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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. 1. I was recently on Facebook when I came across the account of a Catholic priest who stated under his profile, "Views are my own." Can a Catholic priest make such a disclaimer? I noticed some of his comments were not too Catholic.

A. 1. First of all, it should be mentioned that Church Canon Law # 1338 §2 states: "Privation of the power of orders is not possible but only a prohibition against exercising it or some of its acts; likewise, privation of academic degrees is not possible.

"Privation" means "the loss or absence of a quality or attribute that is normally present." In other words, a priest is a priest for life. The Holy Orders can never be taken away from him, only his faculty to act as a Catholic priest in order to represent the Church. The proper canonical term for such a punishment is “dismissal from the clerical state.” It is also referred to as “laicization” or “forced laicization”. These terms mean that a priest is forbidden from exercising his priesthood for the rest of his life.

Having said that, as long as a priest has not been dismissed from the clerical state, he cannot expressed his personal views, especially if they are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. By doing so, he will scandalize the public and his views may be considered part of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

"By the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed." [Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1285]

In other words, as Catholics, not only the priests cannot express their personal views that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church, but also anyone who speaks as a Catholic, be it a Knight of Columbus, a Politician or a layperson. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, you are called "to spread and defend the faith by word and deed" for the glory of God. There are no exceptions to this rule unless you have been excommunicated and declared a heretic. Then you may say all the foolishness that you want.

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