Why don't Catholic priests get married?

Great question. As a priest, I must admit I wrestle with that question a lot. On one level, I deeply enjoy being a priest. I love the chance to talk about God. I love the study of Scripture that I have to do to prepare for sermons and talks. I love celebrating the Mass. I am in touch with the sacred, the most sacred things in life. I also love the chance to minister to people during important times in their lives: marriage, sickness, fear, sin, joy, and death.

On one level, not being married frees me to be able to work wholeheartedly and single-mindedly in the service of God's people. I can imagine that my time would be practically drawn away either from my wife and children or the people of my parish. Celibacy allows me to concentrate on the needs of the people to whom I'm called to minister.

On another level, there is a definite loneliness in my life without a wife and children. At times I feel this lacking in my life in a strong way. I'm a member of a religious community, Divine Word Missionaries. We live in community. There are about 12 of us living together here in Riverside, CA. This fellowship is vitally important for me and helps to overcome some of the loneliness. Still, especially at times of failure and misunderstanding, it's difficult not to have a female intimate. At times I feel hesitant to share with my female friends because I don't want to compromise a sexual boundary that I feel I need to maintain.

So, why doesn't a Catholic priest have the option to marry? Well, the truth is that there is only a changeable law that restricts a married clergy. It could change. As a matter of fact, Eastern Rite Catholic priests are married. And some former Anglican Priests who became Catholic are married. So why am I not married? Two reasons stand out. One is that I have experienced a Call from God to this way of life. The call is real but hard to explain. When I was 28 I took a vow to live the life of a celibate.

The second reason is that I want to imitate Jesus. He wasn't married.
His life as a celibate was an urgent rush to be concerned with calling people to the imminence of the coming of God's Kingdom. This urgency of Jesus didn't leave time for the work of caring for a wife and children.

We know after two centuries, that the urgency of Jesus doesn't seem to be so urgent. Still, in a way that doesn't make a lot of logical sense, our love for God calls us to that urgency, to work at an almost frantic pace, to usher in the Kingdom of God using our talents and love.


Anonymous said...

i cant explain what i feel, but this response to the question feels uncomfortable. my sense is that Father Manning is oposed to the rule of celebacy and knows that to attack it directly wouldnt work as well as effectively undermining it in a gradual way. his use of ".. there is only a changeable law..." speaks volumes. i am a convert from the Evangelical church and this sounds like a protestant explanation. i dont think Father is a happy priest just one that doesnt know what else to do. it saddens me to hear half hearted explanations of such a rich and important tradition. he has undoubtedly not read (or understood) Pope JPII's Theology of the Body [ if refer specifically to the General Audience of May 5, 1982]

God Bless

Anonymous said...

Jesus is God. That's why he didn't get married.

You are just a man, no matter how holy you became. God created in you the instinct to love and be with a woman. Saying that you want celibacy in pursuit of becoming like Jesus is not logical. You are not God. Saint Peter was married.

How do you preach love when you yourself cannot experience it? What is wrong with marriage? Your wife can help you spiritually, can give you strength, love and support to do better at your work and even serve your parish with you. Be humble; pride is a sin.

Sara Abram

Paul Dion, STL, ParishWorld Theology Editor said...

There are many people, even Catholics who would agree with you. I am a Catholic man who is happy to be able to extol the virtue that it takes to remain single and to be wed to a cause greater than even marriage itself.

It just so happens that discipleship with Jesus Christ is a cause that exceeds the call to marriage. So I admire Catholic priests for their "marriage" to Christ through their love for His Church.

"You say that Jesus is God. That is why He did not get married."

You are correct in saying that Jesus is God. He was then and is still God now. One thing that He was also then was, fully human. Being fully human would have made Him a great candidate for marriage. He surely knew how to love, being at the same time the Loving God in whom we all believe.

So, there has to be a bigger and better reason why Jesus did not get married. It is not because He did not experience Love...He is Love. So He married all of us to fulfill the promise of salvation that His Father made to all of us through the sacred covenant that He repeated to His key people through the ages.

The reason why Catholic priest do not get married is not simply because they want to be like Jesus. The do not get married to a single woman because they are called to consecrate themselves to God's Mission to all of us, just as Jesus did.

In this, they are not alone. One of the apostles, John, was not married. John the Baptist was not married. Some of the prophets were not married.

This total consecration to God does not take away the experience of love in a person's life. There are many forms of love, not just conjugal love. You would not deny that you experienced love of siblings even before you get married; you would not deny love of your parents even before you got married. At that time you were devoted to the happiness and success of the family though love. So it is not correct to determine that it is impossible to preach love without having experienced conjugal love.

