Title VI. Orders


Can. 10081 By divine institution, the sacrament of orders establishes some among the Christian faithful as sacred ministers through an indelible character which marks them. They are consecrated and designated, each according to his grade, so that they may serve the People of God by a new and specific title.

Can. 1009 §1. The orders are the episcopate, the presbyterate, and the diaconate.

§2. They are conferred by the imposition of hands and the consecratory prayer which the liturgical books prescribe for the individual grades.

§3.2 Those who are constituted in the order of the episcopate or the presbyterate receive the mission and faculty of acting in the person of Christ the Head, whereas deacons are empowered to serve the People of God in the ministries of the liturgy, the word, and charity.

Chapter I. The Celebration and Minister of Ordination

Can. 1010 Ordination is to be celebrated within the solemnities of the Mass on a Sunday or holy day of obligation. For pastoral reasons it can take place also on other days, even weekdays.

Can. 1011 §1. Ordination generally is to be celebrated in the cathedral church; for pastoral reasons, however, it can be celebrated in another church or oratory.

§2. Clerics and other members of the Christian faithful must be invited to the ordination so that as large an assembly as possible is present at the celebration.

Can. 1012 The minister of sacred ordination is a consecrated bishop.

Can. 1013 No bishop is permitted to consecrate anyone a bishop unless it is first evident that there is a pontifical mandate.

Can. 1014 Unless the Apostolic See has granted a dispensation, the principal bishop consecrator in an episcopal consecration is to be joined by at least two consecrating bishops; it is especially appropriate, however, that all the bishops present consecrate the elect together with the bishops mentioned.

Can. 1015 §1. Each person is to be ordained to the presbyterate or the diaconate by his proper bishop or with legitimate dimissorial letters from him.

§2. If not impeded by a just cause, the proper bishop is to ordain his own subjects personally; without an apostolic indult, however, he cannot ordain licitly a subject of an Eastern rite.

§3. The person who can give dimissorial letters to receive orders can himself also confer the same orders personally if he possesses the episcopal character.

Can. 1016 As regards the diaconal ordination of those who intend to be enrolled in the secular clergy, the proper bishop is the bishop of the diocese in which the candidate has a domicile or the bishop of the diocese to which the candidate is determined to devote himself. As regards the presbyteral ordination of secular clerics, it is the bishop of the diocese in which the candidate was incardinated through the diaconate.

Can. 1017 A bishop cannot confer orders outside his own jurisdiction without the permission of the diocesan bishop.

Can. 1018 §1. The following can give dimissorial letters for secular clergy:

1° the proper bishop mentioned in can. 1016;

2° an apostolic administrator and, with the consent of the college of consultors, a diocesan administrator; with the consent of the council mentioned in can. 495, §2, an apostolic pro-vicar and an apostolic pro-prefect.

§2. A diocesan administrator, apostolic pro-vicar, and apostolic pro-prefect are not to grant dimissorial letters to those who have been denied admission to orders by the diocesan bishop, the apostolic vicar, or the apostolic prefect.

Can. 1019 §1. The major superior of a clerical religious institute of pontifical right or of a clerical society of apostolic life of pontifical right is competent to grant dimissorial letters for the diaconate and the presbyterate to their subjects who are enrolled perpetually or definitively in the institute or society according to their constitutions.

§2. The law for secular clerics governs the ordination of all other candidates of any institute or society; any other indult granted to superiors is revoked.

Can. 1020 Dimissorial letters are not to be granted unless all the testimonials and documents required by law according to the norm of cann. 1050 and 1051 have been obtained beforehand.

Can. 1021 Dimissorial letters can be sent to any bishop in communion with the Apostolic See except to a bishop of a rite different from the rite of the candidate unless there is an apostolic indult.

Can. 1022 After the ordaining bishop has received legitimate dimissorial letters, he is not to proceed to the ordination unless it is clearly evident that the letters are authentic.

Can. 1023 Dimissorial letters can be limited or revoked by the one who granted them or by his successor, but once granted they do not lapse when the authority of the one who granted them ceases.

