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Can a Retired Catholic Priest get Married (2024)

Can Catholic Priests Marry

Can a Retired Catholic Priest get Married – Catholicism is a branch of Christianity that follows a strict set of beliefs and traditions. Among these traditions is the practice of celibacy for priests, which has been a topic of debate for centuries. In this article, we will delve into the question, “Can Catholic priests marry?” and explore the reasons behind the requirement of celibacy, its historical context, and the challenges priests face in maintaining this commitment.

In this comprehensive article, we explore the topic of whether Catholic priests can marry. We delve into the reasons behind biblical celibacy, the history of celibacy in the Catholic Church, the struggles priests may face with celibacy, the types of priests who can have a wife, and the possibility of priests having girlfriends. This informative piece offers valuable insights and answers to frequently asked questions, providing readers with a thorough understanding of this intriguing subject

Can a Retired Catholic Priest get Married

According to the teachings and rules of the Roman Catholic Church, priests, whether they are retired or not, are not allowed to get married. The vow of celibacy is a lifelong commitment, and it is one of the promises they make at their ordination.

Even after retirement, a priest continues to be a priest and is expected to live by the commitments made at ordination. However, it’s important to note that there are rites within the Catholic Church, like the Eastern Catholic Churches, where priests can be married, but these are exceptions and have specific guidelines and are not applicable to Roman Catholic priests. This rule showcases the Church’s emphasis on the commitment and dedication of their priests to their vocation and service.

Generally the Tradition Point toward Priest Not Marrying – Here is The Reasoning and Exceptions

The Roman Catholic Church maintains a tradition of clerical celibacy, based on various theological, historical, and pastoral reasons. Here are the current teachings regarding marriage and priesthood in the Catholic Church:

  1. Clerical Celibacy: The norm in the Latin (or Western) Catholic Church is that men who are to be ordained as priests must commit to a life of celibacy, thus foregoing marriage.
  2. Diaconate Exception: Men who are already married may be ordained as permanent deacons. However, if they become widowed, they are usually not permitted to remarry.
  3. Ordination of Married Men: In the Eastern Catholic Churches, which are in full communion with the Pope but follow Eastern Christian traditions, it is common for married men to be ordained as priests. However, they must be married before they are ordained, as married priests cannot remarry and unmarried priests cannot marry after ordination.
  4. Personal Ordinariates: In certain situations, such as for clergy who convert from Anglicanism, the Catholic Church may allow for the ordination of married men as priests under the framework of a “Personal Ordinariate.”
  5. Petitions for Dispensation: In extraordinary circumstances, a priest may petition to be released from the obligation of celibacy, a process called “laicization.” This does not happen frequently, and it requires approval from the Pope.
  6. Celibacy as a Discipline, Not a Doctrine: It’s important to note that the practice of clerical celibacy is a discipline of the Church, not a doctrine. Therefore, it could be changed. However, there are no signs that a significant change in this practice will occur in the near future.
  7. Continued Debate: The issue of whether Catholic priests should be allowed to marry continues to be a topic of debate within the Church. While some argue that allowing marriage could help address the shortage of priests, others argue that celibacy allows for full dedication to the priesthood.

The rules about clerical celibacy are complex and vary somewhat depending on the particular church within the Catholic Church (Latin vs. Eastern) and the specific circumstances of the individual. It’s also a topic of ongoing discussion and debate within the Church.

Can Catholic Priests Marry
can a retired catholic priest get married

Reasons for Biblical Celibacy


The primary argument in favor of celibacy for Catholic priests is that it allows them to fully concentrate on their spiritual duties and devotion to God. By abstaining from marital relationships, priests can dedicate themselves entirely to serving their communities and fostering a closer relationship with the divine.


Celibacy is seen as a means for priests to focus on their pastoral responsibilities without the distractions that may arise from family life. It allows them to be more available to their parishioners and to prioritize the spiritual needs of the congregation.

Spiritual Goals

For many Catholics, celibacy is viewed as a way of imitating Jesus Christ, who himself was not married. By forgoing marriage, priests can embrace a higher spiritual calling and align themselves more closely with the example set by their savior.

