Why do I have to be celibate to be a priest?
In the Latin tradition (the Roman Catholic tradition), priesthood and celibacy are currently inseparable. The Latin Church has kept to this rule for over a thousand years because it regards celibate priesthood as particularly fruitful for the Church and the faithful.
There are already a limited number of married priests within the Catholic Church, however, including married Anglican ministers who were received into the Roman Catholic Church, some Coptic Catholics, and members of some Eastern rite Catholic churches.
Pope Francis has said that while he remains in favour of celibacy for priests, the principle is part of the discipline of the Church, rather than dogma, meaning that it is open to discussion. On this basis, in 2017 he invited Brazilian Bishops to consider the question of ordaining viri probati, meaning married men who have proven their commitment to the faith over time, to serve remote regions of the Amazon where there is a chronic shortage of priests. In exceptional cases, therefore, the celibacy rule may at some stage in the future, be relaxed. As things stand, however, the norm remains that priests must remain celibate.
Most popular questions
- I feel I have a specific charism to youth outreach. Can I live this charism out as a priest, or must I follow the charism of the order I join?
- What is a deacon and how is it different than a priest?
- What can I do as a priest that I cannot do as a layperson working for a charity or NGO?
- What if as a priest I need to take time out to care for a relative or family member?
- I read stories of religious communities merging or closing down. Are religious organisations dying out?
- As a priest if I decide that I no longer want to do something, such as work in a specific parish, do I have any say or is it all out of my hands?
- If I request information about joining a religious organisation, will I be pressured into joining?
- School was never something I really liked. Is the study part of formation very hard?
- If I become a priest can I decide where I go and what I do?
- What’s the difference between a diocesan priest and a priest in a religious order?