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Merv Reinert wrote:

Hi, guys—

I am not Catholic, but have interests in your religion.

  • Why can't priests get married?
  • You have a Bible-based religion, but as I read the Bible, I find nothing which says priests can't get married.
  • Didn't most of the Apostles have wives?
  • When did this "no wife" thing start, and why?
  • Wouldn't more men become priests if they accepted married men?
  • Why can Greek Orthodox get married?
  • Are they Catholics? If not, is their Mass valid?

Well, enough for now.

Thanks for any information you can give me on these issues.


  { Why can't Catholic priests get married? }

John replied:

Hi Merv,

Thanks for the question.

The celibate priesthood is a matter of discipline and not of faith. The Church in centuries past has ordain married men.

The Catholic Church is not just the Roman Catholic Church, as most of us in the America and Western Europe are used to. The Catholic Church also includes several Eastern Rites which still ordain married men on a regular basis just like the Greek Orthodox Church.

On occasion, the Latin Rite, or Roman Church, will make an exception and ordain a married man. This usually involves an Anglican, Lutheran, or Methodist Minister who:

  • is already married
  • interested in joining the Church
  • and interested in pursuing ordination as a Catholic priest.

The Church has the authority to impose disciplines for the benefit of the sheep.

This authority is easy to see when you carefully read Acts 15 (the Jerusalem Council). The Church was not dealing with the priesthood, but the principle is the same. In this instance, the Church had to decide what to do with non-Jewish converts to the faith. In Acts 15, we see that a doctrinal decision is made; that is, Gentiles need not get circumcised. They also added that they should abstain from certain meats. This latter provision was a simple discipline added for pastoral reasons, though it was removed later. Luckily today, we both sit down to a nice juicy steak, without worrying about eating the blood of an animal.

The celibate priesthood is in place because of the demands of the priesthood on the individual.
If someday the Holy Spirit leads the Church to change it, the Church will.

There are also some theological reasons which surround celibacy.  They are secondary, but they buttress the pastoral concerns of the Church in maintaining this discipline.

Nevertheless, the issue of priestly celibacy it is not an article of faith. It's simply a matter of authority, pastoral concern, and discipline; it is not immutable. Exceptions are often made, and remember, it only applies to the Western Catholic Church or Roman Rite.

One last note, neither the Roman Church nor the Orthodox Church have ever allowed priests to marry once they are ordained. It has ordained men who are already married. If a married priest's wife should die, he may not remarry.

I hope this answers your question.

May God Bless you in your spiritual journey. Please feel free to write if we can be of further assistance.

John DiMascio

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
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