Loss of clerical state (Catholic Church)

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In the canon law of the Catholic Church, the loss of the clerical state (commonly referred to as laicization or laicisation) is the removal of a bishop, priest or deacon from the status of being a member of the clergy.

The term defrocking , though used colloquially to describe a loss of clerical state, has no meaning in contemporary Catholic canon law; [1] it used to mean a cleric being forbidden to wear clerical garb (to de-frock etymologically means to take away the clerical attire known as a frock) without further restrictions, as a gradation of reduction without the full loss of the clerical state.

In the Catholic Church, a bishop, priest, or deacon may be dismissed from the clerical state as a penalty for certain grave offenses, or by a papal decree granted for grave reasons. This may be because of a serious criminal conviction, heresy, or similar matter. Removal from the clerical state is sometimes imposed as a punishment (Latin : ad poenam), [2] or it may be granted as a favor (Latin: pro gratia) at the priest's own request. [3] A Catholic cleric may voluntarily request to be removed from the clerical state for a grave personal reason. [4] Voluntary requests were, as of the 1990s, believed to be by far the most common means of this loss, and most common within this category was the intention to marry, because Latin rite clergy must as a rule be celibate. [4] Canon law was amended in March 2019 to make it so clergy belonging to a religious order could lose the clerical state in a community which they have been absent from as well. [5] [6] This policy has been in force since 10 April 2019. [7]

Consequences

Laicization involves cessation of all the rights of the clerical state. It also ceases all obligations of the clerical state, except for the obligation of celibacy. Dispensation from the obligation of celibacy can only be granted by the pope, except in ordinations that have been declared invalid, in which case no dispensation is necessary. [8] Because the sacramental character of ordination makes it indelible, the cleric maintains the power of orders. He is, however, forbidden to exercise it, except to give sacramental absolution to someone in danger of death. He also automatically loses his offices, roles and delegated powers. [8]

Normally, the same rescript grants both laicization and dispensation from the obligation of celibacy. The person to whom it is granted is not permitted to separate the two, accepting the dispensation while rejecting the laicization, or accepting the laicization while rejecting the dispensation. While married deacons whose wives die are sometimes permitted to marry again, and married ministers of a non-Catholic confession who become Catholics are sometimes permitted to be ordained and minister in the Catholic Church, grants of dispensation from the obligation of celibacy without simultaneous laicization are very rare. [9] [10]

A laicized cleric loses rights to such things as clerical garb and titles (such as "Father"). He is freed from obligations such as recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, but like any member of the laity is encouraged, though not obliged, to continue to recite it. The rescript of laicization for a deacon normally contains no special limitations, but that for a priest does prohibit him from delivering a homily (the sermon preached at Mass after proclamation of the Gospel reading, not preaching in general), acting as extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, having a directive office in the pastoral field, or having any function in a seminary or similar institution. It imposes restrictions also regarding the holding of teaching or administration posts in schools and universities. Some of these limitations may be relaxed according to the judgment of the local bishop [11] including the teaching of theology in schools or universities (both Catholic and non-Catholic), maintaining contact with the parish where the priest used to serve, and administering the Eucharist. [12]

A cleric dismissed from the clerical state cannot be reinstated in the sacred ministry without the consent of the pope. [8]

New regulations issued in 2009 regarding priests who abandon their ministry for more than five years and whose behavior is a cause of serious scandal have made it easier for bishops to secure this removal of clerical status from such priests even against the priests' wishes. [13] In the two years 2011 and 2012, nearly 400 Catholic priests were removed from the clerical state, with a peak of 260 in 2011, and nearly half of these being imposed as a penalty. [14] [15]

Difference from suspension

The removal from the clerical state differs from suspension. The latter is a censure prohibiting certain acts by a cleric, whether the acts are of a religious character deriving from his ordination ("acts of the power of orders") or are exercises of his power of governance or of rights and functions attached to the office he holds. [16] As a censure, suspension is meant to cease when the censured person shows repentance. Removal from the clerical state, on the contrary, is a permanent measure, whereby for a sufficient reason a cleric is from then on juridically treated as a layman.

