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Cardinal O’Brien gives his backing to idea of married priests

By on Friday, 22 February 2013

Cardinal O'Brien (Photo: PA)

Cardinal O'Brien (Photo: PA)

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, has told the BBC that he would be “very happy” if married men had the option of entering the priesthood.

The cardinal, the only churchman from Great Britain eligible to attend the conclave, said: “There was a time when priests got married, and of course we know at the present time in some branches of the Church – in some branches of the Catholic Church – priests can get married, so that is obviously not of divine origin and it could get discussed again.

“In my time there was no choice and you didn’t really consider it too much, it was part of being a priest. When I was a young boy, the priest didn’t get married and that was it.

“I would be very happy if others had the opportunity of considering whether or not they could or should get married.”

  • Mark

     Former Anglican and Episcopal married priests can continue to be married Catholic priests. Priests could marry for the first 1200 years of Christianity. Celibacy is not the traditional position rather it was a medieval innovation. Monks were always celibate form the beginning but parish priests were usually married. Gay men have been using the priesthood to hide out because no one can notice; a married priesthood would shine the light on which priests are gay.

  • Andreaspotts

    I suppose you must think Christ broke his own rules when he called Abraham ‘father’ (John 8:56). Not to mention: Luke 16:24; Luke 16:30; James 2:21). And I suppose when St. Paul, wrote Ephesians 6:2, he was forgetting that we shouldn’t call our biological progenitor ‘father’?

    Get behind me, PrickliestPear.

  • Scyptical Chymist

     Surely there is room for both the traditional celibate priest and those who while married feel a call to serve God and their fellows as a priest. In these desperate times where the Church is under attack from both within and without it seems foolish to rule out  a possible source of good priests. I recall reading recently on this site that a homosexual “mafia” has a significant presence in the Church and someone commented that a good priest should have the attributes of a good father of a family. I suspect that there may well be some men who have brought up families and are now in their more mature years who could help greatly in the renewal of the Church.

    As for the former Anglican ordinariate, I deplore the sniping against this – it too could well be a great force for the the Church in these dire times. Pope Benedict had an uphill struggle to steer the barque of the Church some way back towards its proper direction and the welcoming of former Anglicans by establishing the ordinariate may well be seen later as a a major step in returning the Church in England to its historical faith.

  • Patrickhowes

    As a father of five,I cannot see how priests could serve two masters properly.One side would suffer.Also wherever there is man,there is mess and eventually there would be divorces and separations and that would be more problems.I see the need more than ever to have a non european Pope.Nobody in Latin America or Africa where the Church is strong is making such a suggestion.We are heading down the same path as the Anglican Church

  • andrew young

    If it ever happened that celibacy would become optional for those entering the priesthood, it does not give a ‘get out clause’ for those who have already made their commitment – and that means that there will still be lonley, insular, selfish and dysfunctional individuals in the priesthood.

  • Thomaspj Poovathinkal

    This POOR CARDINAL seems to have  lost the call from the Lord.

    There are so many such also in Priesthood.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • PrickliestPear

     “Dad,” usually.

  • Amkennedypayen

    Well-said ! I couldn’t agree more !

  • PrickliestPear

    In Paul’s defense, there is no reason to think he had any familiarity with that particular commandment of Christ.

    Even if he had, he is not asking to be addressed as “father,” as a title. That is what is at issue in the gospel text.

  • Jonathan

    Can Maronite priests get married?  

  • andrew young

    Must be married prior to ordination

  • JabbaPapa

    I can see both sides of the question — the point to realise here, is that what’s in question is whether married deacons could be given a dispensation of celibacy for ordination into the priesthood …

  • Dominic Johnson

    So we will be able to tell if priests are gay or not because they are married or not? So by that definition, every unmarried man is potentially gay?  frankly such a position is insulting.

    Celibacy is about scrifice, about putting God as the complete centre of someone’s life. lerical Celibacy is not equivalent to simply not having sex with women or men, but rather about focusing one’s life totally on Christ.

  • Thomaspj Poovathinkal

    POPE BENEDICT XVI, PLEASE RETHINK OF THE CONSEQUENCES…..IT is already showing through this Cardinal who seems to have lost his divine call. Many more of of the like of him may be withing in line to jump out of their skin to grasp at the last straw of their short and senile life.

    POPE BENEDICT XVI, the rumbling effect of your intention and plan to execute abdication.. is already showing through…THINK OF the exemplary and self-denying life and death of your friend and predecessor Blessed John Paul II who LOVED JESUS THE LORD so much so he remaind on the Lord’s Cross till the end….


