Catholic Priests May be Allowed to Marry?

Once again the mainstream media have taken a few words from the Vatican officials and pretty much got the wrong end of the stick. The Times of London reports here that Pietro Parolin–who is to become the new Secretary of State–has said that the tradition of celibacy is not a dogma of the church and therefore it can be discussed. The problem with the reporting is that his statements are being framed as some sort of new declaration from Rome.

In fact celibacy for priests has always been acknowledged as a discipline not a dogma, and therefore open to revision and change. The fact that I, and several hundred other married former Anglicans are Catholic priests (not to mention priests of the Eastern Rite churches) is evidence that this discipline can be changed and exceptions to the rule can be made.

If there are discussions on this issue they move is very unlikely to be a completely open door for priests to marry. Instead the church may open the way for older men who are already married to be ordained as priests. They are very unlikely to go counter to the Eastern Orthodox tradition that married men may be ordained, but priests may not marry.

So in case people are worried that their priest is going to start dating…pretty unlikely. Instead, Deacon Bob–that faithful servant of the church whose kids are grown up  may feel the call to the priesthood and permission may be given for him to be ordained.


Here is my longer article on the subject from Aleteia, and here is a post written some time ago on who may be admitted to the priesthood even if they are married.

  • FrJBS

    Good. The last thing I need is to have to fit dating into my schedule! But seriously, I do think that if ordination of married men becomes common in the West, then provision should be made to preserve the diaconate as a distinct order in the Latin Rite.

  • AnneG

    Thank you, Fr L. These headlines drive me nuts. I have thought for a while that married men who are permanent deacons should be paid staff instead of some others at our parishes and that permanent deacons may eventually have the pathway opened when they are called to serve the Church as priests.

  • Dcn Chris

    As a permanent deacon, I’ve got a different calling, and a different vocation and role then a priest does. I gut the fish, fix the nets, bail out the boat, and other duties as assigned, so he can focus on being a fisher of men. I’m the sheepdog, helping the shepherd deal with a wandering flock, and keeping the wolves at bay. A border collie does not pick up a stick and become a shepherd. Some permanent deacons may well be called to the priesthood at some point. But as with married men who come to the priesthood from other ecclesial communities, that will, and should be, an exception. Trust me, you don’t want me on the other side of the confessional screen, anymore than I want me there. Not my calling.

    • Brian Niemeier

      May God bless your ministry, good and faithful servant.

      • Dcn Chris

        Thanks for your prayers, and kind words.

  • Rationalist1

    While I’ve been told the many reasons for keeping most priests unmarried the one that probably ensures the continuation of the status quo is money.

    Secular priests are paid very little. While the amount may vary from diocese to diocese their salary is probably about 25K to 30K (US) a year. In most jurisdictions , that salary would be insufficient to maintain a wife and (large?) family. For one they would need to have their own housing as several families could not stay in the same rectory.

    Also given the much larger number of young men that would enter the secular priesthood (the religious priesthood would remain exempt) and the need to pay a livable wage diocese could be faced with doubling or tripling of their salary and benefits budget,

    I’ve personally know two married Latin Rite Catholic priests. Neither were assigned to parish would and both were given non diocesan related chaplaincies that would pay more than a parish priest in order to help support their families. Obviously this is not the case in all circumstances but is probably more common than not.

    • Margaret

      Although remember now we have lay employees paid not much better trying to make it work on such small salaries. For my family it means both of us work.

      • Rationalist1

        Sure. So the priest’s spouse would be expected to work as well.

        One of the factors that is affecting the economics of parochial schools is the fact that priests and nuns are no longer doing the teaching (at very low salaries) and the schools have to employ lay people who need to be paid wage that they can live on and that has caused school expenses to go up considerably. It would be the same with parish clergy.

  • J Long

    I think changing the rules to allow married men whose children are older would be a good idea, and in standing with the Eastern Churches. I think certain things would need to be addressed though. If they did have children would it not be costly for the parish. Also, what if the Priest wants a divorce? Moreover, there would always be tension between duties to the wife and the flock. Finally, of course Bishops would have to remain unmarried and celibate men.

  • Convert Journal

    I was wondering if you would respond.

    Of course, for the MSM the new shift away from the failed policy of celibacy finally opens the door for equality in ordination of women, recognition of gay marriage (between loving, committed couples) and possibly the eventual recognition of choice. (Just sayin…)

    • FrJBS

      Failed policy? In what way has celibacy failed?

      • Convert Journal

        Sorry, I was trying to be too clever in using the language of schismatic liberalism in my sarcasm. They have a tendency to refer to even dogma as “Vatican policy” or simply “policy”. While I realize the nature of celibacy as a discipline, I believe it to be a great gift to the Church and something I hope is never changed.

        (For the record, ordination of women is impossible and has nothing to do with equality, “gay marriage” is equally impossible (and conceptually disordered, unnatural and sinful), and “choice” is the label used for an intrinsic evil of unspeakable magnitude.)

    • jeff

      I think you’re right. For the MSM, an overturning of the celibacy rule would be an admission that the celibacy discipline has failed.

  • kkollwitz

    I should warn anyone who finds the prospect of married Catholic priests to be an unmitigated blessing, that last week I was hit in the nose by a Frisbee thrown by the son of a married Catholic priest- and still have the bruise to prove it.

  • FW Ken

    The proposal to ordain older married men was considered and rejected at a synod of bishops in 2005. I’m not sure what’s changed in 8 years.

  • Augustine

    Married priests do not celebrate the Divine Liturgy daily in the East, the reason for celibacy in the West. I actually think that the West made the better choice.

  • jeff

    If married priests are brought in, how would the pracitcalities (esp with young children) work in the 21st century? Although written about Lutherans there are some ideas we could glean from