Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Singular Decree on the Exercise of Priestly Ministry, 25 March 1996.
Decree of the CongressoIn letters dates 30 March 1992, 15 May 1992 and 15 June 1992, the Most Rev. Bishop of N. removed the Rev. X. from the offices which he was exercising in the diocese of N., and revoked all of the Rev. X.’s faculties, permitting him only to celebrate the Holy Eucharist with no one present.
The Most Rev. Bishop, moreover, insisted that the Rev. X. submit himself to psychological examination and therapy at one of two institutions indicated by the same Bishop, and in a letter of 13 July 1992 enjoined him no longer to wear ecclesiastical garb nor to present himself as a priest of the diocese of N.
In petitions of 30 July 1992 and 25 August 1992, the Rev. X. requested from the Most Rev. Bishop the revocation of the “sanctions” contained in the letter of 13 July. After receiving the response of the Most Rev. Bishop of 1 September 1992, he had recourse to the Congregation for the Clergy on 14 September 1992. The recourse was especially made against the dispositions of the letter of 13 July 1992, and, it seems, also against the precept of undergoing a psychological examination and against the revocation of faculties, as explained above.
On 9 October 1993 the Congregation for the Clergy gave the following response: “Having studied the material and with the votum of one
consultor, this Dicastery has determined that the matter is in the process of judicial examination. The suspension is an application of Canon 1722 ... and, therefore, ... your petitioner seeking recourse is precipitous ...”
After receiving this response, the Rev. X., on 29 October 1993, appealed to this Supreme Forum, which in its Congresso on 28 February 1995, decreed: “The recourse is to be admitted to trial before their Eminences and Excellencies, the Judges [of this Supreme Tribunal]”, but at the same time expressed the hope that the contention would instead be settled [extra-judicially] through an equitable solution.
Having been duly notified by this decree, the Congregation for the Clergy, in two letter of 20 March 1995, de facto revoked its own decision and remitted the matter to the Most Rev. Bishop, so that – if and to the extent that he deemed it necessary to proceed in the matter – he might do so according to the norm of Canon Law.
Consequently, since, taking into account art. 123, §1 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus, there was no longer a contentious matter before this Supreme Tribunal, on 5 July 1995 this Apostolic Signatura declared the proceeding terminated [litem finitam].
However, this declaration as then challenged by the Rev. X. With the matter now having been diligently discussed among the Distinguished Advocates of the Parties and the Very Rev. Deputy Promoter of Justice,
The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
Given as a premise that:
– Hierarchical recourse before the Congregation for the Clergy can only regard decisions of the Most Rev. Bishop challenged within the allotted time period and in keeping with all of the requisites of the law ...;
– In the present case, such a duly prolonged challenge was only made against the dispositions, or as it were the “sanctions”, given by the Most Rev. Bishop in the letter of 13 July 1992 ...;
Having considered that both letter from the Congregation for the Clergy of 20 March 1995, to the Most Rev. Bishop and to the Rev. X., cannot be understood as having addressed the matter at hand unless they are taken as a revocation both of the decision of the same Congregation of 9 October 1993 and of the “sanctions” in the letter of the Most Rev. Bishop of 13 July 1992;
Having seen the letter of this Apostolic Signatura of 26 September 1995 addressed to the Rev. X.;
Since, therefore, in light of art. 123 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor bonus, there is no longer a contentious matter before the Supreme Tribunal;
Having also noted that if [the Most Rev. Bishop were to take new measures] and inasmuch as Rev. X. would claim that they harmed him], the Rev. X., in keeping with the requisites of the law, can have recourse against any new decisions of the Most Rev. Bishop within the time limits established by the law;
Having diligently submitted the matter to an examination in the Congresso of 28 March 1996, held coram the undersigned Cardinal Prefect,
The decision of 5 July 1995 stands, and so the recourse of the Rev. X. is not to be admitted to trial before their Eminences and Excellencies, the Judges [of this Supreme Tribunal], due to lack of a contentious matter before this Apostolic Signatura.
Given in Rome, from the seat of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, on the 28th day of March 1996.
Ius Ecclesiae 9 (1997): 815-817; Forum 7 (1996): 373-377.