Issue Report: Should Catholic priests be allowed to marry?

Catholic Priests are not allowed to marry. The general premise put forward by the Catholic Church to justify this policy is that it forces priests to fully commit to God and their priesthood, without the distraction of a wife, kids, and family. Yet, many have begun to question this practice. Many simply argue that it is unnatural and harmful to suppress one’s sexual urges and desire to find a life partner. There are many examples of Catholic priests falling in love, engaging in romantic affairs, and subsequently coming under scrutiny and derision for doing so. Many also argue that the sexual suppression resulting from celibacy creates the nefarious impulse to molest young boys in the Church. As such cases of sexual molestation have proven widespread in the Catholic Church, many believe that it is time for the Church to re-assess its celibacy policies. Other considerations surround whether celibacy is divine law and doctrine, or simply a Church discipline that can be un-done. As the number of Catholic priests dwindle, many also wonder whether celibacy is the cause, and if allowing priests to marry would increase vocations.

Church: Does celibacy hurt/help priests perform duties to the Church?

Marriage and family do not distract from priesthood

Thomas DeMatteo, a non-practicing Catholic from Dingmans Ferry, Delaware, USA: “There are pastors and ministers who are allowed to marry and it doesn’t affect their job in doing God’s work. I really don’t see a problem with priests being able to wed.”[1]

Married priests could better consult married churchgoers

Priests are counselors in many ways, counseling individuals on their lives and how they can better reach God. Because marriage is such an important part of living a moral life, it would be valuable for priests to be married so that they can better understand their married churchgoers and provide better counseling as a result.

Marriage/sex are sacred; priests should be allowed to marry

Paragraph 2362 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd ed.) says: “The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honourable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude.”[2]

Statements that Catholic priests should be allowed to marry

Bishop McMahon: “There is no reason why priests shouldn’t be allowed to marry. It has always been a matter of discipline rather than doctrine.”[3]

Celibacy forces priests to live lonely life; bad for Church

Ann Bain. "Should Catholic priests be allowed to marry?". Times Online, Comment. October 11, 2005:

“Of course priests should be allowed to marry. There is nothing sadder than seeing an old priest live out his days with no family of his own; the zeal and fervour of youth has gone and ahead, loneliness.”

Celibate priests avoid being torn between God and family

Andrea Lemieux. "Should Roman Catholic Priests Be Allowed to Marry?". Washington Post. November 7, 2004:

“Roman Catholic priests should not be allowed to be married. They are to be Christ’s earthly representatives, to live as He did, and that cannot be done with a wife in tow. When a priest takes his vows, he consecrates his life completely to God and forsakes all earthly attachments. A man cannot serve two masters, and it would be far too easy to follow a wife’s wishes over God’s […] I personally love having a non-married priesthood. I never have to worry about whether I am taking away from a child’s time, or a wife’s time, if I call up with an emergency.”

"Should Catholic priests be allowed to marry?". Times Online. October 11, 2005:

“A good friend of mine is a Pastor for the Church on Scotland and I know how he struggles in his marriage as well as in his community as he feels he can’t be totally devoted to any of them. Name and address withheld.”

"Should Catholic priests be allowed to marry? I don’t think so." Pearls of Nonsense. May 12th, 2009:

“I’m no theologian, but it seems there are two main ways we Catholic faithful share in the Church’s mission as adults: through marriage and family life, or through religious and clerical life. Since both vocations require a lifelong, full-time commitment, it seems unreasonable to expect anyone to do both at the same time. For example, if a priest were also a husband and father, and he had to choose between the needs of the Church and the needs of his wife and children, who would come first? Or, similarly, if a nun were also a wife and mother? There’s no obviously correct answer, so the preferable thing to do is avoid the question.”

Religious doctrine: Would allowing priests to marry comply with religious doctrine?

Celibacy is not divine law, only Church law

Muriel Porter. "Church will benefit if priests are able to marry". The Age. January 31, 2005:

“Unlike the issue of women priests, which the Pope has declared to be theologically impossible, the celibacy requirement is not a matter of church doctrine. Rather, it is a discipline only formally imposed on the clergy in 1139, when a church council declared clerical marriage invalid. What the church has banned, the church can restore.”

Priestly celibacy is unnatural

Adrian Ryan. "Should Catholic priests be allowed to marry?". Times Online, Comment. October 11, 2005:

“Celibacy is an unnatural state. How can a priest be expected to advise on the complexities of a normal marital relationship when he himself is utterly ignorant? It is only natural that a priest would want to marry, have a family and experience the love, affection, and fulfillment that marriage can bring. It is high time that the Church recognised and encouraged it. Adrian Ryan, Ardara, Ireland.”

Men inclined to love/marry should not be forbidden priesthood

Oliveiro Vernie. "Should Catholic priests be allowed to marry?". Times Online. October 11, 2005:

“It is ridiculous to bar a man from becoming or being a priest simply because he has happened to fall deeply in love with a woman.”

Bible clearly and rationally forbids priests from marrying

Unmarried 1 Corinthians 7:32b–35 NIV:

“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. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”[4]

Tradition: Is it wrong to maintain the tradition of Catholic priest celibacy?

Catholic Church did not adopt celibacy until second millennium

Rev. Donald Cozzens. "Commentary: Celibacy should be rethought". CNN. May 15, 2009:

“More and more Catholics today are coming to understand that celibacy as a universal law for priests had its origins in the 12th century and that during the church’s first millennium, priests and bishops — and at least thirty-nine popes — were married.”

Other priests can marry, Roman Catholics should be able to

Joseph Snyder. "Should Roman Catholic Priests Be Allowed to Marry?". Washington Post, Letter to the Editor. November 7, 2004:

“Eastern Orthodox Catholic priests are allowed to marry. Also, certain married Protestant priests may convert as priests to the Roman Catholic faith. Obviously, the precedent for married Catholic priests is already established. So the question is not ‘if’ Roman Catholic priests should be married but ‘when.'”

Married men don't have to divorce upon entering priesthood

John Aloysius Farrell. "Catholic Church Should End Celibacy Rule, Let Rev. Cutie and Other Priests Marry". US News and World Report. May 12, 2009:

“if you come to the priesthood already married, the church doesn’t make you divorce. There are practicing Catholic married priests, and the world has not come to a flaming end.”

Church should maintain tradition of celibacy

R.N. Lentejas Jr. "Debate: Priests should be permitted to marry". Helium:

“I believe that priests in the Latin Church should live a celibate life to maintain the rich tradition of the Church. It has been a universal notion from time immemorial until today and until the future that priests are celibates for the sake of the Kingdom of God. This is a universal understanding from across the globe unique to Catholic priests alone, because there are priests in other Christian churches who are actually married. There exists among them (Catholic priests) a universal concept of brotherhood, surpassing the many barriers of race, culture, ethnic origin, economic standing, and many others.”

Allowing priests to marry insults celibate

Archbishop John Foley, a Vatican spokesman, said in 2005: “I think it would be an insult to the priests who have remained faithful to readmit these individuals who have left the priesthood in order to marry.”[5]

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