Time for married priests?

Why doesn’t the Latin Rite Church just start ordaining married men again? If men can’t or won’t stay celibate, 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.”


“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.”


“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?”


“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.”


“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.”


“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.”


“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 I stand in this parish!  Harumph.”


“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, and then started a new family?  Would the parishioners pay for alimony or child support?  Imagine if the priest could get married, but was still single?  Is he gay, or impotent?  Is he hitting on me?  Is he hitting on my daughter? [As Abby pointed out, no rite has ever allowed already-ordained priests to marry, so this wouldn’t be an issue!]

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?

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

Look, I know there are some families that could  hack it.   There are some that do, and I’m sure there are some that do very well, especially if the parish is close-knit and conservative, with a long, comfortable tradition of married priests.  And I know we’re likely to see more married priests soon, since our beloved (and thrilling!) Benedict XVI has so warmly welcomed the Anglicans in.

How’s it going to go?  I don’t know.  I’m not saying it’s a bad idea; 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.

And oh dear —  I was about to ask Priest’s Wife to weigh in, and now I see that she wrote about this last week!  Check it out, and also her fascinating follow-up post on celibacy and selfishness.  She was originally responding to a post by Fr. Z, which frankly I cannot make myself read.  The commentors he attracts always make me want to hide in the catacombs, to get away from those awful Catholics.  Brrr.

Well, next time, we’ll discuss why – sigh – women priests are such a bad idea.


  1. Reading those comments made my head ache. I wanted to
    walk away. Who would belong to a parish composed of people
    like this? Something has gone wrong. Remember the
    remark said of the early Christians: “these Christians, see
    how they love one another.”? Would this be said of any
    of the parishes where the (admittedly hypothetical) remarks
    you quoted come from?

    Married priests, women priests, liberal priests, conservative
    priests,…the list goes on….there will always be differences ,
    but must there be such a lack of charity, such an absence of
    the presence of Our Lord? j

  2. I’d prefer not to have married priests be the norm, but I’m aware that it’s all temporal reasons. I don’t really know any Eastern Rite or Orthodox, but they seem to do alright with it.

    I know lots of Protestant communities do married pastors quite well, and despite their theology, their pastor is a lot more important a figure in their church community than a priest is in most parishes. Many Protestants consider their pastor’s words and actions to be Gospel, while my own priest can say or do any number of idiotic things to which I don’t really give a second thought. The priest’s importance in the parish is as the annointed minister of the Sacraments. We can’t have the Consecration without him.

    Twice in my life now, I’ve heard priests give homilies on the Immaculate Conception = Virgin Birth of Jesus. Am I really going to go to either one of those men for spiritual (or any other kind of) advice? Nah. But will I attend one of the Masses at which they are presiding? Will I go to them for Confession? Of course.

    My own pastor right now is a wonderful guy, but I don’t actually have that many dealings with him that aren’t via his secretary in the Church office.

    • “…homilies on the Immaculate Conception = Virgin Birth of Jesus.”

      Oh. My. Goodness. Holy Mother Mary, pray for those priests!

  3. We live in a diocese who’s former bishop welcomed at least five married priests that I know of who converted from Anglicanism. Three of them have been assigned to our local parish at different times. Two of them are there right now. One of them, who sadly left the priesthood after his wife divorced him, once gave an interview, while he was still a young, married priest with children at home saying if you made him Pope tomorrow, he couldn’t say in all honesty that he would change the celibacy rules, even though he himself, lives by the “married priest” rules. Here’s why… when your child is graduating from high school…and there is only one graduation… what do you do when someone calls from the hospital needing last rites? He was honest enough to admit that he felt while he was a pastor, he actually had two wives that he had to split his time between, and obviously that wasn’t ultimately acceptable to his flesh and blood wife.

    There is something else to consider… in the Roman Rite, because of the Anglican converts, there are already rules in place about how to handle married priests on the job. One of those rules is a restriction on how many hours a week a married priest can work (usually only a 40 hour week to allow for family time). Now I know there are unmarried priests out there who see their job as an 8 to 5 gig, but it seems like the good ones take it as a 24/7 kind of lifestyle. You could add that to your peek into the future… “Oh, Fr. X is no longer available to help with Y and Z because he went and got himself married so he doesn’t have to work as much. Just get Fr. B to do it… he isn’t married so he can’t say ‘no’!” I can imagine some hostility growing on the part of the single priests wondering why they have to give 100% when the guy over at that church is only putting in 40 hours.

    I am sure the Priest’s Wife will have a different perspective, but if, I am correct, her perspective is coming from a much smaller rite and a much smaller community. We have seen first hand the difficulties of married priests in an extra-large Roman Rite parish. Of the two who are there now, one is the pastor and one is a retired assistant, and they do an amazing job and I think part of it is because neither of them has had children at home while they were Catholic priests. Both of them are grandpas and have been for some time. Their wives are 100% supportive of their dual vocations and are the sweetest ladies you’ve ever met and who very much live their own lives while Father takes care of the parish. And by the way, their wives are lovely, virtuous women, but I also know they have had to deal with some of the criticisms you mentioned regarding appearance, so your predictions are not that far off.

    • Maybe because I’ve always lived in huge parishes, I just don’t expect that much personal contact with my own parish priest. Maybe it’s because I’m from the urbanized northeast, where the majority of people are nominally Catholic. Who gives last rites to people around here? The priest on call at the hospital. If that priest is married, he knows in advance his son is graduating so he gets his friend to fill in at the hospital that day.

      I think that ex-priest’s remarks about celibacy are more about the state of his own troubled marriage than they are about any meaningful commentary on the Roman tradition of unmarried priests.

      • Well, things are different around here where there aren’t any priests on call at the hospital and there isn’t a Catholic church on every corner. My father had open heart bypass surgery down in San Antonio, TX which is even more Catholic than up here in the Bible belt and never had a Catholic priest come by even though I requested it personally. If you want a priest to come to the hospital you have to call the parish, which ever parish is closest but preferably your own parish.

        Also, the interview was given a good 10+ years before his wife decided she didn’t want to be married to him anymore. He made the decision to be laicized from what I understand, he wasn’t asked to by the diocese. How many future divorced priests would make the same decision when faced with living a life of celibacy after their wife left them… they signed up to be a priest with a wife, not without. I agree with Simcha, I don’t see anything wrong with the rites that already allow it, I just don’t see it as this huge bandaid for the Roman Rite. Seminaries in areas where the Truth of the Catholic faith is being taught and defended don’t have a vocational crisis.

        • Charlotte,

          Your characterization of the performance of married priests, whether in the Latin or Eastern Churches is a calumny against the overwhelming majority who do not see it as “a 9-to-5 job”. Married priests are no different from doctors, policemen, firemen or soldiers, who go when they are called, when they are needed.

          I don’t know of any jurisdiction in which limits are put on the number of hours a married priest may work in a week. Most married priests would think the idea is ridiculous. Like their secular counterparts who have 24/7 occupations, they learn to balance professional and family obligations. Married priests have been doing this for close to 2000 years now. The divorce rate among married priests in the Apostolic Churches is significantly lower than that of the general population (the divorce rate among Protestant ministers is irrelevant, because of their different understanding of both marriage and divorce).

          In both the Western and Eastern Churches, a priest may not marry or remarry. In cases where a priest finds himself single again, of course he has a choice to make. Many, especially those with small children, choose to leave the priesthood in order to remarry. It’s not a tragedy, it’s just life. As many more decide to continue in their ministry as widowers. Against this, how many men leave the priesthood each year because they find they cannot live in celibacy? I would be interested to see those figures.

          And the devotion of married priests to the Christ and the Church cannot be denied–the hundreds of thousands of married priests martyred under the Persians, the Turks and the Communists bear witness to Christ alongside their celibate brethren.

          Finally, a word about terminology. I am a Melkite Greek Catholic. I belong to the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. According to the Vatican II Decree on the Oriental Churches (Orientalium ecclesiarum), I belong to a “particular Church” (Ecclesia sui juris), not a “rite”. Catholics belong to a particular Church that follows a specific “rite”. You belong to the Latin Church that follows the Roman rite; I belong to the Melkite Church that follows the Byzantine rite. Each particular Church has its own unique liturgical, spiritual, theological and doctrinal patrimony, which are its by right, and not by dispensation. That means we are not simply “Roman Catholics of the Eastern rite” (as I often hear it described), a mere ritual adjunct of the Roman Church, or “Roman Catholics with a cabaret license”, as one Ukrainian Catholic priest memorably put it). According to both Orientalium ecclesiarum and the two Codes of Canons, all particular Churches are equal in grace and dignity. All are fully “Catholic” even when their Tradition differs from that of the Latin Church.

          You said:

          “I agree with Simcha, I don’t see anything wrong with the rites that already allow it, I just don’t see it as this huge bandaid for the Roman Rite. Seminaries in areas where the Truth of the Catholic faith is being taught and defended don’t have a vocational crisis.”

          I agree with the first part of your statement. Dropping mandatory celibacy will not result in a flood of new vocations for the Latin Church, and will probably create as many problems as it solves (always remember, every problem began as a solution). Celibacy has been the rule in the Latin Church for 1000 years (albeit sporadically enforced much of the time), and it is no longer part of the fabric of your Church. It would take you a long time to learn how to live with married priests again. Perhaps the Anglican ordinariates will show the way, perhaps not. it’s not my business, anyway.

          The second part of your statement could have been put better, as it implies married priesthood is not part of the “Truth of the Catholic Faith”. It is for us, and the Holy See supports us in our attempt to restore this venerable practice in places where it has been suppressed. Any implication that married priests are therefore inferior to celibate ones is thus deeply unfortunate.

  4. I find it so interesting that as a society we have such a hard time with the idea that people can gain sexual self-control. I’m not saying it’s equally easy for all people, but it can be done.
    People who can understand celibacy think its a forgone conclusion that it can’t be done.

    Now I realize the ‘married priest’ group is not all in that camp. My own husband frequently revisits that question not because he thinks celibacy is an insurmountable challenge, but rather because single priests have a tendency to become tragically weird, and have no wife to brow beat them about it.

    I just vote we all, regardless of our station in life, work harder on subduing and mastering our passions and teaching our children the same, and see what comes of it.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to check my facebook account and have a third bowl of cereal before I eventually start homeschooling my children.

  5. I always find it amusing that the ones who call for married priests aren’t the priest themselves. My brother is a priest and he, and just about every one of his priest friends, became priests because THEY DIDN”T WANT TO GET MARRIED. Duh.

    Married priests also means mandatory tithing.

    • “Married priests also means mandatory tithing.”

      You make that sound like a bad thing–though it need not be a full tenth. If everybody just dropped a twenty in the plate each week, there would be money for married priests and more. But, apparently, nobody seems to think there is something wrong with just dropping some spare change, or passing the plate empty-handed, and that’s what a lot of people do.

      • “dropping a twenty” in the plate each week doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the money will be there for the clergy as well as for church expenses if the average worship attendance is minute to begin with.

        • If you look further down you will see I accounted for this. As Governor Chris Christy of New Jersey told a police officer who wondered how he was supposed maintain his life style when he was being made to pay for a third of his health insurance and had raises capped at 2%, “You have to make choices, just like everybody else”.

          So it begs the question when minute Orthodox parishes can afford a married priest, yet Latin parishes with 2000 or more members complain they cannot. It is a matter of priorities.

  6. Wow, I can’t imagine what life would be like for a married priest. It is indeed difficult to negotiate the minefield of judgmental eyes if you’re just a layperson trying to be a good, faithful Catholic! I know two pastoral provision priests (both were Episcopal at one time) and although they have blessed the Church with their ministry and are grateful for the opportunity to serve, they’ve both suffered varying degrees of misunderstanding from their fellow priests and some of the Catholic faithful.

    Something I’ve always thought when conversations like this are discussed is how some think loneliness can be somehow fixed by a priest getting a woman to make it all better–sounds pretty one-sided to me. I don’t often hear or read how being married to a priest is beneficial to the wife or any children the couple may have. Having been married myself for over 20 years, I can definitely say that being married is no cure for loneliness.

    • haha, that is true about lonliness… and I have only been married for two years! I don’t think marriage automatically “fixes” any problems. You have to fix them yourself. And to the person who mentioned priests becoming “tragically weird” for lack of a wife to brow beat them… well, who wants to be brow beaten (or the brow beater, at that?) I think each person has to take themselves on… in whatever vocation they have… and deal with their own issues. Or not. But either way it’s not someone else’s job to do the “rear-kicking.” ‘Course ask me after 10 or 20 years of marriage and maybe I will sing a different tune; who knows.

  7. Catholics are very demanding and critical of their priests. I’m not saying that’s right, but I can totally see the above comments being said.

    St. John Vianney, pray for us!

  8. Simcha,

    God Bless you! You crack me up. You sure know how to drop a bomb. This has all the makings of another heated discussion. I pray people can stay civil and kind in the discussion.

    My personal take is this: If we all, each one of us, made our first priority growing in personal holiness, we wouldn’t have all of the problems we have in the church. There, that’s the heart of every issue.

    Priests marrying is not a solution for the sexual abuse. I have heard this argument several times and I can’t buy the idea that a “holy” man of God, when not able to engage in sexual relations, will revert to molesting children. I believe these men were children molesters all along and saw the seminaries as a way to have access to children. As for those who succumbed to temptation, it is just a reminder of how important it is to lift up and support our priests in prayer as their job is tireless.

    Most certainly, I think that we need to strive for better seminaries that truly create an atmosphere of prayer and discernment and a true calling can be identified and fostered while at the same time those without a true call is identified. Most, although not all, of the abusing priests entered the seminaries after the sexual revolution when, I’m sure, the seminaries were bare and in a fear for lack of priests, those without true callings were accepted.

    I welcome the married priests from other denominations. I just LOVE that more and more people are coming back into the Catholic Church. It is so encouraging and a faith builder. I agree with the church in that the Sacrament of Marriage is just as important a vocation as the sacrament of Holy Orders and when a soul comes into the church, having entered both, both must be honored, but as the Priest’s Wife stated, perhaps the church should address by the Magesterium.

    Also, I want to share that there is great hope that God is resurrecting the seminaries. I can’t speak for where you live, but here where I live in Texas, our seminaries are flourishing with young men on fire for Jesus. It was the same in Illinois when I lived there 3 years ago. I believe it is a direct result of Pope John Paul II (particularly World Youth Day) AND the spread of Eucharistic Adoration.

    Finally, I do believe that a priest (this is just my opinion) can better serve his congregation as a single man, living his life for Christ. The priest, in persona Christi, represents Christ who gives himself completely for his bride, the church.

    Lastly, in agreement with Laura above. Self-control is a virtue. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. I am teaching this to my children. However, it can only be accomplished through prayer and a growing personal relationship with Jesus.

    That’s just my opinion. Sorry so lengthy, God Bless you for always providing such though-provoking, but desperately needed discussions.

  9. I saw this post early this am, and I just came back to read comments… I have so much to say about it but probably will have to cut it short due to toddlers running free around here. I am the wife of a Cath. Deacon, ordained last year. My husband has an MDiv (same degree as priests) and has worked as a lay minister in the church for about 10 years, generally as the priest’s “right hand man”, doing the work the priests used to do but now can’t due to time constraints. (Sacramental prep, bereavement, sick calls, etc). I could tell so many stories, having had all 5 of my still small children under this microscope, but my mind turns to one job we had for a few years in a small town parish. There, my husband was a lay director of a priestless parish, with the nearby priest coming for the sacraments only. We lived in the rectory, and my husband was responsible for everything from accounting to snow removal, liturgy, sacramental prep, bereavement, everything.

    I can just begin with a response to the first commenter, Joyce Mc. : “Who would belong to a parish composed of people like this? ”

    my answer: YOU!! ME!! All of us!!! I still shake my head in amazement at the wrongheaded comments –

    Council member to priest, upon the news of my 4th pregnancy: “I hope they don’t expect us to add onto the church house if they keep having kids!”

    complaints that my kids had been seen through the front window jumping on the church-owned couch in our living room

    comments that our family cost the church more than a priest since we used more water, electric, etc…

    I could go on and on. This stuff does happen. Simcha, when I read your post and the sample comments I got such a feeling in the pit of my stomach… I feel strongly that many of them have been made about me in the past and/or could be. I have a masters in theo myself, understand the issues, and know that for the sake of bringing the Eucharist to the faithful it may become necessary to change the celibacy rules. I am not sure I would support my husband in priestly ordination even if his bishop did request it – which is the only way he would let it enter his mind as a possibility. Just that little run of direct parish leadership was too costly and painful for our family.

    Catholics have no idea how to treat a married priest with a young family. They have no idea how to pay him, how to help him have healthy boundaries, how to set up his benefits, how to house him, how to treat his wife and kids. There would have to be an enormous learning curve and showers of charity from heaven itself to get us all through it.

    • Heaven help us!

      It’s so true about wrongheaded comments. There is nothing easier in this whole world than to slip into selfish and uncharitable thinking, and it’s such a horrible, horrible shame. God bless you and your husband, and your five children! ❤

  10. What is disconcerting to me is the lifelong faithful Catholics (like my parents) who buy the line that married priests will cure low numbers in church (including six of their own children who no longer attend mass). None of the faithful twenty-somethings think married priests are a good idea.

