Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Circular Letter on Special Faculties, 13 March 2009.
On December 19, 2009 Pope Benedict XVI granted the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples special faculties for resolving cases involving requests for dispensation from clerical obligations for priests and deacons of mission dioceses and members of Societies of Apostolic Life for missio ad gentes that depend on the Congregation. The faculties enable the Congregation to address promptly serious cases of scandalous behavior by clerics that call for an urgent decision. The faculties provide additional means not available in the Code of Canon Law to resolve grave violations of clerical celibacy or situations where clerics have abandoned their ministry for an extended period of time. The text of the communication sent to Major Superiors of Societies of Apostolic Life for missio ad gentes follows:
Letter to Superiors General
Missionary Societies of Apostolic Life (dependent on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples)
Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples31 March 2009
Prot. N. 0579/09
Dear and Very Rev. Fr. Superior General,
I write to inform you that during the Audience granted me on December 19, 2008, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, taking into account the particular circumstances of Mission territories, granted to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples some Special Faculties, without prejudice, however, to the ordinary competencies of other Dicasteries of the Holy See. These faculties enable this Congregation to deal promptly with serious cases of scandal – certainly with due respect to the natural right of the accused persons to defend themselves – caused by indiscipline on the part of clerics, that require an urgent decision for avoiding the continuation of the scandal and greater spiritual damage to the Church and to the persons concerned.
The Holy Father further decided that the Societies of Apostolic Life for missio ad gentes, that depend on this Congregation, should come under the purview of the present Special Faculties, which authorize this Dicastery:
1. To proceed administratively and bring to the approval in forma specifica and decision of the Holy Father cases regarding the dismissal in peonam from the clerical status of those clerics who are found guilty of the offenses defined in ca. 1395, §§1&2 (concubinage and other serious sexual scandals), without prejudice to the exclusive competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding cases of pedophilia.
-The same penalty is also applied to a cleric who is guilty of attempted marriage and, though duly admonished by the competent Ordinary, refuses to mend his ways and continues in his irregular and scandalous life (cf. can. 1394, §1).
-The same penalty could also be applied to a deacon who has caused scandal in the moral field and is therefore judged by the competent Superior not fit to be promoted to the Order of priesthood, but does not intend to ask for the pontifical dispensation from the obligations arising from the diaconate Ordination.
2. To study, following the existing procedure, and bring directly to the decision of the Holy Father requests for dispensation from clerical obligations, presented by members of the Societies of Apostolic Life for missio ad gentes that depend on this Dicastery.
3. To act in accordance with the provisions of can. 1399, either directly or confirming the decisions of competent Superiors, when they ask for it, in particularly serious cases of violation of law, when there is an urgent need to avoid an objective scandal.
4. The Holy Father has, moreover, graciously granted the derogation from the provisions of cann. 1317, 1342, § 2, and 1349, that deal with the application of perpetual sanctions, to be inflicted on deacons for serious reasons and on priests for very serious reasons, always bringing individual cases directly to the Holy Father for his approval in forma specifica and decision.
Eventual requests for applying the above mentioned Special Faculties should be instructed according to the enclosed indications. The observance of this procedure and the completeness of the documentation are necessary for avoiding undue delays in studying and deciding the cases presented.
While communicating the above for your information, I take this opportunity to extend to you kind regards and prayerful best wishes, and I remain,
Yours devotedly in Corde Mariae,
Ivan Cardinal Dias
Most Rev. Archbishop Robert Sarah
Congregation for the Evangelization of PeoplesMarch 31, 2009
Prot. N. 0579/09
Request for Dispensation from Clerical Obligations Presented by Priests and DeaconsDuring the Audience granted to the Cardinal Prefect on 19 December 2009, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI graciously granted to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples the Special Faculty to study the requests for dispensation from clerical obligations presented by priests and deacons of mission dioceses and members of Societies of Apostolic Life for the missio ad gentes that depend on the same Mission Dicastery, as well as for members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life of diocesan right, who have their principal houses in mission territories, and to bring these cases directly to the supreme decision of the Holy Father.
It is necessary, first of all, to remember that when a cleric shows signs of weakness and vocational crisis, or of difficulties in his ministry, the Ordinary of the place or the Superior of the Institute should show him every paternal understanding and offer him the help and necessary spiritual and professional assistance, in order to support and encourage him to overcome the crisis and difficulties.
If the cleric, after a serious process of mature reflection, prayer and discernment, decides to definitively leave the clerical state and ask for the pontifical dispensation from all clerical obligations, the Ordinary of the place or the competent Superior should instruct the case and prepare a dossier that should contain the following documents:
1. A letter of the priest or deacon in question, written in all sincerity and addressed to the Holy Father, in which he explains the reasons of his vocational crisis and eventual defection from the priesthood; also describing the reasons for considering his decision to seek the pontifical dispensation irreversible.
The above petition that the interested cleric should personally sign, should ask for both the dispensation from all his clerical obligations as well as the reduction to the lay state.
2. A detailed curriculum vitae of the petitioner, indicating the various stages and the important dates in his life, as well as in his formation and clerical ministry.
3. A document in which the Ordinary summarizes all the attempts he has made to dissuade the petitioner from presenting the request for dispensation, and all the assistance given him to help overcome his crisis and to motivate him to return to the priestly life and ministry. For this purpose, the petitioner’s Ordinary, either personally or through a priest delegate, may collect any useful information regarding the cleric in question, possibly interrogating the same cleric and some other witnesses who know him well, as, for example, a formator, a seminary companion or brother-priest, or also a co-worker.
A dossier should also contain the votum of the Ordinary of the place (or of the Superior General, in the case of a member of an institute) regarding the merit of the case, as well as the absence of scandal in the place where the petitioner is actually living. Moreover, it is advisable that this votum be corroborated by the College of consultors of the diocese of incardination of the petitioner or by the General Council of the institute to which he belongs.
4. A document which proves that the petitioner has been suspended from exercising the sacred ministry from the moment his petition for dispensation has been presented to and accepted by the competent Ordinary/Superior.
5. An authenticated copy of the document regarding the eventual attempted marriage of the petitioner and the application or declaration of canonical sanctions against him.
6. Documents written in the vernacular language should be translated into a European language, preferably Italian, English or French, and the manuscripts and other legal documents should be typewritten.
7. The complete dossier, prepared in an orderly manner and put together with a progressive page numbering and a table of contents, should be sent to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, through the Apostolic Nuncio in the country, who is required to give his own opinion on the case.
Ivan Cardinal Dias
Most Rev. Archbishop Robert Sarah
Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Circular Letter on Special Faculties, 13 March 2009, CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2009, 48-51.