Thursday, December 15, 2016

Fr. Antonio Royo Marin on Signs of a Vocation to the Priesthood


The Subject of the Sacrament of Orders

And here it is also necessary to distinguish within the subject the necessary conditions for validity and liceity.

A) For validity

Conclusion. A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly (CIC 1024).
428. We wish to explain the conclusion a little.

A MAN ALONE, not a woman. St. Paul expressly states, “Let women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted them to speak, but to be subject” (1 Cor. 14:34). And in another place: “Let the woman learn in silence, with all subjection” (1 Tim. 2:11). The Holy Fathers explain these words in the sense of excluding women from the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and this has been the constant and universal practice of the Church.

In ancient church literature it is sometimes spoken of female bishops and priests, and St. Paul himself speaks with praise of the deaconess Phoebe (Rom. 16:1-2) and gives to his disciple Timothy norms for choosing deaconesses from among the widows (1 Tim. 5:9-10). None of these women received ordination as such but a sacramental instituted by the Church, by way of a blessing of the virgins consecrated to the Lord, which enabled them to help the priests or deacons in the administration of baptism for women, in the catechesis of women, etc. Sometimes the actual spouses of the deacons, priests, or bishops simply received those titles before ecclesiastical celibacy was obligatorily imposed.

BAPTIZED, that is to say, he who has received the sacrament of baptism (the baptism of desire is not sufficient), which is the obligatory and indispensable door to be able to receive any other sacrament.

B) For liceity

Conclusion. In order to receive holy ordination licitly, it is required that the candidate meet the canonical conditions determined by the Church.

429. In addition to a divine vocation, the state of grace—which is the indispensable condition to receive licitly any sacrament of the living—and not having any irregularity or impediment, certain conditions are required by Canon Law, which we will examine in detail in the following article.


Prerequisites in order to receive sacred ordination

The prerequisites which the candidate must meet in order to receive Holy Orders are of two types: a) the possession of the positive qualities demanded by the Church; and b) the absence of irregularities or impediments. We will examine these separately.
I.                   POSITIVE QUALITIES

The essential qualities, those that we just finished citing in the previous conclusion, one naturally presupposes, are a divine vocation to the priesthood, the state of grace, and a right intention. We will examine these one by one.

A) The Divine Vocation

430. There is a great variety of opinions among theologians on the genuine and true concept of a vocation to the priesthood. All contain some essential core of truth, but the greater part of them fail from inadequacies because they do not examine the priestly vocation except from an incomplete and partial point of view: the theological or the canonical.

The priestly vocation, adequately considered, seems to us to consist of three elements:
a) A special calling from God.
b) Canonical suitability (idoneity).
c) Admission to the clerical state by the bishop.[1]
By this understanding, we might say that there is a true vocation to the priesthood for anyone who, feeling the call of God in a special way and possessing canonical suitability, is admitted to the clerical state by a legitimate bishop.

We are going to examine briefly each one of these three essential elements.

a) A Special Call from God

It is a theologically indisputable fact that divine Providence orders all things that exist towards the attainment of the final end of creation, namely, the divine glory.[2] This providence of God extends absolutely to everything, including the most insignificant—etiam minimorum, says St. Thomas Aquinas[3]—, even to the point that God has counted all the hairs of our head (Mt. 10:30), and the leaf of a tree does not move without the previous permission of God.

This being the case, one understands how great and excellent a thing is the Catholic priesthood, which ought to continue across the centuries the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, the Son well-beloved of the Father, and it is not possible that God would abandon it to the free choice or caprice of men. “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” expressly says the Lord in the Gospel (Jn. 15:16). That is why it seems to us that those make a great error of perspective, theologically unjustifiable, [542] who speak of choice of state to suggest to the possible candidate the excellent greatness of the priesthood. There is not, there should not be such a choice of state—as if the initiative of a decision of this magnitude was by man alone, and God was forced to accept what the creature has decided—but solely an examination of the depths of the inclination and the qualities which the candidate possesses in order to discover in those qualities, with greater or lesser clarity, the mysterious calling of God, which, theologically speaking, constitutes the heart of the vocation.

