On Wikipedia, there is an unattributed assertion (not in the citation) that when the former Anglican Bishop Andrew Burnham was received into the Roman Catholic Church, his wife was not received with him because she was Jewish. Mgr Burnham (as he now is) has subsequently been given Holy Orders in the Roman Catholic Church as part of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and is a local priest in Oxfordshire and appears to be still married.

This possibly spurious assertion spurred a hypothetical question for me: can a Roman Catholic priest in ordinariate be married to someone who is not Catholic? I know that lay Catholics are allowed to marry non-Catholics, but is there a special rule for priests (within the already special rule for priests in the ordinariate) given they have consecrated their life to the Church ? Does it matter that the marriage may have (as would be in the case of the Burnhams) been conducted before the priest in question became a Catholic?

  • How could a Jew be "received" into a Catholic rite? Jews aren't even baptized.
    – Geremia
    Apr 10, 2022 at 23:53
  • Well, yes. The reason Wikipedia says the wife (not named) was NOT received was because it was at a ceremony of three CofE bishops being received, and two of the three wives were received, but she was not. So it makes sense in that context. Apr 11, 2022 at 0:02
  • I presume (again I don't know if the Wiki's claim is true) that if she did not convert in the decades her husband was an Anglican priest and then bishop, it would be unlikely she would suddenly change her mind for the RCC (though who knows) Apr 11, 2022 at 0:04

2 Answers 2


lay Catholics are allowed to marry non-Catholics, but is there a special rule for priests

No, there is no "special rule for priests" allowing them to marry. Catholic priests cannot marry, though married men can become Catholic priests.

  • 2
    I think you partially misread the question due to an ambiguity of the English language. As the question points out, Catholic priest can be married in the sense that they can be in a marriage, even though they cannot be married in the sense that they cannot enter a marriage.
    – Carsten S
    Apr 11, 2022 at 11:06
  • @CarstenS What's the "ambiguity of the English language"? "To marry" = "to enter into a marriage" (not "to remain together with a wife").
    – Geremia
    Apr 11, 2022 at 17:00
  • The phrase “to be married” can describe a state (be a married person) or be passive voice (to be married by a priest, i.e. to enter marriage). The OP asked “can a Roman Catholic priest in ordinariate be married to someone who is not Catholic”, where I understand “be married” in the first sense. I thought that you had understood it in the second sense. Maybe you didn’t, but then I still feel that you didn’t really answer the question. Or maybe just a different part of it.
    – Carsten S
    Apr 11, 2022 at 17:32
  • 1
    @CarstenS I was addressing the specific part of interestedquestion's question I quoted, but I do see that he mentions "to be married", too; so the question is ambiguous.
    – Geremia
    Apr 11, 2022 at 17:37

The question appears to ask whether those married to non-Catholics can be ordained.

Yes. There is no special restriction on ordination.

Married men can only be ordained with special permission from Rome. (Canons 1042.1, 1047.2.3).

A marriage is indeed invalid when "one of the two persons was...received into [the catholic Church] and the other was not baptised." (Can. 1086.1) but this impediment can be dispensed (Can. 1086.2) provided that various acts have taken place (Cann. 1125, 1126) regarding the danger of defecting from the faith and the raising of any children. Once a potentially invalid marriage is confirmed to be valid, there is no bar to receiving the sacraments, including ordination.

Note that this is not specific to the Ordinariates. It applies to any Catholic priest, and there are a number of married priests outside the Ordinariates.

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