Annulment of Holy Orders


#1

Does the Church have a process to annul Holy Orders? It would seem to make sense that if Matrimony could be annulled due to some impediment to the sacrament... The same could happen in the case of Holy Orders.

Correct me if I'm wrong but almost any Sacrament would have some basic requirements that need to be in place to allow it to be effective. Confession would require the firm resolve and contrition of the sinner for example.


#2

It is possible for Orders to be declared null for a variety of reasons, yes, but the power to do this is reserved to the Holy See.

However, once a priest is validly ordained he cannot be stripped of his priestly character. He can, for several severe reasons, be "laicized," which means he is returned to the "lay state," but he remains a priest forever. When a priest is laicized he is removed from ministry and he no longer has permission from the Church to celebrate Mass, and so he is forbidden from doing so, but he still technically has the ability to do it and still, as a matter of fact, can do it. He retains permission to hear confession and, I believe, perform last rites in a crisis situation like when someone's death is imminent.


#3

[quote="YoungTradCath, post:2, topic:304755"]
It is possible for Orders to be declared null for a variety of reasons, yes, but the power to do this is reserved to the Holy See.

However, once a priest is validly ordained he cannot be stripped of his priestly character. He can, for several severe reasons, be "laicized," which means he is returned to the "lay state," but he remains a priest forever. When a priest is laicized he is removed from ministry and he no longer has permission from the Church to celebrate Mass, and so he is forbidden from doing so, but he still technically has the ability to do it and still, as a matter of fact, can do it. He retains permission to hear confession and, I believe, perform last rites in a crisis situation like when someone's death is imminent.

[/quote]

Keep in mind a valid sacramental marriage can be terminated only by the death of a spouse. An invalid marriage is simply invalid. An invalid ordination is simply invalid. Any purported sacrament could, under the proper circumstances, be declared invalid.


#4

So, then, this leads to another question. If a Priest's ordination could be declared invalid that would leave open the possibility that I've never received the Eucharist in my life if, for example, I live out in the countryside and had the same Priest at my small parish all my life and one day his Preisthood was declared invalid. Is that correct?


#5

[quote="johnnykins, post:3, topic:304755"]
Keep in mind a valid sacramental marriage can be terminated only by the death of a spouse. An invalid marriage is simply invalid. An invalid ordination is simply invalid. Any purported sacrament could, under the proper circumstances, be declared invalid.

[/quote]

Yes, of course.

[quote="James_2_24, post:4, topic:304755"]
So, then, this leads to another question. If a Priest's ordination could be declared invalid that would leave open the possibility that I've never received the Eucharist in my life if, for example, I live out in the countryside and had the same Priest at my small parish all my life and one day his Preisthood was declared invalid. Is that correct?

[/quote]

It is extremely unlikely that any given priest's ordination is invalid. From what I understand, this kind of situation is typically well known by the Church when it happens and is rectified quickly. It is quite an exceptional thing and I cannot recall a single case in which a "priest" who had been "ministering" for some time summarily had his Orders declared invalid. I am not sure if such a situation actually exists. :/


#6

[quote="YoungTradCath, post:5, topic:304755"]
It is extremely unlikely that any given priest's ordination is invalid. From what I understand, this kind of situation is typically well known by the Church when it happens and is rectified quickly. It is quite an exceptional thing and I cannot recall a single case in which a "priest" who had been "ministering" for some time summarily had his Orders declared invalid. I am not sure if such a situation actually exists. :/

[/quote]

The scenarios in which an ordination would be invalid would be HIGHLY unlikely

Exactly, for a priest's ordination to be invalid, it would mean that the Bishop who ordained him was not validly ordained himself, or that the bishop never really had the intent to ordain the man, or that the man had never validly been baptized.

All are incrediblty rare, even to the extent that the Church leverages 3 bishops in the consecration of a new bishop, just to make certain that the ordination is valid.


#7

Wow, I didn’t know that (3 Bishops used to ordain 1)… Is that always the case?


#8

[quote="James_2_24, post:7, topic:304755"]
Wow, I didn't know that (3 Bishops used to ordain 1)... Is that always the case?