Spiritual AdvantagesDescription
Undivided Dedication to Ministry Celibacy enables priests to devote all their time and energy to their religious duties and the spiritual needs of their congregation. Without the obligations of a family, priests can fully commit to serving God and the Church.
Modeling Christ’s LifeJesus Christ lived a celibate life. By choosing celibacy, priests aim to emulate His lifestyle and dedication. It serves as a sign of their commitment to live as Christ did.
Spiritual FocusCelibacy can help priests avoid the distractions and demands that come with a sexual relationship, allowing them to focus on their spiritual growth and relationship with God.
Witness to the Kingdom of HeavenCelibacy symbolizes life in Heaven, where, according to Christian belief, there is no marriage. Priests, through their celibate lives, are living witnesses to this reality.
Sacrificial LoveChoosing celibacy is a form of sacrificial love. By renouncing family life and sexual relations, priests symbolize their wholehearted dedication to the Church and to God.
Community BondingPriests, through celibacy, can establish deep, platonic relationships with their parishioners. These relationships often strengthen community bonding and offer emotional fulfillment.
Spiritual DisciplineThe commitment to celibacy is a spiritual discipline. It requires self-control and helps priests develop a high level of spiritual maturity.
Can Catholic Priests Marry
can a retired catholic priest get married

This table summarizes the spiritual advantages of celibacy for priests. While celibacy can present challenges, many priests find that it enhances their spiritual life and dedication to their ministry.

History of Celibacy in the Catholic Church

Celibacy has been practiced in various forms throughout the history of the Catholic Church. Let’s explore its historical context and significance.

Here is a table outlining the history of celibacy in the Catholic Church:

Early Christian Era (1st century)The New Testament suggests that the Apostles lived celibate lives, although there is debate over whether this was a mandate. Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, encourages celibacy for those who can accept it.
Council of Elvira (4th century)This local council of Spanish bishops was the first known to decree clerical celibacy, stating that priests and bishops must abstain from their wives and not have children.
Council of Carthage (390 AD)This North African council ruled that bishops, priests, and deacons should be celibate, extending the requirement beyond just bishops.
Pope Siricius (385-399)Pope Siricius left a decree requiring celibacy for priests.
Middle Ages (11th century)The Church started to enforce the celibacy rule more strictly due to inheritance issues – children of priests were claiming church property.
Second Lateran Council (1139)This council formally declared that priests could not marry, making the discipline of celibacy universally mandatory in the Latin (Western) Catholic Church.
Council of Trent (16th century)The Council affirmed the tradition of celibacy in response to the Protestant Reformation, which rejected mandatory clerical celibacy.
Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)The Council reaffirmed celibacy as a norm but also recognized the tradition of married priests in the Eastern Catholic Churches.
Pope Francis (21st century)Pope Francis acknowledged the possibility of ordaining “viri probati” (proven men) in remote areas with a shortage of priests, but he has reaffirmed the value of celibacy as a gift to the Church.
Can Catholic Priests Marry
can a retired catholic priest get married

Note: It is important to understand that the celibacy rule applies primarily to the Latin Church, while the Eastern Catholic Churches have different rules, often allowing for married priests. Also, celibacy is considered a discipline, not a doctrine, meaning that it can be changed, although any such change would be a major shift in longstanding tradition.

Examples of Celibacy in the Bible

The concept of celibacy has its roots in the Bible, with biblical figures like Jesus, St. Paul, and John the Baptist often cited as examples of those who chose a life of celibacy to dedicate themselves fully to God’s work.

Spiritual Reasons for Celibacy

Over time, the Catholic Church formalized the requirement of celibacy for its clergy, citing spiritual reasons such as a closer union with Christ and a more profound devotion to their priestly duties.

Spiritual Reasons Against Celibacy

While celibacy is a longstanding tradition, some have questioned its necessity and argue that allowing priests to marry could potentially address issues such as loneliness and psychological stress.

Here is a table outlining spiritual reasons against celibacy:

Human NatureSome argue that human beings are created to live in companionship and to procreate, as indicated in Genesis 2:18 (“It is not good for the man to be alone…”) and Genesis 1:28 (“Be fruitful and multiply…”).
Paul’s TeachingsIn 1 Corinthians 7, Apostle Paul acknowledges the challenges of celibacy and suggests marriage as a preventative to immorality for those who cannot exercise self-control.
Priestly SupportSome argue that having a spouse and family can provide emotional and spiritual support to priests, potentially enhancing their ministry.
Vocation of MarriageThe sacrament of marriage is highly esteemed in the Church, and it is argued that priests should have the opportunity to live out this vocation if called to it.
Real-life ParablesHaving a family can offer experiential insight into familial relationships, which are often used as spiritual metaphors (e.g., God as Father).
Mitigating LonelinessA life of celibacy can lead to loneliness for some priests, which could be mitigated by the companionship of marriage.
RepresentationSome argue that married priests could better represent and understand the marital issues faced by their congregation.

Note: These arguments are not universally accepted, and the Catholic Church continues to uphold the tradition of priestly celibacy, citing reasons such as undivided devotion to God and the Church, spiritual purity, and following the example of Christ. However, these points represent some of the spiritual arguments made against the requirement of celibacy for priests.

Do Priests Struggle with Celibacy

Maintaining celibacy can be a challenging commitment, and some priests do experience difficulties in adhering to this requirement.

