Married Priests? Yes but No

Here’s how the conversation usually goes:

Typical Catholic: “A married priest! Wonderful! I think they should all be allowed to get married!”

FDL: “Well, I am so blessed to have a family and to be allowed to be ordained, and I’m glad you approve, but have you really thought this through?”

TC: “What?”

FDL: “Well, if a man is married and he and his wife are fertile they would have to be living by the teaching of the church right?”

TC: “So?”

FDL: “They wouldn’t be using contraception.”

TC: (looks at her two children) “Oh. That.”

FDL: “Well they might have a dozen kids. Who’s going to pay for them?”

TC: “The Bishop??”

FDL: (When he stops laughing) “Sorry. No. The parish will pay.”

TC: “Reeeeelly?”

FDL: “Uh huh. And he might need a bigger house and his wife won’t be able to go out to work and the kids will need to go to Catholic school and then college and all those Catholics who are so enthusiastic for married priests will have to start taking tithing seriously and put more than their usual $5.00 in the collection.

TC: “I don’t think having married priests is such a good idea…”

These are the realities of married priests. In fact, most married men and their families could probably squeeze by with the pay and benefits a priest receives, but it varies from diocese to diocese and from parish to parish.  It ain’t easy.

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  • Allison

    My Pastor is a former Lutheran, married with children. I believe his children were grown by the time he became a Catholic Priest. He is a wonderful ProLife champion and sage homilist. He even taught himself the Latin Mass!

    I often wonder how hard it is to do ALL that he does? Thank you Father for all you do. Grateful for your witness, it is my pleasure to offer a donation.

  • Dr. Eric

    I don’t know, Father. The Orthodox and Eastern Catholics have married priests and deacons and are supported by their parishes and the priest to parishioner ratio is much lower in those Churches. The typical suburban Catholicmegachurch has 1,000-2,000 families per priest- easy enough to support a priest with 7 children. Each family only has to provide $10-15 more per month than they are already giving.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I agree, but would Catholic families pay that extra?

  • priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)

    everything is reduced to money- it might be apples and oranges, but the (of course celibate) pastor at the nearest Roman-rite parish owns a small airplane and has the day off to enjoy it every week. All of his expenses (food, car, insurance, housing) is taken care of so he has $2000 to spend on himself per month. Can most families say this? Even if he is donating most of the money to charity, it is a lot of disposable income

    of course, different parishes have different financial situations, but the celibate priests I know in this area enjoy the same perks whether or not they decide to buy a small plane.

  • Julie C.

    I like the idea of married priests with children. I believe it is helpful in letting the priests know the stresses, demands and temptations that the rest of us might encounter. Therefore, they could advise from experience. The money could be a problem, though, especially when the Church is asking everyone(not just the priest) to have 6, 7, 8 children that need to be fed and educated. There are other problems associated with married priests, though, other than just money. What if the priest or his wife commits adultery? What if there is a divorce? What happens then?

  • Dr. Eric

    I would. Of course, I would gladly become a priest if they allowed married men to be ordained. At least I can go for the Diaconate.

  • Matt

    “What if the priest or his wife commits adultery?” He should resign, the same as a celibate/single priest who falls into sexual sin of this nature (or any unrepentant sin).

  • Paul H

    The Church asks married couples to be open to life, but it does not ask “everyone” to have 6, 7, or 8 children. There are legitimate reasons why couples might use natural methods of child spacing to limit their family size smaller than that. (For example, my wife and I have four children. And as much as we would like to have #5, we probably will have to try to avoid pregnancy indefinitely because of serious health risks which another pregnancy would pose for my wife.)

  • Paul H

    However, you make good points about what if a priest gets divorced or commits adultery (or if his wife commits adultery). That could be a difficult situation for the parish (as well as for the priest and his family of course!).

  • Woody

    The vocation of priest and biological father are two vastley different “career” choices. They should not be mixed as the Church wisely directs. However, in those circumstances, as in Fr. Longenecker’s, the Church does allow it to happen. By the way, you have a beautiful family! You are truly blessed.

  • Julie C.

    Paul, don’t get me wrong. I have six children myself and completely agree with the teachings of the Church.

  • FW Ken

    My priest is married, but the kids were grown. The grandads are in college, for that matter.

    I don’t care much whether the priest is married: neither is without problems and I’ve seen fine examples of both. I was, however, told recently that I’m f this ready because I’m “permissive”


  • Zwetschgenkrampus

    I remember reading that only such men should be ordained priests that also had what it took to be good husbands and fathers. However, the difficulties for married men in the priesthood can be considerable – money just being the start of it. I expect that relocations get more difficult if there are children in school to be considered. Being a Catholic, I have no firsthand experience of one particular setback of the spouses of Protestant ministers, i.e. everybody expects the spouse to work in the parish (at no extra expense, of course), while being under the microscope of the whole parish (is she a good wife? does she keep a clean house? does she help in the parish? what about the children?). I understand that trying to satisfy all these expectations is a game that one cannot win. In German there is an old piece of doggerel “Pastors Kinder, Muellers Vieh / geraten selten oder nie” (the children of a pastor and the cattle of a miller / hardly ever succeed), meaning a pastor must care for all the families in his parish (often to the exclusion of his own) and a miller had to operate the mill (water-powered) when there was water, and so his own household often suffered.

  • rosanne

    The spouse of a priest supports that priest economically, spiritually, emotionally, physically, cognitively, and socially. Given the situation in the Catholic church today, priests need more support than ever. It is a grave sin to kick out priests who marry during a critical shortage of priests world-wide. We put celibacy above access to Eucharist and God’s Word in dismissing priests who marry. God help us.

  • Will

    I thought we were not supposed to worry about such things as money as God will take care of us.

  • Will

    I should add that there are various pros and cons to the married priesthood. The fiscal compensation part is potentially a con. I think it would be more enlightening to look at as many pros and cons as possible instead of just one negative.

  • Paul H

    Understood. I’m sorry for being so nitpicky.