HISTORY OF MARRIED PRIESTS (PAST) - under construction
Jesus called married men to the Sacrament of Holy Orders. The married priesthood also finds roots in the Order of Melchizedek who was a married priest-king in the Old Testament.
In 1139 A.D., the Second Lateran Council stopped admitting married men in the Latin (Roman) Rite priesthood. However, the Eastern Catholic Churches continued a non-continent married priesthood.
The Latin Rite began admitting married men to the priesthood in the 20th Century. Pope Pius XII first began dispensing five married men to be ordained Latin Rite Catholic priests without expectation of celibacy-continence to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass. Celibacy remained in absolute legal force in the West from 1139 A.D. to 1952 A.D.
Thus, mandated celibacy in the Latin Rite only existed for 813 years, but the married Catholic priesthood has existed for over 2,000 years of tradition since the Twelve Apostles.
We cannot be more traditional than Tradition.
In 1952 (20th Century), Pope Pius XII granted permission for 5 married Protestant pastors who converted to the Catholic Faith to be ordained Catholic priests. These married Catholic priests celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass thus beginning the return of married Catholic priests in the Latin Rite once again in our time.
The Second Vatican Council restored the diaconate for married men and commended the Eastern Catholic Churches for maintaining married clergy since the time of the Apostles. Married priests (viri probati) were considered during Vatican II, but more time was needed for discernment. In 1971, the vote at the Synod of Bishops for married priests was very close with only a couple dozen present that did not vote for married priests. This issue, however, remained into the 21st Century.
Pope St. Paul VI, like Pope Pius XII, gave permission on a limited basis for married Protestant pastors who converted to the Catholic Faith to be ordained married Catholic priests. Fr. Ernest Beck is an example.
Married men were ordained underground Catholic priests in Communist countries.
Pope St. John Paul II, following 20th Century Popes, continued to grant dispensations called the "Pastoral Provision" that ordained married men to the Latin Rite priesthood on a limited basis.
The topic of ordaining “viri probati” was raised with a question mark over it in a cautious speech by Cardinal Angelo Scola of Venice, at the October 2005 Synod on the Eucharist – the first synod of Pope Benedict XVI. “To confront the issue of the shortage of priests, some … have put forward the request to ordain married faithful of proven faith and virtue, the so-called viri probati,” he said. Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines (later created cardinal by Benedict XVI), immediately replied, “In the absence of the priest, there is no Eucharist. We should face squarely the issue of the shortage of priests.”
In 2009, Benedict XVI created the Ordinariate pathway to admit married converts from the Anglican communities to be admitted to the Catholic priesthood.
At present in the 21st Century, the Catholic Church continues the discussing of whether to ordain "Viri Probati" which are older, tested men (like married deacons with a fruitful diaconate) to the Catholic priesthood in the Latin Rite and how they would function.
Viri probati married priests would not function like the current celibate Latin rite priests or Ordinariate priests salaried by the Church but more like the current Latin rite permanent deacons. More traditional Catholics have suggested "Simplex Priests" which is how priests were trained before the establishment of the seminary system by the Council of Trent.
Various Catholic bishops have proposed to ordain married deacons as "Viri Probati" priests by granting dispensations if the local bishop asks for married priests.
"We have to reflect about whether the viri probati are a possibility. Then we also have to determine which tasks they could have, for example in far distant parishes. […] In the Church, it is always important to recognize the right moment, to recognize when the Holy Spirit demands something. That is why I say that we will continue to reflect about the viri probati" (Francis. 2017).
In 2019, the Bishops of the Amazon Region asked to ordain married deacons with a fruitful ministry, after suitable formation, to the Order of Priests.