Priests do not denigrate marriage, neither in their minds nor in their actions. Priests are convinced that marriage is a holy union with all the benefits that you enumerate. They also know that the life of a celibate is full of the love that comes from the support of fellow priests, kind hearted parishioners and old friends. These form the core and the periphery of the support system of love for the priest.

Finally, the priest is not proud to be celibate. The priest knows that his place is to be a living sacrifice for the glory of the Kingdom of God on earth. The priest knows that he is the image of the continuing sacrifice of Jesus. The priest knows that he is the suffering lamb brought to the altar of sacrifice for the salvation of the flock.

The rest of us admire the on-going sacrifice of celibacy that we see every day in our priests and nuns. Through them, we see the result of the supreme sacrifice of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Through our witness of their marriage to the Church, we are encouraged to live more honorable lives for the greater glory of God.

Anonymous said...

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.

Paul Dion, STL said...

St. Paul sure has a way with words, doesn't he?

Paul A. Dion

Anonymous said...

1 Timothy 3:2

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

Titus 1:6

If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

Anonymous said...

I believe I stumbled upon this for a reason. I certainly agree 100% with the response that Mr. Dion posted. I myself am a young Catholic man.. I don't know how good of a Catholic I am; I can't be more than I am but I am trying to be all that I am.

One thing that I have come to understand about our wonderful Heavenly Father is that He has given each and every one of us a complete freedom to make choices in our lives; he doesn't force His goodness upon us. If then even the Ulmighty God who actually knows the best for us doesn't force that upon us, who am I to tell another human being what they should ultimately do or not do?

I struggle myself with this issue today; of remaining celebate or persuing a relationship with a woman. Do I think I am unique, a spiritual giant pondering a complete sacrafice of myeslf to my Creator? Hardly. Many of my decisions come from the other end of the spectrum-from despair, from pain, from inadequecies and fears. I can't speak for anyone else, but for me, my questioning celibacy, which although may bring spiritual benefits comes not from a desire to be more spiritual, but more from a brokeness related to my sexuality. This is honesty for me. Maybe I will healed of these things and will find the one for me. Only God knows these things and only through his guidence will I come to his will for me.

Father Andrew said...

"How do you preach love when you yourself cannot experience it?"

Sara, you must remember that love has many forms. Christ's love for us is the most powerful love there is. We experience it everyday. A single man who knows Christ can preach love much more completely than a married man who doesn't. If a man knows only the love of a woman, but not the love of Christ, is he fulfilled?

I believe that knowing Christ can prepare you for anything, including preaching on topics of intimacy and love. God will show you your way.

As an independent Catholic priest, I am able to marry. Whether or not I will depends on my needs. I go back and forth on this. Celibacy helps me keep an open mind, but loneliness can obstruct that clarity.

Also, God must take priority over everyone and everything in my life. This includes any potential partner I may have. Being in a committed relationship is difficult when the person you love is forced to take second place. In all fairness, I think celibacy may be better for them than it would be for me.

In reference to your statement regarding Jesus being God, you are absolutely correct. However, Jesus was human as well. Jesus knew the same fears, the same pains, and the same emotions we feel. At one point, he even doubted faith. It is important to keep this in mind. Why? Because we humans sometimes try to be something even he wasn't. He was a man. Isn't that kind of the point to it all?

Also, remember that Jesus was not married. Does this mean that he is not qualified to preach about love?

I hope this helps you gain some perspective. Pax vobiscum.

Anonymous said...

I am quite comfortable with the concept that we all have choices. One may thus chose to obey God by marrying and being faithful to his/her spouse - in obedience to the gospel. One may also chose not to marry so as to devote all their time to serving God and mankind.

However, it does not seem to be true, or perhaps widely true, that Roman Catholic priests (or clergy) may chose to marry. This must be a new teaching or is it? If this is so, it woul help to publicly broadcast this as the catholic church may find a solution to its problem of a dwindling clergy.

Anonymous said...

If you look at the early church, priests were married. Orthodox priest and Eastern rite Catholic priests are married. There was a cannon that was set in after the Great East/West Schism that forbade priest in the Roman Catholic church to marry for property reasons. Their possesions belonged to the church not his family. As a result, a cannon was given to stop marriages to stop this issue. Sad but true.

Mario said...

Hello Anonymous, I know it's easy to simplify the explanation for celibacy purely from the property issues you bring. But if you read the comments in this blog, there clearly are other more important reasons you are choosing not to acknowledge. And it is truly sad that you refuse to open your eyes to the truth.