Chapter II. Those to be Ordained

Can. 1024 A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.

Can. 1025 §1. To confer the presbyteral or diaconal orders licitly, it is required that the candidate, having completed the period of probation according to the norm of law, is endowed in the judgment of his own bishop or of the competent major superior with the necessary qualities, is prevented by no irregularity and no impediment, and has fulfilled the prerequisites according to the norm of cann. 1033–1039. Moreover, the documents mentioned in can. 1050 are to be obtained and the investigation mentioned in can. 1051 is to be completed.

§2. Furthermore, it is required that he is considered in the judgment of the same legitimate superior as useful for the ministry of the Church.

§3. The bishop ordaining his own subject who is destined to the service of another diocese must be sure that the one to be ordained is going to be attached to this other diocese.

Art. 1. Requirements in Those to be Ordained

Can. 1026 A person must possess due freedom in order to be ordained. It is absolutely forbidden to force anyone in any way or for any reason to receive orders or to deter one who is canonically suitable from receiving them.

Can. 1027 Those aspiring to the diaconate and presbyterate are to be formed by careful preparation, according to the norm of law.

Can. 1028 The diocesan bishop or the competent superior is to take care that before candidates are promoted to any order, they are instructed properly about those things which belong to the order and its obligations.

Can. 1029 Only those are to be promoted to orders who, in the prudent judgment of their own bishop or of the competent major superior, all things considered, have integral faith, are moved by the right intention, have the requisite knowledge, possess a good reputation, and are endowed with integral morals and proven virtues and the other physical and psychic qualities in keeping with the order to be received.

Can. 1030 Only for a canonical cause, even if occult, can the proper bishop or competent major superior forbid admission to the presbyterate to deacons subject to him who are destined to the presbyterate, without prejudice to recourse according to the norm of law.

Can. 1031 §1. The presbyterate is not to be conferred except on those who have completed the twenty-fifth year of age and possess sufficient maturity; an interval of at least six months is to be observed between the diaconate and the presbyterate. Those destined to the presbyterate are to be admitted to the order of deacon only after completing the twenty-third year of age.

§2. A candidate for the permanent diaconate who is not married is not to be admitted to the diaconate until after completing at least the twenty-fifth year of age; one who is married, not until after completing at least the thirty-fifth year of age and with the consent of his wife.

§3. The conference of bishops is free to establish norms which require an older age for the presbyterate and the permanent diaconate.

§4. A dispensation of more than a year from the age required according to the norm of §§1 and 2 is reserved to the Apostolic See.

Can. 1032 §1. Those aspiring to the presbyterate can be promoted to the diaconate only after they have completed the fifth year of the curriculum of philosophical and theological studies.

§2. After a deacon has completed the curriculum of studies and before he is promoted to the presbyterate, he is to take part in pastoral care, exercising the diaconal order, for a suitable time defined by the bishop or competent major superior.

§3. A person aspiring to the permanent diaconate is not to be promoted to this order unless he has completed the time of formation.

Art. 2. The Prerequisites for Ordination

Can. 1033 A person is promoted licitly to orders only if he has received the sacrament of confirmation.

Can. 1034 §1. A person aspiring to the diaconate or presbyterate is not to be ordained unless he has first been enrolled among the candidates through the liturgical rite of admission by the authority mentioned in cann. 1016 and 1019; his petition is previously to have been written in his own hand, signed, and accepted in writing by the same authority.

§2. A person who has been received into a clerical institute through vows is not bound to obtain this admission.

Can. 1035 §1. Before anyone is promoted to the permanent or transitional diaconate, he is required to have received the ministries of lector and acolyte and to have exercised them for a suitable period of time.

§2. There is to be an interval of at least six months between the conferral of the ministry of acolyte and the diaconate.

Can. 1036 In order to be promoted to the order of diaconate or of presbyterate, the candidate is to present to his bishop or competent major superior a declaration written in his own hand and signed in which he attests that he will receive the sacred order of his own accord and freely and will devote himself perpetually to the ecclesiastical ministry and at the same time asks to be admitted to the order to be received.

