Can an Illegitimate Man Become a Priest?

by Therese Ivers, JCL

Now and then a man discerning the priesthood will wonder if the old rules about legitimacy apply if he’s considering the priesthood. Sometimes even diocesan websites state that the Catholic marriage certificate of the candidate’s parents must be submitted with the application. The reality is that prior to 1983, illegitimacy was an impediment to the priesthood and receiving Holy Orders. With the promulgation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, this is no longer the case. Since illegitimacy does not pose an impediment to Holy Orders, a man is not required by universal law to submit his parent’s marriage certificate to a diocese, and he might do well to point this out to the diocesan vocations director in a charitable fashion. Further, if a person’s application is rejected solely on account of his being born illegitimately, he should speak to a canon lawyer.

(c) 2010 by Therese Ivers, JCL

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