Hello, this question doesn’t really involve “defending” the faith, but of all the people to ask I thought, who better than an apologist. My question is regarding discerning the priesthood, but under the circumstances that one would have a criminal record. Either misdemeanor or felony, could a seminary reject an applicant on the basis that he has a criminal record? This question is hypothetical of course, I ask only out of curiosity. Assuming that this person hasn’t killed anyone but rather only gone to jail for some other reason, can this person be admitted to the seminary?
Well, murder is a canonical impediment to ordination (canon 1041, 4). Other serious crimes, while not spelled out in canon law, would prudently be considered conditions for disqualification.
While a criminal record does not automatically disqualify someone as a candidate for priesthood, it does raise a red flag and thus additional questions and thought.
Program for Priestly Formation (emphasis added):
- Applicants must undergo a thorough screening process. Personal interviews with the applicants, evaluations from their pastors and teachers, records and evaluations from a previous seminary or religious community if applicable, academic records, standardized test scores, psychological evaluations, and criminal background checks are all components of an effective admission program and are weighed together with an assessment of the applicant’s motivation. Those who do not fulfill these entrance requirements of the seminary must not be admitted.
- Any evidence of criminal sexual activity with a minor or an inclination toward such activity disqualifies the applicant from admission.
Program of Priestly Formation:
Many factors would be weighed: the gravity of the offense, how long ago it took place, evidence or repentance and reparation, risk of scandalizing the faithful, etc.
Outside a few instances of serious crimes that are gravely harmful, it comes down to the prudential judgment of the diocese.