Why can’t a priest ever marry?


Full Question

Why can't a priest ever marry?


In the Eastern rites of the Church it is common for married men to be ordained to the priesthood. Further, in the Latin rite there are a few married men, converted ministers from other faiths, who are ordained to the Catholic priesthood. This, however, is not common. Finally, in neither the Latin rite nor the Eastern rites do priests (or deacons) marry after they have been ordained, except in extraordinary circumstances.

The reasons Latin rite priests can’t marry is both theological and canonical.
Theologically, it may be pointed out that priests serve in the place of Christ and therefore, their ministry specially configures them to Christ. As is clear from Scripture, Christ was not married (except in a mystical sense, to the Church). By remaining celibate and devoting themselves to the service of the Church, priests more closely model, configure themselves to, and consecrate themselves to Christ.

As Christ himself makes clear, none of us will be married in heaven (Mt 22:23–30). By remaining unmarried in this life, priests are more closely configured to the final, eschatological state that will be all of ours.

Paul makes it very clear that remaining single allows one’s attention to be undivided in serving the Lord (1 Cor 7:32–35). He recommends celibacy to all (1 Cor 7:7) but especially to ministers, who as soldiers of Christ he urges to abstain from “civilian affairs” (2 Tm 2:3–4).
Canonically, priests cannot marry for a number of reasons. First, priests who belong to religious orders take vows of celibacy. Second, while diocesan priests do not take vows, they do make a promise of celibacy.

Third, the Church has established impediments that block the validity of marriages attempted by those who have been ordained. Canon 1087 states: “Persons who are in holy orders invalidly attempt marriage.”

This impediment remains as long as the priest has not been dispensed from it, even if he were to attempt a civil marriage, even if he left the Church and joined a non-Catholic sect, and even if he apostatized from the Christian faith altogether. He cannot be validly married after ordination unless he receives a dispensation from the Holy See (CIC 1078 §2, 1).


Raphael Benedict

Raphael Benedict is a Catholic who wants nothing but to spread the catholic faith to reach the ends of the world. Make this possible by always sharing any article or prayers posted on your social media platforms. Remain blessed


  1. I’ve heard, and believed, that a truly celibate Roman Catholic priest is free to be at the beck and call of everyone at anytime, anywhere. Marriage would eliminate this exclusivity. He’d not only be oriented toward the people of his parish, but also (in a special, Sacramental way) toward his wife and family. Also the cost of supporting many married priests-and their families-in a diocese, although there would also be many celibate priests, would be a very heavy burden on a diocese. Married priests and their availability to the parish/diocese, present very large and different problems, e.g., a priest separating from his wife; priests having a job in order to support his family; medical/educational costs for children; the necessity of a priest having to participate in his secular community; children’s school, etc., like any dad has to do. Bills to pay.

  2. I learned very young at the age of 33 that when you deny your yearnings of the flesh you do acheive a closer relationship to God, only if you give it up for him. Christ deny his flesh often, 40 days of fasting to remove unclean spirits.
    We must consider this, we are only in the flesh for a very small part of our existence compared to the eternal.
    One must be clean in body, mind and spirit in order to achieve the highest celestial rest.
    It’s tough, in this world of illusions one can get caught up thinking they must be married . Financially, Lonlyness, Scripturally but when you deny worldly care and accept God will care for you only then have you given yourself completely away.

  3. The question was well answered. A priest is taken from among us to lead us to heaven. It is a call to sacredness. Holy Orthers imprint character on chosen ones. There is no need for speculations. Those who want to increase, multiply and fill the earth can go ahead. The word was made flesh and dwelt among us. God came down to earth and left at about the age o 33 years but did not marry. Some even speculate that Mary Magdalene was His girlfriend. We are not Ordained Priests: so, what is our problem there? Priesthood is a vocation and every individual is free to make a choice. If you cannot maintain chastity by clinging on Mary, Queen of the Clergy, kindly leave those who believe that with God, all things are possible.

