Request for Dispensation from the Obligation of Celibacy, 6 October 1995.
What follows in this entry is the votum of the instructor in the petition for dispensation from the obligation of celibacy of a cleric who was a
member of a religious community. The instructor noted that “the file was sent to Rome on October 25, 1995.” On January 15, 1996 the Congregation for Divine Worship wrote and requested additional material, namely, “the Votum and statement of scandalo non timendo from the petitioner’s proper superior.’’ The requested item was sent to Rome on March 25, 1996. The rescript was granted on November 6, 1996 and was received here in on December 10, 1996. And it was communicated to the petitioner on January 13, 1997.”The instructor notes that he composed the votum as he would a sentence in a formal marriage nullity case.
Votum of the InstructorI, Rev. , in accord with the Mandate of the Diocesan Bishop of April 15, 1995, and in accord with the Substantial and Procedural Norms promulgated by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, (AAS 72, 1132-1137) hereby present my votum on the petition of Reverend John Doe, for a dispensation from the obligations of priestly ordination.
John Doe, currently a resident in Somewhere, U.S.A., approached the Rev. , Pastor of St. Church, seeking his advice as to whether the Diocese of could assist him in regularizing his current situation as a priest who had attempted marriage. John Doe had previously approached his own religious congregation, the Congregation of , seeking the order’s assistance in helping him seek laicization. However, John Doe was informed that since he had attempted marriage, his former religious congregation was not competent to act upon his request. (Of course, this information supplied to John Doe was erroneous.)
In any event, John Doe, at the urging of his pastor, Father , eventually contacted the tribunal of the Diocese of seeking assistance. As the acts of this case clearly indicate, I, Reverend , J.C.L., on February 19, 1994, wrote to the provincial, Father , seeking his consent, under Article 2d of the Procedural Norms to instruct the case. Father gave his consent in a letter dated April 15, 1994. Therefore, on April 15, 1994, Bishop , the ordinary of the Petitioner’s habitual place of residence, issued his mandate appointing me as the instructor of this case.
The instruction of the case has been long and arduous. This is because one of the counselors of the Petitioner, proposed as a witness, neglected to furnish any testimony in this case. Also, obtaining the scrutinia took almost a year and a half.
Regrettably, I as the instructor did not obtain from the Congregation of a “statement of every pastoral attempt made by the religious superior to dissuade the Petitioner from making the request.’’ Also, I do not believe that the Congregation of ever issued a “document that demonstrates that the Petitioner has been suspended from the exercise of the sacred ministry.’’ However, I as the instructor find that “a document of all of the pastoral attempts’’ made to dissuade the Petitioner would be superfluous and useless at this stage. And I make this judgment for the following reasons.The acts of the case itself indicate what pastoral attempts were made by the Order of to assist John Doe. The acts of the case indicate that John Doe sought in June of 1989 from his religious superior, one Father , a leave of absence from his religious order. And this was granted. During his leave of absence, John Doe kept in contact with Father . And, the acts of the case contain the report of Dr. , Ph.D., a counselor whom John Doe saw for some seventy sessions beginning in September of 1985 until July 27, 1988. These then, the instructor finds, were the pastoral attempts made by the Congregation of in an effort to dissuade John Doe from seeking laicization. John Doe has already attempted marriage. And he has two children from this union. Both John and his current consort attend Mass on a regular basis at St. ‘s Church in Somewhere, U.S.A. Both children have been baptized and are being raised as Catholics.
I also find that a “document that demonstrates that the Petitioner has been suspended from the exercise of the sacred ministry’’ would also be superfluous and useless at this stage. And I make the judgment for the following reasons. Since the Petitioner has already attempted marriage, his religious Congregation of have been reluctant to deal with him. Also canon 694, §1, 2° is applicable in this case: “A member is to be held to be ipso facto dismissed from the institute who has contracted marriage or has attempted it, even only civilly.’’ Apparently, however, this was never “declared” by his religious institute in accord with canon 694, §2. The directives of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments indicate that this “document of suspension” is needed in order to “avoid all possible scandal” and in order to “protect the reputation”
of the Petitioner. In this particular case, there is absolutely no danger of scandal. The Petitioner lives in Somewhere, U.S.A. And he is not known to have been a former priest. Since leaving his religious community, John Doe has never functioned as a priest.
John Doe was born in , on June 23, 1946. He is one of six children in his family of origin, having an older sister and four younger brothers. He attended Catholic schools for his grammar school and high school education. He comes from a family in which is own father was given to anger and violence. John›s relationship of obedience and rebellion to his own father deeply influenced his relationship to all authority figures.
