When reports came out recently about Pope Francis’ decision to modify the penalties for several priests found guilty of abusing minors, the question arose as to whether the Pope was being too merciful in his decision.
Another concern was whether priests found guilty of abuse of minors would continue to be dismissed from the clerical state, or “laicized.”
To address these issues and clear up some of the grey area on this topic, CNA spoke with a canonist, Fr. Damián Astigueta, SJ.
A professor at the Faculty of Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University with a specialty in criminal proceedings, Fr. Astigueta offered insights on what dismissal from the clerical state is, why the Church doesn’t always choose to dismiss from the clerical state priests who are guilty of abuse, what those condemned to a life of prayer and penance actually do, the role of bishops in abuse cases, the lessening of sentences, and more.
What is dismissal from the clerical state?
While frequently used in the media, the term “laicization” doesn’t really exist anymore among canonists, Fr. Astigueta said, and has been widely replaced by the term “loss of the clerical state.”
When a priest loses his clerical state, either because he requested it or because it was taken from him, he is “‘dismissed from the clerical state,’ because this is a juridical status,” Fr. Astigueta explained.
“He remains in a situation judicially as if they were a layperson. This is where the term ‘laicization’ comes from.”
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