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The discipline before Vatican II was that at the ordination to the Sub-diaconate one had to be celebate and remain so. A man was then ordained to the diaconate and the priesthood. Some from the ranks of the priesthood where elevated to the episcopacy, (bishop).

If one was granted a dispensation from clerical vows, they could marry and where no longer required to pray the Office, (now Liturgy of the Hours) every day. If there was a danger of death, and somebody requried absolution, the Church supplies Jurisdiction, (Valid ordination and jurisdiction both requried for a valid absolution.) when no other priest with faculties, (Jurisdiction) can come to the aid of someone in danger of death, (the Ecclesiastical term is In Articulo Mortis). This would be in effect if the priest had been dispensed from his vows, or if the priest was outside of his diocese or province and did not have faculties for the place where the soul was in need.

While ministers who convert to the Catholic Faith have been ordained to the priesthood even though married, (with Papal dispensations) a priest who leaves and marries, is generally not given faculties or permitted to function as a priest (except as noted above) unless the marriage or attempted marriage ends with the death of the spouse. Even then the priest who left to marry is usually not granted faculties to function in public, but only in a cloistered monastic community.

Since Vatican II in the Latin (Western) Rites, (The Ambrosian and Mozarabic rite still exist in the west) only the Indult Orders still have the minor orders and Sub-diaconate. So now practically speaking a transitional deacon, (one who is going to be ordained a priest after the diaconate) is bound to celebacy. A married man who is ordained a premanent deacon may be married before he is ordained, may not re-marry after ordination if his wife dies. His wife also must agree to his ordination. If she dies, or in very rare cases decides to enter a cloistered convent, the deacon may continue his studies and be ordained a priest. In the West before Vatican II it was common for a priest to act as a deacon or sub-deacon at a solemn high mass, as only one priest would celebrate Mass at a time, (Except at ordinations of new priests or consecrations of bishops, where the ordaining bishopand those ordained concelebrated the Mass.)

In the Eastern Rites, marriage may take place before ordination to the diaconate, and priesthood. A deacon or priest who’s wife dies may not re-marry. Only a Celebate man may become a bishop, in rare cases this may be a man who’s wife died before his election to the epscopacy, as most bishops in the east (traditionally) come from monastic communities. In some places in the East, parish priests are married, and Monks and bishops are celebate. It has been a long standing practice in the east for some to remain in Minor Orders or the Diaconate and not advance to the priesthood. In the East concelebration has been a longstanding practice and one functions at the level one is ordained to, so if there are no deacons at hand, only priests, nobody vests as a deacon or functions in that role for the Mass, (Divine Liturgy) the priest(s) simply recite the deacon’s prayers along with his own.

As most priests have their food and housing paid for, and an allowance for a car (since they need one to visit parishoners and make sick calls, emergencies etc.) They recieve a small stipend from the parish, (around $300.00 a month, and stipends for masses, weddings and funerals) but anything that they need to buy, clothing clerical or not, chalice, books, gas, more expensive car than the allowance could afford, comes from the stipends they earn. So it is not as if they get everything paid for. They used to get a big break as many places would either give them a good discount or comp their meals etc. Not so much any more though.

So I guess I’d sum it up, that I think a celebate clergy is preferable, a married clergy is not unthinkable or contrary to the Catholic Faith. But most important, married or not, we will only have holy priests if we pray for them and their vocations, expect them to act in the manner that a priest should act, and let them know that we support the priesthood as a gift from our Lord to the Church which we and they should cherish.