Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Dispensation for candidates for the permanent diaconate, 2006, Private.


Three cases were submitted to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments asking for a dispensation from the impediment of previously attempting marriage for three candidates seeking ordination to the permanent diaconate.

The three cases, and three responses are printed here, because although they are similar, they represent some different circumstances and responses. Also printed here is the follow-up letter from the Diocesan Bishop in 2006.




Request A:

Your Excellency:

This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has received your request for dispensation from the irregularity of can. 1041, 3°, on behalf of Mr. A _______ a candidate for the Permanent Diaconate.

Upon attentive study of the case, it was determined that the aforementioned irregularity was indeed incurred in consequence of the petitioner’s attempt at marriage while still bound by the bond of his first marriage. [Bold added by editor.]

As sufficient grounds for making this request have not been found, this Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments asks that Your Excellency would seek to convince Mr. A _______ desist from seeking ordination, thereby avoiding a situation whereby a negative decision, would need to be given.

This Dicastery is hopeful that these observations will be useful in clarifying the mens congregationis and in bringing this case to resolution.

With every good wish and kind regard, I remain,

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Archbishop Secretary




The circumstances of Request A: the dispensation from the irregularities of canon 1041, no. 3, for Mr. A. _______, a candidate for ordination to the permanent diaconate.

The petitioner, is an active member of Sacred Heart parish. By his continual involvement with his parish and the diocese, he has demonstrated his desire to be of service to the Church. His sincerity and loyalty have been demonstrated in many ways. He has served on the Diocesan Pastoral Council and completed two terms as President of the Parish Pastoral Council at his parish.

In review of the Radical Sanation for his marriage, which was granted June 2, 2004, I found the petitioner to be a sincere and loyal Catholic. Relying on conversations he had had with his pastor and the fact that his pastor attended his wedding ceremony, David believed that the marriage he entered into in December of 1991 was a valid marriage in the Catholic Church. It was not until a review of his application for the permanent diaconate that he learned that his marriage was not a valid union.

The petitioner desires to serves our diocese as a permanent deacon. He has been admitted to candidacy for the permanent diaconate because at the time of his preliminary application to the diaconate formation program, he indicated what he believed to be true, namely, that he was validly married in the Catholic Church. He reported that his former wife had died. Our application form at that time did not require a detailed marriage history. It was in a subsequent more detailed review of the petitioner’s marriage history and the requirements of Canon 1041, no. 3, that the Director of Diaconate Formation recognized that a dispensation for the irregularity would be required.




Request B:

Protocol Number

Your Excellency:

This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has received your request for dispensation from the irregularity of can. 1041, 3°, on behalf of Mr. B _______ a candidate for the Permanent Diaconate.

Upon attentive study of the case, it would not seem that the aforementioned irregularity is indeed present, since, apparently, neither of the prior unions of the petitioner and his wife were, in fact, valid. [Bold added by editor.]

On the other hand, in light of its competency to make determination about the suitability of candidates for Sacred Orders in accord with the requirements of can. 1029, this Congregation wishes to signal that it remains inclined toward a negative decision in the case.

Hence, this Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments asks that Your Excellency would seek to convince Mr. B _______ to desist from seeking ordination, thereby avoiding a situation whereby a negative decision would need to be given.

This Dicastery is hopeful that these observations will be useful in clarifying the mens congregationis and in bringing this case to resolution.

With every good wish and kind regard, I remain,

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Archbishop Secretary




The circumstances of Request B for dispensation from irregularities of canon 1041, no. 3, for Mr. B _______, a candidate for ordination to the permanent diaconate.

The petitioner, [Mr B ________] is a member of the Y parish where he has been an active member for the past nineteen years. The petitioner has stated in his letter and in his application for the Permanent Diaconate that he was not active in the Catholic Church for the early part of his adult life. He states in his application, “In my first marriage I kept a distance from the church because it caused a conflict with my wife who was anti-catholic.” At age 25, the petitioner was divorced from his first wife and within the next year he returned to active membership in the Catholic Church. When he met his current wife and decided to marry her, he was unsure of the requirements for marriage in the Catholic Church. The couple consulted their pastor who did not make it clear that they must wait until their prior marriages were annulled. They were erroneously left with the impression that it was acceptable for them to be married in a civil ceremony and then have the marriage “blessed” by the Catholic Church. With this misunderstanding they proceeded to be married in a civil ceremony before their prior marriages were declared null. Both spouses have indicated that, if they had been given correct direction, they would have waited to be married in the Church.

