3/5/2013 9:45:00 AM Are diocesan priests allowed to retire early?
Deacon Owen Cummings
Q — With the resignation of Pope Benedict, it begs the question for this reader; what are the rules of resignation/retirement for diocesan priests? Can they retire early? Is there a minimum age?
A — As far as I am aware, Pope Paul VI was responsible for introducing a mandatory retirement age of 70 for diocesan priests, and 75 for bishops/archbishops. As a matter of fact, some priests will retire before this age due to health reasons or other compelling circumstances in their lives. Equally, many go on to serve as priests beyond the retirement age, of course, always in agreement with their bishop. Bishops are required to submit their letter of retirement/resignation at age 75. The same conditions hold here also — some will retire earlier for good reason, and some will be asked to remain in position beyond the age of 75. When it comes to the pope, there is no mandatory retirement age. Although it has been some 600 years since a pope resigned, there is nothing to prevent him doing so. Pope Benedict has reached the prayerful conclusion that he does not have the health/stamina/energy necessary to continue to serve as the successor of St. Peter, and so with great courage and humility he has resigned.