Just Did an Interview with NBC

…over the phone. We’ll see how it comes out. Tracy Connor from NBC wanted to know what I thought about the practical impact of allowing priests in the Latin Rite to marry. Basically, I said I’m fine if the Church decides to change the discipline, however the logistical impact should be considered, particularly by lay people who think this will fix the Church. Because what it really means is that chintzy Catholics who only put a dollar (if that) in the collection plate will now be asked to support not just a one low-paid and overworked priest, but his whole family, their health care needs, their room and board, and their entire education from kindergarten through college. It will also mean (if statistics mean anything) enduring the trauma and expense of a 50% divorce rate, with parishes being bloodily sawn in two with factions supporting each spouse, etc.

Meantime, I don’t think lifting the discipline will have an appreciable impact on vocation rates.

We’ll see how well my points get translated into journalese. The reporter’s name was Tracy Connor. She seemed like a pretty smart gal. I’ll post a link when it runs.

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  • Matthew

    I agree, I do think there are serious theological and histortical reasons for celibacy. But most people don’t even think through the simple practical impact that a married clergy will have on parish finances as well as a priests availability as he must tend to both family and parish.

  • B.E. Ward

    I’m no expert, but I don’t think the divorce rate among Orthodox clergy is close to 50%. I hear your point about the culture seeping in a bit, but I would also argue that most folks that marry before becoming priests and priest’s wives tend to take the sacrament more seriously than the wider culture around them.

    • Imp the Vladaler

      Isn’t one of the selling points of NFP that the divorce rate among couples that use it is something like 2%? Divorces will happen with married priests, but absolutely not at the 50% level.

  • Lee Podles

    I have spoken to the wives of Orthodox and Protestant
    clergy, and their position is difficult. They are expected to do unpaid work,
    their home is not private, and all the normal misbehavior of children becomes
    subject for gossip. Being a preacher’s kid is not easy.

    Celibacy may create problems, but a married clergy
    creates another set of problems. What to do with a divorced clergyman? – whether
    the divorce is his “fault” or not. If a priest misbehaves, a bishop has to consider
    the effect of disciple both on the priest and on his family. If the church
    wants to minister to the poor, it is hard to ask a family to live in a
    dangerous ghetto or barrio.

    A married clergy is no panacea.

    • Rosemarie


      Yeah, the Roman Rite, for the most part, hasn’t had to deal with “Preacher’s Kid syndrome” yet. Do we want to start in with that?

      • As a lay man working for the Church I’ve seen plenty of “preacher’s kid” syndrome — it just happens with the children of lay employees and so is largely hidden.

  • Fr. Denis Lemieux

    Yes to all that. I would also add that, in the Eastern Rite where married clergy are the norm there is an entire church culture encompassing ‘priest’s wives’ and ‘priest’s kids’. We have nothing remotely like that in the Latin rite, and I don’t think people have thought through at all the massive change that would be needed in attitudes and practices if we were to have married clergy. If the Church ever decides to change the discipline, so be it and God’s will be done… but all those practical concerns are going to have to be addressed.

  • vox borealis

    Meantime, I don’t think lifting the discipline will have an appreciable impact on vocation rates.


    I have often wondered what impact the restored diaconate has had on priestly vocations. Defenders of the decision say very little, because the call to the diaconate is fundamentally different. I am not so sure myself. BUt be that as it may. As Mark Shea says, I doubt highly that suddenly allowing married men to become priests (remember, they would not be able to marry *after* being ordained) would probably have little impact on priestly vocations, other than maybe shift a few deacons to the priesthood.

    • kirthigdon

      Yes, it’s important to point out the difference between ordaining married men and allowing single priests to marry. There might be some good arguments for the former and there are many married clergymen even in the Western Rite, mostly converts from the Episcopalians or other Protestant denominations. It could be introduced gradually and experimentally. But allowing single priests to marry would be a nightmare. Even with the discipline of celibacy you have women in nearly every parish who are priest chasers. There would be many more if the priest was available and the priest could become a chaser or “gamer” himself. Introduce the divorce culture into the priesthood? How about the hook-up culture?
      Kirt Higdon

      • AquinasMan

        Everyone wants the priest to come down from the Cross and become “one of us”. Not good. The public witness of giving “all” for Christ would go out the window toute de suite.

