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Adnotationes Ad Usum Internum Alumnorum


Purpose of the Course:

To present knowledge concerning the major institutions of Canon Law. This will include matters
about the functions and the History of Canon Law, the Ecclesiastical laws, the People of God, the
Teaching office of the Church, the Sanctifying office of the Church, the Temporal goods of the
Church, the Sanctions in the Church, and the Processes. The Church as a society has a legal
system which is unique in its origins, history, inner dynamism and destiny which dimension of
knowledge can be adequately exposed through this course.
Course Description: On the introductory part the areas of interest will be, the scope, the
functions of canon law, the history, sources of canon law, principles of the revision and the
general organization of the Code. In book One General Norms the areas to be covered are:
Ecclesiastical law definition; properties of law, promulgation, obligation of law, passive subjects,
interpretation, custom, general decrees and instructions, singular administrative acts, physical
persons, power of governance, and ecclesiastical offices. Book two The People of God will
capture: Bill of rights, sacred ministers, formation of clerics, incardination, loss of clerical state,
Associations of the Christian faithful, the hierarchical constitution of the Church, universal and
particular dimension of the church, institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life.
Then in synthesis the course will cover book three the Teaching office of the Church; book
Four The Sanctifying office of the Church; book five Temporal goods of the Church; book
six Sanctions and book seven on Procedures.
Learning Outcomes:
By the end of the course Students should be able to:
1. To describe the historical development of canonical rules from ancient times to the
present legislation
2. To describe the organization of the Code of canon law
3. To explain the different institutions and how they are coordinated
4. To describe the administrative structures of the Church from the legal point of view
a) Textbooks

1. James A., Coriden, An Introduction to Canon Law, (Revised), Paulist Press, New
York, 1991.
2. Caparros E. et al, (Eds.), Code of Canon Law Annotated, 2nd edition, revised and
updated of the 6th Spanish language edition, Midwest Theological Forum,
Woodridge, 2004.
3. Coriden T. J. Green, New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, Paulist
Press, New York 2000.
Books and Articles for Further Reading

1. Sheephy G., Brown R., Kelly D., McGrath A., The Canon Law. Letter and Spirit.
A Practical Guide to the Code of Canon Law, Dublin 1995, pp. 707-747.
2. Spiteri J. Laurence, The Code in the Hands of the laity. Canon Law for everyone,
New York 1996.
3. The Revised Code of Canon Law of 1983.
5.1.T he Post-Apostolic and Early Church
5.2. The church of the Empire
5.3. The Church and Feudalism
5.4. The Classical Period of Canon Law
Principles of Revision
The promulgation of the revised Code
Organization of the Code
Scope of the Code
1. Definition of Ecclesiastical Law
2. Properties of the Ecclesiastical law

Provision, obligatory ordinance

Rationality. Reasonable character
Generality. Common character
Stability or perpetuity
Ecclesiastical competent authority
Common good.


1. Notion
2. Modes of promulgation
o General Conditions of the Subject
o The Territory
1. Notion
2. Distinction
Doctrinal interpretation
Common interpretation:
Strict and Broad (large) interpretation
Cessation of the law
a. Abrogation
b. Derogation
CUSTOM (cc. 23-28)
1. Definition.
2. Distinction of customs
1. General legislative decrees (cc. 29-30)
2. General executory decrees (cc. 31-33)
3. Instructions
1. Definition
2. Causes of nullity of an administrative act
3. Requirements for valid execution (c. 40).
1. Singular decree

2. Singular precept
3. Obligation to issue a decree. Administrative silence and its effects c.57.
1. Notion
2. Specific elements of the rescript
Chap. IV. PRIVILEGES (cc. 76-84)
Chap. V. DISPENSATION (cc. 85-93)
1. Statutes
2. Ordinances
Chap. I
The canonical status of physical persons

Concept of person
Physical persons
Relationship to rite (cc. 11-112)

Chap. II
Different kinds of juridical persons
1. Notion
2. Distinction of the power of governance
o Constitutive elements of ecclesiastical offices c. 145.
o Provisions for ecclesiastical office
1. Qualities of the candidate
2. Loss of ecclesiastical office



The people of God
Obligations and rights of all Christs faithful
The obligation and rights of the lay members of Christs faithful

Sacred ministers or clerics

1.Formation of clerics
2. Incardination of clerics
3. Rights and duties of clerics
4. Loss of clerical state
Associations of the faithful
o Notion
o Types of Associations
1. Notion of Hierarchy
2. The Universal and particular Dimensions of the Church
The Roman Pontiff
o Titles and power
o Papal Election
The College of Bishops (cc.336-341)
a) Description
b) Exercise of power
College of Cardinals c. 351
a. Functions of the College of Cardinals
Roman Curia (cc. 360-361)
b. Notion
c. Organization of the Roman Curia
Particular Churches (cc. 368-374)
a) Notion
b) Kinds of particular churches


Diocese c.369
Territorial Prelature\Territorial Abbacy c. 370
Apostolic Vicariate\Apostolic Prefecture (c. 371, 1)
Apostolic Administration Erected on a Stable Basis (c. 372, 2)

Bishops cc. 375-411


Requirements for becoming a bishop

Diocesan Bishop cc. 381-402
Coadjutor and Auxiliary Bishops (cc. 403-411)
Conference of Bishops (cc. 447-459)

Diocesan Curia (cc. 469-494)

o Vicar General
o Episcopal Vicar
o Chancellor
o Finance Council (cc. 492-493)
o Finance administrator (c. 494)
o Presbyteral Council (cc. 495-501)
o College of Consultors (c.502)
o Pastoral Council (cc. 511-514)
Parishes, Pastors, and Parochial Vicars (cc. 515-552)
a) Parishes
b) Parish Priests
o Qualities of a parish priest
o Appointment of the Parish Priest
o Functions of the Parish Priest
LIFE (573-746)
a) Institutes of consecrated life
b) Secular Institutes
c) Societies of Apostolic life
o Ministry of the divine Word
o Preaching

o Catechetical instruction
o Missionary action
o Catholic education
o Means of Social Communication and Books
o Profession of faith
Part I: Sacraments in general
o Baptism
o Confirmation
o Eucharist
o Penance
o Anointing of the sick
o Orders
o Marriage

Liturgy of the Hours
Veneration of the Saints


o Acquisition
o Administration
o Offenses
o Those Subject to Penalties -Imputability
o Application of penalties
o Penalties


o Avoid trials
o Judicial trial
o A trial has three stages
o Administrative recourse.
Every church, although based on what its members believe to be divine
revelation, is also a human institution. As human communities, churches require rules.
The Roman Catholic Church is a particularly large community of faith. The generic name
in English for the rules of the Roman Catholic Church is canon law. Law is a
familiar term. It is a measure or norm of conduct. We are induced to act or refrain from
acting in accord with the law. Laws are products of reason, and they are directed toward
the common good of the society for which they are given.
The word canon has been used to describe the Churchs rules from very
early times. Canon comes from the Greek word Kanon, which means reed, rod or ruler.
It described the measure or ruler used by a carpenter or designer. It was a standard by
which things were measured. It came to mean a rule of conduct. It is used in this sense in
the New Testament; cf. Gal 6, 16 and Phil 3, 16.
Both Greek and Latin have other words for law: nomos and lex. But the
church chose to name its rules canon because it recognized that its rules were different
from the laws of the Roman Empire.
Canon law is a rather unfortunate English translation of the Latin ius
canonicum. Ius does not have an exact English equivalent. It can mean a legal system
(e.g. Ius Romanum, Roman Law) or a subjective right (e.g. Ius ad rem, right to a thing),
or the objective of justice, that which is right, due or just. Most other modern languages
translate ius as right: droit: diritto, derecho, recht. To translate ius canonicum literally as
canonical right just wouldnt work. So Canon Law is used as the descriptive title for
the rules that govern the public order of the Catholic Church.
It names our ecclesiastical regulations. Those norms which describe the basic

structures of the church, e.g., the papal and Episcopal offices, the sacramental system,
etc. that constitute Roman Catholic Church order. Canons are rules or norms for the
governance of the external life of the church.
The canons have to do with church order and discipline rather than
doctrine and dogma. It is important to recognize that canon law contains guidelines for
actions not beliefs.
It presents norms of conduct, not the content of faith. Theology is
concerned with Gods revelation and the Churchs teachings. Canon Law is concerned
with the pattern of practice within the community of faith.
They are distinct but closely related disciplines. Canon Law governs the
external order of the church, the public life of the faith community. It does not attempt to
measure or compel personal conscience or moral judgments.
Canon law pertains almost exclusively to the external forum, the arena
of the churchs public governance, and not directly to the internal forum, the arena of
The church is a mystery, a reality imbued with the presence of God.
It is the temple of the Holy Spirit, resplendent with the Spirits gifts.
It is the sacrament of Christ, the visible and effective sign of his saving work
in the world.
The church is a communion, that is, a unique set of interrelationships among
its members and with God, based on faith and love. But the church is also a human
community made up of ornery, erring and sinful people.
The church is sui generis, in a class by itself. It differs from all other human
societies in it origins, its history, its inner dynamism and its destiny.
Consequently, the churchs system of rules must function differently from that

of any other society. Pope John Paul II, when he promulgated the code of Canon Law in
1983, described its purpose as follows: The purpose of the Code is not to substitute for
faith, grace, charisms, and especially charity in the life of the church or of the Christian
faithful. On the contrary, its very purpose is to create an order in the ecclesial society so
that, while giving priority to love, grace and charism, their ordered development is
facilitated in the life of the ecclesial society as well as in the lives of the individuals who
belong to it (Apostolic Constitution, Sacrae Disciplinae leges).
Law has at least four functions in any society, and by analogy, canonical rules fulfill
these functions within the church:
1. Law is to aid a society in the achievement of its goals. It is to facilitate that
attainment of the purpose or common good of the society. The mission of the church in
the world is to proclaim the message of Christ, to be a communal witness to the loving
presence of God, and to be of service to the world of today. The Churchs discipline is to
aid it in carrying out those central tasks. The church has a transcendent spiritual purpose
as well, i.e. the ultimate salvation of its members, their reconciliation and communion
with God. Hence, the classical canonical maxim: The salvation of souls is the supreme
law (salus animarum suprema lex; cf. canon 1752). All else must defer to this end.
2. Law is to afford stability to the society, that is, to provide good order, reliable
procedures, and predictable outcomes. The church needs the tranquility of order in its
life, just as other societies do. Leaders need to be elected, sacraments celebrated, the
word of God preached, decisions made, property administered. The community of faith
has a right to expect reasonable, appropriate and predictable ways of doing these
everyday things. The canons govern these functions, which are vital as well as stabilizing.
3. Law is to protect personal rights and provide avenues of recourse, redress of
grievances, and means for the resolution of conflicts. What the church has in common
with all other visible, human societies is relationships involving rights and obligations,
that is, a juridic order. Its juridic life must be conducted with justice and fairness for all

its members. This is another task of canon law: to articulate the rights and duties of the
faithful, and to provide means for their protection.
4. Finally, law is to assist in the education of the community by reminding
everyone of its values and standards. The church requires such continual education.
Canon law spells out the expectations of members, the qualifications for office-holders,
and ideals of religious life, not simply an external compliance with rules. Not satisfied
with justice, canon law, at its best, challenges the church to strive toward love as its goal.
Canon law shapes and guides the life of the church in many ways. For those who care
about the church, it is important to understand its rules.
The church was not born with its administrative organization in place. It evolved rules
and procedures as it grew and spread. In that process, the churchs rules were shaped by
its internal needs, the surrounding cultures, and the pressures of changed circumstances.
The long history of canon law is divided into periods:
5.1 The Post-Apostolic and Early Church (1-4th century)
After the New Testament period, the earliest records we have about the life of local
churches include:
The Didache or teaching of the twelve Apostles, an anonymous collection of moral,
liturgical and disciplinary instructions, is one of the first and most precious post-apostolic
writings. It was written about the year 100. It contains clear directions on how to baptize,
on keeping the Lords Day, on prayer, and on the election of bishops and deacons. The
Didache formed the pattern for several other small collections of rules about the life of
the church in the first two hundred years after New Testament times; for example, the
traditio Apostolica of Hippolytus of Rome (218), the Didascalia Apostolorum (250), and
the Canones Ecclesistici Apostolorum (300). They were not issued by any formal
authority. They were simply compiled customs. People wrote down the accepted practices
of their own community. Then they circulated and were accepted by other communities.
The earliest form of church discipline was the recorded customs of the believing

communities. They told of the ways that sacraments were celebrated, leaders elected and
sinners reconciled. They also reflected the conflicts and disputes which troubled the local
churches, e.g. whether to rebaptize those who had fallen into heresies and then returned.
The most significant development of this early period for canon law, however, is the
synodal or conciliar process. It was patterned after the example of the council of
Jerusalem depicted in Acts 15. The leaders of the local churches of an area would come
together, either regularly or as need arose, to deliberate and seek consensus on matters of
doctrine and discipline. This practice was common and well accepted from at least the
early third century. In the fourth century this conciliar process expanded to what we call
ecumenical councils that is gathering of representatives of the entire ecclesiastical
communion. The first of these universal councils, called by the Roman Emperor
Constantine, met in Nicaea in the year 325. It is known chiefly for its debate about the
nature of Christ. The council gave us the Nicene Creed, which we still use in Eucharistic
celebrations today. The bishops of the council also debated, agreed upon and issued
twenty canons, that is, various rules of discipline.
5.2. The church of the Empire (4 8th century)
Early in the fourth century, the church was recognized by the Roman Emperor,
Constantine, and was granted not only freedom but a position of preference and privilege.
Gradually it became the established religion. Throughout the middle of that century
successive emperors sought to dominate the church. In the late years of the fourth
century, Bishop Ambrose of Milan and Emperor Theodosius 1 worked out a relatively
balanced alliance: a positive close and collaborative relationship in which both
authorities, church and state, recognized each other as supreme in their own realms. The
church respected and supported imperial authority and policies, and the state honored the
churchs authority in matters of faith, the discipline of the clergy, liturgy and the
administration of the church property. The church had become the church of the empire.
In this new status the church borrowed freely from the well developed legal structures
and procedures of the empire. In fact the church was compelled to adopt elements of
Roman law because the Christian emperors, especially the great legal compilers of the
fifth and sixth centuries, Theodosius II and Justinian I, legislated for the church. They

included large sections of ecclesiastical rules, many of their own making, in the
collections of law promulgated for the empire e.g., the Codex Theodosianus of 438, and
the corpus Iuris 535).
The gradual evolution of the Bishop of Rome into a figure of central authority is another
key factor in the development of canon law. Because of its connection with the apostles
Peter and Paul, and because of its importance as the imperial capital, Rome had
significance as an ecclesiastical reference point as early as the third century. In the west,
bishops referred questions to Rome, and they received answers which were treated as
authoritative. By the time of Leo 1 (440-461), the Bishop of Rome was recognized as the
Patriarch of the West with an undisputed primacy. Leo articulated the theory that the
Bishop of Rome is the heir of Peter. Christ is the true and eternal bishop of all his people,
but he granted Peter an enduring share in his Episcopal power, and each successive
Bishop of Rome inherits it. The Bishop of Rome referred to as popes (from papa, father),
began to issue perceptive letters or decretals (decretales, decrees) with some frequency
during the fifth century. The decretal letters are the first manifestation of papal legislative
power. They began to be called and placed alongside earlier customary and conciliar
regulations for the life of the church.
The two most important canonical collections from the early centuries are:
1. The syntagma Canonum Antiochenum (The collection of conciliar canons made at
Antioch), probably began in the late 4th century and completed in the late 5 th century. This
collection, with its later additions, is the central basis for oriental church
law(Alexandrian, Antiochene, Armenian, Chaldean and Constantinopolitan).
2. The Dionysiana, a collection of conciliar canons and papal decretals made at
Rome by a monk named Dionysius Exiguus (Dennis the little) at the outset of the sixth
century. This compilation, in its various subsequent editions, had an immense influence
on all medieval canon law.
The fall of the Roman powerful Empire was done in the year 476. In the year 751, long
after the decimation of the Roman Empire by the invading tribes from the north, Pepin
the de facto ruler of the Frankish kingdom, was given the title of King of the Franks by
the pope. Pepin and his son Charlemagne (768-814), set about the work of consolidating
the kingdom, and they knew that the restoration of the church discipline was an integral

