From the Father’s Wife: A Perspective on Marriage and the Priesthood 

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The photo shows Andrea Erdman and Fr. Jonathan Erdman with one of their four  children.

From the Father’s Wife: A Perspective on Marriage and the Priesthood

By Andrea Erdman

I am married to a Roman Catholic priest.

I understand if you are confused. There are very few of us priest wives out there, and even fewer have small children. Most Catholics have no idea there are any married priests in the world at all. My husband and I have been married for 15 years. He was an ordained Episcopal priest for about 11 years before following a call to leave the Episcopal church and come home to the Catholic Church. We came into full communion with the Catholic Church last year through the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. We have four delightful children together, and one more on the way.

My husband and I are blessed in the life we have together, and are humbled by the mercy that the Church has granted him ordination and dispensation of canon law of priestly celibacy for the sake of bringing our new parish into the holy Catholic Church.  This ministry affords us the ability to reach souls in unique ways, and sharing the Good News through the lives we touch. We open our home to feed friends and strangers, comfort people in grief or trauma, and educate people about our Catholic faith. We have a unique ministry to married people, to parents, and especially to those who have experienced lost children in pregnancy. I am my husband’s comfort, his biggest fan, his toughest critic, his partner. When he lay prostrate at his ordination before God and his bishop, in many ways I also lay beside him, giving my whole self to God and His Holy Church. Our home is filled with light, life, and joy.

We are blessed to as members of the Ordinariate, where our bishop and his office work in harmony with our local Archbishop to provide for our spiritual, financial, and physical needs. Because our newly established parish is small, finances are woven together through multiple sources in our archdiocese. Utilities, housing, food, benefits, retirement, clothing, children’s school tuition are provided through the outpouring of generosity of the Church. Bishop Lopes, our bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, has given us a chaplain for clergy families who offers direct spiritual pastoral care and nurtures mutual support of other Catholic clergy wives in prayer retreats. I am humbled by graciousness I have never seen before in my years as a clergy wife. Though we will never be wealthy, our every need is answered, even anticipated.

That being said, some may be surprised that I am in favor of the Church’s current practice of the celibacy of the priesthood. There is no doubt in my mind that wives and children of Catholic and non-Catholic traditions alike are the first to be targeted by enemies of the church when a priest stands true to apostolic faith and tradition. We have received threats. We have received hate mail. We have been been mocked and conspired against. Other families have sunk into financial trouble, lost their homes and jobs, retirement, pension, benefits as they give themselves in service to the faith. Many of the wives I know are practiced at hiding their wounds, keeping a permanent facade of perfection, never showing illness or grief. They live in fear that weakness exposes a chink in their husbands’ armor. Though these experiences are not unlike those of laymen in other careers, few are prepared for these kinds of experiences to occur in a life of a priest or his family where the home is expected to be a sanctuary rather than a front in a battleground. I believe this is the reason my husband and our marriage were thoroughly vetted through both our Ordinariate office and the Vatican prior to my husband’s approval for ordination.

My husband and I have a beautiful marriage, and the strength of our family and faith has deepened through the trials. My husband and I are rare, however. We are the few who have thrived in hardship by the grace of God and the mercy of the Church. I have seen many ministries and families fail under this pressure.

I feel the current practice of the church of priestly celibacy to be a mercy, a protection of the ministry of the priest as well as the family. The ministry of the priesthood is a holy relationship, a marriage to the Church. Fatherhood is a ministry to a wife and family. To do both threatens the strength of both ministries. Married priesthood is for those men who are proven exceptional husbands and fathers who are needed to function as a priest by their community. Married priesthood is meant to be rare, performed only for the sake of unity of the Church under extraordinary circumstances.

If we wish to call more men to the priesthood, we must become enthusiastic evangelists, and deepen our Catechesis of the faithful. Let us create a culture of deep faith and discernment of the call of God and passionate commitment to sacrifice ourselves for Christ who sacrificed Himself for us.

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29 Responses to From the Father’s Wife: A Perspective on Marriage and the Priesthood 

  1. Rev22:17 says:

    Well, the norm of celibacy is changing gradually, but the present pope has indicated on multiple occasions that he is very open to further relaxation of the present discipline of the Roman Rite. Within the past week, an article in the National Catholic Register stated that the bishops of Brazil are considering a relaxation of the discipline to address a dire shortage of clergy in the Amazon River Valley.

    The fact that this story is even appearing in public is very unusual. In the Catholic Church, there normally is no official indication whatsoever that a legislator is considering a change of law until the legislator promulgates the document enacting it.

    Norm.

    Like

    • JBD says:

      Buddy, you’re way off and clearly ignorant. The Eastern Churches in Union worh Rome have married priests, and have always had them. And while they were suppressed in this country for several years, that has been changing over the past 30years.

