What can an ex-priest do? — UPDATED

What can an ex-priest do? — UPDATED June 18, 2011

With the Corapi news, it’s a question many are asking.

A few years ago, Jimmy Akin posted a good and clear-headed summary that, as far as I know, still holds:

1) He can’t celebrate any of the sacraments except for hearing deathbed confessions. It is especially noted that he can’t give homilies.

2) He can’t serve as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion.

3) He can’t serve any “directive office in the pastoral field” (e.g., serving as a parish administrator).

4) He can’t do anything at all in a seminary.

5) He can’t serve as a director or teacher in a Catholic university.

6) He can’t teach theology or any closely related discipline (e.g., religious studies, history of theology) in a non-Catholic university.

7) He can’t serve a director (e.g., school principal) in a parochial school.

8..) He can’t serve as a teacher in a parochial school unless he gets the bishop’s permission.

9) He shouldn’t live in or frequent places where his status as an ex-priest is generally known, unless he gets the bishop’s permission.

Read the whole thing for more context and details.

UPDATE: Late today, I got an e-mail from Fr. Paul Counce, Judicial Vicar for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.  He wanted me to know that the rescript has been updated, and noted: “The significant changes that Bl. John Paul II began and which have been continued by Pope Benedict are that laicized priests now CAN be admitted by the local bishop to serve as lectors or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (since these are lay ministries and no longer thought to be essentially connected to the clerical state…”)

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29 responses to “What can an ex-priest do? — UPDATED”

  1. That smiley at point #8 had to be accidental.

    [Pretty funny. Yeah, that’s what happens with an eight and a parentheses…just adjusted it Thanks 🙂 Dcn. G.]

  2. Umm…if he gets a job teaching religion at a NON-CATHOLIC university who, exactly, is going to tell him that he “can’t”. That’s ridiculous. He can teach at a non-Catholic university and many ex-priests do.

  3. Right Fr. Guy Selvester.

    And many laicized priests teach at Catholic universities as well.

    The rescript is individualized for every priest leaving ministry. Perhaps Akin pulled the “non-Catholic university” deal from a rescript related to a sex abuser or something. I dunno.

  4. I’m confused. If a man left the priesthood two years out of seminary, realizing that he did not have the proper calling and was laicized properly — why could he not take on any duty and responsibility that a regular lay person could?

    What are the reasons for such restrictions?

  5. As someone who has been laicized, I found the requirements reasonable. A laicized priest cannot be an extraordinary minister of communion because he is an ordinary minister. The same with being a lector. I would imagine that the same restrictions would be in place for a laicized deacon. As far as teaching theology, it is a good excuse not to teach CCD! Though, I would like to help out with RCIA. I would love to see a healthy debate on how to use the gifts of laicized priests. Right now, I accept that I can only live out my priesthood through prayer and penance. And sharing a home with the love of my life is great consolation!

  6. And Mr. Corapi says:

    “Under the name ‘The Black Sheep Dog,’ I shall be with you through radio broadcasts and writing.”


    Given the restrictions enumerated above, how can he expect to do this?

    But, now that I think about it, how do many other lay bloggers and TV/radio commentators/talk show hosts claim to speak with authority about Catholic matters?

  7. How quick you all are to turn on your brother, your father, John Corapi. Judases, the lot of you. John never hid any of his worldly struggles but used them rather to connect with those of us who share them with him. While obedient to the gag order placed on him by yet another misguided american bishop, his ministry would surely die and with his health, he might have just died waiting. I do not defend disobedience, John knew the hammer that was looming always overhead, and courageously spoke truth, against those same Bishops often times, anyway. He should have, and it seems like he did, know this was coming eventually, and he is responding in the only way that could possibly yield a change in the way bad bishops dispense with good priests. remember he couldn’t publicly expose this horrible issue within the Church while remaining obedient to his cease and desist order. It occurs to me, and i can’t believe not to everyone else, that John is not turning his back on the priesthood, he is sacrificing it for the good of all who will be spared as a result of the scandal. HE CAN MAKE A LOT OF NOISE ABOUT A LEGITIMATE PROBLEM NOW, and if he is able to do so faithfully then we will all benefit from it. He now has the forum to speak on behalf of the countless other priests this has happened to, hopefully he will. As to his narcissism, self promotion, self aggrandizement, and the host of other idiosyncratic accusations, REALLY? Are we all protestants all of the sudden? pointing out the splinter in our brother’s eye? Especially you hotshot bloggers and apologists, you guys make up my dream team of modern Catholic thinkers and writers, but your hardly blameless in the area of self promotion, and pride-fullness. I am writing this to some of my heroes, and I am sad to see you guys crucify this hero of truth in so many paragraphs, and then cap it off with the obligatory “we need to pray for him”. Get real.
    It is a very real possibility that John could be ceased by the enemy, and could fall into any number of problems, but to speculate that he has, is just unfathomable at this point.
    As to Jimmy’s take on the name “blacksheepdog”, jimmy, I love your work and count you among my favorite apologists, but this was a swing and a miss. He didn’t choose to be a black sheep, he chose to speak truth against the faulty american bishops who didn’t want him to, and that made him a black sheep (again self sacrifice) and the wolves that are brought to mind in the sheep dog imagery are these same faulty american bishops that have been victimizing the church and priests for years. Guess what, the sheep do need to be protected against these specific Bishops.

