What happens if a priest leaves the priesthood

A priest in my parish left a few years ago and i was wondering what happens to his ability to perform sacrements? is he forbidden to are does his power to perform them go away?

His “power” (that is, his ability to stand in the person of Christ) never goes away. Once a priest, always a priest.

The process of leaving the priesthood is called laicization (to make laity), however, all it does is (1) relieve the priest from his priestly obligations and (2) make illicit (i.e., illegal) the exercise of his priestly functions. He still can exercise those functions, it is just that he should not do so absent some exigent circumstance like someone dying who needs reconciliation.

Wow, thats very interesting, thanks.

Is this different from a suspension? Can a suspended priest be reconciled (with contrition and penance) and perform all priestly duties?

I think that suspension has similar effects in that it makes the priestly acts valid but illicit. But no, the Sacrament of Penance alone doesn’t remove a suspension (it always forgives sins, but it does not affect canonical/juridical status, such as removing a suspension, unless the priest or bishop giving the absolution has canonical authority to remit the suspension and actually does so in the context of reconciliation). Note the exception in Canon 1335 to a suspension for cases in danger of death, which is the same in the laicization scenario set out above.

P.S. Suspension is not the same thing as removal. Here is how removal works.

P.P.S. I’m not a canon lawyer. You may want to have one check my answers.

Does this also apply to Bishop Emeriti (concerning the obligations of a bishop)? Like, “One a bishop, always a bishop?” I ask this because our cardinal bishop retired and has a successor (who was cojudtor (can’t spell) bishop anyway).

Retirement (a Bishop Emeritus is one who has resigned from his diocese and has not been given another one) is not the same as laicization or suspension. A retired priest or bishop still has all of his faculties entact, and they are perfectly licit. It is merely that he does not usually work everyday (though still are plenty of Bishop Emeriti who work at the Vatican). He no longer has a parish or diocese of which to take care . However, he can say Mass or perform any of the sacraments when given the opportunity. A laicized priest (laicized bishops are very rare), on the other hand, cannot even serve as a lector at a Mass or teach at a Catholic university.

In fact, a priest who has been allowed to become a layman, MAY, under certain very specific circumstances, utilize two of their Priestly functions without a problem.

In an emergency, they may forgive the sins of a dying person and give them the Sacrament of the Sick; and in an emergency, they may baptize a person.

They may NOT celebrate the Mass, provide regular reconcilliation, witness a marriage, confirm (if Priests in his Diocese are given that power) or routinely provide any other sacrament. They ALWAYS HAVE THE CAPABILITY TO DO THOSE THINGS, they just are not allowed by Church Law to exercise those abilities.

They are relieved of their obligation to live a celibate life, and are free to marry (which is the number one reason why Priests voluntarily leave).

They are also usually barred from serving in any ministries within the parish that they attend.

I know many former priests (using that term loosely) who are in music ministry, serve as Eucharistic Ministers, Lector, etc. They are not barred from those things, they can serve in those ministries just like any other lay person can.

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