Mental Illness and Vocations


Are there any nuns/priests/monks/friars who have a severe mental illness that has been managed, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia?


According to the following, similar thread, no.

If you have severe mental illness, managed or not, you cannot or should not be a nun/priest.


It’s not nearly that simple. The bottom line is that one is unlikely to be admitted if one suffers a severe mental illness, but a mental or physical illness is not, in itself, an impediment to a vocation.

Several respondents in that thread encouraged the poster in her intentions and recommended that she contact a convent for more information, but their responses seemed to have been trumped by invoking canon law:

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. 642]

This doesn’t say that someone who is sick, mentally or physically, cannot be admitted. What it says is that a person must have the health (mental and physical) to “embrace the proper life of the institute.” So, whether someone with an illness may be admitted depends entirely on the nature of the illness, how it is managed, and on the nature of the institute.

Some examples:

A man with severe asthma would be ineligible for the priesthood if there were no treatment for asthma, but there is reliable and effective treatment in developed countries, so it would not disbar him from a priestly vocation in a such countries, although it might disbar him from missionary service.

A person with a 60-a-day cigarette habit (a mental and physical ailment) would (I am guessing) be ineligible to enter a convent, but if they quit for, say, 5 years it would no longer be an impediment. Our knowledge of addictions would suggest that the person is still a cigarette “addict”, but abstinent.

Apologist Michelle Arnold responded to a similar question:

Since it [schizophrenia] is not something people publicize that they have, there is no way to know. Perhaps you are wondering if someone with schizophrenia could become a priest. While not absolutely impossible, it is not likely that a bishop would choose to ordain someone with that kind of severe mental illness.


That’s not entirely correct. There are some communities out there that are open to discerning with a person who has a mental illness as long as it is controlled with little chance of relapse. And, really, can we play God and say, “You have a mental illness so you could not, therefore, have any hope of a vocation?” It doesn’t work like that. I have known at least 2 people who have been admitted with psychiatric needs and one of them is in temporary vows. She’s happy and doing well. Only God knows who does and does not have a vocation. :wink:


That topic was horrible. No one should presume to tell another person that they do not have a vocation. I hope they didn’t listen to what some stranger on the internet told them.

To answer the topic, it all depends.Vocations are not determined by meeting a particular list of qualifications.

Having a physical or mentality difficulty will make it a little harder, but that does not mean you should give up. It may mean that God has a specific path for you. For an individual, the place they thought they should go might not accept them, and the place God intends for them to go will. God will work through our situations to get us to happiness and fulfillment.

Never trust a website or even a single priest when it comes to your vocation. If you have a vocation, you may need to work for it.

I would say that if a person’s mentality impairment is managed and does not present a threat or serious detriment to their community, there should be plenty of hope. I would also say there would be questions about why one wants to enter a community. Is it because they sincerely desire it or because they didn’t think they’d amount to anything else.





I was wondering which mental illnesses are they adversed to? How about things like reactive(short term) depression in the past.


That’s generally not an issue.


Past depression shouldn’t be a problem. If you ‘bloom where you’re planted’, and then there is a sudden slow-down with constant pessimism – that could be a problem. Is it physical or is it spiritual?

There’s so many forms of depression that they really have to be dealt with individually. Most communities don’t have exposure to depression, so they have to say ‘no’ because they don’t have the resources or the know-how.



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