For the past nineteen years the petitioner has been a sincere and active member at his parish. He has worked in parish outreach ministries and services especially for those in need. He has been especially helpful in the resettlement of refugee families that have been sponsored by his parish. In addition, he has served on the RCIA team at the Cathedral Parish and has been a member of the Parish Pastoral Council.

The petitioner discerns a call from God to the permanent diaconate and desires to serve our diocese in sacred ministry. He has been admitted to candidacy for the permanent diaconate because at the time of his preliminary application to diaconate formation he indicated that he was validly married in the Catholic Church. Our application form at that time did not require a detailed marriage history. It was in a subsequent, more detailed review of the petitioner’s marriage history and the requirements of Canon 1041, no.3 that the Director of Deacon Formation realized a dispensation from the irregularity would be required.

The petitioner is making progress in the formation program and should be able to continue to ordination. He is asking for dispensation from Canon 1041, no. 3, so that he can continue the formation program and be validly ordained to the diaconate. His service as a permanent deacon would be of significant benefit to the Diocese of _______. The Director of Deacon Formation recommends this case and assures us that there is no danger of scandal should this dispensation be granted.




Request C:

Prot. n.

Your Excellency:

This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has received your request for dispensation from the irregularity of can. 1041, 3°, on behalf of Mr. C ________, a candidate for the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of _______.

Though the case has been attentively studied, this Dicastery has been unable to determine whether the aforementioned irregularity is indeed present, since it is unclear whether the petitioner’s first consort, was married previous to her union with the petitioner. [Bold added by Editor.]

On the other hand, in light of its competency to make determination about the suitability of candidates for Sacred Orders in accord with the requirements of can. 1029, this Congregation wishes to signal that it is inclined toward a negative decision irrespective of whether the irregularity is present.

Hence, this Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments asks that Your Excellency would seek to convince Mr. to desist from making this request, thereby avoiding a situation whereby a negative decision would need to be given.

This Dicastery is hopeful that these observations will be useful in clarifying the mens congregationis and in bringing this case to resolution.

With every good wish and kind regard, I remain,

Sincerely yours Christ,

Archbishop Secretary




Those are the circumstances of the Request C for dispensation from the irregularities of canon 1041 no. 3 for a candidate for ordination to the permanent diaconate.

The petitioner, [Mr C. _______] is a member of the X Parish where he has been an active member. Prior to that time he was not a practicing Catholic. Although he never left the Catholic Church by any formal act, events during his childhood and teenage years lead him away from the Church.

The petitioner’s father left the home before he was born and during visits when the petitioner was a child, he was abusive to both him and his mother. His mother finally separated and divorced. Even though she did not remarry, she was not allowed to receive the sacraments from the time of her divorce until she died from cancer in 1959. The petitioner was only 15 years old when his mother died. He did not understand why the Church would do this, since his mother was simply trying to free them both from an abusive relationship. He also harbored a resentment against the church for its refusal to bury his mother with a Requiem Mass. From the age of 15 until 50, the petitioner had little contact with the Catholic Church.

During this time he was married in a civil ceremony and was divorced from his first wife. In 1983 the petitioner married his present wife, in what he considered a civil ceremony. Although the ceremony took place in the Baptist Church neither the petitioner nor his present wife were members. They have enjoyed a good, stable marriage.

At the petitioner’s present wife’s suggestion, they decided to attend the Catholic Church. Since she was not a Catholic, she joined the RCIA and the petitioner attended with her. Their marriage was convalidated at the St Anna Catholic Church.

For the past 11 years they both have been consistent and active members of Christ the King parish. They both have remained active on the RCIA team at Christ the King and Raymond gives frequent classes in the adult education program. The petitioner is a trained psychologist and is pursuing a Masters Degree in Pastoral Studies at a local seminary so he might be a more effective Christian counselor.

The petitioner desires to serve our diocese as a permanent deacon. He has been admitted to candidacy for the permanent diaconate because at the time of his preliminary application to diaconate he indicated that he was validly married in the Catholic Church, which was true. Our application form at that time did not require a detailed marriage history. It was in a subsequent more detailed review of petitioner’s marriage history and the requirements of Canon 1041, no.3 that the Director of Formation realized a dispensation would be required.