  4. Alwin Zamora and others who quote texts from the bible and interpret them correctly your arguments are totally right. because you have stated evidences and interpret according to the context. No matter how good and knowledgeable your reasons are but does not have any prove and just interpret to suit your arguments no man would believe you unless there is someone coming out from the thick jungle without seeing the sun since birth would convinced (uneducated) and i for one thank those who based their arguments on the Bible because it provides truth and truth alone. no matter millions of people agree to the issue but without biblical evidence you still on the loosing side and on the wrong track. 2 Timothy 2: 15 “Study to show thyself” Paul is urging Timothy to be diligent in living his life according to the Gospel. In this way, we will become useful for the Master, being prepared for every good work (2 Tim 2:21). in another word could be ‘do not follow men but follow the scripture (Christ) so in this issue if you study the scripture you should know exactly what is right and wrong and do not try to misled people and justify your beliefs and feeling of sorry for those who do works in vain because after all you become partakers of their sin Rev 18:4 “Come out of her my people……”

    1. After reading chapter 19 I can only conclude the optional celibacy. Also the total dedication to Jezus will be rewarded immensely. Where is
      Jesus talking about the priest?

  5. http://www.elisoriano.com/blog/the-book-of-truth/ (Read the full article)
    In my country, I seldom hear of priests and Catholic officials being excommunicated for immoral acts, but, if there are those being excommunicated, it is because they have done something, not contrary to God’s doctrine like marrying and having a family of their own, but contrary to the man-made doctrines of the Catholic church!
    Mark 7:7:
    “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
    I Timothy 3:1-2:
    “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
    A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach;”
    I Corinthians 9:1-5:
    “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?”
    The doctrine of forced priestly celibacy, which is contrary to what the Bible says, is one of the main reasons that leads to rape and sexual abuses done by the clergy that for centuries are hidden behind the iron curtains of the most powerful religion in the world!

  6. As a former theologian seminarian I fully support the 2-fundamental substantiation of 1_Theological reasoning and 2_Canonical invalidation that Catholic Priests are Jesus direct representative on Earth proclaiming Faith. Therefore, a central life based on abstaining sex has a greater reward in Heaven.

  7. For me, if a person wants to enter a sacred kind of vocation so called CELIBACY, he should be pure in heart. He should accept the fact that upon entering in the kingdom of GOD he is already committed to Jesus Christ our savoir. That he can no longer get married nor have a child biologically. That is the tradition of the church, therefore we need to follow.

  8. This is a reflection from a friend priest.
    “I was asked today regarding my opinion on celibacy and how do I avoid temptations. I was also asked to comment on the issue of priests having sexual affairs.
    My answer is SELF CONTROL. It should be accepted as a most elementary human and moral truth that no man can live a fully sane and decent life unless he is able to say ‘NO’ on occasion to his natural bodily appetites. Our biological nature is our permanent temptation and we need to master our powers to command the body. Like they say, it’s all in the mind. Hence, if the heart is pure, the body has its own way to cope.
    I have always believed that a man must save himself for the one who will be his spouse, and this should not only be demanded to a woman. Difficult, I know, but this I believe defines the true character of a gentleman.
    For those who wish to become priests, they must impose upon themselves to master their power for self control. This is the primary quality that distinguishes them from other men. This is why I have always opposed celibacy and married priests to be optional.
    To be a living witness of one’s conviction makes one an effective channel of God’s guidance. I have always been pure and I always pray for strength and inspiration to keep it that way.

  9. I remember reading a book about the priets and even the pope were alowed to marry back in the day, so why was it changed. If the priets were allowed to marry they wouldnt be child molesters today.

