Nonverbal Autism and the possibility of being Ordained

Would a person with nonverbal ASD who relies on either sign language or typing to communicate be able to be ordained as a priest or even a deacon? Would he be able to use his speaking device he types on to celebrate the mass (if he could be a priest) or recite the Gospel / give the homily (if he could be a deacon), or are both vocations limited to people who are verbal?

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You’d have to definitely talk to the vocation director of your Diocese.


I am not 100% sure, but I believe there is a medical standard that has to be met to become a priest. That would include mental health. I would guess that an applicant with that level of disability would be gently discouraged, but in the face of legal action such as a test of the Americans with Disabilities Act, they might cave in to that level of pressure.

Someone with that level of disability might be challenged to meet the rigorous level of pastoral care needed in such vocations. Just my opinion.


The person could speak with a vocations director, but I somewhat doubt this would work out.

Being a Priest is about service to others and that includes dealing with many different types of people. A Priest has a lot of demands placed on him and his time.


Could he be ordained as a simplex priest (could celebrate Mass but can’t hear confessions or deliver homilies)?

And even if he could, wouldn’t he at least have to be able to recite the words of the missal orally?

Are simplex priests allowed to speak from the pulpit or ambo if they use sermons prepared by others (e.g., Archbishop Sheen, Cardinal Newman), and state at the beginning who the author of the sermon is?

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This is really the crux of the issue, can he be ordained at all? If he was verbal, I don’t think it would especially be an issue. He would be able to write his own sermons; he just can’t recite those sermons audibly.

I don’t know if Mass, especially, has to be done verbally with one’s own voice.

Which is also why I asked about the possibility of this man being a Deacon, but I don’t know if their responses in Mass also need to be verbally done with one’s own voice.

Are you asking if such a person has, you might say, the ontological capacity to be ordained? Or, is it a more practical question of would such a person be ordained?


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I imagine someone with that level of disability would be unable to be a priest. I don’t know, of course, but my gut says that wouldn’t work.

I would suppose that the actual Mass has to be said with ones own voice. Besides that it would seem perhaps the priesthood may not be the right vocation for someone who is non-verbal. It seems it would be better that they pursue the religious life. For example in a cloistered life since verbal communication is not a needed as in the priesthood it may be a pretty good fit.

If I remember correctly, there has been no definitive statement as to whether a mute priest can celebrate Mass. I don’t know what the general consensus now is, but if I was a bishop, I would not to ordain a mute person without knowing that they can celebrate Mass.

I’m really looked at the “ontological capacity” as you put it. The “could” / would it be possible? The more practical “would” a nonverbal person be ordained (assuming it was possible) would be something a diocese or religious order would decide upon depending on need/circumstances (like an area without many priests, etc).

Does one need to be able to speak with their own voice to celebrate Mass and absolve sins in Confession or can they use a speech assisting device as a priest? Does one need to use their own voice as a deacon to assist in Mass and the other acts deacons can do?

I was involved once in a discussion regarding the speculation of ordination of a man who did not have use of his hands. Could he be a priest? I recall that in the end there is a point where disability would render a person unable to be a priest.

Now, I know priests who are blind, priests with MS, priests who are deaf, so there are many disabled men ordained. I would imagine that there are priests who are somewhere on the spectrum.

For a non-verbal person, the interaction with parishioners would likely be overwhelming.

I know of three autistic priests, and there may be more out there. Here’s a recent article by one:

You’d not only have to speak with the diocesan Vocations director, but they’d likely need to go straight to Rome for the answer. I don’t know if a speaking machine would count as a prosthetic or not.

Mrs Cloisters OP
Lay Dominican

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Here is an interesting and relevant article. Seems it was possible in at least one case:


My guess is no. But I also don’t know that much about nonverbal autism. I always thought a non verbal autistic person was also lower functioning in other aspects of living and if so it would probably make the priestly life difficult for them. It might be possible to a religious and they can dedicate their lives to God, but maybe not through the vocation of a priest

I attended a mass “said” by a deaf Catholic priest. Based off this thread I’m wondering if it was valid?

How was the mass “said”? Sign language? Some way else.?

As Mrsdizzyd posted, there has been at least one deaf/mute man ordained to the priesthood. I am incredibly curious how he celebrates mass.

Well if he said the Mass according to the Rubrics and is a validly ordained priest then the Mass is valid

The mass was celebrated by use of sign language and there was an interpreter there translating.

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