I personally love having a non-married priesthood. I never have to worry about whether I am taking away from a child's time, or a wife's time, if I call up with an emergency.

And as for financial considerations, most Roman Catholic priests, especially diocesan ones, receive a substantial portion of their pay in the form of in-kind contributions. This would be difficult to maintain if a priest took on a wife and children, and their pay would have to be increased as well. The church, especially in America, is having enough financial problems right now without adding to it by allowing priests to marry.

I have heard some who state that it would lead to an increase in vocations, but there is not a single piece of statistical data to prove that. Of those who have contemplated a vocation to the priesthood, very few have stated that a vow of celibacy was a stumbling block that they could not overcome. In fact, I have known of many ordained individuals who see celibacy as a blessing, and as a way to allow them to focus more on their vocation of service to others and to the church.

-- Kathryn Nicole Stockhausen, Washington

Eastern Orthodox Catholic priests are allowed to marry. Also, certain married Protestant priests may convert as priests to the Roman Catholic faith. Obviously, the precedent for married Catholic priests is already established. So the question is not "if" Roman Catholic priests should be married but "when."

The "when" will be answered as the shortage of priests becomes acute, when the need for compassionate priests with marital experience becomes demanded by the faithful, and when the priests themselves, who may discover it's their path to heaven, insist on the right to be married. Indeed, some of the 12 apostles were married. So what is the problem?

-- Joseph Snyder, Alexandria

Roman Catholic priests should not be allowed to be married. They are to be Christ's earthly representatives, to live as He did, and that cannot be done with a wife in tow. When a priest takes his vows, he consecrates his life completely to God and forsakes all earthly attachments. A man cannot serve two masters, and it would be far too easy to follow a wife's wishes over God's.

-- Andrea Lemieux, Silver Spring

Fresh out of seminary, I moved to a tiny two-church town of 700 to serve the Protestant congregation. Father Richard was the priest for the Roman Catholic church across the bridge. We were both single.

In those first years, Father Richard and I spent a lot of time together talking about celibacy, and it was he who encouraged me to be open about marriage. "It's very lonely," he admitted. And it was.

Twenty years later, I find that my ministry is enhanced -- rather than distracted -- by my husband and children. I wish that this might be a prayerful choice for Father Richard, too.

-- the Rev. Jan Edmiston, Arlington

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