This call of God tends to take on many diverse forms. Sometimes it appears in the conscience of the candidate with complete clarity and evidence, a blessing that does not allow harboring the slightest doubt. At other times, it is obscure and mysterious yet at the same time very true and real. Again, sometimes it imposes itself upon the conscience in the form of a categorical imperative[4]; at other times it does not go beyond being a sweet invitation, quietly persuasive. But whatever form it adopts or with whatever force that it may impose itself, it never dominates human free will, which remains perfectly safe, even when efficacious grace falls upon it, producing its effect infallibly and is most freely accepted by the man.

The existence and necessity of a divine vocation to the priesthood, that is, of this call of God, can be fully demonstrated through traditional theological sources:

1.       SACRED SCRIPTURE. “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you; and have appointed you, that you should go and should bring forth fruit; and your fruit should remain” (Jn. 15:16).
“Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that he send laborers into his harvest” (Lk. 10:2). 
“And going up into a mountain, he called unto him whom he would himself, and they came to him. And he made that twelve should be with him, and that he might send them to preach. And he gave them power to seal sicknesses, and to cast out devils” (Mk. 3:13-15). 
“Neither doth any man take the honor to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was. So Christ also did not glorify himself, that he might be made a high priest, but he that said unto him: Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten thee” (Heb. 5:4-5). 
“And praying, (the apostles) said, “Thou, Lord, who knowest the heart of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, to take the place of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas hath by transgression fallen, that he might go to his own place” (Acts 1:24-25).
The testimony of Sacred Scripture cannot be clearer or more conclusive.

2.       THE MAGISTERIUM OF THE CHURCH. This point of view, profoundly theological by having its immediate foundation in Sacred Scripture, has been fully confirmed through the magisterium of the Church by clarifying with total care and exactness some exaggerations regarding the priestly vocation that have remained obscured by some excessively amateur authors, who viewed this matter exclusively from a canonical point of view and downplayed its theological aspect, which is just as important if not more than the canonical.
In fact, in the Instruction of the Sacred Congregation of Sacraments of December 27, 1930,[5] approved and confirmed by Pius XI, it says among other things the following:

1.       The priestly vocation should not be confused with admission to the ecclesiastical state made by the bishop since it is seriously warned that the latter will not allow candidates to receive orders if they are deprived of a divine vocation: “divina destituti vocatione” (§1, n.1). Therefore it is a clear thing that the divine vocation is distinct from and prior to the call of the bishop.

2.       This same idea is repeated constantly through the length of the instruction. Here are some texts:
“Those who have been chosen by the Holy Ghost to govern the Church of God, in order to avoid many and great evils against the Church and the faithful, must with the greatest caution block the path of those who through lack of a priestly vocation to such a high ministry should have applied to them the words of our Lord (Jn. 10:1): ‘Amen, amen I say to you: he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up another way, the same is a thief and a robber’” (§1, n.1). 
“In order that things may not come to this result, there must be firmly impressed upon the souls of the bishops and local ordinaries an interest in a great means of immediately separating those who are to receive orders from those who are unworthy and not called” (§3, n. 4).
3.       Every candidate to Holy Orders must sign with his own hand and in his own handwriting a document in which he declares his desire to receive Holy Orders freely and spontaneously with all the responsibilities accompanying it, “since I experience and feel within me truly the call of God.”

c)    THE THEOLOGICAL REASON. It is a natural and immediate consequence of divine Providence, which extends itself to the smallest things as St. Thomas says.[6] It is absurd to think that one of the most excellent things, the priestly vocation, would have been abandoned to the arbitrary will and whim of man so that whether a man takes it or leaves it depends on if he has a desire for it.

It is not valid, then, to say that the aspirant to the priesthood does not sometimes sense a small hint of the divine calling within his interior but rather that he has full consciousness of possessing the self-determination to choose the priesthood, having calmly considered the spiritual benefits that have been reported of such a state. Nothing that we have finished explaining goes against vocation in the sense of a divine initiative since this apparent self-determination, perhaps the product of a long, cold, and painful deliberation, is in reality one of the forms of the divine call, an effect of God’s free election, according to the words of Sacred Scripture: “As the divisions of waters, so the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord, whithersoever he will he shall turn it” (Prov. 21:1).
This demonstration, so clear and evident, can be further confirmed with new and decisive arguments. It is worthwhile to explain some in order to restore fully the truth about this subject, so important and oftentimes so obscure. The arguments are:[7]

1.       The ecclesiastical ministry demands, by its very nature, a special help of grace in order to be able to exercise it conveniently. But God gives these special aids only, or at least principally, to those who were really called and not to those who contrary to the will of God have the audacity to consecrate themselves to the divine ministries.

