Blind Priest? and Other Matters


#1

I’m going through RCIA. I’ve done so much searching for several years, and feel like I’ve finally arrived at the truth. I feel very strongly about this and am so excited and enthusiastic about it.

My question might seem to be coming out of nowhere, especially since I’m still only going through RCIA, but I have this feeling that logically seems preposterous, but is persistent anyway. I’ve been studying religion since I was about 10 years old. It’s always played a huge part of my life, even if I wasn’t Catholic. I get this feeling that once I am Catholic, I would want to do as much as I can for it. This might include priesthood.

Again, that seems preposterous, to me too, because I’m currently studying physics and math in college, and am in my second year of it. But things keep happening that point me to this same conclusion.

So, regardless of if it is so or not, and I realize I have a lot to go through before I can even think about it very much, I have an important question in that regard. I’m totally blind, and have been since I was four years old. So, I wonder if a blind person can be a priest? That is, I’m not sure if there is anything in particular that would be impossible for a blind person to do in that position.

I feel ridiculous asking this, since I’m still so new to Catholicism and I’m jumping so far ahead, but the thought is persistent.

By the way, this isn’t to say I’m new to the Bible, at all. I have read the Bible through before, and have studied several Protestant denominations. It’s always been very important to me, but I could never find peace with any Protestant denomination. The theology class I’m taking this semester (it’s required, as this is a Catholic university), did a lot to have me take another look at Catholicism, especially since the professor, who is a priest, has been great about answering my many questions.

I really appreciate any help and advice anyone could give on these matters.


#2

I do not believe a blind man can be ordained to the Priesthood.

However, there were provisions before Vatican II for priests who became blind after ordination.

They were allowed to celebrate privately–either the daily Requiem Mass or Votive Mass of Our Lady, which could be memorized.

I think they had to have a priest, or at least a deacon assisting them.

Thomas Merton (as I recall) told the story of an old priest at Gethesemani who had memorized the Missal, and frequently sang the conventual Mass, there. Someone else would read over the texts to him a day or two before.


#3

Thank you for your reply. That’s disappointing. How sure are you of this, and what is your source for this information?


#4

Ask Fr. Vincent Serpa under the Ask the Apologist section of the forums.


#5

Thank you.

I tried searching about this, but couldn’t really find much, except for this article. it claims that blind people (and people with other physical impediments) couldn’t be ordained before 1983. That’s the only thing I’ve found on it, though.


#6

I know of a priest who became deaf after ordination, and one who was legally blind when ordained.

The legally blind priest has had surgery, so he actually sees better now then he did when he was ordained. The first Mass of his I attended he had to recite the gospel completely from memory. Receiving communion from him [especially on the tongue] was a bit of a challange: he’d get it in the area, but you had to do the rest.

He’s the sole pastor of a good sized parish, and has a driver take him to the mission church as needed, since he’s far from being able to drive.

I’ve read of a priest in a wheelchair with severy damaged hands, in an article that mentioned he would not have been considered eligable prior to 1983, since the Church felt significant physical impairment diluted the sign of the priest acting ‘in persona Christi’.


#7

That’s definitely encouraging. I’m very good with memorizing things, too.

Thank you for sharing those examples.


#8

Keep in mind that the mere mechanics of celebrating mass require a certain amount of physical dexterity and the ability to see and hear.


#9

indcatholicnews.com/blidpr.html


#10

This priest has been able to still celebrate mass even though he has lost his sight (he’s also deaf).

indcatholicnews.com/axek329.html


#11

If the OP can see and hear with his heart, one never knows, the Lord might assist him to find a way.


#12

Wow, thank you so much for posting that. You don’t understand how inspiring that is for me.

I don’t know where this idea is coming from for me, since I’m on a very different path right now. Nevertheless, I felt so disappointed when bpbasilphx said it wouldn’t be possible, and overjoyed when I found out it is possible.


#13

Keep in mind that the ordained priesthood is not a reward for being extra pious or even extra holy.

A priest is ordained for WORK, which generally involves a lot of physical effort.

A level of physical health requisite to the needs of ministry is considered a sign of vocation. Lack of it is generally considered a sign of LACK of vocation.

I know a particular monk who suffers greatly from Parkinson’s disease. Nobody doubts his faith or love for God, but his physical condition makes it impossible for him to celebrate Liturgy. Therefore he’s not considered a suitable candidate for orders.


#14

I understand what you are saying, but I’ve read of examples, and people have posted about examples, of people who’ve been ordained, though they had some physical impediment.

Obviously it wouldn’t be free of obstacles, but I don’t understand why you are so discouraging about it?

I don’t think God only uses those with no physical problems.


#15

You are welcome. Did you read the other article about a 28 year-old priest, in 2002, believed to be the first blind man to be ordained to the priesthood in Canada?

indcatholicnews.com/blidpr.html

God calls those he calls, for the reasons he calls. Some think it might be to the priest hood only to find out that it isn’t so and some do. If the blind priest in Canada can be ordained, it appears it is possible. Leave things in the hands of Christ and see where you are led.

Some people fail to see Ability in the word DisAbility.


#16

I don’t see anything in Canon law that specifically bars a blind man from being ordained.

ARTICLE 3: IRREGULARITIES AND OTHER IMPEDIMENTS

Can. 1040 Those bound by an impediment are to be barred from the reception of orders. An impediment may be simple; or it may be perpetual, in which case it is called an irregularity. No impediment is contracted which is not contained in the following canons.

