Married Catholic priests gain acceptance

There are few women who can say they are married to a Roman Catholic priest. And few people who can say their dad is the man whom Catholic churchgoers address formally as “Father Steve.”

But Cindy Anderson and her three sons can, and they were among the rush of congregants who gathered for 10 a.m. mass on a recent Sunday at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Goodrich.

The parish priest is Cindy’s husband and the father of Austin, 24, Steven Jr., 14, and Christian, 11. The Rev. Steve Anderson has been a Catholic priest since 2003, when he became the second priest in Michigan to be ordained under an exception to the Catholic Church’s celibacy rule for married ministers serving some Protestant denominations.

Read it all.


Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Marriage & Family, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Roman Catholic

27 comments on “Married Catholic priests gain acceptance

  1. Catholic Mom says:

    I’ll pass. A tad too gemütlich for my taste.

    Remember the line from “Jesus Christ, Superstar”?

    Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ
    Who are you? What have you sacrficied?

    Applies to those who stand in his place as well.

  2. Catholic Mom says:

    OK, “sacrificed.”

    But we sister and I were hoping my mom would join an order after my dad passed away so we could refer to her as “our mother, the sister.” 🙂

  3. BillB says:


    I believe that your point is mis-taken and a bit flippant. Everyone that I have known that has gone into the prietshood in the Anglican sphere, has sacrificed a great deal in one way or another. I know one man that was initially estranged from his family (father, mother, brothers, sisters) to become an Anglican and then a priest. Others have accepted the calling and given up properous life styles. Most have been married and this has counted as a strength to them.

    I think the Orthodox way is that a married man may be called to be a priest and an unmarried man called to the priesthood may not marry. Bishops are called from monastic orders.

    However, neither the Roman or Orthodox traditions are in accord with St. Paul’s descriptions in the epistles.

  4. Jeremy Bonner says:

    One does wonder if it might not be wiser, if Rome is determined to retain the discipline of celibacy – and there are good arguments for it – to use former Anglican clergy as deacons (who can be married) and catechists (a role for which I suspect most would be well suited).

    This pool of recruits is likely to dry up fairly soon but the creation of a two-tier system (in part, one suspects, out of a desire to compensate for a growing shortage of priests) could easily cause misunderstanding and/or resentment on the part of those who fail to appreciate the niceties of the situation.

  5. Catholic Mom says:

    The thing about celibacy is that it’s the ULTIMATE sacrifice. Not the sacrifice of not having a wife, but the sacrifice of not having children. It’s the sacrifice that can never been compensated for. And I believe that it truly plays a very important role in making the priest “father” to us all in a way that is not true for a man who is a “father” to some very particular people. That said, I have nothing against allowing married ex-Anglicans to enter the priesthood, but unlike the way that this article states that the parishioners feel about it, I don’t think it’s a plus or a positive or something that makes the man better able to relate to his parishioners. At best its neutral. Personally, I would not be crazy about it in my own parish.

  6. Philip Snyder says:

    Celibacy is a gift from God. So is the call to and gifts for the priesthood. The two do not necessarily correspond.

    What is about the esse of the priesthood that requires celibacy? Even Rome says that it is a discipline, not a doctrine and Constantinople has never held it to be a doctrine nor a discipline.

    Phil Snyder

  7. Catholic Mom says:

    I didn’t say it’s a sine quo non as is the case with WO. I said I prefer a celibate priesthood, just as Rome does. If eventually there were a non-celibate priesthood, or if a married former Anglican were assigned to my parish, I would go with the flow just like I do with other things I’m not crazy about. But this article, with it’s “Father Knows Best” warm and fuzzies about how great it is to have a priest with a family does not make me wish for one. 🙂 Fortunately the odds of this happening in my lifetime is exceedingly small.

  8. mannainthewilderness says:

    The “ultimate” sacrifice? uhm, perhaps if the priest is somewhat narcassistic and believes that the survival of his family name is of paramount importance, that could be true from his distorted perspective. But how about giving up his life to save another? How about giving up his meager resources to help feed, clothe, etc yet another who has come to him hungry or in tattered clothing? How about sleep, to sit beside as one prepares to meet our Lord? How about taking a stance in public, in accord with the Gospel, which will result in people trashing his reputation and making him the seeming but of jokes? How about a thousand other things that seem to be more of a sacrifice than whether he has children of his own? A sacrifice? Perhaps. Ultimate? No way.

