Art_Deco saidWell, it does seem kind of contradictory, and unfair, if some Catholic priests can be married and some cannot. If it's a matter of fundamental Church doctrine wouldn't it apply to all equally? No, there are many rites within the Catholic Church - many of which do not require celibacy. All, as far as I know, forbid remarriage if the priest's wife dies. Nor can a married priest advance to the rank of bishop.
In the past a FORMERLY married man could become a Catholic priest, and a formerly married woman a nun. That is still the case as far as I know; however, some religious orders (male or female) may not take a formerly married person according to their particular Rule.BTW, can a married Episcopal married woman become a Catholic nun today? I would imagine not, the Roman Catholic Church remaining sexist in its treatment of woman as inferiors. No, of course she cannot; however, it has nothing to do with treating women as inferiors.
Besides, could a husband live with his wife in a convent? Which then makes me wonder, does a wife live in the parish rectory (the communal residence for priests)? I'm not sure on this one; however, the Church has many single priest parishes so I doubt this is a problem as many priest do not live communally.
I suppose this is what happens when you have unnatural laws for an organization - you find yourself with unnatural consequences. There is nothing unnatural about the Church's rules on priestly celibacy. It is perfectly natural for an organization to make rules for its members. After all, until recently didn't the military forbid sexual contact between same sex servicemen as would be perfectly natural for its homosexual members? In fact, wouldn't the military be within in right to forbid all sexual contact (gay or straight) between its members if it chose to do so?Even some private companies frown upon employees dating each other. No one is coerced into the priesthood. It is up to each candidate to decide whether they are up to the challenges presented by the rule of celibacy.
I have studied Church history as part of my graduate studies. I am not an expert, but I have just a bit of info to share.
There are married priests within the ranks of diocesan clergy. Former Episcopal priests and Lutheran ministers have been ordained into the Catholic clergy. Some of their church's doctrines and rites are derived from the Catholic Church and for many the transition to the Catholic clergy was aided by their vocations as Anglican priests and Lutheran ministers. Their marriages are not impediments to their ordination. However, if their wives precede them in death, the man is not permitted to remarry. That same requirement applies to Catholic men who have been ordained as permanent deacons. Bishops in the Catholic Church can never marry.
I had to dig out my old class notes. The first written mandate requiring priests to be chaste came in AD 304. Canon 33 of the Council of Elvira stated that all "bishops, presbyters, and deacons and all other clerics" were to "abstain completely from their wives and not to have children." A short time later, in 325, the Council of Nicea, convened by Constantine, rejected a ban on priests marrying requested by Spanish clerics.
The practice of priestly celibacy began to spread in the Western Church in the early Middle Ages. In the early 11th century Pope Benedict VIII responded to the decline in priestly morality by issuing a rule prohibiting the children of priests from inheriting property. A few decades later Pope Gregory VII issued a decree against clerical marriages.
The Church was a thousand years old before it definitively took a stand in favor of celibacy in the twelfth century at the Second Lateran Council held in 1139, when a rule was approved forbidding priests to marry. In 1563, the Council of Trent reaffirmed the tradition of celibacy.
Several explanations have been offered for the decision of the Church to adopt celibacy. A.W. Richard Sipe, a former priest and author of Sex, Priests and Power: The Anatomy of Crisis (1995), states that the "question at the time was who is the final power -- the king or the church. If [the church] could control a person's sex life, it could control their money, their employment, their benefice." Garry Wills suggested in Under God that the ban on marriage was adopted to lift the status of priests at a time when their authority was being challenged by nobles and others. I believe the requirement for celibacy was more about the ability of the Church being able to inherit property. Men with children would bequeath property to their children; no children means property is inherited by the Church.
The Roman Catholic Church's position today is derived from the Council of Trent. Celibacy is considered an important part of the priesthood, a sign of a priest's commitment to God and service.
Is it possible that the requirement of priestly celibacy could be lifted? Maybe. There is Church dogma and Church regulation. The Catholic Church distinguishes between dogma and regulation. The male-only priesthood is Catholic dogma, irreversible by papal decree. The ban on marriage is considered a regulation. That means the pope could change it overnight if he wished.
All of this information pertains only to diocesan clergy serving in the Latin or Roman Rite. Priests associated with a diocese live lives that are fairly independent. They are paid a salary drawn from the parish from which they serve, they can own property and inherit family wealth.
There are other rites within the Catholic Church; Ukranian, Maronite, Melkite, Coptic, Chaldean, Syro Malabar, to name a few which have always allowed married clergy. The men must marry prior to receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders. They are permitted to marry once. If their wife precedes them in death, they are not permitted to remarry. Bishops serving these rites cannot be married.
Men and women of religious orders live differently. Members of religious orders have always professed vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. These men and women live in community and share what they have. Marriage would have always been impractical in a religious community because of housing a large religious community, spouses and children. Also there would be a lack of privacy. Members of religious orders are not paid a salary. Supporting a family is out of the question. They receive a monthly stipend for basic necessities such as toiletries, clothing, and maybe an evening at the movies. The stipend is usually no more than $200.
I certainly do not expect Pope Francis to lift the regulation requiring celibacy, but it can be done.