What would happen to Religious Orders if Diocesan Priests were allowed to married?


#1

As I understand it, if married priests were allowed, religious orders would still retain the discipline of having their members celibate? I don't know what the considerations would be considering the spiritual matters that Religious Orders look at, but at least from the practical side of things, organisations whose members take vows of poverty cannot support families. In other words, just from the practical side, religious orders can't support members with mouths to feed.

So that means only the Diocesan priesthood would be able to accomodate married priests. Wouldn't this create another problem for orders, because I would imagine, there would be even less vocations to the religious priesthood as a result? I would think that if you asked them, if a man had the choice to be a married priest or to be a celibate one, he would choose to be married.

Statistically, I wonder how it is in the East; are there many more married priests than celibates?


#2

Well, I can’t come to this one with statistics, but you asked for some input and here it comes, with the usual disclaimer that what I say carries nothing remotely like imprimatur or the weight of teaching.

I don’t think allowing diocesan fathers to marry would pose a serious impediment to vocations for celibate orders. After all, you already make the choice between being married and celibate when you are discerning a vocation to the priesthood; this just moves the point when that decision comes into play.

Further, we do allow married men to be ordained as permanent deacons in the West, and we still have less deacons than we do diocesan priests… at least, in my neck of the woods.

Edited to Add: This having been said, I don’t know if the teaching can change on the celibacy of diocesan priests. It seems to me the decision was made for theological, and not arbitrary, reasons, much like the ordination of women priests. Again, I have nothing to offer to support that position.


#3

[quote="PazzoGrande, post:1, topic:254961"]
As I understand it, if married priests were allowed, religious orders would still retain the discipline of having their members celibate?

[/quote]

Yes. The vows taken by religious are different to the promises made by secular priests; and even where religious priests work in parishes, they are responsible to the bishop only in terms of the work that they do, but with regard to lifestyle and discipline remain answerable to their religious superiors.

[quote="PazzoGrande, post:1, topic:254961"]
I don't know what the considerations would be considering the spiritual matters that Religious Orders look at,

[/quote]

Celibacy is an inherent part of the life of consecrated religious, and therefore would remain a necessity. However:

[quote="PazzoGrande, post:1, topic:254961"]
at least from the practical side of things, organisations whose members take vows of poverty cannot support families. In other words, just from the practical side, religious orders can't support members with mouths to feed.

[/quote]

Many religious institutes do have tertiary or third order members, or oblates or associates. This is a means by which secular people can engage with a religious charism and in some cases become a canonically recognised member of an order, but they do so with officially sanctioned private vows that are suitable to their position in life -- so they take a vow of chastity within marriage, for instance, meaning that they are chaste but not celibate. (Ultimately all people are called to chastity even if not celibacy, inasmuch as they are called to be either sexually abstinent or in the case of married people, considerate and unselfish in their sexual relationship).

[quote="PazzoGrande, post:1, topic:254961"]
Wouldn't this create another problem for orders, because I would imagine, there would be even less vocations to the religious priesthood as a result? I would think that if you asked them, if a man had the choice to be a married priest or to be a celibate one, he would choose to be married.

[/quote]

This is a misunderstanding of the place that priesthood occupies in religious life. Although many institutes have priests as members (and some even have all members being priests), ordination is not essential to religious life itself - whereas following a rule and/or constitutions, and a charism and community life, are essential.

Typically if someone has so strong a call to priesthood, they are better to engage with the diocese, because entering religious life does not guarantee that ordination will follow (actually, neither does going to a diocesan seminary, given that the bishop may still choose not to ordain).

Religious priests are not men with a vocation to priesthood who think that community life might be a nice addition to their service to God: they are men called to service within religious life, through a distinct charism and form of community life, who are also called to serve in ordained ministry. Take their priestly ministry away, and they are still consecrated religious whose relationship with God is maintained and strengthened by the particular nature of their religious life.

In my own order, even though we are a clerical institute with a majority of priests, we believe that we are 'brothers first and priests second'; the kind of man you describe, who clearly prefers married life to his religious vows - a choice that is not in itself unnatural or sinful - is nevertheless not suited to religious life. Consecration to God through a charism and in an established form of community living must come first for the religious, and not simply be grudgingly accepted as an unavoidable consequence of their desire to be a priest.


#4

Priestly celibacy is not a dogma. The practice of it can change, and in fact it has: St. Peter, the first pope, was married, and St. Paul, in his 1st letter to Timothy, says that bishops can be married. And even today, Eastern Catholic priests can be married, and some Roman Catholic priests (who were Lutheran or Episcopalian priests and then converted) are married… There are theological reasons why the ordination of women is impossible, but the same is not true of married men.


#5

[quote="HerrZJA, post:2, topic:254961"]

I don't think allowing diocesan fathers to marry would pose a serious impediment to vocations for celibate orders.

[/quote]

Just a note. Once ordained to the diaconate, no man may marry. When we speak of married priests we are really talking about the ordination of married men.


#6

Ah, my mistake. I’m still learning, so thanks for clarifying that.


#7

[quote="HerrZJA, post:6, topic:254961"]

I did know that. I imagine that if were were to allow diocesan fathers to marry, they would be bound by the same limitation.

[/quote]

We must use precise language. Saying "allow diocesan fathers to marry" is incorrect and can cause confusion as to what the Church teaches.

It is correct to say that a diocese would ordain married men to the priesthood.


#8

[quote="PazzoGrande, post:1, topic:254961"]
As I understand it, if married priests were allowed, religious orders would still retain the discipline of having their members celibate? I don't know what the considerations would be considering the spiritual matters that Religious Orders look at, but at least from the practical side of things, organisations whose members take vows of poverty cannot support families. In other words, just from the practical side, religious orders can't support members with mouths to feed.

So that means only the Diocesan priesthood would be able to accomodate married priests. Wouldn't this create another problem for orders, because I would imagine, there would be even less vocations to the religious priesthood as a result? I would think that if you asked them, if a man had the choice to be a married priest or to be a celibate one, he would choose to be married.

Statistically, I wonder how it is in the East; are there many more married priests than celibates?

[/quote]

Many Orthodox men choose monasticism over the secular priesthood. I do not have numbers, but I do not believe more men entering seminary to be parish priests has a negative effect on monastic numbers. Parish priests look up to the monks and praise monasticism as a way of life, and the monks in turn provide spiritual guidance to parish clergy and laity. Also, keep in mind that not all monks are ordained clergy. Monastic novices do not enter a monastery with the intention of being ordained, but rather go with the intention of living a more perfect Christian life.


closed #9

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