part of that task. They also assumed that church renewal was their responsibility as
Christian monarchs. In 774 Pope Adrian 1 gave to Charlemagne a revised version of the
Dionysiana collection of canons (called the Dionysiana-Hadriana). On Christmas day in
the year 800, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne the Holy Roman Emperor.
The Church of the empire laid the ground work for sole authority of the bishops in each
diocese, the metropolitan in the province, and the Roman Pontiff in the entire church.
5.3. The Church and Feudalism (9-12th Century)
The feudal period stretches roughly between mid-ninth century until early
thirteenth century.
The period is related to some legal concept developed among the peoples. The
tribes that had overran the crumbling Roman Empire had a profound effect on the
churchs regulatory system.
Their system of law was customary, closely entwined with the life and livelihood
of the people, and was tied to the land on which and from which they lived.
The feudal system was based on the concepts of vassalage (a personal promise of
loyal service in return for protection and recompense), fealty (an oath of fidelity), and
benefice (beneficium, income for the performance of a specific task).
For instance the local lord gave priests the revenue from certain lands in
exchange for the performance of their parochial duties. The pastorate became a benefice,
an office tied to a source of income. And the lord, owner and protector of the land,
dispensed the pastoral offices to whomever he wished, often without regard to the priests
qualifications or the spiritual welfare of the people.
The same was true of the office of bishops, residence of religious community
especially of monks living in monasteries. Greater nobles and kings used these offices
and the lands of the church to consolidate their power and income.
The clergy promised faithful service to the secular rulers. The practice had been
for the lords (laypersons) to install their chosen bishop and abbots in their offices by
investing them with the symbols of office (pastoral staff and ring)
Kings, for spiritual reasons of state, claimed the right to appoint bishops and even

the pope. Popes, for spiritual reasons, were led to claim not only the right to appoint
bishops, but the right to depose kings. Pope Gregory VII in 1075 decreed: that no one
of the clergy shall receive the investiture with a bishopric or abbey or church from the
hand of an emperor or king or of any lay person, male or female. But if he shall do so he
shall clearly know that such investiture is deprived of apostolic authority, and that he
himself shall lie under excommunication until fitting satisfaction shall have been
rendered. After nearly fifty years of conflict (investiture controversy), the issue was
fairly concluded with a compromise with the concordant of Worms in 1122: bishops
would be canonically elected and lay lords would no longer invest them with ring and
Importance of Feudalism to canon law
strong influence of Germanic law remains in the canonical tradition today.
Many elements of this tradition which found their way into the churchs
discipline include: e.g., the extensive use of oaths in judicial proceedings, stipends and
stole fees on the occasion of sacramental ministries, use of ring and staff, etc.
5.4. The Classical Period of Canon Law (12 th Century to the promulgation of the
First Code of Canon Law in 1917).
The canons of the church were assembled into an organized and rationalized body
of knowledge in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
This body of canonical knowledge was studied as a science and practiced as an
art from that time on. Collections made at the time of Charlemagne (in around 800) and
the Gregorian reform in around 1050 reflect the attempt to restore traditional discipline.
However, great confusion persisted. The work of harmonization was done in
about 1140 by John Gratian, who is also called the father of the science of canon law.
Shortly after the revival of Roman law studies at the University of Bologna,
Gratian collected all the canon law from the earliest popes and councils up to the second
Lateran Council (1139).
This collection is called Concordantia Discordantium Canonum (A harmony of
discordant Canons) or Decretum.

The scientific study of law stimulated by the Decretum encouraged the papacy to
resolve disputed points and supply needed legislations. Over the next century thousands
of papal decretals were issued and gradually collected in five compilationes. Gregory IX
commissioned Raymond of Peafort to organize the five compilationes in one collection,
which was promulgated with the bull Rex pacificus on 5 September 1234 and became
known as the Extravagantes or Liber extra. Liber Extra became the main official
document of the Church order. Two other official collections were made later: the Liber
Sextus (1298) of Boniface VIII and the

Constitutiones Clementinae (1317). The

Extravagantes of John XXII and the Extravagantes Communes were privately compiled.
Private collections which later formed the Corpus Iuris Canonici include:
1. The Decretum of Gratian
2. The Liber Extra Gregory IX (1234)
3. The Liber Sextus of Boniface VIII
4. The Constitutiones Clementinae of Clement V (1317)
5. The Extravagantes of John XXII and the Extravagantes communes, which were
private collections, formed the Corpus Iuris Canonici. The corpus, along with the decrees
of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), remained the fundamental law of the Roman
Catholic Church until the Codex Iuris Canonici appeared in 1917.
The sources of the rules which make up the churchs canonical system are:
1. The Sacred Scriptures. Both New and Old Testaments.
2. Natural Law. Those structures or values which are considered to be of the very
essence of things, e.g. monogamy in marriage, truth in speech, were and are often called
upon as basis of rules.
3. Customs. Long standing practices within the earliest church communities, e.g.
Sunday observance, the celebration of Easter, were taken to be normative. Custom is still
a source of norms.
4. Councils. The periodic gatherings of the leaders of local churches, called synods

or councils, often deliberated and settled matters of discipline, e.g. rebaptism or

reordination. Ecumenical councils, like the second Vatican council, are a major source of
ecclesiastical regulations.
5. Fathers of the church. The writings of many authors in the early centuries were
revered and taken to be authoritative, e.g. Didache, Irenaeus, Cyprian, Basil,
Costitutiones Apostolorum, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine.
6. Popes. The letters and responses sent by the Bishop of Rome were received with
special respect and gradually evolved (in the early fifth century) into decretals with the
force of general regulations.
7. Bishops. When leading bishops made pastoral judgments or rules for their
dioceses, they were always imitated and applied elsewhere.
8. Rules of Religious Orders. The constitutions or rules evolved within religious
communities, e.g. Benedictines, Franciscans, Dominicans, influenced other religious
groups and, eventually, the general rules of the church.
9. Civil law. The enactments of Roman Emperors and of later kings and legislatures
on matters which affect religion have often been accepted as authoritative by the church.
10. Concordats. Formal international agreements between the Holy See and national
governments are a modern source for canonical regulations.
7.1. Background
There was no talk of a revised Code when, on January 25, 1959, just a few months after
his election, Pope John XXIII announced his vision of a three part enterprise for his
1. A synod for the diocese of Rome
2. An ecumenical council
3. A modernization (aggiornamento) of the code of Canon Law.
Pope John XXIII created a commission for the revision of the Code in 1963, not long
after the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, and a short time before his own death.

Pope Paul VI set the commission to work just as the council drew to a close in November,
1965. He told them that their task was more than updating of a fifty year old document
(the 1917 Code). The task of the commission was to reorganize the churchs discipline
and to accommodate it to the teaching of the council. It was also to reform the churchs
canonical style, to give it a new way of thinking (novus habitus mentis), responsive to
new needs.
7.2 Principles of Revision
They are presented in summary form:
1. The code is to define and protect the rights and obligations of the faithful in
relation to one another and to the church. Its norms are to help the faithful, in the course
of their Christian lives, share in whatever assistance toward salvation the church offers
2. The external and internal forums should be coordinated and not in conflict with
one another.
3. Pastoral care is to be fostered above all, and to that end both the legislation and its
application are to be characterized by charity, moderation, humanity and equity as well as
justice. Exhortation and persuasion are to be preferred to an insistence on rights.
4. Bishops are to have the authority to dispense from the general laws of the church.
5. The principle of subsidiarity is to be more effectively applied, especially because
the office of bishop is of divine law. Where unity of discipline is not required,
decentralization should prevail, especially in the form of particular legislation and a
healthy autonomy of executive authority.
6. The rights of persons are to be defined and safeguarded, since all the Christian
faithful are fundamentally equal and their offices and duties so diverse. Then the exercise
of authority will appear more closely as service, and it will be more effective and free
from abuse.
7. Subjective rights are to be protected by suitable procedures. The administration of
justice must be improved, and the various functions of church authority, namely,
legislative, administrative and juridical, are to be clearly distinguished.
8. Portions of the People of God are to be determined territorially for purposes of

governance, but other criteria may also be used to describe communities of the faithful.
9. Penalties are sometimes necessary, but they are to be imposed in the external
forum and after judgment; those imposed by the law itself are to be reduced to a
10. The new code is to be restructured to reflect its accommodation to a new
mentality and different needs.

The promulgation of the revised Code

On January 25, 1983, exactly twenty four years after pope John XXIII ANNOUNCED
THE PROJECT, Pope John Paul II promulgated the Code of Canon Law, and declared
that it would go into effect on the First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 1983.

Organization of the Code

The code of canon law features a new and improved internal organization, in response to
principle no. 10. In the past, canonical collections and codes borrowed their
organizational design from secular or civil law patterns, with categories derived from
Roman Law. For example, the 1917 code was divided into five sections (called books):
General norms, persons, things, procedures, crime and punishments. By contrast, the
organization of the present code of Canon Law is based on the Theology of the second
Vatican council. It prominently employs the People of God language and the threefold
division of the churchs mission and ministry into teaching, sanctifying and ruling. (The
Latin word used for this threefold role is munus, which can mean service, office,
function, duty or work. Function seems to be the best translation here). This triad is
another way of describing the classical messianic roles of Christ: prophet, priest and king.
The 1983 code of canon Law contains 1752 canons divided among seven books. The
books are:
1. General Norms, concerning the operating principles of Canon Law, definitions
of juridical persons, and ecclesiastical offices;
2. The People of God describing the rights and duties of the faithful in general

and of clerics and lay persons in particular, as well as the organizational structures of the
Church, Papacy, Episcopal college, Roman curia, Particular churches, and Institutes of
consecrated life;
3. The teaching Office of the Church, the various persons responsible for
preaching, catechesis, missionary action, Catholic schools, and the rules on the prior
censorship of books.
4. The Sanctifying Office of the Church, describing sacraments and worship in
all its forms.
5. The Temporal Goods of the Church defining ownership and administration
of property, contracts, and charitable foundations.
6. Sanctions in the Church Describing various crimes, delicts, and penalties; and
7. Procedures, outlining the administration of justice by ecclesiastical courts,
various quasi judicial actions, and remedies.
7.5. Limits of the Code
In its introductory canons (can. 1-6), the code states its own limits:
1. It only applies to the Latin or Western church, not to the Eastern or Oriental
churches in Union with Rome, e.g. the Byzantine, Armenian, Chaldean, Antiochene, or
Alexandrian churches (can. 1.)
2. It does not, for the most part, regulate liturgical matters (can.2). This limitation is
especially important to recognize. The rules which guide the churchs liturgical life, the
celebration of the sacraments and other acts of public worship, are usually not found in
the Code. The Code is only a secondary source of a very limited number of liturgical
norms. Sacramental and liturgical norms are found in the introductory sections of the
ritual books or ordines for the various sacraments, for example, the General Instruction
on the Roman Missal, the Rite of Christian Initiation of adults, the Orders of Penance,
marriage and anointing of the Sick.
3. The canonical rule which apply in individual nations which result from special
agreements between their governments and the Holy See, agreements called
concordats, are not found in the code (can. 3).
4. Some acquired rights and privileges, which are not contrary to the canons of the

Code remain in effect (can. 4)

5. Some customs, either not contrary to the provisions of the code or of ancient time,
may also remain in effect (can. 5)
6. All sorts of special or particular rules, e.g., norms for the canonization of saints,
procedures used within Roman congregations, national guidelines, diocesan rules, the
constitutions and norms of religious institutes, etc, are not found in the Code (can. 6).
These various particular rules are to be in keeping with the canons of the Code, not in
conflict with them.

1.1 Division of Book 1
Title 1: Ecclesiastical Laws (cc. 7-22)
Title 11: Customs (cc. 23-28)
Title 111: General Degrees and Instructions (cc. 29-34)
Title 1V: Singular Administrative Acts (cc. 35-93)
Title V: Statutes and Ordinances (cc. 94-95)
Title V1: Physical and Juridical Persons (cc. 96-123)
Title V11: Juridical Acts (cc. 124-128)
Title V111: Power of Governance (129-144)
Title IX: Ecclesiastical Offices (145-196)
Title X: Prescription (197-199)
Title XI: Reckoning of Time (200-203)
I. Definition of Ecclesiastical Law
The Code does not give a definition of law. Nevertheless it offers the elements which
constitute it and which allow to give some definitions, among which we have:

Law is an obligatory ordinance (c. 8, &1,) reasonable (c. 24&2), common and stable,
given by a competent ecclesiastical legislator (c.23;26,) to a community capable of
receiving a law, for the common good, formulated with clarity and promulgated
according to the law (c.29)...
II. Properties of the ecclesiastical law
1. Provision, obligatory ordinance
Law is a prescription, a precept, an order imposed by who has power with the intention of
obliging to its observance. Law implies the obligation or the necessity to be followed.
The obligatory character is intrinsic element of the law. In fact, the obligation is the
essential element which creates, for the individual and for the community, the necessity
to observe the law. Law is not a mere directive or counsel, but it is something which is
authoritatively imposed. Law therefore binds the behavior of the person to whom it was
2. Rationality. Reasonable character
It means that the will of the legislator must conform to the reason, to the truth and to the
end of the community. This implies that nobody can be commanded to do what is
dishonest, unjust and contrary to reason or to divine law, but only to do what can be done
without lacking rectitude or uprightness. Law must be just, honest and it must order what
is possible to be carried out or to be observed on the part of the community not only
physically, but also morally. Law must be necessary or useful to reach the end of the
community otherwise it would not be just or reasonable and the subjects would not be
obliged to observe it because the reason, which obliges is the common good.
3. Generality. Common character
Canon 29 states that the provisions are common. They are given for all, for the entire
community and not for individuals. The immediate subject of the law is the community
whose life the law intends to regulate. It promotes and looks for the common good of the
community. For that reason law is distinguished from singular administrative acts, such

as privilege. Law looks for uniformity of behavior and does not consider the particular
condition of diverse members of the community. To satisfy such necessities or conditions,
there are singular administrative acts.
4. Stability or perpetuity
By its nature, law is stable or indefinite in time, since it is not given for a determined
time. In fact, law is still in force till its abrogation (complete revocation) or
derogation (partial revocation)
On the contrary, particular singular administrative acts such as decrees, precepts,
dispensation are given for a limited time or for a determined number of cases. However,
stability or perpetuity of ecclesiastical law does not mean it is eternal, because it can be
abrogated or derogated.
5. Ecclesiastical competent authority
There are 3 powers in the church: legislative, executive and judicial. All those 3 powers
constitute the power of governance.
1. Legislative power
Legislative power is attached to the office of governance of an ecclesial community. The
legislator must have authority on those to whom he gives law. The community can be the
universal church or a particular community.
Universal legislators
The universal legislators are those who can issue a law for the universal church.

The Roman Pontiff

As successor of Peter, Vicar of Christ and pastor of the universal church, he possesses
supreme, full. Immediate and universal power on the church (c. 331) and also on the
particular churches or determined territories(c. 333&1)

The College of Bishops

The college of Bishops, together with the Roman Pontiff also has the supreme ordinary
legislative power on the universal church and it is exercised in the ecumenical council or

when the college takes collegial action in another manner, initiated or freely accepted by
the Roman Pontiff (c.341)
Particular legislators
Particular legislators are those who can issue laws for a part of the church, that is, a
determined territory or a community.

The Roman Pontiff alone or with the college of Bishops when he issues norms

for a determined territory.


The diocesan bishop, i.e. that bishop to whom a particular church is entrusted.

The diocesan bishop is a technical expression which means in Canon law all those who
govern a diocese or a particular church sede plena (when the see is full), or sede impedita
(when the see is prohibited) or sede vacante (when the see is free). The legislative power
in a diocese is exercised by the owner of the office, personally, and not by his vicars (c.

Particular council: in respect to the universal law, particular council can issue

law for the churches belonging to that territory for which the council is celebrated (c.

Episcopal conference only in the cases foreseen by the law e.g. cc. 284; 522;

844 &4; 101&1.


General chapters of institutes of consecrated life and societies of clerical

apostolic life of pontifical right (c. 596&2; c.631&1 ;c. 29.

6. Common good
The end that the law pursues is the common good for the community. The good pursued
by the church is the salvation of souls which is the supreme law (c. 1752). Therefore,
every law must intend to the perfection of persons, their sanctification. (c. 210)
3. Notion

Promulgation is the official intimation of the law. In the church, law has effect only when
it is promulgated, i.e. when it is made known to those it is meant to oblige.
4. Modes of promulgation
Universal ecclesiastical laws are promulgated by publication in the official journal
called >> Acta Apostolicae Sedis>>, unless in particular cases another manner of
promulgation has been prescribed.
Particular laws are promulgated in the manner determined by the legislator.
According to the obligation of laws there are:
1. Preceptive laws which impose to do an honest act and oblige at the
moment and every time one has to act.
2. Permissive and prohibitive laws: Permissive laws allow to do something;
whereas prohibitive laws forbid and act and oblige always and everywhere,
3. Penal laws impose a punishment or a sanction on its contravention or
4. Laws in general are not retroactive (c 9). In the sense that it directs an
action to be performed in the future concerning an event in the past. (For instance, if one
made his first temporal profession in a religious institute at the age of seventeen, before
the 1983 code came into force, the profession is valid. What was valid will not become
invalid when the law requires the first temporary profession must be made only after one
has completed the 18th year of his age).
5. Invalidating and incapacitating laws:
An invalidating law is one which determines that for a person to act in a particular
way or in certain circumstances would result in the act itself being invalid and
accordingly of no legal effect (e.g. cc. 127, 1-2; 153,1 ;172 ; 1108,1 ;1598,1)
An incapacitating law is one which determines that a particular person, or

type of person is excluded from validly carrying out the specific act which he or she
purports to do. There are many such in the Code, e.g. 623; 996 &1; 1191 &; 1322; 1674;
in pastoral practice, the most obvious instances are those which determine the diriment
impediment to marriage, cc 1083-1094).
1. General conditions of the subject (c.11)
a. To belong to the catholic Latin Church. This implies:

the bond of profession of faith,

of the sacraments and

of ecclesiastical governance (c. 205). According to c. 11, there are two

ordinary modes of being incorporated into the catholic Latin Church:

i. The sacrament of Baptism.

ii. To be received into it.
b. To enjoy the sufficient use of reason
c. To have completed seven years of age.
3. The territory
a) A universal ecclesiastical law is one enacted for the entire church, or for a certain
category of people in the entire church, e.g. laity, clerics, religious.
b) A particular law is one enacted for specific territory e.g. diocese, a region, a
particular country, or for a specific and limited category of persons e.g. the
members of an individual religious institute. 2 conditions of obligation

To have a domicile or a quasi-domicile in the territory.