    Mary, Mystical Rose of God, God’s Angels and Saints, pray for our POPE. LET THE TEMPTATION TO ABDICATE, the temptation to quit and flee, the temptation to betray the Lord be gone……

  • David Haversham

    It’s not much of a hideout since nowadays everyone assumes that all priests are gay as they cannot comprehend that someone might choose to be celibate, and if we use your logic, any priest who is unlucky enough not to find a suitable wife or who makes a decision to be celibate for the Kingdom (as was urged by St Paul) will find the ‘light shone upon him’ and be ‘outed’….

  • Cassandra

    It is, they could have joined the Eastern Rite Churches.

  • JabbaPapa

    Cripes !!!

    Instead — and less melodramatically — we are blessèd in our current Pope, and we can look forward in our Faith with the Holy Spirit that the Conclave will choose the man that our Church truly needs for the years ahead.

    “betray” — good grief !!!

  • Melia

    The question of clerical celibacy is a discipline, not a doctrine (unlike the all-male priesthood), so one can disagree with it and still remain a faithful Catholic.

  • Kevin

    This is not candour. This is a pre-emptive ad hominem argument.

  • Andreaspotts

    I guess Stephen never heard Christ’s commandment either, for in Acts 7:2, he refers to “our father Abraham,” or Paul again in Romans 9:10 speaks of “our father Isaac’. 

    Christ was not talking about ‘titles’ he was admonishing his followers to look to God as the source of all authority and fatherhood and teaching. Please follow this and abandon your protestant perversions.

    The Catholic Church merely follow the biblical example where priests refer to
    members of their flock as “my son” and “my child” (Gal. 4:19; 1 Tim.
    1:18; 2 Tim. 2:1; Philem. 10; 1 Pet. 5:13; 1 John 2:1; 3 John 4) and likewise we follow the apostolic custom of calling priests’ father ( 1 Cor 4:14-15) .

  • Fr_ed_mckenna

    Bravo, CardinalKeith Patrick O’Brien and I hope your American Namesake, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien feels the same. Ordained like yourselves in 1965 this matter should have been settled 42 years ago when Father Josef Ratzinger espoused the idea of amarried diocesan priests in Germany! So many priests have left to marry, and would have remained faithful clergy had the popes agreed…
    Father Edward J.. McKenna
    Archdiocese of Chicago

  • AlanP

    Quite so.  Priestly celibacy is one of those “incrementalist” practices which Benedict Carter chooses NOT to complain about.

  • AlanP

    But why do you equate such “eunuchs” with priests?  Doesn’t this simply refer to voluntary vows of celibacy, whatever one’s other calling in life?

  • Apostolic

    According to today’s Daily Telegraph, Cardinal O’Brien has stated that a future pope might reopen the issue of women priests. If true, this is far more serious than his speculation about married clergy and betrays a deeply flawed understanding of the priesthood and of the fact that papal authority can never in any circumstances be exercised outside of Tradition. Taken together with Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s irresponsible speculation that the next pope would be a conservative, but that this will be followed by an `explosion’, these opinions reveal how serious dissent among some Cardinals has become.

  • Benedict Carter

    No, that is wholly untrue but seems to have become the norm in people’s understanding. Celibacy after ordination, or continence in the early centuries if married at ordination, was the practice in the first millenium, both East and West. 

  • Benedict Carter

    I agree with every word of your post Father. 

  • scary goat

     Is that you, Jonathan?  I mean the same Jonathan who was here a few weeks ago?  If so, welcome back.

  • Micha_Elyi

    Yeah, sure. Only the Aramaic word is forbidden.

  • scary goat

     Is anyone sure that is what he actually said and it hasn’t been twisted round deliberately or otherwise by the media.  Surely he can’t have suggested priests getting married?????  The possibility of ordaining married men, maybe.

  • Micha_Elyi

    Will we next be learning that when asking that the cup pass from Him Jesus defied the Father?  Very awkward, that.

  • JabbaPapa

    If that’s true, then it would be heretical.

    Discussion of married priests is perfectly normal ; the priestly ordination of women, however, has been infallibly forbidden by our Church.

  • JabbaPapa

    If it ever happened that celibacy would become optional for those entering the priesthood

    It won’t.

    The Vows of Chastity and Celibacy are permanently established as ordinary requirements for Ordination as a priest.

    Now — although it is impossible to receive a dispensation of Chastity (which is why ordained deacons, priests, and bishops may never marry), it is possible to receive a dispensation of celibacy (which is why married men can be ordained as deacons, or more rarely as priests.

  • JabbaPapa

    You mean Chastity, dear Benedict.
    And Chastity is a Catholic requirement of ALL Christian Marriages.

  • JabbaPapa

    You sound like a Protestant.

  • JabbaPapa


  • Benedict Carter

    No, I mean celibacy. 

  • rigmarole

    The quiet, gentle wisdom, lion-hearted courage and genius of Pope Benedict XVI will be sadly, achingly and sorely missed – but, boy oh boy, has he left his brother cardinals and the entire Roman Catholic Church not so much food for thought but a delicious feast to digest in the coming weeks!