    I heard Fr. john Ricardo make a good point on this topic the other day: he said, in some ways, he thought making celibacy optional might show the congregants something amazing: priests CHOOSING celibacy (as he believes most would) in an understanding that their bride is the church, and neither spouse would be well served if he were also to marry a mortal woman.


    • “The Apostle Paul wrote of a man serving God without the distraction of a wife and family for good reason. ”

      Yet he also advised Timothy and Titus that a presbyter should be a mature man, the husband of one wife, with demonstrated ability to manage his own household.


  11. As the wife of an evangelical turned Anglican minister for more than 20 years, the comments really hit home. We have loved serving the church but unfortunately, we have heard similar things and worse over the years. Joyce said reading them made her head ache- it made my heart ache because of the number of good friends who have abandoned the ministry because of the cruel and selfish gossip of church people targeting the minister, his wife, and their children. It also touched wounds that I thought had healed from situations in the past.

    The Apostle Paul wrote of a man serving God without the distraction of a wife and family for good reason. Of course, we can’t change that now-20+ years and 6 children later! (Try being an evangelical minister with 6 kids and a wife who homeschools them-not acceptable in many circles)

    I could go on…

    Whatever state in which they are called, ministers of the Gospel deserve the love and respect of the people they serve. The call of God to the Priesthood is a wonderful thing and not something any man takes lightly.

    Pray for your Priest today, send a note of encouragement, put an extra check in the offering next Sunday, and please don’t criticize him for petty things.

    And if any of my evangelical/Anglican friends are reading this, the same things goes. Pray for your Pastor’s wife & children, give a love gift so they can buy new shoes for their kids, and compliment her when she gets a new dress. She may well have purchased it at Goodwill, where you would never dream of shopping!

    Hope it is ok for me to join in. I am finding I have more in common with my Catholic brothers and sisters than Evangelical these days!

  12. Anon, above:
    I’ll pray for you. My husband was recently ordained a deacon & our youngest was 7 mo. old at the time, which is not too unusual in our diocese. I made it clear from the beginning to him and to the bishop that I will not ever consent to the situation you describe. But in our diocese, deacons are not parish/pastoral administrators, so it’s unlikely we’d be expected to.

    Thank you for speaking up about your experience. I’ve never met a deacon’s wife (of any age) who thought married priests as the norm would be a good idea, but that’s usually a very private conversation.

  13. My husband was a Protestant pastor for 5 years. He resigned his church, got a job as a counselor, then 5 years later after much study, we joined the Catholic Church (Thank God, together!). What you wrote is true, true, true ~ and worse.

  14. Maintaining priestly celibacy in this day and age is very important. It affirms the reality of the heavenly kingdom, in which we are not married nor given into marriage. It is a tangible demonstration that the Church is in the world, but not of this world. The priest acts in persona Christi, and has given up his earthly ties for the sake of Christ.

    Doing away with such a powerful sign would make the priest an image of this world, rather than the other, in which we marry and are given in marriage, like Noah, until the end. In my opinion, it’s all part of the overall scheme, whether articulated or not, to move our focus from Christ to ourselves, from the next world to this one.

    If we have this pillar of the Roman Catholic priesthood removed, what’s to stop them from removing others as well?

    • Pillar? Yes and no. I’m not in favor changing the rule, but it is a rule that can be changed.

      Look, I agree that celibacy is important, but I can also see the church making it more optional, like it was early on in the Church.

      We’re getting more Anglicans back, and who knows what will happen with the Eastern Church? The Orthodox tradition is older, in some respects, than the Latin Rite.

      It’s a big, wierd Church. Things do change. The only constant is Christ.

  15. Couple of things: first, although there are rites within the Church in which married men can become priests, there have never been Catholic rites in which priests can marry. The same is true in the Orthodox Church. This makes a lot of sense to me, and solves at least the “is he hitting on me?” problem. Marriage might be consistent with the priesthood; courting is more problematic!

    Second, I’d like to point out that we already have the problem, in a small way, of the living wage when it comes to Catholic teachers. Catholics aren’t willing, or aren’t able, or some combination of the two, to pay their teachers (especially in elementary school) a salary big enough to support a family. That’s why parish schools are dying, and are staffed mostly by female teachers whose salary is the family’s second income.

    My husband teaches for a Catholic high school, and he makes enough to support us, but only because it’s a rich kids’ high school. That’s a crying shame, especially since the Christian Brothers, who founded the school, had a special calling to educate the poor.

    When my husband was first hired, we were way below the poverty line, and we were told (reasonably enough), “We have to keep salaries low so that we can keep the tuition down for low-income kids.” It was hard to take, though, when we tried at the same time to put one of our kids in a parish school and were told “We have to keep the tuition up so that we can pay reasonable wages to our teachers.”


    • Thanks for the correction, Abby – will edit the post.

      Just about anyone who works for the Church, or whose job serves a Catholic market, has that money problem – hence Mark Shea’s “tin cup rattles,” etc.

      • First, good article. Thanks for the thoughts!

        Second, i hope it is not too much of a nitpick since Abby is generally correct, but the Assyrian Church of the East has, in the past, allowed clergy to marry after ordination. This is the tradition carried within the Catholic communion by the Chaldean church – it is also a discipline, not a doctrine – so since you are hypothesizing, dream away!

    • Abby:

      I’ve seen this too. As a single woman, I didn’t care so much. I’ve also seen the balance sheets, and I think both ways are true – except the Catholic school weren’t ever really meant to be just another private school. They were usually staffed by religious sisters or brothers. The tuition covered costs, but mostly just made the parents have to commit to giving their kids a Catholic education.

      Even if the salaries MUST be low because the school doesn’t have any other money, there are ways of ensuring that there are good benefits to the job that help the families – pregnancy-friendly health insurance, sick time (what teacher gets that?), tuition discounts for children, etc. I wouldn’t mind the low salaries if these other things were provided for.

  16. Not to mention the true awfulness that Preacher’s Kid syndrome can be.

    It really is one of those ideas that would improve things only in a world where all the congregations were loving and understanding (and not inclined to gossip!) and all the parishes well-organized and booming. When people talk about it they talk about it abstractly, in the ideal case, or else simply think they have to show that there would be benefits, rather than that it would actually be an overall improvement. And this is a very humorous way to bring it out.

    • “Not to mention the true awfulness that Preacher’s Kid syndrome can be.”

      I know a lot of them, and they are all very nice kids indeed. Some of the boys have followed dad into the family business. Think of married priesthood as providing a constant supply of replacement priests.

      • I still fail to see why this is a good thing. As the wife of a second generation pastor, IT IS NOT ALWAYS THEIR CHOICE! “Following in the family business” can become very spiritually manipulative.

        • I’ve known my fair share of priests who were the sons of priests, as well as the children of men who are priests now. I don’t notice the kind of coercion you mention. I suspect it has to do with the culture of the Orthodox Church.

          More often than not, if the son of an Orthodox priest becomes a priest, it’s because he wants to serve, not because someone forced it on him. In families with multiple sons, one may become a priest, and the others simply serve as sub-deacons and deacons, with no desire to reach the priesthood. And even the family of a very eminent priest, the son may choose not to follow his father–witness Serge Schmemann, son of the famous Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, who became a journalist rather than a priest.

  17. Ridiculous comments, you didn’t address the issue of celibacy but you did address the issue of gossip — there’s way too much of it in ALL churches.

    Now, back to the issue of celibacy. Celibacy goes against the natural law, but that is not to say that we cannot offer our sexual life to God as a sacrifice for His kingdom. The problem comes when we “limit” those able to serve as priests to ONLY those called to celibacy instead of, also those, called to family life.

    I’ve always advocated a dual path, priests that are celibate and priests that are married. I really don’t think the Church will be “losing” out with that direction. In the meantime, those taking vows or promises of celibacy should honor them — And, the Church should do a much better job at discerning those “able” to keep a vow or promise of celibacy. Thus far, a great many are not.

    • I met a man once who had taken a vow of celibacy. He told me, “Celibate men take a vow to never have sex with anyone in the world. Married men take a vow to never have sex with anyone in the world except one. It’s not that different.”

      Simcha did address celibacy when he discussed all the things that married men have to be attached to – and the celibate priest’s detachment goes beyond sex.

      • “Celibate men take a vow to never have sex with anyone in the world. Married men take a vow to never have sex with anyone in the world except one. It’s not that different.”

        Ahem, vive la difference.

    • Brenda,

      Celibacy doesn’t go against natural law: it’s not a requirement of natural law for everyone to have sex and reproduce, thank God for it.

      In discussing whether to lift norms of celibacy it isn’t enough to look at questions of celibacy: one has to look at what practical effects it would likely have, and that gets into a lot of things other than celibacy — including gossip.

  18. Simcha & other friends,

    I only recently discovered your blog after hanging out on Conversion Diary and I love your writing!

    Anyway, I so appreciate how gracious all the comments here have been. I am a member of a Methodist church in NJ (meethope.org) where I have been especially blessed by the pastor’s wife. You see, her youngest son has Down’s Syndrome so when our son was diagnosed with Autism 4 years ago, she was one of the primary people to comfort and counsel us. And because her son has been a part of the church for so many years, ministry to those children (like mine) with disabilities has become a natural part of Sunday mornings. I cannot tell you what a tremendous comfort it is to walk into church and know my children are loved and appreciated–regardless of how “quirky their behavior might be–and instructed in the ways of the Bible (as much as they can presently comprehend) because this is the pattern that was started by caring for the pastor’s son.

    Sorry if this is somewhat off topic. 🙂

  19. As another convert to Catholicism and former “pastor’s wife”, I cannot express my overwhelming relief that our family will never be in that position again. And our congregations were actually wonderful to us–but pastoring is definitely a 24/7 job and I think it is difficult for a man to be faithful BOTH to a call to ministry, and a call to the vocation of marriage and family. (I know there are those who do it well and my hat is off to them!) I’m interested to see where this goes in the coming years with more Anglican, Orthodox, etc. coming into the Catholic church.

  20. My hang up is always confession. I always think it would be awkward to go to confession to a priest who has a wife. I KNOW the seal of confession is binding and all, but husbands and wives talk.

    • Maria- sorry- I can’t let this go. Reading your comment made me sick to my stomach.

      NEVER has my husband EVER broken the seal of confessional. If he stays late in the church with a parishioner after Mass and the rest of the people are all in the fellowship hall, I don’t know if it is confession, counseling, or whatever.

      Once again- I am Eastern Catholic, I don’t necessarily advocate changing the discipline of celibacy for secular Roman-rite priests, etc,etc but NEVER have I heard of a priest breaking the seal of confessional to his wife. This accusation is very serious.

      • Yes, I was thinking that the seal of confession might be a great strain on the marriage, but not on the sacrament. (I don’t know how I would deal with it if my husband were discussion all manner of intimate things with other people. ) I don’t know of any priest who doesn’t take the seal of confession deathly seriously — thanks for giving us your perspective!

        • In practice, it turns out not to be. Also, a priest’s wife never goes to her husband for confession, but always to another priest. In the Old Country, where there was generally only two churches in each village–one Orthodox and one Greek Catholic–this usually meant the Catholic wife went to the Orthodox priest for confession and vice versa. A great ecumenical moment.

      • My husband is a senior chancery official, with exposure to a great deal of highly confidential info. And I promise, confidentiality isn’t an issue! Many of the confidential things he knows are a burden to him, and the strict confidentiality, ‘though obviously not in the same league as the Seal, keeps me from unnecessary burdens. I’m perfectly content not to know large swathes of what he knows. Any woman in the Church who really wants to know more about sin is an idiot, er, I mean severely lacks prudence. I can’t imagine this would be an issue.

        • My husband, now retired, was in a similar position to the husband of Anon4this1. He worked on many confidential issues and committees and took the need for confidentiality extremely seriously. Many years later, there are still areas he will not allow himself to comment on. I completely agree with what has been said by Anon4this1.

    • I can barely get my beloved husband to say three words in a row about his job- and he works at Ford! I feel confident in assuming that the sort of priest who would break the seal of the confessional would do it regardless if he had a wife or not.

      I was really, really going to keep my nose out of this one, too. Drat.

      • Not all husbands are the same. My husband comes home and tells me everything that’s been going on at work, what’s bugging him, the weirdos, everything. There are certain things he can’t share, that are classified, but everything else–yep.

      • My wife and I are both in a business where we simply cannot discuss what we do at work all day. We’ve been married for 29 years now, and it has never affected our relationship.

    • i’m a lutheran pastor’s wife and we don’t have the same seal of confession that exists in the catholic church. (he’s a mandated reporter, for example, so he has to report anything he hears that involves someone hurting someone else or hurting themselves to the authorities.)

      however, he NEVER tells me about any conversations with parishioners and i wouldn’t expect him to. (and yes, lutherans do have a rite for confession.) i don’t even know who he goes to visit and i prefer that so that i can honestly tell parishioners that when they call and ask who my husband is out visiting. (i’ve had gossips call and ask for the purposes of supplementing the rumor mill.)

  21. I’ve also been wondering if having married priests wouldn’t have something of an altar girl effect: once serving at Mass became something that anyone can do, be they girl or be they boy or be they whatever, then it became less attractive for serious boys.

    I’m not saying that the married priesthood is some lefty loosey-goosey attempt to feminize the Church — just that it’s a well-known phenomenon that making something more accessible and less exclusive often makes it less desirable.

    (At our parish, they only have altar girls at the Folk Mass. I’m sure that’s JUST A COINCIDENCE, though.)

    • No! Not the altar girl effect! We’re in the throes of that agony over here, and we’ve *got* an altar girl in the house.

      As for the “making something more accessible and less exclusive often makes it less desirable” effect- it certainly holds true with 8 year olds learning their multiplication tables.

    • I don’t know; with altar servers, I think it’s the boys’ perception that girls tend to take things over and become bossy, making the activity “no fun anymore”—hmm, maybe you have a point there.

      (Do you remember the commercial where the young men are naming childhood toys—”Hot Wheels!” “G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip!” “Rock-‘Em Sock-‘Em Robots!” The one young woman present gently inserts, “Easy-Bake Ovens,” the guys fall silent, then shout in unison, “COOTIES!”)

      I just dimly remember a remark I read somewhere—was it C. S. Lewis?—to the effect of, when the CofE made celibacy optional, the practical outcome was that marriage became almost required. With all due respect to married priests, especially those like Fr. Dwight Longenecker, and to our Eastern brethren, I think that now is precisely the WRONG time for the Latin rite to make celibacy optional. Like it or not, we are tied up in the “culture wars” because we as Church don’t exist within and solely for ourselves; we need celibate priests right now as a sign of contradiction to all the poisoning nonsense our surrounding culture has ingested about sex, reproduction, sexuality and marriage. Certainly, we need to better support our Eastern brethren; certainly we need to find better ways to support our priests, both celibate and married. But let’s not throw priestly celibacy under the bus in the hopes that it will make our problems go away.

    • Tends to work out in reverse: having married men at the altar seems to encourage other married men to take up the ministry. At the same time, I have seen monks who have inspired many young men (and women) to follow the monastic life. It’s the quality of the example that matters.

      • By the way, though I have heard about it at a few random parishes, the Greek Catholic Churches as a rule do not allow women to serve at the altar–and none of the Orthodox Churches do.

        Maybe we don’t have an “altar girl effect” because we don’t have altar girls?

  22. I’m a protestant minister’s wife, and I’ve heard many of these comments, and it’s not just gossip. Sometimes these are the types of things that come up in council meetings or personally by a “concerned” Elder. The scrutiny never ends, and it is exhausting. The thought that Catholic’s treat their unmarried priests with the same amount of demands, judgement and possssiveness is just depressing. There really is no escape from “people who have all the answers” and insist of inforcing them on everyone around them. Religion is just depleting sometimes.


    • Sadly, you are right. Religion can be depleteing when people use it (religion) as a means of salvation and not a tool or lifestyle or teaching that should is in closer, deeper relationship with Jesus, our Savior.

      This is what athiests and agnostics use to condemn religion. When people look at and judge religion by the humanity that make up that religion, it will be riddled with flaws because we, humans, are riddled with flaws. Praise God we have a Savior. We tend to forget sometimes that this is why we are at church or members of a certain Christian religion.

      However, if a person considers growing in their personal holiness and relationship with Jesus their number one priority, they will see religion as means of doing just that. The closer a person gets to Jesus, the more they can see others a they are: flawed, like everyone else, but redeemed by Jesus and a child of God so therefore worthy of at least respect from me.

      Sorry for the preaching, but as you can tell I believe Jesus is the answer to all of life’s problems and of course, HE is, isn’t He. HIs love is transforming. He makes all things new. Do we really believe that?

    • Again, a totally different situation in a Catholic or Orthodox Church, because we are not “congregationalist”. A parish council or council of elders does not govern the Church, does not hire the priest, certainly has no say in what or how he teaches (though he would be foolish not to listen to what the congregation has to say). In a Protestant congregation, far too often, the laity call the tune. At the end of the day, that does not happen (or at least not often) in a Catholic or Orthodox parish.

  23. I am in Australia, where I suspect the priest shortage is T a more critical stage than the US. I belong to a large parish and our pastor is an ex Anglican married priest, his children are grown so many of the issues you speak of don’t apply in our case BUT, there are many others that do. This is not criticism of him, he is a wonderful man who does his best to attend to the needs of the parish. Our issues are time ( we lost a well attended youth Mass when he became our priest). The parish politics when a wife is involved become difficult eg she and I are doing catechesis and sacrament prep with the parish kids who don’t attend the catholic school, she is a very outspoken woman(whom I do have a lot of respect for) and it makes if very difficult if I disagree with the way things are done, generally in that sort of circumstance you would go to the priest to discuss it. In this case the priest is her husband.

