It is certainly not a secret that there is a sizable number of Catholics priests in the Philippines – and in the Catholic world in general – who failed to keep the formal and categorical promises, obligations or commitments specially appended to their deliberate option to receive the Sacrament of Sacred Orders. The usual reasons for such signal failure are one or more of the more common following causal factors: One they were not really meant for the nature, finalities and complementary duties attached to Sacred Orders. Two, they did not take seriously what was taught them during their long years of Seminary formation, about who they should be, how should they live, what should be their value system and consequent action and reaction patterns. Three, they honestly tried to live their priestly life and ministry until for one reason or another, they no longer could. Conclusion: They eventually left the active priestly ministry.
Let it be herein explicitly said that when priests leave their above said active ministry for one reason or another – irrespective of what they do thereafter – this is definitely a big loss for the Church as a whole and for a concrete group of Catholic lay faithful they are meant to serve, teach and sanctify. But, truth to say, it is however much worst if not a downright big scandal among the people, if priests who are not observant of their mandates, responsibilities or duties, in fact still remain in active priestly ministry, viz., live and act as if everything were all in right order. Hence, in the event that such priests do decide to leave or actually left behind their mandated priestly life and ministerial agenda, they should be instead admired. Reason: They merely admitted and thereby observed the truth and its consequence.
Above observations made, it might be not only good but also proper to reconsider the common nomenclature of “ex-priests” used to qualify or identify the above said gentlemen. The fact is that some of them even bond together under such title as “Association of Ex-Priests”. Now, according to the doctrine and discipline of the Church, there is absolutely no such thing or reality as an “ex-priest”. Reason: One constant, standing and wherefore definite and defined doctrinal posit of the Church as a whole the world over, is a plain and clear as this: “Once a priest, always a priest.” Translation: A duly ordained priest dies as a priest such that the Sacred Priesthood follows even beyond him to his grave. Question: What then happens to those priests who leave the priestly life and ministry? Who are they? How should they be called in reality and truth?
Answer: “Ex-Clerics” or “Former Clerics” or “Past Clerics” – but definitely not “Ex-Priests”, neither “Former Priests” nor “Past Priests”. Reason: What the gentleman concerned abandoned or left behind is merely their Clerical State whereto the following three main obligations are inherent: One, living continence and wherefore celibacy. Two, praying the Breviary every day at stipulated times thereof. Three, obeying the Bishop at all times. Wherefore the same gentlemen remain priests whatever another state of life they subsequently choose, whatever another kind of occupation they have. Needless to say, hopefully, they live upright lives and engage in morally sound agenda.
November 27, 2009