|Code of Canon Law|
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- BOOK II. THE PEOPLE OF GOD LIBER II. DE POPULO DEI
- PART II. THE HIERARCHICAL CONSTITUTION OF THE CHURCH
- SECTION II. PARTICULAR CHURCHES AND THEIR GROUPINGS
- TITLE III. THE INTERNAL ORDERING OF PARTICULAR CHURCHES (Cann. 460 - 572)
- CHAPTER VI. PARISHES, PASTORS, AND PAROCHIAL VICARS
- TITLE III. THE INTERNAL ORDERING OF PARTICULAR CHURCHES (Cann. 460 - 572)
- SECTION II. PARTICULAR CHURCHES AND THEIR GROUPINGS
- PART II. THE HIERARCHICAL CONSTITUTION OF THE CHURCH
PARISHES, PASTORS, AND PAROCHIALVICARS
Can. 515 §1. A parish is a certaincommunity of the Christianfaithfulstablyconstituted in a particularchurch, whose pastoralcare is entrusted to a pastor (parochus) as its properpastor (pastor) under the authority of the diocesanbishop.
§2. It is only for the diocesanbishop to erect, suppress, or alterparishes. He is neither to erect, suppress, nor alternotablyparishes, unless he has heard the presbyteralcouncil.
§3. A legitimatelyerectedparishpossessesjuridicpersonality by the law itself.
Can. 516 §1. Unless the lawprovides otherwise, a quasi-parish is equivalent to a parish; a quasi-parish is a definitecommunity of the Christianfaithful in a particularchurch, entrusted to a priest as its properpastor but not yet erected as a parish because of particularcircumstances.
§2. When certaincommunities cannot be erected as parishes or quasi-parishes, the diocesanbishop is to provide for their pastoralcare in another way.
Can. 517 §1. When circumstancesrequire it, the pastoralcare of a parish or of differentparishes together can be entrusted to several priestsin solidum, with the requirement, however, that in exercisingpastoralcare one of them must be the moderator, namely, the one who is to direct the jointaction and to answer for it to the bishop.
§2. If, because of a lack of priests, the diocesanbishop has decided that participation in the exercise of the pastoralcare of a parish is to be entrusted to a deacon, to another person who is not a priest, or to a community of persons, he is to appoint some priest who, provided with the powers and faculties of a pastor, is to direct the pastoralcare.
Can. 518 As a generalrule a parish is to be territorial, that is, one which includes all the Christianfaithful of a certainterritory. When it is expedient, however, personalparishes are to be establisheddetermined by reason of the rite, language, or nationality of the Christianfaithful of some territory, or even for some other reason.
Can. 519 The pastor (parochus) is the properpastor (pastor) of the parishentrusted to him, exercising the pastoralcare of the communitycommitted to him under the authority of the diocesanbishop in whose ministry of Christ he has been called to share, so that for that same community he carries out the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing, also with the cooperation of other presbyters or deacons and with the assistance of laymembers of the Christianfaithful, according to the norm of law.
Can. 520 §1. A juridicperson is not to be a pastor. With the consent of the competentsuperior, however, a diocesanbishop, but not a diocesanadministrator, can entrust a parish to a clericalreligiousinstitute or clericalsociety of apostoliclife, even by erecting it in a church of the institute or society, with the requirement, however, that one presbyter is to be the pastor of the parish or, if the pastoralcare is entrusted to several in solidum, the moderator as mentioned in ⇒ can. 517, §1.
§2. The entrusting of a parishmentioned in §1 can be made either perpetually or for a specific, predeterminedtime. In either case it is to be made by means of a writtenagreement between the diocesanbishop and the competentsuperior of the institute or society, which expressly and accuratelydefines, among other things, the work to be accomplished, the persons to be assigned to the parish, and the Financialarrangements.
Can. 521 §1. To become a pastorvalidly, one must be in the sacredorder of the presbyterate.
§2. Moreover, he is to be outstanding in sounddoctrine and integrity of morals and endowed with zeal for souls and other virtues; he is also to possess those qualities which are required by universal or particularlaw to care for the parish in question.
§3. For the office of pastor to be conferred on someone, his suitability must be clearlyevident by some meansdetermined by the diocesanbishop, even by means of an examination.
Can. 522 A pastor must possessstability and therefore is to be appointed for an indefiniteperiod of time. The diocesanbishop can appoint him only for a specificperiod if the conference of bishops has permitted this by a decree.
