Eastern Rite Catholic Bishops in North America have now been authorized by Pope Francis to ordain married men to the priesthood. The Catholic Church is divided into two parts: the Latin Rite and the Eastern Rite. Eastern Catholics have a different Code of Canon Law, and they have different Churches within that Rite, each with its own limited autonomy. The Eastern Rite has always had some married priests. But for a long time, the ability of Eastern Rite churches in Latin Rite regions to ordain married men has been suppressed. That has now changed.
Please understand that, even in the East, a priest may not marry. If a single man is ordained to the priesthood, he may not subsequently seek a wife. But a married man may seek ordination to the priesthood. The reason for this standard is that the priesthood is a higher calling than married life. It is acceptable to go from a lower calling, marriage, to a higher calling, the priesthood. But it is problematic if a man wishes to go to a lower calling from a higher one.
Now you might argue that the married priest continues in both callings. Yes, but if a single priest were to marry, he must take away considerable time and effort from the higher calling to serve the lower calling.
It would also cause problems and perhaps scandal if a single priest were seeking a wife. He is most likely to find a wife among the people near to where he lives, in his own parish, and among the people he meets each day, his own parishioners. This creates a situation where single women might be concerned that their priest may have a romantic interest in them. The result is that a large portion of the parishioners cannot trust their priest to have a detached spiritual love for their souls. He might see some of the women in his parish as potential dates, making it difficult for him to minister to them in persona Christi. How can a single woman go to confession to a priest who might be interested in her romantically?
So the Church wisely does not permit single priests to seek a wife. In fact, even a married permanent deacon is not permitted to seek a second wife, if his current wife dies. And a single permanent deacon similarly cannot seek a wife.
Will Pope Francis permit married men in the Latin Rite to become ordained priests? I believe that he will do so in conjunction with the Synod of Bishops in October of 2015. However, the Church lacks the authority to choose a priesthood mainly or entirely comprised of married men.
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