VATICAN Laicizing priests now easier for clergy congregation (link)
VATICAN CITY (UCAN) -- Pope Benedict XVI has granted "special faculties" to the Congregation for the Clergy responding to a problem that has been faced in all continents, including Asia. This makes it easier for the congregation to dismiss priests involved in scandals and to grant dispensations from celibacy to those who have left the priesthood for five consecutive years, contracted a civil marriage, or are living with a woman.
Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the Brazilian-born prefect of the congregation, informed bishops of these new authorizations in a nine-page letter dated April 18. UCA News obtained a copy of the letter in early June.
In the first part of the letter, the Franciscan cardinal offers two reasons for the papal decision: to reaffirm priestly celibacy as "a gift that the Church has received and wishes to protect" and to assist bishops "in their daily task of preserving and promoting ecclesiastical discipline."
In other words, the Pope wants the more than 400,000 Catholic priests in the world to live a celibate and upright life, and wants bishops to ensure that they do so, or else dismiss them from the ministry.
A third reason for the new administrative procedures also emerges from the letter: The Pope wishes to restore order in the Church by regularizing situations of priests who have left the ministry without requesting dispensation.
According to Cardinal Hummes, "the vast majority of priests live out their priestly identity with serenity and exercise faithfully their proper ministry." However, he insisted that "when situations of scandal arise, especially on the part of the Church's ministers," the bishop must act promptly and decisively "according to the laws of the Church."
The letter makes clear that if a priest is not abiding by Church laws, that is, if he is living with a woman, has contracted civil marriage, or engages in other behavior that causes scandal, then the diocesan bishop has a duty and obligation to intervene and restore good order in the Church.
The bishop can begin by admonishing the priest to change his life but if it is clear that the priest has no intention of doing so, then the bishop must initiate a procedure for his dismissal. [Will religious congregations do this on their own too? It seems the process is for diocesan priests only. I know a couple of priests living double lives. One is a charismatic Franciscan.]
The bishop can also initiate the process in the case of a priest who has left the ministry for five consecutive years or more with no intention of returning to the ministry, as well as in the case of a priest who is no longer living a celibate life and has no intention of changing.
In such cases, the bishop will carry out a thorough investigation at the diocesan level, always respecting the priest's legal rights. The bishop will then transmit his conclusion and request for dispensation to the congregation, which now has the power to dismiss the priest and grant the dispensation with or without recourse to the Pope, depending on the case. [Hope the bishops find the strength to even start an investigation!]
Once the congregation dismisses the priest and grants dispensation, the former priest can be fully reconciled with the Church and be able to live a full Christian life and receive the Sacraments. [Yeah, why not just leave the ministry, stop the lie, and live in a state of life he befits you.]
The new faculties and the more streamlined administrative procedures do not apply to priests who have been involved in the sexual abuse of minors, however. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith handles all such cases. [Some of those involved in abuse scandals belong to religious brothers and sisters and are therefore under perpetual vows. Maybe the Congregation for can streamline the process also.]
In an exclusive June 3 interview with the US-based news agency, Catholic News Service, Cardinal Hummes explained that the new procedures were necessary because the 1983 "Code of Canon Law" appears to be inadequate at addressing "new problems."
For example, when a priest leaves the priesthood, he "usually" informs his bishop and eventually requests a formal dispensation. Other priests, however, "just leave, marry (in a civil ceremony) and have children." In such cases, the bishop has no way of proceeding as it is up to the priest to request dispensation.