Friday, November 3, 2017


I think I have had the unique privilege of having had as my parochial vicar for 13 years a former Anglican priest, married with several children, who was received into the full communion of the Catholic Church around 1983.

Our diocese as had at least four married priests with children in the last 30 years or so.

Since the Catholic Church sees Anglican Orders as completely null and void, not only did the late Fr. Daniel Munn have to be received into the full communion of the true Church, but he had to be confirmed and then receive the minor orders as well as be ordained a deacon and then a priest for the first time.

His confirmation as an Episcopalian was invalid as were the various orders of the Anglican Communion. He had to be confirmed and ordained as a Catholic.

To me, that is very unfair to cradle Catholic men who are married. Why in the name of God and all that is holy can a married man not in full communion with the true Church be received into the full communion of the Church through Confirmation,First Holy Communion and then on to Holy Orders, but a fully initiated married Catholic man since his confirmation can't be????? IT IS NOT FAIR!

Thus I have no problem with Pope Francis initiating the advent of ordained life-long Catholics who are men and married into a married priesthood. We already have a married clergy in the Latin Rite by way of Episcopalians and Lutherans (Pope Pius XII allowed married Lutheran ministers to become married Catholic priests in the 1950's!)

And of course the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church has always had married Catholic priests.

I am with Pope Francis on this one and not just for the Amazon but for every diocese in the world.

The only question is how a living wage will be paid for these married priests and their families and what happens to them when they are divorced and remarried. How will bishops accompany their priests in an adulterous second marriage? Will the same criteria of Amoris Laetitia apply to them? And what about us celibate priests who aren't faithful to our vows/promises? Do we get a pass too for pastoral reasons?

What an exciting time for Church historians.


Anonymous said...


Urban dictionary: "Craddle(Kra-dull) - to beat soundly in the skull or shoulders many times with a wooden mallet, such as one used in the children's game 'whack-a-mole'.

Gene said...

Given this Pope's de-construction of the Church by using "pastoral" changes, and due to the overall secularization and protestantizing of the Church, I view this as just another chink in the Church's spiritual armor. It is just laying the foundation for further secular inroads.

Marc said...

Since the historical evidence for the married priesthood is unassailable, I have no problem with the practice from that perspective. I am not certain that it makes good sense from the prudential point of view, though. Both vocations, priesthood and marriage, are time and labor intensive so the reality is that the men who are put to both tasks will require monumental strength. Their families will also be under a microscope in a way that I wouldn't wish on my family.

The prudential aspect of this also requires a careful examination of the development of the married priesthood in the East. The situation there is different considering that liturgy is not served everyday. But the requirement of abstention from marital relations on the eve of the liturgy makes sense to me. I am unsure how the West would handle this as I understand that the continence of permanent deacons, while established by law, is unenforced.

Finally, while I think this is the obvious "easy fix" to the vocations "crisis," perhaps the easy fix is not the best one. While the two aren't mutually exclusive, it makes more sense to me to focus on why men are unwilling to commit to the priesthood and its commensurate celibacy. After all, this is certainly a slippery slope -- if there are married priests in one region, why wouldn't there be married priests in another region? And if there are married priests, why would a large number of men commit to celibacy when they don't really have to?

In sum, this is not one of those changes for which I think Francis should be castigated. But it is suspect because the timing of it seems to me to lack prudence. As with his other teachings, he (along with many other prelates) seems focused on things sexual. At a time when western culture is undergoing a revolution rooted in the very definitions of once-universal concepts like "marriage" and "sex," giving up the last remaining witness to the ideal -- as celibacy was described by the Apostle -- lacks foresight. One must question whether this is an oversight on the part of Francis or whether this is part of a larger programme.

Gene said...

Anonymou @ 8:35:

You must be talking about them Irish Catholics, who regularly craddle each other in taverns.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

No, it's not unfair.

Recall the parable of the workers in the vineyard. When those who worked a long time groused, the owner of the vineyard chided them, "My friend, I am not treating you unjustly. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?"

Those of us who signed up knowing that celibacy was expected cannot now grouse about what may be allowed or given to others whose circumstances (wife and, often, children) differ from ours.

Well, some can choose to grouse, but it is, I suggest, a baseless complaint.

Recall also the words of Fagin's ditty "Reviewing the Situation" in Oliver Twist when, growing old, he contemplated marriage:

I'm reviewing the situation
Can a fellow be a villain all his life?
All the trials and tribulations!
Better settle down and get myself a wife.
And a wife would cook and sew for me,
And come for me, and go for me,
And go for me, and nag at me,
The fingers, she would wag at me.
The money she would take from me.
A misery, she'd make from me...
I think I'd better think it out again!