  9. Catholic Mom says:

    mannainthewilderness (had to cut and paste that) — everything you mention involves great sacrifice. But the fact is, we are all going to die anyway. And, as my priest said in his homily, even those with the greatest faith are afraid to die. We are afraid to give up this life and all we have in it, even when we believe that we are going to a better one. But for most folks, the knowledge that we leave our children behind us — arrows shot ahead of us that go where we cannot go — gives us a measure of comfort. No matter how much we love and care for others, for most people there is simply nothing that is going to match the love they have for their own children. To give that up cannot be compared to working with poor, comforting the afflicted, standing up for what is right etc. no matter how much sacrifice that entails.

    And, on the subject of standing up for what is right, let me just raise another point. Imagine two clergymen in Nazi Germany — one a Catholic priest with no family, the other a Lutheran minister with four children. Both wish to oppose the Nazis — perhaps even risk their lives hiding Jews, etc. Which one is freer to do it?

  10. libraryjim says:

    I have a friend who left the Catholic priesthood, married and became an Episcopal priest.

    He is not allowed to “go back” and be a married priest in the Roman Catholic Church, and he considers the married former episcopalian priests to be a slap in the face. “Why are they allowed to be married, and I’m not!”

    I’m not going to speak to that. But I could see a married ORDER of Catholic priest, alongside of the celibate priest-hood, with limited duties and assigned areas (places where there are priest-shortages). Sort of like our canon IX priests.

  11. Catholic Mom says:

    libraryjim — I would hope your friend would be clever enough to figure out for himself why Catholic priests can’t leave the priesthood, get a wife, and then come back and why this doesn’t parallel a married Protestant clergyman converting to Catholicism and becoming a priest.

  12. libraryjim says:

    I think he does, his comment actually dates back to the early days when Episcopal priests were just starting to have their ordination accepted by the RCC (mid- to late-1980s). It was made in a rare fit of melancholia.

  13. deaconjohn25 says:

    As a married Roman Catholic deacon I have no feelings against allowing Protestant married clergy becoming Catholic priests although I cannot. And I don’t think they should be limited to the diaconate as someone suggested. The only deep-felt attitude I have is “Welcome, brother!” There’s too much arrogant yabba, yabba, yabba of criticizing or second-guessing difficult decisions that have to be made by Catholic Church leaders–the true successors to Peter and the apostles and the bearers of their authority through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is an authority (and recognizing that authority on our part) that is so necessary to keep the Church together across racial, ethnic, and national lines.

  14. julia says:

    Actually there is no longer a canon IX priest — a priest is a priest. I think that limiting how a priest can be used is short sighted and this change is one of the few of the past few years in the Episcopal world that I actually agree with.

  15. libraryjim says:

    Interesting. I did not know that. 🙂


  16. libraryjim says:

    I miss the actual ‘smileys’.

  17. Hippo_Regius says:


    You write:
    [blockquote]And, on the subject of standing up for what is right, let me just raise another point. Imagine two clergymen in Nazi Germany—one a Catholic priest with no family, the other a Lutheran minister with four children. Both wish to oppose the Nazis—perhaps even risk their lives hiding Jews, etc. Which one is freer to do it? [/blockquote]

    You’ve touched on a key point that, I think, undermines your argument that celibacy is a sacrifice. As others have noted, some folks are just plain called to celibacy — in that sense, can we really say it’s a sacrifice? That lifestyle is also not without benefits. A single priest has numerous things going for him: he has fewer attachments. Whom will he possibly offend if he spends all day and half the night, every day, in the parish during the busy times? What children will he let down if he has to miss baseball games, school plays, and all manner of things because of this or that major feast day? The answer: [i]nobody[/i]. Also, single priests are less expensive to maintain within a parish (that is, they expect less of a salary since they’re supporting only themselves).

    A priest with a family has an entirely different set of sacrifices to make. Again and again, the married priest will have to choose the church over his family. Again and again, the priest will seem to spend more time with folks who [i]aren’t[/i] family than he does with folks who [i]are[/i] family. One shouldn’t undermine the sacrifices that married clergy make on a daily basis.

  18. Chris Molter says:

    #17, but those sacrifices are his family’s as much or MORESO than his. I’m all for the Pastoral Provision, but I think the Latin Rite’s culture wouldn’t work well with a mostly married Priesthood.

  19. Catholic Mom says:

    Indeed, I might even call them unfairly shared sacrifices since his family has the right to expect that his first priority be their well-being. I would call it, rather, a conflict of interest.

    As far as celibacy being a “gift” — that makes it sound like magically its just not a problem for some people while it is for everybody else. That’s like calling being willing to die for what you believe in a “gift.” You know — the martyrs had the “gift” of martyrdom, but it would unreasonable to expect it of anybody else.

