ASK FATHER: Won’t go to Mass celebrated by a married priest

Priest VictimFrom a reader…


What advice can one give to a person who will not go to Mass celebrated by married priest?


There is nothing in canon law or theology that prevents people from being silly.

Presumably this silly man, who is refusing the ministrations of a validly ordained priest is fulfilling his obligations elsewhere.

Some folks might not like a priest who is left-handed, or one who is red-headed, or one who wears sandals, or one who has a beard, or one who – with the appropriate and necessary dispensation – has a wife.

It’s all silly, but it can be very hard to argue with silly people.

All things being equal, people are free to choose among the priests available for the sacraments and rites of our Holy Mother Church. Of course, denying the Church has the right to dispense from purely ecclesiastical law is an entirely different thing. That comes dangerously close to heresy.

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  1. ASPM Sem says:

    Can’t really give much advice without the person’s reasoning – the reader should ask his/her friend as to why, and then relay that along.

  2. anilwang says:

    Another way to answer is to ask a question.

    Would this person go to a mass celebrated by St. Peter or St. Philip or some of the other apostles or Church Fathers who were married? The societal expectation was that a young man would be married and most early priests were converts. St Augustine was also married (and separated). Granted the norm in at least the West would change to celibacy, but married priests were not uncommon in the pre-schism Eastern Catholic churches.

  3. iamlucky13 says:

    A friend similarly griped recently after Mass about priests who don’t smile enough to demonstrate “joy for the Gospel” to her satisfaction. I sensed a subtext regarding solemnity.

    I considered a comment about not judging people based on their external appearances, and not forbidding diversity in personalities and charisms in the Church, but sensitive as I know her to be, I suspect it would have been counterproductive and just let it slide. I already know she attends Mass multiple times a week, so I’m not concerned about her skipping Sunday Mass if she can’t find a sufficiently ebullient priest.

    And while I consider it silly, I have little doubt that seeing expressions of joy from others really does help her own appreciation of the Mass.

  4. APX says:

    One of my confessors from the FSSP referred me to a priest who happened to also be married for a new confessor after he was transferred to another place on the other side of the world and I wasn’t having much success replacing him. I received no shortage of backlash from some of my fellow Latin Mass Attendees for “going to a married priest for confession”. They were even more shocked to learn that a priest from the FSSP would refer someone to a married priest. Their loss. He’s a great confessor and a great priest. Sadly, he too moved to another continent recently.

    Some people think married priests are somehow lesser priests, which I don’t think is a fair judgment to make.

  5. G1j says:

    We had a wonderful married priest who was ordained and came to us after Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI allowed this through the Anglican Ordinariate. His celebration of the liturgy was very reverent, was an excellent priest to hear my confession, and was an excellent homilist. I miss him very much.

  6. Adaquano says:

    I know a know a wonderful married priest that is a member of the Anglican Ordinate, not to mention the many married priests in the Eastern rites (many of which have remained stronger in orthodoxy than here in the Roman rite).

    Some people are just willingly ignorant. Perhaps point to some of the married apostles like Peter.

  7. FarmerBrawn says:

    I avoid Mass said by annoyingly effeminate priests, modern architecture, exaggerated sign of peace, the Novus Ordo, Glory and Praise book, excessive EMHCs, dancing, permanent deacons, dancing deacons, etc. I probably wouldn’t be excited about the Anglican Ordinate either.

    Maybe I’m a crumudgeon, but I’m not a heretic. I find its best to avoid that which distracts and annoys me. If someone invents Deaconettes, I’ll avoid that too. It’s not that I’m saying the Mass is illicit or that the priest or deacon doesn’t actually have valid Holy Orders. I’m just opting out. Sometimes.

  8. Andrew D says:

    About once a month, I attend the Divine Liturgy at one of my local Byzantine Catholic Churches. I don’t have a total understanding of the Divine Liturgy but I do know that it is beautiful, reverent, MUCH MORE HOLY than the atrocious novus ordo and most importantly, every bit as valid as the Mass in the Traditional Latin Rite that I follow. I know that the priest at this Byzantine-Rite Church is married and personally, I’m a little disturbed about that but, I also reflect back to the fact that St. Peter was married when he was called by Our Lord. That part gives me comfort. Did Peter stay with his wife and yet stay celibate as a respect to his wife? Most likely. So, is this priest at the local Byzantine-Rite Church also celibate with his wife? I have no proof and am not about to ask but I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is – and, that is wife is totally fine with that and is also celibate while not daring to break the Sixth Commandment. If they aren’t, God will deal with them but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that their marriage took a new turn when he was called to the priesthood.

  9. Ave Crux says:

    Wouldn’t it be appropriate here to explain *how* a married man could be exempted from ecclesiastical law to be ordained, since the Latin Rite normally requires celibacy?

