Time for Married Priests?

 NBC did a story on married priests, and included comments by Mark Shea.  Looks like they actually did some research, and tried to present a balanced picture.  They tried to answer the question:  what would happen if the Catholic Church (by which they mean the Western rite — and no, I never get it straight if I’m supposed to say “Latin” or “Roman” or “Western” or what.  You know who I mean) dropped the celibacy requirement for priests?  Wouldn’t that solve the vocations crisis?  

I don’t have any profound understanding of the metaphysical significance of celibacy.  But I do know something about human nature, and I can imagine what would happen if the Church began to ordain married men.  Here is a post I wrote back in January of 2011.

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Why doesn’t the Latin Rite Church just start ordaining married men again? If men can’t or won’t embrace celibacy, then why force the issue?  Well, I peeked into the future, when married priests are commonplace, and this is what I heard in the pews:

“Well!  I see the pastor’s wife is pregnant again!  What is she trying to prove?  Must be nice to pop ‘em out year after year, while the parish has to support all those brats.”

or:

“Well!  I see another year has gone by and the pastor’s wife still isn’t pregnant.  A fine example they’re setting!  I won’t have them teaching my children CCD, since his own wife is clearly on the Pill.”

and:

“I went to the rectory the other day to talk to Father about my divorce, and those damn kids of his wouldn’t shut up for a minute.  Sounded like a herd of elephants running around up there — I couldn’t keep my thoughts straight.  How can he give me advice about my family when he can’t even control his own?”

or:

“I have to talk to someone about my kids, but I would never go to Father — his kids are so well-behaved, he could never understand what I’m going through.  I swear, his wife must drug them or something — something ain’t right there.”

and:

“I see the pastor’s kids are taking tennis lessons!  I guess they’re doing pretty well– no need for me to leave anything in the basket this week, when we’re barely getting by.”

or:

“I see the pastor’s kids are wearing such ratty shoes.  What a terrible example he sets!  No one’s going to want to join a church that encourages you to have more kids than you can care for.”

and:

“I wanted to meet with Father to talk about the new brochures for the pro-life committee, and his secretary said he was busy — but on the drive home, I saw him at the McDonald’s playground, just fooling around with his kids!  I guess I know where stand in this parish!  Harumph.”

or:

“Everyone thinks it’s so great that Father started all these holy hours and processions and prayer groups, but I saw two of his little ones sitting all alone, just looking so sad and neglected.  It’s a shame that any children should grow up that way, without proper attention from their parents.  Harumph.”

And so on, and so on.  I’m sure you can think of more.   Imagine if his wife had a job?  Or imagine if she didn’t have a job?  Imagine if his wife wore jeans?  Imagine if she wore a veil? Imagine if he got an annulment? Would the parishioners pay for alimony or child support?  Imagine if the priest could have gotten married, but was still single?  Does that mean he’s gay, or impotent?  Does he regret not marrying? Am I imagining it, or is he hitting on me? Is he hitting on my daughter?

I’m paraphrasing here, but I remember a pathetic prayer uttered by the semi-fictional Don Camillo:  “Please, merciful Lord, if I have to blow my nose while I’m up at the altar, let me do it in a way that doesn’t offend anyone.”

And it wouldn’t just be a matter of doing the right thing and shrugging off unjust gossip.  It would be so hard to know what is the right thing to do.  I see how my husband struggles to work hard at his job,  make enough money, and strategize for the future, because we’re all depending on him — and then comes home and puts it all aside to become the sympathetic and appreciative husband and the strong but playful dad.  And he only has one family.

It’s hard enough for men to balance family and career. What if, as priests, they had to balance their biological family with a spiritual family of parishioners?  Whose needs come first?  It might work in a small, very close-knit community with a long tradition of married priests; but most parishes in the United States are not like that.

And did I mention?  The average American Catholic diocesan priest makes between$15-30,000 a year.

I’m not saying it’s unworkable; I’m just saying it’s not the no-brainer heal-all for anemic numbers in the seminaries.

All the hypothetical nasty comments above are things that people say about decent, hard-working, lay Catholic couples with private lives.  Other people have no business judging them — and yet they do, all the time.  How much worse would this gossip (and the attendant protest via empty collections basket and empty pews) be if the couple in question had much less claim to a private life?
Parishioners tend to feel like they “own” their pastors.  This can take the form of befriending and loving him, making him meals, and praying for him — but it can also take some uglier forms.  I cannot imagine enduring such scrutiny as a pastor’s wife or child, especially without the graces of Holy Orders that help a priest survive his daily ordeal.