Can. 1037 An unmarried candidate for the permanent diaconate and a candidate for the presbyterate are not to be admitted to the order of diaconate unless they have assumed the obligation of celibacy in the prescribed rite publicly before God and the Church or have made perpetual vows in a religious institute.

Can. 1038 A deacon who refuses to be promoted to the presbyterate cannot be prohibited from the exercise of the order received unless he is prevented by a canonical impediment or another grave cause to be evaluated in the judgment of the diocesan bishop or competent major superior.

Can. 1039 All candidates for any order are to make a spiritual retreat for at least five days in a place and manner determined by the ordinary. Before the bishop proceeds to ordination, he must be certain that the candidates properly made this retreat.

Art. 3. Irregularities and Other Impediments

Can. 1040 Those affected by any impediment, whether perpetual, which is called an irregularity, or simple, are prevented from receiving orders. The only impediments incurred, however, are those contained in the following canons.

Can. 1041 The following are irregular for receiving orders:

1° a person who labors under some form of amentia or other psychic illness due to which, after experts have been consulted, he is judged unqualified to fulfill the ministry properly;

2° a person who has committed the delict of apostasy, heresy, or schism;

3° a person who has attempted marriage, even only civilly, while either impeded personally from entering marriage by a matrimonial bond, sacred orders, or a public perpetual vow of chastity, or with a woman bound by a valid marriage or restricted by the same type of vow;

4° a person who has committed voluntary homicide or procured a completed abortion and all those who positively cooperated in either;

5° a person who has mutilated himself or another gravely and maliciously or who has attempted suicide;

6° a person who has placed an act of orders reserved to those in the order of episcopate or presbyterate while either lacking that order or prohibited from its exercise by some declared or imposed canonical penalty.

Can. 1042 The following are simply impeded from receiving orders:

1° a man who has a wife, unless he is legitimately destined to the permanent diaconate;

2° a person who exercises an office or administration forbidden to clerics according to the norm of cann. 285 and 286 for which he must render an account, until he becomes free by having relinquished the office or administration and rendered the account;

3° a neophyte unless he has been proven sufficiently in the judgment of the ordinary.

Can. 1043 If the Christian faithful are aware of impediments to sacred orders, they are obliged to reveal them to the ordinary or pastor before the ordination.

Can. 1044 §1. The following are irregular for the exercise of orders received:

1° a person who has received orders illegitimately while affected by an irregularity to receive them;

2° a person who has committed a delict mentioned in can. 1041, n. 2, if the delict is public;

3° a person who has committed a delict mentioned in can. 1041, nn. 3, 4, 5, 6.

§2. The following are impeded from the exercise of orders:

1° a person who has received orders illegitimately while prevented by an impediment from receiving them;

2° a person who is affected by amentia or some other psychic illness mentioned in can. 1041, n. 1 until the ordinary, after consulting an expert, permits the exercise of the order.

Can. 1045 Ignorance of the irregularities and impediments does not exempt from them.

Can. 1046 Irregularities and impediments are multiplied if they arise from different causes. They are not multiplied, however, if they arise from the repetition of the same cause unless it is a question of the irregularity for voluntary homicide or for having procured a completed abortion.

Can. 1047 §1. Dispensation from all irregularities is reserved to the Apostolic See alone if the fact on which they are based has been brought to the judicial forum.

§2. Dispensation from the following irregularities and impediments to receive orders is also reserved to the Apostolic See:

1° irregularities from the public delicts mentioned in can. 1041, nn. 2 and 3;

2° the irregularity from the delict mentioned in can. 1041, n. 4, whether public or occult;

3° the impediment mentioned in can. 1042, n. 1.

§3. Dispensation in public cases from the irregularities from exercising an order received mentioned in can. 1041, n. 3, and even in occult cases from the irregularities mentioned in can. 1041, n. 4 is also reserved to the Apostolic See.

§4. An ordinary is able to dispense from irregularities and impediments not reserved to the Holy See.

