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Valerie wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • I wanted to know if a priest that has been laicized is automatically in a state of mortal sin?

I am aware of one situation where he left for a woman and is now living with her. The way he talks, he makes it seem like everything is OK — that his relationship with God is still strong. He told me that he is now a Spiritual Guide in a hospital so I'm confused.

Please help.

  • Is his soul in jeopardy or not?
  • Is it OK with the Church as long as he has asked to be laicized?

Thank you!!

I really appreciate your answer.

Valerie

  { Is a priest that has been laicized automatically in a state of mortal sin and is his soul in danger? }

Bob replied:

Valerie,

He is not necessarily in a state of mortal sin. That is between God and him. There are many complicated reasons that a priest may become laicized so we leave it to the Lord to judge the culpability of the man's wrongdoings.

It is a tragedy, no doubt, but it could be a case of a pre-mature ordination, akin to an adolescent marriage. We know that a person must come to full stature as an adult to make a vow that will hold for a lifetime. Adolescents are much more inclined to make a premature commitment and subsequently to fail.

He could have gotten on the priestly path from a young age and didn't have enough life experience to discern it properly or may have not received the best guidance from the director of vocations. Whatever the case, be merciful toward him. If he loves the Lord he will surely keep on seeking Him. One can never see all that God does so we should side with giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

Valerie replied:

Hi Bob,

Thank you so much for your prompt response.

I've also thought about the fact the he might not have had a true vocation for the priesthood as I might have married my husband without proper discernment. I get that.

  • But can I now divorce my husband because I think and feel that it was a mistake, for whatever the reason, or find the love of my life and subsequently leave my husband because of that?

I'm not trying to judge him, just his action and the scandal it caused. I still talk to him and pray for him. Only God knows.

My concern is that he probably wants to justify living with that woman and brush off that he might be doing something wrong.

  • I want to know, in that particular case, (the priest leaving for a woman), is it a wrong or is it not important?
  • Doesn't it make a difference?
  • Can we put that situation on the same level as a husband that left his wife and kids to be with a younger woman?

I feel really hurt by this and concerned.

Thank you so much for your time and helping me see though this with compassion. :)

Valerie

Bob replied:

Valerie,

We can only take general principles and not judge the particulars of any situation for we do not know all the parameters. Scandal is certainly the most obvious sin in this whole affair, but how harshly the Lord judges him on that, we cannot know. You just can't judge his culpability.

While there is an analogy, there is no way to directly compare the effects of divorce to laicization, so I would not venture to explore too much there.

You are right in suggesting that sometimes just sticking out commitment is more important than personal fulfillment, but people do leave bad marriages without incurring sin.

A good vocation leads to joy, and that generally is a sign of a good marriage — and priestly vocation. The absence of joy in ones priesthood can be more detrimental to the faithful than one who toughs it out only under the sense of obligation. Think about the witness that a joyful priest has that moves one to consider the beauty of our faith, and then think about the inverse of that.

  • Which does satan prefer?

I would consider sharing your feelings in a non-judgmental way with your priest-friend to let him know you were hurt by his leaving and that you are working on coming to understand his situation, but that it is hard. This might open up a good discussion that could bring greater peace for you.

I would also talk to another priest about how they cope with a brother who has left the priesthood. Think of how hard it is for them; they may have some insight on how to frame it.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

Mike replied:

Hi Valerie,

Thanks for the question.

You said:

  • I wanted to know if a priest that has been laicized is automatically in a state of mortal sin?

I am aware of one situation where he left for a woman and is now living with her. The way he talks, he makes it seem like everything is OK — that his relationship with God is still strong. He told me that he is now a spiritual guide in a hospital so I'm confused.

Please help.

  • Is his soul in jeopardy or not?
  • Is it OK with the Church as long as he has asked to be laicized?

No, he is not necessarily in a state of mortal sin. When a priest is laicized he is officially removed from serving as a priest in the Catholic Church but his behavior in words and actions are a separate issue.