Well, next time, we’ll discuss some of the more practical reasons why – sigh – women priests are such a bad idea.

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  • richard

    St. Paul saw it as a division of loyalty.

  • Kelly Thatcher

    Simcha, women “priests” aren’t just a bad idea. The concept is about as logical as a square circle. The Church is the Bride of Christ. Priests are Christ in Persona. Women priests are simply as illogical as, say, two men or two women becoming “married.” And never mind the fact that I live in Massachusetts and we evidently have no conception of the fact that a square circle is an impossibility. :-)

    • Dillon T. McCameron

      I’d gain the slightest sliver of respect for the notion if they’d start calling them “priestesses.”

      Till then,

  • CSmith

    My father pastored a small Protestant church when I was growing up, and we heard almost exactly what you described. Also, it’s not like churches who accept married pastors are exactly flooded with candidates for the pastorate either.

  • Ruth Curcuru

    Another purely practical argument against the idea that married priests would solve the priest shortage is that if you got them,you’d need more of them than you need celibate priests in order to cover the same amount of work. Celibate Fr. X can easily do weddings and confessions on Saturday, say Mass Sat. evening and Sunday morning and then take his time off Sunday during the football game and all day Monday. Married Fr. X is going to want a weekend off periodically. Celibate Fr. X can make night meetings and the like; married Fr X’s family is going to want to see him when the kids and wife are home. Celibate Fr. X has no problem running out in the middle of the night; married Fr X can’t leave the kids if the wife is out. Married Fr. X shouldn’t work much more than 50 hrs a week–less if he is paid little enough that his wife needs to work; celibate Fr. X works more than that.

    The other difficulty is deciding what to do when married Fr. X wants to get a different job for whatever reason. Do you let him function as a “sacramental minister” who comes into a parish on the weekend and says a Mass or two, or do you require some pastoral work?

    Other churches do manage with married clergy but as a general rule they either 1) are much smaller than the average Catholic parish or 2) have a large staff and relatively few things that the pastor (as opposed to a staff member) has to do.

    Could we get used to married priests and make our Church work with them? I think we could,. Should we? That’s for wiser minds than mine to determine. Will deciding to have married priests instantly solve our vocation problems. Not the way I see it.

    • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com/ priest’s wife

      priests (married or not) do NOT take the weekend off- the most they can hope for is a Monday off

    • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com/ priest’s wife

      my sister’s celibate priest gets 2 months off EVERY summer. Our local celibate priests get a month or more off EVERY year. My husband has two weekends a year that he finds a sub for (any other break will be in the middle of the week so that at least sat and Sun doesn’t change)- everyone is different

    • jen

      I’m a Lutheran pastor’s wife and I can tell you that bi-vocational clergy (outside job + pastoring a parish) are pretty common though it’s usually because their parishes are small enough that they can’t afford to pay someone more than Sunday supply rates.

      I can also say with certainty that my husband is married because he still handles crisis calls in the middle of the night, has night meetings, and the like. He does get one day a week off (and theoretically a half a day on Saturday depending on what is going on. It’s also a given that if his cell phone rings and someone is in the hospital, someone has just died, or something seriously traumatic has happened, he is going to toss on clericals and run. Before we had our son, he brought me with him on occasions because I was an extra set of hands and can sit with the dying parishioner while my husband handles the family or take the kids to go do something while my husband takes care of the parents.

      As for weekends off, we find a sub once or twice a year (usually around Christmas or in the summer for my husband’s birthday) if we’re going to be down with his family over the weekend. (My parents are 2 hours away by car though we’ve also been in rural calls where it has required planes, trains, and automobiles to get “home”.) If we’re gone for whatever reason, one of the local pastors in our denomination is “on-call” during that time and we trade off taking “on-call” time for them when they need to be away. It’s one of these things where it’s understood that we have to find a way to make it work.

      • jen

        Ack! That second paragraph should be “I can also say with certainty that my husband handles crisis calls in the middle of the night, has night meetings, and the like… and he is a married pastor.”

