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Daily Catholic Question

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
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Columban: Columban was the greatest of the Irish missionaries who worked on the European continent. As a young man who was greatly tormented by temptations of the flesh, he sought the advice of a religious woman who had lived a hermit’s life for years. He saw in her answer a call to leave the world. He went first to a monk on an island in Lough Erne, then to the great monastic seat of learning at Bangor. 
<p>After many years of seclusion and prayer, he traveled to Gaul (modern-day France) with 12 companion missionaries. They won wide respect for the rigor of their discipline, their preaching, and their commitment to charity and religious life in a time characterized by clerical laxity and civil strife. Columban established several monasteries in Europe which became centers of religion and culture. </p><p>Like all saints, he met opposition. Ultimately he had to appeal to the pope against complaints of Frankish bishops, for vindication of his orthodoxy and approval of Irish customs. He reproved the king for his licentious life, insisting that he marry. Since this threatened the power of the queen mother, Columban was deported to Ireland. His ship ran aground in a storm, and he continued his work in Europe, ultimately arriving in Italy, where he found favor with the king of the Lombards. In his last years he established the famous monastery of Bobbio, where he died. His writings include a treatise on penance and against Arianism, sermons, poetry and his monastic rule.</p> American Catholic Blog Jesus was never a careerist or a glory-monger; he did not demand to be hailed as a king or lauded as a hero. He came to live among us, to suffer with us, and to serve us from the heart. He came to teach us how to love.

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