  10. After reading most of the comments I realize that nobody mentioned two important facts:
    1.- The celibacy of catholic priests has nothing to do with the Church Dogma ( the undisputable Doctrine ) but rather a Church law that started for secular reasons. This law was hardly fulfilled by the priests, and even some bishops and Popes had wives and children. Just check the Church’s history.
    2.- The origin of the celibacy was to avoid the widows of the priests to get the inheritance from their priests husbands who obviously accumulated a desirable estate in fortune and real estate. So the solution to have this estate in the Church was simple: prohibit the priests to get married, so the estate will remain in possession of the Church. Like that there was no widow to claim any legitimate inheritance.
    There is no valid argument that Jesus established any celibacy. He never though any celibate priesthood. The Gospel mentioned clearly the Peter’s mother in law, then obviously had a wife. There is no mention that his disciples must remain celibate. Even Paul recommend to Bishop Titus that the priest of the congregation should an exemplary father.
    Personally , the day that the Church finally established the celibacy as optional in the priesthood more vocations will come forward with an excellent human base to fulfill the mission of Jesus in this world. Then lot of present priests will probably come out of the closet where they keep a wife and children… (and I do not mean to be irreverent !!)

    1. The church law in question was the First Lateran Council, which took place in 1123 – 744 years after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire

  11. celibacy is only being practiced by Western Rite Catholic or Roman Catholic Church. But in other congregation there are 2 kinds of Priests, the celibate and Non-celibate. If you enter into priesthood single, you will remain single observing the vow of celibacy; but if you enter into priesthood already married, you will remain married but only to one wife and non-other. But it is more sinful observing celibacy as Priest but have their children wherever this priest is assigned in every mission area they served. The reality tells and many claim that more priest are practicing this kind of immoral behavior although they are being forbidden from entering into a relationship with a woman. This must be addressed to avoid misconception.
    1 Corinthians 7:8-9 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. (burn sexually; in other words if you can’t control yourself sexually)
    1 timothy 1:4 Nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 1 Timothy 3:2, states that the “minister should be husband of one wife.
    Reading the bible gives the reader an enlightenment as proof if clergy should be married, The Old Testament of the bible, is the history of the ministry of the First Person of Tri-uni God: God the Father. We can read that those clergies in the ancient time were married people. Like St. Joachim the husband of St. Ann, and many other, and even the time of the second Person, our Lord Jesus Christ, in His ministry all that had served in His time as clergy, many are Married people, i.e., Eastern Rites Catholic (Orthodox Catholic) and other Christian Churches who believes in the Holy Trinity mostly are non-celibate priest. However only the Western Rite (RC) who has this vow but not all clergies practiced their devotion as celibate priest.

  12. If i understand it right, Pharisees didn’t have wives so as the priests of today. Although some have children..Let us just pray for these lost souls and the innocent children who became part of the sin of their parents..The stigma that the children would suffer..however, why we should not be mad at them,instead pray for them because priests are the annointed ones. They are chosen by God to serve Him and His church. Through them, the word of God would be evangelized to

  13. One cannot serve two masters..it is in the bible..when Jesus asked Peter and the other disciples to follow Him (this is my understanding), they have to leave their families and be His servants only.However, that decision of the disciples to follow Christ did not prevent their families to become His followers as well.From that time alone, the disciples offered themselves already to God through His Son Jesus Christ and had since practice celibacy(if it how you phrase it). For the wives, God probably made a way how they would understand the holy mission that their husbands went into. And made a sacrifice for the Lord..

  14. @ Beatrice, being a priest is a calling and not out of compulsion …if a priest go ahead without the knowledge of the church to have children.. then that is his own personal Sin and not a sin of the church it still does not renders the sacrament which he ministers to be ineffective. Mind you a lot of priest have been so faithful to their vows and promises over the centuries . A bad fruit can not spoil the bunch. Lets pray for our priest /Pastors.

    1. Having a baby is not a sin. Abortion is a sin. Being single and choosing to engage in sex is a sin. The act is a sin when having sex and not married. Jesus did not demand Celibacy, the Church did. All of Jesus’ apostles had children and a wives. It is a result of our patriarchal society that has made this decision in the church. We all worry about how having a wife and family with effect the priest. Take a look at other religions where they are allowed to marry. They have greater participation from the congregation than we do, because they feel they too are the “Church” Jesus wanted Peter to start.

  15. That’s very clear.But something makes me feel uncomfortable with my catholic faith.The fact that many priests have children.I say it because I saw it.That fact is very common in my country.I won’t name the country and the names of those priests who have children but it’s a real problem .Why them who chose not to get married an to serve the Lord act so? Causing conflicts in the families .I think the Vatican should review that .