  • Fiddlesticks

    As a Protestant I’d say no way romanticize married priests or see it as a quick fix. The pastor’s wife basically becomes an unpaid worker in the church – or she gets a job and a life outside church and is criticized for ‘neglecting’ her husband’s calling. Children can take years to get over the bitter feeling that their dad was always there for everybody – except them. Or else pastors exploit their unmarried or childless staff with the excuse that they ‘have to go home to their wife and kids’. Single people can feel very bitter about being treated like their welfare and their time is less important because ‘they don’t have any responsibilities’. If the pastor’s kid says a rude word in school everybody gasps and says ‘the pastor’s kid said a rude word! they should be setting an examples!’ and then proceed to cuss like troopers because their dad works for the rail company, so why would anybody expect them to be religious? Protestant organisations have had their own child abuse scandals, often because children of people working in evangelism weren’t cared for properly and didn’t feel they could complain.

    I paint a dark picture. I think it can work – but on a very different model where the pastor is just one amongst a group of elders/leaders. With the responsibilities a current Catholic priest has? Forget it!

    • Carol Salabsky

      I, too, saw this as a Protestant. I was very active in the Youth Groups and the kids of the Pastor had major problems in most cases. They couldn’t understand why their Dad wasn’t there with them on their birthdays – when Dad was at the hospital with someone who was dying. Or at their Little League games when their Dad was counseling another kid who was having trouble. One young girl turned to prostitution (an extreme case) so that her Dad would “finally see her”. And the wives – well, let’s just say it takes a very special woman to be a pastor’s wife.

    • Hannah

      Exactly. (I’m a Protestant too, have multiple relatives that are pastors. They did their darndest to be good Dads and be there for their churches, but something always gives. There’s a lot of pain. )
      Like you said (and as I have observed) the best way for it to work is with more of a multiple pastors/elders model.
      Mixing the Catholic church’s model with that can of worms would be a nightmare.

  • Martha O’Keeffe

    Let’s be frank here – the reasoning behind “If they permitted married priests, they’d solve the vocations shortage” is about sex, not marriage. If the idea is that there are hundreds of men out there who would become priests but the only thing holding them back is the bar on marriage, consider that in the light of other professions. Would we say “I know Jim wants more than anything else to be a doctor, but there’s just no way he can get married while he’s going through his education, so he’s not going to even apply”? No, I don’t think so; because, while Jim or Sally may not want to marry and start a family life while training to be doctors, they probably are quite wiling to have sexual partners.
    And if the idea is that permitting married priests will do away with sexual scandals of all kinds, think again! A family member is married to an Anglican minister, and they still have the problems of a certain type of woman who likes to hang around, or even actively chase, men of the cloth even if the minister is already married; married ministers having affairs; divorces and remarriage, and all the rest of it.

    • simchafisher

      I don’t think that’s necessarily true. There are plenty of men who really do long for companionship and children, and not just sex! I agree that the celibacy requirement is not what’s causing the vocation shortage, though.

  • Patrick Tramma

    The only case I could see an argument for is ordaining retired men who wish to serve their church. They would help with administering the sacraments, but have limited other roles. There would be no administrative duties or power at all. Almost like retired priests in my diocese–come to cover a mass when the pastor is busy. Help out with confession services, etc…

  • Emily

    It’s called the Roman rite. Only reminded because it was in a homily this sunday!

    • KL

      Actually, Roman and Latin rite both work, since they’re synonymous in this context. “Western” rite is not an official term, so it’s less helpful, but generally people will still get what you mean!

      • Susan Peterson

        Usually “Western rite” is used for those Orthodox who celebrate (a Byzantinzied form of ) the Latin rite! The number of Orthodox parishes which do this in the US are slightly more numerous than Anglican Use Catholic parishes. But they do exist, and Western Rite Orthodox are what they are called. And yes, they have married priests.

        • KL

          I had no idea that occurred! Out of curiosity, how are such parishes viewed within the Orthodox community? From my (admittedly limited) experience, it seems that it would not be a popular move…

  • Martha Cooley

    And can you imagine the scandal once the priest divorced? It makes my head hurt to even begin to think about it.

  • Tiff

    There are vocation shortages in Protestant denominations that allow for married ministers with kids. Can’t really see how allowing priests to be married would be a solution to the vocation crisis.

    • jen

      The shortage is 50% across the board.