      Kindly do your homework before posting.

      Like

      • William Tighe says:

        Rev22:17 was clearly speaking of the Roman Catholic/Latin Catholic Church – “the present discipline of the Roman Rite” – not one of the Eastern ecclesiae sui juris in communio with Rome. So, “Buddy,” get a grip yourself.

        Like

      • Rev22:17 says:

        Ah, what part of the phrase “… the present discipline of the Roman Rite…” don’t you comprehend?

        For the record, I’m well aware that the sui juris ritual churches of the various eastern rites never abandoned the original practice of ordaining married men to the order of presbyter. Clerical celibacy is one of several practices that began in Spain around the eighth century and gradually spread throughout western Europe, becoming normative in the Roman Rite by the twelfth century. It never infiltrated any of the ancient oriental churches or the churches of the Orthodox Communion.

        Norm.

        Like

    • Aaron Aukema says:

      If celibacy was introduced in Spain in the eighth century, why did the Council of Laodicea, much earlier than that (and not an Ecumenical Council), condemn the celibacy of the Roman Churches? Clearly, the rule of celibacy was already established in the West, if the Eastern bishops ruled on it…

      Like

  2. Alice Michniewicz says:

    Truly found your article not only educational but full of inspiring thoughts for our young men who will not feel they must choose between church and home and family Thank you for enlightening us

    Like

  3. Fred Dunwoody says:

    Allowing married priests would increase vocations tenfold. It hasn’t had a negative effect on churches of the Eastern Rite.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Florence Sundberg says:

      Nov. 22nd, 2017: I don’t believe that allowing married Priests will increase vocations tenfold at all. Lack of vocations are seen everywhere, even denominations that allow married Priests. We know that financial considerations do not make up the whole of the problems were there to be married Priests but they are a large part. Imagine if all the Priests we have now were married…because so few people attend Mass, and because of a shortage of Priests, Churches are being consolidated. With married Priests, funds would be needed for them, their families, their homes, the upkeep of their homes, health and dental care, retirement, education…I worked for many years in Haiti and then in India with Mother Teresa. When there were dangers, good Protestant pastors had to send their families away while the Nuns and Priests remained. The Priests and Nuns were able to live poorly while the Protestant Pastors had to have decent homes for their wives and children. I believe that the vocations to the Priestly and consecrated life are there…many have been called and chosen but because of comfortable and pleasurable life styles few are responding to that call. And among all Catholics, how many really have a close relationship with Christ and His Church? Why would anyone give his or her life to serve someone – Jesus – that he or she does not even know? We have become a secular society for the most part. Mother Teresa always asked: “If we would kill the innocent baby in the womb, what would we not do?” We see the answer to her question when we learn about those who terminate the lives of babies in the womb cutting them to pieces and selling the tiny body parts; we see the vast human trafficking enterprise all over the world, including kidnapping and selling children, some as young as three years of age, into sex trafficking. We see violence and greed and a ‘me first’ attitude among so many – most who have no knowledge of Christ or, if they do, they do not care about Him. Married clergy is not the answer to the shortage of vocations to the Priesthood…evangelization … by your life lead others to Christ; help others to know Him and and then see what happens. It’s worth a try.

      Like

  4. LOTR says:

    So, what is going to happen with all the ordained Latin Rite priests once celibacy becomes optional? The universal discipline of the Church, Eastern and Western, has been that after ordination neither a deacon nor a priest may remarry if his wife dies. Is that to be discarded too? And what about the Eastern Church requirement that a bishop must be unmarried? If priests can marry freely, why not bishops?

    Like

    • Rev22:17 says:

      Clearly the contemplated change in discipline in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church would do no more than extend the faculty for ordination of married men to the order of presbyter beyond the present dispensations for former Anglican and former Protestant clergy. There would be no dispensation from the vow of celibacy for those who are already ordained, and married candidates for ordination to the order of presbyter would make the same commitment not to remarry after ordination if their spouses die before them. This is not novel — it is exactly the same discipline that now govern ordination of permanent deacons and ordination of former Anglican and former Protestant clergy.

      That said, the Vatican actually has granted dispensations from the commitment not to marry again fairly routinely in cases of permanent deacons whose wives’ deaths left them with young children as a matter of justice to the children, maternal nurture being essential, or at least highly beneficial, for their normal emotional and psychological development. That rationale clearly would support similar dispensations for those ordained to the order of presbyter who land in the same situation.

      Norm.

