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Kosher Walek wrote:

Hi, guys —

I was wondering:

  • If someone is married can they become a Catholic priest?
  • If they can, can they remained married and still have a relationship with their family?



  { If someone is married can they become a Catholic priest, and if so, are family relationships OK? }

Eric replied:

Hi Kosher,

In general, in the West, No.

Married Lutheran or Episcopalian priests who convert to Catholicism can get special permission to be ordained a priest and maintain their conjugal rights.

In addition, married Eastern Rite men (those in formerly Orthodox churches that have come into communion with the Catholic Church) can be ordained priests in the home territory of the church they belong to. They, too, retain their conjugal rights.

In general, they are not permitted to be ordained in the United States, however, it is possible to transfer from the Roman Rite (the one that predominates in the West) to an Eastern Rite church, and then be sent temporarily overseas for ordination. I know several priests who have done this. You would, however, serve in Eastern Rite parishes, which are few and far between. There are also issues of your retirement. Technically you would belong to the overseas diocese that ordained you and would only be on loan to the U.S. diocese. Your retirement would come from the overseas diocese and there are apparently issues with that.

I know of exactly one case where a married cradle Catholic was ordained in the U.S. It depends on the bishop and the prevailing politics. The Roman Rite bishops obviously don't get too happy when an Eastern Rite bishop takes one of their potential vocations, or at least establishes a precedent that gives potential vocations hope of being married priests in the Eastern Rite diocese instead of celibate priests in the Roman diocese.


Bob replied:

Dear friend,

The rule is that married men can be ordained in some rites, but not the reverse: ordained men cannot marry. The Roman Rite does not permit married men to become ordained, except for deacons, who do not have the authority to confer the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist.

In all cases, once ordained, no subsequent marriage is allowed.

The rationale has a long tradition and would take more than a few words to explain.

On a further point: Once a married man is ordained in the permitted rites, he, of course, maintains a normal marriage and family relations. Should his spouse die, he would still carry out his family duties, but would not remarry.


Bob Kirby

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