Can. 523 Without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 682, §1, the provision of the office of pastorbelongs to the diocesanbishop, and indeed by freeconferral, unless someone has the right of presentation or election.
Can. 524 A diocesanbishop is to entrust a vacantparish to the one whom he considerssuited to fulfill its parochialcare, after weighing all the circumstances and without any favoritism. To make a judgment about suitability, he is to hear the vicarforane and conductappropriateinvestigations, havingheardcertainpresbyters and laymembers of the Christianfaithful, if it is warranted.
Can. 525 When a see is vacant or impeded, it belongs to the diocesanadministrator or another who governs the diocesetemporarily:
1/ to install or confirmpresbyters who have been legitimatelypresented or elected for a parish;
2/ to appointpastors if the see has been vacant or impeded for a year.
Can. 526 §1. A pastor is to have the parochialcare of only one parish; nevertheless, because of a lack of priests or other circumstances, the care of several neighboringparishes can be entrusted to the same pastor.
§2. In the same parish there is to be only one pastor or moderator in accord with the norm of ⇒ can. 517, §1; any contrarycustom is reprobated and any contraryprivilegewhatsoever is revoked.
Can. 527 §1. The person who has been promoted to carry out the pastoralcare of a parishobtains this care and is bound to exercise it from the moment of taking possession.
§2. The localordinary or a priestdelegated by him places the pastor in possession; he is to observe the methodaccepted by particularlaw or legitimatecustom. The same ordinary, however, can dispense from that method for a justcause; in this case, the notification of the dispensation to the parishreplaces the taking of possession.
§3. The localordinary is to prescribe the time within which possession of a parish must be taken. When this has elapsed without action, he can declare the parishvacant unless there was a justimpediment.
Can. 528 §1. A pastor is obliged to make provision so that the word of God is proclaimed in its entirety to those living in the parish; for this reason, he is to takecare that the laymembers of the Christianfaithful are instructed in the truths of the faith, especially by giving a homily on Sundays and holydays of obligation and by offeringcatecheticalinstruction. He is to fosterworks through which the spirit of the gospel is promoted, even in what pertains to socialjustice. He is to have particularcare for the Catholiceducation of children and youth. He is to make every effort, even with the collaboration of the Christianfaithful, so that the message of the gospelcomes also to those who have ceased the practice of their religion or do not profess the truefaith.
§2. The pastor is to see to it that the Most HolyEucharist is the center of the parishassembly of the faithful.
He is to work so that the Christianfaithful are nourished through the devoutcelebration of the sacraments and, in a specialway, that they frequentlyapproach the sacraments of the Most HolyEucharist and penance. He is also to endeavor that they are led to practiceprayer even as families and takepartconsciously and actively in the sacredliturgy which, under the authority of the diocesanbishop, the pastor must direct in his own parish and is bound to watch over so that no abusescreep in.
Can. 529 §1. In order to fulfill his officediligently, a pastor is to strive to know the faithfulentrusted to his care.
Therefore he is to visitfamilies, sharingespecially in the cares, anxieties, and griefs of the faithful, strengthening them in the Lord, and prudentlycorrecting them if they are failing in certainareas. With generouslove he is to help the sick, particularly those close to death, by refreshing them solicitously with the sacraments and commending their souls to God; with particulardiligence he is to seek out the poor, the afflicted, the lonely, those exiled from their country, and similarly those weighed down by specialdifficulties. He is to work so that spouses and parents are supported in fulfilling their properduties and is to fostergrowth of Christianlife in the family.
§2. A pastor is to recognize and promote the properpart which the laymembers of the Christianfaithful have in the mission of the Church, by fostering their associations for the purposes of religion. He is to cooperate with his own bishop and the presbyterium of the diocese, also working so that the faithful have concern for parochialcommunion, consider themselves members of the diocese and of the universalChurch, and participate in and sustainefforts to promote this same communion.
Can. 530 The followingfunctions are especiallyentrusted to a pastor:
1/ the administration of baptism;
2/ the administration of the sacrament of confirmation to those who are in danger of death, according to the norm of ⇒ can. 883, n. 3;
3/ the administration of Viaticum and of the anointing of the sick, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 1003, §§2 and 3, and the imparting of the apostolicblessing;
4/ the assistance at marriages and the nuptialblessing;
5/ the performance of funeralrites;
6/ the blessing of the baptismalfont at Eastertime, the leading of processionsoutside the church, and solemnblessingsoutside the church;
7/ the more solemneucharisticcelebration on Sundays and holydays of obligation.