+ A domicile is a place where one has permanent quarters or the place
where one has stayed for five years at least.
+ A quasi-domicile is the place where one does not have permanent


To reside actually, i.e. to be present

c) A law is personal when it is of such a nature that it obliges its subjects everywhere,
not merely in the territory (the diocese, the region, the country) to which he or she
habitually belongs.
d) A law is territorial when it is designed not directly for persons as such but rather
for a specific territory, such as a diocese or a country.
3. Notion
Interpretation is the explanation of the true meaning of the law according to the
mind of the legislator.
4. Distinction

Authentic: It is the official interpretation (c.16&1). Reserved to the legislator

according to the well known principle unde ius prodiit, interpretatio quoque procedat
(The source of the law is the source also of interpretation).

Doctrinal interpretation (c. 17) done by experts and scholars. The primary

rule of interpretation is to find out the proper meaning of the words considered in their
text and context, because the legislator is presumed to have chosen the words carefully.
After applying the primary rule. If the meaning of the law is still obscure, one should
have recourse to the secondary rules i.e. parallel passages, purpose of the law,
circumstances of the law and the mind of the legislator.

Common interpretation: according to the custom.


Strict and large interpretation: To interpret the law strictly means to give

words of the law a minimum of the extension, while still respecting the meaning of the
words and not attributing to them a meaning contrary to the intention of the legislator.
Generally speaking, those laws which impose burden require strict interpretation; those
laws granting favours of faculties enjoy broad interpretation. Three kinds of laws are to
be strictly interpreted:
a) Those which establish penalties of any kind.
b) Those which restrict the free exercise of rights (i.e. both human rights (e.g. to

nurture, to education, to choice of state in life, etc). and ecclesiastical rights (e.g., of the
baptized to celebrate the sacraments, to hear the word of God, e.t.c.). Any law which
restricts or limits the free exercise of such rights, e.g. laws on matrimonial impediments
(cc. 1083-1094) are to be interpreted strictly so as to leave maximum latitude for the
maximum exercise of the underlying right).
c) Those which contain an exception to the law. (The Code explicitly provides in
several canons exceptions to the general law in order to respond to certain abnormal or
extraordinary situations e.g.,. the use of the extraordinary form of marriage(See c. 1127
VII. Cessation of the law
The canon law draws a distinction between abrogation, i.e. the complete revocation of a
law, and derogation, i.e. the partial revocation of a law.
The legislator may abrogate or derogate from an existing law in three ways:
b) By express revocation e.g. by virtue of c. 6 &1,1 the 1917 Code has been
c) By making a law directly contrary to the original, e.g. by virtue of c. 6&1,2 all
existing laws contrary to the provisions of the current Code were abrogated.
d) By the subsequent total reordering of the subject matter of the law, e.g. by virtue
of c. 6&1,4 any universal disciplinary norms which are wholly reordered in the Code are
abrogated; in this case, while the subject matter may be the same, the new juridical
structures replaces the old.
TITLE II: CUSTOM (cc. 23-28)
3. Definition
A custom may be defined as a common or constant mode of action adopted by a
community. Common law acknowledges that such activity can become normative within

the group or community. In fact, custom or the practice of the faithful has been a valuable
source of law in the church since its beginnings.
Two elements constitute a custom:
1. The participation of the community (the intuition of the community to introduce a
law), called material element.
2. The approval of the legislator, called formal element.
2. Distinction of customs
1. According to their relation to the law, customs are:
a) Secundum legem (according to the law), if they involve a particular manner of
observing the contents of the law.
b) Praeter legem (apart from the law), if they create a new obligation not contained in the
law, but not contrary to it.
c) Contra legem (contrary to the law), if they purport to establish a right or obligation
which is in opposition to the law.
The minimum criterion for their admissibility is that they be reasonable, i.e. in
conformity with right reason. What is unreasonable is e.g. that which is harmful to the
common good, contrary to the constitution of the church or the fundamental principles of
canon law, etc.
4. According to time (c.26)
a) Ordinary: observed for a period of 30 continuous and complete years.
b) Centennial: which has 100 years.
c) Immemorial: of an unknown and, remote origin.
4. General legislative decrees (cc. 29-30)
The term decree comes from the Latin verb decernere, to decide.

Canon 29 describes a General legislative decree as an act by which common provisions

are given by a competent authority having legislative power to a community capable of
receiving a law. General decrees issued in this fashion are true laws.
5. General executory decrees (cc. 31-33)
They are decrees that specify the existing laws or urge their existence. They are issued by
an administrative authority, not legislative. All those who exercise executive power (cc.
136-144) can issue general executory decrees. However, they may do so only within their
own sphere of competence, e.g. within the territory of their jurisdiction or within the
terms of their obligation. The General administrative decrees are therefore administrative
in nature and not legislative.
6. Instructions
Instructions are documents in which the provisions of a law are set out and
explained, and in which the manner of implementing the law is set forth.
1. Definition
A singular administrative act can be defined as a provision issued by a competent
executive authority (c. 35), or legislative authority (c. 76 &1), in the form established by
the law, for a particular case with juridic efficacy limited to that same case (c. 36 &2).
2. Causes of nullity of an administrative act
1. Defect of the competent authority
2. Defect of the written form
3. Lack of execution
4. The content: 2 causes of ineffectiveness
-it harms the acquired right of another

-it is contrary to a law or approved custom

2. Requirements for valid execution (c. 40)
1. Reception of the document
2. Authority of the document (origin from competent authority, not fake (signature,
content, seal, date)
3. Integrity of the document: no manipulation or changes, additions or cancellings.
4. Singular decree
A singular decree is an administrative act issued by an executive authority giving a
decision or making provision, e.g. a letter of appointment, in a particular case, not
necessarily in response to a request.
Singular decrees are not laws; they have binding force but only for those persons and
matters for which they were given (cc. 16 &3; 52). They can be issued only in conformity
with existing laws (cc. 50-58 &1) and prevailing lawful custom.
5. Singular precept
Precept comes from the Latin verb praecipere, to tell beforehand, advise, warn,
admonish. A singular precept is a decree which orders a person or persons to do or refrain
from doing something, especially in relation to the observance of the law, e.g. a letter of
reprimand (c. 49). The authority is to investigate the matter and hear the interested parties
before issuing such decrees and, if it is a decision, the reasons for it should be included. A
decree is to be issued in writing.
3. Obligation to issue a decree. Administrative silence and its effects c.57.
Of its nature, a decree does not presuppose a petition (c. 48). Nevertheless, in certain
cases a petition or recourse may be presented:

When the law orders a decree to be issued, e.g. in confirming an election.

Whenever a legitimately interested person seeks a decree, e.g. a decree granting te

permission required for alienation in accordance with c. 638, & 3.

In all these cases, the law obliges the authority to issue a decree within three months of
receiving the petition or recourse unless, of course, the law prescribes a different timelimit. If the authority fails to issue the decree, with the lapse of the time limit, the
authoritys response is presumed negative. This presumed negative reply brings with it
the right to hierarchical recourse in accordance with c.1737, & 1. Canon 57 makes it clear
that any authority which fails to act within the prescribed time is obliged to make good
any harm caused by the delay (c. 128).


Etymologically, a rescript means a written answer, being derived from the Latin verb,
rescribere, i.e. to reply in writing. (The practice of issuing rescripts is traced back to the
Roman empire, when the emperor, being an expert in the law, answered inquiries
addressed to him by magistrates and even sometimes by private citizens).
1. Notion
A rescript is an administrative act issued in writing by the competent executive authority
by which through its very nature a privilege, dispensation, or other favour is granted in
response to someones request. (can. 59, & 1).
6. Specific elements of the rescript
i) Answer in writing
ii) Petition of a person
iii) Content: - it grants a favour in a broad sense, i.e. something favourable to a person
which is added to his juridical patrimony
Chap. IV. PRIVILEGES (cc. 76-84)

The word privilege comes from the Latin word privilegium which itself comes from
privilegis, a private law, an ordinance in favour of an individual. Privilege is, therefore,
a favour granted to a certain person, either individuals or juridic persons, by special act of
a legislator or someone with executive authority deputed by a legislator (c. 76). An
example: the privilege of celebrating the liturgy in a rite other than ones own, i.e. the
biritual privilege.
Chap. V. DISPENSATION (cc. 85-93)
The word dispensation comes from the Latin word dispendere, to weigh out, divide,
arrange, dispense. A dispensation is the relaxation of an ecclesiastical law in particular
case. It is granted by those with executive authority or those who have been given the
power of dispensing (c. 85). Dispensation is one of the principle ways by which canon
law allows pastoral adaptation to the needs of the people. A common example: the
bishops dispensation from the matrimonial impediment of disparity of cult (marriage
between a catholic and Muslim) No one can dispense from divine or natural law, and not
even all church laws can be dispensed. Hose which define the essential constituents of a
juridical institute or act, e.g. the essential properties of marriage (unity and
indissolubility) or religious life, cannot be dispensed (c.86).
3. Statutes
According to c.94 statutes are regulation whereby the purpose, constitution, governance
and manner of acting of various juridical bodies are defined. Statutes are purely internal
norms. They are drawn up in accordance with the law. They govern juridical bodies
which are aggregates of things, e.g. personal prelature (see c. 295 &1), or aggregates of
things, like universities, associations, hospitals, etc (see c. 1232).
4. Ordinances

Ordinances or rules of order are the norms to be observed in assemblies or in

celebrations, e.g., synods, chapters, conventions, etc. They se forth the organizational
structure of the gathering, its leadership and procedures. They oblige those who
participate (c.95)
Chapter 1.
The canonical status of physical persons
3. Concept of person
Personhood is a fundamental concept in any juridical system. The word person means
the subject of rights and obligations. It is analogous to citizenship in a state or nation. The
code distinguishes 2 fundamental types of person within the church: physical person, i.e.,
individual human beings, and juridical persons, i.e., aggregates of persons or of things (c.
114 & 1). The acquisition of personality in the church means that these persons are
capable of exercising certain rights and fulfilling certain obligations in their own name.
The Code recognizes 3 juridical status in the church: clerical, religious and lay. Each one
involves specific rights and obligations, which determine the juridical capacity of the
4. Physical persons
Canonically, persons are those who have been baptized and are in full communion with
the church. By baptism one is incorporated into the church of Christ and is constituted a
person in it, with the rights and duties proper to Christians, provided that he or she is an
ecclesiastical communion (c. 96). A more complete description of the Christian faithful
and what is meant by full communion is given in canons 204-205. Those who were
baptized or received into the Catholic Church are subjects to its ecclesiastical laws, unless
they are under seven years of age or lack the use of reason (cc. 11, 99). Divine laws and
the natural law oblige everyone, those in the church and those outside it. The canons

describe physical persons in relation to their age, residence (geographical location),

relationships and rite:
e) Age

Minors are under 18, and they remain subjects to their parents or guardians in
the exercise of their canonical rights.

Minors under seven are called infants: They are presumed not to be capable
of personal responsibility.

Minors over seven are presumed to have the use of reason. They are bound
by merely ecclesiastical laws. (c.11)

ii)- Adult or age of majority: are those over 18. They have full exercise of their rights
(c. 98).
f) Residence
The place is a requirement which determines the juridic relation of a person with
ecclesiastical authority and also with the obligation to observe an ecclesiastical law. A
persons rights and obligations may be affected by territorial considerations. Canon 100
identifies 4 categories of person defined in relation to their place of residence.

Incola: This may be translated as inhabitant. He is actually located in his or

her place of domicile (cc. 102&1);


Advena: this may be translated as newcomer or temporally resident. He is

located in the place of his or her quasi-domicile (c. 102&2;)


Peregrinus: or traveller is a person having a domicile or quasi-domicile but

currently located outside that territory;


Vagus: this is a vagrant, a wanderer who has no domicile or quasi-domicile.

Canonical residence, called domicile, is acquired by actually residing within a parish or

diocese for a period of five years or residing there with the intention of remaining
permanently. One can also have a quasi-domicile by residing someplace, e.g., at a
college, for 3 months or going there with the intention of staying, at least 3 months.
(c.102). Members of religious communities acquire domicile in the place of religious
house to which they are attached (c. 103). Domicile is lost by leaving a place with

intention of not returning (c. 106). It is by domicile that ones proper pastor and bishop
(ordinary) are determined (c.107), because both parishes and dioceses are usually
g) Relationships are by blood, i.e.,

consanguinity (the natural relationships between people based on blood,

i.e., they share a common ancestor and, to that extent, the same blood (c. 108), or

affinity, by marriage, i.e., the relationship between one spouse and the

blood relatives of the other (109).

They are calculated in lines and degrees. The line of consanguinity refers to the series of
persons from whom the persons concerned are descended.
If the line is a direct, it refers to those from whom a person is directly descended, e.g., the
relationship of a child, of a grandparent to a grandchild etc.
If the line is collateral, it refers to those persons descended from the same common stock
but not descended one from the other, e.g. brothers and sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts,
nephews and nieces.
The degree of consanguinity refers to the closeness or distance of the relationship
between two persons in either the direct or the collateral line. During the course of the
revision of the Code, to calculate consanguinity and affinity, it was decided to adopt the
simpler and clear method derived from Roman law. The following diagram illustrates the

In the diagram the common ancestor is A; B and C are siblings; D and E are the first
cousins. The relationship between B and C is the second degree of the collateral line; B
and E are related in the third degree of the collateral line; D and E are related in the
fourth degree of the collateral line.

The correct calculation of the blood relationship between two people has important
canonical consequences (cc. 478 &2, 492 &3, 1091, 1298, 1448; 1548 & 2 2). Children
who are legally adopted are considered to be children of their adopting parents (c. 110).
d) Relationship to rite (cc. 11-112)
Although it is one, the Catholic Church comprises within it, in addition to the Latin
church, several autonomous churches each distinguished from the others by proper
liturgical rites, e.g. Byzantine, Maronite, Melkite, Armenian, Chaldean.
Persons normally belong to the rite in which they were baptized. A child of parents who
are both Latin rite Catholics is ascribed to the Latin rite by Baptism. If one parent is not
of the Latin rite, but they both agree that the child should be baptized in the Latin rite,
then the child is a member of that rite. But if the parents do not agree, then the child is
ascribed to the rite of the father. One who is baptized after the age of fourteen, may
choose his or her rite. Transfers from one ritual church to another are possible under
certain conditions, e.g. on the occasion of marriage.
Chap. II . JURIDICAL PERSONS (cc. 113-123)
Juridic persons are sometimes called moral persons and they are analogous to
corporations in civil law. Canon 113&1 states that the catholic church and the Apostolic
See have the status of a moral person by divine disposition. This terminology was
common in cc.99-102 of the 1917 Code. In the current Code it is found only in this
paragraph. This obviously deliberate change of terminology serves to highlight the
distinction between, on the one hand, the status of the catholic church and of the
Apostolic See as given to other juridical persons by virtue of a provision of positive
ecclesiastical law (c. 114).
Juridic persons are established either by law itself, e.g. seminaries (c: 238 &1), public
associations of the faithful (c. 313) parishes (c. 515 &3), religious institutes (c. 634 &1),

etc., or by an action of the competent ecclesiastical authority, e.g. in the case of a private
association of the faithful (c. 322&1).
Different kinds of juridical persons

Collegial: are those in which members determine its actions by their

votes, e.g. the college of bishops (c. 115). Collegial actions, i.e. elections or other
decisions, are accomplished by majority vote (c. 119)

Non-collegial: if they are governed by a person or persons to whom

they have been entrusted, e.g. bishop is entrusted with the juridical person of the diocese
and acts in its name (c. 393)

Autonomous foundations: Consisting of an aggregate of things (c.