2.       The priestly state cannot be worthily and laudably exercised without special qualities of soul and body. However, these talents are gifts of God, which He gives to those called precisely in virtue of their calling, and it is not given to the rest, at least according to the general norms of His ordinary providence.

3.       The priest holds the position of mediator between God and man, according to these words of St. Paul: “Every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that the may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins” (Heb. 5:1); and these other words: “We are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20); and finally: “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). However, it would be absurd to think that someone, without being called by God, could have the audacity to chose the role of ambassador of Christ, dispenser of the divine mysteries, and mediator between God and man.

4.       The sacerdotal state carries with it the gravest obligations, which cannot morally be observed with fidelity for an entire lifetime without special helps from God. However, according to the ordinary norms of His divine Providence, God does not refuse any general graces and sufficient helps, but He grants special and efficacious graces only to those legitimately called by Him.

b) Canonical Suitability

In addition to a divine calling, it is required in the candidate those conditions or qualities that establish the aptitude or canonical suitability for the priesthood. Precisely the lack of this suitability will be the clear sign that God is not calling the candidate to the priesthood—even if the candidate believes otherwise—because in God there cannot be any contradiction. And to the contrary, the clear and manifest presence of that suitability in a man who willingly aspires to the priesthood is the clearest and most manifest proof of a divine vocation.

Canon Law emphatically expresses to bishops the gravest obligation not to promote to Holy Orders those candidates who lack this canonical suitability.

We will see in the following pages [545] what those qualities may be that constitute this canonical suitability. But first we must examine the last point of our discussion.

c) Admission on the Part of the Bishop

The final and authoritative judgment over the admission or denial to Holy Orders of the aspiring candidate rests solely with the bishop, who must not ordain any layman if it is not necessarily or useful for his diocese (cf. CIC 2025).

During the pontificate of St. Pius X, a commission of cardinals examined the work La vocation sacerdotale by Canon Lahitton—which had stirred up great commotion among authors—and had the following report issued regarding it:

“The book of the eminent Joseph Canon Lahitton, titled La vocation sacerdotale, is in no way to be condemned, but rather it is deserving of outstanding praise in the following points:
1. that no one has a right to ordination antecedently to the free choice of him by the bishop;

2. that the condition to which the Ordinary should look, and which is called a priestly vocation, by no means consists, at all events necessarily and as a general rule, in some interior aspiration of the subject or in impulses of the Holy Ghost to receive the priesthood;

3. but on the contrary nothing more is required in the candidate that he may rightly be invited by the bishop than a right intention together with a fitness based on those gifts of nature and grace, and confirmed by that goodness of life and sufficiency of learning, that afford a well-founded hope that he would be able rightly to fulfill the priestly duties and maintain its obligations holily.[8]
This teaching is of complete certitude. But it does not follow in any way that in order to be ordained a priest a prior divine vocation is not required—as some have affirmed, disproportionately exaggerating point 2 of the above declaration—but only that no one has a right to be ordained before the free choice of the bishop and that in order for the bishop to be able legitimately to invite him, it suffices that the candidate possess right intention together with a due suitability, that is, the unequivocal signs of a true and authentic divine vocation to the priesthood.

Without a doubt, because of the exaggerations of these authors to whom we have just alluded, it was seen that the Holy See was obliged to clarify the true import of point 2 of the previously mentioned declaration. And as we have seen above, in the instruction of the Sacred Congregation of Sacraments of December 27, 1930, approved and confirmed by Pius XI, there is a clear distinction made between a divine vocation to the priesthood and admission to the ecclesiastical state by the bishop. [546] We have already cited the texts and have nothing further to add here.

B) The State of Grace

431. The state of grace is an indispensable prerequisite in order to receive licitly the sacrament of Holy Orders. The reason is because it is a sacrament of the living, the reception of which presupposes a soul in possession of supernatural life (the state of grace). The reception of truly sacramental orders (diaconate, presbyterate, and episcopy) while conscious of mortal sin would constitute a grave sacrilege, apart from the mortal sin that would be committed by the unworthy reception of the Eucharist, which must be received together with major orders.