Can. 531 Although another person has performed a certainparochialfunction, that person is to put the offeringsreceived from the Christianfaithful on that occasion in the parochialaccount, unless in the case of voluntaryopenings the contraryintention of the donor is certain. The diocesanbishop, after havingheard the presbyteralcouncil, is competent to establishprescripts which provide for the allocation of these openings and the remuneration of clericsfulfilling the same function.
Can. 532 In all juridicaffairs the pastorrepresents the parish according to the norm of law. He is to takecare that the goods of the parish are administered according to the norm of ⇒cann. 1281-1288.
Can. 533 §1. A pastor is obliged to reside in a rectorynear the church. Nevertheless, in particularcases and if there is a justcause, the localordinary can permit him to reside elsewhere, especially in a houseshared by several presbyters, provided that the performance of parochialfunctions is properly and suitablyprovided for.
§2. Unless there is a gravereason to the contrary, a pastor is permitted to be absent from the parish each year for vacation for at most one continuous or interruptedmonth; those days which the pastorspends once a year in spiritualretreat are not computed in the time of vacation. In order to be absent from the parish for more than a week, however, a pastor is bound to inform the localordinary.
§3. It is for the diocesanbishop to establishnorms which see to it that during the absence of the pastor, a priestendowed with the necessaryfacultiesprovides for the care of the parish.
Can. 534 §1. After a pastor has takenpossession of his parish, he is obliged to apply a Mass for the peopleentrusted to him on each Sunday and holyday of obligation in his diocese. If he is legitimatelyimpeded from this celebration, however, he is to apply it on the same days through another or on other days himself.
§2. A pastor who has the care of several parishes is bound to apply only one Mass for the entirepeopleentrusted to him on the daysmentioned in §1.
§3. A pastor who has not satisfied the obligationmentioned in §§1 and 2 is to apply as soon as possible as many Masses for the people as he has omitted.
Can. 535 §1. Each parish is to have parochialregisters, that is, those of baptisms, marriages, deaths, and others as prescribed by the conference of bishops or the diocesanbishop. The pastor is to see to it that these registers are accuratelyinscribed and carefullypreserved.
§2. In the baptismalregister are also to be notedconfirmation and those things which pertain to the canonicalstatus of the Christianfaithful by reason of marriage, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 1133, of adoption, of the reception of sacredorders, of perpetualprofession made in a religiousinstitute, and of change of rite. These notations are always to be noted on a baptismalcertificate.
§3. Each parish is to have its own seal. Documentsregarding the canonicalstatus of the Christianfaithful and all acts which can have juridicimportance are to be signed by the pastor or his delegate and sealed with the parochialseal.
§4. In each parish there is to be a storagearea, or archive, in which the parochialregisters are protected along with letters of bishops and other documents which are to be preserved for reason of necessity or advantage. The pastor is to takecare that all of these things, which are to be inspected by the diocesanbishop or his delegate at the time of visitation or at some other opportunetime, do not come into the hands of outsiders.
§5. Olderparochialregisters are also to be carefullyprotected according to the prescripts of particularlaw.
Can. 536 §1. If the diocesanbishopjudges it opportune after he has heard the presbyteralcouncil, a pastoralcouncil is to be established in each parish, over which the pastorpresides and in which the Christianfaithful, together with those who share in pastoralcare by virtue of their office in the parish, assist in fosteringpastoralactivity.
§2. A pastoralcouncilpossesses a consultativevote only and is governed by the normsestablished by the diocesanbishop.
Can. 537 In each parish there is to be a financecouncil which is governed, in addition to universallaw, by normsissued by the diocesanbishop and in which the Christianfaithful, selected according to these same norms, are to assist the pastor in the administration of the goods of the parish, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 532.
Can. 538 §1. A pastorceases from office by removal or transfercarried out by the diocesanbishop according to the norm of law, by resignation made by the pastor himself for a justcause and accepted by the same bishop for validity, and by lapse of time if he had been appointed for a definiteperiod according to the prescripts of particularlawmentioned in ⇒ can. 522.
§2. A pastor who is a member of a religiousinstitute or is incardinated in a society of apostoliclife is removed according to the norm of ⇒ can. 682, §2.
§3. When a pastor has completedseventy-Fiveyears of age, he is requested to submit his resignation from office to the diocesanbishop who is to decide to accept or defer it after he has considered all the circumstances of the person and place. Attentive to the normsestablished by the conference of bishops, the diocesanbishop must providesuitablesupport and housing for a retiredpastor.
