Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Correspondence Concerning the Dispensation from the Irregularity of Apostasy for a Candidate for the Seminary, 1998. Private.

The following entry concerns a young man who was baptized and reared as a Latin Catholic, but who publicly repudiated his Catholicism while in college and joined a non-Catholic sect. He later reconciled with the Church, receiving the sacrament of penance. Subsequently, he sought admission to the seminary. Because of his formal act of defection from the Church, he incurred the latae sententiae penalty of excommunication, according to canon 1364, §1. This penalty was never declared. According to canon 1355, §2, the ordinary of the place where the offender is can remit this penalty. The man also incurred the irregularity for the reception of orders because of his public delict mentioned in canon 1041, 2°. However, the dispensation from the irregularity is reserved to the Apostolic See, specifically to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. What follows is correspondence between the man’s bishop and the Holy See, which are in English.

His Eminence Jorge Cardinal Medina Estévez, Prefect

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

10 Piazza Pio XII 10

00193 Roma ITALY

Your Excellency,

With due regard for canon 1047, I am writing to request a dispensation from irregularity arising from the public delict mentioned in canon 1041, 2°. If this is not possible at present, I request some indication of the Congregation’s disposition toward granting such dispensation at a more appropriate time. In this way, we can determine whether or not to admit this person to our seminary formation program. Our screening process elicited the following facts regarding his irregularity for Orders.

At the age of nineteen (19), this individual repudiated his Catholic faith through a formal act. He made a profession of faith in the First Christian Assembly of God Church; he underwent “baptism” by immersion.

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Subsequently, he changed affiliation from the Assembly of God Church to the Evangelical Free Church.

Eventually, he became disillusioned with these sects and began returning to the Catholic Church. He began attending Mass and RCIA classes. He availed himself of the sacrament of penance for reconciliation with the Church. He became a registered member of his local Catholic parish. He served as the chairman of the parish’s pro-life committee, he taught catechism, and he became a Eucharistic Minister. Subsequently, he exercised his right to have the censure incurred by his act to be removed in the external forum. By permission of the local bishop, the censure was remitted in the external forum.

I believe sufficient time has elapsed since his reconciliation with the Church. His enthusiastic participation in parish life and the testimony of his pastor confirm his stability in the practice of his faith. Furthermore, I am confident that no cause for scandal would occur if the Congregation grants the dispensation.

I would be happy to provide any further information that the Congregation may require. Meanwhile, I thank you for your time in reviewing this matter and gratefully await your response.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Diocesan Bishop

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded to the diocesan bishop’s letter and asked the bishop to provide a more extensive explanation concerning the reasons for the candidate’s defecting from the Catholic in a formal manner. The bishop provided a more in-depth explanation for the man’s actions. The Holy See subsequently granted the dispensation.

The following response (in English) was received from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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Your Excellency,

In your letter you forwarded to this Office supplementary documentation regarding the case of *, a baptized Catholic who has incurred the irregularity mention in canon 1041, 2°, and has requested the dispensation necessary to enter upon seminary studies and eventually receive sacred orders.

In light of the favorable endorsement which you have provided, this Office has decided to grant the aforementioned request. Your Excellency may therefore permit this man to begin studies for the priesthood and, at the appropriate time, take on the responsibility for his eventual admission to sacred orders.

With every best wish, I remain

Yours devotedly in the Lord,

Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B.


RRAO (1998): 11-13.