Can. 1048 In more urgent occult cases, if the ordinary or, when it concerns the irregularities mentioned in can. 1041, nn. 3 and 4, the Penitentiary cannot be approached and if there is imminent danger of grave harm or infamy, a person impeded by an irregularity from exercising an order can exercise it, but without prejudice to the obligation which remains of making recourse as soon as possible to the ordinary or the Penitentiary, omitting the name and through a confessor.

Can. 1049 §1. Petitions to obtain a dispensation from irregularities or impediments must indicate all the irregularities and impediments. Nevertheless, a general dispensation is valid even for those omitted in good faith, except for the irregularities mentioned in can. 1041, n. 4, and for others brought to the judicial forum, but not for those omitted in bad faith.

§2. If it is a question of the irregularity from voluntary homicide or a procured abortion, the number of the delicts also must be mentioned for the validity of the dispensation.

§3. A general dispensation from irregularities and impediments to receive orders is valid for all the orders.

Art. 4. The Required Documents and Investigation

Can. 1050 For a person to be promoted to sacred orders, the following documents are required:

1° a testimonial that studies have been properly completed according to the norm of can. 1032;

2° for those to be ordained to the presbyterate, a testimonial that the diaconate was received;

3° for candidates to the diaconate, a testimonial that baptism, confirmation and the ministries mentioned in can. 1035 were received; likewise, a testimonial that the declaration mentioned in can. 1036 was made, and if the one to be ordained to the permanent diaconate is a married candidate, testimonials that the marriage was celebrated and the wife consents.

Can. 1051 The following prescripts regarding the investigation about the qualities required in the one to be ordained are to be observed:

1° there is to be a testimonial of the rector of the seminary or house of formation about the qualities required to receive the order, that is, about the sound doctrine of the candidate, his genuine piety, good morals, and aptitude to exercise the ministry, as well as, after a properly executed inquiry, about his state of physical and psychic health;

2° in order to conduct the investigation properly, the diocesan bishop or major superior can employ other means which seem useful to him according to the circumstances of time and place, such as testimonial letters, public announcements, or other sources of information.

Can. 1052 §1. For a bishop conferring ordination by his own right to proceed to the ordination, he must be sure that the documents mentioned in can. 1050 are at hand and that, after the investigation has been conducted according to the norm of law, positive arguments have proven the suitability of the candidate.

§2. For a bishop to proceed to the ordination of someone who is not his subject, it is sufficient that the dimissorial letters mention that the same documents are at hand, that the investigation has been performed according to the norm of the law, and that the suitability of the candidate has been established. Moreover, if the candidate is a member of a religious institute or a society of apostolic life, the same letters must also attest that he has been received definitively into the institute or society and is a subject of the superior who gives the letters.

§3. If, all these notwithstanding, the bishop doubts for specific reasons whether a candidate is suitable to receive orders, he is not to promote him.

Chapter III. The Notation and Testimonial of Ordination Conferred

Can. 1053 §1. After an ordination has taken place, the names of those ordained and of the ordaining minister and the place and date of the ordination are to be noted in a special register to be kept carefully in the curia of the place of ordination; all the documents of individual ordinations are to be preserved carefully.

§2. The ordaining bishop is to give to each of the ordained an authentic testimonial of the reception of ordination; if a bishop other than their own promoted them with dimissorial letters, they are to show the testimonial to their own ordinary for notation of the ordination in a special register to be kept in the archive.

Can. 1054 The local ordinary if it concerns seculars, or the competent major superior if it concerns his own subjects, is to send notice of each ordination celebrated to the pastor of the place of baptism, who is to record it in his baptismal register according to the norm of can. 535, §2.




1 Until the Apostolic Letter Omnium in Mentem, issued motu proprio by Pope Benedict XVI on 26 October 2009, this canon read:

Can. 1008 By divine institution, the sacrament of orders establishes some among the Christian faithful as sacred ministers through an indelible character which marks them. They are consecrated and designated, each according to his grade, to nourish the people of God, fulfilling in the person of Christ the Head the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing.

2 Added by the Apostolic Letter Omnium in Mentem, issued motu proprio by Pope Benedict XVI on 26 October 2009.