Congregation for the Clergy, Special faculties: Procedural guidelines, 17 March 2010.


On April 18, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI granted the Congregation for Clergy three Special Faculties for dismissal of clerics from the clerical state and the obligations of celibacy in certain circumstances. On March 17, 2010, the Congregation for Clergy issued procedural guidelines for the instruction of cases in which the Special Faculties apply. The text of the letter from the Prefect and the procedural guidelines follow.




Vatican City, 17 March 2010

Prot. N. 2010 0823

To the Eminent, Most Excellent and Reverend Ordinaries At Their Sees

Subsequent to the Circular Letter (Prot. N. 20090556) of the 18th April 2009 regarding the Special Faculties granted to this Dicastery by the Supreme Pontiff on the 30th January 2009, I have the pleasure to enclose the procedural guidelines which are to be employed in the instruction of these petitions at the local level. A list indicating the documents which must, without fail, accompany the materials, is also included for your assistance.

Before any request for the application of the Special Faculties can be entertained from an Ordinary1 at the level of the Dicastery, and therefore previous to the application of these procedural guidelines, it is essential to note the indispensable initial requirement, namely that the impossibility or the extreme difficulty in following the ordinary canonical means already available, be that the via gratiosa (Dispensation) or the penal judicial route, has been clearly established beforehand. Once this has been ascertained and documented, then the instruction of the case at the local level should necessarily result in:

1. the proven objective or subjective impossibility that the cleric in question will request dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state, (i.e., the cleric refuses to apply for a dispensation or, because of the particular circumstances of the cleric’s life, a dispensation may not be sought);

2. a well documented summary indicating the results of the pastoral efforts expended and the canonical measures applied by the Ordinary in attempting to have the offender desist from his disobedience and return to his priestly obligations;

3. a detailed explanation of the grave difficulties existing in the diocese which prevent the holding of a canonical penal trial (cc. 1342 §2; 1425 §1 2° CIC).

It must always be remembered by the Most Reverend Ordinaries that the application of the Special Faculties is not automatic, but will occur only under special circumstances and in well documented situations, always at the prudent judgement of the Holy See. In other words, the local phase of the procedure will conclude with the request of the Ordinary to apply the Special Faculties to the case in question. The approval of this request is subject solely to the discretion of the Holy See.

In the spirit of pastoral collaboration and unity, keeping in mind the dignity of the Priesthood, the true good of priests and that of the entire Church, allow me to avail of the circumstances to renew my sentiments of profound esteem, and with every best wish, I remain

Yours Sincerely in Christ

(Signed)

Cláudio Cardinal Hummes

Prefect

(Signed)

Mauro Piacenza

Titular Archbishop of Vittoriana

Secretary




ENCLOSURE 1: THE APPLICATION OF SPECIAL FACULTIES I AND II

Special Faculty I:

The Special Faculty to treat and present to the Holy Father, for His approval in forma specifica and His decision, cases of dismissal from the clerical state in poenam with dispensation from the obligations consequent to ordination, including that of celibacy, of clerics who have attempted marriage, even if only civilly, and who, having been admonished, have not withdrawn from this state, therefore persisting in an irregular and scandalous life (cf. c. 1394 §1); and of clerics guilty of grave sins against the 6th Commandment (cf. c. 1395 §§1-2).

Special Faculty II:

The Special Faculty to intervene in accord with canon 1399 CIC, either by taking direct action in a case or by confirming the decisions of Ordinaries, were the competent Ordinary so to request, due to the special gravity of the violation of law and the need or urgency to avoid an objective scandal.

This is granted along with the derogation from the prescriptions of canons 1317, 1319, 1342 §2 and 1349 CIC, with respect to the application of perpetual penalties, to be applied to deacons only for grave reasons and to priests for the gravest reasons, always requiring that such cases are presented to the Holy Father for His approval in forma specifica and for His decision.

Procedures required by canon 1720 CIC

After the “Previous Investigation” of canons 1717-1719 then the administrative procedure in question may begin (cf. cc. 35-38, 1342, 1720 CIC), which in this instance can only be carried out by a priest (cf. c. 483 §2 CIC). The procedure followed must ensure:

1. that the accused is notified of the accusations brought against him and the proofs presented. He must be afforded the opportunity to defend himself, unless, having been legitimately notified, he has chosen to absent himself from the proceedings. The cleric in question must also be informed of his right to appoint canonical counsel of his choosing;

2. that all the proofs and other elements collected as well as the defence of the accused, be carefully examined with the assistance of two assessors (cf. cc. 1424 and 1720 2° CIC),

3. that the Petition be issued in accord with the provisions of canons 1342–1350 CIC, if no doubts remain concerning the delict committed, and that the criminal action is not extinguished by prescription, in the sense of canons 1313 and 1362–1363 CIC. This Decree, issued according to the norms of canons 35–58, must be a demonstrably justified decision, stating, even if only in a summary fashion, the reasons in law and in fact upon which the Petition is based.

