What Should Role of a Priest's Wife Be?

Although we have had the Eastern Rite Churches, where married clergy has been from the beginning, we now have the former Anglicans, either in an Ordinariate or as an Anglican Use priest, many who are married.

I have been re-thinking my own position on married priests vs. celibate priests. I would assume that growing up in an Eastern Rite parish, women have more of an understanding of what their obligations are, than maybe those from a protestant background.

Does anyone have an opinion on what role a wife plays in a parish? I was thinking of what kind of relationship they have with other women and maybe choosing one or two as their closest friends from the parish, whether they should be involved in many of the groups within the parish, i.e. Bible study, Rosary group, women’s group etc. as more of a leader than just one of the group.

Should they be careful not to allow parishioners to cater to their personal needs, much in excess of how others are treated. Maybe babysitting, cooking meals for them, inviting the wife and priest’s family over to socialize privately and the priest’s family also has maybe only one or two of the same families over for socializing privately, although at times if it is a small congregation might have everyone invited.

Should the wife just more or less always support her spouse, however, stays in the background and makes friends outside of the parish or can be involved in the spiritual groups at church, but also has outside friends and interests. Of course she should be friendly with everyone, but not show favoritism towards anyone.

These thoughts have been going through my mind for awhile. I know that there are many married priests whose wives seem to be very balanced when it comes to having a priest for a husband and their reflection draws people towards the parish. However, I wonder if a wife just doesn’t have what I consider a vocation to be married to a priest/pastor does that complicate his leadership. Personally I feel that before any former protestant minister who is married is ordained a priest, that it would be beneficial for the wife to also go through a formation, just as the husband, this would be helpful both for her and the Church whether or not she understands the sacrifices she will also have to make.

Yours in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary


I was raised Anglican and observed different married priests. In some cases, the wife was like a social director, holding court over the parish hall during the coffee & donuts after a service. She would usually be smiling and chatting everybody up. Other women would pull her aside for hushed chats. She would be on many committees, etc.

In other parishes, the wife had no involvement except to attend one service each week. Many parishioners would not even know she was the priest’s wife. In my last parish, I knew who she was, but only because I was over at the priest’s house helping him set up a computer.

I found the second scenario to be more successful.

You are making this into a bigger problem than it is. Many religions have married clergy. Some of the wives do things in the church. They may teach a class or lead a group. They may have friends in the church. Some of the women may even try to befriend her to elevate their status. It’s her job to draw the line of how close a person can be. I’m sure you know the type who lets it be known they are on a first name basis.
On the other hand, the wife may have a full time job or profession outside the church and isn’t involved at all.
Ministers, Rabbis and Imams are married and the congregations gets used to having the wife either being involved or not and it all works out.
Catholics can’t seem to conceive of clergy with family responsibilities because they want access at all times. I notice they want the priest to make a lot of personal sacrifices to be a priest but it’s mostly people who aren’t making theses sacrifices who want the status quo vis a vis married clergy. I would say this is a discipline which will be voluntary possibly during Pope Francis tenure. Catholics will find this routine in a short time.

It really depends on the particular woman - what her talents are, what time permits her to do, what type of personality she has, what her familial obligations are, etc. I don’t think we can generalize a role for a priest’s wife - there are so many possibilities.

You are wrong about this discipline being changed now or in the future. Celibacy has worked well for a thousand years or longer and it will always be the policy of the Church. The role of the priest is one of marriage to the Church. Just as marriage is the total gift of self to another, the priesthood requires the total gift of self to the Church. A priest’s first duty is to his flock, while a husband’s first duty is to his wife. Obviously, these two roles will often conflict, as St. Paul noted and as many married priests will tell you. A celibate priest is able to give his undivided attention to his parishioners without the added responsibility of caring for his own family. They are able to pick up and go whenever necessary, whether this involves moving to a new parish or responding to a late-night crisis. Celibate priests are better able to respond to these frequent changes and demands on their time and attention. The celibacy discipline is one thing that makes the Catholic Church unique.
You need to stop listening to the news media. They hang on every little syllable that our HF speaks hoping he will change Church teaching on everything from abortion to ordination of woman. It’s not going to happen. I do wish our HF would quit speaking off the cuff and stop causing so much confusion among the already confused.:signofcross:

It’s a priest’s job to be available to his people at all times; that’s why we call him our spiritual father. If it became “regular business” to ask a priest for a confession but have him deny us because he has to go to his daughter’s dance recital, then many Catholics would no longer be spiritually nourished. Now, more than ever, it is important to have a celibate clergy because the faith crisis demands that our priesthood be utilized to the greatest possible extent.

It’s not the laity who are imposing this on priests. Priests themselves choose celibacy, and the vast majority of them support it. They become celibate because they want to be full-time warriors of God and lovers of Our Blessed Mother and the Church.

I am a convert. My father is an Episcopal Priest. Every other year, my mother hosted a Christmas open house for the church at the Rectory. The entire church was invited in two shifts so everyone could “fit.”

That was the extent of her involvement. She took us to Church on Sundays and special events. I was an alter boy for years. Back then there was a stigma about being a preachers kid [PK]. So I kept a low profile. I helped out with vacation Bible School.

The Church was huge and old. Marble and stain glass windows. Lots of secret places, like organ chambers for the organ pipes, storerooms, attics. I loved exploring the place. Mom… not so much!:slight_smile:

garyo49 #5
You are wrong about this discipline being changed now or in the future.


