Congregation for the Clergy, Civil adoption prohibited to clergy bound by the obligation of celibacy, 2004, Private.

A diocesan bishop requested from the Congregation for the Clergy clarification concerning the possibility of a priest adopting children. The Congregation stated that civil adoption is forbidden for clerics bound by the law of celibacy. The response of the Congregation follows, in English.


Your Excellency,

This Congregation has received your recent letter posing a "dubium" with regard to the possibility of a priest adopting children and the congruity of such action with the Code of Canon Law and priestly discipline.

Here follows the official definitive response of this congregation with regard to the adoption on the part of priests.

The Congregation for the Clergy has competence and jurisdiction in this matter as the Holy Father, the supreme legislator of the Catholic Church, in the Apostolic Constitution "Pastor bonus," dated 28 June 1988, in articles 93-98, so indicated, especially in article 95, § 1: "Competens est ad clericorum vitam, disciplinary iura atque obligationes quod spectat" (The Congregation is competent concerning the life, conduct, rights and obligations of clergy).

This being so, and as the congregation has previously ruled on this subject (even though your excellency is aware that the common law institution of "precedence" is not operative in canon law), the discipline established previously is repeated here:

1. The institution of adoption, in the ambience of the law of the Church, is understood, in its fundamental characteristics, as being based on Roman law, and as such, creates a bond that imitates the nature of a family. This being so, the current norm establishes as a diriment impediment, those bonds coming from adoption in the direct line and up to the second grade of the collateral line, for both the Latin and Oriental Churches, equating them with "consanguinity" (cf. CIC canon 1094; CCEO canon 812).

2. Adoption on the part of clerics, as might be expected, Law. However, canon 285, §§1-2 establishes as a general principle that "clerici ab iis omnibus quae statum suum dedecent, prorsus abstineant, iuxta iurisparticularispraescripta. Ea quae licet non indecora,” is not specifically provided for in the Code of Canon Law, “a clericali tamen statu aliena sunt, clerici vitent." (Clerics are to shun completely everything that is unbecoming to their state, in accordance with the provisions of particular law. Clerics are to avoid whatever is foreign to their state, even when it is not unseemly.)

3. This congregation therefore judges that civil adoption falls under those conditions which are not appropriate for clerics, from the viewpoint of both the moral and economic obligations which it creates and because it is contrary to the law of celibacy, as can be deduced from canon 277, § 1 which presupposes freedom for family obliged in order to pursue total dedications to God and service to mankind. For this reason therefore, by binding norm of canon law, adoption is forbidden to those who are obligated to the law of celibacy.

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

Yours sincerely in Christ,

Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos


+Csaba Ternyak

Titular Archbishop of Eminentiana


Congregation for the Clergy, Civil adoption prohibited to clergy bound by the obligation of celibacy, Private, CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2004, 7-8.