Would someone with mental illness be allowed to become a priest?


If a man has a mental illness or a mental disability, would the Church still allow him to become a priest?

Does it depend on the severity of his condition?


Yes, ultimately it does really depend on the severity of the condition and, in particular, on its impact upon the man’s ability to perform the functions and live the life of a priest. Some conditions would create an absolute bar - paranoid delusions being an obvious example - but there aren’t all that many of these. As well, anything which creates a risk to others (particularly children and vulnerable adults) would also be a barrier. Canon law also prohibits anyone who has engaged in acts of self-harm or attempted suicide from being ordained (although in theory at least a dispensation can be granted).

Beyond that it really comes down to how well the man is able to function in priestly life which is something that the superior / bishop for the order / diocese they’re applying do would most likely determine based on the report of a psychologist or psychiatrist.


Canon Law:

Can. 1040 Those affected by any impediment, whether perpetual, which is called an irregularity, or simple, are prevented from receiving orders. The only impediments incurred, however, are those contained in the following canons.

Can. 1041 The following are irregular for receiving orders:

1/ a person who labors under some form of amentia or other psychic illness due to which, after experts have been consulted, he is judged unqualified to fulfill the ministry properly;



Yes, it depends on the severity of the condition. If you have a simple diagnosis such as depression or anxiety but it can be completely controlled by medication, you may be accepted by the diocese. Several priests, in fact, are living with this diagnosis.

However, if you have something more complex - like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia - that could pose numerous problems. The life of a priest is very demanding and there isn’t much time for relaxation. You could be called at any minute to administer last rites or a parishioner may need your support in a difficult time. A priest is required to be present to the needs of the parishioners. You have to be able to handle the demands with a stable mental condition. It doesn’t help if you fly off the handle because of a manic episode.

Anyway, I encourage you to talk to the Vocation Director of your diocese if you think you have a vocation but are struggling with a mental illness. They are equipped to answer you in ways that internet posters cannot. :slight_smile:


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