Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples, Letter to Pontifical Representatives concerning the Special Administrative Procedure for Imposing the Penalty of Dismissal from the Clerical State, Prot. No. 2154/97, 3 June 1997.

Your Excellency,

I wish to inform you of the recent decision of the Holy Father in regard to priests who are guilty in the sense of can. 1395.

This Dicastery submitted to the Cardinals and Bishop Members of the Ordinary Session the well-known and particularly delicate question of

pg. 235

pg. 236
priests in concubinage or who continue to cause scandal through some other external sin against the sixth commandment, and whose cases cannot be solved by dismissal from the clerical state because of the lack of tribunals in the mission territories or because they cannot function regularly.

The Members decided unanimously to ask the Holy Father that, in the cases of dioceses in mission territories still without regularly-functioning ecclesiastical tribunals, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples be allowed to submit the above cases directly to him, when the priests involved refuse to seek dispensation from their obligations. They could thus be dismissed from the clerical state, with a dispensation from all the obligations of sacred orders, including ecclesiastical celibacy.

This is the procedure to be followed:

A) Limitation of cases

It must concern:

1. an ecclesiastical circumscription, dependent on the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, still without a regularly-functioning ecclesiastical tribunal;

2. priests in concubinage or who continue to cause scandal in another external sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, according to can. 1395, §1-2:

a. who have already been legitimately suspended from all powers of order and of governance (can. 1333), for a suitable period of time;

b. who have had a penalty imposed, that is, an expiatory one of residing in another place (can. 1336, §1, 1°);

c. who have given no sign of reforming, but persist in the offence;

d. who have obstinately refused to seek resignation from the clerical state (can. 290, 3°) and dispensation from the obligations of celibacy (can. 291).

B) Procedure to be followed:

The diocesan Bishop draws up a petition addressed to the Holy Father, countersigned by two diocesan Consultors as witnesses, in which he presents

pg. 236

pg. 237
the specific case, with all the elements and particulars. He specifically requests dismissal of the priest in question from the clerical State and dispensation from the obligation of celibacy, giving assurance at the same time that all the above-mentioned conditions have been adhered to.

Besides, the Bishop must specify the impossibility of having a regularly functioning ecclesiastical Tribunal.

The petition should be forwarded to this Congregation, through the Apostolic Nunciature. The latter must gives his own opinion on the matter and verify the impossibility of the ecclesiastical circumscription in question to have a regularly-functioning Tribunal, and that the above-mentioned procedure has been scrupulously followed.

After having been examined by this same Congregation, the individual cases will be presented to the Holy Father, for the specific approbation of dismissal from the clerical state and dispensation from celibacy.

In communicating this to Your Excellency, I thank you in anticipation for your collaboration with those Bishops who will want to avail of this procedure and thus arrive at a solution for the cases mentioned.

With every best wish and kindest regards, I remain

Yours sincerely,

Jozef Card. Tomko


J. Uhaĉ


W.H. Woestman, The Sacrament of Orders and the Clerical State: A Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (Ottawa: Saint Paul University, 2006): 423-424.