“Rare but allowable” – Former Baptist Pastor becomes Catholic Priest

Cathnews is carrying the story about the American father of six to be ordained as priest. Scott Caton was a Baptist pastor before becoming Catholic.

The article calls this case “rare – but allowable”. Indeed it is both. But it is particularly rare because Mr Caton comes from one of those protestant traditions that does not have a high understanding of the office of ministry, and one of the usual arguments used to move along the ordination of former protestant clergy is that they have already been “formed” to some extent in the priestly character.
Apart from former Anglican priests, ordination of married former protestant clergy remains rare. I know of one fomer Uniting Church minister who has been ordained here in Australia, but no Lutherans and certainly no Baptists.

Given the rarity of this step, therefore, the Rochester Diocese must have made a compelling case for Mr Caton’s ordination, which makes me confident that he will be a great asset to the Church in that place.

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71 responses to ““Rare but allowable” – Former Baptist Pastor becomes Catholic Priest

  1. AMBurgess

    You’re right, Mr. Schutz, to infer that this is a special case involving a man of unique abilities. In addition to his possessing great integrity and exemplary holiness, Scott Caton is also a man of high intellect, erudition and culture. (He’s a professor of history at a Free Methodist college and seminary. His institution is ecumenical enough to support him. He will continue in his position full-time.) I’ve no doubt his unusual intelligence helped his case with the Vatican. Pope Benedict has chosen well.

  2. Susan Peterson

    I think Rome would do this whenever asked if the person was a good candidate. (Which I believe includes you and my friend Harry, a former Episcopal priest who was not accepted by his Catholic bishop.)

    However, the Rochester diocese’s case is…help, somebody, anybody, please be a priest so we can staff our churches! What they said, I don’t know.

    Basically, if they do anything right, it is by accident and for the wrong reason. In this case, I do believe they have done something right.

    This is the diocese I live in, by the way. I don’t go to church here anymore, except on rare occasions, but I did from 1985 until three years ago. (I go to an Eastern rite church. ) I still read the diocesan paper and blogs about the diocese.

    If he is sent anywhere near here, perhaps I’ll go check him out.
    Susan Peterson

    • Susan Peterson

      Here is a comment (from Fr. Z’s blog) on vocations in general which references this situation:

      Indeed. This is the elephant in the living room. And I encourage anyone when these discussions come up to do a little research into the vocation numbers of the particular diocese. It’s not hard. Most diocese have a web page and most of these show off seminary enrollments and ordinations. For instance, in my Diocese of Richmond, which isn’t traditional, but not loopy either, manages to have seminary enrollments and ordinations every year. I compared that to a certain other infamous diocese which I won’t name where there is not another ordination until 2014 and only recently managed to find someone to ordain under the pastoral provision.

      I say again, that I don’t think this is a bad idea. Although why a convert would choose Rochester to be ordained in, I can’t imagine. Maybe he was told that that was where he would get a good reception.
      Susan Peterson

      • AMBurgess

        Dr. Caton was born and raised in Rochester, and he still lives and works there (at Roberts Wesleyan College). So it’s safe to say that he didn’t seek out Rochester for any other reason than it’s simply where home is.

  3. Gareth

    You have opened up a can of worms here David.

    Just because someone is a ‘Protestant minister’ and chooses to become a Catholic priest – what makes them any more suitable for the priesthood than a very well-educated lay Catholic??

    Can a former married Protestant minister from an ‘extreme’ Protestant church such as Pentecostal or Church of Later Day Saints become a Catholic priest?

    Why does the Catholic Church allow this ‘exemption’ to the celibacy rule when techically the Anglican priesthood is as valid to Rome as an ordained cat…?

    I would be interested to hear the Catholic Church’s true perspective on the matter.

    Interstingly, the Diocese I belong to was one of the very first Diocese’s in the world to allow three Anglican ministers to become Catholic priests in the 1960s/1970s.

    One was a married man that suffered immensly and openly admitted that the Catholic priesthood and married life are uncompatible – he died prematurely.

    One was a single man that left the priesthood for a homosexual relationship

    And the last one of these three was/is…..the current Bishop of Lismore!

    • Tony

      Gareth,

      It would seem the Catholic Church’s ‘true perspective’ is ‘rare but allowable’.

      However, while we may come at this topic from different ends of the spectrum, I agree that pretending this kind of thing isn’t confusing to ordinary Catholics is cloud cuckoo land.

      If the justification for making this guy a priest works — and please don’t think I’m having a go at him or taking a swipe at other denominations — why on earth can’t it work for lay catholic men?

    • Peregrinus

      Why does the Catholic Church allow this ‘exemption’ to the celibacy rule when techically the Anglican priesthood is as valid to Rome as an ordained cat…?

      I would be interested to hear the Catholic Church’s true perspective on the matter.

      I don’t think you will find many in Rome who will accept your characterisation of the Catholic position on Anglican orders.

      But let that pass. This has nothing to do with the sacramental validity (or otherwise) of another denomination’s ordination, but a good deal to do with that denomination’s theology of priesthood.

      Essentially, the more closely another denomination’s theology of priesthood resembles Catholic theology, the more the church accepts that someone who entered that denomination’s ministry has a real vocation to priesthood, which has been “frustrated” (bad word, but you know what I mean) by the circumstance of their formation and participation in that denomination, and which should be allowed to bear fruit now that they have entered the Catholic church.

      If they’re not married, of course, there’s no problem. If they are married, this would normally be a bar to ordination in the (Latin) Catholic church.

      But it has never been an absolute bar to ordination. As we know, it’s not a problem for (priestly) ordination in the Eastern churches, and the Latin church it hasn’t always been the bar that it generally is today.

      Within the community in which they sought to live out their (real) vocation prior to conversion, it wasn’t a bar either, and they’ve entered into valid, fruitful, sacramental marriages without thereby intending to opt not to follow their vocation. The fact that they have married in no sense indicates any compromise in their fidelity to their vocation.

      Hence, dispensation.

      As David points out, Baptists don’t typically have anything like a Catholic theology of priesthood, so this bloke’s benefitting from this measure is unusual. I note, though, that he converted 12 years ago, and won’t be ordained for another year, so he certainly hasn’t been fast-tracked. I’m surmising, but maybe the view has been taken that his service in Baptist ministry was at least partial evidence that his call to priesthood predates his entry into the church, and that he was responding to that call as best he could in the circumstances in which he found himself, and that the rationale for the dispensation applies to him as it does to an Anglican or a Lutheran.

      I note Susan’s views about the Diocese of Rochester, about which she obviously knows much more than me. But this decision was taken in Rome; the “pastoral provision” under which American bishops can take this decision with respect to Anglicans, etc, does not apply in this instance.