Anonymous said...

Jesus is not God and never was... He was the first born of all phyical creation.... Colossians 1:15 He told Martha I am going away to MY God and your God, MY fater and your father... He is NOT God and he never was.

Anonymous said...

I think 1 Tim 4:1-3 sheds a little light on the subject. " later periods of time, some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons...FORBIDDING TO MARRY, commanding to ABSTAIN FROM FOODS which God created to be partaken of with thanksgiving by those who have faith and accurately know the truth". Sounds like Catholic church doctrine to me.

cminten said...

When a priest doesnt marry and the entire organization decides that they will be celibate they have imposed a directed insult to God. God said that we were create in the image of him. We were given the power of creation. Satan himself came to the Catholic Church and imposed this to slap God in the face. If you go through the years the Catholic Church have committed horror, murder, burning, greed, and rape. Why, because it isnt a religion founded through God it is a religion founded through Satan. Does this mean that all Catholics are bad, no. Does this mean that all Priest are bad, no. It means that they are lost. With the power and history that the Church holds and the knowledge that they have you would think that they could figure out that they first step in creating a religion that honored God would be to have the leaders practice and love the ability to love a woman and create life. Some say that Peter founded the Church, I call BS on that. Peter and every memeber of Jesus's followers married and created offspring. Every member of the historic leaders in the bible married and had offspring and the stories, manay of them were created and directed towards the creations that they created. Abraham, David,Solomon, and on and on and on...To say that they are God(or giving up on the gift of creation) is another direct Satanic slap in the faced of God. Leaders of Churchs are teachers and teachers must practice and live what they preach. If the Catholic church wants to really be a true religion then it must first drive Satan out of the church and become an example that Peter and the rest attempted to instill.

Anyanwu victor ikechukwu said...

i am a catholic and wanting to be a priest let pray to God to help them overcome temtation

Anonymous said...

Is there anywhere in the Bible where it talks about priest not getting married? I have only read little of the bible and young in my faith, but I found (1COR 8:32)
"I should like you to be free of anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife." Paul later says (8:35)"I am telling for your own benefit, not to impose restraint upon you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord without distraction." My non-catholic friends are asking some question and our faith,and they ALWAYS want evidence from the bible....

Al Dente said...

Wow. The article is clearly written by a kindly man who wanted to share his personal reasons for the personal choice he has taken. I'm somewhat taken aback by some of the comments especially the callous 'How do you preach love when you yourself cannot experience it' comment.

Firstly, is it not possible to feel love, even if it not be consummated in any way? A whole chapter of Western literature is devoted to this very concept (Courtly Love, see Petrarch et al)

Secondly, at no point does the author suggest that he alone has the correct interpretation in this matter. Indeed, great humility is shown by the assertion that the rule could change, and has changed for others (humility not, in my opinion, being something very often found in statements upon religious doctrine).

I have to say when I read the injunction to 'Be humble, pride is a sin' my first reaction was to think 'physician, heal thyself'. What a nasty little thing to say.

re: 'Is there anywhere in the bible that it says to not get married'. Half of what is practised in the name of religion, especially Catholicism, is not mandated by the bible anyway. Why stop at celibacy?

NB: I don't believe in God, but I do believe in the right for genuine people to express genuinely-held beliefs without people pouncing on them because their Divinely-revealed truth is in some way 'more perfect'.

rozhel_cabansag said...

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.
1 Timothy 4:1-3

kalladaveedu said...

dear Father
i have a doubt it was asked by one of pentacost bielever, they are asking why catholics priest are not geting marrage, does bible say that priest should not get can anser for there question need your suport on this matter...


Anonymous said...

I'm not a catholic but have been recently considering catholicism. More than that, a catholic priest. I grew up around it and find it a very beautiful religion. My dad is a demonologist and he always taught me about the religion. I feel a certain draw towards the religion. How do I go about becoming a priest or how should I start getting involved?

Jenna said...

What do you think it means to be married to Jesus? Nuns believe they are married to Jesus. Priest believe they are married to God. But God is one.