    Normally priests are laicized if they wish to marry after ordination, and perhaps this person thinks that should have been done.

    Most of us know about the exceptions for the Anglican Ordinariate; the “uniate” Eastern Rites which permit already married men to be ordained (but not previously unmarried men to marry after being ordained); or widowers in the Latin Rite to be ordained.

    However, if a man is NOT a widower, under what conditions could he be ordained in the Latin Rite?

    It seems rather than simply chiding an individual, the permitted exemptions should be explained so they understand why it might not be a concern in specific circumstances.

  10. doozer125 says:

    Being an Eastern Catholic, I receive Communion from a married priest every Sunday at Divine Liturgy. He is one of the nicest, simplest, and holiest men I know.

    I have no problem receiving from a married priest. He’s a priest of God.

  11. Papabile says:

    Of course, denying the Church has the right to dispense from purely ecclesiastical law is an entirely different thing. That comes dangerously close to heresy.

    Before I continue, I recognize that married men may become validly ordained Priests. I do not contest that. In fact, for a number of years, I attended a Church where the Priest was a former married Anglican minister. I received communion from him often.

    I would go further, and also agree that the man who refuses to receive from a dispensed, married, Priest is clearly confused.

    However, with that said, and with respect, the implication that dispensing from celibacy and continence are purely ecclesiatical laws is troublesome. There are definite doctrinal and dogmatic implications surrounding celibacy and continence. It is not simply confined to ecclesiatical law.

    Both Cochini and Stickler are the most accessible in addressing this issue in english. However, Duerenganger, S.J. and Puellos in French, and even Traverstini also address this in depth.

    There are clear reasons why neither east, nor west has ever authorized their Bishops to be married, and since they hold the fullness of the Priesthood only when they are consecrated, this is something that must be examined in depth, particularly since it is likely that only John the Beloved was unmarried.

  12. traditionalcatholicman says:

    I think we need to address Dr. Peter’s views (which I think are correct) on continence and the permanent diaconate and how they apply to this discussion. I feel like that is what the person finds troublesome. Also, my understanding was that traditionally, at least in the early Church, continence was asked of married priests both in the east and the west. This all just means that the person might feel uncomfortable about someone who is in what appears to them as a strange canonical situation. For the record, I wouldn’t avoid the priest myself, but as with all such priests, I do always wonder how this plays out with the aforementioned issue and so I can see where a person would feel uncomfortable and avoid the priest.

  13. JabbaPapa says:

    Ave Crux :

    Wouldn’t it be appropriate here to explain *how* a married man could be exempted from ecclesiastical law to be ordained, since the Latin Rite normally requires celibacy?

    In the Western Church, during the first millennium, the great majority of priests belonged to priestly fraternities or religious Orders, and so they took the vows of celibacy and continence belonging to those structures.

    Over time, it became normal to consider that a priest would be celibate, because as a matter of fact, nearly all of them were — and Bishops, Cardinals, and Popes were also nearly all of them celibate too, as they themselves had been ordained under such vows.

    In order to put an end to some scandals that had begun to occur in priestly marriages though, the Church first established the vow of celibacy as a norm, from which a dispensation could be requested, and then established the stronger rule that no ordained priest may marry.

    So the Western Church has always been in a state of affairs where the vast majority of priests were celibate, but a minority were married men. There are arguments about whether these married priests were required to make a vow of continence or not, and certainly a number of them did so, but this is a more strictly disciplinary matter rather than a Sacramental one. It is very likely indeed that not every married priest took a vow of continence upon ordination, and even today such a vow remains optional.

    However, a later scandal led to the suspension for about 200 years of the possibility to receive a dispensation from celibacy — priestly families had emerged towards the end of the Middle Ages, whereby parishes and even sometimes dioceses (!!) were handed down through the generations from father to son, exactly as if they were family properties. To put an end to this poor state of affairs, the Holy See suspended, without abolishing them as such, the granting of such dispensations to new priests. There had also been a separate growing issue involving the granting of such dispensations to priests having been suspended a divinis and perhaps excommunicated for getting married, thereby regularizing both the illegal marriage and their canonical status, which many viewed as a scandal, even though technically speaking celibacy remains a discipline that the Roman Pontiff may lift as he so may choose in individual situations. (though the discipline is very strong indeed concerning Bishops, who may not be married men, neither East nor West)

    This suspension has been partially, but not completely, lifted since Vatican II. I believe that it should technically be possible for a good young Catholic married man to seek to enter the priesthood, at least from the point of view of the Commission examining such requests from so-called “viri probati” — but the cultural resistance in the West to the idea of married priests is extremely strong, having existed for close to 2000 years, even though celibacy is a discipline and is not doctrinal — nor does the Sacrament of Holy Orders require it — and so such a man would encounter some quite fierce opposition to his attempts, nor would his Bishop be likely to support him.

