Marriage and Ordained Ministers in the Catholic Church

A reader has a question,  “What is a Deacon? I thought Catholics had priests who are not married”.

I am going to answer this in two posts.

First there are three degrees of Holy Orders in the Catholic Church, bishop, priest, and deacon. A bishop has the fullness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders as he has been ordained to all three degrees. A priest is first ordained a deacon before he is ordained a priest. A permanent deacon is only ordained to the diaconate.

St. Ignatious of Antioch (d. 117) could not envision the Church without all three:

“Let everyone revere the deacons as Jesus Christ, the bishop as the image of the Father, and the presbyters as the senate of God and the assembly of the apostles. For without them one cannot speak of the Church.”

In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church priests are men who are unmarried and who intend to remain celibate. Exceptions to this rule or discipline have been made for Anglican priests who become Catholic and are ordained as Catholic Priests. They must be married at the time of ordination, and if their wife dies (or there is a divorce) they may not remarry.

In the Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church, a married man may be ordained a priest, but he may not become a bishop. If he is single at the time of ordination, he may not marry. A married priest cannot become a bishop.

A (permanent) deacon may be a married man at the time of his ordination. If he is single, he may not marry after ordination. If a deacon’s wife dies, he may not re-marry.

I suspect that deacon’s wives, and wives of priests, are some of the most prayed for women in the Church!


If your blood pressure is a bit low today go read this New York Times article. Geesh! Catholics are used to married clergy since the permanent diaconate was restored after Vatican II.  We wives are treated very well thank you.

Over at Ignatius, Carl Olson takes apart the article, so I don’t have to.

Coming Soon:

What is a deacon?

About Susan Kehoe

I am the wife of a Catholic deacon living in Des Moines Iowa. My husband Larry was ordained in 2006. We have two children and five grandchildren.. Our daughter and her family live in Ireland, and our son and his family live in Franklin Massachusetts.
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