      Like

  5. This is a very beautiful story and the best part is it is a true story, not a fictional one. God bless you, your priest husband and your wonderful and very blessed children.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. It’s obvious that this can only work if they are greatly subsidized financially. And what if the wife doesn’t want to also participate in ministry? What if she wants to have a quiet home without constant visitors or wants a career of her own?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Magdalene P says:

    It cannot ever be easy to have a divided heart. Yes, I know of some wonderful married priests and they all say this same thing. Celibacy is a true gift where one can serve God and God’s people with a totalness that could not otherwise be found.

    Liked by 1 person

    • . BILL H.... says:

      WE have a married priest as our pastor to our Catholic parish. A few weeks ago he had a heart problem as he was going to the shower prior to coming to the parish church to celebrate our week day mass. THANK GOD he had a wife to witness the problem, give assistance, contact the medical people, settle him into hospital where a heart specialist dealt with the problem. Our priest is now back with us continuing to be our wonderful priest. Thank you dear wife. My mind reflects on how this would have ended up if the priest was celibrate in the presbytery alone!!!!!!!!! BILL H.

      Like

  8. Pingback: While we’re on the subject of married Catholic priests . . . | Anglicanorum Coetibus Society Blog

  9. TLM says:

    This is a beautiful post from a beautiful self giving woman, not only to her family but to her priest husband and to his flock. Much care and much support must be given to those priests that are married in the Church, and especially those with large families for them to be successful in both their family life and in their ministry to the Church. I cannot imagine the overwhelming responsibility to be ‘married to two’ (Church and Family) both for the priest/husband and for his wife. It certainly takes special people to be able to fulfill this role. They need just as much prayer as our celibate priests if not more. I really hope that ‘married priests’ remain an exception to the rule instead of the norm!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Pingback: MONDAY ANGLICAN ORDINARIATE EDITION – Big Pulpit

  11. Donald Link says:

    Many seem to forget (or ignore) that celibate clergy is a matter of Church discipline, not theology. We had a married priest at San Francisco de Paolo in San Antonio long before all this current kerfluffle. No problems and few gave it much thought after the initial installation. Probably a lesson in there somewhere.

    Like

  12. Don Collier says:

    It must be very difficult for him to go to the hospital in the middle of the night to attend to the sick, and the many other duties he does. A wife must be very sympathetic, since she does this “getting up in the middle of the night thing” with the kids for years. We are praying for you.

    Like

    • Rev22:17 says:

      It’s no more difficult for a married priest to make an emergency call in the middle of the night than for a married physician to make a house call in the middle of the night or for a surgeon to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night to perform a surgery that cannot wait until morning or for a married undertaker to do a “removal” in the middle of the night. Getting called out in the middle of the night is not unique to the Catholic priesthood.

      Norm.

      Like

  13. Gerry kavanagh says:

    A true love story is a gift to us all, thank you for sharing.

    Like

  14. C-Marie says:

    Do not believe that one can escape trials and troubles by having celibacy as the rule. Continual growth in Jesus Christ is the answer for responding to difficulties. God our Father called and His Son ordained married men and unmarried men. The Church ought to do the same. God knows what is best for His Church. All of us are married to Jesus, whether married familywise or not. God bless, C-Marie

    Like

  15. Catherine Therese says:

    I see no relaxation in the rule of celibacy for priests. The only time it does occur is when they convert from a protestant religion, generally from the Episcopal church since they are most like the Roman Catholic Church. They, like Deacons, are not allowed to remarry if their spouse dies. While this would not have happened in the past it became an issue when the Episcopal Church became a liberal nightmare for their faithful.

    Like

  16. Frank W. Russell says:

    Parishes and dioceses that adhere to the “reality” of the Second Vatican Council rather then the so-called “spirit of Vatican II” have numerous vocations. Doing away with celibacy is not the answer; following the guidance of the Holy Spirit is.

    Like

  17. Bill Brown says:

    God sends the vocation. God calls some men to the married Roman Catholic priesthood. I believe it scandal that the church, by imposition of a “discipline”, frustrates that calling.

    Like

  18. Judith Farrell says:

    most men have little time for their wives and families, few could handle the priesthood besides. having worked in the Church for years, most priests has told me that they would not get married even if they could and most parishes are not financially capable of supporting a wife and children of several priests including the cost of housing, food, etc.

    Like

  19. Curt Schmidt says:

    It’s the mandatory aspect that’s a large part of the problem. St. John Paul II said that “celibacy is a gift to the Church.” But a gift that is mandated is always less of a gift than one that is so utterly voluntary that no one would want to make it mandatory. Ironically, the mandatory aspect has a deleterious effect on every priest’s gift of celibacy, because no one knows whether he is being celibate as a true, voluntary gift to God, or because he had to be celibate if he wanted to be a priest.

    Like

  20. Thomist says:

    My comment has NOT been published

    Like

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