1303&1 1). It is made up of goods or things (e.g. property, money, buildings, etc) which
are destined for the purpose of works of piety, of the apostolate or of charity, whether
spiritual or temporal (c. 114 &2)

Public juridic persons: one established by the competent

ecclesiastical authority to carry out in the name of the church a function for the public
good of the church i.e. for the benefit of the whole community of the faithful (c.116). It
must have its statutes approved in advance by the competent authority (c. 117). It is
subject not only to its own statute but also to universal and particular law. Moreover, its
property and assets are ecclesiastical goods (c. 1257 &1).

Private juridic persons: Its origin lies in the initiative of private

individuals. It obtains juridical status only when its statute has been approved (cc. 117,
322). In general, the assets o f such persons are regulated only by the statute; they are not
ecclesiastical goods (c. 1257 &2). Juridic persons are represented by physical persons,
i.e. someone who is authorized to act in its name, e.g. the bishop for a diocese, the pastor
for a parish (cc. 118. 393. 532).


Juridical acts are those human actions which the law recognizes as having juridic effects,
i.e., the effects related to rights and obligations. The elements that form a juridical act are:
-Human act: act of the will of the person acting freely.
-Social act: ordered to change the relationships with the other persons. It is a
communitarian act, within the ecclesial community. Therefore it must be external to the
person who places it.
-Legitimately placed: According to the norms established and with all the necessary
means so that the act may have juridic force. Otherwise it would be ineffective, null. The
legitimacy is necessary in order that the law recognizes its effects.
Canon 123 is concerned with requirements for a valid juridical act:
a- It must be performed by someone who is legally capable i.e. a physical or juridical
person (c. 96, 113 &2, 114 & 1).
This person must have the general capacity to perform the act, i.e. be possessed
of the fundamental requisites, e.g. age, personal responsibility etc.,
as well as the specific capacity so to act in the circumstances, i.e. be free of any
impediment rendering the person unable to act.
In addition, the subject of the act must be competent, i.e. occupy the requisite
position of office, e.g. have obtained delegation to assist at a marriage (c.1108), have
been appointed as a judge (cc. 1421, 1620 1), etc.
b- The act must have within itself all those juridical elements necessary to constitute it.
The most fundamental of these is the will of the person acting. Constraints placed on this
person may affect the validity of the act (cc. 125-126). Other such elements vary
according to the nature of the act, e.g. water in baptism, perpetuity of the marriage bond,

c- The act must also contain any further formalities required for validity by the law, e.g.
the canonical form of marriage as prescribed by c. 1108.
1. Notion
Governance in the church is an exercise of ruling power, potestas regiminis, also
called jurisdiction regimen comes from the Latin word regere, which does not mean to
rule over or dominate, but to guide or direct.
The power of governance is the name given to the authority of leadership in the
church. Such authority must always be seen as service, as ministry, in imitation of the
lords own servant leadership (Mt 20, 25-28).
Those who have received sacred orders are eligible to receive the power of
governance, and lay members of the Christian faithful can cooperate in its exercise
(c.129). Formally, the power of governance was reserved exclusively to the ordained but
now the canons clearly recognize the reality of lay participation in leadership roles (c.
The power of governance is intended for and normally exercised in the external
forum, that is, in the arena of the churchs public life, not in the internal forum, the forum
of conscience (c. 130).
2. Distinction of the power of governance
The power of governance is distinguished into:

ordinary and


Ordinary power is that attached to an office by the law itself (c. 143).
Ordinary power of governance is further distinguished into:

proper, i.e. that exercised in ones own name, like a diocesan bishop; or

vicarious, i.e. that exercised in the name of another, like an Episcopal vicar whose
authority comes with his office, but that office is vicarious, that is, a stand-in or
substitute for the bishop (cc. 131;2;475-481).

Delegated power is granted to subordinate by the higher authority to execute

specific cases. Delegated power is given to the person delegated and not to the
3. Ordinaries
Some of those who possess the ordinary power of governance are called ordinaries.
The title ordinary designates the highest levels of office holders in the church. The
following have the title of ordinary:

the Pope

Diocesan bishops and those equivalent to them, i.e., those entrusted with a
particular church like a diocese (c. 368) (Territorial prelate, territorial abbot, Vicar
Apostolic, Prefect Apostolic, Administrator Apostolic);

Vicar General and Episcopal vicars (cc. 475-481);

Major superiors of clerical religious communities of pontifical right (c. 620)

The power of governance is again distinguished into:


executive and

juridical (c. 135).

A) Legislative power
It is exercised in keeping with the canons, especially canons 7 through 22, and, below the
level of the pope and the College of bishops, it cannot be delegated. A bishop or a general
chapter of a religious Institute, for example cannot delegate their law-making
prerogatives to anyone else. Laws cannot be enacted at lower levels which are contrary to
those from higher levels (c. 135)

B) Executive power (c. 136)

1. A person. e.g. a diocesan bishop, can exercise the executive authority over his
own subjects even when they are outside of his territory.
2. He can also exercise his executive authority over those passing through his
territory, e.g. tourists, visitors, nomads etc.
Ordinary power can be delegated, either for a singular act or for all similar cases and,
most often, it can be sub delegated (c. 137).
C) Juridical power
Is to be exercised in accord with the canons, especially canons 1400-1731 (c, 135).
I. Constitutive elements of ecclesiastical offices c. 145
1. It is a post, i.e. a position of responsibility involving defined rights and
obligations, which are defined either by the law or by a decree of the competent authority.
2. It is established in a stable manner, i.e. the continuity of the post even if the
holder of the post changes, or if the post becomes vacant.
3. It is established by divine or ecclesiastical disposition, i.e. some offices are of
divine institution, e.g. the Roman Pontiff, the College of Bishops; others are of purely
ecclesiastical institution, e.g. the college of Cardinals, Parish Priests, Vicars General, etc.
4. It must be to further a spiritual purpose, i.e. the post must have at least as its
fundamental good, the welfare of the faithful and the salvation of souls.
II. Provisions for ecclesiastical office
The law identifies four ways of providing for an ecclesiastical office
a- Free conferral by the competent authority (c. 157);
b- Appointment by the competent authority of someone who has been presented in

accordance with the law (cc. 158-163). For example: on request by the diocesan bishop,
the religious superior presents one of his members for an office.
c- Confirmation by the competent authority (c. 189) or admission following a valid
election (cc. 164-177) or postulation (the election, by at least two thirds majority, of
someone who is canonically impeded from being elected for some reason which can be
and usually is dispensed (cc. 180-183, e.g. under age)
d- Simple election and acceptance (c. 178) if the law does not require confirmation.
III. Qualities of the candidate
1. Communion with the church.
2. Suitability of the candidate
a) Natural and physical qualities
i- Age (cc. 378 &1,3, 425 &1; 874 &1; 623; etc)
ii- Health cc 1041, 1; 402 &1
b) Moral qualities (cc. 351&1; 378&1, 1 and 2, 478 &1; 494&1; 483&2; 1421 &1)
c) Spiritual qualities (378 &1, 1, 387;521 &2)
d) For many offices it is necessary that the candidate be a cleric (cc. 150; 274 &1; 332;
351 &1; 378&1, 4; 1421 &1).
IV. Loss of an ecclesiastical office
An ecclesiastical office can be lost through one of the following circumstances
1. Expiration of the stipulate term of office c. 184
2. Attainment of the age limit defined by law cc. 184, 401, 538 &3
3. Death cc. 416;481
4. Resignation cc. 187-189
5. Transfer cc. 190-191
6. Removal cc. 192-195
7. Deprivation c. 196
-Natural: independent of the will of the office holder, such as the case of death, laps of

-Free: in the case of resignation for example.

-Juridic: imposed by the superior, such as the case of transfer, removal or deprivation
This book comprises 543 canons. The book is divided into 3 parts:
Part 1: Christs faithful (cc. 204-239)
Part II: The hierarchical structure of the church (cc. 330-572)
Part III: Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (573-746)
The church can be considered as a people and as a society. These two aspects are taken
up and distinguished in c. 204. As He did in the past with the descendants of Abraham,
the Lord has willed to constitute the people of the New Covenant by means of Baptism,
which incorporates men into Christ and renders them sharers in Christs priestly,
prophetic and royal office in their own manner. Thus they are called, each according to
his or her particular condition, to exercise the mission which God entrusted to the church
to fulfill in the world (c.204 &1; cf. L.G. 9 CCC 758 ff)
In the church, the fundamental and equal dignity and participation, which all have by
virtue of baptism, is exercised according to a diversity of functions, charisms and
vocations. These determine the condition proper to each person, and the modality in
which he is to cooperate in the building up and development of the Kingdom of God.
The people has been constituted by God as a church, constituted and organized as a
society in this world, which subsists in the Catholic church, governed by the successor
of Peter and the bishops in communion with him (c. 204 &2). The term subsists is not
a negative judgement to other churches. Term does not mean exclusivity, in the sense that
the Catholic church constitutes the only church of Christ. In fact, the church of Christ is

bigger than the Catholic church. But rather, the term subsists means that the Catholic
church does not lack anything of the church of Christ.
Included by full right in the church as a visible society are all Catholics, i.e., all those
individuals who have been baptized in the catholic church or received into it after
baptism, and who are in full communion with it by the bonds of profession of faith, the
sacraments and ecclesiastical governance (c.205).
Catechumens are those who moved by the Holy spirit, are expressing an explicit desire
to be incorporated into the church. The church responds to this desire, guiding them in
the path towards baptism, teaching them Christian doctrine and the Christian life, and
granting them various prerogatives which are proper to Christians (c. 206).
Canon 207, 1 points out the 2 main groups of the Christs faithful:
a) Sacred ministers or clerics (Bishops, priests, and deacons). They form the
b) Laity i.e. all Christians who are not sacred ministers.
c) Beyond this structural distinction, there exists a third class of faithful, comprised of
those who embrace the state of consecrated life, whether they are clerics or
laypersons. Their life is characterized by a special consecration to God through
professing evangelical counsels through vows or other saocred bonds recognized and
approved by the church (207 &2). However, they do not belong to its hierarchical
structure, which means that those who are consecrated are not assigned roles of
pastoral government in the church by virtue of their consecration alone (c. 207 &2).
There is a specific juridical status for each group of the faithful: clerics, consecrated
persons, and laity. Within each of this groups different situations can be found: for
example, some religious are clerics at the same time; the laity may be married or
unmarried; permanent deacons share partly in the status of clerics and partly in that of the

Title 1. The Bill of Rights and Obligations of all Christs faithful

The Code of Canon Law in force has gathered the most important of these duties and
rights in canons 208-222.
1. Equality at right (c.208): nondiscrimination, the right to equal means of
protection and juridical guarantees, etc.
2. The duty of ecclesial communion (c.209): by means of a coherent conduct
and by obedience to the laws and to the pastors of the church.
3. The universal call to sanctity and to the apostolate (c. 210)
4. The right and duty to do apostolate (evangelization) (c. 211)
5. The duty of obedience to the pastors as representatives of Jesus Christ in
those things which concern doctrine, worship, and the governance of the
church (c. 212 &1)
6. The right of petition i.e. making know to the pastors their own needs and
desires (c. 212 &2)
7. Freedom of opinion and expression (c. 212 &3). This concerns matters of
free opinion in the church, and not truths of faith or of morals sanctioned
by Magisterium (cf. cc 209 & 1 and 212 & 1)
8. Rights to the means of sanctification (c. 213). i.e. the word and the
9. Right to ones own rite and to ones own spirituality (c. 214)
10. The rights of association and of assembly (c.215). These rights include the
right to found, direct or adhere to associations, as well as the recognition
and protection of the autonomy of these associations (cc. 298-329).
11. The right of initiative (c. 216). It consists in freedom to promote, sustain,
direct or collaborate in apostolic works (schools, hospitals, volunteer work
etc.). In order to assume the name of catholic, they must obtain the
consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority.
12. Right to catholic formation (c. 217).
13. Scientific freedom (c. 218). Conditions:

-Its object are those questions of the sacred sciences which are open to
-It has always to remind the truth taught by the magisterium.
-The rights of others should not be harmed by the opinion formed.
-The rights and interest of the institute should not be harmed by the
14. Freedom in choice of a state of life (c. 219)
15. Right to good reputation and privacy (c.220)
16. Right to judicial protection (c.221 &1) means that those who hold that
they have been harmed or threatened in their rights can have recourse to a judicial
authority, so that, by means of a trial, their rights can be declared, determined, and made
to be respected
17. The right to an equitable judgement (c. 221&2)
18. The principle of penal legality (c. 221 &3) means that only those actions
can be considered offenses that have been previously described as such by a penal norm,
and that these actions can be punished only with penalties previously established, which
will be inflicted in individual cases according to the conditions and following the
procedure established by law.
19. The duty to economically support the church (c.222). The ends to which
ecclesiastical goods must serve are worship, ministers, apostolate, and charity. The
faithful fulfill this obligation normally by means of their voluntary offering (c. 1262), but
the church can also levy taxes under certain conditions (c.1263).
Finally, the exercise of these rights and duties must be based on achievement of the
common good. For this reason, ecclesiastical authority is entitled to regulate them(c.223)
Title II. The obligation and rights of the lay members of Christs faithful
The principle duties and rights which are specific to the laity are listed in cc. 224-231.
1. The right and duty to carry out apostolate. This makes reference to the
world of secular realities which they are to animate and perfect with the spirit of the
Gospel, as their proper task (CCC 898-900)
2. The rights and duties of spouses and parents (c. 226). They find precisely

in marriage and in family life the first reality that they are called to sanctify, aided by the
grace of the sacrament. By natural law, parents are the first educators of their children.
They must see to their childrens Christian education.
3. The right to freedom in temporal things, their laws and proper values.
Therefore the faithful have the right to conduct their temporal affairs in freedom (whether
in politics, or the family) guided by an upright Christian conscience.
4. Participation of the laity in ecclesiastical organization (c. 228). This is an
affirmation of the capacity of the laity to occupy certain positions in the church if they are
called by the pastors or by law (catechist, judge, financial administrator, adviser, (cfr
CCC 910-911).
5. Right and duty to a doctrinal formation (c. 229).
6. The capacity to fulfill certain ministries and functions of worship (c. 230).
The stable ministries of lector and acolyte are reserved to male laity, according to the
conditions established by the conferences of bishops (1). Any of the laity (man or
woman can carry out by temporary deputation the functions of a lector, acolyte, cantor,
commentator, and other functions (2). There are liturgical offices which the laity can
fulfill in cases of necessity, in order to supply for a lack of clerics (cc. 230, 3;1112).
7. Laity who devote themselves full time or part time to the service of the
church (c.231). i.e. teachers, administrators, doctors, leaders of associations, etc. They
must acquire the necessary preparation. There is a recognition of their right to fitting
remuneration which takes their personal situation into account, as well as the right to
appropriate health benefits, pension, social security, etc., with respect to the
corresponding civil laws (c. 231, 2).

Title III. Sacred Ministers or Clerics

Holy orders is a sacrament of service which, in its different grades, implies:
1. A special participation in the priesthood of Christ, that is essentially different
from the common priesthood of the faithful;
2. Peculiar consecration and deputation to divine worship and the pastoral service to
the brethren

3. The participation of clerics in the sacred power, integrating them in the

ecclesiastical hierarchy, which exists in the church by the will of God (cc. 129 and 207
1). All members of the church especially the pastors must be aware of the importance of
the sacred ministry, and promote and foster vocations to it (c. 233).

1. The formation of clerics

Canon 232 confirms that the duty and the right of selecting and forming
candidates to sacred ministries belongs to the church. It is an important aspect of the
freedom of the church, in which no other authority may interfere.
The church documents dealing with the formation of clerics are Christus
6; Presbyterorum Ordinis 7;14-15;31; Ad Gentes 1-6; 39; Gaudium et Spes.58; 62;
Gravissimum Educationis 10; Dei Verbum 24; and particularly Optatam Totius.
The formation of clerics must be integral. Besides doctrine, one has to integrate
human and spiritual qualities, ascetic formation, liturgical and pastoral formation. The
place of formation are minor seminary and major seminary.
The object of the minor seminary is:

The need for a peculiar spiritual formation intended not only to form good
Christian, but also to foster the budding vocation.

The need for those young people to show certain signs of vocation, or who at least
are not opposed to them, to attend the minor seminary (c. 234, P.O. 3)

The preparation of the candidates for the priesthood is ordinarily conducted in the
major seminary, where they are to live for the entire time of their formation (normally 6
years) or at least for four years according to the judgment of the diocesan bishop (c.235).

The goal of formation is to render the candidates suitable for the requirements of

priestly life and for the pastoral ministry, by means of a life of union with Christ and
through doctrinal and human preparation (cc. 244-258).