Eventually, at the age of nineteen, John Doe joined the United States Military. And while in the armed services he experienced a nervous breakdown. He was given the drug Thorazine and was hospitalized for three months. After leaving the United States Military, John Doe returned to . He dated and was actually engaged to be married. Also, he experienced, at that time, a reawakening of his Catholic Faith. He came under the influence of a number of rather charismatic priests who informed him that he had a vocation to the religious life as well as the priesthood.
Though feeling some repugnance to the idea of becoming a priest, he broke his engagement. He came to and entered the novitiate for the Congregation of . There he was greatly influenced by a man regarded by many as being a mystic. During his time in he was frequently ill, and suffered from fatigue and depression. Fearful of losing the approval of and fearful of displeasing God, John proceeded to make vows.
He was ordained to the diaconate at St. Church in U.S.A., on September 14, 1980. He was ordained to the priesthood at on May 23, 1981. He served as associate pastor at St. Church in from 1981 to 1984. He served as associate pastor at St. Church from 1984 to 1988. From 1988 till 1989 he served as the Catholic Chaplain to Catholic High School in . In 1989, he was granted a leave of absence from his religious congregation. Later he moved to the state of and met one Jane Smith with whom he attempted marriage on May 17, 1991. Two children have been born of this union.
5. In carrying out the examination of petitions sent to the Apostolic See, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will undertake consideration of cases of priests who long ago left the priestly life, cannot withdraw from their state, and wish to sanate it; cases of those who should not have received priestly ordination, that is, because they lacked the due liberty or responsibility, or because the competent superiors were not able, at the proper time, to judge in a prudent and sufficiently suitable manner whether the candidate was really apt to live his live perpetually in celibacy dedicated to God. (Substantial and Procedural Norms promulgated by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, AAS 72, 1132-1137).
10. The personal vote of the instructor about the merit of the case as a whole, explaining whether it is recommended or it is deemed unadvisable that a dispensation be granted and why this is the case. To be taken into consideration are: not only the reasons set forth in the Instruction, as well as the personal well being of the Petitioner, but also the universal good of the Church, of the diocese or religious institute as a whole, and of the souls formerly entrusted to the ministry of the Petitioner. (Documents Necessary for the Instruction of a Case for Dispensation from the Obligations of Priestly Ordination issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, April 1991.)
The substantial acts of the case consist of the following items: 1) The letter of John Doe to his Holiness, Pope John Paul II; 2) His curriculum vitae attached to his written petition and reasons for seeking this dispensation; 3) John Doe’s letter of June 1989 to Father Provincial seeking a leave of absence; 4) The interrogation under oath of John Doe conducted by the instructor, Father on April 23, 1994; 5) The report of , Ph.D., dated May 19, 1994; 6) The deposition of Reverend , given May 6, 1994; 7) The deposition of Reverend , current Superior General of the Congregation of , given June 26, 1995.
From all of these proofs I find that the facts of the case are well established.
The curriculum vitae and the letter of June 1989, both composed by the Petitioner, present a picture of a man who was very confused, fearful, and distressed at the time he entered religious life. And his state of confusion has its etiology in his family of origin and in his relationship with his father.
This state of confusion, fear, and distress finds support in the testimonies of the witnesses as well as in the report of the expert.
The expert noted: “During the time that John was in psychotherapy with me, we were able to address issues other than his symptoms, and addressed patterns in his life which concerned his need for approval from others, a strong need for structure, and his desire and need to do what was right. Apparently, these patterns existed long before John ever entered religious life in 1976. One strong pattern that emerged in our work together was John’s desire to be adopted by a mentor and to follow whatever was told to him by the mentor, without John exercising reflection and choice. This pattern existed between John and his father (whose approval he always desired but never experienced), a priest in , and a mystic in . John looked for security, safety, approval, and affirmation from others. Apparently, when John was in the Army (19 years of age) he described what he called a nervous breakdown after which he spent three months in a hospital on Thorazine… . John followed the structure that was provided by his religious community and found in that structure safety and security, which he needed. However, as his length of stay progressed in the community, John became more and more depressed. Although he was extremely fearful of leaving religious life because of the ambiguous future which that held, he ruminated about leaving. His rumination did not lead to a decision to leave religious life, primarily because of the associated high level of anxiety and fear, not only of the ambiguity of the future, but also because of the threat of disapproval from significant others in his life, and his fear of committing an unpardonable sin if he left.... After working with John for almost two years, it did not appear to me that at the time of his entrance into religious life, he was capable of making a fully informed and free decision to do so. Rather, it appeared that his decision was based on his need for security and to be dependent on structure and others for his well being.”