    • I, for one, am very grateful to the Australian Bishops’ Conference, which a few years back sent a letter to the Holy See stating that they, the Latin bishops of Australia, had no objections to the Eastern Catholic Churches of Australia ordaining married men to the presbyterate or ordaining married men from other countries to address their pastoral needs in Australia.

      It was a major boost to the morale of Eastern Catholics in Australia and eased the way for restoration of our Tradition there.

      I am less pleased to note that the USCCB has steadfastly refused to issue a similar letter to the Vatican.

  24. Cont.
    I am not totally against the idea of married priests, particularly for those converting from other faiths. But under no circumstances should they end up in the role of parish priest (our priest is technically administrator but according tomthe bishop, he has all the power of a parish priest). I believe that the position of hospital chaplain or similar would be more suited or maybe even as an assistant priest, but never as PP!

  25. I believe that historically in the Latin church, celibacy has always been the preference, even from the beginning. That being said, I think it was also expected that those who were married and became priests were expected to be continent evermore. In other words, those priests no longer had conjugal relations and the wives had to agree to this discipline.

    And you are correct about no ordained priests marrying–even in the eastern rites, it is forbidden.

    Check into the divorce rates among married clergy (even the eastern rites). From what I understand, they are not low.

        • “But you are are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous lightm who once were not a people, but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but have now obtained mercy.”

          —1 Peter 2:9-10

  26. Thank you, Simcha! I really enjoy your sense of humor, even when it’s employed toward a bombshell 🙂

    Fr. Longnecker recently posted on this topic. He said he has two jobs and his wife works also, so they are making it financially, but he doesn’t really recommend it as a main plan for the entire Church. I think he would know.

    As for me, having grown up protestant with uncles as ministers, I’ve seen that side. They just aren’t dedicated and devoted to their flocks in quite the same way as your average Catholic priest … however could they be, with those enormous competing priorities, God luv ’em.

    God bless you and all of yours, you lucky gal!

  27. My husband grew up in the Lutheran church and he has plenty of stories of “pastor’s kids” syndrome. His brother was an evangelical minister, but he left it and got a “real” job because it was a strain on his marriage. Now that he’s older he works part time and ministers part time.

    I attended a Greek Orthodox liturgy where the priest was married. During the liturgy his oldest daughter went up to the inconostasis, poked her head in one of the side doors and told her dad to turn up the heater. His wife had sent her up from their cold pew. He was slightly annoyed at the interruption to the Divine Mysteries. Only a wife would have dared.

    • Yes, interesting discussion. I was going to ask: how do the Orthodox (or Eastern-rite Catholics, for that matter) feel about this? What is the system in place that provides for the families? How does this play out in reality?

      I would think that if a man had an option to not be celibate he would take that option, and that the majority of Eastern priests would then be married, or at least open to it, but I may be totally wrong. I would love to hear from more Easterners on how they make a married clergy “work”, and their arguments against our Latin celibate priesthood.


      • I have blogged a bit on this subject- We make it work financially because my husband is a certified hospital chaplain and I am a part-time college instructor. He receives a stipend from one mission and nothing from another mission.

        The problem with defending our tradition in the East is that it can come across as accusatory to the West. Some worries about ‘supporting’ a family have come up- well, my husband drives a 13 year old Chevy with 250,000 miles. At the latest archdiocese meeting (he has bi-ritual faculties), the normal vehicle in the parking lot was either a new Prius or at least a new Honda Accord. About being devoted to the ministry, my husband has just completed training to be a police chaplain. This city has asked for 18 YEARS for a Catholic priest chaplain. About being devoted to family, he is a great dad.

        It probably helps a lot that being married and a priest is ‘normal’ in the old country- of course, this ‘evidence’ is anecdotal- as are the ideas against married priests in the comments. It is very true that satan hates priests, husbands and fathers- so any man that attempts 1,2, or all 3 should be humble and look to the Holy Sacraments to help protect his soul

      • Dear Nina:

        Thank you for the question, and the invitation to write. As I am an eastern Catholic, under the authority of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, and have been for the past quarter century, I might possibly have some perspective to add to this issue.

        I would agree with priest’s wife, that the potential for the answer to such questions to be accusatory toward the West is great. I shall therefore attempt to tread cautiously here.

        Eastern Christians, whether Orthodox or Catholic, venerate and value both celibacy and marriage. Most of their clergy are married (except in places where that option has been forbidden among the Catholics), and most of these clergy serve in village or small towns or parishes. The options as regards support for such priests and deacons are either that they, like the Apostle Paul, are tent-makers (i.e., clergy who support themselves through their own work), or they are supported by the community, who have as often as not built the church themselves, and raise the funds to support that church. While in the ‘mission’ country of the U.S., many Orthodox clergy can transfer to other communities, in the original model of ‘the old countries’, married clergy are often ordained to a particular church and community, and serve in that one place for their lives.

        Among the Orthodox, celibacy is treasured more among monastics, who have dedicated themselves to the service of Christ, through the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and stability. That last vow means that they will stay in their community for the remainder of their lives. Monastics, whether male or female, are quite often lay men or women. Only those who are needed to serve the Divine Liturgy are ordained. And only those priests who choose to remain celibate may be chosen as bishops.

        From what I have been able to see, a married priesthood works among the Orthodox because they see the responsibility of the clergy as serving the Divine Liturgy and teaching the Faith. Taking care of the church building and paying the priest and deacon and running the parish is the community’s job.

        For my part, I have some doubts about how a married clergy could function in the current bureaucratic, top-down hierarchy which currently prevails in the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. You think that corporations and municipalities are having grief over pensions for their employees? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

        Finally, I do not think that Orthodox have arguments against a celibate clergy. They’ve been practicing it, among their bishops, for more than a milennium and a half. They have some doubts, though, about making it mandatory for all clergy. And they have more than a few doubts about the wisdom of taking someone who is charged to serve the Divine Liturgy, and to take on the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, and moving him from one parish to another every three or so years. In that way lies madness, either on the part of the hierarchy which demands it, or of the poor priests who have to suffer it.

        I hope that this answers your questions, Nina.

        • Dear Bernard……And then some! Thank you for your very excellent response. It was indeed helpful and quite edifying. I so appreciate it! God bless.

          • I currently infest St. Andrew Russian Catholic Church in El Segundo, CA, and have for the last 24 or so years. I happened around then to pick up a tape (put out by Koch-Schwann) called Russian Monastic Vespers, and sung by the Benedictine Monks of Chevetogne. In spite of the fact that the liner notes were in German, I managed to work out a translation, and found the prayer to be beautiful. I prayed for a solid month for God to send me to a place where they prayed like those monks. It turns out that I was led to St. Andrew Church on the very week that Fr. Alexei Smith, the pastor there, was ordained to serve the liturgy at St. Andrew’s.

            I’ve been there ever since.

            • My story is not dissimilar, though I am one of those rare people actually baptized as an adult into the Greek Catholic Church (originally Ruthenian, now Melkite). I had heard the Russian Catholics were now under the omophor of the Melkite Eparchy. I’ve been to St. Michael’s in New York many times, and know several people from Our Lady of Fatima in San Francisco. If we compared address books, we would probably find a lot of the same people.

              By the way, I have the Chevetogne album, on vinyl, no less.

  28. For a year and a half, we were members of an Orthodox parish. The priest there *had* been married, but was legally separated from his wife, after they had four kids. He thought it was appropriate to tell me—during my confession, when I was discussing some family issues I was having with my parents–that he had to divorce his wife because she was a narcissistic personality, he had to “save” his kids, that his wife was just a horrible person.

    I really had no interest in his personal life. But I was shocked that he thought it was appropriate to discuss the breakdown of his marriage with a relatively new parishioner.

    I have read accounts by Orthodox priests’ wives about what it is like to be a priest’s wife. It’s no picnic. Neither is being a pastor’s wife, I’d wager. I would imagine it’s very hard to devote oneself to two vocations: one’s family, and the Church.

  29. Not sure if anyone knows this, but only some Orthodox priests marry. If you want to be a bishop, metropolitan, or patriarch you have to be celibate. Married priests are not even really fully “priests” as we understand it in Catholicism. And I don’t mind Father Z at all – he can be blunt, but there’s been a bit too much “liturgical dancing” and “reinterpretation” of scriptures for us to dismiss him out of hand.

    • What??? In Orthodoxy (and Byzantine Catholicism- I don’t know enough about the other Eastern rites)- celibate priests are normally monks and married priests are usually the parish priests out in the world. That is the only difference- the ordination is the same

    • I don’t mind Fr. Z, but lots of his commenters make me ashamed. I understand the need to correct abuses, but that’s not the same as the constant game of liturgical gotcha that goes on on his site (and I believe that a blog’s author has a fair amount of responsibility for what goes on in the combox! I delete things when I need to). Tone isn’t everything, but it isn’t nothing, either!

  30. I am a non-denominational Christian and my husband is Catholic. We attend both churches. I completely agree that just letting priests marry isn’t any kind of magic fix-all pill. Something about that core problem in our nature called “sin” ;-). We attended a Catholic church in Texas with a married, former Episcopal priest. He (and his wife) were fantastic, but I understand the arguments for celibacy as well.

    I’ve seen the painful scrutiny pastors wives and families often face in protestant churches. However, I’ve also watched women who wholeheartedly support their husbands as they do the hard work of pastoring a congregation, encourage and energize them when the going gets tough, and are a helpmate to them in God’s service. Like you said, it’s not an issue with a simple answer.

    One of my brothers is currently in seminary. Some churches are finally realizing that wives need preparation as well when a spouse enters the ministry. The seminary holds classes for the wives on the specific challenges of being a pastor’s spouse, Bible, theology, and morals. They also hold mandatory marriage conferences for students and their spouses in an effort to help them strengthen their marriages and develop skills in advance. Any future shift toward a married priesthood would need to realize that the wives aren’t just attached accessories. They would need preparation as well to help avoid some of the issues listed by previous commenters.

  31. As a Catholic wife of a Lutheran pastor I can say that some of those above comments do get made all the time about married clergy. And sadly protestant pastors don’t make any more than Catholic priests, yet we have a family of 4 to support and hope to be blessed with more.

    Frankly, priests not marrying protects both priests, the women they might marry, and the congregation. It is extremely difficult to be married to your job and your wife at the same time, my husband basically jumps between the two and either the church is lacking and angry or I am lacking and angry. I have yet to see it balanced well and the divorce rate among married clergy is right up there with secular divorce rates, right around 50%! Even the clergy couples in which the wife is extremely supportive, smiling, and involved often struggle just as much as those of us who keep to our own careers or home responsibilities. We all cope with feelings of resentment towards the church and cannot make close friends in our husbands’ church because of our position as the pastor’s wife. Thank God I have my own Catholic church I can go to each Saturday to rest and be healed from the damage inflicted by hurtful gossip and unrealistic expectations at my husband’s church.

    I would be very sad for a generation of naive Catholic men and women if the Catholic church ever allowed priests to marry, as they would be subject to everything protestant pastors and their families have had to endure. They would have no idea what fire they were jumping into!

    • “Frankly, priests not marrying protects both priests, the women they might marry, and the congregation.”


      We have not found it so.

      ” I have yet to see it balanced well and the divorce rate among married clergy is right up there with secular divorce rates, right around 50%!”

      Protestants are one thing, but the divorce rate among married Orthodox and Eastern Catholic priests does not even come close to that. In any case, I would be very leery of that number, which, when broken down, does not really reflect the reality. For instance, I have a brother and a sister. My sister and I have been married just once, and have been married for more than 25 years. My brother, on the other hand, has been married four times (this last one seems permanent). Thus, three people, six marriages. Does this mean that half of us will get divorced? No, it means, in the case of my family, a third of us cannot stay married. I suspect that holds for the larger world as well.

      “We all cope with feelings of resentment towards the church and cannot make close friends in our husbands’ church because of our position as the pastor’s wife.”

      Very much not the case in the Eastern Churches, where the wife shares in her husband’s ministry, and is, in effect, the mother of the parish (hence her title, Matushka, which is an affectionate form of “Mother”). I’ve never known a priest’s wife who did not have a very large circle of close friends from within the parish.

      “I would be very sad for a generation of naive Catholic men and women if the Catholic church ever allowed priests to marry, as they would be subject to everything protestant pastors and their families have had to endure. They would have no idea what fire they were jumping into!”

      Priests may not marry, but married men may be ordained to the priesthood. And the Catholic Church does allow it–as an exception in the case of the Latin Church, as an integral part of the Tradition for the Eastern Catholic Churches.

      But you are right–most Roman Catholics who want married priests don’t understand the complexities of the situation.

  32. Brandon, of course Celibacy goes against natural law. In fact, even in Genesis, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” Then He created a woman. Notice He created a woman, not another man (or just a brother friend). It was God’s intent to create woman as a companion for man.

    That being said, there is nothing wrong with giving up something precious and meaningful in exhchange for something else equally, or even MORE meaningful, particularly if it is to spread the kingdom of God.

    By diminishing the fact that God indeed created man and woman for each other so that they could be “fruitful and multifply” as evidence of their love — you thereby diminish the Gift of celibacy itself.

    Only God can give the Gift of celibacy, and I believe He gives it in exchange for something higher, the spreading of the gospel. But, just because someone is given the gift of celibacy, that does not mean he will not suffer temptations against it.

    As I once discerned religious life, we were told on a retreat, the difference between having a gift of celibacy and imposing it upon yourself is how you view your relationship with God. Do you see yourself expressing your love for Him with a family, or singularly in community with spiritual children? For those who simply cannot relinquish the idea of leaving a natural family out of the picture — they do not have the gift of celibacy. Those with the gift of celibacy are completely fulfilled in the love of Christ and service to His Church.

    • Brenda, I believe you are using “natural law” to mean “law of nature” or “natural human behavior” – but in Catholic theology, the phrase “natural law” has a very specific meaning. From the Catholic encyclopedia:

      “[N]atural law is the rule of conduct which is prescribed to us by the Creator in the constitution of the nature with which He has endowed us. ”

      You are unintentionally implying that celibacy is unethical!

      Excellent point about the gift of celibacy making one fulfilled. I hate the idea that priests are just looking for a career that saves them the hassle of a family. (I don’t know any priests like that, but I hear this idea expressed occasionally.)

      • I understand what Brenda meant. Celeibacy is more than just not being married; celiebacy is more than a renunciation of sexual relations. Celibacy as a charism is not a giving up, but an adding on, substituting the intimacy and love of the marital bond for the love of God and the whole world. It is indeed a charism, and as such, not given to everyone.

        From our perspective in the Eastern Church, the Latin Church creates a dichotomy between marriage and priesthood. We see the dichotomy as between marriage and monasticism.

        A man may be called to priesthood but not to monasticism; a man may be called to monasticism, but not to priesthood. I am sure that a significant number of men in the Latin Church have put aside marriage to pursue priesthood, even though they have no particular calling to monasticism.

        Also note that celibacy is an heroic calling that even the strongest have difficulty living without the support of a community of like-minded individuals. The Eastern Churches have always been suspicious of celibates living in the world, outside of a monastic context. That’s why, in our system of bifurcated clergy (often ignored here in the New World), the parish clergy are married, while the celibate clergy are monastic (and bishops are selected from among the ranks of the monastic clergy).

        • Now, here’s a sincere question, and not meant to be contentious: if the Eastern church requires bishops to be celibate, then why are EC Catholics so offended that Roman Rite churches were (as Bernard said) at first hesitant to appoint married clergy as pastors? Surely the fact that even the EC makes a distinction implies that it acknowledges that a married state is sometimes not ideal for certain types of office. Is it wrong to infer that the EC acknowledges that different states of life are more suitable for men handling different types of responsibility?

          I don’t think it’s quite right to say that the RC creates a dichotomy between marriage and priesthood — if it did, then priestly celibacy would be dogma, not discipline. I think that, along with more profound theological reasons, much of the reason for the discipline as it is today is practical (for reasons I’ve stated over and over). It could change in the future, if society were different. As society (and the attendant economic realities, which I still say are inextricably stuck together) is today, the RC has good practical reasons not to change the discipline.

          • Th requirement that bishops be drawn from the monastic clergy arose rather late. During the patristic era, we had many married bishops (as did the Western Church–including a number of married popes, and Popes who were the legitimate sons of Popes). St. Gregory of Nyssa, for instance, was a married bishop, and the son of a married bishop, whose younger brother was another married bishop, while his elder brother Basil the Great was one of the great monastics.

            As bishops gradually gained authority and control over vast amounts of wealth, a consensus slowly emerged that this would represent a great temptation to men who also had progeny to consider. The Qunisextunct Council in Turllo (694) therefore codified in a number of canons regulations pertaining to the marriage of clergy. In addition to requiring bishops to be drawn from the ranks of the monastic clergy, it also specified that a man could not marry after ordination to the rank of deacon, and that clergy of all ranks could not re-marry. Contrary to what many people believe, the Council in Trullo and its canons were accepted by the Church of Rome, and can be found in the canonical collections in the Vatican.

