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Can a priest leave the priesthood and be reinstated?

I've read two commentaries on canon law, talked to a religious major superior of men and a canonist experienced in handling the cases for dispensations from the obligations of religious vows and the priesthood. My canonist friend immediately wanted to know the period of time involved. Before the first (1917) Code of law, canonists used to speak of the possibility of a married couple, without other family responsibilities, separating and joining religious orders. In that era the possibility of one having earlier been a priest would be most unlikely, since dispensations from the obligations of priesthood would have been very rare.

When I talked to the major religious superior, he was not nearly so sure the Holy See would not accept a petition of a priest who left after 1980. He could give no certain answers. But an existing valid marriage would certainly complicate matters. My canonist friend said a bishop or religious superior could submit a petition in the case you propose, but it's anyone's guess as to the decision. The religious superior thought the granting of such a petition might depend on the bishop who submitted it. Is his judgment particularly respected by the Holy See? The canonist also thought the grounds for reinstatement would have to be the need of the Church—not the man's personal good. And the Holy See would have to be assured this man would be placed in a ministry where he would be acceptable to the People of God. The way to return would certainly not be made easy.

I'm not going to speculate further on whether a former sister, married to an inactive priest, would be allowed to return to religious life. I think the superior of a sisters' religious order could speak to that better than I can. But I do not think it too likely if the priest is still alive.

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Sunday, September 1, 2013
Daily Catholic Question for 8/31/2013 Daily Catholic Question for 9/2/2013

Bruno: This saint has the honor of having founded a religious order which, as the saying goes, has never had to be reformed because it was never deformed. No doubt both the founder and the members would reject such high praise, but it is an indication of the saint's intense love of a penitential life in solitude. 
<p>Bruno was born in Cologne, Germany, became a famous teacher at Rheims and was appointed chancellor of the archdiocese at the age of 45. He supported Pope Gregory VII in his fight against the decadence of the clergy and took part in the removal of his own scandalous archbishop, Manasses. Bruno suffered the plundering of his house for his pains. </p><p>He had a dream of living in solitude and prayer, and persuaded a few friends to join him in a hermitage. After a while he felt the place unsuitable and, through a friend, was given some land which was to become famous for his foundation "in the Chartreuse" (from which comes the word Carthusians). The climate, desert, mountainous terrain and inaccessibility guaranteed silence, poverty and small numbers. </p><p>Bruno and his friends built an oratory with small individual cells at a distance from each other. They met for Matins and Vespers each day and spent the rest of the time in solitude, eating together only on great feasts. Their chief work was copying manuscripts. </p><p>The pope, hearing of Bruno's holiness, called for his assistance in Rome. When the pope had to flee Rome, Bruno pulled up stakes again, and spent his last years (after refusing a bishopric) in the wilderness of Calabria. </p><p>He was never formally canonized, because the Carthusians were averse to all occasions of publicity. However Pope Clement X extended his feast to the whole Church in 1674.</p> American Catholic Blog The saints in heaven love and care for us, and so it is fitting that we pray to them and ask for their prayers, as we on earth assist one another through prayer.

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