Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

A Liturgical Detail?

In the dust ups over the celibacy requirement for Catholic priests, one often sees and hears claims that other churches DO allow their priests to marry - most notably the Greek Orthodox Church.

But DOES the Greek Orthodox Church allow its priests to marry?

The answer is more complicated than the mainstream press presents. The short answer is:

NO. Greek Orthodox priests are NOT permitted to marry.

However, married men MAY routinely become Orthodox priests, but they may not advance in the ranks to become bishops. Moreover, under Orthodox rules, a celibate priest cannot marry after ordination, and a noncelibate priest cannot remarry and remain a priest, even if his wife dies.

All that being said: About 91 percent (575 of 630) of active Greek Orthodox priests in the United States are married, and it is "very rare" for Greek Orthodox clerics to resign.

One consequence: Some Catholic reformers advocate that current Catholic priests be allowed to marry. Whether or not that is a good idea, such a reform would go well beyond Orthodox tradition.

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