  • http://www.edgartownnews.blogspot.com Sara Piazza

    Anyone who thinks priests should be allowed to marry really doesn’t understand the nature of a priest’s role or his relationship to the Church. And to the people who say that’s it not possible to get good marriage counseling from a man who’s never been married – really? – does that mean one would also not get proper cancer treatment from a doctor who’s never had that disease? Bollox.

    • simchafisher

      Just to be clear, nobody’s seriously suggesting that the Church might allow ordained priests to marry. The question is whether married men ought to be ordained.

      But yeah, I’ve always thought that someone who’s heard thousands of private confessions from married people probably knows a lot more about marriage than a person who’s been married to one person. Much easier for a celibate man to be objective, I would think.

      • Cordelia

        Could you – or a reader – take a minute to explain why the priests apparently CANNOT marry after ordination? I’ve never understood that.

    • Susan Peterson

      That can’t be right, because married men do become Catholic priests in many of the particular Churches in communion with Rome (what you might call the “Eastern rites”, and there is nothing wrong with their understanding of their role or with their relationship to the Church. Don’t apply one set of notions about the priesthood which are attached to the practice of the Latin rite, to the whole Church!

  • Jens Sweet Plantains

    As a convert from the Protestant church, I have to say that allowing priests to marry is just an awful idea… There are reasons why there are so many sad stereotypes for pastors’ kids, and why finding a normal one is rare – their fathers are split between caring for two families; and the whole family is always under scrutiny, etc., etc. You nailed it with all those quotes at the beginning of those posts – that’s exactly what goes on in the Protestant church.

    • Eugene Edward Yeo

      There is a difference between allowing priests to marry and ordaining married men.

      • Donna

        True, but people’s concerns are not dependent on when the priest gets married –

        • Eugene Edward Yeo

          True, but it shows a lack of understanding about the issue as a whole. I can say that I’ve never heard any of those things about any married priest I’ve known or their kids. Though I have heard “How come THEY GET to HAVE SEX?”, as if that’s all that married life is about.

  • Rachel Caron

    I have a friend who is a member of one of the Eastern Rites in full communion with Rome which has married priests, and I can attest to you that all of the things you said regarding the kind of gossip / comments which would be said by people in the pews are sadly true! (I have heard these things said of married Byzantine priests and their families).

    I’ve spoken to married Eastern Rite Catholic priests, and they fully support celibacy. Also, if you look at the statistics around Protestant pastors, it’s a very challenging prospect to raise a family and tend a Church. This is definitely not the cure-all to our shortage in priests.

    An interesting thought would be this: Why not allow permanent deacons – once their families have reached maturity (i.e., all their kids are out of the house) – allow them to be ordained as priests. They’d be older when this happened, but that would be one way to avoid the messiness of trying to raise a family while serving a parish.

    • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com/ priest’s wife

      In the Eastern rites, celibacy is a rule of the monastic life- they live in community with support of their brothers

  • Li Min

    Great quotes!! And very true that a married priest can not truly balance family life with parish life—it really wouldn’t work. The wife and kids would either feel neglected or the parish would. Plus, you forgot the fact that the wife might be making some major decisions behind closed doors (as the saying goes: a great man has a great woman behind him) or something like that. His wife might be micro-managing the parish the entire time and that really wouldn’t be good for the priest himself.

  • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com/ priest’s wife

    it’s hard to read these comments- not that I think that the celibacy discipline should change in the Roman rite. I do have a question- have any of you tried to get your priest to come to the hospital in the middle of the night or hear your confession during non-posted hours or bless your home at the new year or celebrate a special anniversary Mass or….because I always hear the argument against married priests because ‘married men won’t have time for this, ‘

    but it doesn’t happen with celibate priests. perhaps it is the fault of the gatekeeper or the fact that the average Roman-rite parish around here has 3,000 families plus…unless you are a VIP parishioner (and readers of this blog probably ARE VIP types at their local parishes), the relationship with the priest will be a weekly Mass within a sea of others and perhaps a monthly confession, rushed because he is trying to get through a line of 50 before the Saturday vigil.

    Sometimes parishioners feel like they ‘own’ their priest- they might not see him more than that hour on Sunday, but they feel like, if he is alone in the evenings, then he is ‘theirs.’

