to hide their sexual identity.

Pedophiles on the other hand are married or single. Changing this because of pedophiles is not going to make a difference. And changing it because of the number of active homosexuals in the priesthood is not really the answer because active homosexuals no longer really have reason to hide in the priesthood.

God Bless

The solution is better screening during the discernment and admitting process TO the priesthood.

The sexual abuse scandals are not the result of men being forced to give up sex; its the result of men who have temptations to very dark sin, and who are put in a place of authority that allows them the opportunity to commit these horrible crimes.

Many married men go through periods in their marriage where they are not able to have sex for one reason or another, and yet they never once consider child molestation to be an alternative “because they weren’t able to have sex”. Similarly, we still find fathers and uncles who ARE married and STILL commit crimes like this.

It seems to me that the state of marriage or non-marriage in these situations is not applicable. What we are seeing is the result of sin and other possible behavioral/psychological issues.

Pray for our priests.

While I agree on the discussion to be open to married priests, I don’t see the logic of how marriage prevents abuse. Someone put it to me this way: watch the news and the next time you see someone arrested for child sexual abuse, turn to your significant other and say, “I think we should set that person up with your sister.”


Sorry, I know this is a serious issue but the looks I can imagine getting are just killing me!

Better screening is occurring:



Married priests will solve nothing.


I also think that some pedophiles went into the priesthood because they thought the grace to help with celibacy would protect them from the sexual attraction to children. There might have been a subconscious thought about access but their was a desire at the forefront to have all sexuality suppressed and the grace of celibacy should fix them.

Celibacy does not cause sexual disorders. Marriage does not cure sexual disorders.

Married priests are not the solution.

plus, I think having married priests would actually just create a false sense of security regarding this issue.

There **may **be reasons to open up the priesthood to married men, but sexual abuse is not one of them.

While this canard has been used for decades by those opposed to celibacy, and while even one instance of sexual abuse is too many, the fact is that more such misconduct occurs in other areas of adults spending time with kids, where celibacy is not even an issue.


Thanks for the thoughtful posts.

Perhaps in our times, we’re more willing to talk about sex and disorders and more able to perceive the damage done by sexual abuse.

In my time, as a boy I heard jokes about “Chester the Molester” and such, and felt able to protect myself from sexually predatory males. The whole concern was protecting females; the predation upon males was a joke topic, and certainly any robust boy could push away the flamers and pansies.

Being a former Anglican I have experience in parishes with married Priests and am not opposed to the concept, but I don’t think married Priests will solve the problem. Many reasons have already been mentioned. Additionally:

If the Church decides to go in that direction though, it would not be a quick transition. Nor would it be seamless. As the practice is to remain in the state of chastity in which one was ordained, many men would delay their vocations until they could marry, but then going to seminary with a young family isn’t all that practical. The Church already suggests married Deacons wait until the family is well along before entering formation.

Then you would see the problems all families face such as infidelity, divorce, drug usage by children, drunk driving arrests, etc. Not to mention the underlying but real tension of salary discrepancy needed by married Priests vs celibate Priests.

A salary several times larger than a Diocesan Priest, and increases for each child. Mortgage payments, increased insurance, retirement plans, etc…

Could you imagine a Priest who has been at service of the Church for 30 years earning a salary of maybe $30,000 a year and in charge of a parish paying his new assistant with 6 children $90,000 - $120,000 plus benefits? From a practical standpoint it would understandably cause some tension.

If not willing to pay, you wouldn’t get the married men…

So, while it is often suggested as a solution, it would realistically take several generations to be implemented to a degree that would make a difference.

Well stated.

As a woman, I want to point out the obvious, because it’s pretty darn offensive and disgusting to me.

The whole premise here is that men abuse children because they don’t have any other sexual outlet.

“Oh, if ONLY he had a wife he could have had sex with instead, none of this would have happened!”

Guess what? Women aren’t sexual outlets for men to use.

As someone who has worked full time in the area of sex abuse of children, I have seen no evidence of a connection with celibacy or inability to marry.

Regarding married priests, I am more cautious than I would have been a few decades ago. The problem is that the institution of Catholic marriage, or marriage in general, has declined enormously. Not only are there more problem marriages (as far as I know) but married couples are facing significant problems with young adult children, more so than 50 years ago.

I have known a number of families where grandparents are raising grandchildren, and/or dealing with 20-somethings who have severe mental health or **drug **problems. I have relatives who appeared to have a stable, calm family life when they were in their late 40s but have since encountered major issues causing psychological, financial, and other kinds of stresses. Many of these were not predictable a few years earlier.

I suspect there are some good candidates, but likely relatively few, and mostly older men, so they would have only a small impact on the priest shortage. Consider the ideal type, the mature deacon. To enroll him in seminary for 4 years means pulling him out of diaconate ministry for 4 years, before he would return to service as a priest, when he might serve for not that many years. (I know deacons have some preparation already, but he would be commuting to seminary, able to devote much less time than the usual seminarian, so I suggested 4 years).

We have a deacon shortage now, too.

We do have married, Eastern Catholic priests in our area. They tend to have parishes of 50 or so families. They do some extra ministry for the Latin Rite diocese, but this seems to be something they can schedule; so it is not out of the question. We should learn more about how married Eastern Catholic priests do in their home countries, where they are the main body of priests. Has their family life changed in recent years?

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