Why can't priest marry, ANYMORE?

I heard this brought up on Catholic Answers Live once, and it came into my life today, but I have no idea what Catholic Answers Live it was so I won’t bother looking, it will take forever. But I was talking to somebody that said that Catholic priest should be able to marry as they could for 1,000 years. I knew he was wrong so I said so, but he said he had “read” stuff and told me to look it up. So I want to “look it up” and tell him he’s wrong with solid facts. Can anybody direct me to informaction, to what seems a not uncommon missinformation, so I can hand him it to read so he can be informed. Thanks!

Priests never could marry.

Married men may be ordained to the priesthood but once ordained a man may not marry.

In reality a celibate priesthood, grounded in the New Testament Scriptures began to take hold as Church Law in the 300’s and eventually became universal Church Law about 1000AD. It is however misleading to suggest that celibacy was not a norm before 1000AD.

Priest are married to the Chruch.

Be consistent. Priests / Bishops in the early church were also expected to be celibate, even though most of them were married.

This is not correct

Priests COULD marry. :slight_smile:

In fact there is one Pope who is the son of a Pope.

However, in our lifetimes, priests never could marry. :wink:

Not quite correct.

Men could marry (and have children) BEFORE their ordination to the priesthood (ie when they weren’t priests), and could remain married afterwards if they were married at the time of their ordination.

However, if they were unmarried at the time of their ordination (ie when they became priests), they were not permitted to marry afterwards. And if they were married before ordination and their wife died later, they were not permitted to remarry either. So priests, being men who were ordained, were NOT allowed to contract either a first or subsequent marriage once they had entered the priesthood via ordination.

Such is still the rule among Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic priests, if my understanding is correct.

This is why St Paul commanded that bishops be ‘the husband of only one wife’. Obviously divorce was forbidden for everyone, so what he was speaking of was a forbidding of remarriage after being widowed.

Ordain already married men, who could have legitimately fathered children within marriage either before or after ordination: Yes. It is done even now.

Allow married men to marry after ordination (celibacy): No.

Likewise, permanent deacons may not re-marry when they are widowed or have their marriages declared null.

In other words: Once a man is ordained, he is no longer free to marry later in his life.

This is a popular euphemism, but ordination isn’t actually a “marriage to the Church.”

The Church has one Bridegroom, who is Christ Himself. A priest is married to the Church only in the sense that he shares one life with every other priest ever ordained, and all live as one within Christ’s Priestly life as Bridegroom. But the individual priests don’t each individually marry the Church, any more than individual religious sisters literally marry Christ.

Actually, I believe there is a slight exception; a married man who is ordained, and whose wife dies leaving young children, may be able to get an exception to the rule that once ordained, one cannot marry.

Both celibate and married clergy go back to the earliest Church. In the Eastern rites, having married men ordained continued on to the present day. However, in the Roman rite, it came to an end around 1000 AD. It has been reinsititued to a very limited extent through the acceptance into the Church of men, married, who have been clergy in Protestant denominations; primarily Anglican/Episcoplian, with a smattering of Methodists and Lutherans, and one Presbyterian (in our Archdiocese - a really neat priest), although I heard unconfirmed there may have been another Presbyterian, or someone from soe other Protestant denomination.

I can understand reasons for the clergy to remain single, my personal opinion is, they should be given the choice. Many men are not able to live this way. They find this out later, after trying for years. It’s cruel.
In the beginning God created man and woman to be together.
Is there a waitng period in place today? The young men can try for maybe five years, if they find they can’t live up to this commitment, they should be able to leave in good grace.
Remember, this is my opinion. :slight_smile:


Seminary IS the ‘waiting period’. It usually (if my understanding is correct) lasts five years, in some cases much longer. Seminarians are expected to live celibately as a priest would, so it gives them ample time to see if they can or can’t live up to the commitment.

Funny, many people get married and then find it is difficult to live faithfully the way married people are meant to. Are you suggesting a ‘five year’ waiting period for marriage as well, so that if people find they can’t hack the monogamy they can back out no strings attached? If not, why not? It’s equally a serious and lifelong commitment, and one that seems to go awry much more often than priestly vows of celibacy.

from what i’ve read there is no hard rule on exceptions but you can take your case up with the Church (who exactly i forgot) and it will be evaluated. its rare that you’ll be allowed to re-marry after being widowed, but its not entirely impossible

As has been pointed out, there is a waiting period throughout seminary.
There are also men who leave the priesthood later. They are allowed to leave “in good grace”: that is, they are allowed to marry in the Church.

There are rare exceptions made for married clergy to re-marry in the Roman rite: fathers of small children in need of a mother, as you point out. According to sources I have talked to, these exceptions aren’t made in the Eastern rites. There is apparently a desire in the Roman rite not to violate the sensibility and experience of the Eastern rite on these matters, on the hope that we will achieve uniformity on this and other issues, so as to re-unite some day. But that is only my understanding of the situation, which is very much second-hand.

He was ‘wrong’ only if he meant to say that an ordained man could marry after he became a priest.

As the first respondent, ByzCath, pointed out: "Married men may be ordained to the priesthood but once ordained a man may not marry. " That’s the long and short of it.

Local synods began to legislate for a totally celibate priesthood in their spheres of influence, but these were local canons, not universal. The history of the spread of this discipline is well documented. Even once ‘universally’ mandated in the Latin church (I don’t know what year that would be) those canons were not applicable to the Eastern Catholic churches.

It can arguably be said that there never was a time in the Catholic church’s history when all of it’s priests were expected to be single, and generally speaking in the first 1000 years most priest candidates enjoyed the option of marrying first or not.

In most Eastern Catholic churches (as well as their Orthodox counterparts) celibacy is an option, and unless the priest candidate is already a professed monk (as sometimes monks are asked to take on orders) he has the ability (often encouraged) to date girls while attending seminary and consider marriage (naturally he would need to keep his grades up).

In most Orthodox jurisdictions if the candidate has not found a bride by the time of graduation, the bishop will simply not ordain him. The candidate will wait and find some other form of employment until he has found a good match. Such a candidate would probably have the option to make a monastic profession (and go ahead with ordination) if the bishop thinks he will be suitable to that lifestyle. Often the bishop will just tell him to wait.

Interestingly, a lot of women are attracted to the idea of marrying a future priest. These young ladies often are daughters/granddaughters from priestly families and have seen how the life of a ‘Pani’ can be from the inside and up close.

Celibacy is a gift from God. The priesthood is not something that every man has a right to, such that it should have a “low bar” for any man who wants to “try it” to become a priest.

The Western discipline is no married priests (except according to the “pastoral provision” by which married ministers of other denominations become Catholic, and the Church judges the case individually to discern whether a genuine Catholic priestly vocation exists). The Eastern discipline permits the ordination of married men to the priesthood.

Both West and East do not ordained married men to the episcopate!

Using the term “Married Clergy” includes both Deacons and Priests. There may have been very rare exceptions for a Widowed Deacon to marry again, but I have never heard of any Ordained Priest being allowed to.

What is not consistant in my post?

Don’t also forget the 20-some years before they enter the seminary where they would also be living a chaste life due to being single.

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