How or When is a diocesan priest "allowed" to retire?


In the United States, the “ordinary” retirement age for most professionals is 65. They can typically retire “early,” as young as 55 (with reduced retirement benefits), though they cannot collect Social Security benefits before age 62.

Can an American diocesan priest choose to retire at 55? Or 62? or 65? Or something else?

How and/or when is an American diocesan priest allowed to retire by his desire alone (ie, no illness or infirmity or any other such thing that compels his retirement).


I might be wrong, but I think they need to be at least 70 (unless they have medical issues). Or it might be 75 like the bishops?


Our diocese it is 75, or earlier for health reasons or other extenuating circumstances.


I am pretty sure Canon Law states that at 75, a priest and/or Bishop must retire from active ministry. I will have to would check on that. I know that a Bishop who has a diocese, must submit his resignation when he turns 75.

In my diocese, a priest may retire from “active” ministry at 70 (earlier for health reasons). Some continue to be Pastors after 75, but it is very rare. Most of the priests I know over 70 are “retired”, meaning they don’t have to run a parish or go to meetings, but they take the care of souls very seriously. My diocese would be in big trouble without them!!
Here is the relevant Canon,

Can. 538 §1. A pastor ceases from office by removal or transfer carried out by the diocesan bishop according to the norm of law, by resignation made by the pastor himself for a just cause and accepted by the same bishop for validity, and by lapse of time if he had been appointed for a definite period according to the prescripts of particular law mentioned in ⇒ can. 522.

§2. A pastor who is a member of a religious institute or is incardinated in a society of apostolic life is removed according to the norm of ⇒ can. 682, §2.

§3. When a pastor has completed seventy-Five years of age, he is requested to submit his resignation from office to the diocesan bishop who is to decide to accept or defer it after he has considered all the circumstances of the person and place. Attentive to the norms established by the conference of bishops, the diocesan bishop must provide suitable support and housing for a retired pastor.


Each diocese makes its own rules. In my diocese, pastors can retire at 70, but must retire by 75. But they often work extensively after “retirement”. Priests who work in institutions such as hospitals are bound by the rules of that institution. Diocesan priests collect Social Security just as any worker/retiree.

My diocese couldn’t function without the enormous service done by “retired” priests.
I am a layman, retired at 65 except for light volunteer ministries. I can’t imagine working full time as a pastor till I would be 70, if I were a priest. The demands on priests are extreme, and laity often forget they are still frail human beings. Many laity remember when there were 3 priests at the local parish, and think the one priest who is there now should be instantly available to meet their requests. Then we gossip about priests constantly (this one is too liberal, this one too conservative, this one preaches too long, that one has this other foible, etc, etc).

We should pray daily, for all priests and support them in any way we can.


Around here it’s age 75 for both priests and deacons, although both go into “senior status” and continue to serve as they choose or may be needed to cover.


Our Archdiocese is 75.
Some move away, but some stay local and place themselves on a “supply list” for priests that are called away suddenly, to fill in. :slight_smile:
If they are in declining health, they simply rest , God love them.


My parish once had a pastor who was ordained at the age of 78 and was almost immediately assigned as pastor. This wasn’t really usual, or even particularly desirable, but it kept the parish alive for another 4 years, until health problems forced his retirement. At that time, the bishop was able to find another priest and so we continue, :slight_smile:


First of all a priest never stops being a priest - he is “a priest forever”. Still, priests do, at some point, cease to be involved in full time ministry - in other words, “retire”. This means that they are no longer a chaplain, parish priest (pastor), teacher, or whatever it was that they were doing beforehand. This is true equally of both diocesan priests and those who are members of religious orders. While some dioceses do have a set age at which they prefer their clergy to retire from full-time ministry, this is not normally a hard and fast rule - much depends on how the priest is doing health-wise and the needs of the dioceses. So sometimes a priest can ask (or be asked) to postpone retirement for a few years (and perhaps accept an assistant, a seminarian, or less-demanding appointment). It would be a harsh bishop who forced a priest into retirement against their will (admittedly some priests do need persuading).

Once they are no longer in full time ministry, such priests often continue to serve their diocese’s needs, for example though doing supply work (covering for another priest who is sick of away) or by living in a parish and helping the parish priest (very useful at Christmas and Easter). Sometimes a priest can also find a way “around” retiring such as by being a live-in chaplain at a rest home or retirement village.:rolleyes:

Incidentally, the same is often true of bishops who are required to submit their resignation at 75. Depending on their state of health and the state of their diocese (as well as other things), this resignation way or may not be accepted straight away. Once retired, they remain a bishop and often help out in their own diocese (or another) with confirmations and other such work.


In my Diocese it is 75, although most of them continue to serve in some way unless they are in poor health. We have one pastor who is 82 or 83 and he has no intentions of retiring yet.


Usually there is a certain retirement age like 72 or something.


The retirement age depends on the diocese.

I like the answer given by the mom who was asked if priests can still do weddings after they retire:
Sweetheart, priests don’t ever really retire. They just get a flexible schedule.


In the Diocese of Savannah, normal retirement is age 70 or with 40 years of service.

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