Can. 539 When a parish becomes vacant or when a pastor is prevented from exercising his pastoralfunction in the parish by reason of captivity, exile or banishment, incapacity or illhealth, or some other cause, the diocesanbishop is to designate as soon as possible a parochialadministrator, that is, a priest who takes the place of the pastor according to the norm of ⇒ can. 540.
Can. 540 §1. A parochialadministrator is bound by the same duties and possesses the same rights as a pastor unless the diocesanbishopestablishes otherwise.
§2. A parochialadministrator is not permitted to do anything which prejudices the rights of the pastor or can harmparochialgoods.
§3. After he has completed his function, a parochialadministrator is to render an account to the pastor.
Can. 541 §1. When a parish becomes vacant or a pastor has been impeded from exercising his pastoralfunction and before the appointment of a parochialadministrator, the parochialvicar is to assume the governance of the parishtemporarily. If there are several vicars, the one who is senior in appointment or, if there are no vicars, a pastordetermined by particularlawassumes this governance.
§2. The one who has assumed the governance of a parish according to the norm of §1 is immediately to inform the localordinary about the vacancy of the parish.
Can. 542Priests to whom the pastoralcare of some parish or of differentparishes together is entrusted in solidum according to the norm of ⇒ can. 517, §1:
1/ must be endowed with the qualitiesmentioned in ⇒ can. 521;
2/ are to be appointed or installed according to the norm of the prescripts of cann. ⇒522 and ⇒524;
3/ obtainpastoralcare only from the moment of taking possession; their moderator is placed in possession according to the norm of the prescripts of ⇒ can. 527, §2; for the other priests, however, a legitimately made profession of faithreplaces taking possession.
Can. 543 §1. If the pastoralcare of some parish or of differentparishes together is entrusted to priests in solidum, each of them is obliged to perform the tasks and functions of pastormentioned in cann. ⇒528, ⇒529, and ⇒530 according to the arrangement they establish. All of them have the faculty of assisting at marriages and all the powers to dispensegranted to a pastor by law; these are to be exercised, however, under the direction of the moderator.
§2. All the priests who belong to the group:
1/ are bound by the obligation of residence;
2/ are to establish through commoncounsel an arrangement by which one of them is to celebrate a Mass for the people according to the norm of ⇒ can. 534;
3/ the moderator alone represents in juridicaffairs the parish or parishesentrusted to the group.
Can. 544 When a priest from the groupmentioned in ⇒ can. 517, §1 or its moderatorceases from office as well as when one of them becomes incapable of exercising his pastoralfunction, the parish or parishes whose care is entrusted to the group do not become vacant. It is for the diocesanbishop, however, to appoint another moderator; before someone is appointed by the bishop, the priest in the group who is senior in appointment is to fulfill this function.
Can. 545 §1. Whenever it is necessary or opportune in order to carry out the pastoralcare of a parishfittingly, one or more parochialvicars can be associated with the pastor. As co-workers with the pastor and sharers in his solicitude, they are to offerservice in the pastoralministry by commoncounsel and effort with the pastor and under his authority.
§2. A parochialvicar can be assigned either to assist in exercising the entirepastoralministry for the whole parish, a determinedpart of the parish, or a certaingroup of the Christianfaithful of the parish, or even to assist in fulfilling a specificministry in differentparishes together.
Can. 546 To be appointed a parochialvicarvalidly, one must be in the sacredorder of the presbyterate.
Can. 547 The diocesanbishopfreelyappoints a parochialvicar, after he has heard, if he has judged it opportune, the pastor or pastors of the parishes for which the parochialvicar is appointed and the vicarforane, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 682, §1.
Can. 548 §1. The obligations and rights of a parochialvicar, besides being defined in the canons of this chapter, diocesanstatutes, and the letter of the diocesanbishop, are more specificallydetermined in the mandate of the pastor.
§2. Unless the letter of the diocesanbishopexpresslyprovides otherwise, a parochialvicar is obliged to assist the pastor in the entireparochialministry by reason of office, except for the application of the Mass for the people, and to substitute for the pastor if the situationarises according to the norm of law.
§3. A parochialvicar is to report to the pastorregularlyconcerningproposed and existingpastoralendeavors in such a way that the pastor and the vicar or vicars, through commonefforts, are able to provide for the pastoralcare of the parish for which they are together responsible.
Can. 549 Unless the diocesanbishop has provided otherwise according to the norm of ⇒ can. 533, §3 and unless a parochialadministrator has been appointed, the prescripts of ⇒ can. 541, §1 are to be observed when the pastor is absent. In this case, the vicar is also bound by all the obligations of the pastor, except the obligation of applyingMass for the people.
