Cong. for the Clergy and CDF, Dispensation from the Obligation of Celibacy for Priests and Deacons, 6 December 1991. Private.


A. Loss of the Clerical State by a Deacon and a Dispensation from All of the Obligations of Ordination.

1. In accord with current canonical legislation and the praxis of this Congregation, the request of a deacon for the loss of the clerical state and a dispensation from all the obligations of ordination may be granted only ob graves causas (c. 290, 3°), whether for a transitional or permanent deacon, diocesan or religious. The petition must include the following documents:

a) An explicit request by the deacon for the favor, signed in his own hand and addressed to the Holy Father, giving a brief description of the reasons which led to the petition.

b) The curriculum vitae of the petitioner should include an explanation of: the seriousness of the reasons for the request, the development of the events which led to the crisis, and where the responsibility for the same lies, i.e., either with the deacon or due to external factors.

c) The votum of the bishop of incardination, major superior or provincial concerning “de rei veritate” and the advisability of granting a return to the lay state and a dispensation from the obligations of holy orders.

d) The testimonies or depositions of superiors, professors and colleagues from the time of formation and the period of diaconal ministry.

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e) The acts from the diocesan and provincial archives regarding the period of formation and the scrutinies for his admission to holy orders (c.1051).

2. A complete juridical process is required for the dismissal of a deacon from the clerical state who will not ask for the same of his own volition (cf. c. 1342,§2). In this case, it is necessary to prove, not only a lack of fitness for ministry, but also that the deacon committed a crime for which the Code of Canon Law envisions a dismissal from the clerical state.

a) The responsibility for conducting such a process rests with the diocesan bishop or religious superior.

b) Following the judicial process, a request for a dispensation from celibacy can be submitted to this Congregation (c. 291).




B. Petition Granted for the Laicization of a Priest:

1. The first case to be reported came from the Diocese of Solsolis, and is presented in a summary form. Monsignor AB, the vice-chancellor, states the following:

a) He started his studies to the priesthood in 1947.

b) Was ordained to the priesthood in May of 1956 for the Diocese of Corinth.

c) The Diocese of Solsolis was established two years later and he became a member of the same.

d) He was granted a leave of absence in 1974. During this period of time he believed that “I had to make a decision to continue on in the active ministry or to marry a very wonderful Catholic girl. After four months of sincere and serious thought with much prayer and meditation I came to the conclusion that my eternal salvation can be attained with a helpmate I love very much.”

e) He attempted a civil marriage in 1974 to this Catholic girl who was a widow.

f) He submitted a formal petition for laicization to the Bishop of Solsolis in November 1976 when he was 47 years.

g) His petition was denied twice in 1977.

h) The Bishop of Perge asked for a reconsideration of the case in 1989, as they were close friends since youth. He attached the file prepared by the Diocese of Solsolis in 1976.

i) Decree of laicization granted to the Diocese of Solsolis in March 1991.

j) His marriage was convalidated in June of 1991.

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2. The second petition for laicization of a priest which was received this year involves a petition which was originally submitted in 1982, and was granted in 1991. A summary of this case is presented by Msgr. J.V., Judicial Vicar of the Diocese of Petroleumensis. His account is as follows:




Shortly after Father X was ordained a deacon he went into a state of depression and attempted suicide which put him into a hospital and counseling. About a year later he was ordained a priest on June 6, 1977,while he continued in counseling. As problems continued the former bishop gave him a leave of absence on July 11, 1979. The remainder of the story follows thus:

1. On June 28, 1982, a twenty-five page handwritten petition for laicization was sent to the Congregation for the Clergy, which contained the sad details of the priest’s life and ministry. Along with the handwritten text was a nine page, typed copy of the text.

2. Bishop Linus’votum of June 28, 1982, was sent with the petition (copy enclosed).

3. On September 3, 1982, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent acknowledgment of receipt of the material (copy enclosed). Note change in congregation.

4. On August 26, 1991, the CDF sent notification that the cause was being reviewed with the request for further information if there had been any change since the petition was originally sent (copy enclosed).

5. September 10, 1991, Bishop Linus sent his reply affirming original votum, with some pertinent comments (copy enclosed).

