CCE, Dispensation from Irregularities and Impediments for Sacred Orders, 27 July 1992. Private.
The following is a letter of July 27, 1992, from the Congregation for Catholic Education, sent via the Apostolic Nunciature, regarding concerns about dispensations from irregularities and impediments for candidates for Sacred Orders.
The Church, concerned to safeguard the sanctity of Holy Orders, has also established particular norms which prohibit, under special circumstances, the reception of Orders in their various grades, or prohibit or limit their exercise. Canonical expression of this moral and pastoral concern are, for the Latin Rite Church, cc. 1040-1049 of the CIC, and for the Oriental Churches, cc. 762-768 of the CCEO, regarding irregularities and impediments.
Some of these norms do not only have the relevance of positive law, which in general belongs to all ecclesiastical laws, but they also possess such an intrinsic weight which of itself dissuades that those who are so affected be admitted to Holy Orders: it is indeed a question either of delicts or of personal situations often connected with psychological disorders.
It is, therefore, evident, prior to the concession of a possible dispensation from the irregularities and the impediments to the reception of Orders, that prudence requires an adequate passage of time in order to ascertain that the difficulties which gave rise to the irregularity or impediment have been overcome, and that the candidate has reached positive fitness from the spiritual, intellectual and psychological point of view.
Now, the Congregations for Catholic Education, for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, for the Evangelization of Peoples, and for the Oriental Churches know that with increasing frequency a dispensation from these irregularities and impediments is requested at a time too near to the reception of Orders, especially the Priesthood, and even when omnia parata sunt. It is clear that in such cases there is the danger of conceding a dispensation without the adequate guarantees of the fitness referred to above, or of denying it with traumatic consequences for the interested party and dismay of the community.
It is therefore necessary that the candidates for Orders be informed of the above-mentioned canonical norms (cc. 1040-1049 of the CIC and cc. 762-768 of the CCEO) against the background of a brief synthesis
of the theology of the Sacrament of Orders, and that this be done with reasonable anticipation before the presumable date of ordination to the Diaconate and especially to the Priesthood.
In consideration of this, the Congregation of Catholic Education, collatis consiliis with the other three Dicasteries mentioned above, has determined to establish that such information be given to candidates for Orders from the beginning of theology and, in any case, no less than four years prior to the presumable date of Ordination, so that those who are affected by irregularities or impediments might timely request the dispensation and the competent authority (the Holy See or Ordinary, as the case may be) might arrive at the necessary moral certitude, concerning the opportuneness and the fitness, by means of a verification which could require even more years.
The Holy Father has seen fit to approve the above.
CCE, 27 July 1992, Dispensation from Irregularities and Impediments for Sacred Orders, RRAO (1993): 14-15.