What Percentage of Priests are Celibate

Statistics show that a significant majority of Catholic priests do indeed maintain celibacy, but there have been instances where some have chosen to leave the priesthood to pursue marriage.

What Percentage of Nuns are Celibate

Celibacy is not exclusive to priests; nuns in the Catholic Church also commit to a life of celibacy. Understanding their experiences provides insight into the challenges that arise from this commitment.

What Kind of Priests Can Have a Wife

While celibacy is the norm for Catholic priests, there are exceptions to the rule.

Retired Priests

In some cases, priests may choose to retire and then marry, especially if they feel they can better serve their faith and community in a different capacity.

Before Ordination

Some Catholic priests were already married before joining the clergy, especially in certain Eastern Catholic rites that permit married men to be ordained.


In some Protestant denominations that converted to Catholicism, married pastors have been allowed to continue their ministry as married priests.

Can Priests Marry Now

In recent times, there have been discussions within the Catholic Church about potentially allowing priests to marry, but it remains a controversial topic with no official change as yet.

Here’s a table that outlines the exceptions to the rule of celibacy that allow for married priests within the Catholic Church:

Eastern Catholic ChurchesIn the Eastern Catholic Churches, married men can be ordained to the priesthood. This practice has been in place since the earliest days of the Church and continues today primarily in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Anglican or Lutheran ConvertsUnder a provision established by Pope John Paul II in 1980 and later expanded by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 (Anglicanorum Coetibus), married Anglican or Lutheran ministers who convert to Catholicism can be ordained as Catholic priests.
Personal OrdinariatesPope Benedict XVI established Personal Ordinariates (jurisdictional structures within the Catholic Church) that permit the ordination of married former Anglican clergy. These exist in the UK, North America, and Australia.
Pastoral ProvisionIn the U.S., a Pastoral Provision introduced in 1980 allows married former Anglican, Lutheran, and other Protestant clergy to be ordained as Catholic priests.
Special Permission from the PopeIn rare cases, the Pope can grant a dispensation allowing a married man to be ordained or a priest to be released from the obligation of celibacy in order to marry.

It’s important to note that while these exceptions exist, they are not common and don’t indicate a general trend toward abandoning the tradition of celibacy for Roman Catholic priests. The norm remains that Roman Catholic priests are not allowed to marry.

Can Priests Have Girlfriends

The idea of priests having romantic relationships raises various questions and considerations.

Are Catholic Priests Allowed to Date

The official stance of the Catholic Church is that priests should abstain from romantic relationships, but individual practices may vary.

Dating a Catholic Priest

The notion of dating a Catholic priest comes with unique challenges and potential consequences.

Admonitions for If You Date a Catholic Priest

For those who might consider dating a Catholic priest, there are specific admonitions and factors to consider seriously.

Dating a priest, especially within the Catholic Church, presents a unique set of circumstances due to the commitment to celibacy. If you find yourself in a situation where you have feelings for a priest, here are some suggestions:

Seek AdviceConsult a trusted individual or a professional, such as a therapist or spiritual advisor, to discuss the implications and potential outcomes.
Understand The Commitment of CelibacyKnow that the priest has taken a vow of celibacy which he is obliged to uphold. In the Roman Catholic Church, a relationship or marriage would likely lead to his leaving the priesthood.
CommunicationIt’s important to have an open and honest conversation with the priest about your feelings. This should be done respectfully and understandingly, recognizing the commitment they have made to their religious vocation.
Seek Guidance from the ChurchIf the priest is open to the discussion, seeking guidance from higher authorities in the Church may provide clarity on the path forward.
Respect His DecisionUltimately, the decision lies with the priest. Respect his decision whether it is to uphold his vows or to leave the priesthood.
Personal IntrospectionReflect on your own spiritual journey. How do your feelings align with your own faith and moral values?
Consider the ConsequencesA relationship or marriage with a priest, particularly in the Catholic tradition, can have significant social and emotional consequences. Be sure you are prepared for potential judgment or ostracism from the community.

This table is a suggestion and the actions should be taken after carefully considering all the implications and outcomes. It’s a sensitive topic and should be handled with utmost respect and care for all parties involved.

Final Thoughts

Celibacy has been an integral part of the Catholic Church for centuries, shaping the lives of its priests and the dynamics of their ministry. While it remains a controversial subject, it is undeniable that celibacy has played a significant role in defining the priesthood and the spiritual journeys of those who choose this path.

The question, “Can Catholic priests marry?” touches on deep-rooted traditions, spiritual devotion, and the challenges faced by those who choose to embrace celibacy. Throughout history, the Catholic Church has upheld the practice of celibacy for its priests, with spiritual, theological, and practical reasons influencing this decision. While debates continue, the commitment to celibacy remains a defining aspect of the Catholic priesthood, shaping the lives of priests and their service to the Church.