The instructor finds that the report of this expert is to be given the great weight which it deserves. The report is based upon an actual interaction
between the therapist and client over some seventy-five sessions. This report is also supported by other acts in the case.
The deposition of Reverend is not without value. “John told me after he left the Congregation that his father was a force in his entering. John stated that he entered for fear of his father or fear of disappointing him.... John’s whole time of formation was marked with very bad health incapacitating him at times.... John seemed somewhat unsettled but I never thought of attributing it to his decision.” The witness was also questioned about whether anyone specifically influenced John to join the Order. The witness commented: “Perhaps reputation and charismatic attraction of a certain member of our congregation, , had influence on him.”
Lastly, there is the deposition of Reverend , current superior general. This witness testified that John suffered from health problems while in the seminary. “John always seemed tired and worn out. He often suffered from allergies that produced at times very large welts on his face.... If memory serves me right, I do recall some hesitance in wanting to be ordained a priest.” In answer to the question, “What sort of pressure, if any, was brought to bear upon John to keep him in the community and seek ordination,” the witness testified: “I think that he (like others in our institute at the time) could not exercise full freedom in choosing to stay or leave due to a certain member of our institute known to have had certain charismatic gifts.”
The instructor finds the testimony of this last witness to be especially compelling. After all he testifies from direct personal knowledge. And the instructor finds that this testimony should be given the great weight that it deserves.
I find that the evidence produced in this case clearly and convincingly demonstrates that at the time of religious profession and subsequent ordination John Doe suffered from a lack of internal liberty. And this had its cause in his family of origin.
The following remarks taken from James Ross Spence’s book Consent to Marriage in a Crisis of Personality Disorder (Vatican City: Editrice Pontificia Universitá Gregoriana, 1995) can be applied mutatis mutandi to the case of John Doe:
Regarding internal freedom of choice, that freedom of the will is necessary which enables a choice to be made between marrying and not marrying, between marrying this person and marrying that person. There must be a choice, something to be determined, and the capacity to determine it.
Man has free will, but it is not a freedom without limits. He is influenced in his tastes and attitudes by the society in which he lives, by the environment of his upbringing; he bears the influence of his own personal history, with its pleasures and pains. These influences all act on his emotions. Free will does not mean the absence of influences, but compensates for them, or keeps them within manageable bounds.
A man who is substantially subject to his emotions often has an under-developed or over-developed psychic condition, a part of his personality that has lost its balance of influence, its equilibrium in the normal harmony of the psyche. That condition can create a psychic need which calls forth an emotion in response. That emotion may distort the faculty of knowing or the faculty of willing.
A person with a serious personality disorder who decides to marry may have a grave lack of knowledge, either of marriage or of himself, and may make a gravely erroneous judgment in his assessment of himself in that marriage. In this way the emotions affect the intellect.
Similarly, a person with such a grave personality disorder may know what marriage is, but cannot, because of the disorder, choose between alternatives. Such a person behaves reflexively or impulsively, moved by unconscious forces; he makes no decision to marry; circumstances take over. In this way the emotions affect the will.
The instructor would find in this case that since John Doe lacked internal freedom at that time when he made solemn vows that these vows are invalid.
The instructor finds that the evidence in this case clearly demonstrates that it meets the criteria set forth in the norms of 1980, namely, the case of
one who should not have received priestly ordination because he lacked due freedom.
Other factors which warrant the granting of the petition are the well being of John Doe as well as his current consort and two children. Also his former religious institute would not be opposed to the granting of the petition, as can be inferred from the deposition of Father , current superior general. The good of the Church urges that a man who entered religious life under undue influence, and lacking internal liberty, be set free. Also the persons formerly entrusted to the ministry of John Doe would not be harmed in any manner.
Also, no scandal would be caused should the petition be granted. John Doe lives in , far away from his former places of ministry. He is not known as a former priest.
Also, the instructor would note that he gives credence to the sincerity of the petitioner in this case. It was obvious to me in my meeting with him that he genuinely wished to rectify and sanate his situation. There was no hint at all of an “attitude’’ in him. This instructor has encountered many priests who have left the priesthood who are cavalier and disdainful of the Church’s process for seeking a dispensation from the obligations of priestly ordination. Such is not the case with John Doe. Also, I am aware that John Doe practices the Catholic Faith to the extent that he can, especially by attendance at Mass. However, given his situation he has refrained from the reception of Holy Communion, as he truly wishes to regularize his situation before he will receive the Eucharist.
For all of the above stated reasons, I as the instructor, add my votum that it is advisable that John Doe’s petition for dispensation be granted.
Given this 6th day of October, 1995, at the Diocesan Tribunal.
RRAO (1997): 6-13.