    I, personally, will not follow John anywhere that the Church would object to. But i damn sure will not assume that he intends to lead people there either. He clearly shows his love for the church and his concern for Her, and that (at least for now) is the reason he is doing this. All of you bloggers, commenters, and readers, Pray for the ability to see past your inclination to judge John, sincerely pray for him, and for Catholic fruit to come of his new ministry.

  8. The Church is the loser in this. Outside of the fact that the Black sheepdog was not able to fight the accusations, he left what he loved so it would not suffer more that it has. How many of us have been in situations that we had to walk away so that we would live another day? How many of us have been in parish situations that knowing what we are doing is correct, but the fighting of the ignorant (those who will not see) isnt worth it? How many of us have been subjected to a decision made for us and we had to suffer in silence so that the truth may come to light without any distortion? I truly feel for the black sheepdog. He has taught us more that we will ever immediatly know.

  9. Due process for priests. Heck!! Due process for everyone. Isn’t that why we live here and not in Sudan?
    At least, the diocesan current procedure should allow a private court where accused can confront the EVIDENCE of accuser before an IMPARTIAL ecclesiastical authority. That is, Corapi’s bishop shouldn’t go near the procedure. If there is no EVIDENCE or if the accused can successfully refute the supposed EVIDENCE, then game over. A priest should be judged by his peers, other priests; after the peers see the EVIDENCE. For the accuser, there should be no judgement because, at least in this case, the accuser is not a priest. Just show the EVIDENCE and leave it to the ecclesiastical authority. CNN or Hollywood Insider does not need to be there. It can be closed-door–known only to the persons involved. No priest should be separated from the vocation to which God has called him by absurd and clearly unjust procedures.
    Due process.

  10. For some reason this has brought back thoughs about Fr. James Haley from the Diocese of Arlington, VA. I used to belong to his parish and he was an awesome priest. I wonder what’s going on with him…

  11. When I told a relative of mine about the Corapi issue, he wondered why he never heard or read about it. (He is pretty up on the latest news.) I told him that it probably is just something that some readers of Catholic blogs and newspapers know about. Well, now the situation has reached a wider audience and I would expect there will be more hits and comments on the Deacon’s Bench.

    Popular Catholic Priest John Corapi Calls It Quits, Blasts Church Leaders On His Way Out


  12. A few queries and comments:

    1 Has it been announced that Corapi is now an “ex-priest”? Many have suggested this but I’ve not read it from any credible source as yet.

    2 Folks have said that he’s being laicized. Who’s indicated this? Nothing in Corapi’s announcement stated such.

    3 A suspended bishop, priest or deacon (or even one on leave of absence from ministry {I’m not talking about sabbatical}) is often not allowed to hold himself out as bishop, priest or deacon. If Corapi is suspended and not laicized, he cannot hold himself out as Fr. Corapi in public.

    4 Just what can a suspended priest do to earn a living anyway (especially if the suspension if indefinite)? Given his talents I’d fully expect him to do speaking and writing. A man is due a just wage, is he not?

    5 He may not be able to teach in the Church but isn’t that is why he indicated his topics and audience will be broader? It smacks of obedience to me. What am I missing here?

    6 As for the “Black Sheepdog” handle, it seems to fit.

    7 Just what is it he’s accused of that would deem a suspension / expulsion from priestly faculties anyway?


  13. 7 continued. Sexual abuse and drug abuse are what he’s accused. He’s denied those things. Sexual abuse would get him the boot. Drugs, not so much.

  14. I know of many ex-priests who also teach at Catholic schools. Many of the staff and students also know that they are ex-priests. I think it is a good thing when an ex-priest wants to remain faithful to the Church and continue to serve her. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t recalling seeing in canon law most of the items listed above.