      • Tony

        My concern Pere is how this makes sense to the folks in the pews. With respect, we’re not all lawyers and we can’t construct these pathways of legal logic that lead to what looks like ‘a rule for them and a rule for us’.

        The bottom line is that the more the exceptions are made, the more ordinary folks experience a married priest and realise that the sky won’t fall in and, for example, how refreshing it is when they draw their family life into a homily.

        Then they scratch their heads and wonder why these exceptions aren’t being extended to some Catholics.

        • Peregrinus

          Then they scratch their heads and wonder why these exceptions aren’t being extended to some Catholics.

          And a good thing, too.

          • Gareth

            Why is it a good thing Pere to sit in the pews and be completly baffled at some of the inconsitiencies that surround the ‘rules’ that come out of the Vatican???

            In case you were wondering, the story behind Anglican ministers with families that become Catholic priests is not all it is hyped up to be.

            In fact the very first exception made to the rule in Australia was in Tasmania in the late 1960s and 1970s.

            The Catholic priest in question had a torrid time and freely admitted that he felt married life and the Catholic priesthoood from his own experience was a recipe for disaster.

            He died prematurely in the 1980s and his daughter when she grew up caused scandal by entering into an adulterous relationship and his son later commited suicide.

            So all those advocating a married priesthood as the greatest thing since slice bread – PLEASE THINK AGAIN.

            The theory often doesn’t match the practice.

            • Tony

              Come on Gareth.

              In the context of so many leaving the priesthood and others abusing their position, why doesn’t the following logic also apply:

              So all those advocating a celibate priesthood as the greatest thing since slice bread – PLEASE THINK AGAIN.

              • Gareth

                Good one Tony,

                Are you saying that because a very small minority abuse their positions, we should all of a sudden question the celibate priesthood???

                There have always been problems with the priesthood (indeed one of the first twelve ever priests infamously abused their position).

                Ultimately good overweights bad.

                As always your questions follow no logic at all.

                There millions of celibate men across the world they faithfully live out their vocation and hundreds of men in seminaries willing to completly give them themselves over to the task.

                Why question them and why if the alternative model that you propose such as allowing married men to become priests, why can’t it be answered clearly of just how excactly the church is going to finance them and their families??

                You can pay the bill Tony, not me.

    • what makes them any more suitable for the priesthood than a very well-educated lay Catholic??

      Perry answers this very well, as always. It is a question of vocation and the formation of character. The vocation is recognised as true and the character is recognised as having been formed, even if the communion with the Holy Father was lacking as was valid ordination. All a bit “wibbly-wobbly timey-whimey” as Dr Who would say, but it all comes out right in the end!

      Incidentally, as for Anglican priesthood being “as valid to Rome as an ordained cat”, it is interesting that while Anglicanorum Coetibus requires the unconditional ordination of all Anglican priests and bishops crossing the new bridge (currently under construction) over the Tiber, it does consent to 1) their continuing to date their priestly ministry (for the sake of anniversaries and such) from the time of their Anglican ordination, and 2) allow married men who were ordained bishops in the Anglican Church but who will only be ordained priests in the Catholic Church to continue to utilise episcopal insignia.

      So a bit more valid than an ordained cat.

      As we say in ecumenical circles of the sacraments of our separated brethren and sistern: “They’re not nothing”.

  4. Matthias

    sCHUTZ your comment that this chap comes from “those protestant traditions that does not have a high understanding of the office of ministry” is really nonsense and perhaps shows little understanding of some of the Believers’ churches!!! First of all as one those protestant traditionalists,there is immense understanding as to the role of the minister. We believe that it is the minister who as a ordained servant of the Living God expounds the Scriptures ;that they have a great responsibility for the souls of their congregants and will be accountable for their pastoral care and oversight both now and at the Judgement .The office of parson/padre/pastor/minister is held in great respect ,and there is in the denomination i grew up in ,and the one I am now a member of ,emphasis upon being called to the Ministry by the Holy Spirit. That being firstly the Churches of Christ which broke away from the Presbyterians over the issue of open Communion,and then the Baptists ,and although the latter is not perfect yet the Pastors hold their office with the same belief as any within the Catholic traditions eg Roman catholic,Anglicans and Lutherans. Sadly there are in some denominations ,and here i am thinking of the Pentecostals where this is not the case.

  5. Gareth

    Tony: I agree that pretending this kind of thing isn’t confusing to ordinary Catholics is cloud cuckoo land.

    Gareth: For once in my life I am going to see eye to eye with Tony on this one.

    The Catholic Church’s ruling on this issue is clearly confusing.

    The logic follows that if an ordained married man from the Anglican ministry (which in the Catholic Church’s eyes is totally null and void), what is stopping a married Catholic man from being exempt from the priesthood.

    In fact, one would presume that if a married Catholic man is truly versed in Catholic theology, his understanding of the priesthood would be just as good, if not better than the married Anglican minister.

    The only justification I could think for ordaining the married Anglican man over a Catholic married lay man is that he presumably would be more experienced in being able to financially and emotionally provide for his family while undertaking some sort of church ministry.

    But then the argument follows that being a minister in an average Anglican parish is a far, far, far different experience than a Catholic parish.

    Hence many Anglican married ministers ordained to the church are not attached to suburban parish’s but rather separate ministries such as a university or hospital chaplain.

    I agree Tony – The Catholic Church’s ‘rule’ in this area does not send a clear and consistent message to the faithful.

    Pere: Essentially, the more closely another denomination’s theology of priesthood resembles Catholic theology, the more the church accepts that someone who entered that denomination’s ministry

    Gareth: I am not sure I would agree here Pere.
    In the Catholic Church’s eyes, all Protestant ministries are completely null and void – pure and simple.

    There is no ‘ranking’ as such that the Anglican Church is a tiny bit more valid than the Lutheran church – they are all simply invalid.

    It is the candidate’s demonstrated understanding of the Catholic priesthood that matters and in my opinion a Protestant minister from the church of joe smith who converts to Catholicism has the potential to demonstrate this understanding better than an Anglican minister.

    Hence one could argue that I don’t really see how one ‘denomination’s’ theology of priesthood could lead to a candidate’s better demonstrated understanding of the Catholic priesthood over another.

    What I am saying is that there may be a candidate from a denomination whose theology of the priesthood is completely out of line with the Catholic Church, but they could have a better understanding than someone whose theology we may consider closer to us.