    Having said all that, no priest of a priestly fraternity such as the FSSP or the SSPX may be a married man. This is because they have their own requirements of celibacy that simply cannot avail of a dispensation. The Faithful who attend their Masses are therefore likely to be more hostile to the notion of married priests than other Catholics might be.

    A married man could become a priest in a religious Order though, with a vow of continence rather than celibacy — though I have absolutely no idea if there are any contemporary examples of this. In the Middle Ages, the wife of such a man was required to enter into the religious life herself.

  14. JabbaPapa says:

    I’ll add that the Sacramental problematic of marriage and the priesthood is that it is actually fairly rare that a genuine Vocation towards Holy Matrimony might coexist with a genuine Vocation towards the Priesthood. Both are difficult callings, and the one typically excludes the other.

    This problematic is no mere disciplinary matter, but it is a question for a deep Sacramental discernment in both the candidate and his wife.

  15. Imrahil says:

    Dear Ave Crux,
    the usual case seems to be a Protestant minister who converts.

    There is not much to be said against the dispensations; their conversion is enough of a sacrifice to begin with. However, I will say that the grumbling murmur sometimes heard “of Course if it’s about them they don’t Need to be celibate” or “if you want to be priest and don’t want to be celibate, you have to become Protestant, you can afterwards come back and be Catholic”, while perhaps a bit unenlightened, is a more authentic case of vox populi than the usual “tear down the celibate” stuff.

    Dear traditionalcatholicmom,

    Dr. Peters did not say that in his opinion married deacons should keep clear of their wives; on the contrary if he has an opinion on the matter at all he has made every effort not to reveal it. What he did bring forward was the canonistic argument that, with the law changed the way it was changed, the obligation of continence did not happen to be removed though everyone thought it was. He suggests as a consequence to either change the law in such a manner that it is clear deacons Need not practice continence with their wives, or else, return to continence (perhaps grandfathering existing deacons, but that too in a legally correct manner.

    To be brief, his whole questions is whether deacons legally would be, not whether they theoretically should be, required to continence.

    (There is not much to be said against his assessment that the change was imperfect and should be amended. I disagree in that I think even with the Change being Imperfect as it was, the intent of the Council and the 1983 lawgiver, the popular understanding of the words in question which they knew about, and that they expressed if in no other manner then in the fact that noone ever said a word against the common misunderstanding means that the law was actually changed, even if they could have done that in a clearer manner. This, again, is a “whether we like it or not”; as is Dr. Peters’s assessment.)

  16. Imrahil says:

    On the general topic,

    there was modern liberal German-Turkish journalist (Dennis Yücel) now in a Turkish prison. Among other things, he was very anti-Catholic, and he does not make fun reading. Even so, it is sometimes interesting what suchlike people hold as self-evidencies. At least I think it is worth the read, and so have included a translation here.

    (about Pope Francis) The new [term of abuse deleted] who will in the future appear under the Name of Francis, when he was still called Jorge Bergoglio and was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, has fought, we hear, against gay and lesbian marriages (“a plan of the devil”) and the right of adoption for homosexual pairs (“child abuse”). […] But is that so wondrous? And what, seriously, did people expect? A good-looking gay African who worships George Bataille, Simone de Beauvoir and the situationists, who thinks Islam, Judaism or the teachings of an Anhaltine friar are equal ways to God, who lets go of the papal claim of leadership (“Petrine primacy”) and infallibility (“I am right, you are not”) and relaxes with a joint after the Sunday Mass? Actually, many people wished for about precisely that, in particular people who think they are on the political left and could not care less about the Catholic Church, or else think she is highly suspicious. The imagination of a starveling from the Third World to become Pope was, of course, preceived as totally sweet (because not “euro-centric”) in these circles. In the meantime, people had the cutely naive hope that the new Pope would abolish celibacy, introduce gay marriages, allow priesthood to women, think again about Immaculate Conception [I wonder whether he did not mean something else], allow every Tom, Dick and Harry to Holy Communion, sanction abortion (in moderation), invite the band “Pussy Riot” for a show in St. Peter’s basilica and, in any case, give fresh air to the mildew of 2000 years under the cassocks.[“under the Talars, the mildew of 1000 years” is a Slogan of the 1968 student rebels]

    But as a matter of course, the new [term of abuse deleted] will not do anything of the kind. Nor does he need to. After all, he is not leader of any brotherhood in Southern Holland, but of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church: a club that manages that a smoking chimney is a global television show, but also a club that has, as it were, its ideosyncracies. But from most of these ideosyncracies, Catholicism can only get rid of by getting rid of itself. Take celibacy, for example. Celibacy is inseparably linked to the Sacrament of Confession. A Confession-father in fact who is himself avaiable on the marriage market may be anything, but he is not a Confession-father. And without Confession you may get anything, but you cannot get any Catholicism.

