From a reader…
Maximized priest returning to priestly duties
Our new parochial vicar (NO parish) is a priest who was married, divorced, and is now “returning to priestly duty.” What exactly does this mean? Can he licitly confect the Eucharist? Can he hear confessions? I do not know anything else about his situation. I want to give him a fair shake, as it were, but this whole situation is a little confusing to me.
I can’t say that know the term “maximized priest”. I am unsure of its meaning. Did Father eat too many jelly donoughts after Sunday Mass?
There are a couple possible scenarios to explain what’s happened here.
If Father did not get a dispensation, and simply walked away and attempted marriage, the marriage would have been invalid, and that attempt would have rendered him irregular for the exercise of Holy Orders. If he then woke up, obtained a civil divorce, and came back on his knees to his diocesan bishop, the bishop could have then sent the case to the Holy See. The Holy See then might have given the priest an appropriate penance and then lifted the irregularity, permitting him once again to resume his priestly duties.
Otherwise, if Father did obtain a dispensation from the clerical state and from the obligation to celibacy and got married legitimately, but then later divorced, he would have had to submit his marriage to the judgment of the Church. If the tribunal found that his marriage was invalid, and he wanted to return to the active exercise of his priestly orders, the bishop could have submitted the case to the Holy See. If the Holy See saw fit, they could have allowed him to return to the active exercise of his orders.
In whatever case, we be happy that a priest has returned to the exercise of the Holy Orders he received. If he’s gotten the nod from the Holy See (and it’s safe to presume that he did, otherwise the bishop would not have appointed him as parochial vicar), then, without questions, he can both validly and licitly consecrate the Blessed Sacrament and validly absolve penitents from their sins.
Bottom line: If he is in the parish because the bishop put him there, there is virtually no chance that this priest does not have faculties to exercise Orders.
Another thing: This episode underscores once again that priests are human beings too. They have flaws. They make mistakes. They suffer from loneliness and doubts. They repent and convert and to penance. It is wonderful when priests are far closer to being saints than habitual sinners. However, it is not the priest’s personal holiness which is the guarantee of the validity of sacraments. His being a sinner affects his own soul but not the graces and effects of sacraments you receive. When he says, “This is my Body…”, “I absolve you…”, he truly confects the Eucharist and he absolves your sins. Our mysterious God, whose ways are not our ways, gives us His mercy and gra