            So the reason bishops are drawn from the monastic clergy is largely pragmatic, not theological; and there is no imputation of greater holiness or purity among the monastic clergy viz a viz the secular clergy. St. John Chrysostom, a very great monastic, wrote that “the nuptial chamber can be as holy as the monk’s cell”.

            Outside the Roman Empire, several Churches (e.g., the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Church of the East) never abolished the married episcopate, and have married bishops to this day.

            You also wrote: “I don’t think it’s quite right to say that the RC creates a dichotomy between marriage and priesthood — if it did, then priestly celibacy would be dogma, not discipline.”

            That’s only partially true. It is the mindset that is important here. In the mind of most Roman Catholics, from the Pope down, a man faces a choice in life: will be become a priest, or will he marry? It may not be “dogma” (very few things really are), but it is part of your Tradition.

            “I think that, along with more profound theological reasons, much of the reason for the discipline as it is today is practical (for reasons I’ve stated over and over).”

            A review of the arguments put forth from the 11th century focus principally on matters of ritual purity, and secondarily on the matter of property alienation (Germanic law, which pertained in the West, did not include the concept of “corporate property”, so a priest could–and often did–will his benefice to his heirs).

            “As society (and the attendant economic realities, which I still say are inextricably stuck together) is today, the RC has good practical reasons not to change the discipline.”

            If you do change your discipline, it will be for reasons organic to the Latin Church, and nothing else. But you already have a hundred married priests here already–which is more than we have. And you should be prepared to receive several hundred more over the next few years as the Anglican ordinariates get established.

            Familiarity may breed contempt, but more often, it breeds acceptance. You are in for interesting times.

  33. Amanda, what about starting a “Pastor’s wives” support group. That way you could meet once a week with other women who are having similar lives and trials. The group could pray for each other and offer meaningful, positive advice so that each wife could be a better, more supportive wife to their pastors — without feeling left out or inadequate.

    Surely, there are other pastor’s wives who would welcome such a group. Deacons (who are married) in the Catholic Church also have wives that make sacrifices for their husband’s ministry. And the diaconate is part of holy orders in the Church, so surely God must approve, right?

  34. This makes me think of the recently ordained priest in our parish: Fr. Oliver Vietor. His wife had their sixth child three days before his ordination. In addition to being a priest at our church he and his family are personal friends. Our children play together, I meet his wife at the park. And all I can think is how utterly important it is for me to remember them frequently in prayer.
    St. Joseph, pray for us!

  35. We were at a parish that had one of the few married Roman Catholic priests (used to be a Methodist minister, converted to Catholicism, ask the pope for permission to be ordained, permission granted) and I can tell you that the family would have to get the short end of the stick. They would have to. In order to truly serve, one’s heart and soul must be with God.

    As far as allowing married priests across the board I think even supposing it is what our clergy wants sells priests short. Why do we presume they would want to be married? They give their all — why can’t we accept that they want to give their all!? I know if I were a priest, I wouldn’t want both headaches! The celibate life sounds pretty darned good sometimes.

  36. As an Eastern Catholic, I suggest you stick to your knitting and write only about that which you know. If you wish to become informed on the subject, why not visit (or better yet, attend Liturgy at) a Greek Catholic or Orthodox parish that has a married priest; or perhaps find one of the many Latin parishes that already have a married priest. I think you will be pleasantly surprised, especially as there are now more married Latin priests in the United States than there are married Eastern Catholic ones.

    As for those of you who can’t comprehend how a priest could balance family and pastoral duties, we would turn it around on you and say we don’t understand how a priest could possibly manage the awesome burdens of his office without the support of his family.

    • Hi, Stuart. I’m not sure why you are upset. I see that you took my post as some kind of attack on Easter Rite traditions, but I didn’t mean it that way. The purpose of this post was, as I stated, to point out that changing this discipline for Roman Rite priests would not be easy and simple, as some claim it would be.

      I said:

      “Look, I know there are some families that could hack it. There are some that do, and I’m sure there are some that do very well, especially if the parish is close-knit and conservative, with a long, comfortable tradition of married priests. ” I then asked Priest’s Wife to weigh in (after emailing her privately).

      Then several people who, unlike me, do have firsthand experience with a husband who has a spiritual flock to care for — and they confirmed that it is, as I described, extremely hard.

      I have attended an Eastern Rite liturgy, and I found the congregation to be extremely warm and welcoming. Maybe they didn’t realize that I don’t even know how to knit!

        • Why not try this? Apologize for you churlish words and actions on this blog in the past 24 hours. Do that, and maybe I would be interested in the next 1,000 words you type about your pet grievances. Think it as doing your part for East/West relations.

          • I stand duly reproached, Father, and pray that all here will forgive the intemperance of my words. May the Lord put a guard upon my mouth and a seal upon the door of my lips.

            • Thank you, Stuart. And please forgive me for not reading your posts about the history between the rites tonight – -I shoveled wet snow for a few hours today, in between writing comments, and am falling asleep in front of the computer!

              • I completely understand. We dodged the bullet yesterday and today, but I still hurt from last week’s snow and ice storm.

  37. Dear Simcha,

    Perhaps it was the way in which you began your article, with a litany of complaints and gossip from one of the most spiritually unenlightened and uncharitable group of people ever to grace a congregation, but the tone was definitely negative. The comments of some of your readers went from negative into the nasty zone.

    Forgive me if I am sensitive, but the whole issue of married priests has been a sticking point for Eastern Catholics since we first showed up here in the 1890s, when the opposition of the Latin bishops here resulted in the suppression of our ancient Tradition–guaranteed in writing in the Union Agreements by which we reentered communion with the Church of Rome–and two major schisms which decimated our ranks in a manner from which we have never recovered (most of our people ended up in the Orthodox Church, which has never really thanked Bishop John Ireland properly for the service he did to Orthodoxy by telling Father Alexis Toth he considered the wives of Greek Catholic priests little better than legalized concubines).

    Periodically, somebody in the Latin Church will write a book or an article intending to “prove” that clerical celibacy is an “Apostolic” institution, and that, therefore, married priests are a deviation from the norm to be tolerated at best. There remains still among the Latin faithful the belief that married priests are somehow “second class”, not as holy, and unable to fulfill their priestly duties and obligations. It is a source of annoyance, if not bitterness, for those of us in the “other lung”.

    For the record, I have written many times that allowing married priests in the Latin Church (by which I mean allowing married men to be ordained to the presbyterate, not allowing single presbyters to marry) will not cure what ails the Latin Church any more than a return to the Tridentine Mass would. It is not a panacea for what is wrong with the Greek Catholics or the Orthodox. But I think it is very wrong to write off the idea from the get-go with stories of how the laity would not stand for it. From everything I have heard and read, those married priests in the Latin Church do very well as pastors, and are much beloved by their parishes.

    I wish only that Latin Catholics would recognize the existence of other Traditions and respect them as they want others to respect their own. I don’t go about telling Latins how their practices violate ancient canons and ought to be revoked, but I am regularly told that, for the good of the Latin Church’s discipline, married priesthood ought to be suppressed in North America. Frankly, if the Latin Church can only preserve clerical celibacy by suppressing our Tradition, it has much deeper problems than a few score married Eastern Catholic priests.

    Regarding the role of the priest’s wife–known variously as the Pani, Matushka, Presbytera or Khouria in our Churches: she is considered to share in the ministry of her husband, with particular focus on the needs of the women and children of the parish. No, it is not an easy role, but it is a very rewarding one for those women who go into it with their eyes open.

    In the “Old Country”, where married priests are the norm, young women always had their Pani as a role model and someone to whom they could look for advice. In this country, where Eastern parishes, both Catholic and Orthodox are relatively thin on the ground, too many are left with no role model at all. That’s why, for instance, St. Vladimir’s Seminary has a “Pani School” that helps the wives of prospective priests get acclimated to their new role.

    Most Eastern Catholic eparchies have similar programs for the wives of their deacons, who also share in the ministry of their husbands (as many of these married deacons go on to be married priests, their wives have a leg up).

    To see how rewarding the life of a priest’s wife can be, you can read the books of Khouria Frederica Matthewes-Green, the wife of Father Gregory of the Antiochian Orthodox Church. In particular, her books “Facing East” and “On the Corner of East and Now” speak about the challenges and adjustments she faced after their conversion to Orthodoxy and her husband’s ordination. She also has a web site that periodically talks about these issues: http://www.frederica.com/. Check her out–she’s a very wise and witty lady.

    • Stuart:
      “I don’t go about telling Latins how their practices violate ancient canons and ought to be revoked, but I am regularly told that, for the good of the Latin Church’s discipline, married priesthood ought to be suppressed in North America.”

      Then you should be responding to the people who said that to you, and not lashing out at anyone who uses the phrase “married priest.” Using phrases like “stick to your knitting” and “stupid stupid stupid” (on your message board) are not likely to increase unity and understanding between rites, n’est pas?

      “I wish only that Latin Catholics would recognize the existence of other Traditions and respect them as they want others to respect their own.”

      Again, who *here* is disrespecting your traditions? I skimmed the comments again, and the only one I saw that could be classified as “nasty” was the one by the woman who was afraid a married priest would break the seal of confession — and she apologized for that comment.

      People with first-hand knowledge did say several times that married priesthood (or pastorhood) is very hard, financially and emotionally, on the wife and children. Several people mentioned that these effects were mitigated in Eastern Rites, which have the tradition, community, and various types of wherewithal to support the family. My main point, and the point of most of the commenters, was that the Roman Rite simply doesn’t have the tradition, community, and wherewithal. I was responding to recent calls for a married priesthood in the Roman Rite as a solution for the vocations crisis.

      We just . . . well, we just weren’t even really talking about you guys. You’re not doing your community any favors by coming out swinging like that.

      • Dear Simcha:

        First, I would like to thank you for hosting such a thoughtful weblog, and in presenting such interesting discussion as the present.

        Next, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity of answering a set of questions that Nina had asked above.

        That said, while I am not in a position to apologize for my fellow Eastern Catholic, Stuart Koehl, I would like you to know that not all of us are as (inappropriately) combative. At least, I hope, not all the time.

        I would agree with you that unless and until some fundamental matters in RC church government were changed, a married priesthood in the RC Church would cause far more problems than it would solve. I think that your original post was instrumental in pointing out what those problems would be.

        I also think that you were clear in that post in saying that your objections were toward a married priesthood in the RC Church, and that you had no brief against Orthodox or Eastern Catholics. Thus, I believe, and I agree with you, that Mr. Koehl was needlessly offensive toward you, when you had offered no offense to him or to Eastern Catholics yourself.

        That said, I think that Mr. Koehl does have a point, which I believe could be better expressed than it in fact was. That is that RC clergy in the U.S. have used their position to interfere with Eastern Catholic (or EC for short) Churches from having a married clergy in the U.S. since 1890, and largely still to the present. This interference has been so extensive that I am surprised (though very pleasantly so) that priest’s wife is able to be a priest’s wife in a Byzantine Catholic church in the U.S. I would be very curious to find how this happened to come about.

        I suspect that much of the reason for Mr. Koehl’s ire is that he has a legitimate grievance, but that he is venting it in the direction of the wrong party.

        For my part, though, while I find it unfortunate that most RC laity are ill-catechised as regards their EC brethren and sistern (sorry for the neologism, there, but it was too good to miss), I also find it altogether un-surprising. My experience has been that most RC clergy are unable to preach or catechise their way out of a (wet) paper bag in general. It is also unfortunate that in this case, Mr. Koehl blamed one lay-woman for the sins of her clergy. I shall try not to do likewise.

        Nonetheless, I would like you to know that for more than a century, RC clergy have acted to prevent EC clergy and laity in this country from having the fullness of the EC religious practice and faith, and in violation of any number of agreements between EC and RC Churches. This has made a number of us more than a bit testy. This is all the more the case, since many of us have been driven out of our various Old Countries (the Mid-East in particular), and we are stuck with the present circumstances.

        All that said, thanks again for a wonderful weblog and discussion.

        Very truly yours,

        Bernard Brandt

        • Bernard [sorry, I see that I called you “Brandon” at first!]

          Thank you very much for your kind words. I know I ought to have a thicker skin since I put my writing out for public consumption, but I do get my feelings hurt sometimes!

          My own grandparents were driven out of Eastern Europe during the pogroms, so I am very familiar with that perpetual feeling of grievance. Even Roman Rite Catholics who don’t happen to be of Jewish decent are certainly familiar with persecution!

          It is difficult and frustrating to live such a countercultural life, and be scorned by the secular world — and then to be attacked from “within,” as it were, from our own Eastern– what would the word be? Cousins? for things which happened hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

          Most of the priests I have known are incredibly selfless and hardworking, and it troubles me that you say:

          “My experience has been that most RC clergy are unable to preach or catechise their way out of a (wet) paper bag in general. ”

          I believe you, but my experience has been entirely different (and I’ve been a Roman Catholic for over 30 years). I’m not sure what the typical parish priest has to do with influencing . . . well, anything about the Eastern Rite churches. They’re just too darn busy!

          **Any Eastern Rite catholic who is angry at the bishops, however, will have plenty of company from our camp. **

          We in the Roman Rite are well aware of our own shortcomings. I recently winced my way through a distressingly tacky and noisy liturgy (we had some sick kids, so we split up. I usually attend a more traditional Mass), and had to remind myself a thousand times that, if our Lord could stand to be there at the Folk Mass, then I guess I could, too.

          I have a lot of hope for the future — if not for unity between the Rites, then at least more understanding. Thanks again for taking the time to explain your perception of this discussion, and some of the background behind it. I envy you the beauty of your liturgy and traditions!

          • Dear Mary Beth:

            Thank you for your kind words. They are much appreciated.

            Dear Simcha:

            Thank you also for your generous letter in response to my poor words. You need not apologize for ‘taking my name in vain’. As I have to remind myself of it by reciting to myself “Happy Birthday”, I have no reason to complain if others don’t know it.

            Seriously, though, I agree totally with you that if we are in fact one Body in Christ, it does neither us nor that Body any good if we attack one another. That sounds more like the function of tumors and carcinoma than of true members of that Body.

            For my own part, it is my hope and prayer that, in the words of your Third Eucharistic Prayer, “from East to West a perfect offering may be made to the glory of the name of the Lord,” and that we may be among those in that East and West.

            I agree with you that many RC priests are good, selfless, and hard working. Nonetheless, I fear that for at least the last two score years, they have not been educated in anywhere near the way that the Council Fathers of the Second Vatican Council had requested in their Council document, Optatam Totius For more details on what I have observed of the differences between the Council Fathers’ wishes and what we actually got, may I recommend this essay:


            But while the temptation would be simply to be angry at the clergy and the bishops, rather, it is our job to pray for them and to help them in what ever way we can. In the words of the East, we are to be God’s rational sheep, and we are to ask our shepherds for spiritual food, and not to act like other beasts that will turn on them or to rend them.

            As regards the unfortunate state of RC liturgy, I am truly sorry for those of you who have to suffer through it. I would have to say, though, that I believe the reason for it is not in the essence of what you call either the Ordinary or Extraordinary Forms, but that your clergy have not been taught correctly what the Divine Liturgy is, or how it is to be served. Again, they can not give what they do not have. I believe that the so-called ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ (as opposed to its true and actual teachings), like other dumb spirits, can only be cast out with prayer, fasting, repentance, and education.

            And it is my hope, too, that the future will give us the opportunity for true worship in both East and West; if not now, then certainly in the Kingdom of Heaven.

          • “My own grandparents were driven out of Eastern Europe during the pogroms, so I am very familiar with that perpetual feeling of grievance. ”


            I’m probably unique in that the ancestors of the people in my Ruthenian parish probably chased my Jewish ancestors up and down the Carpathians a couple of centuries ago. Being Jewish gives me an interesting perspective on what the Church is and does. I like to tell my Jewish relatives that in my Church we get together on Saturday evening and sing old Jewish songs.

        • Oh, Bernard, I meant to ask – could you elaborate on this:

          ” . . RC clergy in the U.S. have used their position to interfere with Eastern Catholic (or EC for short) Churches from having a married clergy in the U.S. since 1890, and largely still to the present.”

          I have never heard of this situation, and would like to know more details. Who is interfering, and how?

          • Simcha,

            It is a very long and tragic story that began when Greek Catholic immigrants from Ukraine and the Sub-Carpathian region came to America in the 1890s. When they arrived, the felt the need for spiritual support, so they wrote to their bishops back in Eastern Europe and requested that he send them some priests. Naturally, the man looked around for suitable parish priests and sent them to America. Naturally, all of them were from the “secular” clergy–either married or divorced.

            At the time, there was no exarchate or any other canonical structure to support the Greek Catholics in the U.S., so all of these priests fell under the jurisdiction of the local Latin bishops, and had to approach them for faculties to celebrate the Liturgy and administer the sacraments.

            When they did so, they found the bishops singularly unreceptive–downright insulting, in fact: not only would they not issue faculties, they told these priests they weren’t really Catholic, their wives were nothing more than legalized concubines, and that their services were not needed, because if the Slavs needed a priest, they could go the the local Polish parish (if you know about Eastern Europe, you know that one was even worse than calling the priests’ wives prostitutes).

            One of these priests, Alexis Toth (a widower), ran head on against Bishop John Ireland of Minneapolis. So insulting was Bishop Ireland that Father Alexis took his entire congregation out of the Catholic Church into what was then called the “Russian Orthodox North American Mission”–the forerunner of today’s Orthodox Church in America. More parishes followed in short order.

