ASK FATHER: Faculties of the Missionaries of Mercy after the Year of Mercy

From a priest…


Do the missionaries of mercy still have the faculty to remit censures arising from reserved delicts? I’m working with a priest who is worried (I think he’s ok actually). But if a trip to the missionary would be able to remit a possible censure it might help him out. I read the Pope’s letter at the end of the year of mercy and he said their ministry continues. But that is not exactly a clear/canonical statement. I figured you would know if they still have the faculty.

First, let’s review.  What could these priests, confessors, do that other priests could not?  They were able to absolve censures incurred by certain sins.

A handful of sins are so bad that they incur automatic censures, the lifting of which is reserved to the Holy See.  Under normal circumstances, a priest has to request the faculty to lift the censure incurred by those sins.  These Missionaries of Mercy were given the faculty – during the Year of Mercy – to absolve the censure incurred by 1) profaning the Eucharistic species by throwing them away or keeping them or giving them for a sacrilegious purpose; 2) the use of physical force against the Roman Pontiff; 3) the absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the Sixth Commandment (“thou shalt not commit adultery”) and 4) a direct violation against the sacramental Seal of confession.

In Misericordia et Misera at close of the Year of Mercy, the Pope wrote:

I thank every Missionary of Mercy for this valuable service aimed at rendering effective the grace of forgiveness. This extraordinary ministry does not end with the closing of the Holy Door. I wish it to continue until further notice as a concrete sign that the grace of the Jubilee remains alive and effective the world over. As a direct expression of my concern and closeness to the Missionaries of Mercy in this period, the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization will supervise them and find the most suitable forms for the exercise of this valuable ministry.

So, as far as I can tell, even though his language is – as usual – juridically unclear, it seems to be the Pope’s intention that the Missionaries now still have the faculty to absolve the censures resulting from those aforementioned sins.

Keep in mind that if the sin was not committed, and there are several criteria that must be fulfilled, then the censure was not incurred.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. JamesM says:

    Are they able to lift the censures attached to the sin of consecrating a bishop without an apostolic mandate? [No, it is clear that they can’t.]

  2. dans0622 says:

    According to a December, 2016, letter from the Council for new evangelization, each “missionary” was to discuss with his Ordinary whether or not he would continue as a missionary. If so, he was to inform the pontifical council, which would then issue a decree confirming the missionary’s faculties.
    Perhaps it is better to say that “certain sins are so bad” that they can be determined to be criminal acts. Thus, the sinful and criminal act can result in the application of a penalty. “Automatic” penalties are possible, if all conditions are fulfilled.

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