6. On December 6, 1991, CDF issued a rescript granting full dispensation from clerical obligations (copy enclosed).

7. On January 9, 1992, shortly after the bishop received the rescript, I notified the petitioner by telephone, who willingly accepted it. I then sent him the enclosed letter to confirm the matter, which included the message that the bishop dispensed from a provision (4b exclusus manet ab exercitio sacri ministerii, iis exceptis de quibus in cann. 976, 986, §2 ac propterea nequit homiliam habere. Insuper nequit fungi ministerio extraordinario sacrae Communionis distribuendae nec potest officium genere inambitu pastorali) included in the rescript.




Following this summary are reproductions of several of the letters which Msgr. J.V. was referring to [English original]. First, there appears the letter of June 29, 1982, to the Congregation for the Clergy from Bishop Linus:

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Enclosed please find a statement by Father X, a priest of the Diocese of Petroleumensis, who is requesting laicization. The contents of Father X’s letter are a faithful portrayal of the circumstances. I have known him over the years; when he was in the seminary, at the time of his ordination, and subsequently.

Father X has gone through a long and painful process of prayer and reflection. He now shows signs of a deepened maturity since reaching a final decision to seek laicization. The Diocese of Petroleumensis has offered him various forms of help over these last three years and Father X has availed himself of them. I can assure you that his actions during these past three years have given no scandal to anyone. On the contrary, he has conducted himself in an exemplary Christian manner. During this time he has engaged in social work at Catholic Family Services, Inc., the charitable agency of the Diocese of Petroleumensis. I can also assure you that a favorable decision would not create any scandal locally, as most people already believe that the petitioner has been reduced to the lay state. The petitioner also promises to be a good, practicing Catholic. I have no reason to believe that he is anything but sincere and convinced that the Lord is calling him to practice his faith and live his life in the lay state.

I believe it would be a blessing for him to be laicized and that this would be in the best interest of the Church.




On August 26, 1991, the following letter was received from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [English original]:




This Congregation has been reviewing the records it has of cases involving the petition for a dispensation from the obligations of priestly ordination in which there has been no movement for some time. The name of the priest from your diocese whose case falls into this category is as follows:

Prot No. /82

Fr. X:

We would be much obliged if you would arrange for a consultation of your own records regarding the petitioner for the purpose of updating us on the status of this case. In particular, we would appreciate any information as to changes in the actual situation of the petitioner himself which would have a bearing on the pursuit of his case.




The following is the reply which Bishop Linus made to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

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As per your request I have reviewed the file of Fr. X regarding his petition of June 1982 for dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state.

The last item which we have in that file is the acknowledgment we received that the matter was received by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, dated September 9, 1982. From that point on there is a mysterious absence of information.

The contents of my votum, dated June 29, 1982, remain substantially true, namely that Fr. X now lives in the state of a layman, employed by our Catholic Family Services, and is highly regarded in his professional field. I would suspect, that since considerable time has lapsed since my predecessor, Bishop Cyprian, gave him a leave of absence, many people now fail to advert to the fact that he was ordained a priest in 1977.

His original petition unfolds an amazing history of emotional difficulties resulting in serious attempts at suicide and sexually orientated unrest, prior to presbyteral ordination, even while in diaconal orders. Upon review, I am a bit surprised that he was admitted to presbyteral ordination, which today now must be regarded as a mistake. He has indeed matured and come to terms with himself and leads an apparently happy life. He has also discovered and accepted his orientation as homosexual.

About three years ago our judicial vicar made contact with him to see if he wished to pursue the matter of his petition and he indicated that he had lost interest, in view of the fact that he now accepted himself as homosexually oriented, without any practical need for a dispensation from the marriage impediment.

I do wish to stand by my original votum and believe that the full dispensation as originally requested would be in the best interest of the Church and all concerned.




With the customary rescript, the dispensation was granted on December 6,1991, and the petitioner was informed by the judicial vicar of the Diocese of Petroleumensis on January 9, 1992.




Cong. for the Clergy and CDF, 6 December 1991, Petition Granted for the Laicization of a Priest, RRAO (1992): 6-11.