The preparation of the candidates for the permanent diaconate includes a

formation program of 3 years, prepared by the conference of bishops, which the young
candidates must follow in a special house (c. 236).
Seminaries can be diocesan or interdiocesan. The erection of an interdiocesan
seminary, as well as the corresponding statutes, must receive the approval of the Holy See
(c. 237).
The diocesan bishop must carefully watch over the functioning of the seminary
and the formation of the seminarians in its various aspects. It is his responsibility to
provide its economic needs (for which he can impose a special tax in the diocese (cc.
259; 263-264).
The seminary is a public juridical person once it has been erected. It is ordinarily
represented by the rector (c. 238), who directs it under the guidance of the diocesan
bishop and according to the statutes approved by him. Furthermore, the seminary is
exempt from parochial governance, so that the rector also functions as pastor for all those
who live in the seminary (c.262).
In addition to the rector, there must be a financial administrator and at least one
spiritual director for a seminary. There can also be a vice-rector, other providers of
formation, and teachers. All, under the guidance of the rector, collaborate in the formation
of the candidates (c.239). Additionally, the code stipulates that there be ordinary and
extraordinary confessors who hear the confessions of the seminarians in the seminary.
The confessors and the spiritual director are bound to secrecy, and therefore they
are never authorized to give an opinion with regard to the admission of a candidate to
holy orders (cc. 239-240). For his part, the rector, because he is bound to give his
opinion, must not hear the confessions of the seminarians, unless in individual instances
they request it of their own accord (c. 985).
The formation imparted in a seminary follows the program of Priestly Formation
issued by the conference of bishops, on the basis of the norms given in this regard by the
supreme authority of the church, and approved by the Holy See (c.242). Papal document
of Paul VI, Ratio fundamentalis (6-1-1970) must be followed. (Read Apostolic
Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis (25-3-1992) of His Holiness John Paul II).

2. Incardination of clerics
Affiliation (into a particular church) where they are accountable and attached.
Every cleric must be incardinated (enrolled, inscribed) in a particular church
(diocese) or in a personal prelature, or in an institute of consecrated life or a society
which has a faculty of incardinating its own clerics. Accordingly, wandering clergy are by
no means to be allowed (c. 265).
With ordination to the diaconate, a member of the faithful becomes a cleric and is
incardinated (c. 266).
3. Rights and Obligations of clerics
The rights and duties of clerics are described in cc. 273-289. They are:
1. Obedience to the hierarchy (c.273).
2. Availability for service and fidelity in the ministry (c.274).
3. Fraternity and collaboration (c.275).
4. Holiness of life (c.276).
5. Chastity and celibacy (c.277).
6. Right of association (c.278).
7. Permanent formation (c.279).
8. Common life (c.280).
9. Right to support/decent remuneration (c.281).
10. Detachment from temporal goods (c.282).
11. Duty of residence and right to vacation (c.283).
12. Clerical attire (c.284).
13. Sacred ministers are to avoid secular commitments, and especially not to
assume public offices and activity that are unbecoming to the clerical state
(cc. 285-289)
14. Exemption from military service and other offices or duties depending on
civil law (c. 283, 2).
4. Loss of clerical state

The sacrament of holy orders imprints an indelible character, and therefore it is

never lost or annulled. However, one can lose the clerical state, which means a
loss of the obligations and rights proper to the clerics. The loss of the clerical state
can happen:

By a judicial decision or administrative decree in which the ordination is

declared invalid.

Through the penalty of dismissal from the clerical state.

By a rescript of dispensation conceded by the Apostolic See for truly grave

reasons (c.290).

However, the loss of the clerical state by penalty or by dispensation does not
entail a dispensation from celibacy, which is granted solely by the Roman Pontiff (c.291).
Only the Apostolic See can readmit to the clerical state those who have lost it.
In addition to the loss of the rights and duties of clerics, the loss of the clerical
state also entails the prohibition to exercise the sacred order that has been received and
the loss of offices and functions previously received (c.292).
Title V. Associations of the Christian faithful
An association is a corporate body by means of which a group of the
faithful comes to an agreement to accomplish an activity in a stable and ordered way, and
to reach common goals which in themselves exceed the possibilities of an individual
The church recognizes, therefore that the faithful have the right of
constituting, directing, and participating in associations in order to promote activities and
goals that are in harmony with the mission of the church, (such as those which are listed
in c. 298, 1).
The characteristic elements of an association are varied:

Voluntary character: The bonds that result from it have their origin in the
commitment that is voluntarily assumed.

Stability and order: every association must have its own statutes that define it
as a subject in itself: name, social objective, finality, modes of action and
participation, government, discipline, goods, etc (c. 304).

Ecclesiality: Its project, activity, and life must be integrated in the ecclesial
communion. Consequently, associations, like the individual members of the
faithful, are subject to ecclesiastical authority.

The proper ecclesiastical authority has the responsibility:

- To issue the necessary norms to regulate the exercise of the right of
association in the church.
- To judge on the ecclesiality of every new association (c.299 &3)
- To see to it that the fullness of catholic doctrine be preserved and the
discipline of the church respected (c.305).
The authority must respect the legitimate autonomy of the various associations.
Members of an association are those who promote it of their own initiative and those
who, wishing to join it, are admitted according to the statutes (c.307)
Types of associations
Associations can be classified in various ways. The most relevant classification is that
which distinguishes them as public or private. However, these can be distinguished
further as elaborated below:
Public associations
Public associations are those which are erected by
ecclesiastical authority to act in the name of the church, for the purpose of achieving the
ends assigned to them by authority itself (cc. 301 and 313). Thus they are associations
which the hierarchy makes as instruments for the accomplishment of its mission. The
authorities that are competent to erect a public association are:

1. The Holy See for international or universal associations (cf. Const. Pastor bonus,
art. 154);
2. The conference of bishops for those which are national;
3. The diocesan bishop for diocesan associations (c. 312). By the very fact of
erection, a public association has juridical personality in canon law.
Public associations are subject to the control and guidance of the ecclesiastical
authority which constituted them, to who their higher direction belongs (cc. 314318 &2). However they have a certain autonomy defined in the statutes that must be
respected by the authority.
Private associations of the faithful
Private associations are those which are constituted by private accord among
members of the faithful, to promote activities and works which enter into their vocation
and ecclesial mission. Initiated and directed by the faithful, recognized after a review of
its statutes, but without juridic personality (i.e., the association itself is not a subject of
canonical rights and obligations), it is subject to the vigilance and visitation of
ecclesiastical authority (cc. 299. 305.322.323).
The authority is to make sure that the goods of the association are used for the
proper aim of the association. In fact, although the goods of the private associations are
not ecclesiastical goods, their destination for ecclesiastical goal must be respected (c.
Private associations are extinguished according to the norm of the statutes, but
can also be suppressed by authority, for grave reasons. In such case, their goods will be
used for the ends indicated in the statutes. (c.326).
Clerical associations:
Are those which are recognized as such by the authority, are directed by clerics,
and have the goal of fostering the exercise of holy orders (c. 302)
Lay associations

Are those which intend to form and support the laity in their own proper mission
to animate temporal realities with the Christian spirit (cc. 327-329)
Third orders
Are associations promoted and directed by a religious institute with the goal of
having the laity participate in the charism proper to the institute, adapting it to their
secular circumstances (c.303). According to the area to which their activities extend,
association can be diocesan, national, international, or universal (cc. 312 and 322)
1. Notion of Hierarchy
The term hierarchy comes from the Greek word hieros, sacred, and arche, rule or power.
Thus hierarchy is sacred governance or the persons who have power to teach, sanctify
and to rule, received from the sacrament of holy orders.
2. The Universal and particular Dimensions of the Church
There exist two fundamental levels of organization in the Church: universal and
particular. Christ entrusted the government of His Church to the College of Apostles and
put Peter at its head, giving him primacy. The one Church of Christ is also a corporate
body of churches (Corpus Ecclesiarum, LG 23): the collection of the particular
Churches, which are in communion with the Church of Rome (CCC 834).
However, this collection of the particular Churches that form the universal Church
is not the result of the simple aggregation or federation of self-sufficient subjects. Every
particular Church, precisely insofar as it is a part of the one Church of Christ, makes the
universal Church present with all its essential elements. Thus the one and only Church
proceeds and gives birth to the particular Churches as daughters, she is expressed in
them, she is a mother not produced by the particular Churches. (Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Communionis notio (on Some Aspects of the Church
Understood as Communion), May 28, 1992, n 7-9, in AAA (1993), 839-850; cf. CCC

I. The Universal dimension of the Church

1. Highest Authority: Roman Pontiff and College of Bishops
There are two subjects to whom the supreme government of the universal Church is
entrusted: the Roman Pontiff and the College of Bishops.
1. 1. The Roman Pontiff (cc. 331-335)
Pontiff (from pons, bridge, and facere, to make, meant one who bridged the
chasm between the gods and humankind) is the ancient term used for the priest in the
Roman Empire. The pontifex maximus was the high priest in pagan Rome.
The title was applied to bishops in the early church, and gradually its use was
reserved to the Bishop of Rome.
The other canonical title for the pope is Supreme Pontiff (Summus Pontifex) c.
360. The name most commonly used, pope, father, comes from the Greek pappas and
Latin papa, father, and is the source for the more formal title, Holy Father.
a- Titles and the Power of the Roman Pontiff
Canon 331 synthesizes the theological uniqueness of the three diverse juridical
dimensions attributed to the office of primacy conferred on the Roman Pontiff by the

The Pope is the Head of the College of Bishops, which he presides

over and governs.


He is the Vicar of Christ, whom he represents and from whom alone

his ministry derives


He is the Pastor of the Universal Church, and thus of all te faithful,

including the pastors.

His power according to c. 331 is:


Supreme, i.e. there is no other power above it in the church;


Full, i.e. it lacks nothing in its exercise;


Immediate, i.e. it can be exercised without any intermediary;


Universal, i.e. exercises it everywhere in the Church


Ordinary, i.e. it belongs to the office;


Freely exercised, i.e. it is independent of any of the power, ecclesiastical or

civil, without limits of time, interruption, or other conditions.

b- Papal election
According to the traditional position, the Roman Pontiff receives his power from God.
The how is further clarified by three elements:

Legitimate election


Free acceptance of the election


Episcopal consecration if the person elected is not yet bishop.

1. 2. The College of Bishops (cc.336-341)

c) Description
The college of Bishops is the entire assembly of all the catholic bishops of the universal
Church together with the Head, the Roman Pontiff. The College of Bishops is the subject
to supreme and full power in the universal church only in union with its head and never
without its head. Thus in the Church there are two subjects of supreme power.
d) Exercise of power
1) It constitutes the highest teaching authority (Magisterium) of the Church
2) It can make laws for the universal Church
2. College of Cardinals (c. 351)
The candidates to the cardinalate are freely chosen by the Roman Pontiff, and are
appointed (Created, in canonical terminology) by means of a decree made public in
consistory (c. 351 &2). The creation of new cardinals is a formal juridic act. Only from
the formal publication of their names in consistory do the cardinals assume their lawful
rights and obligations. To be eligible one must be at least a priest and characterized by
outstanding doctrinal gifts, moral character, and practical administrative and pastoral

Functions of the College of Cardinals

There are three major functions of the College of Cardinals.
1. Cardinals constitute a special advisory body that the pope consults regularly on
significant ecclesial issues.
2. They fulfill an interim governance role for the universal Church and Vatican city
when the Apostolic See is vacant (see cc. 359, 335).
3. Cardinals are exclusively competent to elect the pope according to special law in
conclave (the meeting for the election of the pope).
The cardinals assist the Roman Pontiff collegially by advising him on major ecclesial
issues and individually by sharing in the daily care of the universal Church:
a) As heads of various curial offices
b) As members of various curial congregations for five year term (PB 5, 1) even if
they primarily govern a particular Church elsewhere in the world;
c) As papal legates (c. 358).
3. Roman Curia (cc. 360-361)
The name curia is derived from curare, to take care of.
The Roman curia is the complex of dicasteries and institutes which help the Roman
Pontiff in the exercise of his supreme pastoral office for the good and service of the
whole Church, of the particular Churches and individuals. Thus it strengthens the unity of
the faith and the communion of the people of God and promotes the mission proper to the
Church in the world (PB 1).
4. Legates of the Roman Pontiff
The Pope, as the highest authority of the Church, has the right to send permanent
representatives to the particular churches in various nations and to the government of
those nations as well (cc. 362 and 363). These diplomats are not the popes emissaries or
the agents of Vatican City state. They are the official representatives of the head of the
Roman Catholic Church. They are recognized as such in international law.

The Papal legate

The papal legate is one who has official (diplomatic) relations with both the church and
the government of a country and he is called Nuncio (from Nuntius, messenger).
Apostolic Delegates
Apostolic delegates carry out only a function of representation of an ecclesial character
before the local Churches, without a parallel diplomatic legation.
Delegates in International Missions
The heads and members of pontifical missions to international organizations, or those
who intervene at conferences and congresses, have the title of delegates or observers.
These legates, both clerics and laypersons are called delegates or observers according to
whether or not the Holy See is a member of the international organization (such as the
UN, FAO, UNESCO, etc.) and according to whether they participate in a conference with
or without the right to vote.
II. Particular Churches
c) Notion
A particular Church is defined by territory, though some other criterion of
determination may exist (e.g. the rite of the faithful) (c. 372).
Only the supreme authority of the Church erects a particular Church which, when
erected, possesses juridic personality by law (c.373).
Each particular Church is to be divided into distinct parts or parishes, neighboring one
of which can be joined into groups, such as vicariates foranes (c. 374)
b) Kinds of particular churches
i) Diocese c.369
The diocese is a portion of the people of God: its pastoral care is entrusted to a bishop
for him to shepherd with the cooperation of the presbyterate.

The constitutive elements of a diocese are:

the bishop,

his presbyterate, and

the people of God. The bishop gathers this portion of the people of God in the
Holy Spirit through the gospel and the Eucharist.


Territorial Prelature\Territorial Abbacy c. 370


Apostolic Vicariate\Apostolic Prefecture (c. 371, 1)


Apostolic Administration Erected on a Stable Basis (c. 372, 2)

c) Bishops cc. 375-411

The title bishop comes from the Greek episkopos, which means overseer or
superintendent. The term was used to refer to Church leaders several times in the New
For that reason, and because subsequently bishops came to play the central role in
the local Churches, the Episcopal office is considered to be of divine origin.
Bishops are successors of the apostles by divine institution; they are made such by the
Holy Spirit who is given to them.
They are pastors in the Church, teachers of doctrine, priests of sacred worship, and
ministers of governance (c. 375, 1).
Bishops receive these offices in their Episcopal Ordination, and they can exercise
them only if they remain in communion with the College of Bishops and its head, the
pope (375, 2).
a) Requirements for becoming a bishop
A candidate for the office of bishop should be (c.378):
1. A good Christian, with virtues (faith, morals, piety, zeal, wisdom, prudence), talent,
and a good reputation;
2. A priest, ordained at least five years, and at least thirty-five ears of age;
3. A holder of a graduate degree in Scripture, theology or canon law, or at least well
qualified in these disciplines.

Diocesan Bishop cc. 381-402

The bishop, to whom is entrusted the pastoral care of a diocesan circumscription under
the authority of the Supreme Pontiff. He has the ordinary, proper, and immediate power
needed to exercise his office (c. 381, 1).
Titular Bishops
Titular bishops are all other bishops not diocesan bishops, e.g. auxiliaries, retired, etc.
They are called titular because they have been given a nominal see, one that no longer
exists, as a symbol of their relationship to a portion of the people of God (c. 376). It is a
reminder that ordained ministers have always been viewed in relationship to a community
of people whom they serve.
Coadjutor and Auxiliary Bishops (cc. 403-411)
1. Coadjutor bishops (from adjutor, a helper or deputy): are auxiliary bishops with
special faculties whose appointment also gives them the right to succeed the diocesan
bishop when he dies, retires or becomes incapacitated (c. 430, 3). The coadjutor
becomes the diocesan bishop immediately upon the vacancy of the see (c. 409, 1).
2. Auxiliary bishops (from auxiliaries, giving help, assisting): are appointed, upon the
request of the diocesan bishop, to help him, when the pastoral needs of the diocese call
for it (c. 403, &1).
Conference of Bishops (cc. 447-459)
The conference of bishops is a permanent organism which gathers together the
bishops of an entire nation or territory, for the purpose of exercising together some
pastoral functions and promoting a coordinated pastoral actions (cc. 447 and 448).
It belongs solely to the holy see to erect, modify or suppress Conferences of
bishops, which, once they are constituted, have a canonical juridical personality (c.449).
Every conference develops its own statutes, which must receive the recognition of the
Apostolic See (c. 451).

