Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Married Priest

Married Priest.

One comment (from L.) that got me to start this blogging was: "I`ve always wondered how Canon Law applied to priests who got married -- I know a few, but have always been too shy to ask!"

Basics: We are talking Roman Catholic Church. Canon law is the Catholic Church's set of internal laws which were most recently totally revised in 1983. The canon laws are numbered and I will include the numbers below.

For the first 1200 years of the Church priests were generally allowed to be married. In fact, 39 popes were married. In the year 1139 the Second Lateran council changed the rules. All existing priest marriages were declared invalid and future priests were required to maintain celibacy.

Celibacy officially means not just not being married it also means not involved in any sexual activity (with females, males, self, animals, etc.).

In our lifetimes the predominant issue has been that many priests have desired to be married. In the past 25 years over 100,000 priests, worldwide, have married.

The Church resists allowing priests to be married. For a priest to legally get married under canon law he must be granted a special dispensation to release him from the rule of celibacy.

However the process to grant the dispensation and the actual wording of the dispensation are problematic. When applying for the dispensation a priest must put together a lot of paperwork. Part of the paperwork almost requires him to say that he never should have been ordained a priest in the first place.

The document that grants dispensation from celibacy, called a rescript, includes wording that says the priest loses rights to the clerical state, loses his office of priest, and is no longer bound by the duties of the clerical state. The priest is then allowed to marry under Church rules.

However, the rescript wording also includes a prohibition of exercising any sacred ministry. Thus the priest may not participate in a parish as a lector/reader, eucharistic minister, or any functions of a deacon or priest.

So, when priests decide to get married do all of them apply for and get the dispensation? No, many do not.

Myself, I did not apply for the dispensation because of the things that I have just described. I could not testify that I never should have been ordained in the first place. I also did not want the restriction that I could not act in any form of church ministry.

In my case then, the canon law that applies is number 1394 which states that a cleric who attempts even a civil marriage incurs an automatic suspension (in Latin that is: latae sententia). So, officially I am suspended.

But the good thing about my approach is that there is another canon, number 1335, which says that my suspension is itself suspended whenever anyone asks for anything sacramental. Thus I can fully function as a priest if anyone asks for anything. For example, if someone or some group wants me to celebrate a mass that would be permitted under canon law.

Using this exception canon, many married priests are involved actively in many ministries from doing weddings, to being hospital chaplains, to operating full parishes.

Myself, I have done very little minsitry since I got married 19 years ago. Since I am now divorced and not married I plan to talk with my bishop to see if he will allow me to work again in parishes. If he does not want to allow that I may look for where my services might be useful and do ministry anyway, since that is legal under Church law and since there is clearly a shortage of priests.

Though the Cathilic Church resists allowing its priests to be married, in the past 20 years the Church has accepted many (about 100 in the U.S.) priests from other churches (like the Episocpal Church) to transfer to the Catholic Church and the Church has allowed them to have their wives and children at their parishes. Of course that situation raises the ire of many good Catholic priests who have followed the rules but still desire the companionship and fulfillment of marriage.

Here I have covered the basics of priests getting married. If you have specific questions please add comments and I will give you more information.

Update notice:
I notice that this page is receiving lots of readers who find this page through search engines for various search words. Please feel free to contact me via e-mail if you would like to make private comments or ask about anything.


At Tuesday, December 27, 2005 3:37:00 PM, Blogger L. said...

I always thought that "latae sententia" implied excommunication, not just suspension.
What a concept -- that a priest can essentially take a leave of absence to lead an ordinary family life for a while, and then reassume his priestly duties when he`s done.

At Tuesday, December 27, 2005 4:05:00 PM, Blogger jw said...

L., "latae sententia" just means an automatic action. In my case it was an automatic suspension. If you punch out the pope it is automatic excommunication. There are 7 reasons for automatic excommunication. Maybe I will write about that.

Oh, life was not ordinary (though that may have been my fault) and the reassume part is yet to be tested, though I have know one priest who did it but he did not have kids to support.

- - Jerry

At Wednesday, November 15, 2006 8:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is the prohibation of a catholic priest based on scripture and if so, which one?

At Friday, May 18, 2007 8:46:00 PM, Blogger methodiusmonk said...

When a priest is granted dispensation from clerical celibacy, the petitioner priest indeed loses his clerical state of life. What the rescript connotes about being suspended from any sacred ministry refers to "those ministries where and when only clerics can perform (de iure)" like the celebration of the Mass, hearing sacramental confession, and other prohibitions which the rescript specifically states.

Another thing to consider is, church legislation allows ex-priests to administer the sacraments when the recipient of the sacrament is in danger of death (periculo mortis), and as long as being in danger of death persists, the recipient can receive the sacraments from an ex-priest, that is, if there is no available priest around after exhausting all possible means to avail of the sacrament from the sacred minister.

At Friday, May 18, 2007 8:52:00 PM, Blogger methodiusmonk said...

An addition to what I have written above - danger of death (periculo mortis) is distinct from "at the point of death (articulo mortis)".

At Friday, May 23, 2008 3:12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

where in canon law does it state that an ex-priest can give the sacraments as long as the person is in danger of death?

At Saturday, May 31, 2008 11:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are your views about becoming a saint - someone whose desire is to be closely united to Jesus. Isn't that the goal of all priests to bring their faithful to the Lord? Shouldn't that also be for the priest himself? If so, in light of all the readings that I have done on saints one major underlining point to their sanctity always lend them to have obedience to their superiors. Even if they received visions from Jesus, the Lord Himself, He repeatly told them that they gave Him more glory if they remained obedient to their human superior and He would change their minds when and if He wanted. So in this light, your (and any Catholic)human superior is the current Pope. He has been given both the authority and inspiration from God Himself to determine what His will is. In essence, to do what the Pope says you must do is to do what Jesus wants you to do (or not do). Do not allow your will to become so powerful as to deny the will of God Himself. This will not bring you freedom but will bind you even more and eventually you will deny yourself and other the true joy and peace that only Jesus and His will can bring you.

At Thursday, June 11, 2009 2:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is a married priest with dispensation permitted to teach at a Catholic institution of higher education?

At Monday, March 22, 2010 11:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Priestly celibacy in patristics and in the history of the Church - http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cclergy/documents/rc_con_cclergy_doc_01011993_chisto_en.html

At Saturday, June 05, 2010 11:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

is there no automatic suspension of the Canon law no. 1335, when the same married priests continued to work as priests without him filing for annulment, but his wife eventually filed for annulment of marriage? nor has he asked for dispensation, but remaining only as married priests.

At Wednesday, November 24, 2010 2:29:00 AM, Anonymous cialis said...

In principle, a good happen, support the views of the author

At Wednesday, November 24, 2010 2:31:00 AM, Anonymous cialis said...

In principle, a good happen, support the views of the author

At Tuesday, July 15, 2014 8:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a public school teacher and had a relati0nshp wid a priest. He promised me that he wil ask for dispensation 2yrs from now but i dont believe him. I am afraid of him because he wil submit a complain to deped if our daughter and i try to leave him.

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