  6. Peregrinus

    Matthias, when David talks about a particular denomination’s theology being “high” or “not high”, he doesn’t intend any pejorative meaning, and he;s not suggesting that those who don’t have a “high” theology of priesthood therefore have a low regard for ministry. The terminology comes from Anglicanism, which saw itself as a “broad” church, accommodating both those whose theology, liturgy, etc was similar to Catholicism (“high”) and those who were closer to, e.g., Calvinism (“low”) . Neither term is inherently pejorative (though either can be used pejoratively, if that is what the speaker intends).

    When David says that “Mr Caton comes from one of those protestant traditions that does not have a high understanding of the office of ministry”, he doesn’t mean they don’t have a high regard for ministry. He means their theological understanding of ministry does not ressemble Catholicism’s theology of priesthood.

    Gareth, it’s not about sacramental validity, and it’s not about (individual) understanding either. It’s about vocation to priesthood, and how (and whether) it has been manifested prioer to conversion. Experiencing and responding to a call to the Anglican priesthood is considered an indicator of a vocation to (Catholic) priesthood in a way that experiencing and responding to a call to, say, the Pentecostalist pastorate is not, and you can surely see why.

    • Gareth

      Pere: Experiencing and responding to a call to the Anglican priesthood is considered an indicator of a vocation to (Catholic) priesthood in a way that experiencing and responding to a call to, say, the Pentecostalist pastorate is not, and you can surely see why.

      Gareth: I would really like you (or someone) to explain why?

      The Anglican ministry (not priesthood) does not mean thrologically mean any more to me or the Catholic Church than Pastor Joe Blogs from the local Pentecostal church.

      In fact, I know of some Anglican ministers (particularly in the evangelical ‘faction’) of the Church of England who would demonstrate a poorer understanding and example of the Catholic priesthood than anything I have witnessed from other Prostetant pastors than I know of.

      • Peregrinus

        Pere: Experiencing and responding to a call to the Anglican priesthood is considered an indicator of a vocation to (Catholic) priesthood in a way that experiencing and responding to a call to, say, the Pentecostalist pastorate is not, and you can surely see why.

        Gareth: I would really like you (or someone) to explain why?

        Because, even if you take the view that Anglican ordination means absolutely nothing whatsoever (an extremist view not endorsed by any papal teaching) you still have to recognise that someone who enters the Anglican ministry may recognise the necessity and centrality of priesthood (in the Catholic sense) in the church, may aspires to priesthood themselves, and may be attempting as best they can in the situation that they find themselves to live out a genuine vocation to priesthood. This cannot be said of someone who enters a Pentecostalist pastorate.

        In fact, I know of some Anglican ministers (particularly in the evangelical ‘faction’) of the Church of England who would demonstrate a poorer understanding and example of the Catholic priesthood than anything I have witnessed from other Prostetant pastors than I know of.

        Perhaps so, and they might not be suitable candidates for ordination. But nobody says that having served in Anglican ministry creates a right to Catholic ordination following conversion.

        Remember, this is not about whether an individual Protestant convert is a suitable candidate for priesthood. That issue arises regardless of whether he is married or not. The issue is whether, if he is otherwise suitable for priesthood, the fact that he has married should exclude him.

        There’s nothing about marriage which is inherently inconsistent with priesthood, as the ancient and consistent witness of the Eastern churches shows. There is no reason, therefore, why an Anglican who experiences a vocation to priesthood should see it as inconsistent with marriage, and if he has married in good faith while endeavouring to respond to his vocation, that does not make him unsuitable for priesthood.

        The only argument against this is that it will “confuse the faithful”. But it will only confuse them if they think, wrongly, that marriage is fundamentally inconsistent with priesthood. And I’m unimpressed with an argument which says that we should solve this dilemma by keeping them in ignorance.

        I suppose one other possible argument is that, if the faithful come to correctly understand the relationship between marriage and ordination, they will be less accepting of the current discipline in this regard. That, however, is a prospect I can contemplate with equanimity.

        • Gareth

          which all sounds good and fine…

          but this leads back to my original question:
          Just because someone is an ‘Anglican minister’ and believes they have a vocation to the Catholic priesthood – what makes them any more suitable for the priesthood than a very well-educated married lay Catholic?

          Which also leads to Tony’s proposed question of if the justification for making a Protestant minister works (even if he was a minister previously in the Baptist sect – a sect we have concluded has a far different defined theology on the priesthood than Catholicism) – why on earth can’t it work for lay Catholic married men?

          I agree wholeheartedly that even though Tony and myself come at this topic from different ends of the spectrum – the Catholic Church does NOT provide a clear answer in this area for its faithful, leaving even knowledgeable Catholics confused just what precisely the church’s position is…

          • Peregrinus

            Just because someone is an ‘Anglican minister’ and believes they have a vocation to the Catholic priesthood – what makes them any more suitable for the priesthood than a very well-educated married lay Catholic?

            I think the salient difference is this; the (Latin) Catholic who marries knows that in doing so he excludes the possibility of ordination to the priesthood. And the fact that he makes this choice says something about his vocation and/or his response to his vocation which is [i]not[/i] said when an Anglican marries.

            Whether that is enough to make them more suitable is of course a debatable matter. But it’s the difference upon which I think Rome would hang its hat.

    • Thank you Perry. That is indeed what I mean. I was talking of the “office” of ministry, not the ministry itself. A “high” understanding of the “office” does not necessarily mean a “Catholic” understanding of priesthood, but it does include an idea that those ordained to the office are not lay people, that there is a difference between “lay” and “ordained” (eg. that a lay person has no authority to absolve, bless or consecrate – ABC – as it is sometimes said). A “high” view sees the authority of the office as coming directly from God, whereas a “low” view sees it as a transfer of authority from the congregation to the minister. In the Lutheran Church of Australia, for instance, both views rather uncomfortably co-exist among its members.

      • Gareth

        I picked up on the following:

        David: eg. that a lay person has no authority to bless.

        Gareth: Twisting your words – if you sneeze, I take it you don’t like the standard reply then.

  7. Gareth

    Pere: Because, even if you take the view that Anglican ordination means absolutely nothing whatsoever you still have to recognise that someone who enters the Anglican ministry may recognise the necessity and centrality of priesthood (in the Catholic sense) in the church.

    Gareth: Interestingly, I think you will find that as the evangelical wing of Anglicanism starts to completly overtake (as it already has) what was/has traditionally been practiced as Anglicanism in Australia, this view will become more and more irrelevant and the Anglican ministry for the most part will become simply another form of Protestant ministry based on Pentecostal/evangelical church’s version (e.g with little resemblance to the ‘traditional’ Anglican ministry and absolutely no relevancy to the Catholic priesthood).

    • Peregrinus

      This may already be the predominant view in Sydney and places within cooee thereof. But so what? Rome is considering Anglicanism as a worldwide whole – the TAC as much as the Diocese of Sydney, Durham as much as Delhi.