        • byzcath deacon

          The Logos did come down from heaven and became “one of us.” (Jn 1:14).

    • SDG

      Yes. Let’s be very clear on this: As vox borealis says, no one who knows what they’re talking about is talking about “priests being allowed to marry.” The possible topic of discussion is allowing married men to be ordained to the priesthood. Marriage first, then ordination. Not marriage after ordination!

      The Churches of the East — Orthodox, non-Chalcedonian, Eastern Catholic — all have married clergy (priests, not bishops). That’s to say, they ordain married men to the priesthood. Priests cannot marry!

      It’s the same in the Western (Latin) Church with the married diaconate. (I am married and studying for the diaconate; God willing, in a few years I’ll be ordained to the diaconate as a married man.) But once ordained, a deacon cannot marry. Married clergy who are widowed are called to celibacy, in all communions with valid orders.

      • wineinthewater

        ” no one who knows what they’re talking about is talking about “priests being allowed to marry.””

        The problem, of course, being that most journalists and much of the public don’t know what they’re talking about. This is why I think it is very important for Catholics, especially Catholics talking to journalists, to prelude all comments on these issues with clarifying the difference between allowing priests to marry and allowing married men to be ordained.

    • AquinasMan

      The church does not actually encourage deacons to seek the priesthood once they are widowed. Some dioceses discourage it. The operative word in “permanent diaconate” is “permanent”.

      I guess I can’t understand how someone gets to a theological place where priesthood and carnal marriage go together. If Jesus’ bride is the Church and the priest is in persona Christi, how can he truly act in that capacity when he has become “one flesh” with another mortal? I understand it’s only a (air-quotes) DISCIPLINE, but a non-celibate priesthood, at this point, would require some major theological demolition.

      • Andy, Bad Person

        The operative word in “permanent diaconate” is “permanent”.

        Meh. Not exactly. I have no doubt that some diocese discourage the practice, as you say, for many reasons. But the distinction of “permanent” in the diaconate is an unofficial designation, as opposed to “transitional deacons,” those in seminary who are on their way to being ordained priests.

        Sacramentally and ecclesiologically, there is no difference. A deacon is a deacon.

      • byzcath deacon

        what theology would have to be demolished? Was some major theological demolition required when celibacy was imposed in the Latin Church after a millennium (since the apostolic era) of the existence married men in the presbyterate?

        Carnal marriage? Is matrimony not a sacrament of vocation, no less than that of orders? We of the Christian East, in communion with the Church of Rome, do not consider that one sacrament (mysteries in our parlance) can trump another.

      • If a diocese is discouraging valid, legal, vocations for any reason that is a problem. It is contrary to their job description. Vocations are to be encouraged, not discouraged. It’s not like we have a priest surplus in the world.

  • Rosemarie


    I can’t help but believe that the media is once again making too much of nothing, as it often does when it comes to matters Catholic. So an archbishop states that the tradition of priestly celibacy “is not dogma, or a law of divine origin” (duh) and is therefore “open to discussion.” Well, yeah, it’s open to discussion, but that doesn’t mean that the ordination of married men is immanent. It just means we can bat the idea around a bit, not that it’s going to happen. Yet the media grabbed and ran with the story as though it will happen – and soon. Talk about jumping the gun.

    • sbark

      I think this is even more of a non-event than you indicate in your post. All they said is that since this is a matter of discipline rather than dogma, it is open to discussion. There is no indication that any such discussion is taking place. This is a matter that has been open to discussion for 2000 years. Nothing has changed at all.

      • Rosemarie


        Yeah, I don’t think he was announcing a discussion on the subject, just saying it could be discussed. Unlike the question of women’s ordination, which is not open to discussion.

  • Stu

    Why do so many non-Catholics care about this? That is the real question in my opinion.

    • kenofken

      This one doesn’t 🙂 I think celibacy was an element in the abuse crisis, but I don’t see it as an inevitable element or the major one. There were a few generations of men who chose a celibate vocation without having the mental or emotional maturity to do so in a healthy way. A fair number came to it as a form of crude reparative therapy for a homosexual orientation that society at the time left no room to live in an open and healthy fashion. There were a lot of men of all orientations who for one reason or another were emotionally and sexually stunted in their early teens for life.