  17. Grabski says:

    Ave Crux. It’s a dispensation. It’s been done for clergy who were attained by the Anglican, Polish National Catholic and I believe Lutheran communities who converted to Latin Rite Catholicism.

  18. Unwilling says:

    Agreeing with anilwang and FarmerBrawn, I think there wold be less discombobulation of this sort, if the worship were ad orientem. Especially, if universally so. Ad pop invites this sort of personal judgement.

  19. Nan says:

    Your terminology is a bit confusing. First, pre-schism Eastern Catholic Churches makes no sense. Do you mean Orthodox churches? Eastern Catholic churches?

    Second, both Eastern Catholic Churches and Orthodox churches ordain married men to the diaconate. As with Latin Rite permanent deacons, the men must be married prior to ordination or they would become celibate, monastic priests.

    Third, the issue here seems to be the ordination of married men, which isn’t changing in the Latin Rite. Although when Eastern Catholic Churches came to Rome, one of the issues was whether they’d be able to continue all their Orthodox traditions, including ordaining married men, and that was agreed to but abrogated in the US. Ordaining married convert priests still sometimes happens. Where I live there are two married Latin Rite convert priests that I know of.

    I haven’t met the new Byzantine-Ruthenian priest yet but I believe he’s a monastic priest. The previous one is married.

  20. Nan says:

    I assume you don’t realize that “uniate” is a slur?

    [Most people don’t know about the background of the term.]

  21. hwriggles4 says:

    I live in Texas where quite a few of former Episcopal priests entered the Catholic Church under the Pastoral Provision. These priests studied there way into the Catholic Church, and this process (contrary to what our media thinks) doesn’t happen overnight. My parochial vicar is one of these Pastoral Provision priests, and his process took four years.

    For those who have some misconceptions about Pastoral Provision priests, I have met at least eight, and I find them to be more orthodox than “Fr. Nice” who was ordained in 1979. Our parochial vicar gives good teachable homilies, and normally uses Eucharistic Prayer I or III on Sunday.

    There are also three active priests in my diocese who are widowers, and one Sunday one of them from the pulpit said , “marriage is between one man and one woman and no court can change that.” I thanked him.

  22. Suburbanbanshee says:

    In general, I am concerned about married priests being continent enough to keep the Eucharistic fast. In specific, it ain’t my business unless I live close enough to the rectory to hear whoopee being made.

    And if one is that nosy about priestly continence before Mass , but not a canon lawyer, no doubt one is also okay with other people being nosy about lay practice of continence before Mass. I mean, obviously married layfolk should be setting a good example, right?

  23. aquinas138 says:

    To have a problem with married priests is to ignore the first millennium (and the entire history of the Eastern Churches, and not just the Byzantine ones). Married clergy were very common, even in Rome. Many early popes were sons of clergymen. Some were born before their fathers were ordained, but this is not universally true. The “dodge” that many of them were born illegitimately is calumnious without more evidence than a later discipline. It is true that Rome early on, and earlier than the East, began to require sexual continence of its bishops, and then celibacy, and then eventually for all the major clergy. In the 7th-century Council in Trullo (not accepted in the West), the Eastern Church made note (Canon 13) that Rome required men advancing to the diaconate or presbyterate to put away their wives if they were married, but they explicitly say that the Eastern Church maintains the custom of not prohibiting married men from admission to the diaconate and presbyterate. Canon 48 of the same council does say that the wife of a man becoming a bishop should go live in a monastery and, if worthy, become a deaconess; to what degree this canon indicates married bishops still being common I do not know.

  24. ASPM Sem says:


    “Glory and Praise book, excessive EMHCs, dancing, permanent deacons, dancing deacons, etc. I probably wouldn’t be excited about the Anglican Ordinate either.”

    One of these things is not like the other. Anglican Ordinariate liturgies are incredibly reverent – very similar to what an English Extraordinary Form would be like. Also not sure why permanent deacons are in there either. Sure, they’re strange, but nothing theologically wrong about them.

  25. ASPM Sem says:

    @Ave Crux:

    “Wouldn’t it be appropriate here to explain *how* a married man could be exempted from ecclesiastical law to be ordained, since the Latin Rite normally requires celibacy?”

    The simple explanation would be that celibacy is the promising not to get married, it doesn’t matter if you’re already married.

