Re: vocation and felony


I have two folded question:

Does anyone know of a in-patient catholic treatment center for pornography addiction in the US?

I have been doing a vocation search and interested in the monastic community.

Do communities ever take a convicted felon? If not

where is there a place in the catholic place for a convicted felon to seek vocation?

I am an educated good person. Attended daily mass. Never married.

With regard to the felony question, I would imagine it very much depends on the nature of the felony itself.

One would imagine that anyone with, say, a child abuse felony on their record would not be accepted for any sort of vocation, whereas someone with a record of, say, possession of a prohibited drug that was some years ago wouldn’t face such difficulties.

As I’m not in the US I can’t answer your first question. You might try asking your priest in the confines of the Confessional if he knows of anything. It couldn’t hurt.

What if the crime is for child pornography not a contact crime?

What is the church’s view on dealing with such people?

or worse yet does the church accept sex offenders?

Jesus was forgiving and helped those in need.

Is it not as Catholics that we live like Jesus and help
and welcome those in need? My understanding is that is largely what our faith is based on.

My understanding is we are not to judge.

Given the current crisis afflicting the Church, I very much doubt they would go anywhere near a person who had a prior conviction for possession of child pornography, moreover, if that person is currently requiring treatment for addiction to pornography, it strongly suggests that the person is not yet in a settled state of mind and that recidivism may yet be a strong possibility. The Church cannot accept that possibility amongst its clergy and certainly not amongst candidates for clergy/monastic life.

While those clergy who have been convicted of such felonies and have served their time might have been afforded the opportunity to end their days in monastic confinement, consecrated life within the Church should not be seen as a convenient refuge or a way to divert oneself from an inherent addiction or desire. It is simply not the function of consecrated life to be that means of escape.

One should attempt, as the most important and first course of action, to seek treatment such that the desires and urges towards pornographic addiction are dealt with. Since it is unlikely that that addiction will ever go away (ie. once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, whether or not sober for a week or a decade) I would say it is very very unlikely that such a person would ever be accepted for holy orders. While there does, of course, remain the possibility of my being wrong, I still think it would be very remiss of me to suggest otherwise.

This is true. The Church recently raised child pornography as a crime in canon law requiring immediate dismissal from public ministry, and potentially immediate defrocking as well, and can only be reversed by plea to the Holy See. Such crimes committed before ordination or consecration are almost certainly a barrier to entering clerical or monastic life.

The church of course teaches that forgiveness is available to all through the sacrament of reconciliation. Even a defrocked priest can remain a Catholic in good standing, even if he his forbidden from priestly ministry because of his past crimes. If any of the sins apply to you, please know Christ’s forgiveness is available provided you repent and seek the confessional.

I’d recommend speaking to doctors or priest’s from a Catholic hospital if available, or your parish priest, or a secular psychologist for help with your troubles.

You are in my prayers

No one has a right to ordination or entry into religious life.

If the felony is a sexual offence I do not think any religious community would consider such a candidate.

Yes, religious orders can admit a convicted felon after he has fulfilled his obligation to society. There is a very famous Franciscan, Brother Jim Townsend, who is a convicted murderer. He is a very holy man (if he’s still alive).

Convicted Murderer Becomes Franciscan

I had the great honor of being in novitiate with Br. Jim.

There are certain crimes, such as child sexual abuse, that have a pathology to them. Unfortunately, there is no way that one can safeguard children 100%. Therefore, such a felon has to be excluded from the religious life.

To answer the question correctly, yes a felon can be admitted to religious life, but the major superior must discern many factors before doing so.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Thanks for your candid and direct answers.

My life has changed drastically in the past year.
In that time I have lost my job, lost my house , lost all my savings,
lost most of my friends, lost my girlfriend,had my parish priest shun me, been assaulted in prison, been labeled as an outcast by the legal system and society.

The good things are:
I have been in counciling for almost a year. I am of sound mind and in great physical condition. My family and those that really know me support me. I have found several priests that have been understanding to my plight and I meet with them regularly ontop of daily mass with them. I am also gifted in the sense that I have come closer to god and am inspired by a calling to him. I still have much to be happy for.

I realize that a typical vocational search is not in my future.
The people that compose our faith are human too and I realize that not everyone will except me not matter what I do.

The hardest part of life sometimes is time and waiting for god to tell us our next step.
That is what i enjoy most about our faith is that god seams to lead us in life and we must follow his direction rather than fight it.

You and I both know that you (or the type of person whom you describe) have no place pursuing a religious or secular vocation.

Be a good Christian, that is all that God asks of you–nothing more, nothing less.

Unless called by God and reformed by his grace, I’d ask you on behalf of all Catholics not to shame us further.

Now now, there’s no good to be had in heaping opprobrium upon a person who has had opprobrium heaped upon them already.

We’re all capable of shameful actions in the eyes of God. Every one of us. Sometimes our actions preclude our following particular courses of action as a result. This is one of those occasions indeed, but let’s keep it civil without lapsing into judgementalism. There isn’t a single sinner out there who isn’t worth at least a little mercy. Pavo, it must be said, has been quite brave to be open about his circumstances among a community that has suffered greatly as a result of others who have behaved similarly. Let us be circumspect in our language, eh?

