Can an excommunicated priest/bishop still perform the sacraments?

We had an interesting dinner discussion last night with some friends about excommunicated priests and bishops.

Can they still say mass, ordain, perform marriages, last rites? I know they can still baptize, anyone can baptize (given the proper form, etc.), but what about those sacraments exclusively available only to the Catholic clergy? If they are excommunicated, can they still do this?

I know they “CAN”, but is any of it licit AND/OR valid?

Licit and valid are two very distinct states.


Well, once a priest always a priest but some sacraments need not only “ability” but also “Faculties” (permission) even to be valid. These include Confession and Marriage. So since, the priest wouldn’t have faculties, he couldn’t adminster those Sacraments. Confession and Last Rites can be validly adminstered if some one is dying.

I don’t know about Ordinations.

I believe you have mistaken the distinction between *licit *and *valid *-- A priest who does not have faculties from the ordinary celebrates the sacraments illicitly, but not (other things being equal) invalidly. (Except, as noted, hearing confession and performing last rites when death is imminent)


The lack of faculty for confession (c. 966) or of faculty for assisting at marriage (cc. 1108-1111) normally causes invalidity.

The law would have to make other provisions to supply the faculty, and it does in the case of a danger of death confession.

In a danger of death marriage situation, parties otherwise free to marry can contract it validly by themselves before two witnesses only. So they wouldn’t need the excommunicated priest as a qualified assistant anyway (c. 1116).

I think this is why we were so confused in our discussion. And why it is so confusing to the public when an excommunicated priest continues to act like a priest - saying mass, etc.


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