    • Caroline Moreschi

      Nice to read your perspective. I’m a little nervous about being a priest’s wife because of the time/ commitments problem. And yeah, it is a little tough to read that folks in the Latin rite assume the worst about married priests. As I’ve witnessed, it’s tough, no doubt about that – not every woman (or priest) could do it. But I do wonder if the problem is deeper than married priests – if it has more to do with putting priests on a pedestal, overwork, etc, rather than seeing them as human beings. Not to mention the tendency of us all to gossip and gripe….

    • anna lisa

      Do you ever pick up your husband’s hands and kiss them? I’d want to do that until I became a nuisance.

      • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com/ priest’s wife

        anna lisa- no! :) but my respect and love for the priesthood (and his priesthood specifically) gives me the strength to not be selfish (or try not to be) when he does leave to anoint someone or he is a little late for dinner- I pray we are doing a good job with balancing

        • anna lisa

          What an honor.

          After reading some of your other comments, I’m wondering why your husband doesn’t get more time off? The priests here do annual retreats and take vacation time. We get priests from all over the world who are taking time off from their work or studies. They will fill in, doing duties to give the regular priests here a break. Some come back year after year. Our Jesuit priests will also hop over to the diocesan parishes to fill in for an overly extended brother. Opus Dei priests do the same. It’s nice to see that they take off time together as friends as well. I suppose that the worst thing that could happen to a priest would be to feel isolated from this brotherhood, while shouldering the needs of so many others. I hope they have a good support system in the Byzantine rite.

          • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com/ priest’s wife

            sorry Simcha….last comment ;) Anna lisa- our rite is really, really little (actually- you should visit- Santa Clara Chapel, Oxnard, Saturdays at 5:30!- plus Sherman oaks on Sundays)- we don’t have financial support. So- my husband works as director of spiritual care/chaplain at the local hospital 5 days a week (on-call 24/7) and then has church some evenings and Saturdays and Sundays. he has bi-ritual faculties, so he also has 5 Roman rite Masses (some at hospital, some at parish)- we tag along as much as possible and he runs to the pier with the kids to fish for a bit on his half days off (Saturdays before 2, Sundays after 4….unless something comes up)

          • Eugene Edward Yeo

            Popadya, what rite is that?

          • jen

            She is Romanian Catholic.

          • anna lisa

            Oh wow, I’d love to go…We are actually picking our son up from the Tilden Center in Westwood at 4:00pm on Saturday..(I assume you mean 5:30 in the evening) Well, I’m *hoping* to go along to LA,– if I can get my oldest to take two of the boys to their soccer games…Thank you for the invitation :). The only other Eastern rite mass I’ve attended was not in union with Rome–St. Anthanatius here. I think they are called Antiochan Eastern Orthodox.
            Wow that’s a tough schedule your husband keeps. God Bless him, and you too for being so supportive.

          • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com/ priest’s wife

            this is one of his sub-needing weekends- he is in Chicago for our eparchy (diocese) priest’s conference…back in time for the LA Liturgy Sunday morning…so come next week! ;)

          • anna lisa

            Hopefully next month, thank you. Our ninth grader is doing this thing called the “Ahead” program at Tilden for the whole school year, once a month.

    • Kelly Thatcher

      Trust me. I’m no VIP parishioner. Why would you assume that, I wonder?

      • simchafisher

        What is a VIP parishioner?

        • Kelly Thatcher

          I can’t speak for The Priest’s Wife, but I read it as, you know, Simcha, somebody who’s maybe on the parish council, or somebody who’s a big contributor…somebody who thinks, whether rightly or not, that the pastor is bound and beholden to him or her, and not the whole parish. Personally, if this *is* the definition of a “VIP parishioner” I’m grateful to only be a lady in the pew. :-) Not that there’s anything wrong with, as far as I know, being a VIP parishioner…I’m just glad I’m not one. (‘Course, I’m in the middle o’ preparing a Bible study for tomorrow night and the theme is pretty much “storing treasures in heaven.) :-)

          • Kelly Thatcher

            Just to reply to my own post? Our Bible study isn’t in any parish…it’s in the middle of a shopping mall! :-)

