Ask a Priest


Jan 08, 2017


Would like to clarify… having a debate with a friend and this question came up- do priests and nuns have to be virgins? Or are priests and nuns required to live celibate and chaste lives?


Asked at 08:35 am on January 08th 2017

Hi Sarah, all Christians, married or celibate, are required to live chaste lives, that is to follow the laws of the Church and of the Ten Commandments appropriate to their state of life – for example young people who are not married, or married couples who must be faithful to each other.

But lifelong vowed celibacy as a total dedication of themselves to God, is a commitment freely made by religious men (brothers, monks, priests) and women (sisters), as well as by priests in the Roman or Latin rite. In the Catholic Church, there are also 23 other rites, belonging to what’s called the Oriental or Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, most of which allow their priests to marry (except for the two Indian Syrian Catholic Churches and the Coptic Catholic Church) – although, as with the Orthodox, they must have married before priestly ordination. Very best, Fr Brendan

Replied at 03:19 am on January 16th 2017

Hi Sarah,

In addition to Fr Brendan’s response if there was a man or woman who had been in a sexual relationship in the past and then later on in life felt God calling them to the priesthood or to the religious life the fact that they were no longer a virgin would not be a barrier to them becoming a priest or a sister. A good example would be Saint Augustine of Hippo who was a bit of a party boy and is recorded to have engaged in “sins of impurity” which is likely to mean sex outside of marriage. However he still went on to become a priest, then a Bishop and then one of the most famous Saints of the Church.

Replied at 11:06 pm on January 19th 2017