      I think, hope that there is a better sense today that healthy celibacy is much deeper than “giving up sex”. It requires that a person have a deeply developed and mature sexuality. The supply of such men, at least those young enough to put in a full career in the collar, will always be limited. Married priests could solve some of these supply and quality problems, as well as incurring the costs Mark spoke of. Whether it works financially and culturally for the Church is inside baseball and something I don’t really care about one way or another.

  • DeaconsBench

    Talk to deacons. Talk to their wives and kids. Hear what their experience of the married clergy has been like. Talk to the wives and families of of married priests and see what they think. And survey the people in the pews.

    All I can say is that one question I get asked again and again after Mass is: “How come they’re letting those married Anglicans become priests, but not you?”

    As for Stu’s question—why do non-Catholics care?—it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the reporters showing the most interest in this subject are, in fact, Catholic. (Brian Williams at NBC featured this prominently last night, and he’s a former student of Catholic University…)

    • kmk1916

      Deacon Greg, I love your blog and read it almost every day. However, I must ask you, how many children do you have, and did you have a bunch of little ones while you were a deacon? Married clergy, if they were living honestly, would be open to life (setting aside the NFP versus open to everything all the time–sorry I can’t think of a better phrase right now).
      So, we have 7 children, and I am looking at all of the responsibilities of our (awesome) priests, and wondering how on earth their young family would not get shortchanged in many ways (to include the moving around–every 2-6 years for our Archdiocese). That is a heavy burden on wife and children.

      • DeaconsBench

        My wife and I don’t have children. But if the Church is serious about this, it should talk at length with married clergy who do and see how they cope. The challenges are enormous. I can tell you, from my observations of other deacons, it’s very difficult, especially with young ones.

        • kmk1916

          Thanks–I didn’t mean to get personal, I was thinking that perhaps you were thinking it was a good trend, and I was pondering it since I do value your opinion on things.

          • DeaconsBench

            I have mixed feelings about it overall. But I think if the Church is serious about discussing the removal of mandatory celibacy in the Latin rite, it needs to look at it from all angles and talk to people who are living with this new reality. There are pros, and cons. Others can talk about it more authoritatively.

            • byzcath deacon

              “New reality”? Aren’t married men ordained to the Latin presbyterate a restored reality? Celibacy is a charism unto itself and is highly valued in the Christian East. That does not mean that celibate men are better priests than married men. Men of faith, married or celibate, make good clerics.

      • Married clergy tend not to move as much for those very reasons. You can’t assume that the clergy schedules will not adjust with a larger priesthood that includes those who are married. This is one of the things that falls under “logistics” in the original note above.

    • Stu

      Sure, there is certainly some interest from Catholic reporters. But I also think that the notion of being celibate/continent for God challenges the current worldview and because of such, there is a desire to see it go away.

  • wineinthewater

    ” Because what it really means is that chintzy Catholics who only put a
    dollar (if that) in the collection plate will now be asked to support
    not just a one low-paid and overworked priest, but his whole family”

    And then double it.

    No man could do the job celibate priests do today and be anything resembling a good father. It would take 2-3 married priests to fill the role of a single celibate priest.

    • B.E. Ward

      Gotta raise the BS flag on this one. To say an Orthodox priest (or a married Catholic priest) is half or 1/3 the priest that a celibate one is.. or that they’re bad fathers.. that’s just wrong.

      • wineinthewater

        Then it’s a good thing I didn’t say that. A celibate priest is free of the demands of family on his time. It leaves him more of himself and his time to give his parish, not to mention greater flexibility in his schedule. It’s not that it makes him a better priest, only a priest with more time and a more flexible schedule.

        • B.E. Ward

          “No man could do the job celibate priests do today and be anything resembling a good father.

          “It would take 2-3 married priests to fill the role of a single celibate priest.”

          “Then it’s a good thing I didn’t say that.”


          • Rosemarie


            I don’t think wineinthewater is saying that married priests are bad fathers. Just that a celibate priest can dedicate all his time to the parish, while if a married priest attempted to do the same he would have to neglect his family in order to accomplish that. So if he wants to be a good father to his children (which he obviously does) he would necessarily have to do less for the parish than a celibate priest could.

