Married Clergy

While Roman Catholic priests may not marry, Bergman was ordained under a Pastoral Provision approved by Pope John Paul II in 1980. Bergman was an Episcopalian priest, a faith that permits its priests to marry, when he sought priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

On April 21, 2007, Bergman was ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton by John Dougherty, auxiliary bishop.[source]

Ok, I feel like opening up a can of worms… I am not entirely convinced that married priests are a bad thing.

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  • Neither am I. I DO know that I really have enjoyed the two widower priests I have known. I have found that having a “real life” as part of their experience helps them have a perspective on life beyond the Rectory. To some degree the same thing happens with men who were called to the priesthood later in life – past their college days. Perspective, that’s what it brings.It is not necessarily the case that a man who spent his whole life being absolutely committed to the priesthood lacks real understanding of life in the real world and the forces that one encounters there. But it does happen pretty often.

  • The main problem, practically, with married priesthood is that a family takes a lot of time and money to run, and that naturally takes those resources away from a parish.I’ve always thought that priests should be allowed to marry, but perhaps have a special position and honor granted to those who choose to be celibate, and maybe only allow those who are celibate to rise above the position of priest in the hierarchy.

  • My understanding is all priests are married to the Church. If he is married to a woman, and they have many children (which would often be the case) would he then have the time to minister to the parish? The parish must then support his family of course. A picture of a man divided comes to mind…would be a great burden for his wife and children. Well, those are my thoughts anyway…

  • Anonymous

    Those that become priests under this provision have to remain chaste. They must abstain from sexual activity with their wives.

  • Judge–“The main problem, practically, with married priesthood is that a family takes a lot of time and money to run, and that naturally takes those resources away from a parish.”I am not totally convinced by that argument. How does one explain Eastern Rites and the Orthodox who thrive with married clergy. Anon– do you have some thing supporting that claim? I hadn’t heard that before and would contradict the vows of marriage. I am not sure taking the vows of priesthood would negate the vows of marriage in these types of circumstances.

  • Mark

    The wording of the original Blog entry you say “permit priests to marry”. I think this is wrongly put.Priests have never been permitted “to marry” – ever (except in the case of marrying two other people, lol) However married men have become priests. The difference here is which comes first. Also, married men who become priests under the Pope’s exception are not allowed to remarry should their wife die. As for Anonymous’s assertion that total continence is required – it is not now required by the Latin Church. There have been times in history where it was, however. Though I think that the Eastern Orthodox require a period (a few hours) of continence before the divine liturgy (though I have no reference handy).

  • guadalupe

    Looks like Anonymous has confused chastity with celibacy. He/she wouldn’t be the first.

  • Ms. Carolina, I think I have to agree with you on this.The argument arises: If priests have a family, would they have time to minister to the parish?Let’s look at that- how many priests in an UN-married state don’t have time for their parishes? It might cut into golf. Or whatever else they spend their time doing.Eastern Catholics and Orthodox churches do very well with married clergy, and the order IS important. A priest may not marry AFTER ordination, but a married man may be ordained. In the Byzantine tradition, in times of old, priests were married. Monks, however, could not. And it was usually from monks that the Bishops were chosen.

  • steve

    To expand a little on what Thom said, it is my understanding that if a married man is ordained he may not re-marry if he divorces or his wife dies. The Eastern Churches have a monastic class from which they chose bishops.

  • I’m not entirely convinced either. There – I said it. But my opinion doesn’t matter.

  • Alicia

    As a member of a Pastoral Provision parish (St. Mary the Virgin in Arlington, TX), I can speak to the fact that our married, formerly Episcopalian priest is incredibly devoted, as is his wife, to our parish. However, their children are grown, so I could not speak to the concern that having an army of young children may make it difficult to tend to the needs of your parish. I do personally know several young, married Episcopal priests with small children who seem to manage quite well (althought they are insanely busy), but they all have the advantage of being curates in parishes where there are 2-3 or more priests other than them. It may be quite difficult to go it alone in a large parish when you have a family. Of course, the argument could be made that if Rome allowed married men to enter seminary and become priests, there might be a few more clergy to spare, and parishes could double or triple up. I personally would support 100% allowing married men to become priests (agreeing, as mentioned previously, that the order is important – I am troubled by the thought of my priest “dating”). But, as with all things, the Holy Spirit will guide. I have faith in our Church.

  • CarpeNoctem

    Obviously someone needs to chime in with the “Byzantine Card”. There are married Catholic priests out there, and most of them do very well. I don’t think that it is a good idea in the Western Church, however. The example and spirituality of a faithful, chaste celebate is exactly antidote which is needed for our sick Western culture that has forgotten the meaning of love and perverted the gift of sexuality.Western Church priests do not take the promise of celebacy for worldly or practical reasons… they do it as an over-the-top witness to the Kingdom of God. Perhaps at no more serious time in the Church’s history is this example necessary.Of course, if the discipline were changed tomorrow by legitimate authority, so be it. There would be lots of practical things which would be difficult to deal with in the short term, but marriage is a good which is not incompatible in itself with priesthood, and vice versa.For those who would argue that a married priesthood would increase the number of priests, I am not convinced of that either. Not only would it probably not increase the number of priests significantly over the long term, but family life would decrease the ‘work capacity’ of priests… it would take 2 or 3 priests with families to duplicate the services of one priest without family obligations… this is not a slam of married priests, just a reminder that having a dual vocation means that they can’t be both places at once. Our parishes, particularly in rural areas and the military, are severely under-served by priestly ministers.. this would make matters worse.

