Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Response to Concerns of a Laicized Priest who Violates the Terms of His Rescript, 2000. Private.

This entry involves a laicized priest who obdurately refuses to abide by the stipulations of his rescript, continues to preside at weddings and demands rights which he forfeited when he lost the clerical state. His bishop sought advice and counsel from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments.

His Holiness, Pope John Paul II

Having received the report concerning the case from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments acceded to the petition in accord with the following protocols:

1. The Dispensation has force from the moment of concession.

2. The Rescript of Dispensation is to be notified by the competent Ordinary to the Petitioner and inseparably comprises a dispensation from priestly celibacy as well as loss of the clerical state. Never is it permitted to the Petitioner to separate the two elements, that is, to accept the first and to renounce the second. And also if the Petitioner is a religious, the Rescript also grants a dispensation from vows. Moreover, it also carries with it absolution from censures, in so far as needed.

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3. The dispensed priest by this very fact loses the rights proper to the clerical state, ecclesiastical dignities and offices, and he is no longer bound by the other obligations connected with the clerical state.

4. Notice of the concession of the dispensation is to be made in the baptismal register of the parish of the Petitioner.

5. Relative to what pertains to the celebration of the canonical marriage, the norms that are established in the Code of Canon Law are to be applied. The Ordinary is to take care that these things are accomplished carefully without pomp or outward display.

6. The ecclesiastical authority to whom it pertains to notify the Petitioner of the rescript is to exhort him especially to participate in the life of the people of God, in a manner congruent with his new condition of life, that he give good example and thus show himself to be a most loving son of the Church. Likewise, however, he is to be informed of the following items:

a) except for those things in canons 976, 986, §2, he remains excluded from the exercise of the sacred ministry and therefore cannot give the homily. He cannot exercise the ministry of extraordinary minister of Holy Communion and cannot be given a directive office in the pastoral arena;

b) he can hold no office in Seminaries or equivalent Institutes;

c) in Institutes of ecclesiastical studies of superior grade that depend in any manner upon ecclesiastical authority, he cannot undertake a directive office or the office of teaching;

d) in Institutes of studies of superior grade not dependent upon ecclesiastical authority he can teach no properly theological discipline or one intimately connected with it;

e) in Institutes of studies, however, of lower grade dependent upon ecclesiastical authority he cannot fulfill a directive or teaching office. The dispensed priest is bound by the same law in teaching religion in Institutes of the same type not dependent upon ecclesiastical authority;

f) per se the presbyter dispensed from priestly celibacy and a fortiori one joined in matrimony must leave the place in which his previous condition is known._

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7. The Diocesan Bishop of the place of domicile or residence of the Petitioner, in accord with his own prudent judgment and knowledge, having heard those with an interest and having well weighed the circumstances, can dispense from some or all of the clauses which are found under letters, d, e, f, of the rescript, however always with the danger of scandal excluded. But the dispensation is to be made in writing.

8. Notification of the dispensation can be accomplished either personally or by an ecclesiastical Notary or Actuary or by “registered letters” (raccomandata, certificada, enregistrée, registered, einschreiben). The Petitioner must return a correctly signed copy for proof of reception and acceptance of the same dispensation together with the precepts.

9. Lastly some work of piety or charity is to be imposed upon him.

10. Also at an opportune time the competent Ordinary is to briefly inform the Congregation of the notification, and if there is any wonderment among the faithful, he shall provide a prudent explanation.

Anything to the contrary not withstanding.

From the offices of the Congregation.

George A. Cardinal Medina Estévez


Francis Pius Tamburrino

Archbishop Secretary

Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments

Your Excellency:

This Congregation for Divine Worship has received your letter dated _______, in which you request counsel and assistance concerning the case of __________, formerly a priest of __________

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It is important to note that, by the decision of higher authority, the rescript of dismissal from the clerical state no longer is executed by the competent Ordinary, but is communicated by him. The rescript, therefore, has force ab ipso momento concessionis (cf. Rescript, num. 1). Consequently, __________ has already been returned to the lay state. At the same time, however, his actions must be seen as serious violations of the terms of the rescript which are binding upon him.

As a result, in communicating this rescript, Your Excellency should make it clear to __________ that he is forbidden to continue officiating at any ceremonies of marriage, as well as any other exercises of Sacred Ministry, except in accord with canons 976 and 986,2, pertaining to the Sacrament of Penance. In the documentation provided, __________ has also indicated that he has officiated at marriages attempted by Catholics, who are therefore held to observe canonical form, as well as those in which at least one party is not free to marry. Hence, it should be pointed out to him that officiating at attempted civil marriages, constitutes formal cooperation in objectively sinful acts, perhaps even deceiving these people with regard to his own capacity to officiate at marriages.

As a first course of action, this Congregation would encourage Your Excellency to pursue any remedies in civil law, should they be available. In particular, from the documentation enclosed, it would seem that the local jurisdiction does require some sort of civil law certification of “ministers” of marriage. If so, the appropriate authorities should be informed that __________ has been returned to the lay state and therefore has no authority to preside at marriages.

In the event that further measures are necessary, it will be important to inform the faithful that this man no longer represents the Church, and indeed, that in his continued exercise of the Sacred Ministry, he is in direct violation of the terms of his dispensation from the Priesthood which he freely sought. If __________ persists in the illicit exercise of the Sacred Ministry, after receiving the canonical warning required by canon 1347, Your Excellency, in virtue of cannons 1384 and 1399, may proceed to the application of suitable censures or penal remedies. This Congregation would appreciate being kept informed about the eventual outcome of this case.

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Knowing that such matters only add to the burden of your duties, I offer the assurance of my prayers that this matter be brought to a peaceful resolution.

With every good wish and kind regard, I am

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Jorge A. Card. Medina Estévez


Francesco Pio Tamburrino

Archbishop Secretary

RRAO (2000): 10-16.