            And the statement “It would take 2-3 married priests to fill the role of a single celibate priest” doesn’t mean that a married priest is “half or 1/3 the priest that a celibate one is.” Rather, it means that a married priest would have duties to his family, so the time he could dedicate to the parish would be cut by 1/2 or 2/3 compared to an unmarried priest. It’s not that his priesthood is less than that of a celibate priest but that he would have other demands on his time and attention. At least that’s how I understood wineinthewater.

            • B.E. Ward

              “I don’t think wineinthewater is saying that married priests are bad fathers.”

              “No man could do the job celibate priests do today and be anything resembling a good father.”

              So it’s not that they’re bad fathers, but that they can’t be good fathers?

              • We’re missing a term:

                They can’t be good fathers and continue to do the jobs that the Latin church requires of them. Perhaps parish life could be entirely restructured.

                • The Latin church requires them to give their all in a responsible fashion. They do not expect an aged priest to hold the same schedule as a twenty something and would not expect a married priest to run the same schedule as a celibate one. The demands of the Church are only a constant in aggregate.

          • wineinthewater

            I didn’t say that a married priest is 1/3 the priest that a celibate priest is. Phrasing it that way makes it sound like a value statement, like married priests aren’t as good as celibate priests. Celibacy doesn’t automatically make a man a better priest.

            However, the simple reality is that a married priest cannot give as much of his time or his self to the parish as a celibate priest without neglecting his family. If you look at what the Church currently demands of her celibate priests, it generally does not leave enough time to also be a good husband and father. (Whether the Church demands too much of her celibate priests to begin with is another discussion entirely.) If we are to have a widespread married priesthood, we need to account for the reality that his family will be making very legitimate and just demands on his time.

        • So do you want a lower number of priests who have a high amount of time or a higher amount of priests who are family men and balance the challenges? It isn’t a matter of right or wrong. Both are godly options and we know this because both options have been permitted by the Church through her history.

          So what’s the right answer? There is no right answer. It’s ok to go in either direction, just a matter of fine tuning.

  • Patrick

    There wouldn’t be a “problem” with divorced priests, because they would simply get an annulment and everybody would be fine with it. “He wasn’t really married in the first place so we really have nothing to be upset about! Yay!”

    • Andy, Bad Person

      First of all, in the event that such an event took place, it would be legitimate. Also, the priest could not then get married again, since the principal of “first sacrament” (the principle that allows married men to the diaconate, but not deacons to get married) would apply.

      Second of all, you should probably work out your issues in someplace other than a public combox.

  • Two things:

    One of the finest priests I ever knew was a convert widower who had been a Protestant minister – he said, based on his experience in his former church, that having married priests wasn’t going to solve the priest shortage, as many denominations with married clergy were in the same boat.

    It would be tragic to loose the the celibate priesthood – for the rest of the world, if not the priest. As an atheist once said about JPII, they p*ss off all the right people. As it is, in their hearts, it seems many modern people can’t believe there’s anything so valuable that you’d give up sex for it. Priests – and nuns – are witnesses that, no, there is Something so valuable that sex can be set aside for life in order to have that more valuable thing. This idea of greater value flows down to marriage – that the marriage and children who may result from it are more important than the man and woman who created it. So, celibacy and marriage both get attacked, as they hold up, like a cross, the idea that some things are more important than my personal happiness right this moment. More important than life itself, even.

    • BillyT92679

      I just don’t think the celibate priesthood would ever go away.

      I hear the premise, that ordaining married men would be a band-aid to patch over things, not eviscerate the root issue of secularism. I don’t necessarily disagree.
      But to me that position feels as reactionary as beating the war drums of ordaining married men is radical. I just look at it as Divine Providence working through the Bride of Christ. Whatever the Church wants to do, I’m fine with.

  • kmk1916

    If there were more openness to life in families and a willingness to really follow through well with our call as parents to thorougly inculcate our children in the Faith, and love of the Lord, if our children could be taught at an early age that the priesthood is a good and “normal” calling from the Lord, and if we encouraged that general approach in our parishes, we might not need married priests.
    Prayer to the Blessed Mother might work, too!