C) Right Intention

432. This is another indispensable condition demanded by the very nature of the sacrament.

This rectitude of intention means that the candidate by his ordination ought to strive exclusively, or at least principally, for the glory of God, the good of souls, and his own sanctification. If he would intend to obtain temporal goods, honors, or an easy life as his exclusive or principal goal, then he would commit a most serious mortal sin. It is not forbidden, however, that besides the primary supernatural end he may also seek after other secondary natural goods (e.g. in order to assist in the honest sustainment of his parents). But it must be understood that his intention would be more upright and purer the less it is influenced by these secondary, purely natural motives.

D) Holy Confirmation

433. It must be understood that the candidate set apart by the sacrament of Orders for the divine mysteries and the shepherding of the faithful must be fully confirmed in the Faith and strong in the practice of virtue. Moreover, it would not be good that a man, before reaching the status of a soldier in the military of Christ, should take on the responsibility of a chief or captain. Hence the necessity of receiving the sacrament of Confirmation before that of Orders.

Long ago this prerequisite was considered binding under pain of venial sin only. But modern moral theologians consider it to be binding under pain of mortal sin. The reason seems to come from canon 1033, which in order for ordination to be licit demands among other things that the ordinand “has received the sacrament of confirmation.” Since it deals with an intrinsically grave matter [547] and is necessary for liceity, it seems that its culpable omission would constitute a true mortal sin.[9]

E) Virtuous Life

434. Among the conditions required to bring the candidate to Holy Orders, the Code of Canon Law demands “qualities in keeping with the order to be received” (CIC 1029).

Not all the orders require the same sanctity of customs since they confer neither the same dignity nor the same powers. But it is evident that the candidate to any order ought to show clear signs of possessing a true and authentic priestly vocation through a solid piety and ought to be firmly resolved in completely renouncing, throughout his entire life, the empty promises of the world and of the flesh.

The more compromised case and that which might offer greater doubts regarding a legitimate priestly vocation in a young man is in relation to the virtue of chastity. Although in this as in all cases there may be exceptions, which must be determined, nevertheless as a general rule, the youth for whom it proves very difficult[10] to keep perfect chastity in the environment of the seminary or religious house—which is a kind of spiritual greenhouse, heated for piety and removed from all kinds of dangers—will find it almost impossible to keep custody when he must live “outdoors” in the midst of the storms of the world, which he will have to confront very closely.

There is a common agreement among authors in demonstrating that the candidate who has contracted a vice against chastity is not able to present himself to receive Holy Orders, and if he does so, sins mortally.

The length of time that he ought to remain in perfect chastity before approaching to receive Holy Orders cannot be mathematically determined since it depends greatly on the temperament, the energy of character, etc., of the candidate. In general authors tend to indicate a year before entering the priesthood. But the Holy Congregation of Seminaries [currently called the Congregation for Catholic Education] has given much more severe orders and desires that access to the priesthood be excluded not only from all those who have sinned with another person (even if this was only once), but also as a rule those who have fallen into external mortal sin after the penultimate year of philosophy.[11]

IN PRACTICE, the confessor or spiritual director must advise the candidate who has contracted an evil habit against purity to leave the seminary or religious house immediately in order [548] to choose another form of life more suitable for his weak virtue. And if the candidate obstinately persists on a path that is not his, absolution ought to be denied to his sins until he decides to leave or to postpone reception of orders until he has successfully achieved the total rectification of his habits.