“The ecclesiastical tradition of celibacy and of the continence of clerics did not appear as a sudden novelty at the beginning of the fourth century, but as the confirmation in discipline, in the East as well as the West, of a tradition that can be traced back to the apostles.10 When the Council of Elvira in Spain in 306 stipulated that priests were obliged to live perfect continence, we must understand that this requirement of the Church in the first centuries included both celibacy and the prohibition of remarriage, and perfect continence for those who were already married.11 The profound motivation we find in this tradition does not depend first on the emergence of the Christian ideal of virginity, but rather on the exercise of the apostolic ministry itself.” (Priestly Celibacy and the Life of the Church Contemporary Values and Challenges, Boston, September 25th 2009, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec, Canada).

Also, what is often not understood is that In Pastores Dabo Vobis (I Will Give You Shepherds, 1992), St John Paul II, with the Synod of the world’s bishops, has reiterated this. St John Paul II stated that he did “not wish to leave any doubts in the mind of anyone regarding the Church’s firm will to maintain the law that demands perpetual and freely chosen celibacy for present and future candidates for priestly ordination in the Latin rite” (no. 29).

A Bishop’s Experience with Married Priests

At the Synod of Bishops for Europe Bishop Virgil Bercea of Oradea Mare of the Rumanians, is young, joyful, strong in faith, polite, candid, clear-thinking and certain. Like other countries of Eastern Europe, Rumania has Catholic priests of the Eastern rite who are married.
“Celibacy is not a problem for us, it is a choice,” Bishop Bercea said. “I think the debate that has taken place in the West is characterized by ignorance on the subject. In our Church, 20% of the priests of the Greek-Catholic rite are married, while the others, of the Latin rite, are celibate. In my diocese, I have married priests with children and, in general, they have more problems than the others, as those who are celibate can dedicate themselves full-time to the mission, while those who are married must give part of their time and concern to guide and support a family. I understand them and help them, but it must be admitted that family life is a huge commitment.”

Try telling that to the married Catholic priest in my diocese. Try telling that to Pope Francis, too, who was recently reported to be reminding people that unmarried priesthood was an important discipline, but not a dogma.

We have a most blessed and inspiring priest, originally ordained as a Methodist minister and rising to the level of pastor in one of the largest Methodist churches in the area.

His wife was drawn to Catholicism when they took in a Catholic exchange student, then converted. A couple of years later he resigned from the Methodist church, went through RCIA and became a Catholic, then petitioned for permission to be ordained a Catholic priest. The Vatican (under JPII) granted that permission, so after appropriate training in seminary he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest.

His first assignment as Catholic priest was as parochial vicar at my parish. It was quite a surprise to some when he was introduced in mass… along with his wife, daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter.

Nan S #9
Try telling that to Pope Francis, too, who was recently reported to be reminding people that unmarried priesthood was an important discipline, but not a dogma.

Listening to the Magisterium is the hallmark of the real Catholic. No one has even hinted that the Apostolic Norm is a “dogma”, or even a doctrine.

As Marc Cardinal Ouellette was quoted in post #5:
“The ecclesiastical tradition of celibacy and of the continence of clerics did not appear as a sudden novelty at the beginning of the fourth century, but as the confirmation in discipline, in the East as well as the West, of a tradition that can be traced back to the apostles.”

So naturally Pope Francis was correct and those who fail to read with understanding will continue to fail to see the wood for the trees.

There was a priest in my episcopal church who converted to the Catholic church before I did. He was married with 4 kids. He now is a married Catholic priest with 6 children.

I think the wife of a Catholic priest has a different role than the wife of a protestant priest or minister. Since protestant churches are set up differently a wife of a priest or minister might be more involved in the parish life as a leader but I think for a wife of a Catholic priest it might be best to stay in the background and be one of the flock.

Hope this makes sense.

You said it so well 7 Sorrows there is a priest in my diocese who is a convert from a major protestant denomination and was also a minister in that denomination and he got permission to be ordained to the priesthood and his wife had her reasons for mainly being one of the flock at the Parish he was assigned to I saw her one day down town and invited her to join me for lunch and we had a very informative discussion about this and I also gave her my congratulations as they were recently blessed their eighth grandchild.

I guess our HF gave hope to those that support married priests in the Church when he made that statement. He’s already given hope to those that support abortion, contraception, homosexual sex, and so called “gay marriage” by some of the things he has said. I don’t understand him sometimes, but he is our HF and I support him. We have two priests in our parish and by talking to them I don’t think either one believes they would have time for a family and both of them are happy celibate. I will restate what I said in my other post “this discipline won’t be changed now or in the future” and It shouldn’t be. :signofcross:

You do realize for some time they have been ordaining to the priesthood married men who were protestant pastors or ministers or priests who wanted to convert to catholicism and become priests? It is the role of the wives of these men in the church we are discussing.

The lives of the celibate priests are iindeed very busy and dedicated to the Church and parish. I believe celibacy is good. I have no problem with priests who wish to remain celibate. However, with the shortage of priests I don’t see a problem with married priests either.

I don’t remember if it was under Benedict XVI that they began accepting married men to the priesthood. I don’t know how many there are. GOD BLESS!

In the Coptic Orthodox Church it’s not uncommon for a priest’s wife to attend a different parish on Sundays so as to avoid him having family distractions on such a busy day. However there are also some priests’ wives who attend where their husband serves just like any other honourable lady in the congregation. Then there are those who have their own services such as assisting with the education of the young, assisting in the kitchen or other such matters.

In short, the role of a priest’s wife is to be a good example for other women to follow. Beyond this, there is much diversity of possibilities available.

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