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What if a former married Anglican or Eastern Orthodox priest converts and becomes a priest in the Roman Catholic Church, do they stay married or become celibate?

Sir,

I have been reading some articles concerning former priests/pastors, coming from denominations such as Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, etc, converting to the Roman Catholic Church and becoming Catholic priests(which is absolutely wonderful). I also read in an article that some of the married Catholic priests today are in the Eastern Catholic churches because they were formerly part of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which allows priests to marry.

My questions are: 1) If a man who was formerly a priest/pastor in another christian denomination converts to Catholicism and wants to become a priest in the Catholic Church and eventually becomes one, do they have to become celibate like all Catholic priests who were never married or were always Catholic? 2)Was it ALWAYS tradition that priests do not marry or at least stay celibate once they enter priesthood?

and lastly… 3) Do you think that the Catholic Church will always keep the tradition of priests not marrying even if denominations such as Orthodox and Anglican come back home to the Catholic Church and be in communion with the Holy Father?

 

Answer:

Thanks for your question. First of all it is important to be correct about wording: 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.

In the Catholic and Orthodox Churches if a minister from another Christian denomination becomes Catholic and wants to be a priest his marital status is accepted by the Church. He does not have to become celibate. In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church most of these ministers who convert to Catholicism serve the Church in various ways as priests but for the most part are not made pastors of parishes although there are some who are pastors of Catholic parishes.

The practice of mandatory celibacy for priests in the Latin Rite did really come into full practice until the second millennium of Christianity. Both East and West ordained married men to the priesthood during the first thousand years of Christianity. However the subject of whether priests should be celibate has always been a consideration in the entire history of the Church. In fact, some scholars believe that since the time of the Apostles once a man was ordained to the priesthood he and his wife had to agree (ahead of time) that they would live as celibates.

I believe that inspite of the fact that the Latin Rite Church accepts married ministers into the Catholic Church and ordains them as Catholic priests in good standing that the Latin Rite will continue to make mandatory celibacy the norm for men being ordained to the priesthood. The Eastern Churches will most likely continue their unbroken tradition of allowing married men to become priests.

This whole subject of celibacy-marriage and the priesthood is actually a very comprehensive one. One thing that must be kept in mind: Celibacy and marriage are NOT diametrically opposed to one another and in fact are two sides of the same coin. They are both ways to love “spousally.” Celibacy actually subsists in marriage (both in married priests and in married laity.) Conversely marriage subsists in celibacy. As John Paul II taught in his theology of the body, the married couple reminds the celibate of the “spousal” dimension of his or her celibacy and the celibate reminds the married couple of the sacramentality of their marriage. Where there is a pratice 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.

–Fr. Thomas J. Loya, STB, MA.










7 comments

  1. ANGELA BERHARD Reply

    THIS IS JUST MY HUMBLE SHARING FOR THIS MATTERS.
    MARRIED PRIESTS ARE EFFECTIVE FOR THOSE MARRIED PEOPLE; AND THEY CAN ADVICE A THOROUGH AND EFFECTIVE ABOUT MARRIED LIFE AND PROBLEMS!
    AND PRIESTS THAT ARE NOT MARRIED ARE BOTH EFFECTIVE TO MARRIED AND NON MARRIED OR SINGLES IN LIVIG…
    ACTUALLY QUESTION COME TO MY MIND WHY WOMAN NOT ALLOWED TO THE CHURCH…MARY IS THE FIRST TO LISTEN THE WILL OF GOD!: SHE LISTEN FIRST AND ACEPT THE WILL OF GOD!
    MARY MAGDALENE THE FIRST WOMAN LET JESUS SHOW HIS RESURECTED BODY AND BECOME A MESSAGERS OF CHRIST AS RESURECTED SAVIOR! THA LADY IN SAMARIA…SHE TALK TO JESUS AND BECOME CONVERTED AND JESUS TOLD HER TO TELL THE POPLE ABOUT ME…THE REAL WATER..THOSE WHO DRINK NEVER THIRST! WHY NOT GIVE A CHANCE TO THE WOMAN…MOTHER THERESA THE GREAT EXAMPLE FOR THAT! ST HIEDELGUARD OF BENGEN GERMANY…AND MORE!
    I AM REFLECTING THIS THINGS HOPEFULLY I AM SATISFIED YOUR ANSWER I PRAY FOR YOU AND MAY SUCCESSFUL IN ALL YOUR UNDERTAKINGS!
    THANKS VERY MUCH FOR GIVING ME ATIME A CHANCE TO SHARE …
    “REMAIN STEADFAST IN OBEDIENT TO THE HEAVENLY FATHER”

  2. judethom Reply

    Why would an Orthodox priest want to convert to Roman Catholicism? The Catholic Mass is basically Protestant and plain in its
    design as compared to the rich, traditional Orthodox Divine Liturgy? This does not make sense.

  3. Thomas R Reply

    Pretty sure it happens though. A person, including a priest, could be drawn to the principals or the scholasticist approach Catholicism allows more. And Catholic Mass isn’t “basically Protestant” that’s mostly just something SSPX types say. Plus there are societies for Latin Mass in the Church.

    Still looking up the subject it might be more common for Orthodox priests to convert to an Eastern-rite of Catholicism in communion with the Pope.

  4. Collin Reply

    A former Anglican minister who becomes a Catholic must petition to be dispensed from the vow of celibacy if he is called to priestly ministry. An Eastern Orthodox priest who becomes Catholic will be incardinated as priest into the sister Catholic Church of his former Orthodox Church. For example, an Antiochian Greek-Orthodox priest will be received as a Melkite Catholic priest.

  5. vera Reply

    What then happens to the children of the married man that becomes a priest and still have relationship with his wife?

    It then means that he can still procreate. How can he concentrate fully? Where do they pay allegiance, Family or church?

    I have seen the Borgia movie, so I think the church might be inviting what she cannot control.

    I think married people should remain married and serve the church in other capacities, let priesthood remain for the singles and celibates.

    1. akaramis Reply

      In general, married men ordained priests retain a normal household relationship with their family. Just like married men ordained deacons, such as my father, do. I’ve known 6 married priests, and 30-some married deacons, in 2 rites (and 4 ritual churches sui iuris – Roman, Byzantine-Ruthenian, Byzantine-Ukrainian, and Byzantine-Melkite)… in all cases, their spouses have had to give permission, and have been warned about the changes that ordination will wreak upon their family life. Those changes amount to between 15 and 40 hours a week of work at the church for a deacon, and 30-90 for a priest (think Holy & Bright weeks… Dad was working 40 at his day job, and 30+ at the church during the Triduum and Nativity instead of his usual 15…)…

      The biggest changes are holydays – you hardly see the clerical parent outside of meals during the holydays, especially Pascha/Easter and Nativity. Even for the part-timers like my Dad…

      The second biggest is that of funerals. A clergyman’s funeral is rather different from a normal layman’s… having attended those of several of my father’s classmates… dozens of priests, handfuls of deacons, and the immediate family fill the front pews… everyone else is actually kept back a bit… And, for many Roman parishes, the KofC 4th Degree get very involved as well, and usually the bishop is the principal celebrant of the funeral mass. It does, however, much reduce the needed decisions on what to wear… resurrectional white vestments for Romans, bright for byzantines.

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