If Holy Mother Church in her Latin Rite discipline decides to ordain cradle-Catholic married men, well, more speed to us!

TJM said...

Kavanaugh, don't worry, no one would want to marry you anyway

RSC+ said...

The Church seems to have worked itself into a false choice of "few if any married priests" or "married priests in a full time parochial setting." Until the culture of a parish changes to accommodate and normalize the latter, it's worth considering a different model of bivocational clergy who share the burden of full time parochial clergy.

Father, wouldn't it help to have a pool of married clergy who could share the burden of celebration or preaching on the weekend and the "on-call" functions during the week? There are a variety of jobs that could complement it, to include education, medicine, law, etc. It seems to me a cadre of bivocational, married clergy who alleviate the sacramental and pastoral burdens of their full time, celibate clergy would still be quite a net gain for a diocese struggling to fill cures and prevent their full time clergy from being run ragged.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

RSC+ we already have this model for the permanent diaconate and I think it would work for a married priesthood. In fact, some (not all) of our permanent deacons could well be ordained priests and continue with their secular jobs. That is an idea to say the least.

TJM said...

Father McDonald,

I have to be honest. I am an EF Catholic, but I can see having a married priesthood for the regular clergy but not the secular clergy. I recall this was pretty much the case for the first 1100 years of Catholicism. It would have many practical problems like we see with married non-Catholic clergy: divorce, wild children, money pressures, etc. It should not be undertaken likely. However, it would bring a more virile element into the clergy (present company excepted!). I think many folks, whether fairly or not, view Catholic priests as the profession of gays. Personally I have never seen this myself, but it is a frequently made charge.

Carol H. said...

I suppose that next we will be hearing calls to fill empty convents with married nuns.

Agnes said...

I don't think this is about fairness (since when is life fair?). Instead, this is about an exception to the rule. Non-Catholics rarely grow up in an environment where celibacy* is promoted, so this exception is allowed for them under certain situations.

* You do not marry.

In our day and age I think we expect to be able to have everything we want, which is why the issue of a married clergy in the Latin Church has been such a hot topic for the past few decades. However, if the priesthood is not viewed from the standpoint of sacrifice (you do NOT get everything you want) a man will not be a good priest.

As far as a married permanent diaconate is concerned, it is my understanding that under Canon Law for the Latin Church, continence* is technically prescribed but this law is ignored.

* You can be married but must refrain from sexual activity.

Also, Father, continence vs. celibacy must be taken into consideration when discussing the Eastern Catholic Churches and their priests. It would be inaccurate to state that Eastern priests have always been allowed to be sexually active with their spouses. History does not back this up. Additionally, not all Eastern Churches allow married men to be ordained to the priesthood.

The question arises: why do we need to look at the possibility of ordaining married men to the priesthood? Because we don't have enough priests? The solution to that has always been to teach young boys and men the Truths of the Catholic Church. My own parish, which is just over a year old, already has three men in the seminary. We have priests and parents who are willing to sacrifice, bring the children up in the Faith, and instill in them the desire to work for something (Someone) greater than themselves.

CPT Tom said...

Father McDonald,

There was a time I would have agreed with you, but alas, after 10 years of a Married Deacon with a large family as the Pastoral Administrator for my parish, I respectfully, disagree with you. We have had nepotism (Son(s) being the Music director and drawing salaries), we have had the Wife interfering with the liturgy and administration and activities of the parish. There has also been the issue of the family taking over the large rectory for entirely their own use as a residence. It has caused innumerable problems with factions and other troubles. There are other issues for the Children as well that are more like what happens to the families of Protestant pastors. Not to mention it doesn't mean that there would instantly be a pool of men wanting to be priests, as we have seen here in my diocese a decline in the permanent diaconate whose members average age here is 60. God's Peace.

Anonymous said...

TJM - There you go again, reading other people's minds with wild abandon. You are, to put it mildly, amazing!

ByzRus said...

Father AJM,

If I may offer a slight correction. Your friend was received into the Roman Church, part of the aggregate Catholic communion. While we have married priests within the Eastern Catholic Churches as a matter of tradition, the Eastern Churches have not always been free to exercise that tradition. The self-governing Byzantine Catholic Church in America (for the Ruthenians), among others, banned married priests for over 70 years until recently when, the tradition was re-implemented. As I've noted before, this ban resulted in schisms that exist to this day, split families and churches and numerous legal battles over property.

While married clergy was the tradition in the East, it hasn't been the tradition in the west for, what, a millennium? I don't know that bringing this back will necessarily cure the priest shortage problem. Providing an authentic and traditional Roman experience (ad orientem, chant, spirituality etc.) to well qualified and nurtured vocations is likely the approach that will result in the most success.