  26. ReginaMarie says:

    Andrew D: As an Eastern Catholic, I’m pleased to hear you occasionally attend the Divine
    Liturgy & find it to be a reverent & spiritually fruitful experience of worship.

    Your comment of “God will deal with them” regarding the married priest & his wife is a bit concerning, though. Married men who are called to Holy Orders in the Eastern Catholic Churches are not required to become celibate after ordination. They continue to live as husband & wife, so no moral or canonical irregularity exists in such a situation.

    One may defend the Western discipline of celibacy without denigrating the Eastern discipline of ordaining married men. Likewise, it is possible to defend the Eastern tradition of a married priesthood without denigrating or undermining the Western tradition of a celibate priesthood, which is a special, high calling for those who have this gift.

  27. Grumpy Beggar says:

    All things being equal, people are free to choose among the priests available for the sacraments and rites of our Holy Mother Church.

    For reasons which are not silly, and at a time when things were sometimes less equal, St. Theresa of Avila was insistent that the members of her cloister (and by extension, others) have a choice of confessors – even if it not be a wide and varied choice. She understood oh so well the tendency of humans who are not at ease in Confession. Some good stuff concerning that topic in Chapter 5 of her work The Way of Perfection .
    Which reminds me, although I do periodically read the blogs of several priests who will only rarely post reminders on availing oneself of the sacrament of Reconciliation , there is this one blog on the net where the Padre reminds us of this necessity on a regular basis. I try to check in frequently on that particular blog – because it keeps giving me the impression that God cares very much for each and every one of our souls, and that the sacrament of Reconciliation is a very important part of our remaining in His care.

    One of Dr. Peters’ articles alluding to the topic traditionalcatholicman mentioned just above Five Points Regarding a Married Roman Priesthood is a good primer. In the second paragraph of point # 5, Dr. Peters provides an additional link to a compelling pdf of his arguments why he believes a 2011 letter from the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts does not resolve the question of clerical continence. Very good informative reading.

  28. gretta says:

    Andrew D, the likelihood is that your Byzantine priest is neither celibate nor continent. Certainly those married priests in the Anglican Ordinariate or those who came in under the Pastoral Provision are not called to be celibate or continent if they are married, and neither are permanent deacons. The Vatican has been very clear about this. I have also heard from a number of sources that if a married priest is available, they choose them to be confessors BECAUSE they are married and may have better insight into the vagaries of married life (this of course is not to say that celibate priests don’t have insight…). Choosing to avoid a priest because he is married is just silly, and a bit of a shame since the married priests that I know are all good, devout men. And most of them are also really good preachers, having come from traditions that place a high priority on good preaching.

  29. ce lathrop says:

    As Orthodox clergy, I always find it interesting to see how our Western brethren tie themselves into knots on issues that, for us, are simply not issues and haven’t been since long before Rome departed from Orthodoxy.

  30. Ellen says:

    My brother’s pastor is a legally divorced man who got an annulment. He discerned a vocation to the priesthood and with his bishop’s support went to the seminary and was ordained. He is quite orthodox and reverent and my brother says he is a wonderful priest.

  31. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Of course the Church has the power to dispense with the discipline of celibacy for priests in any or all cases, and of course it is likely that most of the Apostles were married when each of them “left everything” to follow Jesus. However, I have difficulty understanding how it can be said that a man living in 1st century Palestine, who left home and possessions behind to follow the Lord, can also be said to have *remained married* in any meaningful sense. Marriage in 1st century Palestine would have been understood most of all as a series of traditional duties and responsibilities owed by husband and wife to each other and to their families. The primary responsibilities of a husband and father in those days were to live with his family, to *daily* to act as head of his family, to comfort and provide leadership to his wife, to teach his children in the way they should go, and most of all, to protect and provide for his wife, his children, and his aging parents. Having given up all his possessions, and undertaking journeys throughout various lands with the Lord, the Apostles would no longer be available to fulfill these responsibilities.

    However, is it not possible that, having been chosen by the Lord, it pleased God that all would be arranged so that each of the Apostles’ wives and children would be taken in and provided for by their kin or neighbors, and that the family of each would have assented to the dissolution of the marriage bond for the sake of the Kingdom? (without, however, allowing for remarriage during the lifetime of the remaining spouse)

    I suppose for these reasons that their marital status in today’s parlance would be “separated.”

  32. Nan says:

    We were told that the reason St Peter’s mother in law acted as his hostess would be that his wife had died. His house was much larger than any other in the neighborhood, and both he and his brother, St Andrew, walked away from a thriving business to follow Jesus. We don’t know who was left running the business, but presumably someone continued it.

    My pilgrimage took us to Capernaum but i learned the part about the mil at church.

