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Sunday, November 08, 2009



"I loved the work and would have continued."

Sounds like it was a job, not a vocation.

He probably is a nice guy with empathy and abundant people skills. Selling insurance sounds about right and he likely was quite successful. As you point out Carl, it's just too bad he didn't figure it all out prior to committing his life to Holy Mother Church.

Ed Peters

On the nose, LJ.


I wonder if Ed was aware that his quotes would be used to bolster an anti-priest, anti-male, anti-Church, anti-marriage, anti-life movement? I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt, but hopefully the article will be read by the priests who quietly left the ministry to marry, and they will know better than to speak to the mainstream media on this topic. What they say can and will be used to twist the truth.


He was a priest, that means he was married TO the Church. By leaving for a woman he is as guilty of cheating on his spouse just as any layman would be. Nothing to admire or feel compassion for here.

End of story.


I've noticed a difference between those who see what they do as priests as vocations and those who see it as just another job. In my parish, we just buried one of the most humble, loving, wonderful priest I've ever had the pleasure to know. He was the associate pastor. Wouldn't you know, our Pastor, who is always letting us know in every homily his spiritual battles and how he just doesn't agree with certain things in the church, is already asking us to pray they send him another priest who would not give him any trouble. It's only been a week and he has such a spirit of sacrifice that he is already crying about why he just has to have a day off. He is always letting us know how he can't wait to get away.

I teach 3rd grade Catechism and I've never invited our Pastor to talk to the kids about his vocation as a priest because I don't want them to hear him crying again about how hard he has it. He complained about the rectory and they had to buy him a house where he lives in comfort with a leather recliner and a big screen tv. Well, he took his vow of poverty serious, didn't he. This may sound uncharitable but I can't wait for those six years to be over.


I'm with Subvet. That's exactly how I feel about these situations. Oh, I have sympathy for the fact that this man "felt torn," but he does have the ability to think rationally and he need not be ruled strictly by his emotions.

My mother-in-law often laments the celibacy discipline because she thinks one of her sons, who is married to me, would be a great priest. I've told her he can't have two spouses. To which she angrily resonds, "that's stupid. It's not like a priest is married to the church." Uhm. Yes, he IS. So many people don't understand the relationship between priest and Church. Apparently, even some priests. I know that a priest is a "priest forever," but it seems like we almost need an annulment process for ordination.

fr richard

I certainly agree with Carl's take on this. And I agree, in general, most of the views in the above comments, and especially the point about choosing to be ordained as a celibate priest, then choosing to get married and leave the active priesthood, and then wanting to return. That can't happen.

But in my Ukrainian Catholic eparchy over half of our priests are married. Therefore, I would like to ask of Subvet and Nerina (and please believe that I ask this sincerely): How are they also "married to the Church"?

And, Maria, I'm very sorry to hear about your complaining pastor, and sorry as well that you lost your faithful associate pastor. I'm sure it must be difficult to put up with the whining.

I just wanted to point out that IF your pastor is a diocesan priest, he has not taken a vow of poverty, and that would not apply here.

Still, that doesn't mean he's entitled to a fancy house, a leather recliner and a big screen TV. Nor does it mean that he can impoverish the parish to suit his tastes.


Hi Fr. Richard,

I say that a priest is married to the Church the same way we say Christ is the bridegroom and the Church is his bride. Since our priests are alter-Christis, I view them as spouses of the Church. In one of the links listed at the end of Carl's post, Fr. John Cihak says this:

"The priest strives to become one with his Bride the Church in imitation of the way Christ is one with His Bride."

And this doesn't even get into the the conflicts that must surely arise as a priest ministers to his flock and to his own family. I imagine it is quite stressful being a married priest. We had a married priest at my old church in NC and he admitted that it was far more difficult then he ever imagined.

fr richard

Hi, Nerina,

Why I asked is because it seems that the idea of a married priest having the Church as his "Bride" (to use the term from Fr. Cihak) leads to the image of a priest having two spouses, which I think is a problem.

It could make sense if all priests were celibate, and I think this "spousal" image comes from that type of understanding, much in the same way as nuns are often called "Brides of Christ". But the vast majority of all Eastern Catholic priests are married.

I do not find any hint of this type of spousal relationship between priest and Church in the Catechism.