  • contrarian

    “Seeing also that as the world is aging, and human nature is gradually growing weaker, it is well to guard that no more vices steal into Germany…God ordained marriage to be a help against human infirmity. The Canons themselves say that the old rigors ought now and then be relaxed in the later times because of human weakness…and it is to be expected that churches shall soon lack pastors if marriage should be forbidden much longer.”

    The Augsburg Confession, 1530

  • jacobus

    Meantime, I don’t think lifting the discipline will have an appreciable impact on vocation rates.

    Maybe not, but maybe we’ll start thinking about the priesthood a little differently. A whole crew of volunteer near-retirement empty-nesters could lead to a lot more Masses said and confessions heard (real old men, presbyters!). The Church was established to bring grace to the people, not to maintain a separate priestly caste.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Not a caste, per say, but there is a legitimate brotherhood among priests of all ages. It’s called an “order” for a reason.

      • jacobus

        Sure, but it doesn’t exist for its own sake. A priesthood that looked vastly different could still be valid.

  • jeff

    Mark, I grew up an Anglican but have been Catholic for the past 10. Vicars’ wives are simply normal to me.

    If we must have married Latin Rite priests, then this article gives some good suggestions as to how it might be made to work in the 21st century. He’s writing in the context of Lutheranism but the points he makes are valid for a future married Catholic clergy.


    • jeff

      oh and this article gives practical suggestions as to how the rearing of young children can be done

  • SteveP

    Congratulations! I do hope both your answers and the posed questions get relayed as such rather than turned into “content.”

  • Sharon

    I know of no Greek Orthodox priest with more than two children What is the average number of children among Lutheran and Episcopal clergy? A married Catholic priest even practising NFP would have at least 6 children. It would be difficult to go to a different parish because the children would have to settle into new school/s and make new friends. Married priests would be a logistical and financial nightmare to say nothing about the religious difficulty.

    • BillyT92679

      It’s no guarantee at all he’d have at least 6 kids with NFP

      Eastern Catholic priests don’t.

      • Being a priest doesn’t mean you are immune from fertility issues, ditto for your wife. It also doesn’t mean that your sloppy about NFP. That being said I do recall one priest talking to another about complaints that his kids were putting on the parish finances. He had four children at the time and years of fertility left for his wife.

    • A married Catholic priest even practising NFP would have at least 6 children.

      Really? That’s quite a strong statement.

  • byzcath deacon

    Mr. Shea points out practical considerations for Latin Catholics, if a restoration of ordaining married men to the priesthood was to occur. However, the Latin Church has had an experience of married clergy for almost 50 years. Most of these men have ministered in the Church with no remuneration.

    But I have to ask, why aren’t these same questions asked of every married man in any profession, especially doctors? To me these questions reflect a lack of faith and a cover to rob God (Mal 3:6-10).

  • Andrew

    2 things:

    1) Media forgets that when we talk about this we are referring to married men becoming ordained priests – not priests, after years of ordination, courting and marrying.

    2) I’ve met and worked with more than a handful of converts who are now married priests. They advocate AGAINST married priests more than anyone I’ve met. They simply see the struggle that a priest already has with being married to the Church (and “married” to his parish)…..before adding a wife and kids in to the mix. I admire the married priests I know, but they often look upon celibate priests with a playful “envy”….”Oh, how lucky they are that they are able to fully give themselves to the parish and ministry……if I could go back…..”

    • Andrew

      I also often ponder the following situation when this topic comes up:

      Who does a married priest – with a wife and kids – choose when they get a phone call because someone from the parish is dying or there has been a grave emergency….and simultaneously, their family (wife or kids) needs their immediate attention and/or care? This would be a very common a recurring dilemma if married priests started becoming the norm.

      Also – we know that our modern world is sex-obsessed…or rather – identifies a person by their sex-life or sexual expression. That being said, the simple fact that a young man would even CONSIDER the priesthood today is a HUGE statement to me on their willingness to “lay it all down”. Not saying that a married priest doesn’t lay it all down, but the public statement or impression is different.

      Does it concern anyone that the “level of abandonment or sacrifice” – in general – of those attracted to the priesthood, might be compromised? Obviously, only God knows one’s heart…..but I feel like we’d be losing a certain level of hardcore-ness found in the modern young man discerning his vocation.