Fr Martin Fox said...

Allowing married men to be ordained priests is simply replacing one set of problems for another.

I am convinced it will not make any significant improvement in priestly vocations. It may actually reduce them, because men will delay entering the priesthood.

Now, if you want to be a priest, you forego marriage. Or, you marry, and you forego priesthood. That's it.

But if we create the option of married men being priests, why wouldn't a significant number of men who are thinking about the priesthood in their teens and 20s, elect to wait? After all, what is absolutely not on offer is priesthood, then marriage. No, the only option being considered is marriage first. So this creates a huge incentive for men who are now entering the seminary in their 20s to put off that decision.

Maybe they'll enter only a little later. But if these men get married, and if they still want to be a priest (lots of "ifs"), they aren't going to enter the seminary in their 30s or 40s, because they are likely to be raising young children. The larger their families, the older they will be when their youngest is grown up.

This is not conjecture. I have had this very conversation with married men who I think would make fine deacons; and I've had men who want to be deacons give this as the reason they want to wait.

I did the numbers a while back, and I didn't save my scratchwork, but -- if I recall correctly, it would take at least five married men becoming priests in their 60s to equal the output represented by a celibate priest ordained in his 20s. This is not only because from the younger man, you get 40 more years of priestly service; but also because a married man who is a father and grandfather, and has a pre-priesthood career, is more likely to be part-time even in the 10-20 years of service he provides.

So as far as I can see, the likely effect of such a change is that while you will get some more men in their 60s ordained, you will trade off fewer men in their 20s. And many of those who opt for "later" will never enter. Their lives will take twists and turns, and the moment will pass. Maybe they were never meant to be priests, but then again, maybe they were.

And this is without even going into the many other difficulties (next comment)...

Fr Martin Fox said...

There are still other difficulties:

- Married priests will require very different housing situations and much higher compensation.
- The seminary experience will be very different. Training will most likely be less intensive and probably less rigorous. I.e., you will have priests who are less well trained in theology and Scripture. (They might well be better, however, at other tasks, gained from prior experience.)
- There will be a further disruption in the collegiality of priests, because now you will have "two kinds" of priests. The one who is always available, and the one who is nine-to-five, or just two days a week. I'm sure the celibate priest will just love getting all the late night calls from nearby parishes, because the married priest isn't available.
- Married priests inevitably means divorced priests.
- I'm sure priests' wives and family will love living in a fishbowl.
- And I'm sure the celibate priests will just love the inference that they must be gay, or otherwise "weird," because after all, they could have gotten married. Why didn't they?

Gene said...

TJM, Now, I'm sure there is some Priest out there who would marry Kavanaugh...

TJM said...

Kavanaugh at 1:47, I know you are still embarrassed that you vote for the Abortion Party

TJM said...


Comedy Gold!

John Nolan said...

One or two problems:

A married priest is likely to have children of school age. He cannot be relocated by his bishop, often at short notice, without jeopardizing the children's education.

A young man considering the priesthood but also not wishing to forego the advantages of a marital relationship would have to marry in good time. And to marry in haste is to repent at leisure.

Since the Catholic Church is unlikely to leapfrog the Orthodox and permit married bishops, a married man who takes Holy Orders is perforce in an inferior situation to his celibate brethren since he has no hope of preferment.

MF said...

Adding to Fr. Fox's statements,

We forget the lessons of the Eastern Churches under Communism. Many of the clergy were turning information over to the state when the safety and lives of their wives and children were threatened. This included revealing what had been said in confessions.

We also ignore statistics - The rate of divorce in Churches with married clergy is higher than the national average. I know of one case where a married Catholic priest got into an argument with his wife and struck her. She called the police had a restraining order put on him and he could not go into the rectory where his family lived or say Mass in the Church next to it. A religious priest had to come and say Mass at the church. Also it hit the papers.

I once spoke with a bishop of the Polish National Catholic Church. He was married and loved his family, but he said married clergy is not the answer to a shortage.

I don't look down on married clergy, one must admire that they take on a more difficult role working for a family and caring for his flock. The demands of the parish and raising a family are both great. As a priest though, I would never change my choice of celibacy for the Church. Having lived it for 23 years, I have seen its gifts. I have also seen that marriage is actually a more difficult state.

To be a priest is to be one who sacrifices his life for the people, to pray and intercede for them. Celibacy is not only a sign of this to the world, it is an offering of oneself as a sacrifice.

