leaving the priesthood

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My son was asking about if a priest wants to leave the priesthood. If he wants to get married can he just become a deacon? What if he decided that he made a mistake leaving the priesthood, could he become a priest again? Thanks for the info! 🙂
Dear Paco,

A man spends several years in preparation to follow the call from God to serve as His priest. He is free to say no if he wants to and he has several years to discern if this is what he wants to do. But once has made the commitment, he is expected to remain faithful to it—just as a man and woman are expected to remain faithful to their commitment to God as husband and wife.

After having been ordained, should decide that he no longer wants to serve as a priest, he must seek permission from the Church to live as a layman and perhaps to marry. First of all, he is given a leave of absence to think the matter over. He may get a job and live on his own during this time. The Church then considers his reasons for such a request, to determine whether to grant it and whether or not to release him from his commitment to celibacy.

If after living on his own during the leave of absence, he should decide that he wants to return to the priestly ministry, the Church may very well reinstate him. But after having been granted permanent permission to live as a layman and to marry, should he then want to return to the priesthood, he most likely will not be allowed to do so.

No priest is ever allowed to minister as a permanent deacon. Also, for a priest to simply “walk out” without asking for permission from the Church, such a priest is considered a renegade and incurs a serious penalty for such a serious sin.

To commit oneself to God is the most serious of matters. By His suffering and death on the cross, God has shown us how serious He is about His love for us. We ought to be serious about our love for Him as well.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.
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