A paper in Alabama profiles a deacon who became a priest, and explains the background:
The Rev. James Macey was ordained as a priest three years ago, after the death of his wife of 37 years. Before her death, Macey and his wife had gone through training for him to become a deacon in the church.
“There is nothing in the Scriptures that says that a priest cannot be married,” Macey said. In fact, the first priest, Peter, as shown in the Bible, was married.
The doctrine of the Catholic Church, however, is a different matter. Priestly celibacy was put into practice as early as the 11th century, and was demanded by the Council of Trent in 1563. Before Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, he said in an interview that celibacy “is not a dogma. It is a form of life that has grown up in the Church.”
Deacons in the Catholic Church are allowed to marry, as long as they do so before beginning the process to become a deacon, and their wives attend certain parts of training with them. A widowed deacon cannot remarry.
Macey became a deacon 10 years ago. After the death of his wife, he wanted to take steps toward becoming more involved in the church.
He approached the archbishop of the Birmingham diocese about beginning the steps to join the priesthood, and received approval. Approval is not always given to widowed candidates for the priesthood. Each case is decided based on the circumstances.
A survey of Catholic religious life in the United States conducted by the National Religious Vocation Conference in 2009 found that 7 percent of members of religious orders were once married, and 5 percent have children.