Why don’t Catholic priests marry? The Bible says that a bishop should be “blameless, the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2), which certainly indicates that Christ approves of marriage for the Christian clergy.
Catholic priests do not marry because, while Christ does indeed approve of marriage for the Christian clergy, He much prefers that they do not marry. He made this quite clear when He praised the Apostles for giving up “all” to follow Him, saying, “And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.” (Matt. 19:27-29). The Apostle Paul explained why the unmarried state is preferable to the married state for the Christian clergy: “He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided.” (1 Cor. 7:32-33). In other words, matrimony is good – Christ made it one of the holy sacraments of His Church – but it is not conducive to that complete dedication which is incumbent upon those who submit themselves to another of Christ’s holy sacraments – that of Holy Orders. Even so, the unmarried state of the Catholic priesthood is not an inflexible law – under certain conditions a priest may be dispensed from this law.
Author: Paul Whitcomb
Nihil Obstat: Rev. Edmund J. Bradley Censor Deputatus
Imprimatur: Timothy Manning, Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles, Vicar General
April 13, 1961