F) Canonical Age

435. This is what Canon Law states:

Canon 1031. Ҥ1. The presbyterate is not to be conferred except on those who have completed the twenty-fifth year of age and possess sufficient maturity; an interval of at least six months is to be observed between the diaconate and the presbyterate. Those destined to the presbyterate are to be admitted to the order of deacon only after completing the twenty-third year of age.
“§2. A candidate for the permanent diaconate who is not married is not to be admitted until after completing at least the twenty-fifth year of age; one who is married, not until after completing at least the thirty-fifth year of age and with the consent of his wife. 
“§3. The conference of bishops is free to establish norms which require an older age for the presbyterate and the permanent diaconate. 
“§4. A dispensation of more than a year from the age required according to the norm of §§1 and 2 is reserved to the Apostolic See.”
G) Requisite Knowledge

436. Canon Law states the following:

Canon 1032. Ҥ1. Those aspiring to the presbyterate can be promoted to the diaconate only after they have completed the fifth year of the curriculum of philosophical and theological studies.
“§2. After a deacon has completed the curriculum of studies and before he is promoted to the presbyterate, he is to take part in pastoral care, exercising the diaconal order, for a suitable time defined by the bishop or competent major superior. 
“§3. A person aspiring to the permanent diaconate is not to be promoted to this order unless he has completed the time of formation.”
The episcopate requires a doctorate or a licentiate in sacred theology or canon law, or at least true competence in these disciplines (CIC 378 § 1, 5°).
H) Exercising the Minor Ministries and Keeping the Interstices[12]

437. Canon 1035 states the following:
“§1. Before any may be promoted to the diaconate, whether permanent or transitory, he must have received the ministries of lector and acolyte, and have exercised them for an appropriate time. 
“§2. Between the conferring of the ministry of acolyte and the diaconate there is to be an interval of at least six months.”
I) Other Requisites for Ordination

Canon Law indicates principally the following:

438. 1. Freedom to be Ordained. “For a person to be ordained, he must enjoy the requisite freedom. It is absolutely wrong to compel anyone, in any way or for any reason whatsoever, to receive orders, or to turn away from orders anyone who is canonically suitable” (CIC 1026).

439. 2. The Proper Declaration. “For a candidate to be promoted to the order of diaconate or priesthood, he must submit to the proper Bishop or to the competent major Superior a declaration written in his own hand and signed by him, in which he attests that he will spontaneously and freely receive the sacred order and will devote himself permanently to the ecclesiastical ministry, asking at the same time that he be admitted to receive the order” (CIC 1036).

440. 3. Acceptance of Celibacy. “A candidate for the permanent diaconate who is not married and likewise a candidate for the priesthood, is not to be admitted to the order of diaconate unless he has, in the prescribed rite, publicly before God and the Church undertaken the obligation of celibacy, or unless he has taken perpetual vows in a religious institute” (CIC 1037).

441. 4. Spiritual Exercises [i.e. a Retreat]. “All who are to be promoted to any order must make a retreat for at least five days, in a place and in the manner determined by the Ordinary. Before he proceeds to the ordination, the Bishop must have assured himself that the candidates have duly made the retreat” (CIC 1039).


In addition to the positive qualities or conditions which we have finished examining, the candidate for orders must possess certain negative qualities, [550] that is, must be free from so-called irregularities and from simple impediments that prohibit the reception of orders. We will examine each of these separately.

A) Irregularities in General

441.2. 1. The Notion. In ecclesiastical law, an irregularity is understood to be a perpetual, canonical impediment that prohibits the reception of orders or the exercise of those orders already received.

We will briefly explain the terms of the definition:

AN IMPEDIMENT, that is, a certain inability for the clerical state, either culpable or by no fault of the one who has it.

CANONICAL, that is, established by the Church in view of the dignity and honor of the priestly ministry and the reverence owed to Holy Orders. No irregularity can be incurred except from this viewpoint and which has been expressly defined by Canon Law.

PERPETUAL, at least, intrinsically; that is, it does not cease with the simple passage of time, but may be overlooked only by a dispensation or a provision of ecclesiastical law. This is distinguished from a simple impediment, which ends, as we shall see, when the cause that produces it disappears.

THAT PROHIBITS THE RECEPTION OF ORDERS. This is the primary and direct effect of an irregularity. Note, however, that an irregularity does not affect the validity of ordination but only its liceity; although in itself, it binds the person gravely.

OR THE EXERCISE OF THOSE RECEIVED, even though the irregularity was contracted after ordination. This is the secondary and indirect effect of an irregularity.

442. 2. Foundation. The remote foundation of irregularities is found in natural law and in divine positive law, which demand due reverence and honor for the sacred ministries. The proximate foundation is in ecclesiastical law as we have already said.