            The Latin bishops in the U.S. called for the suppression of the “Greek rite” in the U.S., and the integration of all the Greek Catholics into the “Roman rite”. They failed in that endeavor, but the Holy See did issue in 1896 a decree called “Cum data fuerit”, which provided an exarch (apostolic administrator) for the Greek Catholics, but also prohibited them from having married priests in the U.S.; it also required them to suppress infant communion and to break up the rites of initiation to follow the order of the Latin Church (there were also a number of other clauses that latinized a number of legitimate Greek Catholic practices).

            The result was a formal schism among the Greek Catholics; of the approximately 350,000 in the U.S. at that time, perhaps as many as 125,000 left for the Orthodox Church, which until that point had never been numerically significant in this country. Not for nothing do some Orthodox identify John Ireland as one of the “Fathers of Orthodoxy in North America”.

            Of the various restrictions in Cum data fuerit, most were ignored, and the suppression of married priests was followed in the breach more often than not. For one thing, married priests kept arriving from Europe, and the Exarch was only too happy to have them. To get out from under the thumb of local Latin ordinaries, a lot of parishes incorporated themselves as “social clubs”, a move that would have serious consequences later.

            Things simmered until 1930, when the Latin bishops, again trying to get the Greek rite suppressed, pushed the Holy See to do something about all those married priests. The result was a new “constitution”, “Ea semper”, which applied to the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It prohibited the ordination of married men in those countries, and the importation of married priests from abroad (except in cases of dire pastoral necessity).

            This resulted in another schism, when Father Orestes Chornock took his parish and some 75,000 other Greek Catholics out of the Catholic Church. Because the Bolshevik Revolution had thrown the Russian Church into chaos, he approach the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which erected what is formally called the Carpatho-Rusyn Greek Catholic Orthodox Archdiocese of Johnstown, PA (ACROD for short).

            This split was particularly bitter, because, while some parishes voted unanimously to become Orthodox, and others to remain Catholic, some split right down the middle. Because many of these parishes were incorporated as social clubs, disputes about the property ended up in court, with law suits that split parishes, towns and even families (it is not unusual, even to this day, to find families in which one brother is an Orthodox priest, the other a Greek Catholic priest). The feuds went on for decades, and left a legacy that is only now fading out with the deaths of the participants.

            Latin bishops also resorted to a variety of methods to ghettoize Greek Catholics and convince them to move to the Latin Church. For instance, Roman Catholics were prohibited from receiving the Eucharist in Greek Catholic churches, while Greek Catholics were made welcome in Latin parishes. More odious, Roman Catholic women were prohibited from marrying Greek Catholic men, while no such prohibition existed in the other direction. Even after the ban was lifted (some time after World War II), to this day it is very common for Latin priests to ignore canonical requirements and direct Greek Catholics to get married in a Greek Catholic Church (or at least have a Greek Catholic priest preside).

            Other slights might be chalked up to ignorance. For instance, Greek Catholic children attending Roman Catholic schools were often required to attend confirmation classes, and were frequently presented to the Latin bishop for confirmation–even though they received this once-in-a-lifetime sacrament after infancy. And those of us with young children have frequently run into Latin priests who will not administer the Eucharist to our children under the age of seven–even though they have been receiving communion since they were eight weeks old. Explanations, even reference to ecumenical directives of the USCCB seem to have little impact upon them.

            Now, the situation has become much better in the last decade or so, probably as a result of Pope John Paul II’s pastoral letter Orientale lumen, which directed the Latin faithful to become more familiar with the Traditions and treasures of the Eastern Church. But it is still a frustrating situation, and much of the time we are still made to feel like spiritual helots, second class Catholics, or “Roman Catholics with a pretty Mass”.

            Imagine how you would feel, if the shoe was on the other foot.

          • Dear Simcha:

            I think that as regards the past relations of EC and RC churches in the United States, this Wikipedia article would be a good beginning:


            Unfortunately, the RC interference was not limited to that of Bishop John Ireland. Later RC bishops petitioned His Late Holiness, Pius X, to forbid new EC clergy to marry in the U.S. This next article speaks of the results of that petition:


            The restrictive provisions of Ea Semper were extended in 1929 by the papal decree Cum data fuerit, which forbade any married clergy in the United States. A fair article on that decree may be found here:


            The result of all these actions was that many EC became Orthodox and left union with Rome. Those who remained were also unhappy that they were forbidden many essentials of their faith as Eastern Catholics.

            And unfortunately, in spite of the new Codes of Canon Law for both Romans and Eastern Catholics, Cum data fuerit appears to remain in force, or at least, a number of bureaucrats, er, Cardinals in Rome have taken various forms of retribution on EC bishops who ordain married clergy in the U.S.

            I wish that all this were not the case. My apologies for bringing this to your attention. But you asked.

            • Bernard is correct that the “Special Norms” (love that term–only a canon lawyer could have conceived it) remain in effect. However, they are not enforced. The Melkites, Ukrainians and Romanians have been ordaining married men to the presbyterate in this country since 1996, and the Vatican has not done anything to interfere with the practice.

              Also, the Ukrainians and Melkites never actually ceased importing married priests or evading the intent of the regulations by sending married deacons to seminaries outside the United States to complete their studies, returning them to parishes here after their ordination to the presbyterate.

              Only the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church has observed both the letter and the spirit of the law, but that has to do with the pivotal role of the celibacy controversies of 1896 and the 1930s: a celibate clergy became a key discriminator between “good Ruthenians” and people known as “dem Orthodox”. As I said, the dispute was extremely bitter.

              Even the Ruthenian “Particular Code of Canons” allows the ordination of married men, but only with the prior approval of the Holy See. It is the only Church upon whom such a provision has been made, and in my mind, it is unenforceable. Be that as it may, the fact is not one married man has ever been accepted into the Ruthenian presbyteral formation course at their Seminary of Sts. Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh. The Ruthenian hierarchy find celibate clergy administratively convenient, and are loathe to disturb the status quo, either by bringing over married priest from Ukraine and Slovakia, or by ordaining some of the many well-qualified men in their parishes.

              It is anomalous: the people want to restore the married priesthood very badly, their bishops do not, and the Holy See is both actively encouraging the restoration while keeping laws on the books that seem to prohibit it.

              Which is one reason why we are soooo messed up.

  38. Dear Simcha,

    I do agree entirely with Bernard that the current practices and governance of the Latin Church do not support widespread introduction of married presbyters.

    But the principal obstacle would be financial, rather than social. Catholic doctrine requires employers to pay a living wage, preferably high enough that the mother of a family would not have to work at all. For a family of four in a major metropolitan area, that would amount to something on the order of $50-70,000 per year, plus certain fringe benefits such as life and health insurance (less might be paid in salary if, for instance, housing and a car were provided). Like synagogues and Protestant churches, the Eastern Orthodox pay their priests far more than the typical Roman Catholic priest makes. The compensate for this by having very little in the way of paid staff–maybe a part-time parish secretary. The rest is done through volunteers and sweat equity.

    Paying for married clergy is a major problem for the restoration of the married clergy in the Eastern Catholic Churches, made worse by the small size of our parishes (150 families would be on the large size).

    Unless and until Roman Catholics are willing to open their wallets wider, or do without the large staffs that are found in many parishes, they simply won’t be able to afford married priests–certainly not more than one in any given parish.

    • I just don’t see how you can separate social from financial obstacles, if the money is to come from the people. That was my point: that as long as the social structure is not prepared for married priests, the money will certainly not follow.

  39. first of all, if you’re commenting like that you should evaluate yourself.

    second, the church already condones having more children than you can afford.

    the question here is would it be better to be in the news for a beloved priest molesting a child or loving his wife?

    there have been a then bishop and two priests in my diocese that have molested young boys!

    • Hi, Catholic:

      “first of all, if you’re commenting like that you should evaluate yourself.”

      Do you mean if I am saying the things that I propose as possible gossip? Yes, I agree – these would be terrible things to say. No one was saying they are valid criticisms — just that they would certainly be made.

      “second, the church already condones having more children than you can afford.”

      No, it really doesn’t. The Church says that we should make decisions about parenthood with prudence and generosity. That plays out differently in different marriages.

      “the question here is would it be better to be in the news for a beloved priest molesting a child or loving his wife?”

      So . . . when heterosexual men chooses not to have sex with women, they often turn to young boys? That’s just silly. Heterosexual men aren’t like that. Pedophiles molest children, and wouldn’t be interested in marrying anyway. And they shouldn’t become priests, and the Church is working now — too late, but better late than never — on weeding them out.

      “there have been a then bishop and two priests in my diocese that have molested young boys!”

      That’s horrible. It must be extremely painful for your diocese. However, do you really think that, if they had been married, they wouldn’t have molested anyone? Married men molest children, too, you know, if they’re interested in children.

    • This guy’s married.

      worcester orthodox priest faces rape


      WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — The former longtime pastor of a Worcester church has been accused of raping and physically assaulting a 43-year-old woman. The Very Rev. Charles Michael Abdelahad of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral is scheduled to be arraigned Friday in Central District Court on a single charge of rape, four counts of assault and battery, and five counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Court documents allege Abdelahad beat the woman on several occasions dating to 2007. His attorney tells The Telegram & Gazette that his client denies any criminal wrongdoing. Abdelahad has been a priest for at least 20 years and left the parish sometime in November.

  40. Simcha,

    My experience of married Latin priests, of whom I know a couple, and of whom there are now more than a hundred in the U.S. (with lots more in the pipeline, thanks to the new Anglican ordinariates being established) is they integrate well into their parishes and make excellent pastors.

    The Latin Church itself seems to have had a change of heart on that matter: when former Anglican and Lutheran ministers were first ordained into the Latin Church, the married men among them were prohibited from serving as pastors. Assistant pastor was OK, as was service in the military chaplaincy, but initially it was the considered opinion of the Latin hierarchy that it would scandalize the laity to have a married priest.

    This naturally made them feel like second class citizens within the clergy, which probably contributed to the stress felt by their wives and families.

    In the last decade or so, the Latin Church has reversed its policy and allowed these men to serve as parish pastors. The laity were not scandalized–for the most part, they love their married priests, who have proven in every way the equals of their celibate counterparts. The laity seem to judge the man, not his marital status.

    But even if the laity accept their married priest with open arms, they still have to deal with the economic reality of paying him so that his wife doesn’t have to work if she does not want, so that his kids can have a college fund, so that they can have health insurance, so that there is a life insurance policy in case one of the parents dies, so that they have a place to live, assuming the rectory is not suitable. And there has to be some expectation of stability–that they will be in one place long enough that the children don’t have to hop from one school to another (most married Eastern Catholic or Orthodox priests serve in the same parish for decades, if not for life–sometimes being succeeded by their sons; there are advantages to growing your own).

    For parishes used to giving their priests $15,000 a year plus tips, for bishops used to moving priests around like pawns on a chessboard to fill holes in their lineup, that’s a big change, but it has nothing to do with the sociology of the parish, just its economic expectations. Since your parishes are immense as compared to ours, it should be possible to carve enough out of its budget so that the burden is not unsustainable.

    • It could be that now you are the one who is wading into unfamiliar waters, Stuart. The typical Roman Rite church does not have a vast budget which could easily cushion a few priests’ families (unless you’re talking about Los Angeles or something,which might as well be another planet, as well as another religion sometimes!). Our parish is run on about half a shoestring. The rectory is falling apart, there is a skeleton staff, and the priests run themselves ragged, as do the volunteer laity.

      Moreover, my husband and I have no health or life insurance. Our children have no college funds. We give as much as we can to the Church, sometimes more than we reasonably can — but many of the parishioners are in our shoes, too. It’s not just a matter of opening our wallets more — the money just isn’t there. I think you have fallen prey to some fat cat caricature of the Roman Rite.

      • “The typical Roman Rite church does not have a vast budget which could easily cushion a few priests’ families (unless you’re talking about Los Angeles or something,which might as well be another planet, as well as another religion sometimes!). Our parish is run on about half a shoestring. The rectory is falling apart, there is a skeleton staff, and the priests run themselves ragged, as do the volunteer laity.”

        I suppose the situation varies from place to place. I live in the territory of the RC Diocese of Arlington, VA. Most of the parishes here have between 2000 and 5000 people. Most of them have very extensive paid staff–music ministers, organists, youth ministers, religious education directors, and a full panoply of administrative personnel.

        I’ve belonged to two Greek Catholic parishes in Northern Virginia, both considered large by our standards. One has about 300 people, the other about 200 people. Each has one paid, full-time employee: the pastor. Both parishes had other priests (my present parish is blessed with three priests in total, not bad considering we only celebrate one Divine Liturgy per day) who are not paid, but (like Saint Paul) have day jobs and earn their keep. Both have a part-time secretary and a part-time bookkeeper (unavoidable considering the tax code and other legal regulations). Everything else is done by volunteers: religious education, run by an volunteer, overseen by a deacon (thriving programs, too); cantor (no musical instruments) and choir–volunteers; maintenance–volunteers or paid for by special donations.

        Most Greek Catholic and Orthodox parishes are similar. You can accomplish a lot of you cut the overhead and demand more of the people.

      • Same situation here.

        Yeah? Where *would* the money come from? It would be quite a transition for most of us, no?

        In fact, there are many things that would change in the area of the parishioners’ “comfort levels”. I hate to say this, but we women get really “attached” sometimes to our priest and even demanding, calling for spiritual direction, help, advice, etc.—— frequently! And getting close to him and feeling able to let down with him, whine, complain, even cry—oh how we can cry. I’ve heard a couple of our pastors joke that they felt that they had a hundred wives (and when they were being relocated, that it was a RELIEF!). 😉 The boundary that ought to be up would be even better faciliated by a priest having a wife………he wouldn’t be “as available” to “share”.

        Such an interesting discussion!!!

        • Good question. Let’s look at a typical Roman Catholic parish in my area. It has approximately 1500 people who attend regularly. If each one of those people contributed just $1 per week for the pastor’s salary, that would be $1500 per week, $6,000 per month, or $72,000 per year. Let’s put it on a family basis, assuming an average family of four. Each of the estimated 375 families would have to contribute $4 per week, or $16 per month. That, I would say, is a sustainable rate.

          Let’s go down in size to 1000 members. To get the same result, each person would have to contribute $1.50, or $6 per family per week. Still doable, I think.

          At 500 people, each person would have to contribute $3 per week, or $12 per family, which might be putting the pinch on some of the poorer members of the congregation, but the slack could be taken up by the richer members.

          Additional money could be found by judicious adjustments in priorities–eliminating some paid staff position in favor of volunteers, for instance.

          Above all, parishes could and should demand more financially of their members, many of whom are free riders. As compared to many Protestant congregations that take tithing seriously, Catholic parishes give very little of their disposable income–perhaps because they buy into the idea of the Church being infinitely wealthy.

          In any case, that small Orthodox and Eastern Catholic congregations can support married priest and his family ought to indicate that comparatively large Roman Catholic ones ought to be able to do the same.

        • I must have been up too late last night, because that last sentence seems unintelligible to me. What I was attempting to articulate is that I wonder if a firmer line would be drawn between the women of the community and the priest if he had a wife, that he would be more “off limits” on many levels: emotionally, particularly, comes to mind….. Would spouses learn to look to one another, or outside help, to cope with the daily problems of life?

          • In Orthodox parishes, women tend to gravitate towards the Pani (the priest’s wife) more than to the priest himself. They need a shoulder on which to cry, it’s usually hers, not his. Men, on the other hand, go to the priest.

            Also, traditionally (though not so much here) an Orthodox Christian has a “spiritual father” (starets, geront) who is generally (but not necessarily) a monastic. The closest analogy would be a Latin “Father Confessor”, but the relationship is deeper and more intimate. The starets serves as a guide on one’s spiritual journey, helping one deal with weakness and difficulty, helping one to bear the burden.

              • The grass is always greener. I could (and have) gone on at length about the problems and shortcomings of the Eastern Churches. They are as considerable as, but not identical to, the problems of the Latin Church.

                As Tolstoy said, “All happy families are the same, but each unhappy family is unique”.

  41. ” Since your parishes are immense as compared to ours, it should be possible to carve enough out of its budget so that the burden is not unsustainable”

    That may have been true in 1950, but the people and money are just not there.

    • There are many more Roman Catholics today than there were in 1950–they just aren’t in the same places. A lot of old ethnic Catholic cities and neighborhoods are in decline, but many more are thriving. As I noted, in my neck of the woods, the typical parish is as large as some of our dioceses.

        • No. I have no desire for industrial scale Christianity that turns the Mass into a Eucharist factory, in which thousands of people live out their faith in comparative anonymity, rather than as a true family. I like being able to know everybody in my parish, to be able to have conversations with my priests and deacons, who know my name, my wife’s name, the names of our children, and who can and do have a sincere interest in our lives. I like being part of an extended family of people who are truly my brothers and sisters in Christ.

          • All right, Stuart, you’ve gone too far now. I have sympathy for other rites with their strong community and beautiful liturgy, but somehow it always comes around to insulting us. A “Eucharist factory?” What are you saying about Our Lord? Think about what you are saying. You are being offensive.

            I am delighted that you have the luxury of this extended family that you enjoy so much, but I think the time has come for you leave this post alone. I’m not going to block you, but you need to know that posting dozens and dozens of comments is not helping your case.