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand why the Catholic Church makes serving God as a priest and loving another human being in an intimate way (as in marriage) to be incompatible. Why should a man who have calling to priesthood have to choose one or the other; what's wrong to responding to two calls - to be a priest and to love? Many Catholic priests are decent,personable and lovable men. God created human beings as relational creatures. So why should priests be deprived of something that basically human? Why should all priests be mandated to celibate life? If some priests are happy and contented in being celibate, let them be. But for others who are called to priesthood and to love in marriage, why should they be deprived of that? Why should priests who love be treated like great sinners or abnormal for simply being a normal human being? I don't understand. In this age where there is shortage of priest in the Catholic Church, there are hundreds, if not thousands of former (laicized) priests who will be happy to serve again as priests if allowed to do so. (Please note: I'm not married to a former priest nor do I intend to be, nor do I know anybody in that situation. However, I do feel that it's high time for the Church to show more compassion and understanding for men who love and who also wants to serve the Church as priests, instead of trying to control, repress, suppress, and punish them.

Wally Arida said...

Dear Anonymous,

Through the years, I've seen and heard from Catholics many comments that reflect your well-intentioned and honest mindset. But we Catholics need to realize that our priests enter into this sacred covenant with God knowing full well the sacrifices they are going to have to make - celibacy is just one of them.

We should not blame celibacy for the shortage of priests. We should blame us Catholics - parents, family members, friends - who have routinely, although maybe unintentionally, discouraged our young men from entering the priesthood. Even with celibacy in place, many are still willing to answer the call. And with our prayers and God's help they can turn out to be honest, faith-filled priests of the future.

I myself plead guilty to this when my then 13 year old son mentioned in passing that he might be interested in the priesthood. I was so shocked and completely unprepared when he told me that I flubbed my response to him. He wouldn't say it today, 10 years later, but I know he saw my reaction to his thoughts back then as an index-finger-swaying no-no-no. That topic never came back for discussion again. And the thought quickly went away. Now I'm not saying he would have been a priest today had I reacted differently. But I believe many with real calling are turned away by the very people who are supposed to guide them to God's ways - us parents.

Think about this the next time we try to pin blame on the priest shortage on the most convenient targets we can find - celibacy and the Church. And ask yourself, would you willingly give up your son to God?

If you are, then God bless you because the seed of faith has been planted firmly in your son's heart and he more than likely will turn out to be a good priest. If you hesitate at this question, then maybe we all collectively carry the blame for the shortage of priests and we should act individually to reverse this trend.

Many are called but few are chosen. Would we risk turning away what might be the chosen few with real calling? Let us pray more young men receive the calling to vocation. But let us pray even more that should this gift comes upon our own families that we will encourage it and not selfishly say no to God's request.

Anonymous said...

Follow the money, If you got married then your wealth would go to your Heirs. Your wealth now goes back to the Church. It works, the Church is now among the richest and most powerful organizations on earth. It’s hard to fail when you have a loyal force of lifetime indentured servants who work cheaply and then yield their life savings to you when they die.

Rod said...

I have not made it through all the posts. I will say that I once was and during that time there was a rash of priests being exposed for abusing young boys. My post is not focused on this fact nor about how they were still able to serve. I don't understand a lot of decisions the Catholic church makes. My main reason was that I never learned about God and what the Bible had to teach me. As a matter of fact, I never saw a Bible until I left the Catholic denomination. I just felt the decisions that were being made were based on a man or men. I felt like it was a cult because I felt like I was following another man. From statues to confessionals to missalets etc. It never made never made Denver to me. JESUS is God and always has been. He is a part of the holy Trinity. He has been around since before the world was created. He did not come down from heaven to take a wife or have children. I dont think it is clear to Catholics that although he was fully man you cannot be Jesus. You cannot live a sinless life, you cannot defeat death, you cannot perform miracles, you cannot absolve people of their sins. He made it clear what He wanted from us. You read the Bible.

charee said...

Why then does genesis say that it is not good for man to be alone?

Have these priests actually had female relationships that perhaps went wrong and fear of intimacy with a women is the real issue and a so called call of God is a cop out.

E.C. PartyStarter said...

Its a matter of choice, Nobody is forced into priesthood. If you're called, then answer, its a choice thing.

Anonymous said...

How can anyone suggest that Jesus Christ is God Himself? By insinuating such a thing, you are suggesting that God has weaknesses. When Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil out in the desert, are you saying that "God" was tempted by his own creation; and worse yet, are you saying that "God" was and can be "tempted"???? How can you have the nerve to imply that Jesus is God?

Anonymous said...

Father Mike

As a Catholic Christian I know that the Pope has been clear in that Homosexual priests whether acting on it or with just the orientation should bnot be ordained Priests. Only heterosexual males are allowed to be priests We should love the person and hate the sin. Why do we have gay Priests serving in ministry attempting to pass themself off as heterosexual priests? Why dont we encouarage reparitive therapy for these folks with organizations such as Narth I truly want to know why. William from Ky

Anonymous said...