Can. 550 §1. A parochialvicar is obliged to reside in the parish or, if he has been appointed for differentparishesjointly, in one of them. Nevertheless, for a justcause the localordinary can allow him to reside elsewhere, especially in a houseshared by several presbyters, provided that this is not detrimental to the performance of his pastoralfunctions.
§2. The localordinary is to takecare that some manner of commonlife in the rectory is fostered between the pastor and the vicars where this can be done.
§3. A parochialvicarpossesses the same right as a pastorconcerning the time of vacation.
Can. 551 The prescripts of ⇒ can. 531 are to be observed in regards to openings which the Christianfaithfulgive to a vicar on the occasion of the performance of pastoralministry.
Can. 552 The diocesanbishop or diocesanadministrator can remove a parochialvicar for a justcause, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 682, §2.
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Granted, most Catholics have grown up in parishes where the terms pastor referred to the priest primarily responsible for the parish, and assistant pastor or associate pastor referred to his assistants. Sometimes the term curate was even used for the assistant pastors, derived from the French curé (meaning "one who exercises care of or cure for the souls"); in France, curé actually designated the pastor, while in England and America, it designated his assistants.
Since the 1917 edition of the Code of Canon Law, and especially since the promulgation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the technical terms used and becoming more familiar are pastor, parochial vicar and administrator. (The following citations are the particular canons from the 1983 Code of Canon Law.)
Lets just examine the meaning of these terms. The bishop appoints the pastor as "the proper shepherd" of the parish. (The word pastor in Latin means "shepherd.") The pastor, mindful that he is to exercise his authority as an extension of the bishop and in the example of Christ, the Good Shepherd, must care for the souls of the faithful entrusted to him. He must fulfill his duties to teach, to sanctify and to govern the faithful with the cooperation of the priests, deacons, religious and lay members of his parish. These duties include the preaching of the Word of God in its entirety; delivering catechetical instruction in the truths of the faith in accord with the magisterium of the Church; fostering charitable works and promoting social justice; encouraging prayer within the home and the parish through good devotions; evangelizing those who have left the practice of the faith or those who do not profess the true faith; and most importantly, nourishing the faithful through the sacraments, particularly through frequent reception of the holy Eucharist and penance. A special emphasis is placed on the pastors obligation to provide for the Catholic education of his people, particularly children and young adults, and ensuring that the most holy Eucharist is the center of parish life (cf. No. 528). In all, a pastor must be a priest "distinguished for his sound doctrine and integrity of morals, and endowed with a zeal for souls and other virtues" (No. 521.2).
When a parish is "vacant," meaning that the pastor has retired, been transferred to another assignment, or is incapable of exercising his duties as a pastor, the bishop must appoint as soon as possible a parochial administrator. In general, an administrator has the same duties and scope of authority as a pastor; however, these may be limited by the bishop. The bishop in time may decide to appoint the administrator as the pastor. The Code of Canon Law stipulates, "For the office of pastor to be conferred on someone, it is necessary that his suitability be clearly evident by means of some method determined by the diocesan bishop, even by means of an examination" (No. 521.3). Therefore, in deciding the appointment of a pastor to a vacant parish, the bishop should make a judgment based on his knowledge of the priests character and abilities, and on the advice of other priests and laity (No. 524). As such, the bishop may obtain this knowledge and advice during a priests time as administrator of a parish. One interesting note here: a bishop may transfer or remove an administrator at any time; however, a pastor does have certain rights protected by canon law which could cause some "intrigue" in the interactions with his bishop.
Finally, parochial vicars are assigned by the bishop to assist the pastor in the care of the faithful. The Code of Canon Law defines the office as follows: "Parochial vicars are priests who render their services in pastoral ministry as co-workers with the pastor in common counsel and endeavor with him and also under his authority" (No. 545.1). Given the size of some parishes, parochial vicars are essential in helping the pastor fulfill his obligations for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the parish.
Just as an aside, I remember being a deacon when the new Code was promulgated. My classmates and I had some fun with the new term "parochial vicar." One quipped, "We will still be Father Youll Do." Another quipped, "Call it curate, assistant, associate or parochial vicar, it still is spelled s-l-a-v-e." Oh well.
While pondering these terms pastor, administrator and parochial vicar and their "job descriptions," all of the faithful should pray for their parish priests each day that they may be good priests who reflect in their lives, Jesus, the true, eternal Priest.