Are Greek Orthodox Priests Celibate?

Many Greek Orthodox priests are married.
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The Greek Orthodox church is one of the main Eastern Orthodox churches. Along with Catholicism and Protestantism, Eastern Orthodox churches represent one of the three main Christian groups. According to the BBC online series on world religion, the Orthodox Church began the split from its Western counterparts sometime after the seventh Ecumenical Council in 787 A.D. and then finally split fully from Catholicism after the so-called Great Schism in 1054. Accordingly, it developed its own distinct traditions, including the ability for priests to be married.

1 Celibacy

While the Catholic church requires that its priests remain celibate and not marry, the Greek Orthodox church does not. A married man is allowed to become a deacon and then can become a priest. Intercourse and the raising of children within this family is also deemed acceptable and even encouraged, as the priest's family can serve as a model for the community, an example that his congregation can look to for guidance.

2 Marriage After Ordination

However, while a married man can become a deacon and a priest in the Greek Orthodox church, marriage is forbidden for those already in one of these positions. If a man chooses to become a priest while he is still single, he is expected to remain unmarried and by extension celibate, throughout his entire tenure as a priest -- presumably for the rest of his life. Therefore, the decision to marry or not is one that should be made prior to entering the priesthood.

3 Remarriage

The ban on becoming married while a priest extends to priests who become widowers. Because it views the institution of marriage as sacred, the Greek Orthodox church forbids priests from remarrying under any circumstances. Priests whose wives die must leave the priesthood if they wish to remarry.

4 Premarital Sex

Single priests are expected to remain celibate, as the Greek Orthodox church takes a traditional approach to the question of premarital sex, forbidding it all together. According to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, premarital sex is considered a sin, inappropriate both for priests and laity.

Based in New York City, Joseph Eliot has been a writer since 2007. He holds a master's degree in journalism, with a focus on cultural reporting.