  • Caroline Moreschi

    I’m a Protestant, my husband is in seminary, so this is an interesting perspective. I (obviously) don’t think married priests are a bad idea, but I’m not Catholic, so there are differences. The problems you listed above depend in part on a lot of the parish – how big is it? What part of the country is it in? How traditional is it? In my experience, more traditional, small parishes in the South tend to put much more pressure on “preacher’s wives and kids” to meet a particular standard. That said, the preacher’s wife at my (small, traditional, Southern) home parish worked at an elementary school, wore pants, and sent the kids to public school. People just need to deal with the fact that priests are people too :)

    • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com/ priest’s wife

      Caroline- good luck with your journey! I tell my kids this- “you are not going to church/singing/cleaning up the coffee room/restocking the candles right now because your dad’s a priest (Byzantine Catholic)- you are doing it because you’re MY kid!” (at this point they enjoy doing these things anyway)

      • Caroline Moreschi

        Haha too true! We don’t have kids yet, and that will be the toughest part. I don’t want them to get callous to things, but we would be going to midnight Mass and the Easter vigil, etc, whether my husband was a priest or not.

        • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com/ priest’s wife

          Caroline- God was so wise when He put us together- I have never been the type of person to insist on big celebrations on the actual day …so we celebrate in octaves…and my kids think it is normal to open Christmas presents in the late afternoon ;) (we rush through Santa stockings before church- striving for balance)

        • jen

          We’ve had Christmases where (when we lived far from family), I’d fly out ahead of my husband and he’d join me after he was finished with church things. My mom’s family actually made the Christmas gathering on the 28th one year to accomodate us having to fly in after church on Christmas morning.

      • Bstar0306

        This is so true! My mom’s a DRE at our church and I have helped her for years and people are all well you help out because your mom works there an I’m like NO I help because I WANT to and it’s part of our call to service!!

    • jen

      I’ve been a vicar’s wife/pastor’s wife for 11 years now (we were in seminary when we got married) and I found the rural Midwest also tends to put pressure on the wife/kids to meet a certain standard. We’re currently back in northern California (where I’m originally from) and it’s generally understood that I’m not going to be at every. single. event. that happens in the parish, especially because I have a kid with special needs.

      You’ll figure out what you need to do to make things work for you.

  • norcalrunner

    But people already say misinformed and horrible things about celibate priests. So why even have priests at all by your logic?

    Some people somewhere are always going to think the worst. That’s never a good reason for doing or NOT doing something.

    Or, if you think this is a valid reason for not ordaining married men, then why is it okay to ordain men from other denominations/rites who are already married?

    The problem is the mixed message. If marriage is out for Roman Catholic priests, then it’s out. If you got married as a priest in the Anglican Church and want to convert to Roman Catholicism and are married, then be a deacon but consider the priesthood out of bounds.

    I have heard every single one of these things said about lay people. Why not address the problem of snarky gossip which is terrible regardless of the target? Is it somehow worse to gossip about priests?

    • enness

      Yes, they do say things already, but I think there tends to be a more limited array of options.

      • norcalrunner

        But that’s still not a reason for anything.

        Look, the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. We had married priests until it got too expensive for the Church and we won’t have them going forward because it’s too expensive for the Church. People can go on and on about all kinds of crazy reasons why married priests are a “bad idea” (it’s actually a very good idea, one Christ clearly thought was a good idea), but because the usual busybodies and know-it-alls might gossip is a non-starter.

        Also, people give zero credit to the Holy Spirit these days. I would think it takes a special kind of woman to marry a man who is called to priesthood (or pastorship in other denominations). I would think the Holy Spirit would be part of the strange, intangible magic that brings two people together. And the grace to handle any special issues that a married priest and his family might encounter is there for the asking.

  • Christopher M. Zelonis

    I just wonder why the women in these pictures are clad in such hideous vestments.

  • Christian Schmemann

    I certainly agree that the problems associated with a priest having a wife and kids- some people complain that the priest’s wife is pregnant all the time or the priest’s wife is using the pill, and varying standards of living all would be issues.

    Then again, I wonder how often these issues occur in with married priests in the Orthodox Church? I have decent amount of dealings with the Orthodox Church, but all the married Orthodox priests I know already had their kids raised upon becoming acquainted with them. And there is virtually no discussion about having women priests in the Orthodox Church.

    In any case, it would seem that certain groups of busy-body right-winger Catholics would cause most of the problems, with their contradictory attitudes that they neither want to see contraceptives used (understandable on its own merits) but at the same would resent supporting a bunch of kids (thereby eliminating their reasons to oppose abortion and contraception).