4. the competent Ordinary will forward to the Holy See all of the acts along with his votum and the Petition mentioned in n. 3° above;

5. if, in the opinion of the Holy See, a supplementary instruction is required, this will be communicated to the competent Ordinary and the materials necessary for the completion of the instruction will be indicated;

6. the Decree of dismissal from the clerical state, along with the dispensation from the obligations arising from sacred Ordination, including celibacy, will be sent to the competent Ordinary, who will provide for its notification to the party concerned.

Documents required for the Instruction of a Procedure for the First and Second Special Faculties

1. The cleric’s curriculum vitae and an attestation as to his Ordination.

2. Copy of the Scrutinies prior to sacred Ordination and other documentation relevant to the formation of the candidate and, if applicable, a copy of his civil marriage document.

3. Documentation illustrating the impossibility or the extreme difficulty of applying the ordinary means, either of the nature of a Dispensation or a penalty, the previous application of the provisions foreseen by the Code (cf. cc. 1339; 1340; 1347 §1; 1331–1333 CIC) and the pastoral attempts made by the Ordinary to have the cleric desist from his contumacy.

4. Decree of the Ordinary opening the procedure ex canon 1720, CIC, containing the following elements: reference to either the lack of necessity for or the conclusion of the investigatio praevia (cf. cc. 1717–1719 CIC); the precise formulation of the charges brought against the cleric; the appointment of two Assessors ex canon 1720 2° CIC; the appointment of an Instructor; the appointment of a Notary.

5. Procedural Documents:

a. the interrogatory of the cleric (cf. c. 1728 §2 CIC);

b. (accompanied by or replaced by) a properly authenticated statement of the cleric himself demonstrating his awareness of the controversy and the proofs brought against him, as well as his stated intention to persist in his illicit conduct, and (if applicable) that he has no intention of seeking dispensation from the obligations arising from sacred Ordination, including celibacy (cf. c. 1728 §2 CIC);

c. where it is not possible to obtain the documents required in a) or b), a document must be provided showing that the whereabouts of the cleric are unknown and the details of the attempts made to trace him, or indicating that he has refused the citation to appear or to make the statement required by b) above (cf. cc. 1509–1511 CIC);

d. the interrogatory and declarations of witnesses, of the accusers or of the offended parties, as well as copies of the act whereby they were cited to appear and of the means whereby this was notified to them.

e. any other pertinent documents or statements from experts.

6. Act of Conclusion of the Instruction.

7. The personal votum of the Instructor outlining the course of the instruction process and the document indicating transfer of all the acts of the procedure to the competent Ordinary.

8. Decree of the Ordinary convoking the session for the consideration of the proofs (cf. c. 1720, 2°, CIC), along with the citation of the Assessors to same.

9. Minutes of the Meeting for the consideration of the proofs, signed by the Ordinary and the two Assessors, which must detail the discussion and evaluation of each single charge and indicate the individual opinion of each Assessor regarding the issues involved.

10. The Personal Votum of the Ordinary, responsible for the instruction of the case, in which he details the course of events during the session for the consideration of the proofs. This votum would also include the fattispecie and the arguments in law and in fact pertaining to each individual charge.

11. The Petitio of the Ordinary of Incardination of the cleric requesting the Holy See to accept the case in hand as coming under the provisions of either Special Faculty I or II, depending on its specificity. The Ordinary then forwards the acts to the Congregation for the Clergy.

Nota Bene:

The acts must be authenticated by the Notary, ordered and bound, numbered, paginated and indexed; three copies are to be sent to the Congregation for the Clergy, and these should not contain illegible hand written documents. In such cases, these documents must be typewritten. Photocopies must be legible or reproduced in typewritten form.

ENCLOSURE 2: THE APPLICATION OF SPECIAL FACULTY III

Special Faculty III

The Special Faculty to handle cases of clerics, who having freely abandoned the ministry for a period of more than five consecutive years and who, after careful verification of the facts, insofar as this is possible, persist in such freely chosen and illicit absence from the ministry, taking this situation into account, to declare then their dismissal from the clerical state, with dispensation from the obligations consequent to ordination, including that of celibacy.

Procedural Norms

Art. 1 The Ordinary of Incardination may request a Rescript of the Holy See whereby dismissal from the clerical state is declared, along with the related dispensations from the obligations consequent to ordination, including that of celibacy, for a cleric who has abandoned ministry for a period of longer than five consecutive years, and who after careful verification of the facts, insofar as this is possible, persists in the voluntary and illicit absence from ministry.

Art. 2 §1 The competent Ordinary is that of the incardination of the cleric.

