Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Definitive Sentence coram Davino Regarding the Case of a Priest Judged Irregular for the Exercise of Holy Orders, 4 May 1996.


II. In Law and in Fact

2. [...] b. The Undersigned (Judges) have time and again deemed it necessary to insist that disordered behaviour in sexual matters is not necessarily nor always due to a mental infirmity or defect, such that one can never speak of moral responsibility or grave culpability. Rather, in

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each case, a judgement on the matter is to be made after taking all the circumstances into consideration. Indeed, even when one suffers from a psychic illness, that person is still gravely obliged to sincerely seek all licit means for treatment and to avoid all sexually disordered behaviour.

3. Canon 1044, §2, n. 2 says the following with regards to the exercise of orders:

“The following are impeded from the exercise of orders: ... one who suffers from insanity or from some other psychological infirmity mentioned in can. 1041, n.1, until such time as the Ordinary, having consulted an expert, has allowed the exercise of the order in question.”

In can. 1041 it is stated:

“The following are irregular to receive orders: 1º one who suffers from any form of insanity, or from any other psychological infirmity, because of which he is, after experts have been consulted, judged incapable of properly fulfilling the ministry...”.

However, what the term “ministry”entails and means must be deduced from can. 1008, where one reads:

“...sacred ministers...are consecrated and deputed so that, each according to his own grade, they fulfil, in the person of Christ the Head, the offices of teaching, sanctifying and ruling, and so they nourish the people of God”.

In the same way, can. 256, §1 refers to

“...whatever especially pertains to the sacred ministry, particularly in catechetics and homiletics, in divine worship and in a special way in the celebration of the sacraments, in dealing with people, including non-catholics and unbelievers, in parish administration and in the fulfilment of other tasks.

Consequently, [the exercise] of the sacred ministry requires not merely that one celebrate the sacraments but also that one be able to fulfil the functions of teaching and ruling.

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Furthermore, in this context the term “properly” means the same as “according to the norms”, which refers not only to ritual norms but to all those norms which regulate the exercise of the three functions.

And in fact, in Our Code the term “properly”is used fifty times and almost always it is not used with reference to the celebration of the sacraments. There are, for example, canons which refer to the duties of the diaconate which are to be properly fulfilled (can. 256), the whole of Catholic teaching which is to be properly proclaimed and defended in the exercise of the ministry (can. 252, §1), the obligations pertaining to the state of the presbyterate which are to be properly fulfilled (can. 384), one’s duties in the Curia and the Tribunal that are to be properly carried out (cann. 473, §2 and 1454), the duties of the catechist which are to be properly fulfilled (can. 780), etc.

Psychic infirmity can lead to the inability to carry out the ministry “properly”, whether with regard to the function of teaching or the functions of sanctifying or ruling.

While the cause - that is, psychic infirmity, is always the same, the term “properly” can and indeed must be understood in different ways, according to the context of the particular aspect(s) of the sacred ministry in question.

Clerics who sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue with minors, we repeat, in certain circumstances [only] - and therefore not always - be considered considered incapable for sacred ministry. When this is the case, it is not due to the [objective] immoral act(s) which they committed, for in such a case the moral evaluation of the subject does not enter into the question; rather, it is due to the fact that their behaviour can be a sign of the existence of some mental disorder or of a grave mental disturbance. Nor does a diagnosis of some infirmity, such as the so called “ephebophilia” or sexual impulse towards adolescents, suffice; one has to consider the gravity of the infirmity, its effect on the priest and on his ministry, the outcome of therapy, the means used to limit the effects of the illness, and so on.

Moreover, making a judgment in this matter does not pertain to experts, but only to the Bishop who, after consulting the experts and seriously

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considering all of the other circumstances (cfr. c. 1579, §1), can they reach a legitimate conclusion.

If afterwards, though, the subject sufficiently rehabilitates himself, the Bishop can once again permit him to exercise orders. [...]

Prot. No., 23737/92 CA, Ius Ecclesiae 9 (1997): 595-599; Forum 7 (1996): 379-383.