            I let “anon” above make his comment because, frankly, I was getting a little frustrated with you. He was teasing you, because many people have the following experience with Eastern Rite folks: they pop out of the woodwork, complain about a lack of unity between East and West, make a few cracks about our inadequate liturgy, and then disappear again.

            If you are trying to change minds about what your tradition, then this is not the way to go about it. Please consider what impression you are making, and what you are trying to achieve.

            • “All right, Stuart, you’ve gone too far now. I have sympathy for other rites with their strong community and beautiful liturgy, but somehow it always comes around to insulting us. A “Eucharist factory?” What are you saying about Our Lord? Think about what you are saying. You are being offensive.”

              The term is not mine, Simcha, but was used in a paper by the eminent Jesuit liturgical historian Father Robert Taft, and it refers to a mindset that says the purpose of the Mass is to provide the Eucharist to the Christian faithful in order that they can fulfill their obligation to receive. It is a reduction of the Mass to a pragmatic function, and we see it far too often in far too many places.

              I’m not the first one to make this observation–it can be found anywhere one looks at Latin theologians who are seriously interested in the liturgical health of the Latin Church (as am I–the flea always gets squashed when the elephant sits down).

              You cannot deny that most Latin parishes are highly impersonal–and that the proliferation of Masses on Sunday reinforces that effect. If we’re interested in recapturing the proper meaning of liturgy as it is laid out by, e.g., Pope Benedict XVI, we’re going to have to think about such things.

              “I let “anon” above make his comment because, frankly, I was getting a little frustrated with you. He was teasing you, because many people have the following experience with Eastern Rite folks: they pop out of the woodwork, complain about a lack of unity between East and West, make a few cracks about our inadequate liturgy, and then disappear again.”

              I went away for a whole weekend, and found that the traffic hadn’t abated. I just think this topic is of general interest to Latin Catholics, and we Eastern Catholics have a vested interest in it, if for no other reason than the inability of Latin Catholics to express reasons for retaining mandatory celibacy that do not, either directly or by implication, denigrate the legitimacy and dedication of married priests (e.g., they can’t give their full attention to the job, they get distracted by their families, they’ll squeal secrets of the confessional, it’s not fair to the chidlren, it’s not apostolic–take your pick).

              In any case, I’ve pretty much said everything I want to say, though I will note, in a Parthian shot, that most Latins, when they think of us at all, pull us out of a bottle to support one side or the other in one of your internal disputes, and when we have served our purpose, you want us to go back into the bottle and up on the shelf again.

              Again, not an original observation on my part. See, for instance, Robert Taft’s essay “Eastern Liturgy and Western Presuppositions”.

              • Come on. It doesn’t matter who said it first: you said it here, and were clearly implying that all Latin Rite churches have that attitude.

                Several people here have gone out of their way to be conciliatory, and you have chosen to focus on the few criticisms offered, and to hold the folks here accountable for every insult you have suffered anywhere at any time.

                You had nothing whatsoever good to say about the Roman Rite and its venerable and beautiful traditions, but have devoted thousands of words to proving that the Eastern Rite is superior in every way. Why? To convert people by shaming them? Good luck with that.

                You have done damage to your church, and reinforced stereotypes.

              • And you are horribly mistaken about the proliferation of Masses. Several times in our marriage, my husband has been forced to work on Sundays, to travel, and to keep an irregular and unpredictable schedule. Without a large range of Mass times, our family would have been kept from worshipping at Mass. The Roman Rite has open arms, and tries not to concern herself too much with keeping the rabble out. Just as you could not imagine that a family sincerely cannot afford $50 a month for life insurance (ever lived on cereal because that’s all that was in the house? Our family has. But we must be irresponsible for not having life insurance), I guess it’s hard for you to imagine that it’s not just sloth or sloppiness that would make such things necessary.

                One thing I love and cherish about our tacky little Roman rite is that we have a little imagination. There is room for a little departure from the ideal, because life is messy, and it’s better to have people at least going to Mass and being able to find the sacraments, than to make sure that everyone does things in the way that Stuart prefers. I have met people like you, who are so in love with the beauty of their faith that their main goal is to make sure they keep all those messy PEOPLE out. Has it occurred to you that some people live in large cities? What are they supposed to do? Skip Mass, because there’s no gorgeously decorated village chapel to visit with their loving families?

                I have not been to an impersonal church – no. I have always met a Person there. That’s why I go. I don’t always like the decor, and I don’t always understand or agree with every administrative decision, but it reminds me that it’s not all about ME. It’s not all about pleasing me, and serving only people who are exactly like me.

                You seem to think you are making a case that the traditions of the Eastern Rite are the best, but you are simply proving that you prefer them, and that they work the best for people whose lives are like yours. You could have done that without writing several dozen posts.

                • And to be clear, I’m not referring to Eastern Rite churches when I say things like “keeping all those messy people out.” I don’t believe for a moment that that is what the Easter Rite is all about. I’m referring to you, Stuart, to your attitude, your tone, and the unfortunate way you are representing your traditions. I’m glad that I know other lovers of the Eastern Rite who can appreciate their traditions without turning everything into a grotesque competition.

                  • To respond to all these in one go:

                    1. I desire nothing but good for the Latin Church, for our health is contingent on its health, and Rome remains the Church That Presides in Love. I have said many good things about the Latin Church, and go out of my way in its defense in a manner that does not win me many friends in certain Orthodox circles. But let’s not pretend that all is sweetness and light in your neighborhood, and that the Western Church is undergoing a liturgical crisis has been repeated many times, not the least by the present occupant of Peter’s Throne, whose books on the subjects reiterate much of what I have written.

                    You may not like to hear it, but the liturgical consciousness of the Latin clergy–and by extension, the Latin faithful–leaves much to be desired (as is also the case in the Eastern Churches, albeit manifesting in different ways). One of the most serious problems is the reduction of liturgy to the Eucharist, and seeing reception of the Eucharist as the predominant–if not the sole–purpose of the Mass. See Sacrosanctum concilium for details on this.

                    2. My principal reason for participating in this discussion was the apparently unavoidable tendency of many Roman Catholics to defend the institution of clerical celibacy through the denigration of married priesthood. Given the struggles within our Churches to restore the married priesthood, the inability or unwillingness of Latin Catholics to recognize the full equality of married priests will remain a sticking point between us. Note that there are Latin priests who actively publish articles stating (falsely) that the celibate priesthood is an apostolic institution, and then arguing from there that the married priesthood of the Eastern Catholics must be suppessed, both because it is merely a “concession” and because it poses a mortal threat to celibacy in the Latin Church.

                    3. On the proliferation of Masses: while it is convenient, and may be seen as a pragmatic accommodation to the busy faithful, it isn’t the Tradition–neither in the East or in the West. The Eucharist is both a manifestation of the true nature of the Church as the Kingdom of God in this world, and the sacrament of the unity of the Church: through reception of the Body and Blood of Christ, we become one with Christ and with all those who likewise receive. Thus, the symbolism of all receiving from one loaf and one cup is an important one, recognized by the Fathers, and maintained by the undivided Church of the West and of the East: one liturgy, one altar, one Eucharist on one day.

                    Multiple Masses became popular in the West only in the Middle Ages, and then because of the proliferation of “private Masses” (the so-called “Low Mass” of the Tridentine rite), which marked a radical discontinuity with the Patristic understanding of liturgy. Sacrosanctum concilium, the Vatican II Decree on the Sacred Liturgy, lays out all this and calls for the restoration of the full liturgical tradition of the Western Church. Restoration of the Eucharist as a sacrament of unity is one of those. as would be restoration of the Liturgy of the Hours as liturgical services of the Church, not merely a set of private devotions.

                    I have always stood up for the integrity of the liturgy of the Latin Church, by which I mean those rites which are licit in the eyes of the authorities of that Church. I do not favor the Tridentine over the Novus Ordo, but I do wish to see the Mass celebrated according to the rubrics, with as much perfection as can be managed by those participating.

                    I help run a series of ecumenical conferences in which we always have a variety of liturgies from different churches. I have repeatedly tried to have a Roman Mass celebrated at the conference, in order to show Eastern Orthodox and Catholics the beauty of the Latin Church. You would think Latin priests would jump at the opportunity, but quite the opposite: they are most reluctant to do so, and it is very difficult indeed to find a schola and organist willing to provide the music without demanding an arm and a leg. We did once manage to do Latin Vespers, but in the feedback from the conference, it was the Latin participants who indicated that Latin liturgies should not be included in future programs. Make of that what you will.

                    5. Yes, I have lived on cereal because that’s all that’s in the house.

                    6. The Eastern Churches are all about “personalism” and oikonomia. We are the rabble.

                    7. It’s hard for your priest to know you if you are one of several thousand of the faithful. You may have a circle of friends in your parish, but is your parish your family? Is your priest really your father? How common is this for the typical urban Roman Catholic? My preference, if I could, would be to break up parishes so that none had more than 1000 people, even if it meant that some of these would be meeting in storefronts and could have only one Mass on Sunday (I think we should all work for that goal anyway, but in the short term, let necessity drive). Then the priest and the people would have the opportunity to bond together as a real community.

                    8. There is no such beast as the “Eastern rite”, just as there is no such beast as the “Latin rite”. There are 21 Eastern Catholic Churches, which follow various rites. There is a Latin Church which likewise follows quite a few different rites–the Roman (ordinary and extraordinary forms), Ambrosian, Mozeratic, Dominican, etc. As Catholics, each of us belongs to a particular Church, none of us belongs to a rite.

                    9. The purpose of a particular Church is to live its liturgical and spiritual patrimony to the fullest, offering the Bloodless Sacrifice and the Sacrifice of Praise unto the triune God. The only competition ought to be with ourselves to celebrate our sacred rites in as complete, perfect and sincere a manner as possible, with the heavenly liturgy before the divine throne being our unobtainable model. Since it is unobtainable, we really ought not be upset when we fall short, or rail when people point out our shortcomings and need to do better. I don’t pick out the Latin Church in this regard, but level criticisms against my own Church as well. We all fall short of the mark, should not be complacent, and should strive to do better.

  42. I just had to weigh in on this (because over 100 comments are not enough for you to read). We have been attending an Orthodox church for 2 years (and were recently Christmated) and before that I was raised Protestant. So I’ve always had married pastors and priests, and I have to say that the wives – when involved in the life of the church – have always been such an incredible blessing to everyone. The churches we’ve attended that we left (2 of them) had no role for the pastor’s wife; one was 3000+ people and they had paid assistants for everything, and the other, well, that pastor’s wife didn’t want to do anything but sit in the pew for one service a week, and what baby wanted baby got, apparently (can you tell I had the chance to get to know what she was really like? oh yeah). Both churches felt empty without that indespensible person.

    Now, as Orthodox, we have an arch-priest, an assistant priest, and a retired priest who all serve at the altar and all of whom are married. The first 2 do all the other heavy lifting for the parish (counseling, visits at the hospital, etc). I know their wives best as they are close in age to me. I LOVE them. They add so much to our life at church, and the parish (at least I think) tries to take care of them as much as they take care of our priests.

    I know the job of a priest’s or pastor’s wife is very hard, and has to be something that God has called you to if you are going to survive/flourish in it. I am so glad that there are so many women who do this job – a vocation and avocation – with grace and love. Praise God for them – and will somebody take them out to lunch once in a while and tell them how awesome they are?! Hmm, maybe I’d better get on that…

    • the other, well, that pastor’s wife didn’t want to do anything but sit in the pew for one service a week, and what baby wanted baby got, apparently (can you tell I had the chance to get to know what she was really like? oh yeah).

      speaking as a pastor’s wife with a developmentally-delayed child, i don’t get to sit in the pew for that one service — i’m on my feet chasing him and trying to keep him occupied because i want to keep the sabbath holy and i also know that people do appreciate not having to listen to my son scream for an hour. 🙂

      and thank you thank you thank you for your last paragraph.

        • We’re pretty laid back about children at Liturgy. If they fuss, mom or dad takes them out and brings them back when they are quiet again. No sitting, since standing is the rule, but this actually makes life easier, as the toddlers can be deposited on the floor, while their parents form a human corral around them. My parish seems to adore babies, and if mom or dad seem to be having a rough time, there is always someone who volunteers to hold one of the little ones.

          • This also brings up the issue of infant communion: our children receive the Eucharist when they are baptized and chrismated, and continue to receive the Sacrament thereafter.

            I have found this to have a profound effect on them–they may not understand the metaphysical intricacies of the Mystery, but they know they are sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ, and when communion time comes around, they are always on their best behavior–babies who were fussy cease to fuss, squirmy toddlers cease squirming, cross their arms over their chests, and walk right up to the priest, who deposits the Eucharist in their mouths (we place the consecrated Bread in the Chalice use a small golden spoon to scoop up some of the Body and Blood, which the priest then deposits in our mouths).

            I think being fully initiated members of the Church makes children part of the Body of Christ, and they sense this at some visceral level.

  43. The reasoning here seems to be, “we can’t have married priests because we’ll gossip, we’ll carp, we’ll make them miserable.” In other words, we can’t have married priests because we’re weak.

    But in so many other areas of Catholic life, we’re called to do better, to be stronger, not to give in to our weaknesses. Would anyone say, “we can’t prohibit birth control, people are too weak to handle that”?

    • Would anyone say, “we can’t prohibit birth control, people are too weak to handle that”?

      Isn’t that precisely what happens in reality? Obviously, there is no inquisition looking into the marital practices of the Catholic faithful, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out, based on things like Catholic fertility rates, that this is a teaching being honored mainly in the breach, and that Catholic hierarchs are pretty much resigned to it.

      • No doubt, Stuart. What I’m pointing out is the *reasoning* being employed here: we can’t try this because it would be too hard for people to handle. I expect better reasoning from conservative defenders of tradition. We ask people to handle a lot of hard truths. One of them might be: pastors (and their families) don’t belong on a pedestal.

        • I don’t disagree with any of that, I just recognize it as a fact of life that is unlikely to change any time soon.

  44. Just a side note – Simcha – health insurance is one thing but there is no excuse not to have life insurance. It’s not expensive and if one of you dies it will make the difference between destitution and comfort during a time when you feel mentally and spiritually destitute. Your husband could get (depending on his health) a 20-year term policy for probably 40 bucks a month that would pay several hundred thousand if he died.

    None of us like to think about it and none of us think it will happen to us but it does.

    • Indeed, a fairly healthy man in his thirties should be able to get half a million in term life insurance for under $50/month. Or, if he wants to build up a nest egg, he can go for a universal life policy for just a hundred dollars a month or so. Foolish not to do so.

  45. What a great discussion. I’ve learned a lot here and am coming away with much to think about. Thanks for sponsoring yet more “learning moments”, Simcha. 🙂

    Two things:
    1. Taking a cue from Pope John Paul II, I apologize for the sufferings of the Eastern Churches at the hands of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, which I’d never known about. I know I’m not responsible in a direct sense, noone here is, but still we’re part of it in an organic, connected, “all part of one body” way, where a hurt to one part of the body hurts it all, and resonates down through history. So, I really am sorry and hope that forgiveness and healing are real and happening.

    (I hope this doesn’t sound sanctimonious or “Band-Aid”ish; it’s not meant to be. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to ask for forgiveness, and I think it’s as important on an individual basis as an institutional level. Feel free to disagree with me on that, of course, but my feelings are sincere.)

    2. The Roman Catholic hierarchy really, really needs my prayers in this matter. I don’t condemn a married priesthood nor do I universally endorse one, much like most people commenting here. I pray our RC leaders can discern among our singular experiences a conglomerate approach that is best for all our Churches as a whole.

    • Dear Denise:

      Thank you for your kind words, and for your acknowledgement of and your repudiation of the sins of the past. It is true that neither you nor any of the readers here were responsible for those sins, but knowing that those things happened, and endeavoring to prevent them from happening again, does much for the psychological and spiritual process of repentance, forgiveness, and the healing of schism.

      I must say that for my part, your willingness to acknowledge and correct the past have done much to take away from me the bitterness of that past. Thank you for that.

      Please, do not discount the power of acknowledgement and repentance. To the end of explaining how important it is, I would like to relate something that happened near the end of the pontificate of Sanctus Joannes Paulus Magnus (or, for the sake of brevity, JPII). He had visited Greece, and had met with the entire synod of the Church of Greece, as well as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and his Synod.

      In the course of that meeting, one of the Greek bishops rather angrily stated that no real dialogue could go on until some real reparation had been made for the sack of Constantinople by RC Crusaders in the twelfth century, and the abandonment of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453. Both of these events were causative factors for the end of the Byzantine Empire, and the servitude of Greeks to the Turkish Empire for the next four centuries.

      Right then and there, JPII agreed with the Greek bishop, and said that while He could do nothing about the past, He could acknowledge the wrong that had been done, to apologize, and on behalf of His Church, to ask the forgiveness of the Orthodox world.

      I do not think that I can describe in words the change that went through the Greek synod, but I believe one of the bishops there later said: “I came into that room facing an enemy, and I came out of that room with a friend and a brother.”

      For their part, while the Greek synod could probably have demanded the return of the thousands of Byzantine icons, relics, and other treasures that were a part of the loot of Constantinople, and which still reside in RC churches in Europe, the Patriarch of Constantinople asked only for the return of the relics of Ss. John Chrysostom and Gregory Nazienzen, the Theologian. This was done in 2004, together with a formal apology by JPII. Something of that story can be found here:


      While there remain several doctrinal differences which still separate East from West, I believe that that single act of humility and repentance did more to help heal that schism than any thing else in the last hundred years.

