Married Priests and Other Thoughts on Family and The Ministry

One day as we were driving home from the lab, Jan Mickelson was on the radio, and had as his guest some Catholic priest of some sort. During the short time we were in the car, they were discussing married priests.

Evidently, Episcopal priests (who are allowed to marry) sometimes decide they want to convert to Catholicism, and they of course bring their families with them. I

He then went on to discuss how the prohibition against marriage was more a traditional one than one with any basis in the Bible, and he then went on to discuss his thoughts on this.

Which included that it’s easier to focus your energy on God, your relationship with God, and the spiritual lives of the people in your church if you don’t have a family or spouse to worry about, too.

And, yeah, I think he’s on to something there.

Ask anyone who’s a minister and who has a family. Ask the minister’s family. It’s not easy. It’s really really hard. The family often ends up getting the short end of that stick. A spouse or parent who needs to put the church and the church family first, pretty much always. A spouse/parent who’s busy for every major holiday. Who spends Christmas Eve and Easter, not celebrating with his/her family, but preparing for and carrying out church services. A spouse/parent who sometimes has to change plans to enable them to support a family who is in need – at the hospital, or at the funeral home. Who is busy on Saturdays officiating weddings. (you’ll note that my experience is with a church with only one minister, not with a whole staff.)

Not to mention the stress that the church members themselves put on a family. Always critical, always judging, always scrutinizing. The minister’s kids weren’t paying attention during the sermon (because they’re not allowed to be regular kids). The minister’s kids got in trouble at school. The minister’s wife did This, or that. Blah Blah Blah.

It’s hard to be a minister’s family. And I think that stress is hard on the minister, too.

Perhaps the Catholic church has this one completely right on the money – not for the sake of the church, or for the sake of the individual – but for the sake of the potential family.

If one of the jobs of the church is to protect and support families… could prohibiting (or at the very least, discouraging) marriage simply be one means to achieve this end? It’s an interesting thing to think about.

 

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