  • John Barba

    Think I’ll get pregnant, oh wait I can’t I’m not a women. Guess that means I cant be a Mom either. Whew, good thing cause that’s hard work.

  • Eugene Edward Yeo

    Well… Latins are not the only Western rite, atleast historically. I don’t believe they are even currently the only western rite, come to think of it.

  • jen

    Before I refute some of the fallacies I’ve seen, can I just say that all y’all really need to stop playing the “it’s impossible to balance the spiritual needs of the parish with family life” card? A better argument: “it’s not part of our tradition in the Roman rite.” “Parishioners will eat the family of the priest alive with their criticism” is another good one. I actually had a psychiatrist double the dose of my anti-depressants when he found out that I was a pastor’s wife. (True story.)

    So what *isn’t* a good argument:

    [+] “Married priests won’t be able to respond to emergency calls in the middle of the night or in the evening when the wife is out.” Actually, I can count the number of midnight crisis calls in 11 years of ministry on one, maybe two hands. Most parishioners wait until morning to call and report a death, a hospitalization, or a similar crisis. As for me, it’s understood that if one of those calls comes in, my husband is going to toss on clericals and RUN. We even have a contingency plan of who to call to sit with our son if I’m not home and that call comes in. I never go out without my cell phone if my husband is home with my son and the one time a month when I’m at Ladies’ Night Out (a meal in a restaurant with women in the parish), all he would have to do is call me and I’d drop everything to head home. (I have women in the parish who would pack up my meal and pay my bill, knowing that I’d pay them back the next day.) As for evening meetings, do people make that comment about a banker who sits on parish council and has to attend the council meeting once a month on Tuesday nights?

    [+] “He might tell his wife what he heard in the confessional.” Umm… no. The seal of the confessional can’t be broken under any circumstance and even this lowly Protestant knows that! Not to mention, I really don’t want to know what he’d hear in the first place. I have enough of a problem with other parishioners trying to tell me gossip (which I tell them that I don’t want to hear) and could just watch Judge Judy if I wanted to see the depths to which human beings can plunge.

    [+] “Either his parish or his family will be neglected.” It depends on the parish. Most decently-sized Catholic parishes will have a staff so it’s not like everything falls on the priest the way it does for us Protestants. Something which I don’t think people realize: weekdays can be more crazy than Sundays. Today is a third Tuesday so my husband left for church (after walking our son to preschool), had his monthly pastors’ gathering at lunch with all the pastors in our denomination, did visits all afternoon, and has parish council tonight. We’re still figuring out the date and time for youth group but it used to alternate Tuesday afternoons with Confirmation last year. I’ve seen my husband for maybe an hour today? It’s par for the course. He does the bedtime routine with our son so they’ll get some quality time together tonight. Fridays are “date breakfasts” for us because date nights don’t work well for childcare reasons. He has yet to miss a preschool program and is actually more involved in our son’s preschool than I am.

    [+] “The wife might be making major decisions behind closed doors and could be micromanaging the parish.” (Thanks for this one, Li Min. I had a great laugh over it.) If your parish is one where your priest makes all the decisions, you’ve got a pretty large problem because no healthy church creates an environment where a wife could ever have this much power. I don’t sit on parish council, nor would I ever be allowed to do so because it would run the risk of me rubber-stamping my husband’s ideas and policies. Truthfully, I don’t *want* to be on parish council as those meetings are dreadfully boring and I would honestly love to have less to do with the parish. For me, it’s the equivalent of my husband having intimate knowledge of the day to day running of the major corporation for whom I worked in Montana. It’s actually more likely that the parish will try to micromanage the wife or the kids. (It’s actually happened to me a few times.)

    [+] “insert something here about the priest’s kids becoming Hell’s Angels” For every pastor’s kid I know who has a million tattoos and piercings (a.k.a. my sister-in-law), I know 50 who are normal people and a handful who are pastors themselves (a.k.a. my husband). If the priest’s kids have problems, it probably has more to do with parishioners being nasty to them vs. their father not being around. Would you want to be told frequently that you are not living up to the artificial standards people set for you while other people’s kids can do whatever the heck they want? Would you want to hear people telling you weekly (or more often) that they hate your parents?