      And this is but one of the reasons why I venerate His Late Holiness as Pope Saint John Paul the Great.

      • Dear Bernard,

        I am humbled by your generosity and kindness. I am not very adept at translating thoughts to words, but: I am only one small person and my apology only one small apology, but your lovely, grace-filled response transformed it into something much greater than I would have thought it ever deserved. If that makes sense at all.

        At any rate, thank YOU.

        And thank you for the beautiful story; that characteristically humble response of the Pope was just what I found inspiring. How long a way I have to go…

  46. Married priests would be a whole new can of worms, preacher’s kid syndrome for one. I have an aunt who was preacher’s daughter. She ran wild, shamed her family and today at 50 is still bitter about her childhood. The rest of her siblings turned out okay but her problems were spectacular and led to her father’s retirement. People muttered that if the Rev. couldn’t control his kid he certainly couln’t tell them anything.

    • Posts of this sort reinforce my belief that there is a fundamental difference between the experience of married Protestant ministers and married Catholic or Orthodox priests, which probably has to do with the respective understandings of the nature of the ministry. Certainly, while there must be sons and daughters of priests who are hellions (human nature being what it is), they seem to be few and far between. Most of the sons of Orthodox and Greek Catholic priests end up entering ordained ministry themselves (though some choose to go the monastic route), and many end up becoming pastor of their father’s parish in his turn. The daughters of priests frequently end up marrying the sons of other priests. That in turn may explain why many of the problems described by others in the Protestant denominations are avoided: there is a culture that supports married priesthood, and there are mothers and wives who provide support and act as role models for their daughters.

      • Umm, and what about the Pastor’s sons that feel pressured into ministry? Many of the sons become ministers because it is portrayed as the most Godly choice and the have been practically raised and trained for the ministry since birth. Many of the daughters marry ministers because for the same reasons, plus no one else could really understand the challenges of their upbringing.

        • There aren’t too many of those that I can see.

          In the first place, it’s not like this is a paying job. Remuneration for superfluous priests is non-existent; most Orthodox priests have outside jobs. Second, there are lot of other ministries within the Church–Readers, Sub-Deacons, and Deacons. In the Eastern Tradition, each of these is an office in itself, not just a step up the Cursus Honorum. Lots of men become Readers, and that’s all they want to be. Others decide to stop at the sub-diaconate or diaconate. Only a relative few go on to the presbyterate. So, the son of priest has lots of options open to him, both in and out of the Church.

          Second, it does not seem to need much urging to interest kids in the ministry. Put simply, just to serve at the altar is an awesome, overwhelming experience, and the Liturgy is a feast for the soul and all the bodily senses at once. Kids dig it–even little babies are entranced by the spectacle. When you grow up seeing and doing that every day, you quickly come to the conclusion this is what man is meant to do–to worship God offering up the Bloodless Sacrifice. The Greek philosophers said every being had a telos–a purpose for which it was created–and that every creature is happiest when it fulfills its telos. The telos of man is to worship God, and man is happiest when he is doing that.

          Third, and as I have tried to stress, being the wife of a priest (and a deacon for that matter) in an Eastern Church means sharing in the ministry of one’s husband. I get the impression that the primary role of a minister’s wife in the Protestant churches is to serve as social hostess and elbow accessory. In the Eastern Churches, the priest’s wife, though not ordained, has an important role of her own representing the interests of the women and children of the parish. For a lot of young Orthodox women, that’s an attractive life, even with all of its sacrifices and challenges.

          • I get the impression that the primary role of a minister’s wife in the Protestant churches is to serve as social hostess and elbow accessory.

            here are some instructions, stuart: open mouth. insert foot.

            in the last 9 years, i have…

            -taught confirmation
            -led music
            -trained the acolytes
            -trained the altar guild
            -led Bible studies
            -taught koine greek at the local prison
            -accompanied the service
            -written confirmation/vacation bible school/sunday school material
            -trained the lectors
            -trained cantors
            -put together bulletins and calendars
            -gone with my husband on pastoral visits and bereavement calls
            -put together church websites
            -organized meals

            i’m the LAST person that would be a social hostess. as for being an elbow accessory, i joke about being a trophy wife frequently.

            • My dear Khouria Jen,

              I only report what I have seen myself and been told by others. Here, for instance, is Khouria Frederica Matthewes-Green, who was the wife of an Episcopalian minister, prior to their conversion to Orthodoxy and her husband’s ordination as an Orthodox priest:

              “Before, as a “pastor’s wife”, my role was chiefly social. In Orthodoxy, I discovered, it was spiritual. I was the mother of the parish, honored with the title “khouria”. (The Greeks use the title “presbytera”, and the Russians use “matushka”, which mean respectively “priest’s wife” and “little mother”). The Church prefers parish priests be married, and the husband and wife together present a leadership pair analogous to a father and a mother in a home”. (“At the Corner of East and Now”, p.210)

              Looking at your resume, I can see precisely why you feel so burdened by your role as “pastor’s wife”–you’re overloaded and overextended. If you are doing all these things yourself, then there must be a lot of free riders in your parish. Delegate. Get some help, and focus on the things which are essential to your role.

              Khouria Frederica does many of the things you do–she sings with the choir, she has a blog, and numerous speaking engagements, too–but her main role is to be the mother of the parish, not to be her husband’s staff. It would appear that you see your role in your congregation defined by what you do, not by who you are. And that can be oppressive indeed.

              • stuart,

                my point in providing the list was to show that i was anything BUT a social butterfly and elbow adornment for my husband. apparently, you missed it.

                i am quite familiar with frederica mathewes-green — i’ve read both “facing east” and “at the corner of east and now” and i am a fan of her podcast. her pre-orthodox days are not the best representation of the lives of protestant pastor’s wives because protestantism is a large spectrum and there are some who do more or less than others. that list encompasses 8 years as a pastor’s wife and three different parishes.

                my experience is fairly unique because my husband pastored multi-point parishes in rural areas where everybody had to do everything. i have part of a master’s degree in theology and i’m trained as a “worship leader” so i was called upon to train people in the parish. they managed to double-book my husband on wednesday nights so i ended up teaching confirmation.

                jen the lutheran khouria.

          • “There aren’t too many of those that I can see.”

            And you would know this how? Are you the personal confidant/counsellor of all of these happy healthy pastors?

      • not necessarily. there are three types of pastor’s kids:

        -the angel: goes into the ministry, goody-goody stereotype

        -the hellion: rebels against the faith, follows a path of destruction

        -middle ground: questions the faith, maybe gets some tattoos/piercings, ends up keeping the faith.

        my husband is the first type. he’s the fourth generation in the lutheran pastorate.

        my sister-in-law is a combination of the second and third. she left the faith, has a decent collection of tats, and she’s had to find her way. she has a wonderful role model in her mother but she saw the things that the church did to her dad and has a nasty taste in her mouth from that.

        priest’s kids could easily fit into those three categories even if their parents are godly role models. i think if we looked at the children of orthodox clergy, we’d probably see the three manifested.

  47. I’m Orthodox, and I’ve had both married priests and hieromonks as parish priests. They have all been wonderful. For spiritual leadership and guidance, I think I was best served by the married priests, but this may have been a mere matter of chance. I have never felt that my priest was unavailable to me because of his family obligations.

    Being a Matushka looks very hard, although I imagine that the sacrifices it entails are spiritually rewarded in the end. And Matushkas usually add a lot to parish life.

    Of course, they sometimes suffer from judgmental comments or thoughts from the parishioners. This is part of their cross. I’m not sure that eliminating the Matushka would eliminate the judgment. I am certainly capable of being constantly judgmental no matter who or what is around me. This is my fault and my own struggle.

  48. The criticisms one supposes a priest’s wife may hear are criticisms married lay women have had to deal with since practically the dawn of time. The stress of dedicating oneself to a successful career while being married and a father is the same stress married lay men have had to deal with as well.

    Maybe it would be a good thing if priests understood in a real and meaningful way just exactly how difficult it is to be a faithful Catholic married adult and parent in the 21st century.

    To the person who claimed his friends who are priests became priests because they didn’t want to get married, I hope you were joking. That is certainly the wrong reason to become a priest, especially since it’s not like priesthood or marriage are the only two choices available to Catholic men. I suspect, too, that what your argument really boils down to, if you’re being serious, is that these men became priests because they didn’t want to enter into a sexual relationship with an adult woman, in which case it’s a REALLY bad reason to become a priest.

    As for a married priesthood being the answer to the abuse scandal, I’ve always felt that had there been a married priesthood, we wouldn’t have had as widepread a scandal as we did, nor one of that particular nature. However, there will always be scandal, abuse, corruption, etc., in this world, so we may have seen another type of scandal or abuse situation. But watchful women — watchful mothers and grandmothers — might have put a stop to things a lot sooner than the hierarchy did.

    The money stuff can be worked out. Sure, they’ll be a learning curve and lots of debate, but so what? That’s a good thing — stagnation is not good for any organization.

    Someone brought up their priest’s concerns about missing family milestones because his first priority would be to answer the call of a parishioner in need. Well, welcome to the real world and the big boys club. Happens all the time for many fathers around the world.

    We have various orders, we have monastic societies, and these are great options for priests who feel called to spend the lion’s share of their time at prayer or pursuing particular devotions. Remember, it’s an _option_ to marry, not a requirement, that those of us who support such a thing are suggesting. It makes sense for a married man with roots in the parish to be a priest in the parish. It makes sense for a married man with a wife and children to pastor other families.

    I’ve never see the priest as the high-holy-untouchable-on-a-pedestal as a good thing, and too often that is exactly the attitude too many priests project.

    So I guess I’ll go against the tide and be one firm and hearty “yes” vote when it comes to a marriage option for priests.

    • “To the person who claimed his friends who are priests became priests because they didn’t want to get married, I hope you were joking.”

      A lot of them did, and this is at least a partial cause of the clerical sexual abuse problem. As numerous Latin Catholic sources have recounted, until recently the Roman Catholic priesthood was one of the few acceptable places a man who did not want to marry could go without attracting undue attention. A lot of men of uncertain sexuality, or with overt homosexual tendencies, used the Church as a convenient closet. Real problems began to emerge when, after Vatican II, priests ceased to live together in the rectory, and began living “in the world”, on their own. This, together with the lax social mores of the period, were a recipe for disaster.

      Because, you see, the clerical abuse problem was not one of pedophilia (only a very small percentage of allegations actually involved that, those these priests tended to be the most prolific abusers, and their abuses the most horrific). Rather, it was one of homosexual rape or seduction involving teenage boys, and priests acting out on their repressed sexual desires.

      Having married priests will not eliminate sexual abuse by priests, because priests are men, and all men sin. Having married priests does tend to cut down on one type of sexual abuse, but incidents still occur. A few years back, a Greek archimandrite groped a married Greek seminarian at a reception in Boston; the seminarian decked the archimandrite, which led to a major scandal in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. More recently, a bishop of the Orthodox Church in America was suspended because of allegations he was abusing boys in his cathedral. And, of course, the papers are littered with stories of married Protestant ministers who either have affairs with women or get caught with male prostitutes, or whatever. The clergy can be no better than the society whence they come.

      “Someone brought up their priest’s concerns about missing family milestones because his first priority would be to answer the call of a parishioner in need. Well, welcome to the real world and the big boys club. Happens all the time for many fathers around the world.”

      I keep thinking of the hundreds of thousands of American servicemen on deployment around the globe who miss their family milestones so that celibate priests can worry about how their married colleagues might miss their family milestones.

      “I’ve never see the priest as the high-holy-untouchable-on-a-pedestal as a good thing, and too often that is exactly the attitude too many priests project.”

      One thing a married priesthood does do is reduce the vertical distance between the priest and the people. But then, in the Eastern Churches, the priest does not stand “in persona Christi”–rather, he speaks on behalf of the whole Church at the Holy Table, while the sacramental action is performed by the descent and power of the Holy Spirit, to whom the priest merely lends his mouth and his hands. Our sacramental formulas prefer to use the passive voice (The servant of God, N.__ is forgiven, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit), rather than the active voice (“I forgive you”), to reinforce the understanding that the priest does nothing, the Spirit does all.

      • Stuart, I agree that the Catholic priesthood has been used as a refuge of sorts (although not in a good way) or even a dumping ground for the sexually “off”. This was unspoken common knowledge back in the day — back pre-VII, actually — that the Church was where a Catholic family could safely stash their gay sons. I really hope, however, that the original commenter wasn’t implying that all these men he knows were either gay or sexual predators, or whatnot.

        In those days, the convent was where you sent your unmarriagable daughters, too. When I hear these bright young things who know everything go on and on and on about the drop in vocations, I just roll my eyes. Many of those “vocations” in the past weren’t vocations at all, so I doubt the number of sincere vocations has dropped at all.

        I don’t know whether or not allowing married priests will stop the number of abusers who have access to the Church, but I think that the fact there will be priests who are fathers and wives who are mothers, along with their extended families, involved in the mix of rectory, school and parish functions is an added safeguard — more watchful eyes and more folks with a personal stake in maintaining a predator-free priesthood.

        It’s not just servicemen who’ve managed to juggle an incredibly stressful, demanding career with fatherhood — although they are the real heroes here, not priests, who have a pretty stressfree, cushy, soft existence, IMO — it’s also the average joes, the guys who work llike dogs just to put a roof over their families’ heads and food on the table — and pay all that Catholic school tuition and put money in the basket on Sunday. I think it’s appallingly selfish and whiny and, frankly, a wee bit, er, delicate and dainty, for priests to say they can’t be priests AND family men. Well, maybe THOSE priests can’t — wouldn’t surprise me — like I said, they can’t even rinse off a dish they used or make their own beds — but maybe better men can, and those are the men I’d like to see leading a parish, not the delicate flowers and old-women-in-soutanes we have now.

        Not that I’m cyncial, or anything…LOL!

  49. If he wasn’t joking, I would suppose he is referring to the men who perhaps do not feel a strong attraction toward the responsibilities of having a family, the difficulties of supporting a traditional family and all of its incumbent burdens.

    • Also, I always understood that there was supposed to be a *call* to celibacy. Am I misunderstanding “the call”? If it is simply God calling a man to the priesthood, many more men might say they could have discerned a call.

      When I have tried to educate my boys about opening their hearts to the call, it has been within the context of not just wanting to live completely and totally for Jesus, but also be sure that they dont’t have a strong call to marry. My husband said that he knew quite young that he wanted to marry and be a father of many, but many around him (including his pastor and local bishop!) told him that they thought he might have a vocation to the priesthood. He never even gave it serious thought, considering how strongly he *knew* his call to be a husband and father. Of course, this is within a Latin-rite sensibility and upbringing.

      • This has always been one of my pet peeves. The Fathers of the Church did not believe in a “personal call” to the priesthood–quite the opposite, in fact. St. John Chrysostom, for instance, wrote that “the priesthood is a burden from which a sane man will flee”(he literally ran away when his bishop ordered him ordained to the presbyterate), and he was very leery of men who spoke of their “calling”.

        In the patristic age, ordination was an ecclesial action, in which the community called out certain men to serve at the altar, and this was then ratified by the bishop. This could lead to interesting results. Ambrose of Milan, famously, was elected bishop while still a catechumen, and had to be baptized and then raised from subdeacon to bishop over the course of four consecutive Sundays. The general idea, though, was not that a person was called by God, but that he was called by the Church–a subtle but important distinction. The notion of a personal calling to the priesthood turns what is an ecclesial ministry of service into something perhaps a bit too individualistic. I think a lot of problems could be avoided if we returned to the earlier understanding of ordained ministry. And maybe giving the people an actual voice in the selection would be a good idea: they know the man and his qualities.

        (Vestiges of which still exist in the Byzantine ordination rite: after the new priest is vested, the bishop intones “Axios” (He is worthy) three times, and the people take up acclamation; but in patristic times, it was not unknown for the people to shout “Anaxios” (Unworthy!) if they did not agree with the selection).

        In any case, it is pretty clear that ordained ministry was not seen by the Fathers as a “personal vocation”; on the other hand, monasticism was a personal vocation, an heroic calling which could not be imposed on anyone; it was a gift freely given to some, but not to others. The essence of monasticism is in the word itself: “monos”–alone. The monastic renounces the world, including the possibility of the intimacy of marriage, so as to devote his whole life to constant prayer and the search for inner stillness. That is not something that just anyone can do, hence the choice of becoming monastic must be made by the individual, while in contrast, the act of ordaining a priest is an action of the whole Church, which selects the man from within its ranks to serve as celebrant at the Mystical Supper.

    • Well, let’s hope he was being facetious. One could assume a lot of things about such a man, none of them complimentory. I could assume, for example, a man who enters the priesthood does so because he not only eschews women but also eschews competing for employment in the private sector.

      As for Stuart’s point about callings and personal vocations and such, sure. The priesthood was considered a legitimate choice for any man of noble birth who wasn’t the heir. It was a great place to stash one’s ne’er-do-well second, third, fourth, etc., sons. Just like the convent was where one could unload those extra daughters who were too plain or too “simple” to trade off in marriage.

