Am I suspended, or Not?


In my recent sojourn in the U.S. I came across a Canon Lawyer. We met over dinner on the evening of my arrival, with three other people in the company. This Canon Lawyer straight away launched into questioning me about my situation re the priesthood, and told me that if he had been dealing with my case it would have been long ago settled. I wasn’t passing too much remarks, since I had decided at an early stage not to go down the canon law route, reckoning that it would take years, and that I could find better ways to spend the later years of my life than wrangling with the Vatican.

But then he asked me a straight question: “Do you have an official, headed and signed document from the CDF stating that you are suspended?” That was easy to answer, since I had no official, headed and signed, document of any nature from the CDF.  Then he said, with great certainty. “Then you are not suspended.”

Interesting! I asked him how could that be. He said that canon law was clear on this matter, than I should have got official word, but that in his experience the Vatican were the body that most easily ignored the strictures of their own laws. Anything I got from the Redemptorists would not count, since it was not them who were imposing the suspension; they were merely conveying the messages.

I said that one of the things I learned at an early stage in this whole process was how quickly the Church generally closed ranks and shut you out; I have had numerous examples of that. In the past few years I have spoken and celebrated liturgy in numerous non-catholic venues, and even non religious venues, but never in a Catholic Church property — with one exception in the U.S some years ago when the priest defied his bishop and had me speak in is church.

It would be interesting to test out this canon law opinion that says I am not legally suspended from ministry. But for that I would need some church setting where I could perform some ministerial action — say Mass or preach, or whatever — and see what would happen.

Any takers out there??

An Addendum:

I got this, in response to the above, from a Benedictine priest currently working in Africa, but originally from the States:

I was superior in one of our monasteries for several years and I know from experience that your canon law friend is correct. If you did not receive an official letter, then you are not suspended. Anyone can write the type of letter you said you received. It has no official standing and therefore cannot decree a suspension. I should think your religious superior could make this determination easily enough and therefore reinstate you. He can give you a celebret and that should be sufficient.

Thank you for your good work, ministry and witness.