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Evan wrote:

Hi, guys —

While these questions are somewhat pertinent to my vocational call, I'm really more interested in the answers. I'm not certain that I am called to the married life or ordained life. While I really do require more prayer on the subject, I would like to ask some questions about the life of a married priest.

  • I am Roman Catholic and am wondering what must happen for a person to be both married and ordained.

I know that Byzantine and other Catholic rites are capable of such a life without too much trouble; however, I have also heard about Roman Catholic priests being married, with some sort of dispensation from the bishop (Unless I misheard, if that's the case please correct me).

  • Also, how does a Byzantine Catholic become a married priest?

I thought I heard you have to be married prior to becoming a priest. 

  • Are there any other requirements?
  • Also, what is the process is to become a Byzantine Catholic if you are a Roman Catholic?
  • Is there really any process one goes through to convert from one part of the Church to another?

To sum up:

  1. Is it possible for a Roman Catholic to be both married and a priest?
  2. What are the requirements for becoming a Byzantine Catholic who is both married and a priest?
  3. What process (if any) does one go through to join the Byzantine Rite from the Roman Rite?

As I said, I'm really more curious in your answers for knowledge's sake. I'll keep praying about my vocation.

Please pray for God's voice to speak to me.

Thank you very much,

Evan

  { How can a Catholic be a priest and married and how do you switch rites from within the Church? }

John replied:

Hi, Evan —

Thanks for your question.

There is no dispensation in the Roman Rite for someone already in the Roman Rite to become a married priest. Yes, there are married Roman Rite priests who are married but they are former Protestant ministers who were already married ministers before they came into the Church.
For the most part, this is done with [Anglicans|Episcopalians] and to a lesser degree Lutherans and Methodists.

I don't really know what the process is for switching Rites. I'll let others speak to that issue, but
I can tell you that they don't allow men to switch Rites for the purpose of getting around the celibacy requirement. Additionally, while the Eastern Rites do ordain married men, they don't do so in the West (this is an agreement made with the Vatican). So you wouldn't be able to do it and remain in the Western rite even if they allowed to switch Rites in order to become a married priest.

John

Eric replied:

My colleague John wrote:
Additionally, while the Eastern Rites do ordain married men, they don't do so in the West (this is an agreement made with the Vatican). So you wouldn't be able to do it and remain in the Western rite even if they allowed to switch Rites in order to become a married priest.

While this is normally true, there are various ways around this. Typically the priest is ordained and incardinated in the old country, and then "loaned" indefinitely to the U.S. In fact, I've known some married men ordained in the U.S. by U.S. Eastern bishops. I also know several formerly Roman married men who became Byzantine Catholic priests in the U.S.

One of them is Fr. Thomas Steinmetz at Our Lady of the Cedars Melkite Greek-Catholic Church in Manchester, New Hampshire. Another is Fr. Immanuel McCarthy, father of the girl whose miraculous healing was the requisite miracle for the canonization of St. Edith Stein.

To transfer from one rite to another requires a rescript from Rome. It can only be done once. They interview you and ask you to explain your reasons. I think it would behoove you if you want to do this to develop a genuine interest in Byzantine spirituality. After all, you'd be ministering to Byzantine Catholics if you ever got ordained.

I think they tend to prefer people whose families are mature. As you cannot marry once you are ordained, they would not want a situation where the mother died and there are young children to take care of.

Finally, consider the divorce rate among married Protestant pastors and how much of a burden on their families their ministry is. There are good reasons for clerical celibacy. Read what Fr. Ray Ryland, a married Roman Catholic priest (and convert from Episcopalianism), has to say on the topic.

Eric

John followed-up:

Hi, Evan —

I just wanted to clarify my previous comments:

Anyone attempting to change Rites should be honest about their motives. Hence, if that person was doing so in the hopes of becoming a married priest, he would have to disclose it, at which point, he would run into a problem.

John

Evan replied:

Dear John and Eric,

Thank you very much for the answers you provided. I do, in fact, feel genuinely interested in the Eastern Rites, and have been studying them.

God bless.

— Evan

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