      Obviously the question of whether marriage is a bar to ordination doesn’t arise unless the converst is a candidate for ordination, which requires discernment both on his part and on the part of his bishop. It’s in connection with that discernment that the candidate’s understanding of ministry and of his own vocation and his own ministerial history gets explored. This has to happen whether he is married or single.

      I don’t think this dispensation in relation to marriage is intended to be applied to low-church evangelicals who have, for some reason, become Catholics and who rather fancy a career in ministry, and I don’t see much danger that it would be so applied in practice. If there are any such, they will have been weeded out long before the question of applying this dispensation arises.

      And, if they haven’t been, withholding this dispensation would only weed out the ones who happened to be married.

      Don’t expect an application of the discipline of celibacy to do the work of proper vocational discernment. I don’t think it makes sense to criticise the pastoral provision for failing to do something which it doesn’t aim to do, and couldn’t possibly do in any event.

  8. Matthias

    Thanks for that Pere. Without sounding like PE ,what is the Catholic view on the priesthood of believers,given that St Paul clearly talks about it?
    Wikepedia states that the “Baptists look to the Bible for the qualifications for persons to serve as pastor (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5–9). The qualifications fall generally into two categories: character and gifts for ministry.”
    The difference is that ordained pastors are elected by each congregation,rather than a overseer or Bishop appoint.

    • Peregrinus

      I’m no expert; all I have on this is a few scattered thoughts.

      I think this comes down to ecclesiology. What I think a Baptist and a Catholic would agree on – if each asked a sufficient number of leading questions – is that pastors (by whatever name called) are commissioned by the Church, the Body of Christ. What they disagree on is the instrumentality, the mode by which the church does that. For Baptists, the church acts in this instance through the local congregation. For Catholics, the Church acts in this instance through the bishop. Other denominations would embrace, e.g., a presbyterian ecclesiology, in which the church acts through elders.

      For Catholics, then, the priesthood of all believers (affirmed, as you say, by Paul) is intimately connected with their participation in the Body of Christ (who, Paul again tells us, the High Priest). But Catholics also see the ministry of the bishop as (a) scripture-ordained, (b) an aspect of priesthood (because of its eucharistic dimension), and (c) necessarily one in which not every Christian can personally participate, since it is a ministry of leadership and presidency. From this it follows that the priesthood of all believers doesn’t – can’t, in fact – involve every believer personally doing every act that has a priestly character. I think it’s natural for those traditions which don’t share the Catholic understanding of eucharist also not to share the catholic understanding of priestly ministry.

      It think it’s also worth pointing out that the priesthood of all believers is not the same thing as the priesthood of every believer. We find our priesthood collectively, in our participation in the body of Christ. Individually, we can only exercise those aspects of priesthood to which the Body of Christ has called and commissioned us.

    • “what is the Catholic view on the priesthood of believers,given that St Paul clearly talks about it?”

      For what it’s worth (I’m no expert either!):

      Any priesthood is the power to offer sacrifice. As a living member of the Body of Christ, the Christian has the power–and is required–to offer up spiritual sacrifices ‘on the altar of his heart’, as they say. By offering up good works, performed from a motive of Faith while in the state of grace, the Christian merits increase of grace and glory and makes satisfaction for his sins and the sins of others. This is the priesthood of all believers.

      The ministerial priesthood, on the other hand, is the power to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which (Sacrifice) is a true, propitiatory sacrifice, one and the same as that offered on Mt. Calvary, differing only in the manner of offering (unbloody rather than bloody), by which the Sacrifice of Calvary is renewed and represented and its fruits received.

  9. Past Elder / Terry Maher

    Well, sounding exactly like PE, here in this matter the RCC shows it cares about nothing but itself.

    The distinction by which a married man in a non-Catholic environment can have a call to the priesthood whereas a man in a Catholic environment clearly cannot if he has married is just astounding.

    If the former can have this call, but due to his environment at the time not be able to fully appreciate or understand it, therefore respond to it, why can this not be true of the latter.

    The only difference is, the latter is in the RCC, which is first, last, and always right, The Catholic Church, The Catholic Church, The Catholic Church, so if the fellow bloody marries it’s his own damn fault, despite a distinction which, it is evident here from the participation of apparently reasonably well-educated and intelligent Catholics, is understood only with great difficulty on the one hand, and not even universally applied within the history of the Latin rite, and never applied in the others recognised as valid.

    Not to mention St Paul’s warning that if a man cannot manage his own family, how should he be entrusted to manage the family of God! The RCC solution, forbid him to have his own family and therefore Scripture doesn’t apply!

    • Tony

      The distinction by which a married man in a non-Catholic environment can have a call to the priesthood whereas a man in a Catholic environment clearly cannot if he has married is just astounding.

      If the former can have this call, but due to his environment at the time not be able to fully appreciate or understand it, therefore respond to it, why can this not be true of the latter.

      THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about!

      • Past Elder / Terry Maher

        A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife … one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with a;; reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the house of God?). ITim3:2,4-6.

        Slight twisting? There’s there words. Not allowing a bishop to be the husband of *any* wife or the priest to have his own house, there’s your twist.

        • Gareth

          What’s your point Terry,

          Some Bishops in the early church had wives but now the discipline is that they do not. Big whoop.

          Men that enter the catholic priesthood freely choose that lifestyle after seven years of discernment.

          If any Catholic wishes to have a wife, it is simple – they can marry.

          No-one is forbidding anyone from doing anything.

          • Past Elder / Terry Maher

            Yes, it is a big whoop. Funny how this bizzare entity called the RCC can resource, oh ressource, itself back to the early church in abandoning traditional rites, but married bishops and priests, or a clergy the NT considers the norm, oh hell no.

            • Gareth

              Hi Terry,

              1. The discipline of clerical celibacy is simply that a (very strong) discipline not a matter of faith or dogma, it considering this it is not a big deal at all that Bishops do not marry.

              2. That bizarre entity that you call the Roman Catholic Church is for billions of people not bizarre at all – it is the only church that can directly trace itself back to Christ. Unless someone can stand to prove otherwise, I will say there is nothing bizarre about something that Lord himself established.

              3. The Catholic Church as some claim did not abandon its traditional rites it – it simply (rightly or wrongly) revised the form of the Mass. The traditional rites as you call it still exists and can be accessed weekly in many Australian cities

              4. The Catholic Church in revising the form of the Mass does not claim to be ‘resourcing’ itself to the early church.

              5. The New Testament (and indeed the early church) does not consider married clergy to be the norm. Indeed, the practice of clerical celibacy can be traced back to the apostles and was discussed in many church councils as early as the fourth century.