The reason I bring this up is because Roman rite Catholics often have little familiarity with Eastern married priests and the "culture" that goes along with it, understandably so, and, as I have read many times, it can cause some misconceptions.

It is true that there are difficulties for married priests, but there are also difficulties for celibate priests (and mothers, and fathers, and single lay people, etc.) But in the East, where people are used to a married clergy, and having the wife and family in their parish, it is not as though men who enter the seminary have no idea of what it takes, or how it works.

And it was also a very common practice for priesthood-candidates to marry the daughters of priests, who also knew, first-hand, how it all fits together.

Marriage was not an option for me and my classmates in the USA at the time I was ordained (and that's another story) so celibacy had to be a part of my choice to ask for ordination.

Would it surpise you if I told you that over the years several married priests have asked me, "How do you do it all alone?"

God bless you!


Fr. Richard, thanks for the question.

I was speaking from the viewpoint of someone from the "culture" of the Roman Rite. Admittedly there are circumstances where it's acceptable for a priest to be married both to the Church and a female human. The pastor of my own parish is a case in point, he's an Episcopalian convert and has the necessary dispensation. Great priest too, he readily understands the problems of marriage in a way his celibate peers might not.

But if a priest receives Holy Orders under the assumption he'll never marry and then several years down the road has a change of heart, that speaks very badly about him.

Thanks again for the question, I admit I could be in error and welcome the opportunity to find out.


Fr. Richard,

I think that priestly celibacy in the West, at its root is more than cultural. Because it is a discipline and not a doctrine doesn't mean it doesn't have some serious theological background. I think that to follow St. Paul's teaching on this is to believe the state of celibacy to be superior for the purpose of the ministry in the Church.

In fact, St. Paul himself makes the marriage analogy that Subvet is pointing out, that a married man is thinking about how to please his wife and his attention is divided. Christ himself speaks of those who have the special grace of being "eunachs" for the Kingdom.

There has been a long rich history of celibacy in the Church, as others have pointed out here, not just for priests but for Religious who are "consecrated" as celibates. It is also tradition that the Blessed Virgin Mary was one such consecrated virgin, which gives context to her question to Gabriel, "how can this be?" when told she would bear a child. So it was not unheard of in Jewish religious practice prior to the coming of Christ. I think that is why St. Paul could say that it is better not to marry if possible and I think that is the source of the development of the Roman Catholic practice.

There are misconceptions about the East as well. To say there are married priests is accurate but not the entire story. A married man can be ordained, but a priest cannot marry. Nor can a married priest become a Bishop. That is why there is a great flurry of weddings near the end of seminary, before ordination, because once ordained, that man's marital status is permanent.

So conceivably, the same scenario could take place in the East, whereby a celibate priest could decide he wants to marry and walks away from his commitment to Holy Mother Church. And I think that Subvet's case for infidelity to his vows, analogous to marital infidelity would hold true in such a case as well.


Fr. Richard,

Thank you for your kind response and for giving me some insight into the Eastern Catholic culture. I was speaking from a Roman Rite point of view too.

I try to imagine my husband pastoring a congregation while trying to father our five children and it seems untenable. I am also quite selfish :).

I find it interesting that once an Eastern Rite Catholic becomes a priest he can't marry. Why do you think it is okay to marry prior to ordination but not after? I look forward to your insight.

Thank you.

fr richard


"But if a priest receives Holy Orders under the assumption he'll never marry and then several years down the road has a change of heart, that speaks very badly about him."

This involves several possible situations.

I have to say that there have always been some men who make mistakes regarding their priestly vocation, and the Church has provided a way to allow them to withdraw from active ministry. If they follow the proper authority in this, they may be allowed to be released from "active service". It would not be a good idea to try and force someone who does not want to serve to continue serving.

If they should later then choose to marry, they must also first be released from their promise of celibacy.

Then there are some who "find" someone they decide they want to marry, and therefore request permission to be laicized. This is perhaps more to your point. Certainly it's an example of someone who who is living a "double life" and I'd certainly have a big problem with that.

Then, as a third case, to go into the priesthood knowing that you freely accept celibacy, then ask to be released (and permission is granted), get married, and then want to come back to active service...I think Carl covered that point very well, and I can't add anything to it.

