SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH
The Ordinary who is competent to accept a petition and instruct the case is the local Ordinary of incardination or the Major Superior of a member of a clerical institute of consecrated life of pontifical right.
If the proper Ordinary is unable to instruct the case, the Ordinary of the place where the petitioner habitually resides can be asked to do so. For a proportionate reason the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can delegate another Ordinary.
The signed petition must indicate the petitioner’s name, general information about him and at least in general the facts and arguments on which his petition is based.
After receiving the petition, the Ordinary is to decide whether to proceed further. If he decides to do so, he is to prohibit the petitioner from the exercise of Orders ad cautelam (as a precautionary measure) unless he judges that their exercise is really necessary to protect the reputation of the priest or to foster the good of the community. The Ordinary is then to instruct the case either personally or through an especially designated priest. A notary should be employed to authenticate the acts of the case,
The Bishop or priest-instructor is to administer an oath de veritate dicenda (that the truth must be spoken) and then interrogate the petitioner according to a questionnaire specifically drawn up for this situation. If possible, superiors during the petitioner’s period of formation are to be questioned; or at least their written depositions are to be obtained. Other witnesses either suggested by the petitioner or called by the instructor are likewise to be heard. Finally, documents and other proofs are to be gathered and the insights of experts are to be utilized where appropriate.
The questionnaire for the petitioner should contain everything necessary or useful for the investigation, i.e. a) general information on the petitioner: time and place of birth, background and family circumstances, manner of life, studies, examination before the reception of sacred orders, or before profession in the case of religious, time and place of sacred ordination, record of priestly ministry, present juridical status, both ecclesiastically and civilly and the like; b) causes and circumstances of leaving the active ministry and factors which could have vitiated the assumption of clerical obligations.
After the instruction of the case, all the acts of the case are to be forwarded in triplicate to the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith along with any notations that might be useful in assessing the proofs. They are to be accompanied by the votum (vow) of the Ordinary regarding the truthfulness of the petition and the absence of scandal.
The Sacred Congregation will discuss the case and decide whether to present the petition to the Pope or to ask for a more thorough instruction of the case or to reject the petition as unfounded.
* AAS 72 (1980), 1136-1137.