Sin to leave a vocation?


This is pure curiosity. I’m not currently in a vocation, and when I do discern my vocation I absolutely intend to follow it for life. I do not see any circumstance which could cause me to leave a vocation once it is discerned. I am also not interested in dating anyone, much less a nun/sister (of course not a priest, I’m a guy.) As far as I know, none of the priests, brothers or sisters I know are in this conundrum. However, I am a fairly new Catholic who has seen a lot of Hollywood portrayals of the church and Catholics in general, so I wanted to clarify something:

On television and in movies, there is a somewhat common plotline of a person falling in love with a priest or a nun, and then their Catholic parents saying, “You can’t do that. If he leave the priesthood (she leaves the convent) for you it’s a mortal sin for both of you.” Is that true? Would both of them be committing a mortal sin? I understand that it is something which happens. Are these people committing a mortal sin? Is there hope of redemption for them? I suppose that mortal sin or not, I should include people in that difficult situation in my prayers. What about a monastic brother?

I hope that this is the correct subforum in which to ask and that this was asked respectfully enough. It is a serious question, even though I do not ever foresee a way for it to affect me directly (unless I have a good friend who ends up in that situation.) I apologize if this is a “well duh” question, but please remember that I am a new Catholic and I know that Hollywood isn’t a good place to seek information on the theology of the church.


In most cases, it would be a mortal sin. I don’t remember the specifics of what has to take place in order for a priest, monk or religious sister to leave their vocation, but I think for a priest to leave his, his ordination would have to be deemed invalid.

There are other kinds of vocations too: marriage, single-life, consecrated virginity and semi-consecrated life. Each one is important and God calls us each to the one that would be best for us. Hopefully, all who enter their true vocation from God, will remain in it.


Sorry, dear, but this is completely wrong. Not only is it not a mortal sin, it is not a sin at all. Those in religious life (monks, brothers, nuns, sisters) need permission from their superior and perhaps also their bishop. There are some exceptions, I think, to being allowed to marry later…not really sure.

I’m a little fuzzy on that and don’t have time to Google it for you.

Click on this article for a full explanation of priests leaving the ministry. Here’s an excerpt as well:

**Q. **We hear of priests leaving the priesthood and then subsequently getting married. Is sacramental marriage possible for a man who has received Holy Orders? I thought “once a priest always a priest.”

— K.C., Yampa, Colo.

**A. **Here’s a reply from Msgr. Charles Pope:

Your insight “once a priest, always a priest” is a correct one. Thus, a man who “leaves the priesthood” is not leaving the priesthood, per se, but is setting aside the practice and discipline of the priestly ministry.

For a priest to validly and licitly marry in the Church, he must first be “laicized.” That is, while his priestly character remains, he is permitted and then required to live as a layman in the Church. And so, except in very rare “danger of death” situations, he cannot hear confessions or give anointing of the sick, and in no way celebrate the Sacred Liturgy or exercise other offices related to the priestly ministry.

Further, when laicized, he is usually dismissed from the discipline of celibacy and free to marry…

Those who are in the process of formation – they haven’t made final (“perpetual”) vows or been ordained yet – can leave the religious life/priestly formation without permission (though they might complete temporary vows if they’ve made them – temporary vows can be from one to three years depending on the order/congregation).

God bless you in your growth in the Catholic faith and your relationship with Christ!



A priest, sister or nun can obtain dispensation from fully professed vows through his or Bishop through Cannon process.


Can. 290 Once validly received, sacred ordination never becomes invalid. A cleric, nevertheless, loses the clerical state:

1/ by a judicial sentence or administrative decree, which declares the invalidity of sacred ordination;

2/ by a judicial sentence or administrative decree, which declares the invalidity of sacred ordination;

3/ by rescript of the Apostolic See which grants it to deacons only for grave causes and to presbyters only for most grave causes.

Can. 291 Apart from the case mentioned in ⇒ can. 290, n. 1, loss of the clerical state does not entail a dispensation from the obligation of celibacy, which only the Roman Pontiff grants.

A priest may request to leave ministry for a variety of reasons, which probably would be granted. The Church does not want unhappy priests.

But this does not release him of the requirement to remain celibate. Only the POPE can grant that dispensation, and I have heard that (JPII at least) denied all requests for that.

So, yes, it’s possible that it would not be a sin, but most likely, in order to get married, the former priest would need to leave the Church completely, which is a sin.


A priest (or religious) who married without being dispensed from their promises / vows would not be married in the eyes of the Church and so would not be able to receive the eucharist until they had satisfactorily resolved his status. That said, in answer to the OP’s question, not every priest (or religious) who leaves is committing a sin. Priests and religious leave for a wide variety of reasons and it would be wrong to judge their actions when we are unaware of their personal circumstances.

But this does not release him of the requirement to remain celibate. Only the POPE can grant that dispensation, and I have heard that (JPII at least) denied all requests for that.

Early in his papacy JPII imposed something of a temporary moratorium (or study period) on granting dispensations from celibacy because he felt that too many applicants were seeing it as a right or the process as simply a mere formality. That said, the process did resume, although a greater level of scrutiny was applied to applications.


It’s not a sin to leave religious life or the priesthood if it is through the proper procedures. But I would contest the idea that one can “leave a vocation” unless one is actually willfully rejecting the life God is calling her/him to. It is possible that God may only be calling someone to religious life for a certain period of time after which, it no longer remains her/his calling.

Marriage as a vocation is different than celibacy, because celibacy is the state one is already in at birth. Profession of religious vows is a way to live out a celibate (i.e. single) vocation, so in that sense, marriage is not something one can “leave.”


It would be if a consecrated virgin were to, since the consecration is permanent, and to engage in conjugal relations would be a sacrilege. It used to be that if a consecrated virgin lost her virginity, she could be absolved, but she wouldn’t be allowed to receive communion aside from as viaticum.


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