  33. Elizabeth D says:

    I also feel awkward, and I even want to say uncomfortable about married permanent deacons over the continence issue, though I consider it possible that some do actually live in continence.

    I have been to a Mass with a married priest who I thought was an exceptional priest, this was Fr Phillips of Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio, formerly Pastoral Provision and now Ordinariate. I only was able to visit there one time. The Mass could hardly have been more beautiful, and it was just their version of “low Mass”.

  34. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Um, guys…. It is true that Catholic married priests not of the Roman Rite do not keep perpetual continence, except by the couple’s mutual choice. They do usually keep continence during all fasting periods, as well as on many days of the week and before Masses; and most Rites fast a lot more than we do. Months more.

    So it is not fair to say that married Byzantine priests are not continent; they chastely follow the ancient laws of their Rite.

  35. Grumpy Beggar says:

    There is great power in priestly celibacy.

    An excerpt from Pope Pius XII Apostolic exhortation Menti Nostrae :

    20. The priest has as the proper field of his activity everything that pertains to the supernatural life, since it is he who promotes the increase of this supernatural life and communicates it to the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. Consequently, it is necessary that he renounce “the things of the world,” in order to have care only for “the things of the Lord”.[30] And it is precisely because he should be free from preoccupation with worldly things to dedicate himself entirely to the divine service, that the Church has established the law of celibacy, thus making it ever more manifest to all peoples that the priest is a minister of God and the father of souls. By his law of celibacy, the priest, so far from losing the gift and duties of fatherhood, rather increases them immeasurably, for, although he does not beget progeny for this passing life of earth, he begets children for that life which is heavenly and eternal.

    21. The more resplendent priestly chastity is, so much the more does the sacred minister become, together with Christ, “a pure victim, a holy victim, an immaculate victim”.[31]

    22. In order carefully to preserve unstained this inestimable treasure of our chastity, it is suitable and necessary to be obedient to that exhortation of the Prince of Apostles, which we daily repeat in the Divine Office, “Be ye sober, and watch”.[32]

  36. cwillia1 says:

    No priest, east or west, can marry. Pace Dennis Yucel, no priest is in the marriage market. The eastern tradition is to ordain married men, who practice periodic continence, much as lay Christians used to practice periodic continence in preparation to receive the Holy Gifts. In some jurisdictions, married priests are strongly preferred for parish ministry while celibate priests perform other duties. It is also the eastern tradition to prefer monastics for the episcopacy over widowers. Where monastics are accessible many lay people prefer them for confession. In the east, the monastic rather than the parish priest or even the bishop is considered the highest calling for a Christian.

    My own experience is that married priests (and their wives) model the kind of asceticism that is appropriate for lay Christians. I think this is part of the reason that the imposition of celibacy on the Ruthenian Byzantine Church in the US resulted in two massive schisms.

  37. Nan says:

    Two schisms? I’m only aware of the result of Abp Ireland’s suppression of the Byzantine Rite, as, at that time, Eastern Catholic Eparchies had not been created in the US and priests had to present their credentials to the Latin Rite Bishop. Abp Ireland refused Fr Toth’s credentials.

    Father Toth was not treated well but it’s just as likely to have been due to Abp’s desire for an American church, rather than parishes for each ethnic group, wjo said mass in tbeir own languages. The end result was a priest who went in the pay of the Czar, ultimately converting 300,000 Catholic souls to Orthodoxy and being raised to the altars as St Alexis of Wilkes-Barre, Feast day May 7.

    Families, including mine, are split between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. A Russian Orthodox priest friend once told me that nobody knew why.

    I believe that the division is based, in part, by when immigration took place and whether the Byzantine Rite was suppressed in that location, at that time.

  38. Ave Crux says:

    Grabski: that was actually my point. The person the writer was referring to may simply need to understand under what circumstances a married man may be ordained in the Latin Rite where it is normally prohibited.

    Perhaps they (and other readers) have no knowledge of the possibility of a dispensation and think it’s a moral and canonical irregularity like all the others we are now confronted with in the Church (e.g. priests who are active homosexuals).

    The response provided by Father Ferguson just appears to denigrate the individual by actually calling him “silly”.

    Perhaps this person has no clue and is mistakenly scandalized. The question was an opportunity to educate, not simply dismiss the person as being silly.

  39. Ave Crux says:

    Nan: it was from Ukrainian Catholics of the Eastern Rite which we attended for many years that we learned the term used to distinguish them from “schismatic” rites. I don’t see how it’s a slur at all.

  40. Cincinnati Priest says:

    I must say I find myself surprised to be in strong disagreement with Fr. Ferguson, who I think is usually spot on. Certainly a married priest can be a perfectly fine priest of Jesus Christ, and of course there is historical precedent. But still the objection may be far from “silly.” That seems more than a bit harsh.

