Should Catholic Priests Marry? An Intense 1967 Debate As A Priest Left The Church To Marry

Celibacy is a gift. Would we encourage young men, following in the footsteps of Saint Paul, to forego that gift? And what about religious brothers and sisters? Celibacy is not only a gift, but inherent within it is the denial of self: the first step to following Christ. The fellow in the video is a victim of the sexual revolution.

Celibacy is a discipline. The main reason for celibacy was to keep church property out of the hands of family members. The church can change it at any time.

As for married nuns and monks, there are third orders which will permit their members to make actual vows.

Some Secular Institutes permit their membership to be married.

In the first instance, the members can be as cloistered as they want to be - or are led to be. In the second instance, the members can lead a contemplative lifestyle. Again, if led to do so by the Holy Spirit.


I have no issue with the prospect of married priests. As to the concern that it would be difficult to support both priests and their families, then simply let Catholics give more in the collection basket, like Protestants do. To the objection that this would even further hinder people in poor parts of the world, how do those people support clergy of other faiths who are married with families?

A good solution might be, as has been expressed previously, to tap men who have proven themselves to be stable and of some accomplishment in life — viri probati — rather than encouraging young men, just starting out in life with little experience doing anything else, to take up a clerical “career”.

This is a matter of Church discipline, and to advocate for married priests, in itself, is in no way heterodox.

The question is asked backwards. Priests cannot marry. Married men may become priests - a distinction and a difference.

With primarily a scriptural as well as logical and rational warrant, western clerical celibacy is a valid discipline. Devotions, such as the Rosary, are also disciplines. Is there any aspect of the faith which has but a single dimension? Eastern Catholicism has always allowed married priests. The Orthodox as well. In the more decadent west, celibacy is more prudent, as I see it. As the Church gained donated property, a practical aspect was added to celibacy, but in the Apostolic age, all property was in common. Thus, preservation from predatory familial action was unknown.

Married priests are the exceptions which, in the west, demonstrate the norm.

If the Church ever did allow married priests “all across the board” — not just exceptions — it would seem fair to allow existing priests to marry if they wish, perhaps open a time window to allow this, and then reserve future instances to a case-by-case dispensation.

I’m not sure whether the question of priests who are presently celibate, being allowed to marry, is one of doctrine rather than discipline, and I don’t think it is. Priests who are laicized are often allowed to marry, yet they remain priests, albeit inactive ones. Tu es sacerdos in aeternum.

Their vows. Hard to obey the Bishop without reservation if you have been joined to another human being.

So what about the married priests that do exist in the Roman Rite, such as converts from Anglicanism? They, too, have to obey their bishops without reservation.

That was long and careful discernment before accepting the vows, with the knowledge and consent of the spouse. Fr. Dwight Longenecker one of the prominent cases.

And I would envision a similar “long and careful discernment” both for the priest who wishes to marry, and for his prospective spouse. Being the wife of a clergyman isn’t for all women.

Thank you for bringing this aspect into it.

Paul looms large in my thoughts. The sex-saturated world wants marriage. Loosening discipline rarely benefits the overall mission, IME. The call must be for holiness.

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I am not taking sides in this issue.

All I know that celibacy is indeed a gift. The internet is saturated with jokes about relationships and the worst are the memes.

I do not fixate on sin, but I would not want to encourage sin or discount certain scruple that is correct in behaviour.

Some people struggle with scruples and on the other end of the spectrum are people who are lax and don’t care at all.

God does not want ANYONE to sin.

Disclaimer: I am not a qualified ANYTHING to comment on this.

Eastern Christian priests are permitted to be married unless they wish to be able to become bishops later. They live in the same “sex-saturated world” that Westerners do.

There’s far more to marriage than just being able to have sex without committing sin.