443. 3. Division. The following summary chart shows the different classes of irregularities recognized by Canon Law:
a) By defect. These stem from some physical defect or moral incompatibility that is not fitting to the sacred ministry.

b) By delict. These proceed from a personal sin that is grave, external, completed with full deliberation, and committed after baptism.

c) Antecedent, if it is contracted before ordination.

d) Consequent, if committed after.

e) Total, if it impedes the reception or exercise of any order.

f) Partial, if it impedes only the ascent to a higher order or the exercise of some order (e.g. the priest that lacks a thumb is irregular with respect to celebrating the Holy Mass but not with respect to hearing confessions).

g) Public, if it has been made known among the faithful.

h) Occult, if it isn’t and probably will never be known by the faithful.
444. 4. Subject. Irregularities affect only the baptized male; and if it is a matter of irregularity from a crime, the subject must be able to commit it (in other words, he has matured out of childhood).

The unbaptized are neither the subject of irregularities nor of the sacrament of orders. But they can become the subject of each after receiving baptism (for instance, if they receive baptism from a non-Catholic as in the case of extreme necessity), or if the defect can remain after baptism, affecting the person who still has it.

445. 5. Conditions. In order to incur an irregularity, the following are required:

a)       IT IS CERTAIN, that is, the crime or defect on which the irregularity is based exists or can be certainly verified. With this condition, the irregularity is contracted by the mere fact that what it is based on is verified, without the need for any declaration from the Church.

A doubtful irregularity is null. The reason is that in the case of something hateful, it should be interpreted strictly, and in the case of something doubtful, it should not be presumed but must be proven.

b)      THE ACTION that brings the attached irregularity by delict must be a personal, mortal sin, external, completed deliberately, and committed after baptism. Everything that excuses a grave sin (e.g. lack of grave matter, a fault of advertence, good faith, etc.) will also excuse from the irregularity.

However, an occult sin with all the characteristics that we have just indicated is sufficient to contract an irregularity.

Ignorance of irregularities, whether from a crime or defect, does not exempt one from them. The same may be said of impediments (CIC 1045). The reason is because irregularities are not properly speaking a penalty or a punishment (as it is with excommunication for instance), but they are rather an obstacle or an impediment that prohibits the reception or exercise of orders.

446. 6. Multiplication. “Irregularities and impediments are multiplied if they arise from different causes, not however from the repetition [552] of the same cause, unless it is a question of the irregularity arising from the commission of willful homicide or from having actually procured an abortion” (CIC 1046).

From this principle it may be inferred that a priest who is suspended from exercising orders contracts only one irregularity if he celebrates Mass several times. On the other hand, the man who commits ten homicides has ten irregularities.

447. 7. Cessation. Irregularities cease only by a dispensation from a legitimate superior granted in the internal or external forum. Simple impediments cease when the cause for them disappears (e.g. by the termination of military service) or through a dispensation from a superior.

448. 8. Author of a Dispensation. 1. THE APOSTOLIC SEE can dispense from all classes of irregularities and impediments. This faculty is exercised by means of the Sacred Congregation of Sacraments (or of Religious) for these if they are not public; through the Sacred Penitentiary if they are occult; by the Holy Office [the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith], if it deals with irregularities or defects relative to the Faith.

2. ORDINARIES can dispense those under their jurisdiction as well as religious in the same place, either by themselves or by means of another, from all irregularities that proceed from an occult delict (except one motivated by voluntary homicide or by the procuring and carrying out of an abortion) or from any other which has led to a judicial forum.[13]

They are also able to dispense from those which may be doubtful, provided that they are those that the Roman Pontiff usually dispenses from. They can also grant a dispensation when it might be difficult to appeal to the Holy See or when there may be a grave danger in the delay.

3. ANY CONFESSOR has, with respect to those persons who can have their confession heard, the same faculties as those of the ordinary that we explained in the first paragraph of number 2 above in more urgent occult cases if they cannot go to the ordinary and if there may be a danger of grave harm or infamy but only so that the penitent can exercise licitly the orders already received (CIC 1048).

449. 9. Manner of Petitioning for a Dispensation. The following is set out by Canon Law (CIC 1049):
Ҥ1. Petitions to obtain a dispensation from irregularities or impediments must indicate all the irregularities and impediments. Nevertheless, a general dispensation is valid even for those omitted in good faith, except [553] for the irregularities mentioned in can. 1041, n. 4, and for others brought to the judicial forum, but not for those omitted in bad faith.