[/quote]

Three bishops always consecrate/ordain a new bishop, yes, except in the most extreme of circumstances in which it is imperative to continue the line and only one bishop is available.


#9

[quote="James_2_24, post:7, topic:304755"]
Wow, I didn't know that (3 Bishops used to ordain 1)... Is that always the case?

[/quote]

Yes.


#10

[quote="James_2_24, post:4, topic:304755"]
So, then, this leads to another question. If a Priest's ordination could be declared invalid that would leave open the possibility that I've never received the Eucharist in my life if, for example, I live out in the countryside and had the same Priest at my small parish all my life and one day his Preisthood was declared invalid. Is that correct?

[/quote]

No. Much like how the children of a marriage that is declared null are not made illegitimate, sacraments which were putatively (thought to be at that time) valid are considered valid.


#11

[quote="JGMendes4049, post:10, topic:304755"]
No. Much like how the children of a marriage that is declared null are not made illegitimate, sacraments which were putatively (thought to be at that time) valid are considered valid.

[/quote]

Huh? How does that work? A man who is not ordained can do the sacraments just because some (including himself) think that he is ordained?


#12

[quote="JGMendes4049, post:10, topic:304755"]
No. Much like how the children of a marriage that is declared null are not made illegitimate, sacraments which were putatively (thought to be at that time) valid are considered valid.

[/quote]

I'm not so sure about that. The children of the marriage are not a sacrament, so that isn't the proper analogy. If the marriage was made by a priest and the priest didn't have valid Holy Orders, I believe the marriage would be considered invalid as far as the Church goes (it would likely be valid civilly). However, this situation might be rectified by a radical sanation, since the couple had acted in good faith and believed they were getting married in a Church. I believe baptisms would also be valid, because baptism does not have to be done by a Church representative for validity.

As far as the other sacraments go, I believe they would be invalid, since the priest would not have the ability to deliver them.

Just my opinion...I'm not a Canon lawyer.


#13

[quote="Brendan, post:6, topic:304755"]
The scenarios in which an ordination would be invalid would be HIGHLY unlikely

[/quote]

In the book To Save a Thousand Souls (it's about discernment to the priesthood), Fr. Brett does mention that "An impediment can invalidate your ordination." (last page of Ch. 17).

It's not exactly a Canon Law book, but that is what is says there. So it is possible.


#14

[quote="ValPal, post:12, topic:304755"]
I'm not so sure about that. The children of the marriage are not a sacrament, so that isn't the proper analogy. If the marriage was made by a priest and the priest didn't have valid Holy Orders, I believe the marriage would be considered invalid as far as the Church goes (it would likely be valid civilly). However, this situation might be rectified by a radical sanation, since the couple had acted in good faith and believed they were getting married in a Church. I believe baptisms would also be valid, because baptism does not have to be done by a Church representative for validity.

As far as the other sacraments go, I believe they would be invalid, since the priest would not have the ability to deliver them.

Just my opinion...I'm not a Canon lawyer.

[/quote]

The priest does not confer the sacrament of Matrimony on a couple in the first place. I don't know what the status of a putative marriage would be if it was witnessed by a man who turned out not to be validly ordained. But it would not make sense to compare the validity of attempts to confect the Eucharist to attempts to witness the sacrament of matrimony. Ordination of the witness is not necessary for validity of the sacrament of matrimony.


#15

[quote="JGMendes4049, post:10, topic:304755"]
No. Much like how the children of a marriage that is declared null are not made illegitimate, sacraments which were putatively (thought to be at that time) valid are considered valid.

[/quote]

Hmm... I don't think I've ever read anything to suggest that this is true. Can you provide me with a citation to help me understand this?

On the other hand... given that we're talking about a situation in which we have a putatively valid ordination and sacraments that proceed from it: I'm thinking that, in this case, there might be conditional baptisms that proceed from this, as well as marriage convalidations. As far as the Eucharist goes, however, there are graces that God provides, even in the case that there might not be a valid confection of the Eucharist...