    1. Its true as Beatrice said even in my place I know more than 3 priest they have children bt am not here to judge them coz even i am so weak bt its time for vatican to review it

    2. Oh my God thanks for this. Beat race my dear you say you a catholic? Your a catholic by name. You can’t say that priests have kids in your country. Yes if they have whom to blame. You Christians of Catholics how many of you pray for our beloved priests. These men of God are not Jesus. They need our prayers. Even we we sin every day and no one wants to sin.Satan hate these people so much he is always on their neck to sin.the Stan always still he wants to see the church fall. Hahahaha I wonder wen I swe people talk about the priests that they sin by having secrade women that’s where satan pass because they promised not to do it. Even married couples also say I will not get other woman but in one month marriage is broken…solo please these we should atop judging what we should know priests are not Jesus they humans. Last not list if they get married they will not serve God better ‘ they will be looking after their wives and kids. Its better for them to be singles so that the church to be strong for ever.
      We Criatians we should stop talking about our priests
      Its another sin we are doing. We have to pray for our church and the leaders/priests.

      1. If our priests are not Christ then y do some of us make them out to be. Christ does not want any of us to live an unhappy life. Celibacy is not a calling for everyone so why should the church force it upon everyone who is a priest. Is the church’s law above that of God? How can God institute marriage and the church decides who should get married? #confused

    3. If a Priests will allow to marry, where they will get their salary to support their family. They will have to find a job to earn to sustain their family. Church income is from donation and for the use of the church etc. They can able to teach in the Catholic School somehow to have a salary. But, they might have a problem in dealing with their schedule and attention in the Church and their family if they are allowed to marry.

  16. Biblically it is ok to get married, not getting married doesn't make you any closer or farther from God.
    Genesis 2:24 "Haven't you read, he replied, that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh? "
    Proverbs 19:14 – Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the LORD.
    1 Corinthians 7:8-9 I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. (burn sexually; in other words if you can't control yourself sexually)
    1 timothy 1:4 Nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.
    Actually Bible says that the minister should be husband of one wife. (1 Timothy 3:2 ).

    1. Today there are more Latin Rite married priests than in the Eastern Catholic churches. This article only reinforces what the early Catholic church did to their married clergy and then gave justifiable reason by quoting scripture. It was changed and wiped out in history around 11th c. (?) because of wanting of land title and money of the priest instead of going to their family.
      To be the wife of a priest is a Spiritual Vocation that stems back to early Christian times. It is also beautiful testimony to the rich Spiritual Life of the family…
      “The vocation of the priest’s wife, Father Galadza said, draws upon the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, whose presence is felt and who tells Jesus Christ of parish needs. Another is the kenosis, or hidden action of the Holy Spirit. The Christic nature of the priest and the maternal nature of his wife correspond to St. Irenaeus of Lyon’s description of the Word and Spirit as “two hands of God.”
      Eastern Catholic (and Orthodox) Churches have even denoted the priest’s wife with various titles that correspond to certain characteristics, such as her spiritual motherhood (pani matka or matushka, “little mother”); benefactress to others (dobrodiika); or as an elder (presvitera or presbytera), alongside her husband, the presviteros or presbyter).”

    2. Nobody said it is not OK to get married, we are talking of those who want to go into the Priesthood. All your quotes say “Man” not compulsory “All Man”. So one can decide not to get married and other can decide to.

  17. To be Honest it is onlz reason why I did not Try to go for Priesthud! Because I know that I am Human " We are nothing more then Glorefied Animals and Created BUY GOD TO MULTYPLY!! I know all I can do is Strive to Pray For God's Forgiveness over my sin! But to be a Man That Church " another Man Say to me cant get Maried is no no "! Only God can and will say that to me and I will Listen!

    1. In the same light as our Lord Jesus said though we are not eunuch…. In some sense… The truth is celibacy is best when its from birth…. Not imposed by men…. Because the demands of the body are than church dogmas….. Thank you

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