You could have a laicized priest who is in a state of grace or a laicized priest who is scandalizing the Church by his behavior. The sacerdotal character he received on his soul when he was ordained a priest still remains there and in emergency situations he can still hear Confessions but he is not officially a Catholic priest.

In the case you have mentioned, No, things are not OK and with his training and background, he should know it is not OK.

I have no idea how a former priest can be living with another woman out of wed-lock and consider his relationship OK with God. If he continues rationalizing this behavior, yes, his soul is in jeopardy, though neither I nor anyone else can make any ultimate judgments.

I’m pretty sure I've given you a good answer but there are certain aspects Fr. Jonathan may wish to follow up on or correct me on.

I hope this helps,

Mike

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi, Valerie,

When a priest asks the Church to be dispensed from the obligations of the clerical state (commonly known as “Laicized”), he also asks the Pope to be dispensed from the obligations connected with celibacy. The two are usually given together.

Celibacy is technically a prohibition against marriage and so when it is dispensed, the priest can go ahead and get married in the Church. Celibacy should not be confused with chastity which is something that all Catholics are called to and which definitely applies to this person.

Being dispensed is not like an Annulment of a marriage in that the laicized priest remains a priest but without the ability to perform the Sacraments except for some emergency situations. As such, the Church still has certain controls over what the man can do and cannot do. Most of these are standard language, but he cannot serve in a priestly function without permission to do so. Being a Spiritual Guide in a hospital seems a bit priestly to me so perhaps the decree or the Bishop has allowed this, but perhaps not.

Just one additional clarification: one could be laicized or dismissed.

If he was laicized it was done as a favor from the Church and therefore he is in good standing as a Catholic and can receive the Sacraments. The term good standing is a loose term that has many varieties. No priest who has abused children could minister again but it is possible that they could receive Holy Communion.

If he was dismissed then it was done as a punishment by the Church and he may not be in good standing. Most priests who have abused children have been dismissed. Some chose laicization prior to their about-to-be dismissal.

As with anything dealing with the abuse of minors one should avoid the easy solution of putting them all in the same box as if all their crimes are equal. Also some clerics are repentant and others are not.

Fr. Jonathan

Valerie replied:

Hi Mike,

With the addition of Father's response to what Bob and you said, I feel so spoiled. : )

I just have three more questions:

  1. Would it make a difference if he married her?
  2. Can he now marry or is he still obliged to stay celibate?
  3. Would be OK for a celibate woman to date an ex-priest?

Thank you so much for your time and your kindness, I feel much better.

Thank you!!

Valerie

Fr. Jonathan replied:

Hi, Valerie —

  1. Yes. Then chastity for him would include marital relations.
  2. He is dispensed from celibacy so he can marry. The marriages are usually small, private ceremonies with a priest, two witnesses and a few guests.
  3. A celibate woman implies that she is a religious sister or has taken a vow. Someone bound to celibacy should not be dating. The man can date because he has been dispensed from celibacy though he must be chaste.

Fr. Jonathan

Mike replied:

Hi Fr. Jonathan,

Thanks for the clarifications to my answer.

  • Can I assume that if the man was dismissed, apart from what the Church would allow in emergency situations, he would be on par with any Protestant who disagrees with the Church and is not open to receiving the sacraments?

  • Also can a dismissed priest, with repentance, become a laicized priest in good standing with the Church who can receive the sacraments?

Mike

Fr. Jonathan replied:


  • No. I would not equate the man with a Protestant. He is still a Catholic, perhaps in need of a good Confession and he is always a priest. He definitely could be allowed to receive the Sacraments; it depends.

  • Following on what I said above he can definitely be allowed back to the Sacraments if they were taken from him. He doesn't have to switch his status. However, if a priest is dismissed from the Church and later repents of whatever caused the dismissal he could certainly repent of his ways privately and/or publicly.

Fr. Jonathan

Valerie replied:

Thanks again Mike and all.

The issue is now clear for me. In my last question, I meant to say a single woman. : ) but I get it.

Thanks so much again!!

In Christ!

Valerie

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