Conference of bishops can issue norms only on matters expressly prescribed in universal
law, or by special mandate of the Holy See (c. 455 1).
Internal Ordering of Particular Churches (cc. 460-572)
1. Diocesan Synod (cc. 460-572)
The diocesan synod is described as a group of selected priests and other members of
the Christian faithful of a particular church who offers assistance to the Diocesan bishop
for the good of the whole community (c. 460).
This is a consultative assembly, not permanent but occasional, which the diocesan
bishop can convoke when the circumstances suggest.
2. Diocesan Curia (cc. 469-494)
The diocesan curia consists of those institutions and persons who assist the bishop
in the government of the whole diocese, i.e. in directing pastoral activity, administering
the diocese and exercising juridical power (c. 469).
a) Vicar General
A vicar general is a priest who the diocesan bishop must appoint and who
possesses ordinary executive power comparable to bishop throughout the diocese except
for those matters the bishop reserves to himself or those areas where the law requires a
special mandate.
The vicar general must be a priest, at least thirty years old, learned in canon law
or theology, and have sound doctrine, integrity, prudence and pastoral experience, not
related to the bishop closer than fourth degree (c. 478).
The vicar general must report to the bishop, and never act against the policies or
wishes of the bishop (c.480)
b) Episcopal Vicar
An Episcopal vicar is a priest appointed by the diocesan bishop and who
possesses ordinary executive power to exercise in the name of the bishop in particular
sphere of competence (certain geographical area, certain type of ministry, etc) except for

those matters he bishop reserves for himself or those areas where the law requires a
special mandate.
He must be a priest, at least thirty years old, learned in canon law or theology, and
have sound doctrine, integrity, prudence and pastoral experience, not related to the bishop
closer than fourth degree (c.478).
c) Chancellor
The chancellor is to ensure that the acts of the curia are drawn up and dispatched, and
that they are kept safe in the archive of the diocesan curia (c. 482 &1).
If it is necessary, the chancellor may be given an assistant who is to be called the
vice-chancellor (c.482, &2).
The chancellor and the vice-chancellor are automatically notaries and secretaries of
the curia (c.482). He also acts as a notary, establishing the authenticity of Church
documents by means of a signature.
The chancellor must be a cleric or layperson of good character and above reproach
e) Finance Council (cc.492-493)
The finance council is a body the bishop must appoint, of at least three of the
faithful, clerics or laypersons, who are experts in financial matters and civil law,
outstanding in character, not related to the bishop closer than fourth degree.
This body approves annual financial statement of the diocese and prepares annual
budget in accordance with directives of the bishop; to be consulted or to give approval to
bishop for various administrative decisions of a financial character.
f) Finance administrator (c. 494)
Finance administrator is a cleric or layperson, expert in financial affairs, of high
integrity, who the bishop appoint after consultation with the college of consultors and
finance council (c. 494, &1), to administer temporal goods of the diocese under the
authority of the bishop and in accord with the budget determined by finance council, pay

the diocesan bills and draw up the annual financial report to be presented to the finance
The duties of all the administrators of the temporal goods of the church are spelt out
in cc. 1282-1284.
g) Presbyteral Council (cc. 495-501)
The presbyteral council is a mandatory college of priests which represents the
presbyterium of the diocese and constitutes the senate of the bishop, assisting him in
pastoral government.
It must have its own statutes approved by the bishop which determine the way in
which its members are designated and its mode of procedure.
About half of its members are elected by the priests who carry out an office in the
diocese; others are members in virtue of the office that is entrusted to them (e.g. the
vicars, the rector of the seminary, etc.); while others, are freely designated by the bishop
of the diocese.
It belongs to the bishop to convoke it, to preside over it, to dissolve it, to
determine the questions to be examined by it or to accept those which are proposed. In
every case, the council has only a consultative vote and cannot act without the diocesan
However, he must listen to it in the most important questions of the diocese, and
in cases expressly indicated by law he must obtain their consent.
h) College of Consultors (c.502)
The college of consultors is a required body in the diocese. Among the members of the
council of priests the diocesan bishop selects some 6 to 12 who form the college of
consultors. Whereas the council of priests meets a few times each year, this college is
called to advice the bishop in a more continuous way. The law establishes the cases in
which the diocesan bishop must as its opinion and those in which he must obtain its
consent (such as, e.g. all acts of extraordinary administration of goods (cc. 1277, 1292)
When the see is vacant, the college of consultors is not dissolved; on the contrary, it
belongs to it to elect the diocesan administrator, who governs the diocese until the

appointment of a new bishop. The administrator has reduced power, and for this reason
he needs the consent of the college of consultors for acts of major importance.
i) Pastoral Council (cc. 511-514)
The pastoral council is a body of clergy, religious and laity specially those chosen
to study and weigh, under the authority of the bishop, those matters which concern the
pastoral works in the diocese and to propose practical conclusions concerning them
This council has only a consultative role, which it carries out according to the
statutes given by the bishop. It is his responsibility to establish it, convene it, preside over
it, and publish its conclusions. When the see is vacant, this council ceases to exist.
Parishes, Pastors, and Parochial Vicars (cc. 515-552)
c) Parishes
A parish is a community of Christian faithful constituted in a stable way
within the particular church or the diocese, and entrusted by the diocesan bishop to the
pastoral care of a priest, called a pastor (parish priest), as its proper shepherd.
The parish constitutes the typical and the immediate pastoral unity of
ecclesiastical organization, in which he faithful normally receive and practice their
Christian life. Thus the efficacy and vitality of the parish is a community open to all and
where all are called to collaborate in a concrete way, according to their own vocation and
possibilities, in communion with the diocese and with the universal Church (John Paul II,
Allocution of Oct. 21, 1984 to the Congregation of the Clergy).
The diocesan bishop erects, suppresses, or modifies parishes, after having
heard the opinion of priests.
Once it has been established, the parish has juridical personality by law,
and its representative is the pastor.
Every parish has its own church to which the other churches of the
territory belong unless they are exempt.
d) Parish Priests

The parish priest is the proper pastor of the parish entrusted to him.
He exercises the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing to the
community entrusted to him under the authority of the diocesan bishop.
He is aided by other priests, deacons, religious, and members of the laity in
accordance with the law (c. 519)
Qualities of a parish priest

To be in sacred order of priesthood

To be outstanding in sound doctrine and uprightness of character, endowed with

zeal for souls and other virtues, and possessed of those qualities which by
universal or particular law are required for the care of the parish in question.

The suitability of the candidate must be clearly established in a manner

determined by the diocesan bishop, even by examination.

Appointment of the Parish Priest

Appointment of the office of parish priest belongs to the diocesan bishop,
who is free to confer it on whomsoever he wishes, unless someone else has a right of
presentation or election (c.523)
If the priest belongs to a religious institute or a society of apostolic life, he
is appointed by the diocesan bishop on presentation by, or at least with the consent of the
competent superior (cf. cc.628 &1; 738 &2).
Functions of the Parish Priest
The parish priest, as shepherd, is to ensure above all that the faithful participate
abundantly in the means of salvation: the Word of God and the sacraments, prayer and the
work of charity.
Personally and with the aid of other priests and members of the laity, he is to
promote preaching and catechesis, liturgical life and prayer, associations of the faithful,
spiritual and material assistance to the sick and suffering, as well as various forms of




From the beginnings of the church, some of the faithful felt themselves called to
consecrate their life in a particular way to the service of God and their brethren, giving
witness before the community by their separation from the world by means of the
profession of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience.
After these individual experience, there followed (first in the East and then in the
West) those of common fraternal life, determined by the prescriptions of a rule and
submission to a superior. Such communities gave rise to the religious orders. The oldest
rules, which then inspired others, are those of St. Basil in the East, and St. Benedict in the
The consecrated life carries wit it the profession, before the church, of the three
counsels of chastity in celibacy (loving God with undivided heart), poverty (limitation
and dependence on others in the use and disposition of earthly goods), and obedience
(submission to the will of the superiors).
The profession of the counsels implies their being taken on by means of vows or
other sacred bonds, through personal act of the virtue of religion, by which the person
consecrates himself to God and embraces the special state of consecrated life. This
profession is received by the church which recognizes the divine gift of consecrated life,
supports and promotes it, establishing the rights and duties of the faithful who freely
assume it.
Canon 573 is the essential canon institutes of consecrated life. The sources for the
canon are LG 43-45 and P.C.6. The canon is a combination of both theological and
juridical elements.
1. Life consecrated through profession of the evangelical counsels is a stable form of
living (c. 573 &1)
2. The evangelical counsels are a means to follow Christ more closely (c.573 &1)
3. Through profession of the evangelical counsels ones life is consecrated to God
(c.573 &1)

4. The faithful who profess the evangelical counsel seek the perfection of charity (c.
573 &1)
5. Consecration implies mission (c. 573 &1)
6. The faithful who profess the evangelical counsels are splendid sign in the
church(c. 573 &1)
7. Institutes of consecrated life must be canonically established by the competent
authority (c. 573 &2)
8. The faithful profess the evangelical counsels by vows or by other sacred bonds
(c.573 &2)
9. The evangelical counsels are chastity, poverty and obedience (c. 573&2)
10. The state of persons who profess the evangelical counsels belongs to the life and
holiness of the church (c.574 &2)
11. The evangelical counsel are a gift from the lord (c.574 &2)
12. The evangelical counsels are based on the teaching and example of Christ (c.
Canonically, group of religious men and women are distinguished into two categories:
1. Institutes of consecrated life;
2. Societies of apostolic life
d) Institutes of consecrated life
The code groups institutes of consecrated life in 2 different types: religious institutes and
secular institutes.
The institutes of consecrated life arise as associations of those who feel themselves called
to live the consecrated life according to the spirit and the rules determined by a founder
and approved by the ecclesiastical authority. In the first place there is the invitation of the
founder that is then accepted and recognized by the authority, which canonically erects
the institute and approves the rules which define its specific features. There are thus two
elements: the initiative of the faithful who intend to live the consecrated life in a given
way and the intervention of the hierarchy of the church, which evaluates, approves, and
watches over the charism and the law of each institute. Furthermore, all institutes of

consecrated life are subject to the supreme authority of the church, and their individual
members have the Roman Pontiff as their highest superior (c. 590).
The diocesan bishop can, with the permission of the Holy See, erect institutes of
consecrated life in his diocese: then the institute is of diocesan right, and it depends on
the bishop.
When an institute is erected by the Holy See, it is of Pontifical right, and depends
exclusively on the Apostolic See, by means of the Congregation for Institutes of
Consecrated Life and for Societies of Apostolic Life. Erection means the recognition
that the institute represents a legitimate and stable form of living the consecrated life,
approving it proper norms and conferring on it juridical personality.
Canon 598 1 states: Each institute, taking account of its own special character
and purposes, is to define in its constitutions the manner in which the evangelical
counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience are to be observed in its way of life
And so every institute is governed by the universal laws pertaining to institutes of
consecrated life, and by its own proper regulations (constitutions, rules, regulations,
statutes, etc.), which having been approved
Although subject to ecclesiastical authority, especially with regard to some of the most
important acts and their external activity, the institutes enjoy amble autonomy in their
internal daily life: they have their own hierarchy (superiors, chapters), their own apostolic
works, their own patrimony, etc).
Another classification of institutes of consecrated life distinguishes them precisely
between clerical and lay, according to whether or not their purpose or their activities
imply the exercise of holy orders (for example, preaching friars must be priests but not
those dedicated themselves to the sick or to schools). Obviously, all feminine institutes
are lay.
There is a difference between lay and clerical institutes, insofar as the latter, being
governed by priests (members of the hierarchy), also have the ecclesiastical power of
governance in addition to the power deriving from the tie of association (vow of
obedience). In fact, the major superiors of clerical religious institutes of pontifical right
are ordinaries for their subjects(c. 134&1)

I. Religious Institutes
Religious life is distinguished from other forms of consecrated life by the

Special dedication to the worship of God and to prayer(Holy Mass, liturgy of the

hours, fixed times of prayer in common);

The profession of Counsels by means of public vows(which can be temporal or


Fraternal common life: the religious must live in a legitimately constituted

religious house under the authority of the superior;

The public witness of the beatitudes by means of a certain separation from the

All of these aspects are regulated by the particular law of each institute (c.607; cf. CCC
Structures and governance
1) Religious house
Religious communities are organized according to houses, i.e. dwelling
places where members are obliged to live together or at least to which they are attached
by assignment.
Members are obliged to reside in the house to which they are assigned.
Each house has a superior.
The diocesan bishop must approve the establishment of a religious house
in the diocese, and that approval carries with it certain other prerogatives, e.g. the right to
an oratory where the Eucharist is reserved, the right to exercise the apostolic works
proper to the community, the right to establish their own lay association (cc. 608-611,
665, 733, 312).
2) Superiors (c. 596, 617-630)

The government of religious institutes normally organized three levels: that of

every individual community or religious, the provincial, and the general level. The
government of each of these levels belongs to a superior with the assistance of a council
(made up of several members of the institute, to assist them in the governance of the
institute c. 627), whose opinion must be heard, or whose consent obtained in the cases
indicated by law. The superiors are normally elected or appointed for a certain time.
The provincial and superior general (called moderator of the institute by the CIC)
is major superiors. In addition, there are religious institutes organized so that every
house constitutes an autonomous and independent unit (monasteries). In this case, the
superiors of these communities are major superiors. As we have seen, these superiors in
clerical religious institutes of pontifical right are the proper ordinaries of their subjects.
Chapters (cc. 631-633)
Chapters are gatherings of members whose function is to protect, in their own
area, the spiritual patrimony proper to every institute, elect the corresponding superiors,
to treat affairs of major importance and to issue norms.
Chapters can either be general, provincial, or in certain cases, of the local
Property (cc. 634-640, 741 &2)
The institute, its provinces, and its houses are all juridical public persons and have
a proper patrimony administered in accordance with the common laws of the church and
wit those proper to the institute, which must manifest the spirit of poverty typical to the
religious life.
Every institute, every province, and if possible, every house must have a finance
officer distinct from the superior, who carries out the administration of goods under the
direction of the superior.
Admission and formation

Religious life begins with admission to the novitiate by the superiors of the institute,
whose responsibility it is to ascertain a candidate possesses the necessary conditions,
which include:

Adequate preparation

To share the catholic faith

To have right intention

Physical health

Sufficient maturity

To be free from impediments (c. 643 &1)

Are invalidly admitted to the novitiate:

1. One who has not yet completed the seventeenth year of age;
2. a spouse, while the marriage lasts;
3. One who is currently bound to another Institute of Consecrated life of society.
4. One who enters the institute through force, grave fear or deceit, or who the
superior accepts under the same influences;
5. One who has concealed his or her incorporation in an institute of consecrated life
or society of apostolic life.
The Novitiate
The novitiate is a period of formation during which the novices confirm their vocation to
the institute and experience the institutes manner of life, and the superiors test their
suitability and rectitude of intention. It is normally accomplished in a house designated
for this purpose (called the novitiate house) and must last at least one year. In this time,
the novices, under the guidance of a novice master, are introduced to the demands of
religious life and formed in the spirit and life specific to the institute (cc. 646-653)
Once the novitiate has been completed, those who have been judged suitable are
admitted, according to the rules of the institute, to religious profession. Profession marks
the entrance of the faithful into consecrated life. It consists in the assumption of the

public vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to be lived according to the universal and
proper laws, and it must be received by the legitimate superior. However, when the time
provided for the successive temporary professions has elapsed, the religious must take
perpetual profession or leave the institute if it extends beyond nine years (cc. 654-658)
Expression of religious life
The religious life is expressed in various forms according to the charism proper to each
institute, but it is always marked by an assiduous application to liturgical life, especially
the Holy Mass and liturgy of the hours, by reading and meditation of Holy Scripture, by
personal and community prayer. To this there is adjoined common life and, according to
the case, the works proper to the particular institute.
In every house there must be cloisture or enclosure, also as a manifestation of the
separation from the world typical of the religious life. Cloisture will be more or less
rigorous according to the character, purpose and rules of each institute (cc. 665 and 667).
Before profession, the religious must also renounce their own goods in the form and
measure determined by the rule, whether giving up the administration of them, or also
their use of them altogether or in part; or renouncing their own property and tha capacity
to acquire. After profession, all that which the religious acquires from his work (wages,
subsidy, pension) belongs to the institute (c.668)
Communities and their provinces are juridic persons, hence they may own and administer
their own property. They are to do so while avoiding any appearance of wealth, and in
such a way as to express their version of poverty. Each community and province is to the
superior and council. The norms for the administration of church property (Book V of the
Code and especially cc. 1279-1289) must be observed (cc. 634-640).
Obligations and rights
The church has great expectations of religious men and women because of the

public witness of their consecrated lives. Their supreme rule of life is the following of
Christ (c.662).
They are to devote themselves to prayer, the Holy Eucharist, reading the
Scriptures, the liturgy of the hours, meditation and conversion of heart (cc.663-664).
They are to pursue their own ongoing spiritual and theological formation (c.661)
In addition to these serious spiritual obligations, religious are held to a duty of
residence in observance of their commitment to community life (c. 665). They are to
make appropriate disposition of their material property, in keeping with the rule of their
community (c.668, 741 &2)
What they acquire by their personal work accrues to their community (c.668 3)
They are to obey their superiors, accept the tasks assigned them, and keep
themselves free for the service required of them (cc. 601, 618, 671, 738).
Religious are also required to wear the habit or insignia of their community (c.
669), and they are bound by some of the same obligations as sacred ministers, including
that of continent celibacy (cc. 672, 739, 277, 285, 286, 287, 289).
In return, religious have a right to expect that their community will sustain and
support them physically and spiritually, so that they can live out their calling (c. 670,
737). This includes the time and resources necessary for their own development (c.661)
Religious also have both vote and voice in the relation of their superiors and their
policies of their communities (cc. 626, 631, 633).
Apostolate is the term which the second Vatican Council and the Code use to
describe what religious communities are engaged in.
Globally, apostolate signifies all the activity of the church directed toward the
attainment of the goal of spreading the Kingdom of Christ everywhere, of causing
everyone to share in Christs saving redemption.
Within that large purpose, each religious community has its own characteristic
services, ministries and works to perform; these constitutes the corporate apostolates of
the community, e.g. evangelization, teaching, parish ministry, care for the poor or the sick

(c.676). However, the primary apostolate of all religious consists in the witness given by
their consecrated lives (c.673).
Apostolate action belongs to the very nature of active religious communities;
their apostolic activities proceed from their union with God and are carried on in
communion with the church (c. 675).
Communities are to retain the mission and works proper to them, but they are
also to accommodate them to contemporary needs (c.677).
It is in the apostolate that religious communities and diocesan bishops must
relate to one another, for the pastoral welfare of the people.
Religious communities enjoy autonomy of life and governance (c.586), but
religious are subject to the authority of the bishop in four areas:

The care of souls.

