That’s the question that Deacon Greg Kandra takes up today over at Patheos which seems to be growing by leaps and bounds and is chock full of good articles.

Deacon Greg writes that he’s been asked about whether he wants to be a priest. He doesn’t–which is good discernment on his part and a confirmation of his calling to the ministry of Deacon, a different call than one to the priesthood.

However, that doesn’t mean that there may not be married men called to be priests and that this may be allowed in the Roman Church someday. An important distinction not lost on the good Deacon who also notes that more than a few problems can arise from this:

Such a change will require everyone — ordained and the laity — to rethink how we are church: how to support a married clergy, for example, and how to accommodate a priest’s family into the life of the parish. But the Church is already getting some practice, with the 17,000 or so mostly married permanent deacons who are now working and ministering in parishes around the country. The faithful are increasingly accustomed to seeing married men at the altar, and seeing their wives and children worshipping in the pews. Married deacons are a fact of Catholic life.

And joining them one day, I believe, will be married priests.

Should priests marry? As someone who finds it difficult to manage a marriage and a ministry, but who does so capably (and with a wife who doesn’t drive in a city with less than adequate public transit, who occasionally needs a chauffeur!), I would say that if this were to happen great care by both clergy and laity would need to be taken.

I don’t have children, so I’m a bit freer than men with families, but balancing time and work is already a challenge for people outside of ministry, so exactly how different is this? Odd hours would certainly be one of the more challenging aspect (says the guy who got in at 11PM last night with his wife who assisted him in ministering to young adults last night in our parish). People do things with churches at nights and on the weekends. Much like my days of working the overnight, you work while everyone else is on their leisure time. Date nights sometimes get rescheduled because sometimes “ministry just needs to happen.” I do other projects and chores in the early morning, late evening and take mornings off when I work late into the evening and Fridays off when I have to be here for a full day of masses on Sunday. Marion is more than understanding about this (God love her), but I also try to use her gifts and talents for ministry’s benefits so that we’re together more often and not apart.

Last night at the young adult movie night, my colleague Patty Spear and I were preparing for the evening with her 4 year old Matthew running around (and us giving him small jobs to do and Patty taking a break now and again until her husband Steve came and he would then take him to the playground for a bit to play). My wife and I were preparing food, I ran to handle a technical snafu with our LCD projector and new people needed to be greeted which Patty handled well. There were a lot of plates to keep spinning for what seems like a simple dinner, movie and discussion evening.

But you know what, I think it’s who we are as church. We live in a messy and complicated world–mired with family problems, unemployment, unexpectedness. How many examples of marriage do young people have today when 50% of marriages end in divorce–even within our church!?

How many examples of prayerful marriages are there today? Do we see many “partners in ministry,” where marriages are accentuated by the jobs that we do and the people we can become if we live out our vocation?

Do we even see husbands and wives who hold hands and pray together at mass anymore? Do we even see younger husbands and wives at mass together–and visible in the parish as leaders in the community?

In some places we do. But now think–what if the priest and his entire family were serving the needs of the parish?

Wouldn’t that be something to see indeed?

0 thoughts on “Should Priests Marry?”
  1. Three thoughts:

    1) We already have married priests in the Roman Rite. Just ask the former Anglican priests who have crossed the Tiber and been admitted as priests. They’re not a large group, to be sure, but they are there. (Heck, even my small rural diocese has one married former Protestant minister in seminary.)

    2) I bristled at this comment: “But now think–what if the priest and his entire family were serving the needs of the parish?” It seems to assume a “two-for-one” deal — that just because the priest has a calling to parish ministry that his wife does, too. I wonder how often that would really be the case.

    3) I think we’ll see a wider allowance for married priests in the Roman Rite within our lifetime. I like to remind people that for most of the Church’s life we’ve had married priests; mandatory celibacy is still a relatively recent discipline.

  2. As an unmarried, lay minister, I can vouch for the demands and crazy hours. However, I’ve many colleagues who had kids. (Some had four or five.) They did make parish ministry and marriage and family work. Not always easily, I’m sure. Much like friends who were nurses and raised families while working the night shift.

    However, there are two big issues regarding married men as priests. First, how will we pay them? We currently compensate lay ministers on the kind of salary where you often need a second (and much higher) income to live in most metropolitan areas. (I’ve worked a second job through most of my ministry precisely because I am not married to another earner.)

    Most rectories I’ve worked in are not built as places where one could raise a family. (Especially since most are the parish offices and meeting space, too. I’ve worked in places where the kitchen is a regular evening meeting room. How would that jibe with getting dinner and seeing to homework of school age kids?) At the rate at which Catholics give, could they/ would they support two men at ‘family wages’ – which would include enough to afford off-site housing? Well, they don’t support their current ministers at that level for the most part.

    Second, there might be men out there who would consider the married priesthood, but I would guess it would be like a ‘pig through a python.’ There might be an uptick in ordinations for a brief period, but then I think we would be back where we are, with a shortage. Even in Protestant churches, ministry is becoming feminized. Why? I think that across the board salaries are a huge factor. Men feel that they have to earn enough to support a family. (Historically, when teachers were paid more than doctors – at the end of the nineteenth century – men made up most of the teaching force in this country. When women became teachers, and teacher salaries began to fall, the teaching profession became feminized.)

    These economic realities are no small point. And largely ignored when the more ‘political’ aspects of this issue are debated.

    1. Curmudgeon–

      Excellent points! Thanks for weighing in.

      I think my point is that the laity should put their money where their hopes are. If they are fed by lay ministry then, they should support it. Albany’s done a lot with this and it seems to work out OK.

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