The Words of the Milingo Family

Marriage Vows Trump Celibacy

Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo
November 28, 2006
Founder, Married Priests Now!
Guest Commentary

On Nov. 16, Pope Benedict XVI called a rare meeting of his cabinet, the Roman Curia, to specifically discuss the issues raised by our Prelature in calling for a married priesthood in the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church. His official cabinet includes 20 Cardinals who head the Vatican governmental offices, known as dicasteries.

We who are members of the Married Priests Now! Prelature concur with the Holy Father and the Vatican's finding that reaffirmed celibacy. We believe celibacy is indeed a charism (but for some priests - not for all). We disagree with the enforcement of celibacy as a job requirement for the priesthood.

Celibacy should be viewed as an option rather than the norm, a charism that is freely chosen and not an obligation. Celibacy should no longer be considered a prerequisite for ordination to the priesthood. To continue to require such a condition only exacerbates an already deteriorating and hemorrhaging situation within the Roman priesthood. Not every priest has the particular calling to be celibate, and this is the problem.

We can hardly believe that a meeting of the cardinals, who head the dicasteries, was called to simply reaffirm celibacy. The report that was NOT released by the Vatican is the important one. What did the cardinals actually say about a married priesthood? Is the Vatican in such a state of denial that it cannot see the need for a married priesthood?

What, so far, has celibacy done for the church? On the American scene it has undermined the church by an ever-increasing sexual abuse scandal that has ruined the lives of countless young victims. It has cast a dark shadow of doubt on the holiness of the priesthood. The faithful can no longer trust their priests. The cost of celibacy has driven diocese after diocese into bankruptcy and church properties have been sold to pay off claims of sexual misconduct by priests. Celibacy, because of its loneliness and lack of intimacy, has helped turn thousands of priests into alcoholics.

The Vatican's denial of the problem confirms and encourages our mission to recall the thousands of married priests, now in exile, to full, active ministry within the Roman Catholic Church. We are the only Catholic diocese calling for the ordination of married men and for the return of married priests to full ministry.

Marriage is a true sacrament of the church, celibacy is not. Marriage is a higher calling than celibacy. The marriage vow trumps the celibacy promise. We priests who have chosen to marry believe that a married priest is a healthier priest, and that a married priesthood will give priests a wholesome and proper outlet for their sexuality. We are created by God as sexual beings, and our sexuality needs to be celebrated as a blessing for ourselves and our wives.

Marriage needs to be the normal option for priests. Remember that when Jesus began his ministry, he called married priests first. St. Peter was a married priest. The New Testament priesthood was a married priesthood. It is time for the Roman Catholic Church to return the gift of the married priesthood to the Latin Rite.

The sanctity of the church is in the family. The holiness of marriage and family reflects the community of love that we find in the Trinity. The love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the true model of the holiness of the family. Marriage brings us closer to God. A married priesthood can create wonderful families that because of marriage will identify more closely with the families they serve in the church and community. It will foster equality for women in the church and bring a new form of democracy in church management.

There is sadness in the Church over the dire situation caused by the shortage of priests. The faithful realize that they are not being well-served, because the priests who remain are clearly overextended and cannot meet the needs of the faithful. Hundreds of churches have been closed and laymen and laywomen are being appointed as pastors of churches. The faithful see and feel the problem and often have to reach out to the married priests who are available and are willing to meet their needs.

The call for married priests is a groundswell movement -- a church within a church -- that is forming, and the Vatican is in a state of denial. Our Prelature is part of this movement. It is a New Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is creating a new church for a new day.

Married priests, we invite you to come out of your church-imposed exile and join us in our fight to reinstate the married priesthood to our church as we celebrate together our marriages and our priesthood. Participate in our upcoming conference to be held at the Sheraton in Parsippany, New Jersey, on December 8-10, with the theme, "Marriage and the Priesthood." A concelebrated mass will included the renewal of marriage vows and an Ecumenical Marriage Blessing.

On Sunday, December 10, three married men will be ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood in keeping with our aim to restore the married priesthood of the Gospels to our church. Men who have been denied the priesthood because they are married are invited to call us about ordination. Details about the conference and the ordinations can be received by calling (973) 332-2730 or by email:

We are the voice of all Catholics, the voice of the True Church, calling on the Vatican to be attentive to the needs of its faithful people. We ask all of the Roman Catholic faithful to join us in prayer for this New Pentecost. Let your voices also be heard loudly and clearly in Rome and in your home dioceses.

Let the bishops know that you want married priests now. Recalling married priests is a wholesome and simple remedy to help save the church. Pray that the married priests will be reinstated to full active ministry and that married men will be called to the priesthood.

Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, co-founder of Married Priests Now! and the former bishop of the archdioceses of Lusaka, Zambia, is the founder and spiritual director of Church of Sorrows Spirituality Center, a ministry for spiritual healing in Zagarolo, Italy. You may email Married Priests Now! at or Archbishop Milingo at

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