      • Generally, the way it shakes out is that people just don’t make the call unless absolutely necessary out of consideration for the family. That being said, doctors, computer people, lawyers, and other professionals also get midnight calls without great fanfare and worry. It’s part of the job. It is similar for married priests in my experience.

        • Andrew

          Make what call?

          As bold as this sounds…….a surgeon saving someone’s physical life and a priest bringing communion to the dying and/or anointing of the sick are 2 totally different things for us as Catholics.

          A surgeon might get called in to the hospital but if his kids is hurt or wife is going in to labor…he’d have to call the hospital and tell them he can’t come in.

          A priest’s burden (for God’s sake, I would hope!) is much greater……especially in the many suburban and rural areas I’ve seen in the US where there aren’t any priests for hours and hours away.

          • If you think that doctors don’t juggle and occasionally sacrifice for their patients to the minor detriment of their families, you’ve got a misleading picture as to how these things go.

            • Andrew

              I think you missed the entire point I was making.

              We’re not talking about the sacrifice itself, but the reason for that sacrifice. Difference is between a soul and a body. Might seem like a bad argument to you, but when my devout grandmother was at the hospital with my dying grandfather, the sigh she gave when the doctor gave good news (or what we thought at the time was) PALES in comparison to the sigh of relief she had when the priest came to give him last rites.

              Not saying the sacrifice is greater/lesser….but it should be easier for a doctor to say “sorry….got more important things to deal with at home, can’t make it in to the ER tonight”…..than for a priest to say “Sorry….can’t give last rites to that man tonight, got important things to do at home”

              OBVIOUSLY the married priest is called to serve his wife and kids first, but this dilemma SHOULD weigh on him more than that of the doctor.

              However, I can easily see how non-Catholics wouldn’t understand this dilemma.

              • You mistake me for a non-catholic. In actual fact I am an eastern Catholic (Romanian Byzantine Catholic) and have known married priests. We are also talking about different subjects. The idea of ranking vocations and denigrating one over another seems self defeating. It drives people away from Christ. I think that if you continue on that line you will have to find a different conversation partner.

                My point was that there are some similarities that may assist by analogy. the point is fot Latin rite people to sort this out in their own mind. I stand by the usefulness of the exercise, of course recognizing that all analogy is imperfect.

                • Andrew

                  I don’t mistake you for a non-catholic. I simply added that ” I can see how non-Catholics wouldn’t understand this dilemma”

                  I agree – I think we are talking about different subjects. If that’s the case, it’s no use continuing the conversation.

                  At no point have I denigrated or ranked a vocation. I’ve been discussing the Sacrament. I have also known at least 4-5 married priests in the Roman Catholic Church…..and their hypothetical dilemma – having to consciously decide whether or not to tend to their parishioner who is dying, or their family in some sort of emergency situation – weighs on them greatly. They have shared this with me.

                  Also, as I mentioned before, as the world rapidly moves in a direction of not only accepting things like gay-marriage, a priest’s conflict becomes even greater. I know priests who have lost MANY parishioners because they decided to teach on Same sex attraction, “gay marriage” and sexuality in general. They have lost parishioners, tithing has gone down and they constantly deal with the temptation to “stay quiet” and not preach on controversial issues.

                  If a parish hires a pastor who happens to be married, with children, what kind of situation might arise if he needs to preach on these things? What if he knows he must preach on these things and the repercussions involve losing parishioners and thus, tithing and budget cuts?

                  I realize that people in different professions deal with these situations – a doctor who refuses to perform (or even work in a hospital that performs) abortion…..the biggest differences are 1)they usually have the option to move on or start their own practice 2)this moral dilemma is not something that usually ‘defines’ their work….a priest in 2013+ is basically the counter-cultural, at the heart of the Church’s teaching…..(pro-marriage, pro-life, pro-chastity, etc)

                  • Andrew

                    Also – and this is not meant in any negative or offensive way….more a “matter of fact” –

                    The Eastern Catholic Church is in a much different place here in the US (which is the backdrop of our discussion, naturally). Just statistically speaking. So much so, that if/when there is a scandal in the Eastern Catholic Church, it rarely (if ever) shows up in the Mass Media.