§2 The competent Ordinary can entrust the instruction of such procedures either in a stable manner, or on a cases by case basis, to a suitable priest from his own or another Diocese.

§3 In this procedure the Promoter of Justice, who has a duty to protect the public good, must always be involved in the process.

Art. 3 The declaration mentioned in Art. 1 can be obtained only after the competent Ordinary, having completed the relevant investigation, has reached moral certainty regarding the irreversible abandonment from ministry on the part of the cleric, from either the declaration of the cleric himself, and/or from the depositions of witnesses, from well founded public knowledge or other indications.

Art. 4 The notification of any of the acts must be made through the postal service or by other secure means.

Art. 5 The instructor, having completed the instruction, should transmit all of the acts to the competent Ordinary with his appropriate summary, expressing his votum according to the objective facts of the situation.

Art. 6 The competent Ordinary should forward to the Holy See all of the acts together with his own votum and the observations of the Promoter of Justice.

Art. 7 If, in the judgement of the Holy See, supplementary instruction is required, this will be indicated to the competent Ordinary, with directions as to how to complete the “Acts.”

Art. 8 The Rescript of dismissal from the clerical state, with the related dispensation from the obligations arising from Holy Orders, including that of celibacy, is forwarded from the Holy See to the competent Ordinary, who will provide for its notification and publication.

Documents required for the Instruction of the third Special Faculty

1. The cleric’s curriculum vitae and attestation as to his Ordination.

2. Copy of the Scrutinies prior to sacred Ordination and other documentation relevant to the formation of the candidate as well as a copy of the civil marriage document, if applicable.

3. Documentation illustrating the impossibility or the extreme difficulty of applying the ordinary means, either of the nature of a Dispensation or a penalty, the previous application of the provisions foreseen by the Code (cf. cc. 1339; 1340; 1347 §1; 1331–1333 CIC) and the pastoral attempts made by the Ordinary to have the cleric desist from his voluntary and illicit absence from ministry.

4. Decree of the Ordinary appointing the Instructor and the Notary (cf. art. 2 §2).

5. Decree of Appointment of the Promoter of Justice, or the act citing the stably appointed Promoter of Justice of the Ordinary’s Tribunal to act in the proceedings (cf. cc. 1430 and 1436 §2, CIC; art. 2 §3).

6. Procedural Documents (cf. art. 3):

a. the interrogatory of the cleric (cf. art. 3);

b. (accompanied by or replaced by) a properly authenticated statement of the cleric himself demonstrating his awareness of the object of the controversy and the proofs brought against him, along with his stated intention to persist in his illicit and voluntary absence from ministry, which has already surpassed five years, and (if applicable) that he has no intention of seeking dispensation from the obligations arising from sacred Ordination, including celibacy (cfr. art. 3);

c. where it is not possible to obtain the documents required in a) or b), a document must be provided showing that the whereabouts of the cleric are unknown and detail of the attempts made to trace him, or indicating that he has refused the citation to appear or to make the statement required by b) above (cf. cc. 1509 – 1511, CIC; art. 3);

d. the interrogatory or the depositions of witnesses, as well as copies of the act whereby they were cited to appear and of the means whereby this was notified to them.

e. any other pertinent documents or statements from experts.

7. Documents which illustrate that the notification of any procedural acts has been executed by means of the postal service or some other secure means (cf. art. 4);

8. Act of Conclusion of the Instruction.

9. The personal votum of the Instructor outlining the course of the instruction process (art. 5) and the document indicating transfer of all the acts of the procedure to the competent Ordinary.

10. The Votum of the Promoter of Justice (cf. art. 6).

11. The Personal Votum of the Ordinary (cf. art. 6) responsible for the instruction of the case indicating his evaluation of the proofs presented. This votum would also include the fattispecie and the arguments in law and in fact pertaining to each individual charge.

12. The Petitio of the Ordinary requesting the Holy See to accept the case in hand for consideration under the Third Special Faculty (cfr. art.1). At this point, the Ordinary should provide for the forwarding of the acts to the Congregation for the Clergy (cfr. art. 6).

Nota Bene:

A) The cleric in question must be informed of his right to nominate an advocate of his choosing and all those who take part in the process must be priests.

B) The acts must be authenticated by the Notary, ordered and bound, numbered, paginated and indexed; three copies are to be sent to the Congregation for the Clergy, and these should not contain illegible hand written documents. In such cases, these documents must be typewritten. Photocopies must be legible or reproduced in typewritten form.




1 Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life and of Societies of Apostolic Life, who are not Ordinaries according to the meaning of canon 134 §1 CIC, must refer to the competent Local Ordinary.




Congregation for the Clergy, Special faculties: Procedural guidelines, March 17, 2010, CLSA, Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions, 2010, 41-51.