              • Gareth

                Pope St. Innocent I (401-417):

                “This (clerical celibacy) is not a matter of imposing upon the clergy new and arbitrary obligations, but rather of reminding them of those which the tradition of the Apostles and the Fathers has transmitted to us.”

    • Gareth

      A slight twitsting of St Paul’s words there Terry – The Catholic Church does not forbid anyone from having a family thankyou and can assure you the discipline of celibacy is more in line with scriptures than any Protestant interpretation.

  10. Matthias

    Knew I’d get PE to respond if i mentioend him

  11. Susan Peterson

    Well, I am sure that in the diocese of Rochester, both the bishop and the people believe it would work fine for married Catholic men too! This man will be welcomed and much made of him, and everyone will say, see, a married man can make a fine priest. Which, of course, he can, as one can see in Orthodoxy.

    I hate to agree with liberal Catholics about anything, really I do, but I would rather see us use the Orthodox pattern.

    However I don’t think we should say that we see no value in the life of priestly celibacy. There should still be order priests who are celibate, and monks, who ideally would be visible in the community.

    And guys, I don’t have time to argue this right now, but I believe that if you continue the logic of the Decree on Ecumenism, if Protestant ecclesial communities and their sacraments/ordinances are a means of grace for those in them, then surely the ministers of those communities do have a calling from God and are a means of grace for their people.

    In the special situation of Anglicanism, at least of that part of Anglicanism which has a Catholic idea of orders and of the Eucharist, we know that the conditions for validity have not been met, such that we cannot rely on their orders. That doesn’t mean we know what God chooses to work through them. And there is also the issue that most Anglican priests these days can trace their orders to Old Catholic or Polish National Catholic orders which the Church acknowledges as valid. ( There are innumerable technical questions about this issue, of course. ) But do you think that Rome would have allowed the Archbishop of Canterbury to celebrate the Eucharist, on a consecrated altar, over the relics of the saints, in a church in Rome, as they did, if they thought he was no more than an ordained cat?

    Susan Peterson

  12. Christine

    Susan, I have no problem with the Orthodox form of ministry either but think it wise that the bishops remain celibate.

    St. Paul, of course, saw celibacy as a high calling and chose it for himself.

    Christine

    • Gareth

      I take you guys will be happy to foot the extensive weekly bill for a married Catholic priest to provide for his family?

      • Past Elder / Terry Maher

        Are you happy to foot the extensive weekly bill for yours?

        • Gareth

          no place for sarcasm here Terry.

          If people want married priests, they have to be also willing to pay for that priest’s annual holiday to the Gold coast, his kids enrollment in the local private school and his wife’s monthly trip to the salon to touch up her hair.

          • Susan Peterson

            Why should the priest take a holiday to the Gold Coast (whatever that is). Why should his kids go to private school? Most people’s kids don’t. If the wife just gets a haircut at the salon it costs under 20 bucks where I live. A priest’s wife shouldn’t be doing perms and frostings and all that sort of thing. But a modest salary will naturally lead people to limit that sort of thing.

      • Peregrinus

        Of course we will. If you’re sugesting that the overriding consideration for priesthood is that is should be cheap, I don’t think you’ll find many to agree with you.

        Eastern Christians support their priests’ families. Protestant Christians suppor their ministers’ families. Latin Catholics currently don’t, but in the not distant past they supported many more actual priests than they do now. There are plenty of large echoing rectories that could accommodate a family!

        It can be done.

        • Gareth

          Are you telling me Pere that your parish alone would be happy to add $50, 000 minium to its costs?

          My parish can’t even afford some decent carpet in the church, let alone adding this much to its finances to maintain the cost of running a family to its Bill

          • Past Elder / Terry Maher

            Add 50K? Add 50K?? There’s just a hell of a lot of guys out there trying to support a family who don’t make 50K in the real world about which the RCC manifestly knows nothing yet its celibate mitred monkeys presume to tell the world how to run itself.

            • Gareth

              Terry,

              I earn more than 50k and feel this is a small wage for a university educated person and I personally am not ready to enter into marriage because I feel I don earn sufficient funds to support a family yet.

              50 k per year for the average Australian male would simply be the starting point.

              All those clamoring for married priests and saying it can be done – well you beginning to start to think about who is going to pay for it all, because I am not and I can tell you the average Australian parish will not.

              • Susan Peterson

                My husband and I raised nine children on the salary of a cook, and later, of a mail handler in the post office.

                While I don’t know what 50K means in Australia, 50K in the US would support a family in most places. In some urban areas with expensive housing, more might be required, unless a house were provided.

                I think you have an awfully upper middle class-or lower upper class-idea of what supporting a family means!
                It means a roof over one’s head that keeps out the rain, heat, and hot and cold running water. In some climates air conditioning might be a necessity, but it isn’t in most temperate climates. It doesn’t mean a bedroom for each child. It is perfectly acceptable to have one bed room for the girls with two bunk beds, and one for the boys with two beds, accomodating the 8 children that a non contracepting priest’s family might reasonably have. It doesn’t need a swimming pool!
                It doesn’t mean that the children have to go to private schools. They don’t have to own the latest most fashionable type of jeans and footgear. Many of their clothes can come from a thrift store and basics like underwear and sneakers can come from a “bargain” store. The family does not have to have “take out” food or go to restaurants; home cooked meals are much healthier. They do not need to purchase riculously overpriced boxed cereals; they can eat oatmeal or scrambled eggs for breakfast.
                I could go on, but the point is, you are thinking that a priest and his family should live the life of rich suburbanites. If most of their parishioners live that life, well then they can afford to give more to support their priest. If the parishioners don’t live that life, why should their priest?

                • Gareth

                  Maybe because he studied for seven years, which is one more year than I studied at university and I expect to earn $100,000 k within five years if I keep in my profession.

                  Why would someone if they were going to be paid a base salary want to study for seven years and then get paid chickenfeed?

                  • Susan Peterson

                    Because God is calling them to do it, the same reason Protestant ministers and Orthodox priests do it.

                    I know a couple who are Anglican missionaries in Africa. He had extensive training in languages and went to learn a tribal language and translate the Bible into that language. This involved years of living with the tribe. They raised their daughter in a couple of connected mud huts. They stood on the road for days with their seriously ill only child in their arms waiting for a bus to take her to the nearest hospital many miles away. (Like 50 or more.) And when she was better they took her and went back to the village. Now that she is grown (and a pastor’s wife here in the US with 5 kids of her own) their Bible in Supire’ project is just finishing up.
                    I am sure he NEVER made the equivalent of $50,000!

                    Now why did he do that?

