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Patricia Hann wrote:

Hi, guys —

I know a Catholic priest (now retired) who was at one time a married Episcopal minister. He converted and subsequently went to a Catholic seminary and was ordained a Catholic priest (and was still married).

I understand that this married man can be ordained as there is a provision for such situations in Church law. Note: I am not talking about the Anglican-rite parishes, just one (Protestant) minister who converted and was later ordained and served entirely in Roman-rite parishes.

I recall reading somewhere that a married Catholic priest, though he can be appointed as pastor of a parish (the priest was appointed to several parishes during his time as a Catholic priest) can never receive the official, i.e. legal title of Pastor. That his title is always the parish administrator and is never officially [legally] called the Pastor of the parish (regardless of how the parishioners address him.)

  • If I am right about this, can you provide the reference for it, either from the appropriate Canon in Canon Law or Church document(s)?

Thank you

Patricia

  { Do you know a source that confirms that a married Catholic priest can never hold the title 'pastor'? }

Eric replied:

Patricia,

This doesn't really answer your question but according to:

a priest ordained under the pastoral provision may take the office of pastor at the discretion of the bishop. (See Number 11, under General Questions.) It's possible it's speaking of the role of pastor under the office of administrator, but given the specificity and language of the answer, I don't think that's what it means. I have heard of the constraint you related; it is possible it has changed.

If you need specific references, say if someone you know wants to exercise the pastoral provision, there are e-mail addresses on the website I gave you of people who have more specific knowledge of the situation.

Eric

Patricia replied:

Eric,

  • Will you continue to search for a definitive answer with references or is this as far as you are going to take it?

The fact that you are aware of the situation I mentioned tells me that somewhere there is a definitive answer to this in either Canon Law or some official promulgation.

Patricia

Eric replied:

Dear Patricia,

No, I do not intend to continue researching it; at this point is beyond my (knowledge|ken). If you need specific references, say if someone you know wants to exercise the pastoral provision, there are e-mail addresses on the website I gave you of people who have more specific knowledge of the situation.

It is a mistake to apply a fundamentalist-type position toward Church documents and assume that there is a clear and definitive answer written down in some document somewhere. Not everything is written down and, even things that are written down, are subject to being overruled by other documents that you may not be aware of, so having a reference that says X is not sufficient because document Y that was issued yesterday might change it. The Church is a constantly-changing living organism.

Given that the principle in question — that married priests categorically cannot be pastors — is not in force (at this time, anyway), according to the pastoral provision website (which says it is up to the discretion of the bishop), I'm not sure what good having the obsolete primary source that articulated it is going to be.

If, for some reason, you still need to identify the now-invalid source, I recommend contacting the Secretary to Pastoral Provision Office, Fr. Tran whose e-mail is listed on the the Pastoral Provision website; he'd be better able to find the primary source than I would.

Meanwhile, I've exhausted all my avenues of research. This is really a bit beyond our mission anyway.

Eric

Patricia replied:

Eric,

My question was not about married priests being pastors; if by pastors you mean being put in charge of a parish. I know they can run parishes. I've known one personally and know of several by association.

My question concerned the canonical title of a married priest who is assigned to run a parish. If he weren't married, either right away or within a short time, he would have the canonical [legal] title of pastor.

As I originally stated, I thought I had read somewhere that married priests can never have the canonical (i.e. legal) title of pastor, no matter how long they are in charge of a parish; that they are always [canonically] the administrator of the parish.

Patricia

Eric replied:

Patricia,

Yes, it is a subtle distinction, one that was not lost on me. I can only affirm three things:

  1. While I have heard long ago the constraint you mention, the official pastoral provision website, as I quoted, says, The decision to appoint a married Catholic priest to the office of Pastor is left to the prudential judgment of that priest’s Bishop or Ordinary (emphasis mine).

    I can only trust that they are using canonically precise language, (viz.|in other words), that a married man can hold the canonical office of pastor, not merely administrator.

  2. Further details on this matter are beyond the scope of our competence here at AskACatholic.com.

  3. The Secretary of the Pastoral Provision listed on the pastoralprovision.org website is the best person to direct further questions to.

I wish you the best of luck in getting answers from Fr. Tran and resolving with him whatever issue or question you have to resolve.

Feel free to contact us if you have questions on any other topic and we'd be happy to address them.

Thanks for your question.

Eric

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