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Married Priests

QUESTION: Should married priests be allowed into Catholicism?


This question continues to be raised even as the following paradox exists. Formerly Protestant priests converting to Catholicism are allowed to be ordained into the Catholic priesthood even though they are married. Catholic priests, on the other hand, have to resign from the priesthood if they wish to marry.

Catholics entering the priesthood agree to a life of celibacy. This has been a mandate of the church since 1139. This indicates that being unmarried or celibate was not always an essential requirement for being a Catholic priest. Married priests had in the past, and continue to be, allowed in Catholicism.

Any underlying concern about married priests being allowed into Catholicism should therefore focus more on whether the priest's dedication to God's work, that he has been ordained to perform, will be compromised by the additional responsibilities of marriage.

Does the Bible make any mention of this possible divided loyalty? In 1 Corinthians 7:1-2, 7-9, 32-33 we read: "Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs -- how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world -- how he can please his wife -- and his interests are divided."

The unmarried person, and by extension the unmarried priest, has the flexibility to devote more time to the work of God. However, if a married person is in full-time ministry, he is in no way excused from his responsibilities to his family. "Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer (bishop), he desires a noble task. Now the overseer (bishop) must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.(If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?)" (1 Timothy 3:1-2, 4-5).

Whatever state is chosen by the person in full time work to God's name should not be brought into disrepute. God can give the unmarried priest grace to remain celibate if that is the way He has chosen for him. God can also give the married priest the wisdom and strength to be both a good shepherd to his parishioners and to his family.

Learn More about Catholic Priests!

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