    Since Father does not know the reasons for this man choosing to avoid a married priest at Mass, there may be a perfectly good explanation. Perhaps he has a very high respect for the discipline of celibacy (which certainly should be held in esteem, as it is a great source of holiness); perhaps he has had experience with married priests who have tried to be too “folksy” (“Let me tell you about my family … see, I am just like you … Not like those celibate priests who can’t understand you.” [Believe it or not, I hear this a lot]); Perhaps he does question the issue of continence as many posters have mentioned here and is uncomfortable with the idea of receiving Communion from a man not abstaining from marital relations. All reasonable views, even if not necessarily shared by Fr. Ferguson.

    While it would certainly be misguided for a person to refuse the sacraments from a married priest when necessary (confession or last rites in danger of death), where there is a choice, this may be quite a reasonable option.

    I have a similar view on those who castigate people who will cross lines to receive Communion from a priest rather than an extraordinary minster of Communion. If it is a distraction to someone to receive Holy Communion from a person whose hands aren’t consecrated for that purpose, let the communicant receive the sacraments the way he or she wants.

  41. DJAR says:

    Nan says: Two schisms? I’m only aware of the result of Abp Ireland’s suppression of the Byzantine Rite…”

    “In 1929, another proclamation, Cum Data Fuerit, was issued by Pope Pius XI, forbidding the service of married Greek Catholic priests in the United States, requiring them to return to Europe. This decree became the rallying cry for another segment of American Greek Catholics, dedicated to safeguarding the Eastern heritage of their church, to once again fall into schism. A pastor in Bridgeport, CT, Father Orestes Chornock, was elected Bishop of a new Independent Greek Catholic Church, and was consecrated a bishop by the Patriarch of Constantinople, eventually setting his See in Johnstown, PA. This would, in time, be known as The American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Diocese.”

    Several dozen priests and parishes left the Catholic Church during this time.

  42. Ages says:

    As others have noted of married Eastern clergy, there is no expectation of celibacy whatsoever. There is, however, the expectation that they will observe the normal fasting discipline and abstain from marital relations on fasting days and Lenten periods. This means Wednesdays or Fridays, on the evening before receiving holy communion, and throughout the great fasts of Lent, the Apostles, the Assumption, and the Nativity. The laity are also expected to abstain on these days.

    To reject these priests’ masses is worse than donatism, because donatism implies a sin is being committed. A man and his wife engaging in marital relations is not a sin.

  43. Michael_Thoma says:

    Its rare, but common enough to be within the last 20 years. The late Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, His Holiness Alexius II of blessed memory, was married. His wife became a nun decades prior, when he was ordained to the episcopacy, if memory serves me correctly.
    The Assyrian Church of the East His Holiness Patriarch Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII, of blessed memory, retired to marry, but was asked by his bishops to return, however was assassinated in California in 1975 before he could do so.
    Even the Roman Catholic Church had a married bishop, who died reconciled to the Church, and was given a full episcopal funeral, as recent as the 1980s, I believe in Argentina or Brazil.

    The Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches also have a long standing cust of professing widowed priests, usually with grown children, to the monastic ranks, once monastic, they are just as eligible as any monastic to be elevated to bishop.

    Regarding the now-defunct ban in North America on Eastern Catholic married men being ordained, I believe strictly speaking, this only applied to the Ruthenians – with devastating consequence. The others continued, however quietly, doing the ordinations, either by sending the ordinand abroad for a day, or to Canada, or asking another Sui iuris Church to ordain and borrowing the priest indefinitely.

  44. inviaadpatriam says:

    A note on terminology:

    The term “united Greek” was once used to designate those Christians of what is now Ukraine who entered into canonical communion with the Church of Rome. The term “uniate” emerged and became a derisive way of speaking of those Christians in contradistinction from those who did not enter into communion with the Church of Rome. The history of the term and its use is traced by Fr. Cyril Korolevsky in his excellent essay “Uniatism,” which is in his book “Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky” reprinted in English translation by Eastern Christian Publications. That some Ukrainian Catholics think that they should use use the term from “schismatic rites” is unfortunate. It would be something analogous to a person of Irish or Italian descent teaching one to refer to them by the respective slurs used against people of those nationalities. And in any case, this is not the proper term used by the Ukrainian Catholic Church. More specifically: The modern day Catholic Church of Ukraine that uses the Byzantine rite and is in communion with the Church of Rome is called the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church. Other Churches of the Christian in East in communion with Rome also have their proper names; collectively, in Church documents they are referred to as “Catholic Churches of the East,” or something similar, and thus should be called thus, not “uniate.” (They should also not be referred to as “Eastern Rites.” One celebrates one’s liturgical services in a “rite,” but one belongs to a Church.)