Public worship

The works of the apostolate

Specific tasks or offices which the bishop assigns to them (c. 678, 681682)

Consultation, coordination and cooperation between religious communities

and bishops are required in these areas of apostolic activity (cc.678 &3, 680-682, 394)
Religious should enter into written agreements when assuming and assigning
responsibilities in a diocese (c.681 &2).
In addition, the bishop has the right to visit the churches, oratories, schools
and other works carried on by religious in the diocese (c.683).
The separation of a religious from his own institute can happen under the following
1. By transfer to another religious institute; with the consent of the supreme
moderator of each institute and of their councils, and after completion of a threeyear period of probation. To pass from a secular institute to a society of apostolic
life, it is necessary to have the permission of the Holy See(684-685, 744)

2. Departure
a) By exclaustration or temporary departure from ones institute by means of an
indult (concession) or even imposed for a grave reason. Exclaustration is a permission to
live outside the cloisture, given by the supreme moderator for a period of up to three
years. It carries with it the suspension of certain rights and duties but not the loss of state,
so that the religious continues to remain dependent on and under the care of his superiors
and also of the local ordinary (cc. 686-687, 745).
b) Definitive departure

By expiration of temporary profession if he decides to abandon the institute,

or if the institute does not admit him to a subsequent profession for just and
grave reasons (cc. 6688-690).


By indult to leave the institute definitively, requested by the interested party

and conceded by the Holy See (if the institute is of pontifical right), or by the
diocesan bishop (if it is of diocesan right cc. 691-693, 794).

3. By dismissal
Permanently professed members of religious institutes may be dismissed on three
a- One who publicly leaves the catholic faith or who attempts marriage is dismissed
ipso facto by the canons (c. 694)
b- One who commits murder, abortion, and other violent crimes, or a cleric who
lives in concubinage or other scandalous sexual arrangement, must be dismissed, and the
major superior initiates action to that end (c. 695).
c- One who has committed other very serious and publicly established offenses
against the church or consecrated life may be dismissed, but only after repeated warnings
and opportunities to be heard. If the process is concluded with decree of dismissal, the
decree must express the motives and then be confirmed by the Holy See or by the
diocesan bishop, and the person expelled has the right to recourse against the decree (cc.
696-701). Both an indult of definitive departure and dismissal carry with them the
dispensation of vows and from all obligations and rights deriving from profession.
However if the religious is a cleric, he continues to be one and must find a bishop who
wishes to accept him in his diocese(cc. 694-704)

When a religious is appointed bishop, he continues to belong to his institute, but is

under the obedience only to the Holy See. This norm has the purpose of guaranteeing the
freedom and independence of bishop in carrying out the office with which he has been
entrusted (cc. 705-707)


Secular institutes are institutes that propose to live the consecrated life in the
The members are not religious.
They seek sanctification of earthly realities operating from within as leaven (CCC
928-929). They do not assume the religious state, but remain in their lay or
clerical conditions (cc. 710-711)
The members of secular institutes profess the evangelical counsels of chastity in
celibacy, poverty and obedience, assuming by the means of vows or other sacred
bonds- promises, oaths) in the way defined in each institute.
These ties are not public professions even if they are recognized by the church (c.
Difference from religious institutes
In contrast to religious institutes, common life is not proper to secular institute,
for which reason their members live in the ordinary conditions of the world either alone
in their families or in fraternal groups in accordance with the constitution (c.714).
However, the members are united among themselves by a spirit of true fraternity
and participate in the life of the institute (c. 716).
The members gives witness to their consecration in the world by means of fidelity
to their commitments, the coherence of their lives in the midst of earthly realities which
they seek to animate with the force of the Gospel and also with their collaboration in the
service of the ecclesial community, always in accordance wit the secular manner of life
proper to them (c.713).

The clerics of secular institutes can be incardinated in the diocese (and then they
depend on the diocesan bishop like the other clerics of the diocese), or in the institute
itself to dedicate themselves to its government or its specific apostolate (c. 715).
Organization and government
The organization and government of secular institutes must be defined in their
own constitutions within the general framework of the institutes of consecrated life and
that which is specific to secular institute.
Likewise, for that which concerns temporal goods and economic relations
between the institute and the members, the constitutions will express their own way of
living poverty, both individually and communally.
With regard to the incorporation of member of the faithful into asecukar institute,
there is a period of probation (not of novitiate)
After this is completed, one may proceed to the first incorporation assuming the
three counsels with a temporary sacred bond.
After at least five years, one can be admitted to definitive incorporation by means
of perpetual bonds (or temporary bonds, to be renewed perpetually).
Separation from the institute occurs in ways similar to those for the religious.
Societies of Apostolic life are institutes comparable to those of consecrated life.
The members of these societies are committed to an area of the apostolate or
mission of the church, to the common life, and to al life of charity, but not through
the profession of public vows (although many profess the evangelical counsels in
some other form e.g. promise, pledge or consecration c. 731).

The members of societies of Apostolic Life, without religious vows, conduct a

fraternal life of community and dedicate themselves to an apostolic purpose
proper to the society.
Although in themselves they are not institutes of consecrated life, the dispositions
regarding such institutes are applied to them (with regard to canonical erection,
the types of society, their autonomy, etc.), adapted to the nature and characteristics
of each them.
Societies of Apostolic life include many of the more modern missionary groups
such as Missionaries of Africa, Daughters of charity, Society of the Precious
Blood, Paulists, Pallotttines etc.


1. Introduction
The church has a duty and right to preach the gospel to all nations. This includes
the right to teach about moral principles, social justice, and human rights.
Jesus Christ entrusted the revealed truth to the church to safeguard, contemplate,
announce, and explain, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
There are three offences against the faith:
1. Heresy, the obstinate denial or doubt of a truth that is to be believed with divine
and catholic faith;
2. Apostasy, the total repudiation of the Christian faith;
3. Schism, the refusal of submission to the pope or of communion with the members
of the church.
2. Ministry of the divine Word
In the ministry of the Word, the mystery of Christ is to be set forth in its entirety,
based on the Scriptures, tradition, liturgy, the magisterium, and the life of the
Every available means is to be used to proclaim Christian teaching.
Everyone in the Church has a part to play in this pre-eminent ministry: the Pope
and the college of bishops, individual bishops, presbyters, deacons, religious,

a. Preaching
It is the word of the living God that gathers Gods people together.
Bishops have the right to preach everywhere (can. 763)
Presbyters and deacons have the faculty to preach everywhere, with at least the
presumed permission of the person in charge of the church (can. 764)
Preaching to religious in their own oratories requires the permission of their
superior (can. 765).
Laypersons can be permitted to preach in church in cases of necessity or
usefulness (can. 766).
Homily at Mass is the pre-eminent form of preaching; it is a part of the liturgy
itself and is reserved to presbyters and deacons.
A homily is an exposition of mysteries of faith and norms regarding Christian
living from sacred texts of the liturgical year.
This includes the dignity and freedom of the human person, the unity and stability
of the family, the just distribution of material goods, the quest of peace. (can.
b. Catechetical instruction
This is the explanation of Gospel for evangelization to those who are already
members of the church
Catechesis is that form of the ministry of the word directed toward those who
have been evangelized, that is who have heard the gospel and responded in faith.
Catechetical instruction aims at rendering that faith lively, explicit, and operative.
The bishop is to facilitate and oversee the catechetical effort in the diocese; the
pastor has a central, coordinating responsibility to provide for catechetical
formation of adults, young people, and children of the parish.
c. Missionary action
The church is missionary by its very nature, and evangelization is a
fundamental duty of the people of God.

Missionary activity aims at implanting the Church where it has not yet taken
It means sending heralds of the gospel among people who have not heard it,
until young churches are fully established and able to mount their own
evangelization efforts (can. 786).
d. Catholic education
The church has a duty and right to educate people because of its divinely given
mission to help them attain the fullness of their Christian lives.
Pastors have the responsibility to see that all of the faithful can enjoy some form
of Catholic education
i. Schools

The Church has right to found and run schools of whatever kind, and the
faithful should support them.

This is a call for the establishment of Catholic Schools to provide parents

with the opportunity for the Catholic education of children.

To be called Catholic a school must be under the control of the competent

authority of the Church in a written document.

It is required that education and instruction in a Catholic school be based on

the principles of Catholic doctrine.

Therefore, teachers must be outstanding in true doctrine, in the witness of

Christian life and in their teaching ability. The bishop must make sure that
spiritual assistance is provided for the school community.

ii. Catholic Universities and other institutes of higher studies

The church, in the exercise of its teaching office, claims the right to found
and operate institutions of higher learning (can. 807)
The bishops conferences are to see to the establishment and distribution of
such schools in their territories (can 809).
Bishops are to provide, in particular, for the establishment of faculties or
chairs of theology in Catholic Universities (can. 811)

To be called Catholic, the university must get the consent of the ecclesiastical
The university teachers must show outstanding scientific and pedagogical,
integrity of doctrine and uprightness of life.
The diocesan bishop must make sure that the university community is
provided with adequate pastoral care.
iii. Ecclesiastical Universities and Faculties.
Are those established or approved by the Apostolic See. The approval is done
through the approval of the statutes and programs.
These universities confer ecclesiastical degrees which have canonical effects in
the church.
e. Means of Social Communication and Books
The church has the right to use the various types of the means of social
communication for its evangelizing mission.
The canons impose on Church leaders a duty of general vigilance over
publications and other media of communication, in order to preserve the integrity
of faith and morals of the faithful.
Certain publications, however, are very closely related to the churchs own
teaching and worship, and the church tries to exercise greater control over them.
It requires permission or approval to publish books of sacred scriptures, liturgical
books, catechisms, textbooks on theological disciplines for use in schools,
publications displayed or distributed in churches, collections of decrees or official
acts of a Church authority, like a council or synod.
For priests and religious Brothers and Sisters in order to publish, they need an
imprimatur from the bishop.
The imprimatur means that the Bishop declares that in the book there are no errors
in so far as doctrine and morals are concerned.
f. Profession of faith

The profession of faith is required of some people before they take up offices or
take part in some activities of the Church such as Ecumenical Council, Synods, bishops,
pastors, Catholic university rectors and teachers of theology, etc,. as spelt in c. 833.


To sanctify means to make holy, and to glorify the Holy one. The churchs work of
sanctification is focused on its public acts of worship of God, the sacred liturgy, and
certain other devotional and penitential practices.
1. Sacraments in general
Sacraments are the actions of Christ and the church, which express and
strengthen faith, worship God, and effect the sanctification of humankind.
The sacraments both establish and manifest ecclesial communion.
Ministers and faithful should celebrate the sacraments with the greatest reverence
and care.
There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance,
Anointing, Orders and Marriage. Baptism is the gate to the sacraments.
Full Christian initiation consists of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and
Eucharist. The faithful has a right to the sacraments. Therefore ministers cannot
refuse the sacraments to those who ask for them at appropriate times and properly
It is the duty of the pastors and the entire community to prepare those who seek
the sacraments by suitable evangelization and catechesis.
The Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and others cannot be repeated.
If after careful observation, there is prudent doubt whether one was actually or
validly conferred, then it is to be conferred conditionally.

Baptism causes men and women to be freed from sin, reborn as children of God,
configured to Christ, and incorporated into the Church. It is necessary for
salvation. Baptism is conferred by a washing with water accompanied by the
required form of words, i.e., the Trinitarian formula.
The ordinary minister of Baptism is a bishop, presbyter, or deacon. In case of
necessity (danger of death), any person who has the requisite intention may also
Every person not yet baptized is able to be baptized. Adults, in order to be
baptized, must be willing, sufficiently instructed, and proven in the Christian life
through the catechumenate.
Infants are to be baptized within the first weeks after the birth.
Parents must consent to the infants baptism, and there must be a founded hope
that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such hope is lacking,
baptism should be deferred.
The baptized is given a sponsor (godparent) to present the person for baptism and,
after that, to help the baptized to faithfully lead a Christian life.
The sacrament of confirmation is a continuation on the path of Christian
initiation, enriching the baptized with the gift of the Holy Spirit and bonding them
more perfectly to the Church.
It strengthens them to be witnesses of Christ by word and work.
Confirmation is conferred by anointing with chrism on the forehead, which is
done by the imposition of the hand and the prescribed words.
The word chrism comes from the Greek chriein, to anoint.
The bishop is the ordinary minister of the sacrament of confirmation, but
presbyters who have the faculty in virtue of the canons or by special concession of
the bishop can also confirm

The Holy Eucharist is the most august of all the sacraments; all the others are
ordered to it.
In the Eucharist, Christ himself is contained, offered, and received.
By it the Church lives and grows.
The Eucharistic sacrifice is the summit and source of all Christian worship and
It signifies and brings about the unity of Gods people; but it builds up the body of
It is the memorial of the death and resurrection of the lord, the perpetuation of the
sacrifice of the cross.
The faithful are to hold the Eucharist in highest honor, actively participating in its
celebration, receiving it frequently and devoutly, and worshipping it.
The celebration of the Eucharist is the action of Christ and the church. In it Christ
offers himself to God the Father and gives himself as spiritual food to the faithful
who join in his offering. He does this by means of a priest.
And Christ himself is substantially present under the species of bread and wine.
In the Eucharistic banquet the people of God are called together and all, laity and
clergy, participate according to their diverse liturgical roles. The celebration is to
be carried out in such a way that it is fruitful for all who take part.
The minister of the Eucharistic celebration is solely an ordained priest. Ordained
ministers, i.e. bishops, presbyters, deacons are the ordinary ministers of Holy
Communion, but laypersons may be deputed to distribute communion as well, at
or outside of Mass.
Viaticum is Holy Communion for those in danger of death. The term is Latin for
via tecum, with you on the way, meaning provision for a journey. Here it means
spiritual nourishment for the journey to the life.
The church takes special care that it is provided, and so makes it a responsibility
of pastors, parochial vicars, and chaplains to bring the Eucharist to the sick.

Any baptized person who is not prohibited by canon law can and must be
admitted to Holy Communion. This fundamental right to Eucharistic communion
is based on a persons ecclesial communion.
Children are to have adequate knowledge and careful preparation in order to be
admitted to the Eucharist: They should be able to receive the body of the lord wit
faith and devotion.
A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the
Body of the Lord without first going to sacramental confession. If there is a grave
need to celebrate or receive and no opportunity to confess, the person is to make
an act of perfect contrition and include the intention of confessing as soon as
Anyone who has been formally excommunicated or interdicted is not to be
admitted to communion, nor is a person who obstinately persists in manifest grave
In the sacrament of penance, the faithful confess their sins to the Churchs
minister, express their sorrow for them, and state their intention to reform.
They obtain from God forgiveness for their sins through the absolution of the
minister, as they re reconciled with the Church (can. 959).
Individual and integral confession and absolution is the ordinary way in which the
faithful who are aware of serious sin are reconciled with God and with the church.
Confessions are to be heard in churches or oratories, and confessionals or
reconciliation chapels are to be made readily available for this purpose (can. 964)
The canons state that bishops and pastors have the faculty to hear confessions in
virtue of their office (can. 968, chap,1).
Bishops grant the faculty to presbyters, both secular and religious (can. 969,
chap.1); it should be given in writing (can. 973). Those who have pastoral offices
are obliged to hear the confessions of the faithful when they reasonably request,
and to give them the opportunity for confessions at times regularly scheduled for
their convenience.