I assume you’re seeking an honest reply. A Child pornography crime is serious enough to almost certainly deny you a religious vocation. The Holy Father has taken a very strong stance in this regard, and at the very least you’d be looking at an uphill battle.

The Church seeks to deal with any sinner(, and we all are sinners,) with compassion, and love. Certainly, Jesus was, and IS forgiving of all of our sins.You are correct in the assertion that we are not to judge, but the Church also has an obligation to those entrusted to it’s care.

To place a convicted pornography offender in a situation of contact with children,is to neglect a very basic responsibility. There is also a serious question of whether or not a contemplative religious community would accept you.

All of that said. I would urge you to speak to a Priest. You noted that your parish priest “shunned” you. Chances are, he’s not the only Priest in town. Speak to an understanding Priest, and discuss your situation with him. Keep in mind that there are vocations other than the religious state.

It’s my sincere prayer that things work out for you.

You are right. It’s not a matter of whether something is a felony or not. It’s a matter of whether a behavior or condition is suitable or disqualifies one for the consecrated life. When we discern a religious vocation with someone, we not only look at legal labels. They are important, but not as important as the actual matter. In the end, the labels vary from country to to country. Behviors are what they are. Some can be overcome and others are very dangerous.

That being said, we (religious) never tell anyone to go away because they will shame us or embarrass us. The fact is that all of us are sinners and none of us is worthy of being called to the consecrated life. We, who do this all the time, respond honestly and compassionately. We encourage people to stay close to Christ and we explain that certain situations and conditions are incompatible with the consecrated life, because the person would be placing himself and others in a dangerous situation.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

A monastic order that keeps a strict enclosure might be willing to accept a person with this sort of backgound.

I doubt the priesthood would be a shot but if it was it would only be for the monastery as no bishop would grant faculties for out side the enclosure.

That’s a thought, such as the Camaldolese, Trappists, Cistercians, Carthusians (hermits) or the Carmelite monks.

I know that your community and mind cannot do it, because our enclosures are fluid.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Well, here’s my two cents.

I know of at least two OCSO abbeys that have accepted diocesan priests who were convicted of a sex crime to be permanent oblates (at the bishop’s request). I don’t know of any community that allowed someone to enter a novitiate program, but I don’t see why it couldn’t happen. I would assume that the abbot of the community in question would have to go to the high council (or at the very least receive permission from the Abbot SG) to receive support prior to accepting such a candidate. My only concern is the USCCB passing that bi-annual child protection audit last year. I don’t know if this would affect religious communities or not.
If one is thinking of entering the monastic life with this background, OCSO and OCarth are probably the best bet, as OCist, OCarm, and OCD are more likely to be around public (like say OSB) and may have similar reservations that ByzCath and JReducation have listed above. I don’t know much about the Camaldolese structure, so I have no idea. That being said, some monasteries may still be weary, possibly requiring longer time than normal for formation.
To the OP, this is something you should definitely pray about. Your prayer life should be the absolute most important thing in your life. The first thing you should do is to find a spiritual director. Second, contact your vocations director (, be candid, and hopefully he/she will be willing to help you with your discernment. Third, you should visit a few abbeys and discern if you have a vocation. You should not, however, look at this situation as “well, a bunch of guys on an online forum told me this is my best bet, so if I don’t get in here, it’s all over,” as this may lead you to a false discernment. If, after discerning your vocation, you feel called to be at a particular monastery, then praise God! If not, keep your hopes up.
The monastic communities listed above (OCSO, OCarth) are considered the “hardcore” monastics, with a lifestyle a large portion of men couldn’t handle. Most of the Trappist and the Carthusian monasteries are very isolated and quiet (Assumption Abbey in Missouri is the most isolated monastery in the western hemisphere).
Just one more thing I thought of while typing this post, some monasteries have “associate” and external oblate programs. I think New Melleray, Assumption, and Gethsemani have them (I could be wrong though). External oblate programs are really neat. It’s similar to the army reserve, except for the monastery. Usually you spend one weekend a month, and two weeks a year, at the monastery. The rest of the year you are required to at least do daily a holy hour, if not liturgy of the hours.
Anyway, I hope some of the information in this post is helpful. I will pray for you. Please pray for me.

Thanks for your input.

The “oblate” concept is very solid.

I found a book “Be an Monastic and Not Leave Your Day Job” - Brother Benet Tvesten
I am enjoying it.

The Oblate lifestyle is something for me to explore more.

I am also going to explore a community service based vacation.
Such as in an urban setting.

I appreciate your thoughts especially since I am at a time in my life where I do not feel many people care.

Thanks for being there.

Most community service orginzations require a background check that your conviction would exclude you from so you might want to check out what the requirements are before applying to save any unneeded concern/embarassment.

Are you SERIOUS? Sex offenders are known for their inability to rehabilitate. The church is paying out MILLIONS to adults who as kids were sexually abused by priests who had some sort of known behavior… and just shoved to the next parish.