  45. Phil_NL says:

    A priest is a priest, and if Holy Mother Church has seen it fit to ordain him, dispensing whatever it felt necessary, he is a priest. Period.

    Now if he is happily married, good for him, I’d pray that this would continue to be so, and that the Lord gives him the energy needed. If he’s unhappily married, I’d pray that he can bear that cross and still fulfill all his many responsibilities, leading them to happier pastures, Deo volente. If he’s happily celibate, good for him, I’d pray that the Lord continue to bestow that grace upon him, as that is bound to be a hard road sooner or later in the life of a man of flesh and blood (not to mention loneliness). If he’s unhappily celibate, I’d pray that he can find joy in his vocation again, and can persevere in the tough choice he made for Christ.

    And that are all the permutation, I’d say. One could add stuff about continence, but quite frankly, I’d say that’s none of our business. If the Church feels its necessary to spell that kind of stuff out, so be it, but this is one of the rare cases where it’s probably best not to. I just can’t see how that would make for better or holier priests. And as said, all need prayers and support.

  46. Michael_Thoma says:

    The second mass movement of Ruthenians to the Orthodox Church occurred because of forced latinization of the Liturgical Rites and celibacy. In order to avoid Russification, the Moscow Patriarchate was also avoided when Rev. Fr. Orestes Chornock (later Most Rev. Metropolitan Orestes of Agathonikeia) joined the Ecumenical Patriarchate along with 37 Ruthenian Catholic parishes, forming the American Carpatho-Rusyn Orthodox Diocese of the EP. Metropolitan Orestes, incidentally, was also a widower; and the son of a Ruthenian priest, as was his wife.

  47. Michael_Thoma says:


    Would you reply the same way to a man who avoided celibate priests entirely, and had his reasons for only accepting Eucharist and Sacraments from married priests? I would say such a person is a strange individual, despite his pietistic intentions, they are clearly misdirected and/or misinformed.

  48. Ave Crux says:

    On the term “uniate” and the objections that it has somehow become a slur among the “informed”….while the vast majority of other Catholics have no idea of such (so how can it be a slur when most people don’t know it is, as opposed to terms universally recognized by the human race as such – e.g. the Italian and Irish connections mentioned above….)

    It’s really tiresome that so many people are so easily offended by so many things today: specific words, terminology, gender distinctions, political persuasion, ad nauseum. Now this…..?

    The degree to which sensitive self love has infected the human race is inversely proportionate to its equally insensitive attitude toward God and sin.

    The term “snowflakes” sums it up nicely.

    For the vast majority of people – especially those seeking refuge in Eastern Rite Churches because of Novus Ordo atrocities – the term “uniate” immediately clarifies for them that they are attending a church in union with Rome. Period.

  49. Cincinnati Priest says:

    Michael Toma:

    As you indicated, I would think that very peculiar, but if someone was in a position to do so for parish liturgies, I am not sure I would make a fuss about it.

    The bottom line is that Christ Himself was celibate and part of the reason for the discipline of celibacy is so that the priest can conform Himself to Christ the High Priest in a radical way.

    While celibacy isn’t ontologically essential to the priesthood (as the Church’s history reveals) it certainly has always been considered the ideal. I don’t think any of the posters have yet reminded us that in the Eastern rite, celibacy is required of bishops. So such a person would find himself avoiding Masses celebrated by his own bishop, which would be not only strange but directly contrary to the ideal of our faith. The faithful should of course celebrate the sacraments with their bishop when possible.

    Regarding various posters indicating that whether or not a priest remains continent is “none of our business”: they are treading on rather thin ice. Of course it is would not be prudent or polite to ask a priest if he were remaining continent, but what a priest does is not just for himself (and his wife and children if he has them) it is for all of the people of God. So how he lives every aspect of his life is, in a sense, the people’s “business.” I think that precisely reveals one of the difficulties of married priests: the tension between the desire to have a “private life” which most married men would naturally want and the very public life that a priest lives.

    People don’t say whether the priest prays the breviary or not or fasts from food during Lent or not is “none of my business,” so why would the issue of continence be different?

  50. JabbaPapa says:

    ce lathrop :

    As Orthodox clergy, I always find it interesting to see how our Western brethren tie themselves into knots on issues that, for us, are simply not issues and haven’t been since long before Rome departed from Orthodoxy.

    These are some admittedly annoying but basically disciplinary matters, not doctrinal.

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  52. Nan says:

    Thanks. That explains the kneelers in the church once the suppression was lifted. The last priest made a lot of changes, he was from Belarus and was eliminating latinizations.

  53. Nan says:

    Thank you. My home is where the original suppression took place so I wasn’t aware of the second.

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