God be with you!

fr richard

Thanks for writing. If you read my comments again, I don’t believe I wrote that celibacy is basically a product of culture. (But, of course, there are cultural elements attached to both celibacy and marriage, because, as I’m sure you know, many lay Catholics believe it is an issue of doctrine, not discipline.)

I have found, over 30 years, that it’s always difficult to write about Eastern Catholic married priests, because, I believe, Roman- rite Catholics see the priesthood, understandably, according to Western Catholic culture. That is what they are familiar with. And you note that.

But for me, trying to write about married Catholic priests is like walking through a minefield. People often feel they need to defend celibacy, even if I do not attack it. I am a celibate priest, and I understand and embrace the benefits of that calling. I have not criticized, nor do I disparage the Western tradition, or theological rationale in this matter.

It is just very difficult because in our society where certain Catholic and non-Catholic elements continue to denounce celibacy, and call for a change in the “rules”, those Catholic Churches with married clergy are ignored, as though our Catholic perspective does not exist, except for the occasional one sentence reference.

And I deeply regret that. Because there is also a long history of celibacy in the Eastern Catholic Churches, and it seems to me it would be helpful to those who are interested to ALSO hear from them, instead of simply applying a Roman Catholic / Protestant template to the topic, as I have heard, over and over again throughout the years. (And I’m not trying to pin that viewpoint on you!)

You mention St. Paul’s preference for celibacy (1 Cor.7) so that believers are not divided in their attention, but it’s clear in this section that he is talking about all believers. Yet in 1st Timothy 3, and Titus 1, where the qualifications for bishops/presbyters and deacons are specifically listed, there is no mention of celibacy, simply that clergy should be married only once. Scripture cannot decide this question, but the Churches of the one Catholic Church have made, and do make, the rules for ordination as they see proper and fit. That suits me.

You wrote: So conceivably, the same scenario could take place in the East, whereby a celibate priest could decide he wants to marry and walks away from his commitment to Holy Mother Church.

Absolutely. It is just as wrong.
The priesthood is dependent neither upon celibacy, nor upon marriage, but upon Jesus Christ. When our priests gather together there is no distinction between celibate or married priests. You would not know the difference unless you looked for wedding rings. It is the priesthood of Christ that unites us, not whether we are married or not. The MSM does not get it. They put celibacy in the context of repression and struggle. But I think, hope and pray that WE always get it. I appreciated your comments.

fr richard


You wrote:

"I find it interesting that once an Eastern Rite Catholic becomes a priest he can't marry. Why do you think it is okay to marry prior to ordination but not after?"

This rule is kept by Eastern Catholics as well as Orthodox. The Church rules about clergy in regard to marriage and celibacy are widely varied during the early centuries of the Church, and also they varied from region to region.

But I believe the Council of Trullo, in 692, finally established the law that everyone would follow through then until now: that, 1. bishops must be celibate, and, 2. priests and deacons could not marry after ordination.

Although I'm not certain of all the reasons that went into this decision, I tend to think one practical reason would be enough to answer your question:

What would it do to the spiritual life of a parish if the priest was looking for a wife and open to dating either parishioners, or even non-parishioners?

Unless he was extremely undesirable, I think you can imagine the problems this could raise. And the more you think about it, I'm betting the more you can imagine!

God be with you!


Coming from a protestants world where my father is a pastor I can see the points. There is an unoffical rule that pastors should marry before they are ordained. The dating pastor scenario is seen as impractical but there is nothing in the church order to prevent it.

As far as marrying the church. I do think my dad was married to the church. The normal priority of God first, family second, career third did not really apply to pastors. Because his career was God it seemed to be much harder to set asside for family. So in that sense he was married to the church and the two spouse thing did cause some issues.


Fr. Richard,

You brought a smile to my face with your last response about dating priests. Yes, I see your point :).

Thank you for your informative, patient and charitable responses. I have a new perspective. And you're right that there can develop a "competition" between celibate and married priests. It does not help any of us to be so divided.


I think there is a big diference between priests who see the priesthood as a vocation and those who see it as a job. Some years ago I happened on the blog of a seminarian for a religious order who was attending a university which taught 'cutting edge' theology. He very much didn't wish to be just a "sacramental vending machine", hoping to get out and be with the people.

I posted advising him to rethink his vocation and that maybe social worker would be the job for him. A priest can be both a social worker and an alter christus but unless the latter comes first he is not a priest in the order of Melchisidek.

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