  15. This list has caused me to do some thinking about liaicized priests I have known. Here are four out of maybe a dozen:

    –Fr. T., after ordination, went on to get his doctorate in clinical psychology at the university he was assigned as Campus Minister. Within a year after receiving his doctorate, he resigned and was formally and properly liaicized. He has a respectable and reputable clinical practice.

    –Fr. D, after he was liaicized by a distant archdiocese, moved into our neck of the woods and went into civil government and — last I heard — was the City Manager of a medium sized city.

    –Fr. L was a rookie priest in my parish of assignment way before I was ordained. He left after three years but no one locally took any notice since that is when you are generally rotated out of your first assignment anyway. When I asked about hm once, just for old times sake, I was told he was liaicized and was working as a Licensed Independent Social Worker in a “De-Tox” unit somewhere.

    –Then there was Fr. A. I never knew him as a priest but I did meet him as the IT expert for a major national non-profit organization.

    Now I have no idea whether these guys ever got married or raised a family. I do remember that Fr. D was asked by my pastor to manage our parish’s response to the Annual Bishop’s Fund — which he did and did very well. The response by our parishioners was well over our assigned quota.

  16. I knew a liaicized priest, he went to get a masters in English then several jobs as an accountant (of all things), marry, have seven kids, live a devout catholic life, and tried to write a book on pacifism and the early church fathers. He died of cancer recently. I can honestly say he regretted whatever happened and was not happy most of his life. He died unhappy and his wish to taken by God was granted after only two weeks between diagnosis and death. Sad, very sad.

  17. I truly deeply regret father Corapi’s whole affair. The saddest thing is to read how ugly we can be amongst us and to each other.

  18. Rudy:

    Well…if a fellow regrets the existence of seven beautiful unique human beings he helped bring into the world…there was probably something wrong with him. He would not have been happy anywhere.

  19. It is clear that the bishops have gone overboard with the punishments of as I have read them.

    1. They need a more transparent process, so we can nail bishops like the one who silenced St. Pio.

    2. They need to stop violation of principles of justice like engaging in ex post facto enforcement of canon law.

    3. The accused should have access to the evidence.

    4. The accused should be able to face their accuser, which cuts down of false accusations and gold-diggers.

    What do you think?

  20. Hi Deacon Greg. It’s clearly a bad and not a godly decision to leave the priesthood because that’s what God wants everyone to be, a priest, a representative, someone who leaves everything and make God no.1, their no.1 spouse and thus no.1 bestfriend.

    If he sees the light on the error of this decision a decides to reverse it, announces that tomorrow he made a mistake, asks to be forgiven and wants to become priest again. Will he become a priest again instantly?

    (if you have a link explaining this, please point me to them) By the way, what’s the difference and what’s the difference of what can’t and can they do between a: friar, deacon, monk, priest, monsignor, reverend,

    What’s the technical differences between: basilica, cathedral, chapel, normal church,

    Lastly is the blessed sacrament the eucharist that’s located at the church’s altar and inside an adoration chapel? What does a visit to the blessed sacrament mean exactly, don’t you visit it when you go to communion?

    Thank you.


  21. I’ve now been barred from the blogo site of “Anchoress” for daring to recommend a cease fire on l’affaire Corapi. Deacon Greg, for whatever his differing views from mine of various matters, has had the honor to retract an unsubstantiated and grossly defamatory claim about John Corapi. I have no horse in this race, other than sympathy for a person who is down, and love for the Church, but I and others will do everything I can to hold bloggers responsible for accusations about this man at this point. I think Deacon Greg, honorably, got the message earlier. I will not sit by and see this man brutalized any more. So keep it up and see what happens.

    [Thanks for the props, Jeff, but I don’t appreciate threats. It may be time to follow the lead of Fr. Z and The Anchoress and just shut down the comments on this topic. I think we’ve all heard from every conceivable point of view — and a few that are, to quote Wallace Shawn (and Max Lindeman) “inconceivable.” Time for a break. Dcn. G.]

  22. The call from a certain cable *news* network is being sought. Now that the paragon of restrained and thoughtful commentary (NOT!) Glenn Beck has announced his move, a replacement must be found.

    If that’s not an audition tape on YouTube, what is it? The Black Sheepdog? That’s the name of a rock group or a media performer, undoubtedly in cable or satellite radio. He makes abundantly clear his future is secular and political. Just what the world needs, another angry, old white male foamer on radio spouting far-right platitudes to the undereducated and gullible.