In reading through canon law ( I think around 1037 or so ), it says that unmarried men must be celibate and 25 years old, or married men must be at least 35 and have their wife's consent before being ordained.

What I didn't see was if divorced men were allowed to become priests, and which provisions they would be subject to if they are. So, can divorced men become priests, and must they be celibate if they do? (In other words, could they remarry if this were the case)

  • I went to Mass up in Sparta, WI a few years ago. Unbeknownst to me, they had just gotten a new priest transferred so he was giving his first introductory homily. He said that he was a divorced Catholic convert with grandchildren. Highly irregular in my book, but where grace abounds highly irregular things happen!
    – Peter Turner
    May 3, 2012 at 11:37
  • @PeterTurner: Indeed :-) May 3, 2012 at 12:37

2 Answers 2


Divorce doesn't actually exist in the Roman Catholic Church, so the simple answer is No: they can't.

There is annulment, where a marriage ceases to have canonical effect — it is almost as though it had never been (see this answer — it's complicated). Married people who divorce and whose marriage is annulled can marry in church; it's likely that the same applies to ordination. I couldn't find anything in the Code of Canon Law either: it can't cover every eventuality explicitly, but see below.

Without an annulment, the man is still canonically married and cannot be ordained priest: see Canon 1042(1). Following ordination, they cannot marry and remain in orders; I know someone who relinquished his orders in order to marry. Even deacons cannot marry after ordination — they take a vow of chastity on ordination; but if they are already married they can be ordained deacon.

There are a few married priests in the Church, but they have to have had individual permission from Rome to be ordained (Canon 1047(2)(3)), and if their marriage ends (by annulment or widowing) they cannot remarry. The same applies to married deacons: they cannot remarry while in orders.

There is an interesting supplementary question about annulment which arises though. Imperfect intent is grounds for annulment — that is, if one of the parties never really intended the marriage to be a real marriage, then the Church can annul it. If a man contracts marriage but never intended it to last because he felt called to ordained ministry, would that be valid grounds for annulment, and if so, could he still be ordained?

It seems it may well be valid grounds for annulment because of the lack of good intent. However I guess that from the statement in Paragraph 72 of ARCIC's document Life in Christ, the Church might consider that serious psychological defects exist. In that case Canon 1041(1) provides a reason not to proceed with ordination.

This might even obtain for a man whose marriage ended in annulment through no fault of his own.

  • 1
    Minor addition; IIRC married clergy who "defect" from Anglican communions to Catholicism, and take Holy Orders under the Oct 19 2009 setup, are then allowed to remain and serve as married Catholic priests - although probably not bishops; example: bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-16380343 May 3, 2012 at 9:03
  • Yes: I'm a member of the English Ordinariate and my parish priest is married. He had to get permission from Rome to be ordained. Married clergy are not eligible to be bishops. May 3, 2012 at 11:10
  • This pamphlet (pdf) from the Archdiocese of Toronto is an excellent resource on marriage and annulment, although it doesn't contain information on ordained men. May 3, 2012 at 19:41
  • @AndrewLeach If you are still interested, please ask your question. I suspect there is something in the canonistic literature about it, but maybe not easy to find.
    – K-HB
    Mar 16, 2019 at 12:19

Good topic: Yes, they can be priest if they:

1-Get an annulment 2-If they have children, his children must be at least 21 years old or/and are not longer financially dependable. His children must also writea letter a consent so he can be a priest. Its not complicated. 3-Finally, the candidate must find a religious order or seminary that will be willing to take him taking in consideration his situation. Afterwards, he can legally be ordained a priest.

  • 3
    This answer could majorly benefit from citations. Do you know this is a universal norm?
    – Peter Turner
    Jul 10, 2018 at 17:13

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .