Enter your email address to receive updates by email:

subscribe in a reader like my facebook page follow me on twitter Image Map
Podcast Message Line: 512-222-3389
Logos Catholic Bible Software

« WWYDIJP | Main | Womens "Ordinations" Behind The Iron Curtain »

May 09, 2006



Pretty draconian, IMHO. Not even an EMHC? I suppose it does leave open things like lector or catechist. And what do you think is the interpretation of "some work of piety or charity should be imposed on him"?

Old Zhou

Actually, franksta, I don't think that he would be able to be a lector or catechist, as this is related to either sacred ministry (lectors actually should be "installed" in their ministry, and most seminarians were "installed" as lectors by their bishop on the way to ordination), or the office of teaching, for a catechist.

Paul Ambro

What about celebrating the Mass by himself? I assume since he has an indellible mark and is forever a priest, that a valid consecration occurs if he performs it, right?



That's true...I am aware of the "minor order" (now merely "ministry") of lector given to seminarians (whatever happened to subdeacons?). But in the parishes I have been connected with, I've never heard of lay lectors being installed in any way...at best, there's a brief training session, then "how often do you want to be on the calendar?" As I read the rescript, the emphasis seems to be on "office of teaching" in seminary/college/parochial school, not parish catechesis, but I could be wrong.

In any event, I am curious about (at least anecdotally) what is typical for the "work of piety or charity imposed".

Eric G.

Jimmy or someone else:

Why can't an "ex-priest" in good standing with the Church teach in Catholic universities, or teach theology or other related disciplines in non-Catholic universities? What's the logic to this?


Eric, I suppose it's the nature of being an ex. The ex-priests I've known left to get married (after the kids were born). They might be Catholics in good standing now, but I wouldn't trust them to teach about priestly celibacy. Or, really, any celibacy - as one of them was my classmate's dad and informed us that "Celibacy is unreasonable, especially when you're young and curious." (If I had been braver back then, I would have answered with "Quit hitting on us, you ol' pervert!")

Unless, of course, you really believe that adage "Those who can do, and those can't teach", I don't see why ex-priests would be high on the list for teaching at Catholic universities or presenting themselves as Catholic theologians in another Christian setting.

Ken Crawford

Eric G., another way to think of this is like divorce. While the Church will allow for divorce, it will never allow for re-marriage (an annulment being a different thing). When a priest decides he can no longer be a priest, it is a similar failure to live up to one's commitments as at least one party in a failed marriage. That "ex-priest" needs to refrain from serving as a pseudo-priest just as a divorced person must refrain from a pseudo-marriage. And since teaching the faithful is an aspect of being a priest, teaching at a University as a layicized priest would be a way to become a pseudo-priest.

Paul Ambro, don't confuse illicit with invalid. The Church saying he should not (illicit) consecrate does not mean he is incapable (invalid) of doing so.


the other thing about priests dismissed from the clerical state in universities is that they may be a source of scandal to the faithful, so generally they're kept out of the public eye.

Jimmy: you basically hit it all on target. I might offer a few tiny clarifications:

The Code of Canon Law doesn't spell these things out because dismissal from the clerical state is a rescript, which is, as you well know, a favor granted personally to a particular person. Therefore, the circumstances of that particular cleric govern the conditions of the rescript. Because canon law doesn't operate through precedent, the circumstance of every cleric is judged individually, and the results could be different every time (though generally rescripts include all the things you included.)

There is a distinction between dismissal from the clerical state and dispensation from the obligation from celibacy. With regard to "laicisization" dispensation from the obligation from celibacy is the broader (it includes dismissal from the clerical state) and dismissal from the clerical state the more specific. One can be dismissed from the clerical state without being dispensed from celibacy (this often happens when a person is granted a penal rescript, or if a homosexual is being laicized, and has happened in a few other kinds of cases.)

Canons 290-293 provide a brief outline of the loss of the clerical state.

ed- feel free to offer any corrections.