Can. 1041 The following persons are irregular for the reception of orders:

1° one who suffers from any form of insanity, or from any other psychological infirmity, because of which he is, after experts have been consulted, judged incapable of being able to fulfil the ministry;

2° one who has committed the offence of apostasy, heresy or schism;

3° one who has attempted marriage, even a civil marriage, either while himself prevented from entering marriage whether by an existing marriage bond or by a sacred order or by a public and perpetual vow of chastity, or with a woman who is validly married or is obliged by the same vow;

4° one who has committed wilful homicide, or one who has actually procured an abortion, and all who have positively cooperated;

5° one who has gravely and maliciously mutilated himself or another, or who has attempted suicide;

6° one who has carried out an act of order which is reserved to those in the order of the episcopate or priesthood, while himself either not possessing that order or being barred from its exercise by some canonical penalty, declared or imposed.

Can. 1042 The following are simply impeded from receiving orders:

1° a man who has a wife, unless he is lawfully destined for the permanent diaconate;

2° one who exercises an office or administration forbidden to clerics, in accordance with cann. 285 and 286, of which he must render an account; the impediment binds until such time as, having relinquished the office and administration and rendered the account, he has been freed;

3° a neophyte, unless, in the judgement of the Ordinary, he has been sufficiently tested.

Can. 1043 Christ’s faithful are bound to reveal, before ordination, to the Ordinary or to the parish priest, such impediments to sacred orders as they may know about.

Can. 1044 §1 The following are irregular for the exercise of orders already received:

1° one who, while bound by an irregularity for the reception of orders, unlawfully received orders;

2° one who committed the offence mentioned in can. 1041, n. 2, if the offence is public

3° one who committed any of the offences mentioned in can. 1041, nn. 3, 4,5,6.

§2 The following are impeded from the exercise of orders:

1° one who, while bound by an impediment to the reception of orders, unlawfully received orders;

2° one who suffers from insanity or from some other psychological infirmity mentioned in can. 1041, n. 1, until such time as the Ordinary, having consulted an expert, has allowed the exercise of the order in question.

Can. 1045 Ignorance of irregularities and impediments does not exempt from them.

Can. 1046 Irregularities and impediments are multiplied if they arise from different causes, not however from the repetition of the same cause, unless it is a question of the irregularity arising from the commission of wilful homicide or from having actually procured an abortion.

Can. 1047 §1 If the fact on which they are based has been brought to the judicial forum, dispensation from all irregularities is reserved to the Apostolic See alone.

§2 Dispensation from the following irregularities and impediments to the reception of orders is also reserved to the Apostolic See:

1° irregularities arising from the offences mentioned in can. 1041, nn. 2 and 3, if they are public;

2° an irregularity arising from the offence, whether public or occult, mentioned in can. 1041, n. 4;

3° the impediment mentioned in can. 1042, n. 1.

§3 To the Apostolic See is also reserved the dispensation from the irregularities for the exercise of an order received mentioned in can. 1041, n.3 but only in public cases, and in n. 4 of the same canon even in occult cases.

§4 The Ordinary can dispense from irregularities and impediments not reserved to the Holy See.

Can. 1048 In the more urgent occult cases, if the Ordinary or, in the case of the irregularities mentioned in can. 1041, nn. 3 and 4, the Penitentiary cannot be approached, and if there is imminent danger of serious harm or loss of reputation, the person who is irregular for the exercise of an order may exercise it. There remains, however, the obligation of his having recourse as soon as possible to the Ordinary or the Penitentiary, without revealing his name, and through a confessor.

Can. 1049 §1 In a petition to obtain a dispensation from irregularities or impediments, all irregularities and impediments are to be mentioned. However, a general dispensation is valid also for those omitted in good faith, with the exception of the irregularities mentioned in can. 1041, n. 4, or of others which have been brought to the judicial forum; it is not, however, valid for those concealed in bad faith.

§2 If it is question of an irregularity arising from wilful homicide or from a procured abortion, for the validity of the dispensation even the number of offences must be stated.

§3 A general dispensation from irregularities and impediments to the reception of orders is valid for all orders.


#17

God uses people in very many different ways and there are other vocations.

God Bless


#18

I’m coming quite late to this thread, but it’s a question I’ve also been asking over the past year, since being diagnosed with a condition that leads to blindness.

And the answer is yes, a blind man can be ordained to the priesthood – there is no canonical impediment, although there may be the practical impediment of finding a diocese willing to take you on. But I have now personally met two priests who were blind before ordination and I’ve encountered a couple more online. I’ve also had a very encouraging conversation with a blind seminarian.

So if the question of a vocation to the priesthood is still on your mind, please know that it is certainly possible! All blessings on your discernment process.

Steve


#19

[quote="seeker_of_God, post:12, topic:127342"]
Wow, thank you so much for posting that. You don't understand how inspiring that is for me.

I don't know where this idea is coming from for me, since I'm on a very different path right now. Nevertheless, I felt so disappointed when bpbasilphx said it wouldn't be possible, and overjoyed when I found out it is possible.

[/quote]

God bless you! I will be praying for you, dear brother in Christ. :)


#20

I can answer the OP’s question.

Yes you can be ordained to the priesthood while being blind.

Father Timothy Devine, a member of the Companions of the Cross.

I know Father Tim personally. In fact, he gave my son a blessing while he was still in the womb, and prayed for my wife and I. He did this right after Mass, while talking to folks who were leaving, no less.

All of his books are braille, of course.

If you’re wondering how Communion works, he gives instructions before distributing, including how one can receive on the tongue.

Great sense of humor too. During a homily, he mentioned how we should highlight Bible passages and the like. He then said “I can’t exactly do that though. Sometimes I think about using a sticky substance over the braille to show that something really jumped out at me”.

OP; do not let your blindness affect your discernment. If you want information on the Companions, who obviously have knowledge of how to handle people discerning the priesthood while also being blind, I would be more than happy to send you the information. Just sent me a private message.


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