Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Rescript Dispensing from Priestly Celibacy and the Obligations of Holy Orders, 1997.

__________, a priest, of __________ requests the dispensation from sacerdotal celibacy and from all the obligations attached to sacred ordination.

His Holiness John Paul II on _____ (date)

having received the report on the case from the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, has granted the request with the following provisions:

1. The dispensation has effect from the moment of its being granted.

2. The rescript of the dispensation is to be made known to the petitioner by the competent ordinary, and inseparably includes the dispensation from sacerdotal celibacy and at the same time loss of the clerical state. The petitioner cannot separate the two elements, accept the first and turndown the latter. If the petitioner is a religious, the rescript contains also a dispensation from vows. Furthermore the rescript carries with it an absolution from censures, insofar as this is necessary.

3. Notification of the dispensation granted is to be made in the baptismal register of petitioner’s parish [i.e., in which he was baptized].

4. With regard to the celebration of a canonical marriage, the norms of the Code of Canon Law must be applied. The ordinary will see to it that the marriage is carried out discreetly without pomp and external display.

5. The ecclesiastical authority to whom it belongs to notify the petitioner of the rescript should exhort him to take part in the life of the People of God in a manner consonant with his new mode of life, to give edification, and thus to show himself to be a loving son of the Church. At the same time he will inform him of the following:

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a) The dispensed priest automatically loses all the rights proper to the clerical state, ecclesiastical dignities, and offices, and is no longer bound by the obligations connected with the clerical state.

b) He is excluded from the exercise of the sacred ministry, with the exception of those functions mentioned in canons 976 and 986, §2, and for this reason he cannot give a homily. In addition to this he cannot act as extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, nor may he exercise any pastoral office with authority.

c) Similarly, he may not exercise any office in seminaries and similar institutions. In other institution of higher studies, which depend in anyway upon ecclesiastical authority, he may not exercise any position of authority or teaching.

d) In those institutions of higher studies which do not depend upon ecclesiastical authority, he may not teach any discipline that is properly theological or closely connected with theology.

e) However, in institutions of lower studies, which are dependent upon ecclesiastical authority he may not exercise the function of director or the office of teaching, unless the ordinary — according to his prudent judgment and if there is no scandal — has judged to determine otherwise. A dispensed priest is bound by the same law in teaching religion in institutions of this level which do not depend upon ecclesiastical authority.

6. Per se a priest who has been dispensed from celibacy, and a fortiori one that has married, should not stay in those places in which his previous status is known. Nevertheless, the ordinary of the place where the petitioner lives — having consulted the ordinary of incardination or the major religious superior, if this is necessary — can dispense from this clause of the rescript, if it is foreseen that the petitioner’s presence will not cause scandal.

7. Furthermore, some work of piety or charity will be imposed on him.

8. The notification of the dispensation can be made either personally by an ecclesiastical notary or actuary, or by registered mail. The petitioner must return one copy of the rescript that he has signed as a sign of his receiving and accepting of the dispensation and its precepts.

9. At an opportune time, the competent ordinary will send to the Congregation an account of the fulfillment of the notification, and if there

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is any wonderment on the part of the faithful, a prudent explanation will be given.

All things to the contrary notwithstanding.

From the offices of the Congregation,

G.M. Agnelo


W.H. Woestman, The Sacrament of Orders and the Clerical State: A Commentary on the Code of Canon Law__ (Ottawa: Saint Paul University, 2006): 330-331.