Beliefnet
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of allowing priests to marry?

Domenico Bettinelli, managing editor of Catholic World Report magazine and Catholic World News website

There are practical problems with allowing married priests in the Latin rite as the norm. The number one practical problem is that many if not most parishes can barely support one priest on its collections, never mind a priest with a family, including kids going to college and so on. If you have more than one priest assigned to a parish, which family gets to live in the rectory? And you have to pay the other priest more to pay for rent/mortgage or the parish has to own more houses.

Apart from the monetary issues are the vocational issues. Only one vocation can have priority: Which one is it? When the doorbell rings at 1 a.m. and it's a scruffy, scary-looking, obviously tipsy guy who wants to talk about God, a married man with children asleep upstairs must turn him away. A celibate priest could have him come in, placing only himself at risk. A man cannot serve two masters. He is either completely dedicated to serving the Church and his church or he is completely dedicated to his family.

Ah, but men have to balance their jobs and family all the time, some say. But the priesthood is not a job; it is a vocation, a calling that requires a complete emptying of self. No man can have two vocations simultaneously. One or both will suffer.

So why is it allowed in the Eastern Rite and among former Anglicans and others? As an accommodation. It is not the ideal, but it works for the particular situations. But I think the premise is flawed in any case. People claim that allowing married priests and priestesses would solve the priestly vocation dearth. It hasn't seemed to help the Anglican and other denominations that are trying it.

Russell Shaw, author of "Papal Primacy in the Third Millennium," former Secretary for Public Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference

People who advocate married priests need to get realistic. It isn't going to happen any time in the foreseeable future-if ever. Except, just possibly, in a very limited way. What I mean is this. Back in the Vatican II years the idea of ordaining "viri probati" in situations of need was floated now and then. For those whose Latin is rusty: "viri probati" means something like "men who have been tested and proven." The phrase is a term of art referring to older married men-exemplary married laymen who no longer have the responsibility of young children at home.

The idea didn't go any place forty years ago, but it hasn't completely died. It could be revived again in the next pontificate-and who knows what the new pope might say? My guess is that at the absolute most, he might allow the ordination of older married men in countries whose bishops requested it on an experimental basis. (You might find some takers among the bishops of Western Europe.) But he might not allow even that.

In any case, there will be no wholesale permission for priests of the Western Church to marry or for the return to ministry of priests who quit and married in years past. Anyone who imagines otherwise is living in a dream world.

Michelle Gonzalez, Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University

I find the tone of the responses to this question a bit distressing. First of all, to claim the possibility of married priests unrealistic dreaming is to dismiss those for which this is a dear and pressing issue. I am sure that if you asked Catholics 30 years ago if there would be female altar servers-and I am not here comparing the priesthood to altar service-they would have laughed. Second, to imply that a married priest cannot have a vocation and that one is exclusive to the other is insulting to our Protestant brothers and sisters who are in ministry positions.

Domenico Bettinelli

Even as you make the analogy you dismiss. The married priesthood is not the same as female altar servers. And while the celibate priesthood is a discipline that can be changed, unlike female ordination which can never be, it is unproductive to pine for it.

There are a lot better ways to address the shortage than to look to an unpractical solution. The problems I posited are real problems and I don't see any married priesthood supporters addressing them.

As for the slight to Protestant ministers, I'm sorry but the priesthood is a whole different ball of wax. I've seen the lives of priests close-up and I've known several Protestant ministers. Not even close.

Fr. Juan Pablo Torrebiarte, teacher at the seminary of Our Lady of the Way in Solala, Guatemala. He has a Ph.D. in Dogmatic Theology.

I have worked in the Seminary of my Diocese all my life as a priest. During the weekends, I serve some of the small communities that surround the main town. If I were married and with children, I would certainly not like the idea of having my family striving to live under these conditions. Yes, I am poor and penniless, and I thank Our Good Lord for that. But why should my family suffer for the way of life I chose?

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