We are not to judge a person as to whether or not they will go to hell. We have no idea how a person will measure up on judgement day. However, we are not required to be stupid and hope a person who has been convicted of a felony with ANYTHING related to a sexual offense won’t offend again.

Preditors place themselves among victims. That’s a known fact.

Sorry… find a different vocation…


I’m sitting here thinking of my response above. It probably seems quite uncharitable.

You , I suspect are writing about yourself?

I have small children. I just don’t see how this is a good idea. I certainly wouldn’t risk having you around them.

That said. You seem to want to serve the Lord in some fashion. That is great. I would seek counseling. Start with a priest. Perhaps they can direct you.

May God bless you, and help heal whatever wounds have been inflicted on you!

Thanks for your relative calm response.

I have to admit it is a little knee jerk since you know nothing about the case - but it is ok to react. I did too at first until I did some research.

Following your similar thought line I am sure you think that the Catholic church should be shut down since most of the priests are offenders? The media makes priests out to be the worst things on earth.
Have you reviewed the actually numbers? (See end on me response for the numbers)

From your comments about recidivism and rehab. Where did you attain your evidence to form your opinion? Most of the stats below I found from Government sources speak a different world than you do. When you compile a " low risk person" - no previous criminal record, education, and other factors recidivism is around 1-4% is amongst the lowest of any criminal population. Keep in mind a “sex offender” could be simply someone with 3 images of a minor on their computer and in some states urinating in public is charged as a “sex offense”.

"It makes little sense to keep serious sex offenders in prison for many years, providing them with no treatment and exposing them to violence which makes them more dangerous, and then spend million of dollars evaluating and “treating” them as sexually violent predators. Many sex offenders can be safely treated in the community but recent laws have made this extremely difficult. At this point, it is virtually impossible to find residential substance abuse treatment for a registered sex offender anywhere in the United States, due to residency restrictions. This is another problem which puts many of them at greater risk for re-offense. "

Expanding Sex Offender Treatment
by Jay Adams, Ph.D.

“…In terms of rehabilitation, the economic and social marginalization of sex offenders resulting from poorly developed policies can create psychosocial stressors that may increase dynamic risk for reoffense. Negative moods, instability, and lack of social support have been associated with sexual reoffending (Hanson & Harris, 1998;2001). Defiance theory suggests that harsh sanctions perceived as unfair by criminal offenders can set up a counter-therapeutic reaction when offenders lament the injustice of discrimination and rebel against society’s iniquitous treatment of them (Sherman, 1993).* In fact, conformity to the norms of society and desistance from crime are enhanced when offenders are given opportunities for community integration, civic contribution, and investment in prosocial roles such as employment, property ownership, and parenting (Kruttschnitt, Uggen, & Shelton, 2000; Rowe, Kloos, Chinman, Davidson, & Cross, 2001; Sherman, 1993; Uggen, Manza, & Behrens, 2004; Uggen, Manza, & Thompson, 2006). Ostracizing sex offenders may divert their energies and attention from the real task of learning therapeutic skills and positive cognitions to prevent future abuse, and leave them overly focused on their anger at society and sense of unfairness…”

Myths and Facts about Sexual Offenders: Implications for Treatment and Public Policy
Timothy Fortney1, Jill Levenson2, Yolanda Brannon3 & Juanita N. Baker4

"Noteworthy, however, is that the DOJ found that many
more new sex crimes were committed by other types of criminals (87%) than by previously identified sex offenders (13%).

Other sex offense recidivism studies, conducted by Canadian
researchers and involving nearly 30,000 sex offenders from North America and England,
found an average re-arrest rate of 14% over 4-6 years (Hanson & Bussiere, 1998; Hanson & Morton-Bourgon, 2005). Recidivism rates fluctuate according to risk factors such as criminal history, victim preferences, and offender age.

Although official recidivism rates do underestimate true reoffense rates, Harris and
Hanson (2004) concluded: “Most sexual offenders do not re-offend sexually over time …
this finding is contrary to some strongly held beliefs. After 15 years, 76% of sexual offenders had not been charged with, or convicted of, another criminal offence. "

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, 5.3% of American sex
offenders are rearrested for a new sex crime within three years (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003).

Regarding our church: people focus on the bad:
"Specifically, there is no reason to assume the rate of child sexual abuse to be greater among Catholic clergy than among Protestant clergy. For instance, in California alone during 2001, there were six convictions involving Protestant ministers and sex-related crimes with minors. There are approximately 46,000 Catholic priests in the United States and 300 cases filed to date, which is under .7% of the priesthood. There are approximately 324,000 Protestant churches in the United States. If the math is correct, the number of cases among Protestant denominations could potentially dwarf the size of the Catholic scandal.

What does all this mean? Why are we focusing on this terrible tragedy? It has nothing to do with Catholicism, Protestantism, or the truth of Christianity in general. It is a humbling reminder that we live in a fallen world, a world prone to sin and deceit …"

Thanks for listening.

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