    I’m not advocating for married priests in the Catholic church just as I’m sure none of you would go onto a Lutheran blog and advocate for celibate pastors. I’m just saying that “he wouldn’t be able to balance family and the spiritual needs of the parish” is disproven daily by Eastern rite priests, Episcopal priests, Lutheran pastors, Orthodox priests, Jewish rabbis, and many other clergy.

  • Patrick Cullen

    I’m an Eastern Catholic and married priests are something we accept and embrace. Recently, my Bishop ordained two married men to the priesthood and hopefully that trend continues throughout the entire Eastern Church. Without question, the life of a married priest and his family is not easy. They have to find other work(hospital chaplains, teachers, etc) to support their family and that means that Fr. is not always available for your drop-in questions or meetings. And there will always be parishoners who do/say the things that Simcha wrote about in her blog. Regardless, I say Glory to Jesus Christ for all the married clergy in our church.

  • MLP

    In our sex saturated society, it’s too easy to view celibacy the wrong way. People with true callings should consider it a gift; they’re liberated from the pressure and trouble that comes from attracting and keeping a mate and the responsiblities of raising children. Being a priest has enough pressure and responsibility without all of that. Celibate priests set an example to all unmarried Catholics that a life without sex does not equal a life without love or a life of deprivation at all. When did we stop learning this?

  • K B

    I am a Catholic priest’s wife. He used to be a Church of England vicar and then we became Catholic. After receiving a dispensation from celibacy from the Holy Father he was ordained a Catholic priest. He works as a hospital chaplain, and I think that helps me to keep a low profile in the parish. I do worry sometime what people think of how our 2 kids are behaving in church, and this article has made me more paranoid!

    There are quite a few married Catholic priests in England who used to be vicars. My husband was the first in our diocese though. I find a lot of people are for married priests, but usually for the wrong reasons.

    On Sunday my husband will have been ordained a year. We’re very new to our situation still, but getting more used to it. I have found from talking to other priest’s wives that all our situations are slightly different, and it’s all been harder then we thought it would be.

  • Barbara Fryman

    I keep reading the negatives of having married priests, but I wish someone would write about the positives. Ideally I’d love to hear from widowed men who became priests.
    The way I see it is that I *only* have my husband and five kids to prioritize, but our priests have the whole parish. I certainly feel as though I got the better deal in my vocation!

  • pleasedon’tanybodybeoffended!

    as a Catholic twentysomething I would say this based on hundreds of conversations with other guys and girls about life the universe and everything–members of my generation really don’t want life to be “easy”. Easy is boring. We want a challenge, a struggle, all-or-nothing adventures…something so valuable it’s worth giving up everything for. The young men I know discerning the priesthood are well aware of how very, very HARD it is to give up what is considered the summit of human happiness: being in love with someone and making a total commitment to them. As a young woman seriously discerning religious life, I cried many tears over this “sacrifice” of having a companion in life UNTIL I discovered that true human fulfillment lies entirely in God…that no matter what out state in life (even as holy, married laypeople) we can’t find our happiness entirely in another person or persons. Letting priests get married is (in my opinion) not the answer at all…the answer is telling young men who wonder if God is inviting them to a life of service and sacrifice that the only way to really be alive is to die to yourself to live in Christ…Being dedicated to God might be tormentingly lonely at times, exteriorly and maybe even interiorly sometimes, but faith PROMISES that we are never really alone. The struggles help us to understand that God is so much more valuable than anything or anyone else…This is just my two cents. But I will say that when people ask me how I can “give up” being married and having kids to enter a convent…I kind of laugh a little because Jesus is so worth it…making sacrifices for a person you really, really love isn’t so bad…people always do crazy things when they’re in love.

  • jenny

    ..if priests are married and experience the process of procreating their own children, then, they may learn to associate the sin of abortion with men too, not only with women…
    If it takes two to make a child, then, definitely it takes two to abort a child…….
    Just a thought for priests, when they say that women have abortions…..wouldn’t be a good idea to update the definition of the “sin of abortion” to make it more inclusive (I mean, to include men also) ?

    • newenglandsun

      It includes all conspirators.

      Canon 1329 – “If ferendae sententiae penalties are established for the principal perpetrator, those who conspire together to commit a delict and are not expressly named in a law or precept are subject to the same penalties or to others of the same or lesser gravity.”


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