Congregation for the Clergy, Letter Concerning Licit Psychological Testing of a Priest, 8 October 1999.

Most Reverend N., Bishop of X.


City, State, ZIP


Your Excellency,

In reference to the recourse against two of Your Excellency’s decrees of the Reverend A., a priest of your diocese, written on 30 June and received here at this Congregation on 8 July 1998, this Congregation has found and decided upon the following.

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pg. 961
Your Excellency issued to Reverend A. a decree on 28 April 1998 sending him for psychological evaluation to the B. University Hospital in C. The Reverend A. did not assent to psychological evaluation which be regarded as an undue intrusion on the canonical right to privacy (cf. c. 220) and he therefore asked you for a revocation of the said decree.

You declined the request for revocation on 29 May 1998, and once again directed the priest to undergo psychological evaluation at the B. University Hospital in C. Father A. once again refused the assignment on 5 June 1998 and once again asked Your Excellency to revoke both the decrees of 28 April and of 29 May 1998.

It is the consistent teaching of the magisterium that investigation of the intimate psychological and moral status of the interior life of any member of the Christian faithful cannot be carried on except with the consent of the one to undergo such evaluation, as is clearly written about in the instruction of the Secretariat of State in their 6 August 1976 letter to pontifical representatives.

Therefore this Congregation concludes that Your Excellency cannot, in this case, under pain of obedience, oblige your priest, the Reverend A., to undergo psychological evaluation.

The Congregation hastens to add that this decision in no way touches upon or enters into the merit of the canonical process of removal of a pastor which Your Excellency has already begun.

I take this opportunity to renew my sentiments of esteem and with every best wish I remain,

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Dario Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos



W.H. Woestman, The Sacrament of Orders and the Clerical State: A Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, 3rd rev. ed., (Ottawa: Faculty of Canon Law, Saint Paul University, 2006):431-437.