                    What’s my point? I lived in New York City, visited many Eastern Churches (and love them!) but learned from the priests their that the population of Eastern Catholic Churches in the US is dwindling, so much so that they rarely find themselves in the aforementioned scenarios…..the most popular Eastern Churches that I had a relationship with had 2-3 priests…….Roman Catholic Churches have a shortage of priests.

                    • I think that it is our married priests that protect us from reporting, not our low numbers. Our existence upsets the narrative. Byzantine Catholics are still in recovery mode and desperately need to rediscover their missionary feet (thus the poor numbers) and so it is not quite what you say regarding priests. We have a shortage too, but it is a specialist shortage of missionary priests that is the problem. Maintaining a parish and building one from scratch are two different skillets.

                    • Andrew

                      To address the first point of your response – I’d have to disagree…..some of the most recent and most concise stats show that abuse and “report worthy” issues significantly more prevalent among married clergy/teachers/doctors (protestant pastors, rabbis, secular teachers, and doctors) than among celibate priests. That’s statistical fact, not opinion. As soon as I can find the article in my archives, I’ll post it here for you to see. In fact, the percentage and prevalence of abuse among Roman Catholic celibate priests is SO LOW comparatively….that one would ask, “then why does it seem that it’s ALWAYS Catholic priests in the news? Why aren’t they talking about these other groups on CNN or MSNBC???” Well….because they aren’t a threat

                      So it’s not your married priests that protect you from reporting….I’d venture to say that it’s the fact that your not seen as a “threat” (not because of the faith, but because of your numbers) that protects you from reporting.

                    • The narrative that I was referring to was the false tale of the Church being hostile to normal sexuality in its priesthood. The idea that we are not a threat is a misperception that I will take, as long as it lasts.

      • MainlineP

        But wasn’t the “First” of the apostles, Peter a married man. Wasn’t it likely all the other apostles (not John probably) were married, as Jewish men? The Eastern discipline (marriage only before ordination) is the model you’re likely to use if change comes. The hierarchy stays celibate as do religious orders. Our Protestant experience with marriage varies from denomination to denomination. In the evangelical world I’ve heard that the pastor is not always called in emergencies, because of their view of salvation making such ministrations superfluous. This call is more common in the mainline churches. There are hospital chaplains or where the emergency is elsewhere the clergy often make heroic choices with understanding spouses. After all, a lot of parents are doing the parenting job alone these days in both of our churches, as challenging as that is.

        • Andrew

          Different times…..different situations.

          They probably were married. But, it would be pretty crazy to assume that the apostles left their families each morning to follow Jesus and risk their lives to make disciples….there had to be some sort of symbolic “abandoning” that had to have happened. They were all martyred.

          In 2013 (and even worse 5-10 yrs from now!), a married priest’s wife would have to tell his husband “now honey, I know that we’re Catholic and all….but don’t preach about ______ and _______ because you know….the public might just ostrecize you and we could lose everything if people stop going to the parish!”

          That’s not a far-fetched scenario at all. This is why we have heroic priests in jail for having been too pro-life….and bishops who are publicly hated for their firm stances on things like gay marriage, abortion, contraception, etc. They don’t have families to provide for and thus, are able to risk it all for the sake of the Gospel.

          As a husband and father (and someone who feels compellingly called to public ministry in the future), that’s not a situation I would look forward to…especially since my wife doesn’t have a paying job….

  • lavallette

    There are many many confidences which are trusted to a Catholic priest and which in turn bind him to absolute secrecy. What dangers arise from the pressure on married priest to “pillow talk” with the person they probably most trust in the world.? Any married priests or ministers care to share their experience!.

  • As a single guy, I can’t think it particularly conducive to effective ministry to have a priest on the make. One of the most powerful things that allows a man to go into a situation and minister in it is the confidence of all concerned that he doesn’t have ulterior motives and isn’t going to develop any. Frankly, as families disintegrate, this characteristic of the ministry is going to be needed even more.

    • The discipline in the East where it has been preserved generally has always been that priests are ordained after they are married. Parish priests are married, monks are celibate and are where the bishops are generally drawn from.