  • A thought I had last night re: how much funds it would require of the Church to support a priest who had a family…Could it really bankrupt the Church anymore then say, I don’t know, the millions in hush money paid out for gay pedophile priests?My only concern is that the majority of people in support of married clergy tend to be the uber liberal types who also want women priests. I was suprised, pleasently surprised, to see so many traddy types comment that they didn’t see anything evil about married clergy either.

  • I’m not a proponent of married priests – but if they allowed it, I think I would become one.

  • Why? I’d be interested to know your reasons.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not interested in married priests because the Church does not allow it. I believe that the Church can better decide these things than I can. Anyway, I happen to be Catholic, which means I am obedient and faithful to the 2000 year old Church of Christ and His Apostles. What they say goes as Christ has given them the power to bind and loose, not me.Anyway, doesn’t it surprise you that this is a very new debate? Are you saying that this practice needs to change because of the history of the Church in the last 40 years? That’s a bit shortsided isn’t it?

  • Anonymous

    Oh yeah, I have no problem with the exceptions for Anglican converts. The Church has allowed it. I don’t see how that means they need to allow it for everyone. The Church isn’t a popularity contest.

  • steve

    Well Anon, I guess you win Catholic of the Year.I wouldn’t say this is a new debate. One the Catholic priesthood wasn’t always celebate. Second, if celebacy is so important, then the Church would not allow married Eastern Catholic and convert Protestant priests. (and probably wouldn’t ordain married men as permanent deacons)People asking questions doesn’t make them less Catholic than you, perhaps a little less smug than you, but not less Catholic.

  • If we’re taking a poll, count me in as someone who not only would support a married priesthood, but as a friend of several priests, would dance joyously at their weddings if they chose to marry . . . uh, depending on who they choose, I guess, but now you KNOW a woman marrying a priest would not only face the scrutiny of his family, but all of the “church women” in the parish! 😉

  • Fr. Joseph Bittle

    A few things:First: Perhaps the issue is that of the difference between good and better. For various reasons ennumerated by the Roman Pontiffs over the recent years, while celibacy is not ontologically constituative of the priesthood, it is considered to be a better thing for the Church.Second, although the better must then be maintained as the norm, the good may be allowed under some limited and controlled circumstances. For instance, in the case of the local discipline of particular sui generis Churches (e.g. Eastern), in the case of already married clergy converting from the Anglican/Episcopalian orbit (the Pastoral Provision), and, most recently, in the allowance of some other already married Protestant clergy to seek ordination after suitable preparation (following the model of the Pastoral Provision). This latter has recently been given a provisional form from by the Holy See in a docutment published in Origins during the past year.Third, I am a married Eastern Orthodox priest. If my parish of a mere 50 souls can manage to pay a living wage for my family, I find it hard to imagine that Catholic parishes with several thousand souls could not do the same several times over. There are, of course, two problems here a) the issue of poor financial stewardship habits among most of the Catholic laity and b) poor financial priority setting at both the dicosesan and parish levels (too much money going to too many non-essential, not-of-the-Church’s-core-mission projects. And, yes, too many non-clergy staff. Of this latter, of course the Church needs non-clergy staff, but sometimes this gets out-of-control and becomes a form or pseudo-clericalism.Lastly: As, I believe another commentor has already alluded, but in answer to digihairshirt: Priests are not allowed to marry. Ever. Married men, however, may be ordained to the priesthood. This is the Eastern canonical discipline and the model followed by Rome in the cases in which it has allowed married men to be ordained.

  • As I think about this, it occured to me that two of the best priests whom I have know recently were adult priests who were called to the priesthood after the death of their wives. In fact, if I recall, men in that situation are very very common in the seminaries nowadays.Would letting married men enter the seminary yield a huge harvest of priests??? I wonder. I really wonder. It seems a shame to make them wait for the wives to pass on to fulfill their calling, does it not?

  • “Those that become priests under this provision have to remain chaste. They must abstain from sexual activity with their wives.”In the early Church this was more true in the West. In the East, the custom arose of abstaining the night before offering sacrifice. This is why the East does not have a tradition of “daily Mass.”There is currently no provision I know of in the West (and there is certainly none in the East), which requires married priests to live “as brother and sister” with their wives. If there is, I would hope its (anonymous) promoter can cite some authority.The greatest advantage I can think of to a married priesthood, is that the feministas who try to take over a parish staff, would have to get by the pastor’s wife first. If this ever becomes a wider practice, I suspect it will begin among married deacons of mature years, or married men in more isolated parts of a country; say, the western United States, for example.

  • Anonymous

    “The greatest advantage I can think of to a married priesthood, is that the feministas who try to take over a parish staff, would have to get by the pastor’s wife first.”A celibate, straight priest with balls (has not been feminized) can do that too.

  • Wow, all the comments seem to support married priests. I guess I’ll be the only one to disagree. From my own experiences interacting with priests–I personally find that a single priest has the ability to relate to me on a more intimate level as a single man. No, not intimate on a sexual level, but on an intimate personal, friend level. I am not afraid to say things to him, but if he had a wife I would worry that he would share them with her. She we become a third party–it would stifile the intimate bond that I have with him.If I needed his help–I would have to consider her and their family needs first, and I may not call on him to help–because I would not want to take him away from his family.Maybe, I’m just selfish–but many parishioners have to share one man–would it be fair for a family to have to sacrifice their relationship for many parishioners?