          • Peregrinus

            1. Virtually every other Christian (and non-Christian) denomination does support married clergy, as do all the non-Latin rites. So what makes it an impossibility for Latins?

            2. In my youth, my Latin parish supported four priests and a full-time housekeeper, accommodated in three houses. There are now two priests in one house. If the parish could support five adults, it can certainly afford to pay two adults a reasonable wage. Or do you think the previous imposition on the parish was excessive?

            Look, there are all kinds of issues surrounding the question of clerical celibacy. But the suggestion that we should answer them by choosing the option which costs the least money would be offensive if it were not so silly. You may choose Mammon for yourself, if you want, but you have to accept that the Church ought to prefer God.

            My parish can’t even afford some decent carpet in the church . . .

            Perhaps your parish is not viable? Perhaps it needs to grow through evangelisation, or be united with a neighbouring parish to make a community which can properly resource itself. I don’t want to dismiss these issues as trivial – they aren’t – but it really is the tail wagging the dog to suggest that we should retain a celibate clergy in order not to have to adjust parish boundaries. If we don’t think that a celibate clergy is required to serve our spiritual purposes, then it is monstrous to suggest that we should require celibacy to serve our financial purposes. There are many good arguments in favour of clerical celibacy, but this is definitely not one of them.

            • Gareth

              Pere: Look, there are all kinds of issues surrounding the question of clerical celibacy. But the suggestion that we should answer them by choosing the option which costs the least money would be offensive if it were not so silly.

              Gareth: That is not the issue.

              The issue is that before one even presents something as a valid option, one has to put forward a convincing argument on just how precisely something will be funded.

              In my opinion, the average cost of supporting a married man to provide for his family would add at least be $60,000 dollars to the average parish Bill per year.

              Now c’mon on Pere – the average Australian parish could probably not even afford one-third of this.

              And the financial aspects are just a tip of the iceberg when considering a married priesthood.

              Have you thought about what activities the church would have to shelve in funding when considering how to finance its priest and his family?

              Have you considered that in such a scenario that richer parish’s would have to subside poorer parish’s?

              Have you considered the fact that a married priest and his family would be asked to move regularly and what would happen if they were asked to move from an affluent area into a poorer neighborhood on a regular basis? The list could go on and on.

              The moral of the story is that before people jump on the “it can be done” bandwagon, maybe they can start thinking about the above questions.

              And the normal Catholic parish in Australia is far far different and much bigger than the average Eastern Catholic church or Anglican parish – there is no comparison.

              Pere: then it is monstrous to suggest that we should require celibacy to serve our financial purposes

              Gareth: But no-one has suggested this. You have simply put these words into my mouth. My point is that one has to put forward viable arguments on just precisely married clergy would be funded.

              So far, I have heard no viable argument and suggests to me that those that put forward it as an option have not seriously thought about the issues and consequences at hand.

              • Past Elder / Terry Maher

                Well, I would say that if the Archdiocese of Omaha, the Roman Imperial administrative unit to which I am supposed to belong, though the rest of the Imperial offices no longer exist or ever existed here, were to sell the 650K house they bought for a retirement home for the old bishop, who has no family, maybe that would be a start — that is if the money were not used to keep open the inner city parishes and schools they keep closing because they aren’t “viable”.

                This came up at a dinner where I was seated next to a Catholic friend. I said I didn’t want to say much to avoid the appearance of Lutheran Catholic-bashing. He said go ahead, you probably aren’t nearly as pissed off about it as we are!

                • Gareth

                  You are a harsh man Terry.

                  Where is a successor of the apostles when it is time for him to put his feet up after long years of bringing the Good News to the people meant to retire to – would you have him living in a shoebox or something?

              • Peregrinus

                Pere: then it is monstrous to suggest that we should require celibacy to serve our financial purposes

                Gareth: But no-one has suggested this. You have simply put these words into my mouth.

                I’m hardly putting words in your mouth, Gareth. You had mentioned the cost of married clergy in more than one post before I said anything about it at all. If you don’t think this decision should be financially driven, why do you keep bringing up finance?

                My point is that one has to put forward viable arguments on just precisely married clergy would be funded.

                So far, I have heard no viable argument and suggests to me that those that put forward it as an option have not seriously thought about the issues and consequences at hand.

                Careful, Gareth. That’s the kind of comment which can come back to bite you!

                In my opinion, the average cost of supporting a married man to provide for his family would add at least be $60,000 dollars to the average parish Bill per year.

                Now c’mon on Pere – the average Australian parish could probably not even afford one-third
                of this.

                Really? You think that if priests can marry, all priests – married or not – will cost about $60,000 more than they are currently paid? How do you figure that? Is it based at all on what priests are actually paid in those denominations which have them? No, I didn’t think so.

                According to payscale.com, a “senior pastor” in Australia can expect a salary in the rage of $40,000 to $60,000. The denomination is not specified; presumably it reflects a range of denominations, most of which would have married clergy. That’s $40k – $60k in total, not $60k on top of the remuneration that Catholic priests already receive. An “assistant pastor” receives $40-$45 in total.

                If we want to be more specific, the clergy stipend in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne in 2006, I happen to know, was $56,000. That includes the cost of providing housing (a housing allowance, rather than an actual house) and the cost of superannuation. The basic stipend was just under $42,500. These figures relate to a priest in charge of a parish; assistant priests got less. In the same year, the corresponding basic stipend in the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne was just over $31,500. That’s a difference of $11,000, not $60,000.

                So I reckon your figure of an extra $60,000 if Catholic priests can marry is not so much “seriously thought about” as simply plucked out of the air. And I reckon it’s wildly unrealistic.

                Look, Gareth, you yourself point out that . . .

                And the normal Catholic parish in Australia is far far different and much bigger than the average Eastern Catholic church or Anglican parish – there is no comparison.

                Yet we know that these smaller Anglican and Eastern parishes do find the resources to support a married clergy. So why would a larger Catholic parish be unable to?

                Have you considered the fact that a married priest and his family would be asked to move regularly and what would happen if they were asked to move from an affluent area into a poorer neighborhood on a regular basis? The list could go on and on.
                The moral of the story is that before people jump on the “it can be done” bandwagon, maybe they can start thinking about the above questions.

                So to the people who say that “it can’t be done”. In fact, if anything the onus on them to justify their claims is rather greater. We know that it not only can be done, but very often is in other churches. So the claims that it can’t be done in the Catholic church are, on the vaced of it, surprising. They need to be justified with argument and evidence, rather than simply asserted.

                I’m not denying that having priests who might be married would mean changes, and significant changes, in the way that ministry works. You are fair to raise the question, for instance, of whether it would be reasonable to move priests every five years or so, as is now the practice in most dioceses. And there are many other similar questions that could be asked.