I agree that celibacy is a gift from God in some cases, for His sake; St. Paul is an example. I agree that celibacy is a personal discipline in many more cases, endured sacrificially for good reasons. I add that celibacy is a condition claimed wrongly in many cases, to enter priesthood for personal reasons some good, some not good.

If celibacy is a spiritual gift from God, I would think it would be classed as a charism, of “graces gratis datae” - “graces freely given”. If so, the question of celibacy in the priesthood becomes expanded. Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P., in his book Spiritual Theology writes of these graces or charisms:

Unlike the grace gratum faciens (habitual or actual graces) a grace gratis data has as its immediate purpose not the sanctification of the one who receives it, but the spiritual benefit of others. It is called gratis data not only because it is above the natural power of man but also because it is something outside the realm of personal merit. With this distinction in mind, we may list the following conclusions regarding the graces gratis datae:

  1. The graces gratis datae do not form part of the supernatural organism of the Christian life as do sanctifying grace and the infused virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit, nor can they be classified under actual grace.
  2. They are what we may call “epiphenomen” of the life of grace and may even be granted to one who lacks sanctifying grace.
  3. They are not and cannot be the object of merit, but are strictly gratuitous.
  4. Since they do not form part of the supernatural organism, they are not contained in the virtualities of sanctifying grace, and hence the normal development of the life of grace could never produce or demand them.
  5. The graces gratis datae require in each instance the direct intervention of God. From these conclusions concerning the nature of the graces gratis datae we can formulate the following norms to serve as a guide for the spiritual director:
  1. It would be temerarious in the normal course of events to desire or to ask God for graces gratis datae or charisms. They are not necessary for salvation nor for sanctification, and they require the direct intervention of God. Far more precious is an act of love than a charismatic gift.
  2. In the event that God does grant a grace gratis datae, it is not a proof that a person is in the state of grace; much less can the gratuitous grace be taken as a sign that the individual is holy.
  3. The graces gratis datae do not sanctify those who receive them. And if anyone in mortal sin were to receive one of these graces, he or she could possibly remain in a sinful state even after the gratuitous gift of charism had been received.
  4. These graces are not given primarily for the benefit of the individual who receives them but for the good of others and for the edification of the Church.
  5. Since the graces gratis datae are something independent of sanctity, it is not necessary that all the saints should have received them. St. Augustine gives the reason for this when he says that they were not given to all the saints lest weak souls should be deceived into thinking that such extraordinary gifts were more important than the good works that are meritorious of eternal life.

We talk talk talk, but priests are not in an uproar. They had more than a decade to contemplate their celibate life BEFORE ordination. And what about religious orders? I think we sometimes demonstrate the human foible of being outraged about someone else’s situation than they are. Is there not a degree of ego in that? Just asking.


Seminaries in Africa are bursting at the seams. And this is good since the fallen west is now mission territory. Do we desire that a rotten culture reform itself? We seek to change the priesthood when men should change for the priesthood. Yet, at our level, all of this is academic.

That is true, and that is a very good point, but I have to wonder how fair it would be, to implement a rule of “men seeking ordination can now marry before ordination, but those who made the sacrifice of celibacy, that men are now no longer required to make, cannot be allowed to marry if they wish”.

I would envision opening up a five- to ten-year window, and at the end of that window, priests who took on celibacy would continue to be bound by it.

Yet it is reported that 100 percent (yes, 100 percent) of African priests are unfaithful to their promise of celibacy, with taking of wives very often being a public thing. That is horrible. I have to wonder how abundant the vocations would be, if the seminarians were told “celibacy means celibacy, and you cannot behave otherwise once you are ordained”.

Suggesting that African men are unsuited for celibacy would play into the crudest of racial stereotypes.


The statistical office noted an “obvious imbalance” in the ratio of Catholics per priest in different regions. Globally there is one priest for every 3,314 Catholics in the world. But the ratio is one priest for 1,746 Catholics in Europe, 2,086 Catholics per priest in the Americas and 5,089 Catholics per priest in Africa.