#16

[quote="SMHW, post:14, topic:304755"]
Ordination of the witness is not necessary for validity of the sacrament of matrimony.

[/quote]

Hmm. Right, but... in order for there to be a valid wedding in the absence of an ordained witness, wouldn't there needed to have been some intervention by the ordinary?


#17

[quote="SMHW, post:14, topic:304755"]
The priest does not confer the sacrament of Matrimony on a couple in the first place.

[/quote]

That's true in the West, but there may be difficulty getting Easterners to accept that a valid marriage took place when the celebrant was not truly ordained. On the other hand, this may be a point where oikonomia would come into play.

It's possible ecclesia supplet would apply, negating the obvious defect in form.


#18

[quote="Gorgias, post:16, topic:304755"]
Hmm. Right, but... in order for there to be a valid wedding in the absence of an ordained witness, wouldn't there needed to have been some intervention by the ordinary?

[/quote]

No. Strictly speaking, the couple confers the sacrament on each other, if I remember correctly (although I'm open to correction if you have a document quote). In the same way that a priest could validly (not licitly) offer Mass without permission from the bishop, a couple, if they fully understand the nature of what they are doing and no priest is around (for example, an engaged couple gets stranded on an island),


#19

[quote="superamazingman, post:18, topic:304755"]
Strictly speaking, the couple confers the sacrament on each other, if I remember correctly (although I'm open to correction if you have a document quote).

[/quote]

This is correct. However, an ordained witness is required for validity, except for special circumstances:

Can. 1108 §1. Only those marriages are valid which are contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assist, and before two witnesses according to the rules expressed in the following canons and without prejudice to the exceptions mentioned in cann. 144, 1112, §1, 1116, and 1127, §§1-2.

Can. 1112 §1. Where there is a lack of priests and deacons, the diocesan bishop can delegate lay persons to assist at marriages, with the previous favorable vote of the conference of bishops and after he has obtained the permission of the Holy See.

§2. A suitable lay person is to be selected, who is capable of giving instruction to those preparing to be married and able to perform the matrimonial liturgy properly.

Can. 1116 §1. If a person competent to assist according to the norm of law cannot be present or approached without grave inconvenience, those who intend to enter into a true marriage can contract it validly and licitly before witnesses only:

1/ in danger of death;

2/ outside the danger of death provided that it is prudently foreseen that the situation will continue for a month.

§2. In either case, if some other priest or deacon who can be present is available, he must be called and be present at the celebration of the marriage together with the witnesses, without prejudice to the validity of the marriage before witnesses only.

In the same way that a priest could validly (not licitly) offer Mass without permission from the bishop, a couple, if they fully understand the nature of what they are doing and no priest is around (for example, an engaged couple gets stranded on an island),

Right, but again, the ordinary would have had to have selected the "suitable lay person" who would witness on behalf of the Church, right?

If by "ordination of the witness is not necessary", you meant that the bishop IDed that person to witness the wedding, then sure. But if you were trying to assert that any old ceremony, for a Catholic couple, without a witness on behalf of the Church who was chosen by the Church to act in that capacity, then... no. ;) (Other than your "Blue Lagoon" suggestion, of course... which I'm guessing isn't one that happens very often. ;))


#20

[quote="SMHW, post:14, topic:304755"]
The priest does not confer the sacrament of Matrimony on a couple in the first place. I don't know what the status of a putative marriage would be if it was witnessed by a man who turned out not to be validly ordained. But it would not make sense to compare the validity of attempts to confect the Eucharist to attempts to witness the sacrament of matrimony. Ordination of the witness is not necessary for validity of the sacrament of matrimony.

[/quote]

I'm aware of this. Divine law requires very little when it comes to marriage; basically the couple confers that sacrament on each other (hence the reasons why marriages for non-Catholics are automatically assumed valid. However, the Church has made additional requirements for Catholics. This particular situation does not fit any of the exceptions in Canon Law, so I would assume the marriage is invalid due to the lack of a proper witness.

Given the highly unusual circumstances, and from various examples I've read, radical sanation is the likely way to correct the problem.


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