Can a priest who is laicized and dispensed from vows still be called "Father"?


I starting a new thread because in another thread about Art Bell, people have mentioned the late Malachi Martin, a frequent guest on Art Bell’s radio show. Malachi Martin had been a Jesuit priest. He was dispensed from his vows and laicized by Paul VI. Was it legitimate for him to be called “Father Malachi Martin” on the show, and to make people who listened think that he was still practicing his ministry?

What about other priests who are laicized? Should I call them Father or Mr.?


In regards to Malachi Martin, you may find these threads of interest:

That’s why I said on the previous thread, “Here we go…” because it always seems to stir up some trouble…:stuck_out_tongue:


Jennifer123, I checked your links, but that still doesn’t answer my question. Should I consider a laicized priest to be “Father” or “Mister”? Should a laicized priest still act as if he has a ministry as a priest?


What reasons are there for a priest to be laicized? Is it a sin or what?


Some priests choose to be laicized because they wish to marry. Others disagree with the Church. From what I’ve read about Malachi Martin, he was against the reforms of Vatican II.


I wasn’t trying to answer the “laicized” question, I was adressing your concern about Malachi Martin. :wink: There is definately some question as to whether he was really “laicized” or not FYI.


A priest is always a priest, no matter what.
you cannot be “depriested”. You are a priest for life.


As early as 1964, one year before the final close of the Council, Pope Paul VI released Father Martin from the vows of poverty and obedience in the Jesuit Order, but confirmed his vow of celibacy at Martin’s request. Fr. Martin relocated to New York City in 1965, and was active in the communications and media field for the rest of his life.

In 2004 Father Vincent O’Keefe SJ, former Vicar General of the Society of Jesus and a past President of Fordham University affirmed that Martin had not been laicized. O’Keefe stated that Martin had been released from all his priestly vows save the vow of chastity. It is claimed that attacks were mounted on Martin in retaliation for his book The Jesuits, which is hostile to the Jesuit order of which Martin had once been a member.

It seems Martin was released from the Jesuits, but not laicized.

I can see how a traditionalist would want to leave the Jesuits, but he still kept his vow of celibacy and lived as sort of a diocesan priest, I guess…though it seems the vatican sort of let him do his own thing after that…


Are you citing one of the links toward the top, or another source?

You raise an interesting question, who has authority over a priest after they leave a religious order? Is it like diocesan priests, who can petition for a transfer from their bishop to serve another bishop? In which case, under whose authority was Martin following this event?

WRT the OP, “Father” is an honorific. You grant the person honor/respect by using it. The Church encourages us to use such titles for (active or retired) priests. I don’t think the Church cares how we address defrocked or laicized priests. In the secular world, it is customary to use the highest title which a person had attained in addressing them, even if they no longer serve in that role. So in formal settings, you can still address Justice O’Connor, or President Clinton, or Secretary Rumsfeld as such if you choose. If I were a reporter or talk show host, I would follow this custom for former priests.


under whose authority was Martin following this event?

He was dispensed from all vows of obedience, so perhaps “only the Pope”…


I knew Father Malachi Martin personally for a few years before his death.

He was most certainly not “laicized”, “defrocked”, “excommunicated”, or in “schism”.

He celebrated Mass daily using the 1962 Missal.


no. a laicized priests has no privileges that pertain to priesthood. He may not use Rev. or Father, he may not undertake ministry of any kind in the Catholic church, may not teach or preach in any Catholic institution. For him to do so would be tantamount to you or me or any lay person using those titles and doing those activities. With regard to Malachi Martin I have read in his own writings that he was released from his vows as a Jesuit but I have never seen authorotative proof that he was laicized, although I have read it many times. This action that can only be taken by the Vatican, although the process is begun by the priest’s bishop or religious superior. There are two ways the process can go, one requested by the priest, for instance, one who wants to get married. The other is against is will as the result of a canonical discipline process for a serious infraction, child abuse being one example. A priest who is a member of a religious order can as the superior to release him from his vows. It depends on the order and the type of vows taken whether or not he must appeal to the Vatican for this.


No, a laicized priest cannot act or present himself in public as a Catholic priest. Except to someone in danger of death for hearing their confession.


It’ not precisely the same situation, and this custom does not hold for all situations. When one stops being a committee chairman, for example, one is no longer referred to as 'Mr. Chairman." It also depends, I think, on how a person’s tenure in a titloed office ends. Perhaps a comparison to university professors is apt. A person who earns a PhD customarily takes the title Doctor, whether he has an academic position or not. If he takes an academic position, he usually is referred to as ‘Professor’ (though customs will vary in some cases from school to school). If the individual retires after long service, he usually keeos the title of professor, but if he were fired or quit the job, he would loose the title of professor. Like a laicized priest, he never stops being a ‘doctor,’ but by rejecting his office he loses the honorific (and descriptive) title of professor (or, in our case, Father).


I’m the OP, and actually I got an answer from Ask an Apologist, so I think we could close this thread.


How about letting us know what their answer was. I’d like to know if it was correct?


Originally Posted by lak611
Is it acceptable for a laicized priest to still be called “Father” and to represent himself as still being active in his ministry?

A laicized priest should not be representing himself as active in ministry and may well be expressly forbidden to do so in his laicization papers.

Originally Posted by lak611
Should I call a laicized priest “Father” or “Mister”?

I recommend calling him “Mister” to avoid confusing anyone as to his status.

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