Not surprisingly, the discussion at the Synod of Bishops, in Rome, about possibly ordaining married men--viri probati ("proven men") to the priesthood gets folks all excited and interested.
Also not surprisingly, the bishops judged this was not the setting in which to launch such a change, as reported here and elsewhere.
This sort of thing can be useful, if it gets people discussing the subject seriously. Unfortunately, too often folks just say things like, "if only they ordained (pick one): married men/women/extraterrestrials/etc., and we wouldn't have a priest shortage..."
Herewith some thoughts about this...
1. If Rome said yes, this would NOT mean a change in doctrine, but rather in discipline. The Roman Catholic Church has always recognized that married men may validly receive holy orders, but has, for many reasons, and for most of her history, limited the priesthood and episcopacy to celibate men.
2. Many Protestant bodies presently ordaining not only married men, but also women -- and not expecting a lifetime commitment, and paying far better -- also have a shortage of clergy.
3. Per ancient and universal tradition, for an ordained man to be married, he must be married prior to ordination -- and if widowed, may not marry again. This would, it seems to me, cause men thinking about a priestly vocation to postpone such a decision -- perhaps for many years indeed. I.e., first he'd want to court and marry the right woman; then start a family; then have to build his career and savings. You're not likely to see such married men enter the seminary in their 20s--more likely in their 40s or 50s. (Update: a married man also would have to consider his wife's career, as well.)
4. The sacrifices entailed in entering the seminary after being established on your own -- giving up a career, selling a house, rearranging ones life -- aren't easy and are real. But when it's just yourself, that's one thing; when you have a wife and family, how much harder must that be? Hard to imagine men entering the seminary (as we know it) while they need to support any children.
5. Married priests would hardly live in existing rectories with their families, on existing priests' salaries. Many parishes would be in for sticker-shock; and what if a parish said, "no thanks--we want a cheaper (i.e., celibate) priest"?
6. Married priests would not easily relocate from parish to parish; they would likely be less available.
7. Divorce is sadly very common among married clergy. It would be only a matter of time before we'd have divorced priests.
8. In Protestant congregations with married clergy, the spouse of the pastor has a curious, sometimes vague, sometimes defined, role. Like it or not, the pastor's wife--or husband--can become a power-center. This will affect parish life in unexpected ways. Are we ready for parishes to have a "first lady"? Would a pastor be free to put her on staff? Remember nepotism?
9. The effect of having some substantial share of priests be married, while others are celibate, on the collegiality of the priesthood, is unknown. There will be frictions, have no doubt, beginning whenever a celibate priest calls a brother priest, asking him for help on this or that, only to be told: "I can't, because of my family." The "we're all in this together" comradery of the priesthood would suffer as each group, said of the other, "they don't understand what it's like." I suspect we'd have, unofficially, two priesthoods. The effects on morale, for either group, are unknown, but could be seriously negative.
10. Once celibacy became optional, I suspect the result would be active discouragement of celibacy. After all, what inference might be drawn about men who nonetheless embraced celibacy prior to the priesthood? I suspect most men would be encouraged to wait and see, since "this is your only chance to marry"--i.e., beforehand. Unfavorable suggestions would be made, a little more directly, about men who embraced celibacy anyway: "they must be gay."
11. The seminary system would change, perhaps totally. Common life among seminarians would be very hard to achieve; they'd hardly move in and live full-time in the seminary with their wives and families! Accountability and scrutiny would be harder; seminary faculty would be shaping, not one person's life, but the lives of several people, the rest of whom aren't fully consenting to that reshaping, as the candidate for orders does.
None of this is to deny arguments for ordaining married men. I merely offer these thoughts as food for thought.