Ҥ2. If it is a question of the irregularity from voluntary homicide or a procured abortion, the number of the delicts also must be mentioned for the validity of the dispensation.

“§3. A general dispensation from irregularities and impediments to receive orders is valid for all the orders.”
B) Irregularities in Particular

450. As it has been stated, irregularities can be through delict or through defect. The former always suppose a grave fault in the one who has committed it; the latter can affect innocent persons. Here is a complete list of each of the irregularities according to the new Code of Canon Law:

Canon 1040. “Those affected by any impediment, whether perpetual, which is called an irregularity, or simple, are prevented from receiving orders. The only impediments incurred, however, are those contained in the following canons.”

Canon 1041. “The following are irregular for receiving orders:
1. A person who labors under some form of amentia or other psychic illness due to which, after experts have been consulted, he is judged unqualified to fulfill the ministry properly;

2. A person who has committed the delict of apostasy, heresy, or schism;

3. A person who has attempted marriage, even only civilly, while either impeded personally from entering marriage by a matrimonial bond, sacred orders, or a public perpetual vow of chastity, or with a woman bound by a valid marriage or restricted by the same type of vow;

4. A person who has committed voluntary homicide or procured a completed abortion and all those who positively cooperated in either;

5. A person who has mutilated himself or another gravely and maliciously or who has attempted suicide;

6. A person who has placed an act of orders reserved to those in the order of episcopate or presbyterate while either lacking that order or prohibited from its exercise by some declared or imposed canonical penalty.”
Canon 1042. “The following are simply impeded from receiving orders:
1. A man who has a wife, unless he is legitimately destined to the permanent diaconate;

2. A person who exercises an office or administration forbidden to clerics according to the norm of cann. 285 and 286 for which he must render an account, until he becomes free by having relinquished the office or administration and rendered the account; [554] 
3. A neophyte unless he has been proven sufficiently in the judgment of the ordinary.”
Canon 1043. “If the Christian faithful are aware of impediments to sacred orders, they are obliged to reveal them to the ordinary or pastor before the ordination.”

Canon 1044. “The following are irregular for the exercise of orders received:
1. A person who has received orders illegitimately while affected by an irregularity to receive them;

2. A person who has committed a delict mentioned in can. 1041, n. 2, if the delict is public;

3. A person who has committed a delict mentioned in can. 1041, nn. 3, 4, 5, 6.
“The following are impeded from the exercise of orders:
1. A person who has received orders illegitimately while prevented by an impediment from receiving them;

2. A person who is affected by amentia or some other psychic illness mentioned in can. 1041, n. 1 until the ordinary, after consulting an expert, permits the exercise of the order.”

[1] Cf. CAPPELLO, De sacramentis vol. 4, n. 363. We follow this author closely in the following pages.
[2] Cf. 1,22,104.
[3] 1,22,3.
[4] I.e., an absolute moral obligation binding upon the person, regardless of their personal inclinations.—Translator’s note.
[5] AAS 23,120 ff.
[6] 1,22,3.
[7] Cf. CAPPELLO, S.I., op. cit., n. 370, with whom we are in total agreement in this matter.
[8] Circular Letter of the Secretariat of State to the Bishops of July 2, 1912 (AAS 4.485).
[9] Cf. CAPPELLO, op. cit., n. 405.
[10] This does not mean to say that it is necessary that the candidate does not experience temptations, even if they may be very vehement, but that they can be overcome, and in fact that he does conquer them with the help of divine grace and by employing the appropriate means.
[11] Cf. ARREGUI, Compendio de teología moral (Bilbao 1945) n. 680.
[12] The space of time that must pass between receiving different orders according to Canon Law.
[13] Actually, bishops and religious superiors enjoy wider faculties with respect to dispensing from irregularities.


Source: Fr. Antonio Royo Marin, OP, Moral Theology for Laity, Volume II: The Sacraments, trans. by Richard Grablin (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 2006), 539–554.

This translation is from a reprint of the 5th Spanish edition, published originally in November 1994. The Spanish title is Teología moral para seglares, II: Los sacramentos.

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