      It’s a solvable problem and it’s up to those in the West to determine if it’s the solution they want. Whichever way you guys go, we’ll be praying that the Holy Spirit guides you.

  • Sharon

    If a man could marry and then become a priest the custom of daily Mass would probably go and only Mass on Sunday remain and The Liturgy of the Hours would be celebrated instead.

  • Fr. Scotus

    This is one of those issues where people want to think for others. In all my years as a priest, I don’t think that I’ve ever had someone ask me, “Father, do you think that priests should be married?” I have had scores of people tell me in a patronizing way that it would be great if I could be married, or it would be great if future priests wouldn’t have to be married. When married people whom I know well say things like that to me, I’m inclined to say, as nicely as possible, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could get divorced and marry someone else?” That’s always a jarring comment. The question of possible married clergy aside, telling a priest that he would be happier by being married dismisses the value of celibacy and, more specifically, the individual value of living out the oblative self-gift of celibacy. Our Lord described the celibate life as a graced life for those elected for the life (Matthew 19:12). In other words, when we chose celibacy, we gave something away in order to live a different life, to walk a different path. That path, while defined as a lack, disposes us to a particular, graced relationship with the Beloved.

    When I was a younger man, I conscientiously broke off an engagement to be married in order to look at the priesthood. Marriage was something I wanted, something I valued. But, it is something I chose to give up. When others who have not made this sacrifice start talking about getting rid of it, they often forget this very essential part of celibacy–we chose it freely and we would choose it again. I am a joyful, peaceful man. I have found a life that I wouldn’t ever trade.

    For those who want to discuss this issue, it is important to those of us who live celibacy that you ask us what our thoughts are. Otherwise, it feels like being spoken of by others in the third person while sitting in the same room.

  • Elmwood

    Not going to happen in the roman rite, it will always be the exception to have a married priest. Our tradition has developed in such a way that having married priests would be out of place, unlike in the eastern church. And I think it’s true that generally speaking married Roman rite clergy do not think it’s a solution that would work well in the catholic church.

  • bob cratchit

    I just read the interview:


    I also agree in that I don’t believe this will increase vocations. Furthermore, most of the priests I have known in my life would not change their celibacy status. As a former aspirant myself, I would not have had it any other way. I believe a vocation to marriage seperate from a vocation to the priesthood and to unite the twain would inflict a sort of cognitive dissonance on centuries of Sacred Tradition.

  • Athelstane

    Mark, you know a number of Protestant ministers, even more than I do, I’m sure; and in the interview (which was a good one) you rightly noted that married ministry has advantages and disadvantages, whatever your theological model of ministry. Married ministers or priests can often better relate to their married parishioners, are subject to fewer illicit sexual temptations, and are often better formed psychologically by marriage. On the downside, ministry can be brutal on marriage, and these men often find themselves caught between two fires, with more time demands than they can easily manage, which means something suffers (usually, the family). There is a reason why the attrition rate for evangelical ministers is often so high. Also, a married ministry or priest costs more for a community to support (of course, it helps that evangelicals also tithe at higher rates than Catholics do, as you also note). I also note your quote from the article: “A priest going through a divorce in the middle of his parish is a massively blood-letting phenomenon,” he said. “Half the parish is siding with the wife and half is siding with the priest?”

    In short, the Catholic Church could relax this discipline, and realize certain benefits from doing so. But it would come with costs, too. It’s no magic bullet to our vocations problems. The vocations problem is something much more fundamental.

    • MainlineP

      Though I suspect we agree on only a few things (You, a traditionalist RC, me an Anglican), your comment is accurate, comprehensive and balanced. You cover the most important practical considerations the RCC would need to address before changing the discipline. I’d be interested in either Mr. Shea or another RC considering culture, and not through an American or western European lens. How does celibacy play in Africa, the new boom town of your church? I’ve heard from some that African culture abhors unmarried adult men, which in no small part energizes the hatred of some lifestyles there.
      Our experience with married clergy is fewer sexually immature or conflicted priests, but, as noted by M.S., some messy divorces and remarriages though less than Mark anticipates. No model of priesthood in this broken world will be without some serious issues.

      • Athelstane

        No model of priesthood in this broken world will be without some serious issues.


        Thank you for the kind words.