Married priests, women priests and laity send Terry and me to Hell

married priests

This is not an easy article to write, but it has been with me for a long time. It comes to the surface when I’m told that priests feel threatened by the ordination of women.

Of course, they feel threatened. Would a starving man feel threatened working with a chef?

I believe that the option of marriage for parish priests must come before the ordination of women in the Catholic Church.

I’ll explain through question and answer, but first, an introduction to my own background.

My father was Scottish Presbyterian, my mother was Brethren. Jesus has always been a part of my life. I grew up in many churches, and found something in all of them, but ran out of space.

Catholic influence came through books and then through other people.

Eventually, I received instruction and entered the Catholic Church.

I had come home.

Five years later, my priest friend Terry Coles wanted to marry me.

Terry knew there were Anglican priests in my family, and he suggested we both become Anglicans.

I told Terry I had to remain Catholic.

We had support from Catholic clergy and Women Religious, but generally, laypeople seemed convinced we were going to hell.

Now I’d like to clear up some of the misinformation that is still out there.

Were the apostles celibate?

No. They were Jews, and marriage was important.

In 1 Corinthians 9:5, Paul writes: “Have we no right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (RSV)

In the Jerusalem Bible, “woman” is described as a “Christian wife.”

Cephas was Peter, who was in Rome when Paul’s letter was written. I doubt that you will find any reference to Mrs Peter in the Vatican.

Why were the apostles’ wives not mentioned in the Gospels?

For the same reason that electricity is not mentioned in modern books.

Marriage was taken for granted.

We must also remember that Jesus did not leave writings, and neither did the apostles. It was the followers of the apostles who recorded the stories handed down to them.

Was Jesus married?

Probably not. But he loved and respected women.

Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus rebuke a woman for lack of faith.

We are told he had special friends in Martha and Mary and Mary of Magdala. When he was resurrected, he chose to appear first to Mary of Magdala.

Why would he say to her, “Do not touch me” if he wasn’t accustomed to having her embrace him?

Women were not a part of Jesus’ ministry


Let us read between the lines. Jesus’ ministry began with his mother at the wedding in Cana. He thought he wasn’t ready, but she knew he was ready.

Remember when Jesus believed that his ministry was to be to the lost children of Israel?

When he sent his disciples out, he told them not to go to Samaria or the Pagan Territories.

In Samaria, Jesus preached to Samaritans after his conversation with the woman at the well.

In the Pagan territories, he also preached to people after a woman challenged him to heal her daughter. We could say that both these women were instrumental in making his mission global.

In the Catholic tradition, priests have always been celibate

No. That is not true. Priests, bishops, and popes were married.

However, there came a time when Church property was being handed down to children. So the priesthood became celibate.

I suspect there is some truth in the saying, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”

But priests need to be celibate to freely serve. They can’t do this if they are looking after a family

My experience of other churches, especially the Anglican, tells me that the married priest has a spouse and family to help him or her in ministry. In Orthodox churches, celibacy is for the Religious. Parish priests must be married before they go into a parish.

Mistakes can happen, so one divorce is allowed, but not more than one. This seems to work.

But it costs money to raise a family. How would the Catholic Church cope with that?

How is the Catholic Church coping with payment for abuse cases?

If we walk away from nature, it will pursue us.

I know good men abused by priests when they were young, but they have not made this public because they love their Church. But what about those who have made claims? What has that cost the Church?

Do I think women will become priests?

Yes, I do.

Even in Biblical times, women were priests.

Miriam, sister of Moses, was made High Priest with Aaron.

St Paul mentions Phoebe, a woman who looked after several churches in Chencre. What do we call someone who looks after several churches? A bishop?

There will be women priests, but I think that marriage for parish priests must come first. My hope for this is with our compassionate and wise Pope Francis.

It is said that if a priest marries, the marriage will fail

That is political nonsense.

My husband Terry left his body six months ago. He was 92, and in 32 years of lovely marriage, I believe we have done more for our Church than we could have done separately.

Have I wanted to be a priest?


My call is to the laity, and my heart lies with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

I love the Catholic Church.

I love the beauty of our Faith, the messiness of our history, and that great mixture of the human and the Divine.

I am a year older than our Pope, and I will remain Catholic to the end of my last breath. But in the time left, I pray that I will see married priests.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.
Additional reading

News category: Analysis and Comment, Great reads.

Tags: , ,