Although celibacy is often seen as a distinctive feature of the Catholic priesthood, both Catholic and Orthodox Churches in fact have rich and diverse traditions of married priests. The essays contained in Married Priests in the Catholic Church offer the most comprehensive treatment of these traditions to date. Written by a wide-ranging group that includes historians, pastors, theologians, canon lawyers, and the wives and children of married Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox priests, these essays offer diverse perspectives from many countries and traditions on the subject, including personal, historical, theological, and canonical accounts.
From the Introduction
For more than fifteen years now, through three papacies, one regularly hears expressed, especially in the popular media, the hope that perhaps this or the next pope will change certain things perceived as unpopular or old-fashioned, most of them having to do with sexual ethics. Invariably in that list is the question of abolishing a celibate priesthood in the Latin Church and replacing it with a married priesthood, a process indolent writers facilely assume will consist of a snap of papal fingers bringing instant change.
One of the several purposes of the present volume is to show that a married presbyterate is a much more complex reality than many assume, and that its renewed advent among Catholics-especially in the Latin Church-will require careful consideration of many things. It is a multifaceted reality with its own history and theology deserving of careful consideration-and not as some kind of “concession” to the “lesser brethren,” either. A married priesthood is as fully Catholic, as theologically grounded, and as venerable a tradition as priestly celibacy ever was.
No other book yet published offers so careful an analysis, so detailed a history, and so comprehensive a treatment of married Catholic priests as this one does. It looks at history in the first and second millennium; at theology from the apostles to their papal successors John Paul II and Francis; at canon law ancient and modern; at Ukrainian Catholic, Russian Catholic, and Ruthenian Catholic experiences in Europe, North America, and Australia; at Anglican experiences in the Church of England and now in the Latin Church’s ordinariates for Anglicans in England and North America; and at Eastern Orthodox pastoral experience and family life in Canada and the United States. It includes the voices of some wives and children of married clergy (though I sought many more); of historians and scholars; and of priests (both Latin and Byzantine), some of whom are celibate, some widowed, and some who are happily married.
All this is by design to show the global reality of married clergy today and the great diversity in their origins and circumstances.