                But the introduction of mendicant orders meant significant changes in the way ministry worked in the church at that time. So did the opening of claustration to allow nuns to engage in teaching, etc, in the 18th century. There have been lots of other fundamental changes in the way that ministry is carried on in the church over the years. All change is disruptive, but there’s no reason to assume that all change is for the worse. We know that a married ministry is viable, because we can see it at work both within the Catholic church and in other denominations

                We also have to bear in mind that, just as there are various consequences that flow from having married clergy, there are various consequences that flow from having celibate clergy. In neither case are the consequences necessarily all good. When considering married clergy, it would be dishonest simply to concentrate on the downside, and ignore the possible upsides.

                • Gareth

                  Pere: I’m hardly putting words in your mouth, Gareth. You had mentioned the cost of married clergy in more than one post before I said anything about it at all. If you don’t think this decision should be financially driven, why do you keep bringing up finance?

                  Gareth: That is simple Pere. You claim that I am making arguments for a celibacy clergy but I am not. Seeing the celibate clergy is given discipline, I or the church doesn’t have to defend it all seeing it is already the given status quo. One can not make arguments for something that is the given status quo as it already is the standard rule and doesn’t need defending unless there is a counter-argument.

                  Those that are arguing, putting the case forward or implying married clergy ‘can be done’ are the one’s that are putting forward an argument against the status quo. Therefore it is they that have to firstly prove there is a reason for changing the status quo (e.g. changing from a celibate to married clergy) and then put forward following arguments of just how the changing of the status quo (e.g. will there be economic constraints) will work.

                  The case for changing the status quo have put forward a number of arguments of just why would possibly need to change the status quo such as there will arguably soon be a great shortage of priests in the west and I accept this arguments.

                  However they have not put forward any convincing arguments as to just how the changing of the status quo will work. Putting it simply a married clergy would add millions and millions of dollars to the economic costs of running an Archdiocese and I have not heard any substantial arguments yet of just how the church is going to cover this great cost.

                  So my theory goes that if you can’t prove to me of just how changing of the status of the quo will work financially, the do not mention the argument to begin with.

                  It is that simple, if you can’t demonstrate how something will be costed in financial terms, then don’t bring the issue up to begin with. One is simply wasting people’s time claiming ‘it can work’ when it clearly won’t.

                  Pere: Careful, Gareth. That’s the kind of comment which can come back to bite you!

                  Gareth: I am happy to stand by my comment that most people contemplating married priests in the Catholic Church are in fairyland.

                  Pere: Really? You think that if priests can marry, all priests – married or not – will cost about $60,000 more than they are currently paid?

                  Gareth: Yes that generally what it costs to run a family in Australia these days, if not more. And to mention if the priest is a true Catholic he will be practicing natural family planning so be prepared to pay for some large families if you think married priests will work.

                  Pere: How do you figure that? Is it based at all on what priests are actually paid in those denominations which have them?

                  Gareth: Der Pere, raising a family in Australia is expensive these days – giving a married priest a salary of anything under $40 k is unduly unfair in my opinion. A married Catholic priest and his family would have a right to a secure financial upbringing as in all members of the parish.

                  Pere: That’s $40k – $60k in total.

                  Gareth: That is a lot of money Pere. Would your parish pay it? Like I said my parish is pretty working class and our congregation is dwindling. The the last thing we would need is that on top of our Bills.

                  Pere: And I reckon it’s wildly unrealistic.

                  Gareth: I reckon it is not. Catholic parish’s are twice as big as Anglican one’s and the cost of running a car, running the large Catholic family, family insurance, medical insurance would be twice as much as the Anglican Church so I stand my statement that a married clergy would most likely double the stipend of the Anglican Church.

                  And not to mention that some priests living in affluent areas would expect a bigger stipend than those in poorer areas.

                  I think it would be more widly unrealistic to think that adding these costs to the average Catholic parish Bill would even remotely work.

                  Pere: Yet we know that these smaller Anglican and Eastern parishes do find the resources to support a married clergy. So why would a larger Catholic parish be unable to?

                  Gareth: Because the costs would be at least double. Because some to many Anglican ministers have part-time or full-time jobs where Catholic clergy would be expected to a full-time priest due to their workload and because Latin Church’s would have about 200 more priests to fund than Eastern Church’s who usually have a very small amount of clergy across Australia (not to mention that in the United States they are not married).

                  Pere: We know that it not only can be done

                  Gareth: Sorry Pere you are in fairyland if you think it can be done and if I was a Manager and you presented to me the above business case, I would throw it in the bin. Your are dreaming Pere – it can’t be done and it shouldn’t be done.

                  Pere: We know that a married ministry is viable, because we can see it at work both within the Catholic church and in other denominations.

                  Gareth: Wrong again – comparing the Catholic Church with other denominations and the Eastern Church is likely comparing apples with…..ice-cream. There is no comparison in the two and not to mention an offence to compare the holy VOCATION of the Catholic
                  priesthood to the ‘paid job’ of a Protestant ‘minister’

                  Pere: when considering married clergy, it would be dishonest simply to concentrate on the downside, and ignore the possible upsides.

                  Gareth: Well you can start putting them forwardbecause you haven’t done a good job trying to explain our Catholics are going to have pay millions of dollars to support Catholic priests and their families,

    • Past Elder / Terry Maher

      Chose it for himself, not imposed it on anyone else.

      • Gareth

        That is what most priests do – they spend seven years training and making up their mind to freely choose this state of life. No-body imposes anythink on anybody in the Catholic Church.

      • Past Elder / Terry Maher

        Rubbish. You do not freely choose this state of life. You do not tell the “church” you have a vocation, it tells you. And if a married man presents himself for this vocation, he will be told no right off the bat, in seven minutes — maybe less. Not to mention if a priest presents himself for the vocation of marriage.

        • Gareth

          Terry: You do not tell the “church” you have a vocation, it tells you.

          That is the first I have heard of this Terry.

          Would you care to elaborate?

          I would know in person at least ten young men that are currently studying for the Catholic priesthood and I can assure you they all freely choose it and would take offence at any suggestion otherwise.

          • Peregrinus

            Of course they freely chose it. But they won’t be accepted into the priesthood simply because they volunteered. The Bishop has to discern that they have a vocation to the priesthood. The candidate can decide at any time not to proceed, but the person with ultimate responsibility for the ordination decision is not the candidate; it’s the bishop.

  13. Christine

    Virtually every other Christian (and non-Christian) denomination does support married clergy, as do all the non-Latin rites. So what makes it an impossibility for Latins?

