Can a former criminal become a priest?


Say someone who commit a serious crime is sentenced to X amount of years imprisonment. While in prison the criminal finds God, repents, and decides that he wants to be a priest when he gets out.

Are former criminals allowed to become priests?
Does it depend on what crime the former criminal committed?


a former criminal can be a priest. it’s a call from God (Hebrews 5:4).
however the crime he committed can matter. certain crimes are impediments to the priesthood (specifically murder, abortion or attempted suicide). a person guilty of any of those three crimes requires dispensation by the Holy See before he can validly receive ordination.
outside these a person can be called from anywhere; even the prison… by the way there is NO PRIEST on earth who is a saint


Hi pacomius, I’m just wondering where you may have read this information. This subject interests me and I’d like to find out more.


THE CODE OF CANON LAW. In it you will find all the irregularities and impediments in the church law. if you do not have the book you can easily read it online. you can also read commentaries on the canon law online.


Do you know at all if these same conditions apply to women wanting to be nuns?


only an abortion would hinder one from becoming a nun because the very act excommunicates the perpetrator and her accomplices. But after confession and reconciliation with the church nothing else hinders a woman from becoming a nun.


Um, no. :eek:

I’m not sure why you would say this with such apparent confidence. There are in fact any number of things that may ‘hinder’ someone becoming a religious (male or female) -

*Can. 642 With vigilant care, superiors are only to admit those who, besides the required age, have the health, suitable character, and sufficient qualities of maturity to embrace the proper life of the institute. This health, character, and maturity are to be verified even by using experts, if necessary, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 220.

Can. 643 §1. The following are admitted to the novitiate invalidly:

1/ one who has not yet completed seventeen years of age;

2/ a spouse, while the marriage continues to exist;

3/ one who is currently bound by a sacred bond to some institute of consecrated life or is incorporated in some society of apostolic life, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 684;

4/ one who enters the institute induced by force, grave fear, or malice, or the one whom a superior, induced in the same way, has received;

5/ one who has concealed his or her incorporation in some institute of consecrated life or in some society of apostolic life.

§2. Proper law can establish other impediments even for validity of admission or can attach conditions.

Can. 644 Superiors are not to admit to the novitiate secular clerics without consulting their proper ordinary nor those who, burdened by debts, cannot repay them.

Can. 645 §1. Before candidates are admitted to the novitiate, they must show proof of baptism, confirmation, and free status.

§2. If it concerns the admission of clerics or those who had been admitted in another institute of consecrated life, in a society of apostolic life, or in a seminary, there is additionally required the testimony of, respectively, the local ordinary, the major superior of the institute or society, or the rector of the seminary.

§3. Proper law can require other proof about the requisite suitability of candidates and freedom from impediments.

§4. Superiors can also seek other information, even under secrecy, if it seems necessary to them.*


Note that abortion is not specified here, although as you say an offence carrying a latae sententiae excommunication - of which there are several, not abortion alone - would certainly disqualify someone prior to the excommunication being lifted. But as stated in canon 643 §2, in addition to the impediments listed above, a religious institute may add other deal-breakers as they see fit.

Respectfully, and with apologies for my finger-wagging tone (the written word appears to lack subtlety and kindness sometimes, I’m afraid) it is not helpful to make absolutist statements like yours quoted herein unless you have the requisite knowledge to fully support them. Bottom line is that there are manifold reasons why someone might not be admitted to religious life, and a prospective candidate needs to know this in advance: assurances to the contrary help no-one. Best wishes to you.

In Christ,


thanks a lot for your thoughtful correction.
however the OP was specific about crimes so I decided to stick strictly to impeding crimes.
nevertheless the OP can draw lots of info from your response on other possible questions he/she might have had. knowledge is power! thanks a lot once again.


If you consider that one of the signs of a vocation is acceptance by a superior, it would all depend on how amenable the bishop would be to you. Likely, he is a prudent man, and would insist that you remain in the pews for a number of years, stay out of trouble and discharge all your responsibilities according to the law, and show fruits of repentance.

That is, if he even thinks you’re a worthy candidate otherwise and your past crimes were not so notorious as to scandalize the faithful if they were ever discovered. I wouldn’t rule it out, but the likelihood of being sent to seminary in the near future is rather slim.


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