I'm not sure what the precise interpretation of "ecclesiastical authority" is, but certainly the rule is not much followed at the major American Jesuit university of which I am an alum. I had several ex-Jesuits as professors, one in theology. On the other hand, I would say that I never heard any of them ever mention it in class or otherwise to students; it was more the subject of gossip by those who found out about it somehow ("Did you know Prof. X used to be a priest?"). The one exception would be a rather prominent English professor who, several years before I came, came out as gay, left the Jesuits, and now claims to be a priest in some sort of alternative "Catholic" church.


I'm guessing that the forbidding of various positions of authority has to do with avoiding confusion about whether they have any "pastoral" authority.


Who cares how "draconian" this may be? This guy had YEARS to plan, pray, and think about his decision to be a priest. Why are we supposed to be suddenly sympathetic to his inability to be, say, a CCD teacher to a bunch of 3rd graders? He is responsible for his own years of "decisions and undecisions" and we should not take it upon ourselve to lament his inability to exercise his "expertise" as an ex-preist any further.


Who cares how "draconian" this may be? This guy had YEARS to plan, pray, and think about his decision to be a priest. Why are we supposed to be suddenly sympathetic to his inability to be, say, a CCD teacher to a bunch of 3rd graders? He is responsible for his own years of "decisions and undecisions" and we should not take it upon ourselves to lament his inability to exercise his "expertise" as an ex-preist any further.


Be charitable, guys. We mostly hear about ex-priests who are nogoodniks, and don't hear about the ones who just didn't discern well enough. Because the nogoodniks tend to get into trouble again, whereas the guys who made honest mistakes and honestly asked to be laicized before something bad happened are following the instructions.

Considering some of the boners I've pulled, especially when I had lots and lots of time to think about them beforehand and thus had time to make really elaborate boners.... Well, I'm sure as heck in no position to make snarky comments. Not while there are people around whom I advised badly, and people whom I didn't do enough to help because I was afraid to screw up -- and who are thus no longer around.

Personally, I'd think that losing the faculties to celebrate the Sacraments would be punishment enough for anyone. But I can see why the Church made rules like this.

Anyone can make a mistake. Many of them probably just want to get on with their lives quietly.

Jesuit John

Could the gossip about the X-Jesuits be confusing being a Jesuit with being a priest? There are basically no extraordinary restrictions put on X-Jesuits who were never ordained...


Well, true, but I know for sure that a couple of them were ordained. I'm not talking about people who dropped out of seminary when they were 20.

Joy Schoenberger

Can a laicized priest become a priest again? (Sort of like a divorced Catholic couple reconciling?) Suppose some Pauline super-conversion were to occur, the ex-priest goes to confession, and makes good with God and his bishop. Could he be reinstated?


I know of a number of laicized priests that work for the chancery in my diocese (several former religious sisters as well). It makes me sad.

Actually, one of the ex-priests recently passed away. The death notice distributed by the diocese listed him as Father So-and-so, an inactive priest. I thought that was confusing - it sounded like he had retired or something.



I have some direct experience with the situation you raise.

Regarding Jesuits, the problem is that most don't understand how the Jesuit formation process (nearly 12 years long, in the quickest of cases) actually works.

My paternal grandfather was a Jesuit long before V2. He was six months from Ordination and Final Profession when he approached his superior and asked to be dispensed from his prior professions of vows. A couple of years later he met my grandmother, etc. He spent his life working for the local Sewerage & Water Board as a chemist, and tried to raise his boys in the Faith.

By way of him, and my lifelong association with the Society, I know many for whom this story would sound familiar. It could easily be whispered about, especially among students, that so-and-so was a "priest", when the actuality of the story is different.

Two other possibilities raise themselves in my mind based on my experience.

1) As most people don't understand the difference between a priest and a brother with in the Society of Jesus (or anywhere else for that matter), that a man may have been a brother is another possibility. I don't know how their rescripts would be worded, but since they are clerics, I expect it would be similar.

2) They may be "ex-priests" but not Catholic ones. I know many Anglicans who renounced their orders and now teach at the university level, that being the only thing, besides priesthood, for which their extensive educations prepared them.

It is also that these are mere urban legends, as many "former priest" stories can be. Either wishful thinking (from those who admire the man, but misunderstand the priesthood) or damnable detraction (from those who dislike the man).

Just my deux centimes.