Notable historical examples

At Napoléon Bonaparte's insistence, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord requested laicization in 1802, in order to marry his long-time lover Catherine Grand (née Worlée). Talleyrand was already excommunicated for his part in the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Pope Pius VII reluctantly lifted the excommunication and gave him permission to wear secular clothing, which permission the French Conseil d'État interpreted as a laicization. Talleyrand married Worlée, then divorced in 1815, [17] and lived on as a layman, but on his deathbed in 1838 he signed a document of reconciliation with the Church, prepared by future bishop Félix Dupanloup. Dupanloup then administered the last rites of a bishop to Talleyrand.

Bishop of San Pedro Fernando Lugo requested laicization in Paraguay in 2005 to allow him to run for President of Paraguay. [18] The Church at first refused, going so far as to suspend him as bishop when he ran for office anyway, but eventually granted lay status in 2008 after he was elected. [19]

In September 2018, Pope Francis ordered the laicization of a Chilean priest convicted in 2011 of the sexual abuse of minors. He had previously been sentenced to a life of prayer and penance. [20]

Cases of bishops

The laicization of bishops is unusual. In 2009, the church laicized Emmanuel Milingo, a former exorcist, faith healer, and archbishop of Lusaka, Zambia, who had already been excommunicated from the church three years earlier. [21] Milingo had threatened to form a breakaway church without a rule of priestly celibacy, and had himself married. [21] Raymond Lahey, the former bishop of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, was laicized in 2012, a year after he pleaded guilty in Canadian civil court to importing child pornography. [22] [23] Józef Wesołowski, a Polish archbishop who had been a nuncio (papal ambassador), was dismissed from the clerical state in 2014 on grounds of sexual abuse of minors. [24] The Vatican had made criminal charges against Wesołowski related to his abuse of minors and planned to try him, but Wesołowski died in 2015 before a trial could be held. [25]

Theodore Edgar McCarrick, a former cardinal and the former Archbishop of Washington, D.C., was dismissed from the clerical state in February 2019. [26] McCarrick is the highest-ranked church official to date to be dismissed over the ongoing sexual abuse scandals in the Church. [27]

Related Research Articles

Catholic Church sexual abuse cases Sexual abuse and pedophilia claims within the Catholic Church

Catholic Church sexual abuse cases are cases of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, nuns and members of religious orders. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the cases have involved many allegations, investigations, trials, convictions, and revelations about decades of attempts by Church officials to cover up reported incidents. The abused include mostly boys but also girls, some as young as three years old, with the majority between the ages of 11 and 14. Criminal cases for the most part do not cover sexual harassment of adults. The accusations of abuse and cover-ups began to receive public attention during the late 1980s. Many of these cases allege decades of abuse, frequently made by adults or older youths years after the abuse occurred. Cases have also been brought against members of the Catholic hierarchy who covered up sex abuse allegations and moved abusive priests to other parishes, where abuse continued.

Defrocking, unfrocking, or laicization of clergy is the removal of their rights to exercise the functions of the ordained ministry. It may be grounded on criminal convictions, disciplinary problems, or disagreements over doctrine or dogma, but may also be done at their request for personal reasons, such as running for civil office, taking over a family business, declining health or old age, desire to marry against the rules for clergy in a particular church, or an unresolved dispute. The form of the procedure varies according to the Christian denomination concerned. The term defrocking implies forced laicization for misconduct, while laicization is a neutral term, applicable also when clergy have requested to be released from their ordination vows.

Clerical celibacy is the requirement in certain religions that some or all members of the clergy be unmarried. These religions consider that, outside of marriage, deliberately indulging in lustful thoughts and behavior is sinful; clerical celibacy also requires abstention from these.

Clerical marriage is a term used to described the practice of allowing Christian clergy to marry. This practice is distinct from allowing married persons to become clergy. Clerical marriage is admitted among Protestants, including both Anglicans and Lutherans.

Theodore McCarrick 20th and 21st-century American Catholic, former cardinal and archbishop

Theodore Edgar McCarrick is a laicized American former cardinal and bishop of the Catholic Church. Ordained in 1958, he became an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New York in 1977, then became bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey in 1981. From 1986 to 2000, he was Archbishop of Newark. He became a cardinal in February 2001 and served as Archbishop of Washington, D.C. from 2001 to 2006.

