Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 8, 2008
Pope makes it easier to laicize priests who abandon ministry
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict has granted the Congregation for Clergy new powers to dismiss from the priesthood and release from the obligation of celibacy priests who are living with women, who have abandoned their ministry for more than five years or who have engaged in seriously scandalous behaviour.
The new powers do not apply to cases involving the sexual abuse of minors by a priest; those cases are subject to special rules and procedures overseen by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The new faculties were announced by Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the clergy congregation, in an April 18 letter to the world's bishops.
Hummes told Catholic News Service June 3 that the new, quicker administrative procedure for dismissing priests was prompted by "many situations where canon law did not seem adequate for meeting new problems."
Usually when a priest leaves the ministry of his own accord, he informs his bishop and sooner or later will request a formal dispensation from the obligation of celibacy, the cardinal said.
But others "leave, they marry (in a civil ceremony), they have children. In these cases, the bishops did not have a way to proceed because it was up to the person who left," he said.
Hummes said that although the procedures have been streamlined, "each case will be reviewed individually, including with the aim of ensuring that the rights of the person interested were protected."