Susan Peterson

I don't quite see how you could keep someone from teaching anything he wanted to in a non Catholic university. The man is no longer employed by the church. The church after all, would not try to tell me, a laywoman, where I could or couldn't work or teach or in what subjects. The ex-priest is a layman. He is free to make a private contract with a private employer.

Considering that priests have training in theology and church history, teaching the same seems to be one of the few jobs open to them without much retraining.

I don't think we should assume that because a man didn't keep his vow of celibacy, perhaps made for the wrong reason (ie, not disappointing his mother.. or not being a failure at what he set out to do) that he would necessariliy teach false theology or inaccurate church history. In any case, we aren't in control of what is taught in non-Catholic universities.

I really also think it is wrong not to let such a man become a leader in his parish as a lay person. He has a new life as a married Catholic and a layman...let him be an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, or teach CCD. If his teaching isn't orthodox, well fire him for that. But don't treat him like damaged goods and a pariah for the rest of his life.

Just my opinion
Susan Peterson

edwin B.T.

naturally, ex-priests need in some way or another, need assistance. possible job or ministry. i think that it's a christian gesture for the bishop and other brother priests to assist their "ex-brother priest" face the new direction in life. most of the the time lay people may think that given rules are somehow condemnation. the ex-priests should be given a proper plece for them in the church. i

Dean Whinery

Maybe I'm oversaturated with the Baltimore Catechism, but it seem to me that a laicised priest could still baptize in the same way any other layman might be called upon to do an ememrgency baptism. As long as the proper Trinitarian form is used, baptism is baptism, yes?

Tom Cox

Just wondering if there is any regulation in the situation where a laicized priest wishes to anoint his gravely ill parent. The Hospital Chaplain is available, so it's not as if the Sacrament of the Sick is unavailable. What to do?


Once a priest - always a priest (no matter what). I'm one of "them." I strongly believe, that being 100% faithful Catholic to the teaching of the Church, many people could benefit (including priests or seminarians) from some of my experience after. I missed being able to be a "channel" for God and distribute Holy Sacraments to them - there is nothing like this on Earth. I could use so much of knowledge and experience for some retreats and teaching - sacraments, devotions and protection of our Church or individual souls.


I should explain: "No matter what" (in the above comments) means this life and the other - eternal. Total obedience to the Church (local and global) is the key to every spiritual growth. Like children in Fatima, God will find the way at the right time, place, circumstance, etc. Missing special graces makes me appreciate them much more now then ever before. I needed to grow! I can do things with local bishop permission, so that's the point of action after much prayer and fasting. I actually thought of starting a ministry to the priests that are not functioning. One condition would have to be placed - nothing in your past that was illegal but this also needs more prayer and planning.


If I can humbly add another explanation (especially to Rich). It is much more complicated than just simply "years of planning..." I was told "always listen to your spiritual directors" - unfortunately before I was more mature (God's grace and experience) the Church is filled with God's grace given to ... people (sinners). Some parts of such difficult decissions belong to people we trust. But what if ... It is only God's grace that I'm still alive - depression was terrible. I could help so many people, but when God wants me - the place will be prepared to do HIS work.


Interesting reading all your comments about ex-priests. What advice would you give to someone who sincerely believes he is no longer faithful to the church's teaching on chastity and celibacy, who actually is expecting a child but continues to function as a priest, just because he wants to externally put up a good face ? Don't you think it is more courageous an honest thing to come up to your bishop and asked to be relieved? Please just seeking clarifications from people i believe are more experienced and experts on the issue.


I would be happy to be assisted in my stage as former priest to realize a non-profit organization I intend to start in India.
Would any individaul or agency ready to help me in this ?
Welcome to join me to make a better world


Can an ex-priest get married? If he is married is he in good standing with the Church and can he receive communion?

A Hanrahan

Its a tradgedy for the mystical body of christ when a priest seeks laicization.We have to say yes every day of our lives like in a marriage, for richer for poorer ,for better for worse,in good times and in bad.If we do not have a deep prayer life and a special relationship with the Mother of God we will not make it. The flesh, the world or the devil will end up conquering us. Lets us cling, be wrapped up and enfolded in Our Iadys Immaculate Heart so that she can beget our souls in Jesus and Jesus in our souls.

The comments to this entry are closed.

January 2012

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31