Priest and Leave of Absences


What happens when a priest files for a leave of absence?

I already saw a thread on this one but I’m hoping for an elaborate answer, since I am still confused. I am aware that he is withdrawn from his ministerial duties… but will he still be called ‘Father’? Is it right to not call him a ‘Father’, or is it even right to not treat him as if he weren’t a priest before the LOA?

I have always thought that filing an LOA would mean that he would get to live a ‘normal life’. Please help me out on this one!

Also, is leave of absence similar to administrative leave?



It depends on what type of leave it is.

That’s one type of leave. Another that comes to mind is a medical leave. Yet another is a sabbatical.

All of them have different implications – sometimes (as in an administrative leave), he’s not permitted to wear clerics, or celebrate the sacraments, or even present himself as a priest. For a medical leave, however, none of those restrictions would be present.


As for what happens, it all depends on why the priest is taking a leave of absence. Sometimes priests do this to attend to their own health, or to care for a sick family member. Sometimes they do it for discernment, because they’ve reached a point of questioning their vocation. Sometimes they are seeking mental health care. And sometimes it is, unfortunately, due to misconduct. I would imagine in that case that we might call it “administrative leave,” but terminology varies from place to place.

A priest who is on a leave of absence is still a priest and is still called Father.



Thanks for the answer! Really appreciated it.

Sorry, but here’s another question: Let’s say the priest is on leave of absence because he wants to discern on his vocation; like, he’s not so sure with what he really wants to do anymore. Will it be allowed for him to actually hide his identity as a priest to help with the discernment?


I’m not sure how hiding his identity as a priest will help his discernment. Generally, when a priest takes leave for discernment purposes, he goes to a retreat setting to actually pray and discern, and doesn’t just go out and get an apartment and a job so as to try that out for a while.



Unless his faculties have been removed for that period and he’s been prohibited from presenting himself as a priest.


Hello. I found an article of a diocese [unfortunately I can’t post the link here] which states that “all faculties will be withdrawn” once a priest files a leave of absence. So… is that it? Can he live like a ‘normal person’ for a period of time while he is discerning? Thanks!


Although I did know a religious priest to do that, well, not sure about the apartment but he went to work in a garage. He returned to ministry after a few years, even returned to our parish, but he eventually asked to be laicized.


What if he needs cancer treatment? No matter the reason he asks, he is always and everywhere a priest, whose correct title is “Father” There are innumerable reasons why he would ask. Even in cases where a priest is suspended, charity demands that we assume innocence and pray for that servant of God. They are not super-human! They have weaknesses just like you and I, except that they have a very special relationship with God, and divine authority.


It depends. Sometimes priests whose faculties are removed are prohibited by their bishop from presenting themselves as priests and using the title “Father.”


That is a whole different thing then asking for a leave of absence. BIG DIFFERENCE!


Faculties are removed… temporarily or permanently?

Again, I was able to read a document from a diocese that when a priest is on a leave of absence [due to discernment], their faculties are removed for the meantime [aside from confession, which they could still perform in a moment of emergency]. Does this also mean that they are prohibited from presenting themselves as priest? Or is that case only for those who have committed grave matters?

I’m still confused, sorry.


It depends on what the bishop decides in an individual situation. Most leaves involve neither, but sometimes, for serious reasons, they do. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.


These are all different issues. You’re trying to combine them together. It doesn’t work that way.

Priests go on leave of absence for all sorts of different reasons. Some bad, some good. A leave of absence means nothing more than the fact that a priest does not have a particular assignment (job) for a period of time. It might be because he stuck his hand in the collection basket when no one was looking. It might be because he was in a plane crash and needs time to recover from his injuries.

Faculties are something different. Faculties are a priest’s authorization to minister publicly as a priest. Just as before, faculties can be removed for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes a priest loses certain faculties because he’s been promoted to a position of greater responsibility and more prestige–one that doesn’t require the same faculties that he had in his previous position.

Likewise, being identified as a priest (and called “Father”) is something different from the above.

All 3 of these are separate issues.


just to add to this, even if a priest is laicized, he doen’st stop being a priest. it is also a suspension of faculties of sorts, and there could be various reasons as well, though I am sure you would know better than I, what qualifies.
but there is no actualy way to 'undo" holy orders, just like we can’t become unbaptized or unconfirmed


I want to post some “definitions” here.

Faculties are a priest’s authorization from the Church (usually through his bishop, or through the law itself) to administer the sacraments and the other spiritual goods of the Church.

Priests have ALL KINDS of different faculties. Faculties to say Mass. Faculties to hear confessions. Faculties to witness marriages. Faculties to dispense from the law. Faculties to perform blessings.

Each of these different kinds of faculties will depend on the individual assignment of that individual priest under those given circumstances. When a priest is transferred from one assignment to another, he might lose certain faculties and gain others.

Faculties (plural) are not a matter of “either-or” meaning that a priest either has faculties or he does not. Instead, a priest either has or has-not faculties for each and every individual function. By example, a priest might not have faculties for Confirmation, but he does have faculties to bless rosaries. A bishop might suspend a priest’s faculties to preach, but not suspend his faculties to say Mass.

A bishop can suspend ALL of a priest’s faculties or he can suspend only certain ones.

Faculties for some functions can be either permanent, or temporary, or even just for an individual act.

Likewise, sometimes a priest loses certain faculties for no reason other than a simple change of assignment. That change might even be a promotion!


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