    His timing for departing the Chair of Peter could not have been more apt.

    The Sunday Mass readings and gospels for Lent – especially for the 2nd Sunday of Lent – should be digested and consumed with great care and not treated like fast food.

    Will there be a sophisticated IT device installed within the Sistine Chapel to bar wireless technology from infiltrating the Conclave? Hey, you need your wits about you this day and age! Will the pain of immediate excommunication for the clerics/cardinals who communicate with the outside world re the conclave? I hope so!

    The media – not just the BBC – is laying traps for such cardinals as O’Brien to fall right into. Surely, common sense kicks in that these traps are around at this time?

    Even so, these media types show themselves up as unbelievably and totally dumb when it comes to the Roman Catholic Church.

    Funny thing – I thought it was The Holy Ghost who decides who is the next pope, not the media!

  • Tridentinus

    Those who traditionally served at the altar were clerics having at least received the tonsure inaugurating them into the clerical state which has been reserved to the male sex from time immemorial.

    The minor orders, Acolyte, Exorcist, Door-keeper and Lector were the natural progression from the tonsure and were always conferred upon men. Acolytes and lectors had duties ascribed to them in the Liturgy along with those in major orders; subdeacons, deacons and priests whose orders also were also exclusively conferred upon the male sex.

    Up until recently it was impossible to find someone permanently in any of these orders below the priesrhood until the second Vatican Council re-introduced the diaconate as a permanent ministry.

    The orders of the priesthood and the diaconate are apostolic in origin and their conferral is a sacrament. The order of the subdiaconate was never held to be of apostolic origin nor was it regarded as being sacramentally conferred and was abolished by Paul VI, however it still exists in Eastern Catholic Churches and in Latin Rite communities who adhere to the Tridentine Rite.

    Altarboys, ‘laymen’, are latter-day substitutes for clerics and holders of minor orders in the same way that a layman may act as subdeacon at High Mass celebrated in the Tridentine Rite in the absence of an ordained subdeacon, deacon or priest.

    Traditionally women, even nuns never had any function within the sanctuary never did they wish to have until recently, simply because they knew they could never have been promoted to the clerical state. Their exclusion has nothing to do with mysogyny or menstruation.

    The fact that womankind of a certain eductional standard seems to have presumed for themselves a liturgical role is due to politically correct pressure from secular society and an abject retreat by most men from their religious obligations.

    The Catholic Church will never have female clergy of any order unless it ceases to be the Catholic Church. The sad fact, however, is that it has allowed ‘female’ altarboys, female ministers of the Eucharist. This can only promote the idea in the Catholic consciousness that women can at sometime in the future can be ordained as priests.

  • KJUYggtr

    Just how did he define “married”? in these times, the question is worth an answer

  • Brendan Wall

    The priesthood is not just a job.  The priest must belong totally to Christ.  His celibacy is witness that God alone suffices.
    If when Tony marries Anne the fact that he must now renounce Nora and Rosie is a major problem, there isn’t much hope for the marriage!  If a man accepts a celibate way of life in order to become a priest, there isn’t much hope for his priesthood.  The priest chooses Christ. It is a charismatic choice, not a renunciation, though, like all choices, it includes renunciation.  A man should not accept ordination to the priesthood in the Western Church unless he has made that charismatic choice freely and lovingly. 

  • Ew88

    I would be interested to look up what word in the original Hebrew was used for ‘Father’. . .

  • Ew88

    Please give me the contact details of your protestant friends; they sound fascinating!!

  • LongIslandMichael

    Father Ed you are wrong. Too many priests have left the priesthood precisely because they were not faithful to their vows and thus not faithful to Christ. You know the deal before you take a vow and once you take it its your responsibility to God to adhere to it faithfully. Sadly its statements like the one you posted above that has created so much scandal and confusion within the Church and among the faithful. Many souls have been led astray as a result.

  • LongIslandMichael

     Sadly Father you are right.

  • LongIslandMichael

     You are absolutely correct. And now it being reported that he made advances towards  four men.

  • LongIslandMichael

     Also the Oriental Churches do not allow married clergy to become bishops.

  • LongIslandMichael

     Well said Peter.

  • LongIslandMichael

     Great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  • LongIslandMichael

     I have no problem with former Anglican priests who are married entering into the Roman Catholic Church and being ordained into the RCC. The same with applying it to the Anglican Ordinarite. But to throw the doors open in the RC to allow priests to marry is a horrendous idea. Many have pointed out in this thread the reason why its a bad idea. You allow that and you open up a can of worms that will spell disaster.

  • LongIslandMichael

     You are right and that will be one of the many problems that come about if the Church would allow it to occur.