So when Jesus (god) died on the cross who ran the universe ? I'm confused ... How can an eternal being die?? If he was a man then how could one man bear the sins of mankind ..

The truth lies in the simplicity of things , this all sounds extremely complicated.

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, how can Jesus truly be god if the bible clearly distinguished between the two. As Jesus 's last words reveal oh god, why have thrust forsaken me clearly draws a fine line between the two. Also, when people called Jesus "good"' he replied back and stated" no, god is good!"

Anonymous said...

There is a strong disconnect between priests and their church members because priests do not have the experience of marriage and parenthood. I am Catholic but do not see my parish priest as a guide or resource when I am having difficulties as a parent or wife. Priests simply do not have the life experience to advise married persons or parents. One priest told me that, because he grew up in a family, he was well grounded in the difficulties of family life. This does not ring true for me. What I thought marriage and parenthood were before I experienced them firsthand is worlds apart. How could a priest possibly give me guidance in these areas when he has no true knowledge? This crack in the Catholic foundation is causing me true doubts about my faith.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm protestant, but I think that allowing priests to marry is a good idea. First, at least here in America, we have a very godless culture/media and even very little children know about sex and talk about it. It is on their minds from a young age. I think it will get more difficult to find people who can live the celibate life because minds have been conditioned otherwise from a young age. Second, I think it would be unifying to Christians in general. The more we disagree on, the more we can become one as Christ commanded. This doesn't seem like an issue that would really change essential catholic/biblical doctrine, just practice. Third, if there is one thing the world needs it is godly men/women, and I think a priest who wanted a family would make a great father and raise wonderful children.

Peter said...

Catholic priests can't marry because the King of Naples, who used to appoint the Pope, banned Popes from having children because they were giving great chunks of the church's money to their kids. Although many Popes continued to sire children they were not considered legal descendants and could not inherit their father's wealth.

Peter said...

Most Popes were married until the 8th century, however many took advantage of their authority and gave whole chunks of the church's assets to their children. The King of Naples, who used to appoint Popes, decided enough was enough and decreed that no Pope shall be married and could not pass on the church's wealth to their kids. Popes continued to sire children but they did not qualify as descendants.

Peter said...

Most Popes were married until the 8th century, however many took advantage of their authority and gave whole chunks of the church's assets to their children. The King of Naples, who used to appoint Popes, decided enough was enough and decreed that no Pope shall be married and could not pass on the church's wealth to their kids. Popes continued to sire children but they did not qualify as descendants.

Anonymous said...

Are these some of the early reasons why priests were not allowed to be married. I was told this by a priest in the Catholic Church and have found this on some information boards. Thank you!

The leaders of the early Church believed that having sex with a woman dirtied a man because of the woman's menses. Therefore he was not worthy to consecrate the Bread and Wine into the Body and Blood of Christ.
The early European laws gave the right of inheritance to the wife and if the priest was unmarried then the Church inherited the deceased Clergyman's wealth.

Anonymous said...

It might help if some of the posters here take a look at the Clunaic Reform. and other reform movements during the Middle Ages. Yes, there are many reasons a priest in the Western Roman Catholic tradition cannot marry, but what is the origin? It cannot be forgotten that a lapse of the Benedctine Rule, the practice of treating the priesthood as a family inheritance, corruption and a decay of morality all contributed to the reforms which led to celibacy by priests. Yes, there were also spiritual considerations and practical ones. But those always existed. And there were many married priests until the necessity for reform.

Pearl said...

Hello anonymous.. U keep compounding issues here. Jesus christ is truly God n truly man.
according to gospel of john 1:1."In d begining ws d word n d word ws wit God n d word ws God". The "word" here is jesus christ who ws later referred to as "God" in d latter part of d bible verse.

To d reasons why catholic priests dont get married.. Dy dont get married for d same reasons doctors dont get emotionally attached to dir patients. Priests are called to b a father not to a particular set of children but to all

Anonymous said...

Just because Protestants marry and Catholics do, why is their view on it right? I am happy to give money to a priest to have his basic necessities of life. I am NOT however going to donate money for him to buy his wife clothes, take her out to dinner or take his children to the movies. If priests are ever allowed to marry, I will never give a cent to the Catholic Church ever again. Can you imagine a 56-year old priest dating a 19 year old woman? Do women find is really that hard that guys can resist them?

Susan said...

We spoken Sara. You gave me a clearer idea about this- re pride being an issue here. Like this thanks