      Cynical, but not untrue. And it’s a valid point. I don’t know that a man has to have some warm, fuzzy, personal “call” to the priesthood any more than he does to accounting, medicine, the law, carpentry, civil service, the military, etc., and a priesthood that includes married men would open the doors to good men who would be priests except for the celibacy requirement.

      Celibacy is a problem. Always has been. A celibate priesthood was created by imperfect human beings in order to solve some very earth-bound issues for the human hierarchy of the Church. Stuff people make up outside of what God asks or wills tends to end badly.

  50. I recently had a long conversation with my spiritual director, a msgr who has been a priest for almost 50 years, about a vocation I’m considering that involves “promises” not vows. He made sure to explain that even the vows priests take are not equal. There are “solemn” vows and there are others. The vow of “celibacy” is binding under the vow of obedience to the Magesterium. If the Pope changed this particular ruling, even the priests who are already ordained could get married. So this is not an issue for the already ordained vs. seminarians and/or not yet ordained. The way he explained it to me is that immediately after Vatican II so many changes were filtering down through the ranks and across the globe, that the IDEA that it was just a matter of time before this particular part of the priesthood (the celibacy part) was lifted. So many men flocked to the seminary in the 60s and 70s expecting this to be the case at any time. When it wasn’t forthcoming, priests left and got married. We lost our priests! Many in the seminary were led to believe that the vow of celibacy would not be an issue in the near future, so they could be a priest and soon begin to have a family. Msgr. was one of those in the seminary in the 60s, so he knows what was taught and how the perception of the priesthood was expected to change to include marriage.

    • I also wanted to say that I have mixed feelings for these men of God. Many of them live lonely lives in the church rectory alone for decades and over time I’m sure that many of them during times of personal struggle or loss, that they had a special person to share their loads, just as married people rely heavily on each other to make it through tough times. A hug from someone who really cares can make all the difference—just leaving out the sexual for this argument. On the other hand, I want my pastor, who is my spiritual advisor, to be available to me and the parish when he is needed. Without a family, a priest is NOT conflicted about his priorities. Family life can be demanding. There are needs of the children and the wife. Can we honestly admire or respect a priest who favors his flock over his family? And can he be an effective priest who is supposed to be concerned with the salvation of souls and administering sacraments if he has to go to a son’s soccer game or his daughter’s school play? Both are separate vocations, in my opinion. A person simply can’t have 2 top priorities. The priesthood is a CAREER, but not like any other. It is round-the-clock devotion to the People of God. Celebacy is a major thing for anyone to agree to for an entire lifetime, but people do this every day! Our priests and religious are very special people, called by God to this vocation. Not everyone is willing to accept this particular cross–knowing he will never be a father or husband–in order to serve God in His priesthood.

      • “Without a family, a priest is NOT conflicted about his priorities. Family life can be demanding. There are needs of the children and the wife. Can we honestly admire or respect a priest who favors his flock over his family? And can he be an effective priest who is supposed to be concerned with the salvation of souls and administering sacraments if he has to go to a son’s soccer game or his daughter’s school play? Both are separate vocations, in my opinion. A person simply can’t have 2 top priorities. The priesthood is a CAREER, but not like any other. It is round-the-clock devotion to the People of God. Celebacy is a major thing for anyone to agree to for an entire lifetime, but people do this every day! Our priests and religious are very special people, called by God to this vocation. Not everyone is willing to accept this particular cross–knowing he will never be a father or husband–in order to serve God in His priesthood.”

        Well, Anna,

        Just how have the married priests of the Eastern Churches been doing this for 2000 years? Are we disappointed with our priests? Do we feel that they have divided loyalties? Are they somehow inferior to our celibate priests?

        You can see why statements such as yours drive Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Christians up the wall: you are implicitly indicting all of our married priests, and consigning them to some sort of inferior status. At the very least, you are telling us they aren’t capable of doing their jobs as well as celibate priests.

        Saying, “Oh, it’s OK for the ‘Eastern rites” doesn’t really make things better. It’s implying that we either have lower standards, or somehow our spiritual needs aren’t quite as important as yours.

        As I have said repeatedly, if the Latin Church wants to maintain clerical celibacy, that’s it’s business, and no skin off my nose. It’s the reasons Latins give for having mandatory celibacy that are the problem, because it seems you can’t justify the institution without somehow denigrating the equally (if not more) ancient and legitimate Tradition of married priests–and that reflects upon our married priests, whom we love and appreciate as much as our celibate monastic priests (having both, we see no need to prefer one over the other).

        • And how does this explain the Catholic Church allowing married priests/ministers with families who’ve converted from other denominations into the priesthood?

          I’ve always felt that one pretty much blew the celibacy thing out of the water. If an Anglican, married priest can become a Catholic priest, then none of the reasons the Church officially gives for the celibacy requirement hold water.

  51. I’d kind of rather not on the married priests, for all of the reasons listed above. I know we’re not onto women priests yet, but here’s my feeling: let’s not let yet another crap job be handed to the women, ok? priesthood is hard. As others have already said, it’s a burden. And I believe it was designed for men partly because, frankly, women already do that kind of work all the time and always have. It’s a different model of masculinity, one we badly need. My fear is we’ll end up with ONLY women priests. Sometimes women just don’t know what’s good for them.

  52. “Without a family, a priest is NOT conflicted about his priorities. Family life can be demanding. There are needs of the children and the wife. Can we honestly admire or respect a priest who favors his flock over his family? And can he be an effective priest who is supposed to be concerned with the salvation of souls and administering sacraments if he has to go to a son’s soccer game or his daughter’s school play? Both are separate vocations, in my opinion. A person simply can’t have 2 top priorities. The priesthood is a CAREER, but not like any other. It is round-the-clock devotion to the People of God. ”

    Interesting, Anna, but idealized.

    I would challenge you to find one out of ten diocesan priests who have this attitude. Most may not be married but they eventually find some pasttime or passion to be “married” to, and after a time, start having the same attitude towards parishioners that any other person working in business has towards clients or customers: they are problems and bothersome, and to be mocked and complained about when the doors are shut for the day.

    Ask anyone who has ever worked in a parish office or rectory. They’ll tell you.

    • speaking as a lutheran pastor’s wife… 🙂

      you’d be amazed at how you can actually do BOTH. my husband’s cell phone is on him 24/7 and the number is on our answering machine. there is never a time that he is out of touch with his parishioners if there is a crisis. he’s been cheering on his confirmation kids at a basketball game when the hospital has called and he politely says good-bye and heads to the hospital.

      the way you balance it with kids is that you have at least one other person there who can take the kid home after the soccer game. at the dance recital, you put the cell phone on vibrate and you announce in church that your daughter’s dance recital is that afternoon in case anyone wants to go. (chances are, people leave you alone during that time unless they’re dying or on fire.)

      we’ve never had a problem and my husband’s duties are no less busy or important than the duties of your parish priests.

      and seriously, most of us pastor’s wives/priest’s wives could care less about what happened during our husband’s day so we’re not going to ask how their day was and our husband’s know not to vent to us. (i also make it a rule not to know because some of his parishioners DO call and ask for gossip and i can honestly tell them that i don’t know what happened.)

    • I’ve sat through enough sermons that amount to little more than a slap across the face for the parishioners to know this is true without having the benefit of working on the inside. Just recently the pastor of one of the parishes at which we sometimes attend Mass gave a sermon that began with his sneering mockery of the sorts of Catholics he didn’t think were “true” Catholics. I’m pretty sure he offended everyone with the exception of his little insider clique of pals.

      Priests are men. People. Nothing more, nothing less. They’d like you to think they’re some higher form of being, or follow some higher calling, or are closer to God, or more loved by God, but they’re not. They’re merely fallible human beings like the rest of us and fall into the same pitfalls we all do, gossip and snark and resentment and superiority complexes among them.

      The lack of fullness in their lives, the lack of balance, the lack of understanding what real priorities are (ain’t nuthin’ like being a parent to show you what really matters in this world) are actually an obstacle, IMO, to being able to prioritize their ministry.

      If anything, those idle hands make for a lovely devil’s playground…

      I also find the attitude that it’s impossible for priests to be married and successfully attend to their responsibilities more than a little insulting to good men who manage to successfully navigate a meaningful career while being married and having children. If men who are not priests can handle the balancing act and stress and responsibility that goes along with being a good husband, a good father, a real man and the sole provider in a family, then all that nonsense about not being able to be a good priest and be married just comes off as being whiny and girly-man and selfish and slackerish to me. Heck, those guys don’t even cook their own meals, clean their own houses and do their own laundry, and I’m supposed to put them on a pedestal? Sorry. Respect is earned. I have nothing but contempt for people who refuse to lift a finger to do anything for themselves.

      Christ established a married priesthood. People changed it for strictly self-serving reasons. ‘Nuff said.

  53. The problem is…If I defend the possibility of a married priesthood being positive (Eastern rites- I am still talking from my experience and don’t ask the West to change their tradition- just to be respectful of ours)…I might be negative about celibate priests- …..do people REALLY call their parish priests at all hours? can you even get to him- even if he personally wants to be a 24/7 pastor? My husband is director of chaplaincy at a hospital- 90% of the time he cannot even get personal contact with any priest when a patient wants their parish priest to see them. Of course, priests are overworked- I understand that. But where does having a plane AND a boat fit in with this ideal of the celibate priest who is constantly giving to his people?

    I think for most people- it is still the idea of their priest sitting down to chamomile tea at the end of the day with his wife instead of being alone with an episode of Law and Order that most people just can’t get past.

    • i think you hit the nail on the head with that last paragraph. 🙂

      i also find it interesting that your husband can’t get personal contact with a priest. my husband has his cell on at ALL times when he’s out (unless he’s in a place where he can’t have it on like the prison or a hospital) and we answer the phone when he’s home.

      • Khouria jen- well- you are a priest’s wife, too! Sometimes my husband might let a call go to voice mail but usually he will pick up right away. The parish priests that hospital patients would like to have visit them do not give out their cell numbers, so it is the secretaries that field calls. One of these parishes has 15,000 families with 3 priests and 3 deacons. In this parish, the priests don’t do baptismal or marriage prep, let alone make sick calls at the hospitals. The parishes here are simply too big.

        • Where is “here”, if you don’t mind? We have big parishes in the Washington, DC area, but 15,000 families would be something like 60,000 people, which is larger than several of the Eastern Catholic Churches in the United States.

          That’s my definition of “industrial scale Christianity”.

        • i hate to say that your husband’s experience is not unique. large churches usually have a “visitation pastor” on staff and if that person is on vacation, nobody gets visited. my husband actually made a little extra money in this last year while he was on leave from call as a “visitation pastor” for the church of which we were members — the pastor was so overworked that it was a relief for him to have someone who was willing to go and visit people and spend time with them.

  54. Thought you all might like the comments of a Southern Baptist pastor who has two children and has this to say about married ministers: It always helps to have a wife, especially one who supports her husband in the ministry. Being faithful to one wife is preferable to being celebate, if one does not have that gift. and there are Protestants who are single and who minister. There is the problem of divorce and remarriage. And there are the range of problems in the marriages of ministers as there are in the marriages of church members. Thre are also the joys and rewards of faithful ministry. Sometimes a pastor gets to see the results in one of his children. Our son is also a pastor and has served his first pastorate for nearly 12 years. One also sees the child who grows up and has difficulties with the Faith, because life does not go according to their expectations. Being witness to some of the sore trgedies of life, I can also speak of some of the wonderful blessings, too. Hypocrites exist, and so do those splendid examples of Christians who are indeed marked by the love they have to one another. Having been an Atheist before I was converted (now some 53 years ago), I can say that there is a joy in being Christian which is not found anywhere else.

  55. I think this is about one of th funniest damned things I have ever read! LOL! I can’t stop laughing! I have to say, to be serious for a moment, that the priest who presided over the sacramental exchange between my wife and I was married. He is a very well known priest-convert from episcopalianism. This is no positive argument for married priests, but I can say that the pre-marital meetings were interesting having a priest who was also a married man run them. As a qualifier I might note the fact that he is quite (quite) old at this point, so many of the elements of spousal and paternal relationships well laid out here were not in play when he converted to the faith some 20-30 years(ish) ago. Anywho… that is all.

  56. For the past 50 years I have lived in a religious community. During that time, for 40+ years, I have served as a priest.
    It is not an easy life. At the same time one could say the same about married or single life. The essence of any life in any form is commitment. That is the challenge. What is very important in a commitment is to know or be aware that God has given you the gifts and the grace for that commitment.
    During these many years I have met and admired women and men because of the depth of their commitment. For all of them they have had to experience and live numerous “good fridays.” At the same time there have been many “TGIF’s” in their lives.
    Neither marriage, celibacy or priesthood will make commitment easy — no matter what people say or think about you. Our lives and happiness depends on the following: “Did God invite you to your commitment?”; “Are you asking and relying upon God to help you with your commitment?”
    “Oremus Invicem!” “Let us pray for each other!”

  57. As a single woman, I think that this is a bad idea. While I commend the wives of the former Anglican ministers who now serve as Catholic priests, I do have some reservations as to whether or not this kind of system would work in the Church.

    The priest’s schedule is never his own. Even if the wife were to plan going out to eat with him, meetings, sacramental emergencies and other pastoral matters would come into play. You can’t really serve two masters here.

    The wife would also be called into question. At least in my diocese, parish assignments run from six to 12 years. That means that the priest and his family would be moving around. If the diocese covers a multiple-county area, chances are that the family would literally moving from one town to another, let alone one county to another. If the wife wanted to have some sort of career, this would make it difficult (especially if she wants to augment her husband’s salary). The wife would also be scrutinized perhaps for things we take for granted, like getting her hair done, getting a manicure, shopping at Sephora (cosmetics) and the manner in which she dresses (something that Simcha brought up).

    Weekends would not necessarily be ideal for family time, as this when the priest is at his busiest. The reality is that there are one-priest parishes that have four or five weekend Masses (not to mention confessions, weddings, baptisms, funerals and the like). As it stands, the priest (sans wife and chlidren) would barely have a chance for a break.

    The priest already has a bride, the Church.

    • actually, the moving hasn’t really been a huge deal for us (my husband being a lutheran pastor). one of the things i always ask for is a list of the best places for things like groceries, prescriptions, etc. the job change isn’t ideal but it’s meant that i’ve gotten a lot of experience in doing different things. now that i have a baby, work is not exactly on my mind.

      my husband gets a day off during the week and that’s when we do our family stuff. weddings/baptisms/funerals happen and if they’re on saturday, that’s the way it is. it would mean that saturday night isn’t the night that we do stuff.

      married priests *could* work in the roman catholic church (they already do in the byzantine church) but it would be a paradigm shift for a lot of parishes and a lot of people.

  58. Fr. Robert Baron speaks saliently on this issue:

    Full article: http://www.uscatholic.org/church/2010/05/how-build-better-priest


    “I’m very impatient with some of the pragmatic arguments for celibacy-that it frees up your time and allows you to focus your energy in different ways. Those may be true, but they’re also vaguely insulting to rabbis and ministers who marry. Are they less effective? Less available to their people?

    I’d rather see celibacy as a kind of irrational, over-the-top, poetic, symbolic expression of the soul in love. People in love do strange things. They signal their love in excessive and irrational ways. And that’s what celibacy is-an irrational expression of love. Is it tied necessarily to priesthood? I’d say no, it’s not. Have mystery bearers across cultures and across history traditionally opted for celibacy? Yes, they have. So I think there’s an archetypal link between the two, but it’s not a necessary link.

  59. Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake reveal in their book THE PHYSICS of ANGELS

    Angels are far greater and more powerful beings than we ever knew and our belief in them can revolutionize our lives……. ”

    Perhaps it is time in this debate to seek help from
    these on HIGHER Ground

  60. I know this post is from a million years ago but your comment about the posts on Fr. Z’s blog is right on, and made me laugh. So glad to know I am not alone!

  61. It is technically possible for the Latin rite to change this practice as it is a matter of discipline, not doctrine. But nothing actionable is being worked on, and the Latin rite will not change any time soon. For now, though, imagine this scenario. One of your teenage children comes to you and says,

    “Mom, Dad, our Latin rite parish is lacking in priests and teens and young adults- we have just one priest and he covers three different parishes! Would you mind if I attend the Eastern rite parish that supports two full time priests on its own, one of them being a married priest? There’s more people my age there, and around three quarters of the people there used to be Latin rite like us. I’d like to give it a look.”

    Or your son and his girlfriend say this.

    “Mom, Dad, we’ve been attending the Eastern rite parish, it’s different and we like the singing and the people. I was thinking- I wanted to explore being a priest myself but I can’t be celibate, we wish we could raise some sons who would be able to do both while still being in union with Rome, and daughters and maybe granddaughters who are better positioned to marry a priest and have that make sense. Is that an acceptable reason to consider switching rites?”

    Or your daughter comes home from college and says this.

    “I’ve gotten to know a guy who plans on getting married sometime before he completes seminary and becomes a priest, I started looking into the challenges of being a priest’s wife and of handling that vocation myself, mostly because I have never in my life met an available Catholic man who is remotely like this, he’s the best and I just hope I can be good enough for him and whatever it is God leads us to, if I take this huge step and take this on.”

    How about those hypothetical scenarios? You like them apples?

  62. It is pretty hard for Eastern Catholics to read your discussion as anything but disparaging. That’s especially disappointing since Latin hostility to the Eastern Catholic tradition of married priests represents such a painful catastrophe in the history and memory of Greek Catholics in this country.

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