Q+A: Why can’t priests marry?

A. I have left the wording of this question as it is because this is how it is most commonly asked, however, the reality is not a prohibition from marriage but a choice of something else.

The Roman Catholic Church chose to choose her priests from among men called to celibacy, that is, the single life. This is not an imposition of celibacy, or prohibition of marriage, on the man to be ordained but rather a free choice to live one’s life solely for God and his Church. St. Paul wrote about this, “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-34)

Therefore, when people ask me why I can’t get married, I can say “because I chose to remain celibate and not marry.” No one forced me to make my promise of celibacy, I did so freely. Ordained men make this promise at their ordination as a deacon, unless they are married men being ordained to the permanent diaconate.

I offer this text for your reflection from the Ordination of Deacons:
“By your own free choice you seek to enter the order of deacons. You shall exercise this ministry in the celibate state: for celibacy is both a sign and a motive of pastoral charity, and a special source of spiritual fruitfulness in the world. By living in this state with total dedication, moved by a sincere love for Christ the Lord, you are consecrated to him in a new and special way. By this consecration you will adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart; you will be more freely at the service of God and mankind, and you will be more untrammelled in the ministry of Christian conversion and rebirth. By your life and character you will give witness to your brothers and sisters in faith that God must be loved above all else, and that it is he whom you serve in others.”

My choice to live a celibate life is one of full dedicated service to God and his Church. It does not stem from a rejection of marriage and family life which is an extremely beautiful and necessary Vocation, but rather from the call of God who has asked me to dedicate my life in this way.

Marriage and celibacy are both Vocations of love.

Fr. Andrew

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