Perhaps our bishops have lost the understanding of the sacrificial nature of their priesthood. Perhaps some now see themselves as managers, CEOs rather than the chief victim of their diocese. We have seen dioceses thrive where the bishop is truly a spiritual head to his flock

Anonymous said...

Well, wasn't St. Peter, the first pope, married?

In any event, regardless of one's stance on this matter, we can agree it is a disciplinary matter (practice), something that CAN be changed (unlike doctrine). But whether it SHOULD be changed is another matter....compensation certainly is an issue, especially in high-priced areas like Buckhead here in Atlanta or Isle of Hope in Savannah.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

I don't think married priests is a long term solution to the shortage. It may be, for the short term and in some places. But overall, the things that prevent a man from hearing and answering a call to ordained ministry are much more far reaching than marriage or celibacy, as important as these are. I suspect these matters will not be turned around for many generations.

I do think celibacy for diocesan clergy should be optional. Yes, married clergy will mean a number of changes to our "Catholic" way of thinking about priests, but none are insurmountable. Some of the changes might be beneficial.

The questions of salary, seminary experience, collegiality, "fish bowl" families have all been lived out and, to varying degrees, solved in other denominations and in Eastern Churches. None is, to my thinking, so potentially difficult or harmful as to prevent us going in that direction.

Fr. McDonald has often mentioned Fr. Dan Munn, a married priest, who we both knew in Augusta. He was, to my thinking, an exemplary priest in every way. I don't recall ever feeling distanced from him or un-collegial because he had a wife and kids. I wish that I had had the chance to know him better. He was very wise and, in a handful of instances, very helpful and supportive when I was a newly ordained priest in Augusta who knew little about real parish ministry.

The "weirdness" factor is already much in play and, one might conclude, rightly so. The sign of our priesthood is supposed to be countercultural in a number of ways, all of them "weird" by broader societal standards. Not every parent was, in the "Good Ol' Days," happy to see a son or daughter choose a life of service as a priest or nun.

James J. said...

If I may offer a suggestion touching on this subject which I had observed of a priest(now deceased+).
What he would do is to approach young men (teenagers on up) who he thought would be good candidates, and point blank ask them if that had ever considered the priesthood and would they at least think about it. Without overly pushing it, you have to be pro-active. You'll probably get your share of turn downs but hey, sales work is not easy.

The Egyptian said...

I strongly suggest that we read this post from the The Modern Medievalist, read the WHOLE post

very thoughtful and in dept look at "simplex" priests

this young man has his head on tight

the egyptian said...

from his rather long posting

With simplex priests helping out much the same way auxiliary bishops assist the diocesan bishop, the celibate, beneficed ("full time") pastors and curates would then have a lot more free time to hear confessions, make visits to parishioners' homes, get to know more of their flock one-on-one, and perhaps most importantly, devote themselves more fully to the Divine Office and regular prayer. Everyone wins.

If you think me crazy for saying for proposing such a wacky ecclesiology, just consider that even today, every priest is "simplex" at least on the first day of his ordination. Unlike bishops who are all inherently "the Bishop of So-and-so place", no priest is guaranteed a parish assignment; in the old days, most priests never even made it to "pastor". Priests still require faculties for confession--they can't just hear someone's confession at will, and if they hop over to the neighboring diocese, they still need that local bishop's permission in writing before hearing someone's confession there (as well as to celebrate Mass). Priests need permission from the pastor or rector of any church before officiating a baptism or wedding there. There's really little that a priest is allowed to do on his own except hear the confession of someone in grave danger of death (in that case alone, even an excommunicated priest is given faculties). Until the 1983 Code of Canon Law, priests even needed faculties to preach.

We also have a fairly recent example of a (religious, not married) simplex priest on the path to canonization: the Venerable Solanus Casey, OFM Cap (1870-1957). The Archbishop of Milwaukee ordained Casey as a simplex priest because of he found Latin and other academic disciplines of the seminary system too challenging.

TJM said...

Hell just froze over because I am in basic agreement with Kavanaugh!! I see no reason that diocesan clergy couldn't be given the option to marry. I know there are many risks, but there are also many risks associated with celibate clergy. In today's modern world, many wives have careers, so the economics may not be that difficult as one would think. My current parish has a married priest who came from Anglicanism. He celebrates Mass magnificently and is an excellent homilist

John Nolan said...


Diocesan clergy may not be given the option to marry since Holy Orders is a diriment impediment to matrimony. Married men may be ordained, but that is not at all the same thing. The Eastern Church does not allow marriage after reception of deacon's orders.

The Anglican Church allows priests (and bishops) to marry after ordination but this is predicated on a Protestant interpretation of ordained ministry.