Congregation for the Clergy, Dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state, 5 July 2007, Private.

This case presents several interesting issues: in 2004, a petition was presented to the Congregation for the Clergy for dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state. In early 2007, the same priest wrote to the Diocesan Bishop rescinding his petition. The Diocesan Bishop forwarded the priest’s letter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That same month, the Bishop, while visiting Rome on other business, went to the Congregation for Clergy and was given a copy of the rescript of dispensation: in the intervening time, the Congregation for the Clergy had presented the original petition to the Holy Father who had granted it earlier that same month. In a written response, the Congregation for the Clergy replied to the Bishop that the dispensation must stand and should be communicated to the Petitioner.

What follows is part of the exchange of correspondence. The rescript of dispensation contained the standard provisions and is not reprinted here. The dates are true, since they are pertinent to the case. This is an unofficial English translation prepared by Rev. Thomas C. Anslow, C.M., J.C.L., Archdiocese of Los Angeles, who submitted the documentation. He noted the following: the reason for the granting of the original petition is cited: the manner in which the rescript takes effect [at the moment of execution, or notification, with or without the acceptance of the petitioner, Can 62]; that the grant of the petition is not a simply personal matter [sui dumtaxat] but was due to the “radical lack of suitability of the candidate for Holy Orders in the first place;” and that no recourse was available to the petitioner.

May 11, 2007

Dear Bishop,

My name is _______. I was ordained a priest in the Diocese of _______ in 1995. After struggles and discernment I left the active ministry, freely and without scandal, and moved to (another state) in 1999. I formally began the process for laicization through the _______ Diocese about three years ago, after a concentrated time of discernment with Father _______. As of this time, I still have not received a response from Rome on the matter.

During the period of waiting, I have continued my prayer life and volunteer service, wondering whether I have made the correct choice. I had been engaged to a lady for three years, but this ended about one year ago. I have a stable career, own a condo, teach at my parish and enjoy a fine circle of friends, but despite all this, I am still struggling with the thoughts of returning to active ministry, thinking that I have made a mistake in applying for laicization. In the midst of the trials and struggles during active ministry, my life as a priest was always something that came natural, with purpose and grace. I have not experienced this in my life since leaving active ministry, as if something is not right. I think it is the prudent thing to address this. I hope you can help.

On May 5, 2007, I phoned the nuncio’s office and was advised to write this letter to you. Father _______ agreed. Can you offer me counsel on the matter and if you deem appropriate, intervene in the process. I have always tried to answer God’s call and will continue to trust, that however this concludes, it is God’s will.

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible and speaking with you in further detail.

Yours in Christ,

[Signature of petitioner]

Within two weeks, the Bishop responded to the petitioner, and indicated that being “not certain how the Holy See would respond to a case like yours,” he would inquire quickly. On that same date, May 23, 2007, the Bishop wrote to the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. There followed the bishop’s visit to Rome a couple of weeks later, when he was handed the rescript of dispensation.]

A reply from the Congregation for the Clergy is dated July 5, 2007.

Congregation for the Clergy

5 July 2007

Your Excellency,

This Congregation has received, by reason of competence, your recent letter regarding the Dispensation from the obligations of the Priestly State of _______, a priest of the Diocese of _______, whose petition was submitted through Your Excellency’s kind offices.

The Dispensation in question was granted and mailed to Your Excellency on the 15 May 2007. Your Excellency’s letter of 23 May indicates that the individual now wishes to rescind his request. As the Dispensation was granted on the grounds of Article 2 of the Norms currently in effect, that is because of radical lack of suitability of the candidate for Holy Orders in the first place, it is not envisioned that this act of the Supreme Authority of the Pontiff could now be overturned at the simple request of the individual concerned.

Thus, Your Excellency is asked to communicate the Rescript in the normal fashion as per the letter of this Congregation dated 15 May 2007, bearing the above Protocol Number.

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

Sincerely yours in Christ,


+ Mauro Piacenza

Titular Archbishop of Vittoriana


Congregation for the Clergy, Dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state, 5 July 2007, Private, CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2008, 5-7.