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Married Catholic priests?

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In 1980, Pope John Paul II effected a policy change that allowed married Anglican priests to continue their ministry after their conversion, and there are now several dozen such men serving as Catholic priests throughout the U.S.

Father Kenneth
Doyle

Q. I have been a Catholic since birth (over 50 years), but I am still learning things about my religion. Recently we were at a wedding in another city, and the priest who performed the ceremony told us that he has been a priest for 10 years but has been married for 30 years. Did I miss something here?

I have never heard of married Catholic priests. He said that there are a few of them around. Can you enlighten me? (City of origin withheld)

A. Most likely, the man you mentioned had once been an Anglican (Episcopal) priest who later converted to Roman Catholicism.

In 1980, Pope John Paul II effected a policy change that allowed married Anglican priests to continue their ministry after their conversion, and there are now several dozen such men serving as Catholic priests throughout the U.S. I am aware of Lutheran pastors also who have made a similar transition.

Another possibility is that he belongs to one of the Eastern Catholic Churches (there are more than 20) that are in union with Rome (Maronites, Ukrainians, etc.), which for centuries have allowed the ordination of married men.

From 1929 until 2014, such priests were generally not permitted to minister outside their rite's country of origin, but in 2014 Pope Francis quietly lifted that ban, opening the door for them to serve in the U.S.

Q. I have been divorced for three years and need to proceed with getting an annulment. My ex-husband is getting remarried next month, and I am getting married again next spring (eight months from now).

I did not pursue this before because I had been led to believe that my ex-husband would have to sign something, and I knew that he would never give up that control. (Now, from a recent column of yours, I understand this is not so and that is such a relief.)

But I do have a few questions. I no longer live in the diocese where I got married: Can I just go to the priest in my current parish and get the application form, and where do I submit it?

And is it true that if I get an annulment, then my children will have been born out of wedlock? And how long does the annulment process take? (Richmond, Virginia)

A. You may file for an annulment either in the diocese where the marriage took place, or in the diocese in which you now reside or in the diocese in which your husband now resides.

You would be well-advised to consult your parish priest right away and ask him which of the dioceses he thinks might be able to process the case more quickly.

There is some variation on this, depending on the size of the marriage tribunal staff and the number of cases that are pending. In many dioceses, once the paperwork is submitted it could take upward of a year for the testimony to be evaluated (including that of the witnesses), any necessary follow-up questions to be asked and a decision to be rendered.

So your time frame already may be a bit ambitious if your hope is to get married in a Catholic ceremony. (And parishes are generally not permitted to schedule a wedding until an annulment has been granted.)

Ask your parish priest for the necessary forms. He will either have them or ask the diocese to send them to you.

Finally, as to the legitimacy of your children, not to worry -- the church's Code of Canon Law speaks to this: Canon 1137 says that "children conceived or born of a valid or putative marriage are legitimate," and Canon 1061.3 explains that a "putative" marriage is one that had been entered into in good faith by at least one of the parties.

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Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.

Father Kenneth Doyle is a columnist for Catholic News Service

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