The petitioner continues to make progress in the diaconate formation program and should be able to continue to ordination. He is asking for dispensation from Canon 1041, no. 3, so he can continue the formation program and be validly ordained to diaconate. He is a loving and compassionate individual and, serving as a permanent deacon, would be a significant benefit to the Diocese. The Director of Deacon Formation recommends this case and assures us that there is no danger of scandal should this dispensation be granted.




CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF _______

Office of the Bishop

Dispensation from Canon 1041 no. 3

July 10, 2006

HIS EMINENCE FRANCIS CARDINAL ARIN7F.

PREFETTO DELLA CONGREGAZIONE PER

IL CULTO DIVINO E LA DISCIPLINA DE1 SACRAMENT’

PIAZZA PIO XII, 10

00120 CITTA DEL VATICANO

Your Excellency

I am in receipt of your responses as noted above concerning the three cases for petition for dispensations from the irregularity (according to canon 1041, 3°) to ordination to the permanent diaconate. Perhaps I should say cases of possible petition for potential irregularity. My staff had some confusion over whether these cases even needed to be presented, given that each of the candidates had been able to reconcile their status with the church. I admit to some uncertainty myself, whether the mere attempt at a subsequent marriage (e.g., outside the church) incurred an irregularity itself, which is why we sought the Congregation’s guidance, or whether it was the presence of a prior valid bond, which with your insightful comments seems clearly to be the case in only one of the three presented. If I may, I respectfully request that I may share the following observations and questions for clarification.

In regards to all three of the candidates in question, I would like to note that they have generously offered themselves for the service of the church. They understand that they are guaranteed no compensation, save hopefully treasure in heaven, for whatever time they can donate to their future ministry as deacons. They have already invested/expended three years (one weekend each month) of study to be prepared to offer this service. It is regrettable that the initial screening at the time did not include a detailed marriage history, thereby leading to a potentially very hurtful, if not scandalous, situation that would require candidates to be removed from the program at this late stage. Rest assured that oversight has been remedied since I have taken office as bishop of this diocese. But I have met with each of these men and believe they have the qualities called for by canon 1029 and I further believe, in accord with canon 1025 §2, that each of them would indeed be beneficial to the ministry of the diocese.

Indeed, it is the citation of canon 1029 in protocol numbers 138/06 and 139/06 that gives rise to my first question. Both responses contain the following phrase: “in light of its competency to make determination about the suitability of candidates for Sacred Orders in accord with the requirements of can. 1029, this Congregation...” I do not intend any disrespect, but as I understand canon 1029 it refers to the competency (and responsibility) of myself as the “Episcopi proprii”. (Since the men, in question are not religious, the reference to a major Superior would seem to be superfluous.) But perhaps the intended reference is to canon 1025 §1’s mention of absence of irregularity or impediment, and certainly we appreciate the assistance of the Congregation in determining whether such irregularity or impediment pertains in any of the cases we submitted to you.

However, regarding the case of Mr. B _______, the Congregation responded that “upon attentive study of the case, it would not seem that the aforementioned irregularity is indeed present, since, apparently, neither of the prior unions of the petitioner and his wife were, in fact, valid.” If neither of the prior unions were valid, if the irregularity is not present, then it would seem that it is no longer necessary for Mr. B _______ petition to be submitted to the Holy Father. No dispensation is needed if, as the Congregation says, “the aforementioned irregularity is [not] present.” This observation was indeed useful in understanding the mens congregationis and distinguishing that the irregularity obtains when one attempts marriage while prevented by an existing (valid) marriage. But then I must confess confusion at what “negative decision” the Congregation is inclined toward, or why it would ask that I convince him to desist from seeking ordination. I am further concerned about the message that a negative decision or such a request on my part sends about the efficacy of their reconciliation with the church through the convalidation of their union. As I stated in my votum (page 3 of his petition), I am convinced of Mr. B _______’s suitability for ordination and the valuable contribution he can make to the ministry of the diocese.