A very special level of confidentiality surrounds sacramental confession, because

in it the penitent reveals secrets of conscience to the confessor who is acting as
Gods minister.
This sacramental seal is inviolable; the confessor must not betray the penitent, by
word or in any other way, for any reason (cann. 983, 1388). Nothing that the
penitent reveals in order to receive absolution (i.e. sins, circumstances,
companions) can be revealed; the secrecy is total.
The faithful are to dispose themselves for conversion of heart, a turn toward God,
by a repudiation of their sins and a purpose of amendment (can. 987). The faithful
are obliged to confess, in kind and number, all of the serious sins committed after
baptism and not previously absolved through the sacrament of penance (can. 988).
Anointing of the sick
In the sacrament of anointing, the church commends to the suffering and glorified
Lord the faithful who are seriously ill, so that he might alleviate their suffering
and save them.
The sacrament is conferred by anointing with oil accompanied by the words of the
ritual (can. 998).
The sacrament of anointing of the sick was formerly known as extreme unction
or last anointing, and it was perceived as reserved for persons at the point of
The second Vatican council restored the sacrament to its earlier purpose, namely
prayer, support, and healing for those who are seriously ill.
Every priest, and only a priest, validly administers the anointing of the sick. (In
the ministering of the sick sacramentally, the proper sequence to be followed is
penance, anointing, and Viaticum)
Some among the Christians faithful are made sacred ministers by means of the
sacraments of orders.

They are consecrated and deputed to nourish the people of God by performing
the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing in the performing in the
person of Christ (can. 1008).

The three orders are episcopacy, presbyterate, and diaconate; they are conferred
by the imposition of hands of the ordaining bishop and te consecratory prayers
prescribed in the liturgical books (can. 1009) (The term orders comes from the
Latin ordo,meaning an order, rank, class, or band. Ordination means being
incorporated into a group of order, i.e., into the college of bishops or the
presbyterium, as well as being commissioned for public ministry in the church.
The minister of ordination is a consecrated bishop (can.1012)
Only baptized males receive ordination validly (can. 1024). They must also
have been confirmed (can. 1033), and they must be judged useful for the
ministry of the church(can. 1025, 2) (Disqualifications or impediments for
orders are of two kinds: permanent (called irregularities) and temporary (called
impediments) (can 1040). The following are irregular for orders:
1. Those who are insane or suffer a serious psychic defect;
2. Apostates, schismatics, and heretics;
3. Those who have attempted marriage when already bound by marriage, orders,
or vows, or whose partners were in vows;
4. Those who have committed murder or abortion or positively cooperated in
5. Those who have mutilated themselves or others, or attempted suicide;
6. Those who performed an act of orders while lacking the order or while
prohibited from exercising the order (can. 1041).
The following are simply impeded from orders:
1. Those who are married (except for the permanent diaconate);
2. Those who hold offices forbidden to clerics (cann. 285-286)
3. Those who are new in the catholic faith.
The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between

themselves a partnership of their whole life, and which of its own very nature is ordered
to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children, has,
between the baptized, been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament (can.
1055, &1).
The essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility, which in
the Christian marriage have a special firmness because it is a sacrament.
Diriment impediments to marriage
A diriment impediment renders a person incapable of contracting marriage
validly (can.1073). Impediments are canonical obstacles to marriage. The code lists
twelve diriment impediments to marriage.
1. Age: A man under sixteen or a woman under fourteen years of age (can. 1083).
2. Impotence: The inability to have sexual intercourse, on the part of the man or the
woman (can. 1084)
3. Prior bond: One who is still bound by an existing valid marriage (can. 1085)
4. Disparity of cult: One partner is a baptized Catholic, or has been received into the
Church, and not formally left it, and the other person is not baptized (can. 1086)
5. Orders: Those who have been ordained deacons, presbyters, or bishops (can.
6. Vow of Chastity: Those who are bound by the permanent vow of chastity taken in
a religious community.
7. Abduction: A man who abducts or detains a woman for the purpose of marriage
cannot validly marry her, at least not until she has been freed and willingly agrees to
marry him. (can. 1089)
8. Coniugicide: One who causes the death of ones own spouse or the spouse of an
intended marriage partner, or conspires with that person to kill the spouse of one of
them (can.1090)
9. Consanguinity: Blood relatives. In the line of direct descendants marriage is
invalid, and it is also invalid in the collateral line up to and including the fourth
degree. (can. 1091)

10. Affinity: Relatives by marriage; all degree of the direct line, e.g. a man cannot
marry his former wifes mother or daughter, nor a woman her former husbands father
or son. (can. 1092).
11. Public propriety: those who lived together in an invalid marriage or in public
concubinage may not in future mature Mary one anothers blood relatives in the first
degree of the direct line (can 1093)
12. Adoption: legal relationship resulting from adoption; all degrees of direct line, and
the second degree of the collateral line, e.g. an adopting parent cannot marry the adopted
child, nor may the adopted child marry a brother or sister in the family (can. 1095).
Some impediments of the marriage impediments can be dispensed, that is, church
authority can relax the law or set the impediment aside in a particular case for a
good reason (can 85-93), e.g. disparity of a cult. The impediments of impotence,
the bond of prior marriage, and the closest degrees of consanguinity cannot be
Consent makes marriage. Matrimonial consent is the act of the will by which a
man and a woman mutually give and accept each other in order to establish marriage
(can. 1057). The couple must be present together for this exchange of consent (can.
1104), and the internal consent of their minds is presumed to accord with the words they
speak (can 1101, 1.)
Other Acts of Divine Worship include:
1. Sacramentals: are sacred signs, something like the sacraments, which signify
spiritual effects obtained through the prayer of the Church; e.g. holy oils, altars, holy
water, Stations of the Cross, blessed rosaries, etc.
2. Liturgy of the Hours: In carrying out the priestly functions of Christ, the church

celebrates the liturgy of the hours. In it, Gods people hear his words to them and recall
the mystery of salvation. The church praises God in song and prayer and ask God for the
salvation of the entire world (can. 1173).
3. Funerals: In its funeral rites the church asks spiritual aid for the departed, honors
their bodies and brings the support of hope to the living. The Christian faithful are
entitled to funeral rites (can. 1176)
4. Veneration of the Saints: The Church recommends the veneration of the Blessed
Mother and the cult of other saints (can. 1186). Their images may be displayed in
churches, but in moderation and good state (can.1188)
5. Vows: A vow is a promise made to God. It is an act of worship, and it obliges by
reason of the virtue of religion. Avow can be taken for example, to make a pilgrimage, to
remain a virgin, to abstain from alcohol or drugs, to devote oneself to the poor, etc.
6. Oaths: An oath is the invocation of Gods name in witness to the truth of what is
asserted or promised (can. 1199). It also obliges by reason of the virtue of religion (can.
1200). An oath can be taken for example, to give true evidence, to faithfully fulfill an
office, to complete a task, etc.
Temporal goods, in contrast to spiritual goods, are those that have economic
value. The Catholic Church has the right to acquire, retain, administer, and alienate (i.e.
transfer) temporal goods in pursuit of its own ends, namely to conduct divine worship, to
provide for the support of its ministers, and to perform works of the apostolate and of
charity, especially toward the needy (can.1254)
1. Acquisition
The church can acquire temporal goods by any just means (e.g. subsidies,
bequests, endowments, purchases. Etc.), but ultimately the principle source of its goods is
the free-will offerings of its members.
The church claims the right to require from the faithful the means to achieve its
ends.(cann. 1259-1260)
The members of the church have the right and obligation to assist the church with

its legitimate necessities, and the diocesan bishop must remind them of that duty and urge
its fulfillment (cann. 222, 1261).
Collections for the special needs(parochial, diocesan, national, or universal) are
an additional way the faithful assist specific projects (can. 1262). The diocesan bishop
can levy a moderate tax on all of the public juridic persons of the diocese. The tax is to be
proportionate to the income of the juridic person (can 1263).
2. Administration
The pope is called the supreme administrator of all ecclesiastical goods, in virtue
of his primacy of governance (can. 1273)
All administrators of church property are to act as faithful stewards of what is
entrusted to them. They are obligated to follow the canons, and they take an oath to be
good and faithful administrators.
They are to make inventories of the goods under their care, see that they are
insured, comply with relevant civil laws, collect revenues, pay interest, invest funds, keep
accounts, prepare budgets, make annual reports, safeguard records, and pay employees
decent family wages (cann. 1282-1284, 1286-1287).
To do something beyond these acts of ordinary administration, e.g. to make
major expenditures, construct a building, establish a school, etc., the administrator must
have the written authorization of the bishop or major religious superior. If the
authorization is not obtained, the action is invalid (can. 1281).
Punitive action is sometimes required for the good of the individual offender and
for the integrity of the community. Those are the two purposes of penalties in the church:
1. The conversion, repentance, and reconciliation of the offending person, and
2. The restoration of justice and reparation of scandal, i.e. the repair of harm done to
the community and the deterrence of abuse (can. 1341).
The church claims the right to punish its offending members with penal

sanctions (can. 1311). However, not every offence a member commits is punishable.
Only canonical offences can be punished.
A canonical offence has three essential elements:
1. It is an external violation,
2. which is gravely imputable to the person by reason of deliberate intent or culpable
3. of a law or precept which a penalty is attached (can. 1321).
An external violation is an infraction committed in the realm of the
churchs public life, not something that is solely in the world of intentions or in the forum
of conscience (can. 1330)
Those Subject to Penalties-Imputability
When an external violation of the penal canons occurs, imputability is
presumed, unless it is evident that the person was not imputable (can. 1321, 3).
However, if the person violated the penal law or precept simply because of a lack of due
diligence, i.e. unintentionally, he or she is normally not punished (cann. 1321, 2; 1389,
2 contains an exception)
The grave moral imputability required for punishable offence implies a free
and deliberate human act. Some persons are incapable of such acts e.g. those who lack
the use of reason and therefore are incapable of an offence (can. 1322).
Many others have their freedom or awareness diminished, and they are not
subject to penalties; those under 16 years of age, those unaware that the action was a
violation, those who acted accidentally while mentally disturbed or under threat or force,
great fear, necessity, or serious inconvenience or, in self defense or the defense of another
(can. 1323).
Application of penalties
The ordinary, e.g. bishop or the major superior of a clerical religious
community is the one who initiates penalty procedures, but he is only to do so as a last
resort when all other pastoral means have failed to repair a scandal, restore justice and
reform the accused (can. 1341).

He must observe canonical procedures; the faithful have that as basic right
(can. 221 3).
The ordinary makes a preliminary investigation into the alleged offence and
its imputability (can. 1717) then he makes a decision of making punitive actions and
chooses whether to proceed judicially or administratively.
The canons clearly favour a judicial process because of the grater safeguards
for the rights of the accused (can.1342, 1718, 1721, 1723, 1481 &2).
In either process the accused must be given the opportunity to be heard in his
or her own defence and he should be provided with canonical counsel (can. 1720, 1725,
1723, 1481).
The usual and preferred procedures for applying or declaring penalties calls
for the intervention of the person in authority, an investigation, some due process, and a
subsequent judgement. Penalties applied in this way are said to be inflicted by a sentence
(ferendae sententiae).
There area few penalties that can take effect by the very commission of the
offence, ipso facto. It is possible for offenders to bring on themselves these penalties
automatically by the performance of the prohibited act. The penalties are called latae
sententiae, a sentence already given (can. 1314). Examples of such acts includes
procuring an abortion, a cleric or religious in permanent vows attempting marriage, a
bishop ordaining without proper dimissorial letters, and violating the Eucharistic species.
Penalties are suspended in five situations:
1. While they are under appeal
2. While the guilty person is in danger of death
3. When a censured person must care for someone in danger of death
4. While an automatic (latae sentantiae) penalty is not known to others and the
offender cannot observe it without causing scandal or infamy, or
5. When someone request a sacrament or other pastoral assistance from a censured
person (can. 1335, 1352-1353)
The church employs four forms of canonical punishments; the first two are

less serious and more readily applied (can. 1342, &1), the last two are penal sanctions i.e.
penalties strictly speaking.
1. Penal remedies; In order to prevent offences, an ordinary e.g. bishop or major
religious superior may admonish or rebuke someone who is behaving in a disorderly or
scandalous manner, is very close to committing an offence, or is suspected of having
already committed one(can. 1312, 1339)
2. Penances; As a substitute for a penal sanction, an ordinary can impose some of
religion or charity on an offender e.g., a retreat, a fast, alms, abstinence, a specific task or
service, etc. (can. 1312, 1340)
3. Expiatory penalties; to expiate means to make satisfaction for. These penalties are
intended to repair the harm done by the community and to deter others from similar
offences. They include such things as deprivation of offices, powers, faculties, or rights
or prohibition from exercising them, a prohibition from living in a certain territory or an
order to live in some specific place or a transfer to another office as a penalty, or
dismissal from the clerical state. These penalties can be imposed for a time, for an
indefinite period or permanently (can. 1336)
4. Medicinal penalties and censures; As the name implies these penalties are
intended to heal or cure the offender. The word censure means a reprimand (reproach,
tell off). There are three such penalties: excommunication, interdict, and suspension.

Excommunication means partial exclusion from the communion of the

faithful. It does not separate the person from the church. The excommunicated person is
forbidden to celebrate or to receive the sacraments, to hold any offices, and to carry out
any ministries (can. 1331)

Interdict has the same sacramental restrictions, but not that on governing

functions. (can. 1332)


Suspension forbids either some or all acts of the power of orders, of the

power of governance, or the exercise of the rights or functions of office; suspension

applies only to ordained ministers (can. 1333-1334). Since the purpose of medicinal
penalties is conversion, a censure must be lifted when the offender repent and is willing
to repair the harm done or the scandal caused. (can. 1358)


1. Avoid trials
All the Christian faithful, especially bishops, are to strive earnestly to
avoid lawsuits among the people of God and to settle disputes peacefully and as soon as
Equitable solutions, mediation, negotiated settlements, and even
arbitration are warmly recommended as alternatives to contentious trials.
Judges and administrators should encourage such alternative dispute resolution
procedures at the outset of disputes or even during litigation. Dioceses do well to have
such due process systems available (cann. 1446, 1713, 1733)
2. Judicial trials
The purposes of judicial trials are to pursue of vindicate rights, to declare
juridic facts, or to impose penalties. But disputes that arise from administrative actions
e.g. the decision of a bishop can only be taken to an administrative superior or Apostolic
Signatura (cann. 1400, 1445, &2).
The church claims jurisdiction over spiritual matters and violations of church
laws (can. 1401). Anyone, whether baptized or not, can bring a case before a church court
(can. 1476).
The faithful have access to the courts to vindicate and defend the rights (can
221), and there are legal action available to defend every right (can 1491).
The bishop is the judge in the diocese, but he normally exercises this function
through a judicial vicar (also called an officialis). Within the diocesan court there are:
1) Petitioners, those who bring cases, who petition the court,
2) Respondents, those cited or brought in, the other parties,
3) A promoter of justice, who provides for the good of the church,
4) A defender of the bond, who stands for the bond of marriage,
5) Procurators, who represent and act on behalf of the parties,

6) Advocates, who look out for the rights of the parties (cann 1476-1477,
1430-1436, 1481-1490).
A trial has three stages:
1. A person initiates a case by bringing a petition. The judge decides the courts
competence, the petitioners standing, and whether the petition has a basis. The judge
cites the respondent and fixes the legal grounds on which the case is to go forward (cann
1501-1525, 1677).
2. Evidence is collected, e.g. by interviewing the parties, gathering relevant documents,
hearing witnesses, and calling in expert witnesses (cann 1526- 1600, 1679-1680).
3. The entire case, including arguments submitted by advocates and the defender of the
bond, is discussed, orally or in writing, and decided by the judges; one of them writes the
deciding opinion (cann 1601-1618).
The judgment can be appealed to the next level, and all affirmative decisions (that is,
judgments that the marriage was null) in matrimonial cases require a confirmatory review
by the appeal court (cann. 1628-1640, 1681-1684).
3. Administrative recourse
This is a process of appealing to the one w#
ho has taken administrative action or to
his or her hierarchical superior.
Administrative acts include a wide range of decisions, orders, policies, and
decrees that are issued by those with executive authority.
Such acts would include, for example, the administrative actions of a bishop,
vicar general, chancellor, diocesan director of an agency, clerical provincial superior, or
pastor. But these procedures cannot be applied to the acts of the pope or an ecumenical
council. They have no human superior to whom appeal can be made (can 1732).
Administrative recourse here takes three forms: 1) conciliatory, 2) request for
reconsideration, and 3) recourse of hierarchical superior.
1. The church tries to avoid contentious conflicts. When one feels aggrieved or

harmed by an administrative action of another, some form of conciliation or mediation

between the two parties is strongly recommended in order to find an equitable solution.
These can be attempted either before or during the request for reconsideration and
hierarchical recourse. Offices or agencies for such conciliatory and mediatory functions
should be made available (can1733).
2. A consideration of the administrative action should be sought within ten days of
notification. That is, the aggrieved person should petition the one who took the action for
its revocation or modification within that time. The request includes a petition for
suspension of the action. The one who took the action or the bishop has thirty days in
which to respond to the request for reconsideration.
3. One who claims to have been injured by an administrative action can make
recourse for any just reason to the hierarchical superior of the one who took the action.
This must be done within fifteen days of the notice of the original action or of the
response or non-response to the request for reconsideration (can.1737). The hierarchical
superior has full authority to confirm, cancel, or modify the original action.