The Congregation for the Clergy is the congregation of the Roman Curia responsible for overseeing matters regarding priests and deacons not belonging to religious orders. The Congregation for the Clergy handles requests for dispensation from active priestly ministry, as well as the legislation governing presbyteral councils and other organisations of priests around the world. The Congregation does not deal with clerical sexual abuse cases, as those are handled exclusively by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

A religious is, in the terminology of many Western Christian denominations, such as the Catholic Church, Lutheran Churches, and Anglican Communion, what in common language one would call a "monk" or "nun", as opposed to an ordained "priest". A religious may also be a priest if he has undergone ordination, but in general he is not.

The term secular clergy refers to deacons and priests who are not monastics or members of a religious institute. A diocesan priest is a Catholic, Anglican or Eastern Orthodox priest who commits themself to a certain geographical area and is ordained into the service of the citizens of a diocese, a church administrative region. That includes serving the everyday needs of the people in parishes, but their activities are not limited to that of their parish.

Married Priests Now! (MPN!) is an advocacy group founded and formerly led by Emmanuel Milingo, a former Roman Catholic bishop from Zambia. MPN is a liberal Catholic organization calling for relaxing the rules concerning marriage in the Latin Rite Catholic priesthood. Milingo has said that "There is no more important healing than the reconciliation of 150,000 married priests with the 'Mother Church', and the healing of a Church in crisis through renewing marriage and family."

Lay cardinal

A lay cardinal was a cardinal in the College of Cardinals of the Catholic Church who was a lay person, that is, who had never have been given major orders through ordination as a deacon, priest, or bishop.

Priesthood in the Catholic Church One of the three ordained holy orders of the Catholic Church

The priesthood is one of the three holy orders of the Catholic Church, comprising the ordained priests or presbyters. The other two orders are the bishops and the deacons. Only men are allowed to receive holy orders, and the church does not allow any transgender people to do so. Church doctrine also sometimes refers to all baptised Catholics as the "common priesthood".

Clerical celibacy is the discipline within the Catholic Church by which only unmarried men are ordained to the episcopate, to the priesthood in some autonomous particular Churches, and similarly to the diaconate. In other autonomous particular churches, the discipline applies only to the episcopate.

The debate on the causes of clerical child abuse is a major aspect of the academic literature surrounding Catholic sex abuse cases.

The ecclesiastical response to Catholic sexual abuse cases is a major aspect of the academic literature surrounding the Church's child sexual abuse scandal. The Catholic Church's response to the scandal can be viewed on three levels: the diocesan level, the episcopal conference level and the Vatican. Responses to the scandal proceeded at all three levels in parallel with the higher levels becoming progressively more involved as the gravity of the problem became more apparent.

The media coverage of Catholic sex abuse cases is a major aspect of the academic literature surrounding the pederastic priest scandal.

In the canon law of the Catholic Church, exclaustration is the official authorization for a member of a religious order bound by perpetual vows to live for a limited time outside their religious institute, usually with a view to discerning whether to depart definitively.

Józef Wesołowski was a Polish prelate of the Roman Catholic Church. He was an archbishop from 2000 until being laicized by the Holy See in 2014. He was the Apostolic Nuncio to the Dominican Republic from January 2008 until he was recalled in August 2013. Authorities in the Dominican Republic were investigating allegations of child abuse against him. In June 2015, the Vatican announced he would stand trial on charges of possessing child pornography, for which he faced a possible prison term. He died on 27 August 2015 of a heart attack before going to trial.

Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church Summit in the Vatican City

The Vatican sexual abuse summit, officially the Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church, was a four-day Catholic Church summit meeting in Vatican City that ran from 21 to 24 February 2019, convened by Pope Francis to discuss preventing sexual abuse by Catholic Church clergy.

Catholic canon law is the set of rules and principles (laws) by which the Catholic Church is governed, through enforcement by governmental authorities. Law is also the field which concerns the creation and administration of laws.

Vos estis lux mundi is a motu proprio by Pope Francis, promulgated on 9 May 2019. It establishes new procedural norms to combat sexual abuse and to ensure that bishops and religious superiors are held accountable for their actions. It establishes universal norms, which apply to the whole church. The law is effective for a three-year experimental period, coming into force on 1 June 2019.

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