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Married nuns?

24 February 2011
The newspaper’s headline mentions the married priest, but far more startling is the bit about the married nun. I wonder how that works?
clipped from
In a rare move that needed the pope’s approval, a Lutheran convert was ordained Tuesday as a Catholic priest in Germany and is being allowed to remain married to his wife – who has already become a nun.

Harm Klueting, 61, was ordained by Archbishop Joachim Cardinal Meisner in a private ceremony at the city’s seminary, the Cologne archdiocese said.
Pope Benedict XVI gave Klueting a special permission to remain married to his wife Edeltraut Klueting, who became a Catholic Carmelite nun in 2004.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican’s chief spokesman, said the exception is rare but there have been similar cases.
“It doesn’t happen every day,” he said.

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In the recovery of the Orthodox Church from Enver Hoxha’s enforced atheism in Albania, one of the few Orthodox priests who had survived the purges was made a bishop. He was married, and so his wife and he both took monastic vows and separated into different monasteries.

About 45 years ago a married Dutch Reformed minister became a Cathlic in the Netherlands. In an interesting bit of ecumenical reasoning he was ordained as a priest in the Catholic Church without first being made a deacon. His ordination in the Dutch Reformed Church was held to count for that. But thereafter he continued to live with his wife and children. He was a secular priest and neither he nor his wife became monastics.

That I can understand.

But a married Carmelite nun?

The mind boggles.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Dominic permalink
    24 February 2011 8:47 am

    I don’t have a source to hand (but google should hopefully supply one) – but I have read elsewhere that the reference to a “married nun” is a bit of misreporting/misunderstanding, and that the woman concerned was never a nun, but rather a lay (third order) Carmelite. Which doesn’t make for such a good headline…

    • 24 February 2011 1:41 pm

      Well that would explain it, no doubt, and if that is the case, yes, a matter of misreporting.

  2. 24 February 2011 10:08 am

    I wonder if there are any Christian traditions of married people taking vows of celibacy?

  3. Carl permalink
    24 February 2011 11:39 am

    In the new monasticism, a vow to celibacy is understood as faithfulness to one’s partner. Is this not true chastity ?

    • 24 February 2011 1:40 pm


      Yes, but Carmelites are not, as far as I know, the new monasticism, but very much the old. They are (or were) an enclosed contemplative order, although I haven’t met any recently, so they could have changed. If, on the other hand, as another commenter has suggested, the report refers to a member of the Third Order, then it might be possible, and just another instance of the media not “getting” religion, and publishing a misleading report.

      • Carl permalink
        24 February 2011 2:55 pm

        point taken.. I was hoping to see some debate on the definition of ‘chastity’

        • 24 February 2011 7:22 pm

          I don’t think there’s much to debate, really, because the interpretation depends on what kind of vows you’ve taken — marriage vows or monastic vows. Actually the Orthodox Church doesn’t have marriage vows, but I think you can get the picture.

  4. Graham permalink
    24 February 2011 3:36 pm

    They can stay married, sure, but can they continue to live together? Somehow, I doubt it. :-/

  5. 24 February 2011 4:27 pm

    I’m sure it must just be a case of the media not “getting religion,” although it’s not just the media. I was quite astounded sometimes when I was a Cistercian at the otherwise seemingly intelligent people who would ask me whether, if the Catholic Church were to allow priests to marry, we would also be allowed to marry! Of course underlying this confusion of different vocations is the way celibacy and priesthood have become intertwined which has impoverished peoples understanding of both of them. (I was also asked whether, if women were to be ordained, we would all become priests).

    I suspect that there is something of a backlash against this in some contemporary western circles – it would appear that “monasticism” is somewhat fashionable, but then people seem to want claim identities that empties them of their traditional meaning!

    • Carl permalink
      25 February 2011 8:42 am

      good points, Macrina, especially your last. Monasticism has become fashionable as younger Christians, dissatisfied with the status quo, search for meaning in ancient traditions. This appears to be a Western phenomenon, however; haven’t seen anything in South Africa.

  6. Errol Narain permalink
    25 February 2011 1:22 am

    It looks like the RCs believe in divorce as long as the couple separate into monasteries or nunneries.

  7. 25 February 2011 10:34 am

    Terrible reporting. has a post about this, and there’s a good response here:

    • 25 February 2011 11:21 am

      Well, that explains it. And, for Carl, Third Orders are something like new monasticism, and have the potential to be a lot like. Have you checked Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement yet?

  8. 28 February 2011 3:49 am

    Do you remember Martin Luther? He was a monk, and he married a nun. Maybe the pope and the RC Church is finally catching up to the 16th century Reformation! 🙂

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