Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Notification of priest of his dispensation from priestly obligations including celibacy, 23 February 2009, Private.
The Holy Father granted the petition for dispensation from celibacy and all obligations connected with ordination to the priesthood for a priest incardinated in a diocese of the United States. The voluntary petition was sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in accord with the provisions of Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela. The diocesan bishop attempted several times and by various means to notify the priest of the dispensation. The priest refused to respond to all efforts of the diocesan bishop to contact him. After a lengthy process, numerous efforts and significant cost to the diocese, the diocesan bishop contacted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The correspondence between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the bishop follows.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith26 August 2008
Reverend _____, a presbyter of the Archdiocese of _____, has humbly petitioned for a dispensation from sacred celibacy and from all the obligations connected with sacred ordination.
Our Most Holy Father, Benedict XVI, on 26 August 2008, after having received a report on the case from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has granted the request, but with the following provisions:
1. The rescript of the dispensation, being made known by the competent Ordinary to the petitioner as soon as possible:
a. becomes effective from the moment of the notification;
b. inseparably includes a dispensation from sacred celibacy and, at the same time, loss of the clerical state. The petitioner never has the right to separate those two elements, that is, to accept the first and refuse the second;
c. if the petitioner is a religious, the rescript also grants a dispensation from the vows;
d. indeed, further, it carries with it, insofar as it is necessary, absolution from censures.
2. Notification of the dispensation can be made to the petitioner either personally, or through one delegated by the same Ordinary, or through an ecclesiastical notary, or by “registered mail.” The Ordinary ought to retain one copy (of the rescript) duly signed by the petitioner in testimony of his reception of the rescript of the dispensation, and also of his acceptance of its regulations.
3. Notice of the granting of the dispensation is to be inscribed in the baptismal register of the petitioner’s parish.
4. With regard to the celebration of a canonical marriage, the norms set down in The Code of Canon Law must be applied. The Ordinary, however, should take care that the matter be discreetly handled without pomp or external display.
5. The ecclesiastical authority, to whom it belongs to notify the petitioner concerning the rescript, should earnestly exhort him to take part in the life of the People of God, in a manner consonant with his new mode of living, to give edification, and thus to show himself a most loving son of the Church. At the same time, however, he should be informed of the following points:
a. the dispensed presbyter automatically loses the rights proper to the clerical state, as well as ecclesiastical dignities and offices; he is no longer bound by the other obligations connected with the clerical state;
b. he remains excluded from the exercise of the sacred ministry, with the exception of those functions mentioned in canons 976 and 986, §2, and, as a result, he may not give a homily nor is he able to hold a directive office in the pastoral field nor to exercise the function of parochial administrator;
c. similarly, he may not discharge any function in seminaries and in equivalent institutions. In other institutions of higher studies, which are in any way whatever dependent upon ecclesiastical authority, he may not exercise the function of director;
d. however, in those institutions of higher studies which are not dependent upon ecclesiastical authority, he may not teach any discipline which is properly theological or closely connected with the same;
e. on the other hand, in institutions of lower studies, which are dependent upon ecclesiastical authority, he may not exercise the function of teaching a discipline which is properly theological. A dispensed presbyter is held by the same rule in teaching Religion in an institution of the same kind not dependent upon ecclesiastical authority.
6. The Ordinary takes care, as much as possibly that the new condition of the dispensed priest not show itself to be a scandal to the faithful. But, if the danger of abusing minors is present, the Ordinary can divulge the fact of the dispensation and the canonical cause.
7. At an opportune time, however, the competent Ordinary is to send a brief report to the Congregation on his completion of the notification, and, finally, if there should be any wonderment on the part of the faithful, he is to provide a prudent explanation.
All things to the contrary notwithstanding.
William Cardinal Leveda
Aloisius F. Ladaria, S.J.
Bishop’s communication to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith outlining his attempts to contact the priestFebruary 2, 2009
In a rescript dated August 26, 2008, the Holy Father granted the petition of the Reverend _____ for dispensation from celibacy and all the obligations connected with ordination to the Priesthood. In accordance with the instructions of that rescript, I have made wide-ranging efforts to notify _____ of the rescript, to no avail.
My initial attempt was with a letter, sent through the US Postal Service by registered mail on September 22, 2008, asking him to meet with me so I could make the official notification personally. The letter was eventually returned to my office on October 11, 2008, marked “unclaimed,” even though it was sent to the same address to which his sustenance payments were being sent. At that juncture, I suspended all sustenance payments since I could not longer verify that they were actually being received by the Reverend _____.
I next appointed as an ecclesiastical notary a private investigator, _____, to travel to the address of record in _____, in order to serve the notification on the Reverend _____. Mr. _____ learned that by then he had moved to _____, _____, South America.
Simultaneously, the Archdiocese of _____ received a subpoena from the US Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA], seeking information about _____ in conjunction with what seems to be an investigation into money laundering connected with drug trafficking.