  20. Hippo_Regius says:


    Your analogy doesn’t follow logically because not [i]everyone[/i] is expected in any real sense to engage in celibacy. The ideal for everyone, I should think, is a willingness and perseverance to endure hardship that may, in fact, end in martyrdom. Celibacy is a gift of vocation, just as parenthood is a gift of vocation.

    It’s not a magical gift, as you tritely describe it, but it [i]is[/i] nevertheless a gift. I know several folks genuinely called to a celibate lifestyle, and there’s little angst about it. They’ve been called to that vocation, and they’re mostly content with it.

    #18 – Oh, I very much agree that it’s not without serious problems, and I understand why Rome is extremely reluctant to allow married clergy on a grand scale. But to suggest that a celibate cleric is somehow giving up more than a married one, I think, misses the point entirely. They both have sacrifices to make, and neither should be discounted.

  21. Catholic Mom says:

    I don’t doubt it is more of a struggle for some than for others, just as I don’t doubt that parenthood is more of a struggle for some than for others. If you don’t feel up to the struggle, don’t become a parent. If you don’t feel capable of celibacy, don’t become a priest. To say that not everyone has this “gift” and therefore it should not be required of the priesthood is to miss the point.

    The title of this article is “Married Catholic priests gain acceptance.” With respect to this particular situation, this is true. As a general concept, it is not. Even the “progressive” Catholics I know who would like to see women ordained are not without their reservations about a married priesthood.

  22. Hippo_Regius says:


    You write, “If you don’t feel capable of celibacy, don’t become a priest.” And so on. I wouldn’t dream of using that as an argument against clerical celibacy. Why debate the semantics of who has sacrificed this or that, when there’s the plain meaning of Scripture? If you [i]really[/i] want to discuss the merits of mandatory clerical celibacy, we can go there. It runs against what Paul writes to us about deacons and bishops in 1 Timothy and Titus, where he explicitly states that both should be “married to one wife,” or perhaps 1 Corinthians 9:5, where Paul strongly insinuates that the Apostles have their wives with them, “as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas.” That same Cephas’ mother-in-law was healed by our savior, Christ. Put simply, there’s evidence in multiple places for married bishops, married deacons, married Apostles. Clerical celibacy was no where established as doctrine for the first several hundred years of the church. I’m a fan of the Eastern Orthodox’ more measured policy, which allows married men to pursue Holy Orders, but not to remarry once they’re ordained. Now, there’s a suitably predictable Roman response.

    I predict that you will a) go on about how the one wife is a metaphor for church (a silly interpretation, given that he’s writing about them as a heads of households, not as church leaders), b) you’ll go on about how clerical celibacy is a matter of discipline, rather than doctrine, and c) for extra points, maybe, have a grand old time discussing Doctrinal Development in response to a), even if it might seem to invalidate b).

    So, really, what you’ll be saying is “if you don’t feel capable of celibacy, don’t become a [i]Roman Catholic Priest[/i].” Right? Let’s just agree to disagree, shall we? :>

  23. Catholic Mom says:

    Yes, I’m going straight for B. It’s a disclipline. And it has its pros and cons, its strengths and its weaknesses, like everything else in this world, but we’re not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Lots of things have changed (disciplines, not doctrines) since apostolic times. I’m all for married Protestant clergy. “Married Catholic priests gaining acceptance” — I think not.

  24. Catholic Mom says:

    Re: the concept of “you can marry before you get ordained but not re-marry afterwords if your wife dies.” For all intents and purposes in the modern world, that ends a celibate clergy. Everybody who wants to become a priest gets married before they enter the seminary. Who dies young anymore? 95% of your priests are now married. (On the other hand, it would cut down potential clerical divorce by 99%)

  25. archangelica says:

    Catholic Mom:
    Married priests have certainly not affected Eastern Rite Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Christians in any negative way. In fact, these communities seem to have remained largely unaffected by the “stuff and nonesense” of liberal Christianity (both Protestant and Catholic).

  26. Catholic Mom says:

    Umm…I don’t think I ever said that married priests = slide into liberalism. Just that the Catholic church has very strong reasons for wanting a celibate clergy and I happen to agree with them (which is by no means a knee jerk reaction.)

  27. archangelica says:

    Of course it is not a knee jerk reaction and you never said that married priests=a slide into liberalism I thought the correlation was curious and thought you might too.
    What I’m trying to convey is that the Catholic Church is not just Western Catholicism and that She does in fact honor and contain within her crown of uniate churches and rites the tradition of a married clergy amongst Eastern Rite Catholics.
    While married priests may be a re-introduction of the tradition to Catholics of the Roman Rite, they have been quietly present in the larger Church for ages.