  1. Q: Can Roman Catholic priests get married? A: Roman Catholic priests are generally required to remain celibate. This rule can have exceptions, particularly in certain Eastern Catholic Churches and for certain former Anglican or Lutheran clergy.
  2. Q: Are there any exceptions to Catholic priests’ celibacy? A: Yes, exceptions do exist. For example, priests in some Eastern Catholic Churches can be married, and certain former Anglican or Lutheran clergy who convert to Catholicism can remain married to their wives.
  3. Q: Why do Catholic priests take a vow of celibacy? A: Celibacy is seen as a sign of total dedication to the Church and to God, and allows a priest to focus completely on his spiritual duties. The practice has been a part of the Church tradition for centuries.
  4. Q: Can a married man become a Catholic priest? A: Generally, a married man cannot become a Catholic priest, with some exceptions. Some married men who are former Anglican or Lutheran clergymen can become Catholic priests after converting.
  5. Q: Can a Catholic priest get married after ordination? A: No, according to traditional Catholic Church law, a priest cannot get married after ordination.
  6. Q: Do all Christian denominations require their clergy to be celibate? A: No, the requirement of celibacy for clergy is not universal across all Christian denominations. Many Protestant denominations, for example, allow their clergy to marry.
  7. Q: What happens if a Catholic priest breaks his vow of celibacy? A: If a priest breaks his vow of celibacy, it is considered a serious sin and he could face disciplinary action, which could include being defrocked.
  8. Q: Can a priest who has left the Church to get married return to the priesthood? A: This is typically decided on a case-by-case basis and would require the approval of the Church hierarchy. It’s not commonly done and is generally considered a rare occurrence.
  9. Q: Does the Orthodox Church allow priests to marry? A: In the Orthodox Church, a man may be married before he is ordained. However, a priest cannot get married after he has been ordained.
  10. Q: Are there ongoing discussions about allowing Catholic priests to marry? A: Discussions and debates about priestly celibacy have been ongoing within the Church for many years. Some argue that the Church should reconsider this requirement, while others believe in maintaining the centuries-old tradition. However, any change to this policy would require a significant shift in Church doctrine.

Best Bible Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Below is a table featuring some highly regarded Bible Encyclopedias and Dictionaries along with their publishers and websites where they can be found or purchased.

The International Standard Bible EncyclopediaEerdmansEerdmans
Zondervan’s Pictorial Bible DictionaryZondervanZondervan
Easton’s Bible DictionaryThomas NelsonThomas Nelson
Holman Illustrated Bible DictionaryB&H Publishing GroupB&H Publishing Group
The New Unger’s Bible DictionaryMoody PublishersMoody Publishers
HarperCollins Bible DictionaryHarperOneHarperOne
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words Thomas NelsonThomas Nelson

You can generally find these resources on the publishers’ websites, as well as other online book retailers such as Amazon or Christianbook. It’s always good practice to confirm availability and review additional details on the specific websites or other reliable online bookstores.

How to be saved according to the Bible    In order to understand how to be saved, we first need to understand what salvation is. Salvation is when God forgives our sins and gives us eternal life. It's a free gift from God that we can't earn on our own. So how do we receive this gift? The Bible tells us that there are six steps: hearing, believing, repenting, confessing, repenting again, and believers baptism. Let's break each one of these down.     Hearing - The first step is hearing the gospel. The gospel is the good news that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again. This news must be heard in order for us to believe it.     Believing - Once we hear the gospel, we must believe it. This means that we trust that Jesus is who He says He is and that He can save us from our sins.     Repenting - Once we believe the gospel, we must repent of our sins. This means that we turn away from our sin and start living for God.     Confessing - After we repent of our sins, we need to confess them to God. This means that we tell God all of the sinful things we have done and ask Him for forgiveness.     Believers Baptism - The final step is believers baptism. This is when a person who has already believed and repented is baptized in water as an outward sign of their inward decision to follow Christ. Baptism doesn't save us, but it's an important step of obedience for every Christian.     Discipling others -  Finally, once we have received salvation through these steps, it's important that we continue to grow in our faith and share the gospel with others so they too can be saved.      These are the six steps required for salvation according to the Bible: hearing, believing, repenting, confessing, repenting again, and believers baptism. If you have never done these things or if you're not sure if you've done them correctly, I encourage you to talk to a pastor or other Christian friend who can help guide you through these steps. Salvation is a free gift from God, but it's one that we need to take intentional steps to receive. Don't wait another day - start your journey towards salvation today!


  • Greg Gaines

    Father / Grandfather / Minister / Missionary / Deacon / Elder / Author / Digital Missionary / Foster Parents / Welcome to our Family https://jesusleadershiptraining.com/about-us/

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