I thereupon directed _____ (ecclesiastical notary) to travel to _____ to serve the rescript on the Reverend _____. Upon advice from some contacts within the DEA, Mr. _____ made arrangements to have armed security accompany him during his visit to _____. He also had another person, General _____, make inquiries about the address which he has obtained as the residence in _____ for the Reverend _____. General _____ confirmed that he appeared to be living at that address.
Mr. _____’s efforts to deliver the rescript personally to the Reverend _____ are detailed in the accompanying report from the _____, Inc. I might also add that the Archdiocese has expended in excess of $25,000 USD in this effort to date.
The final communication from the Reverend _____’s sister was that he would travel to _____ to meet me, accompanied by her [she is also an attorney], and they would call to set up an appointment. I have waited approximately one month since that last communication. During this past week, I received a telephone call from the Reverend _____ about such an appointment and I have waited since then for the promised communication to no avail.
The conduct on his part is quite consistent with his earlier actions. He initially agreed to seek laicization voluntarily, then later changed his mind. When my predecessor told him that he would institute a petition to C.D.F. requesting that he be deposed from the clerical state he again agreed to the voluntary petition. Following my appointment to the Archdiocese of _____ he indicated he did not wish to pursue the petition and actually wrote to the Congregation for Clergy asking assistance to remain in the priesthood. I advised the Congregation of the petition then pending at C.D.F. and informed the Reverend _____ of that correspondence and of my determination to adopt the same approach as my predecessor. He then agreed once again to pursue the voluntary petition.
It is my opinion that the Reverend _____ is using the present tactic as a method of stalling, and preventing the rescript from becoming active. This is further displayed by the most recent telephone call he made to my office, indicating that he would have his civil attorney make contact with me. That still has not ensued.
In the file which I forwarded to the Congregation regarding his original petition, I detailed the reasons why it is imperative that the Reverend _____ should never be returned to active ministry and why his reduction to the lay state is critically important and urgent. The interest of the DEA regarding possible civil criminal violations only adds urgency to my request.
Given his refusal to accept notification of the rescript, I now humbly seek your advice.
My original letter asking him to meet with me indicated that I had received an answer from the Holy See regarding his petition and that I needed to meet with him in connection with that decree to make arrangements to fulfill my predecessor’s promise for financial assistance for him to transition to the lay state. The same message was included in my letter of October 16, 2008, which was given to Mr. _____ (ecclesial notary) to hand-deliver to the Reverend _____.
The Reverend _____’s telephone conversations with Mr. _____ make it clear that he is aware I am trying to get documents to him pertaining to his petition for laicization. The report also shows that a Fr. _____ tried to persuade him to accept the notification.
Given all the circumstances mentioned above, I propose three possibilities to resolve the matter:
1) Can this refusal be taken as analogous to the provision of canon 1510 whereby a person “who refuses to accept the document of citation or who prevents its arrival is considered as having been legitimately cited.”
2) If the answer to that question is negative, can the rescript now be made effective without the notification having been attained?
If neither of the above is possible, can we simply convert it to an administrative process for involuntary laicization, using the materials already in the file sent to C.D.F., given that he has already admitted to his pervasive sexual activities with both men and women over the course of his entire priesthood, and did not deny the accusation of child molestation in the case of one individual who finally came forward when he heard that the Reverend _____ was trying to return to active ministry?
If any one of the above can be answered in the affirmative, it will resolve more easily what is potentially a very dangerous situation for the Archdiocese.
I am enclosing as additional material for your consideration the report from _____, Inc.; a copy of the letter which was sent to him and which he refused to accept; a copy of the decree of appointment of Mr. _____ as an ecclesiastical notary and a copy of the subpoena from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Your Eminence, I thank you for your kind assistance and direction in this matter.
Fraternally in Christ,
Archbishop of _____
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith23 February 2009
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith received, on 6 February 2009, your correspondence regarding Mr. _____ to whom Pope Benedict XVI granted, on 26 August 2008, the grace of dispensation from all priestly obligations, including celibacy.
This Dicastery, after a careful and attentive study of the facts presented, including the account of your extraordinary effort to communicate the Decree of the Holy Father to Mr. _____, decided that
The Ponifical Rescript of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI dated 26 August 2008, CDF Prot. No. ___, has been properly communicated according to the norms of can. 56, CIC 1983.
Given the seriousness of this matter, His Eminence _____, Archbishop of _____, The Episcopal Conference of _____, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops should be promptly notified about the canonical status of Mr. _____.
Furthermore, Your Excellency should notify the Ordinary of the Diocese where Mr. _____’s baptism took place. As specified in the paragraph 3 of the Decree, the fact that he was dispensed from all the obligations connected with sacred ordination and lost the clerical state should be inscribed in his baptismal record.
With gratitude for your assistance in this serious matter and prayerful best wishes, I remain,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Notification of priest of his dispensation from priestly obligations including celibacy, 23 February 2009, Private, CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2009, 5-11.