    Yes, they do, Peregrinus but here’s something I’m going to throw out strictly for the sake of playing devil’s advocate.

    What happens in the case of divorce? The Orthodox permit up to three remarriages whereas Catholics don’t. If a married priest divorces will he be expected to undergo the same annulment process as a layperson? Will the parish give him enough financial leeway to pay child support, if necessary?

    It’s a little different in Protestant denominations that don’t recognize marriage as an indissoluble sacrament and where clergy (and their wives) sometimes have employment outside of their congregational duties.

    Nevertheless, I recognize that celibacy is a church discipline, not dogma and the church could go back to a married priesthood. But I still think the Orthodox are wise to choose bishops from the monastic ranks.

    Christine

    • Susan Peterson

      I have been told that if an Orthodox priest divorces he may no longer be a priest. Even if that happens because his wife leaves him!
      I have heard it suggested that this gives the wife of an Orthodox priest a very powerful position in the marriage!
      Someone more familiar with Orthodoxy will have to say whether this rule is universal and how it plays out in practice.
      Susan Peterson

      • Chris Jones

        Susan,

        The discipline in the Orthodox Church is that a priest may be married only once. If the marriage ends (whether he is divorced or widowed) he may not marry again.

        It is not that he cannot continue as a priest if he is divorced, but that he cannot remarry. Indeed, a layman who marries a second time (again, whether he is divorced or widowed) may not be ordained in the first place.

    • Gareth

      An excellent inquiry Christine.

      Some of the issues you mentioned were certainly running through my mind as well.

      I think it is safe to conclude that a married Catholic clergy whilst sounding good in theory, in reality open’s up a scary can of worms.

      Lika all liberal Catholic initatives, it sounds like a no-brainer to me.

    • Peregrinus

      Hi Christine

      A lay person who divorces doesn’t need to go through annulment unless he wishes to remarry. So I don’t see why a priest who divorces would be expected to do so.

      What about a priest who wanted to remarry? Obviously there would be no question of that without an annulment. I question, though, whether even with an annulment it would be seen as consistent, if not with priesthood, then with parish ministry. But, just as Anglican ministers sometimes have employment other than parish ministry, so do priests – as teachers, university lecturers, administrators, a host of jobs. In fact, I suspect the Catholic priesthood is engaged in a far wider range of occupations than the Anglican clergy.

      As for child support, of course a priest who is married will have the same obligation to support his children as anyone who has children does. If there are to be married priests, clergy stipend scales will have to reflect that. But it’s the possilbity of marriage they need to reflect, not the possibility of divorce. If a separated or divorced priest has a formal child support payment obligation, will the parish give him enough financial support? In general, it’s not an employer’s problem. Your child support obligations are tailored to your income, not the other way around.

      (PS: I should point out that this problem exists already. The fact that there are no married priests doesn’t mean that there are no priests with children, and so with legally-enforceable child support obligations.)

      • Gareth

        A priest would have trouble obtaining a divorce – seeing the Catholic Church does not recognise it.

        • If for some reason a priest who was married when he was ordained later sought to obtain an anullment of his marriage, he would require (by canon law) a civil divorce first. Such a situation however would impact (perhaps catastrophically) upon his ministry. It is something to think about should celibacy ever become optional. In any case, even if a priest’s marriage were to be anulled, he would not be eligable for remarriage.

          • Gareth

            Hi David,

            Thanks for your response – the Catholic Church’s theoretical and practical approach to such issues are certainly interesting.

            In regards to your post:

            David: It is something to think about should celibacy ever become optional.

            Gareth: Indeed it is and I am sure this is only a tip of the iceberg of issues to consider should clerical celibacy ever become an option in the Catholic Church. Life is meant to be easy!

            David: In any case, even if a priest’s marriage were to be annulled, he would not be eligible for remarriage.

            Gareth: Just out of interest on what basis did do you make this claim (e.g. Is it something that you know is the standard rule in Eastern-rite Catholic Churches or the eastern Orthodox Church?) If I was in a priest’s shoes and faced with this rule, I would wonder why my congregation were allowed to enter into marriage when their original marriage was declared invalid but I am not. Is there any special reason why this would apply? I am just asking out of interest.

            • The answer is simple and straightforward: as has been pointed out elsewhere, even in the Eastern Churches, although a married man can be ordained, a man cannot marry after he has been ordained. A married man who was ordained, who afterwards divorced and received an anullment, would technically therefore have been “unmarried” at the time of his ordination and required to remain that way forever afterwards.

              The question was asked “why would he bother” getting an anullment then, if he could not remarry anyway. There is a likely answer: he might wish to enter religious life, which he would not be able to do if he had a living valid spouse. I have known converts to the Catholic Church who sought an anullment of their previous marriage precisely for this reason. He also might aspire to the episcopate, but I think the likelihood of the latter might be unlikely…

  14. Christine

    Hi Peregrinus!

    A lay person who divorces doesn’t need to go through annulment unless he wishes to remarry. So I don’t see why a priest who divorces would be expected to do so.

    Yes, of course, that is true (I have a bit of experience with that, my husband having obtained an annulment of his first marriage). I was thinking about the situation of a priest who wanted to remarry. And if I remember correctly permanent deacons who become widowed may also not remarry except under a few limited circumstances.

    In fact, I suspect the Catholic priesthood is engaged in a far wider range of occupations than the Anglican clergy. Quite true!

    I’m also wondering how the demands of the priestly vocation will affect a married clergy in some of the huge suburban parishes we have here in the U.S. But I realize that falls under a whole range of “what-ifs” that remain theoretical until actualized.

    As far as child support is concerned, your observation that “there are no married priests doesn’t mean that there are no priests with children, and so with legally-enforceable child support obligations” is well taken.

    Time will tell.

    Christine

  15. Christine

    A couple of considerations from an Eastern Rite Catholic priest:

    In the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches priests do not get married. Rather, a married man can be ordained to major orders (Deacon or Priest.) but if a man is celibate and becomes a priest he cannot marry after ordination.
    Where there is a practice of married priesthood in the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches there has been the rule that a married priest and his wife must abstain from relations on the night prior to the priest celebrating the Eucharist. Furthermore, the married priest and his wife are encouraged to abstain from relations during the fasting periods of the liturgical calendar. This is one of those examples of how celibacy subsists even in the married priesthood. Also, the Eastern Churches which have had an unbroken custom of ordaining married men to the priesthood is the very Church that gave celibacy to the world–monasticism came from the Eastern Churches.

    I’ve noticed that generally speaking married pastors from other denominations who convert to the Catholic priesthood are not made pastors of parishes but are employed in other capacities.

    Christine