Regarding Mr. C _______ case the Congregation wrote “though the case has been attentively studied., this Dicastery has been unable to determine whether the aforementioned irregularity is indeed present, since it is unclear whether the petitioner’s first consort, was married previous to her union with the petitioner.” Again, the question which confounded my staff was whether his attempted civil marriage to his present spouse had resulted in an irregularity, given that he had previously attempted marriage, albeit only civilly, with another woman. (Not to mention his present spouse’s two prior unions, both declared null, of course, before their convalidation.) All of this was thankfully made moot by the Congregation’s wording of the doubt, “whether the petitioner’s first consort, was married previous to her union with the petitioner. “I have spoken personally with Mr. C _______ and his clear recollection is that his first consort’s word to him was that she was not previously married. That word is confirmed by the lack of any notation on the marriage certificate (page 7 of his petition) of a “Surname By Preceding Marriage, If Any….” Therefore, the Congregation has helped to make it clear that Mr.C _______’s situation is the same as that of Mr. B _______: no irregularity obtained because no prior valid marriage bond impeded him nor his spouse, civil attempts notwithstanding. Both marriages have been convalidated, both couples have been reconciled to the church. I understand that their petitions will not be submitted to the Holy Father because no irregularity exists and no dispensation is therefore required.

By contrast, in the case of Mr. A. _______ circumstances are clearly otherwise. While all three men were baptized in the Catholic Church in their infancy, he alone entered marriage the first time (on January 12, 1963- there is a clerical error on the summary, page 4 of the petition) with proper canonical form. That marriage continued to be in force when he attempted a second marriage on October 24, 1992. It is unfortunate, but true, that he took this course of action as he was advised by his Catholic pastor at the time. That priest is now deceased, so he cannot personally confirm this, but the present pastor of the same parish, who also ministered in the same area at the time and so was familiar with the individuals involved, gives us this account . Rather than advising Mr. A _______ that he should submit his first marriage for examination before the tribunal, his pastor told him to “resolve the matter in the internal forum of his conscience and to solemnize his vows with Diane in the Episcopal Church.” (page 24 of the petition) Perhaps it was a rather naive, even childlike, fidelity to such clearly wrong advice, but are we then castigating him for his fidelity or his trust? I credit his present pastor’s account of his motivation as sincere, albeit overly simple, and it was for that reason that I sanated his marriage to Diane to the date of his first wife’s passing.

As for “sufficient grounds for making this request,” I refer to my description on the second page of my votum (page 3 of the petition) of the area his diaconate would serve: “His parish,does not have a permanent deacon at this time and there are no deacons in the surrounding counties, a distance of approximately 8O miles. Serving as a permanent deacon., the petitioner would be a significant benefit to a remote region in the Diocese “ Of course, his service would not only be useful but I believe it to be motivated solely by a noble desire to give himself to the service of God and the salvation of souls.

These candidates have completed three of five years of the formation program. Attending this program requires a tremendous amount of time, self discipline and study. Thus many potential candidates may start the program but only a few are able to successfully complete the courses and exams required by universal and particular law. Mr. Z for example, drives four hours for each session to attend those courses.

Despite the former action of their past lives each candidate exhibited a true conversion of heart and sincere repentance for their past deeds. All candidates have upright faith and requisite knowledge. They studied for three years the Catholic doctrine during the formation program. They all have firm convictions regarding positions contrary to the Magisterium. They have an understanding of the nature and objective of ecclesiastical ministry that is received through the sacrament of the holy order.

They all are enjoying a good reputation and have moral probity, as well as proven virtue. They are credible figures before the people of God in our diocese. They possess the virtues of sincerity, diligence, wisdom, honesty, constancy, firm convictions, spirit of sacrifice, helpfulness, and ability to coexist and work together with others. These are not only distinguished results of the formation, which these candidates have received, but they are deeply rooted in them. They have a good affective maturity, and ability to adapt their ability to carry the burden of their diaconal responsibility and their disposition for communication.

Taking seriously the grave responsibility that falls on me in making truly prudent judgment after evaluating all the aforementioned qualities altogether and using personal judgment based on direct knowledge of the candidates and on the reports from those who are responsible for their immediate formation I consider the suitability of those candidates positively proven. For this reason, it seems important to us to keep in mind that the prudence of the legitimate authority also manifests itself when, once the signs of divine vocation have been discovered in the candidate, that authority generously receives this vocation and facilitates, supports, and is grateful for, the priceless “gift” for the Church, which supposes each vocation, and adds to the divine call the humble but necessary reconfirmation of the “canonical vocation.”

Having said this clarification, I respectfully request that the Congregation will grant the dispensation from the irregularity of canon 1041, 3° to Mr. A _______.

Devotedly yours in Our Lord,

Most Reverend _______

Bishop of _______




Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Dispensation for candidates for the permanent diaconate, 2006, Private, CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2007, 18-27.