A Proposed Constitution for the Catholic Church
Coordinated by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research
“God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). All human beings have been created in God’s likeness as free and responsible agents; they have the same nature and origin, have been redeemed by Christ and enjoy the same divine calling and destiny. For this reason, all human beings are equal and possess an inalienable dignity and human rights (Dignitatis Humanae 29).
As rational and responsible agents, all human beings are called to freedom. To follow Christ is to live in freedom. “Where the Spirit of God is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17). Again, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. […] You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free” (Gal. 5:1, 13).
Christian freedom is summed up in loving and serving “your neighbour as yourself” (Matt. 19:19). Through his life and his teaching, Christ revealed that God is Love and that all who know love know God (1 John 4,16).
Jesus’ Greatest Commandment, to love God with all the heart, mind and strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself (Mark 12:30-31, cf. Matt. 7:12; see Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18), was at the heart of his preaching of the Good News of the coming of God’s Kingdom in history, which brings justice and peace to all human beings, and liberation to the oppressed (Luke 4:14-21, also 1:52-53). It is also at the heart of Jesus’ insistence on the importance of caring for the least in society: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40).
Jesus’ Greatest Commandment was a call to conversion. Its intimate, personal character also had institutional consequences: in particular, Jesus instructed that those in authority serve those they lead, without “lording it over” them:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:25-28; cf. 1 Peter 5:3).
A principal difference between authority as “lording it over” and authority as service is that the former is based on coercion and imposition, while the latter can only be truly a service if it is freely offered and freely accepted: that is, if it is based on consent.
The principle of subsidiarity is but a more technical expression of Jesus’ insistence that authority be a “service”: it affirms that every decisional level in the church has an inalienable right and responsibility to determine both what decisions and actions falls within its competence, and what instead should be decided by delegation to, or accomplished better in cooperation with, a higher level.
It further implies that each higher level may only undertake those decisions and actions which a lower level freely delegates to them, and may not impose restrictions on lower levels as to matters for decision or action without their consent.
From the perspective of subsidiarity, then, authority is service: the empowering service of helping lower levels achieve through freely chosen cooperation what they would otherwise be unable to achieve by themselves.
To Jesus’ fundamental principle that authority must be a service (and so freely offered and freely accepted), the apostle Paul added a few more, including:
· Everybody is fundamentally equal in Christ (Gal. 3:28);
· Everybody “should have equal concern for each other” (1 Cor. 12:25);
· Everybody is called to contribute their distinctive skills and God-given gifts to the common good (1 Cor. 12:7);
· No one can carry out all the many different ministries in the church: instead, there should be a division of labour (1 Cor. 12:29).
Church structures can either help or hinder the human and spiritual growth of Christians, depending on whether or not they respect the above principles and the biblical insights into human nature, and particularly that “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1).
A church whose organisational structure embodies the above mentioned principles allows its members to flourish, both as human beings and as disciples of Christ, better than one structured as a societas inaequalis (“unequal society”) where a priestly caste exclusively can lead and govern the community. It would give institutional expression to the church as a discipleship of equals.
In contrast, a Christian community whose organizational structure allows or even requires leaders not to respect the fundamental equality and freedom of its members would hinder both the leaders themselves, who would struggle to follow Jesus’ command to exercise authority as a service, and the other church members, whose dignity, equality, freedom and talents would be suppressed. It would prevent its members from being able to fully benefit from the life of the Spirit within, follow Jesus’ Greatest Commandment, and cooperate effectively with God’s Kingdom of equality, justice, and liberation for the oppressed.
Historical experience has taught us the importance of a legal framework to systematise those basic principles underpinning the radical equality of all those “who have clothed themselves in Christ” (Gal. 3:27-28).
Inspired by Vatican II, Pope Paul VI initiated work on a Lex Ecclesiae Fundamentalis (“Fundamental Law of the Church”), a constitution which would have underpinned all canon law in the Catholic Church, but that effort ceased in 1981 when John Paul II decided to shelve the already finished constitution.
What follows is a proposed constitution for a vision of church that guarantees the freedom of believers to live conscientiously in the church community and to minister effectively. It suggests one way in which proposals for church reform can be brought together into a whole that is coherent, pragmatic, as well as compatible with biblical studies, theological research, and ecumenical dialogues. It borrows from a variety of Catholic, Christian, and secular sources, the most important of which are listed here (the same document also includes the list of the members of the interdisciplinary Working Group of academics who have contributed to the constitution itself, as well as the list of current academic signatories).
The constitution is prefaced by a list of seven “Principles for a New Church Constitution” of which it offers one possible legal expression. They come from the “Initiative für eine neue Kirchenverfassung” (“Initiative for a new Church Constitution”, Batschuns, June 2010) by Wir Sind Kirche (“We Are Church”), and the Bristol Text (September 2021) by the Root & Branch Synod (UK).
Finally, the legal language and exclusive focus of the constitution on ecclesiastical relationships may give the impression that it is oblivious to the divine calling and destiny of all human beings, and to the spiritual dimension of one’s relationship with God.
That is not the case. As noted, church structures themselves can either facilitate or thwart that spiritual dimension, depending on whether or not they support Christians’ God-given freedom.
Furthermore, the very interpretation and determination of the requirements of Jesus’ mandate, and of the mission and purpose of a church in a specific time and place, are the responsibility of each successive generation of Christians: the constitution intentionally avoids providing a specific, detailed, definitive answer as to what they are, focusing instead on outlining the structural procedures required to allow the proper exercise of Christian freedom in carrying out that discernment.
Principles for a new Church constitution
1. Equality: All baptised Christians are equal in dignity and before Canon Law, and enjoy the same fundamental rights in the Church, without distinctions based on race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, and economic or social condition.
2. Co-responsibility: By virtue of their common baptism, every Christian shares responsibility for the whole community. With this responsibility comes the right to participate in decision making.
All adult Catholics have the fundamental right to participate and vote in all decisions on matters of doctrine, value, action, and any other issue concerning the common good of their community.
3. Representation: “What touches all should be discussed and approved by all.” All Catholics must be democratically represented in governing and decision-making bodies. Decisions are prepared through open and respectful dialogue in order to achieve broad unanimity, including minorities.
4. Participation: Every adult Catholic, regardless of race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, and economic or social condition, has the right to vote for, and to be eligible as, a candidate for any church ministry.
“The one who is to preside over all should be elected by all.” Legitimate authorities in the church must be based on the consent of the people. In order to ensure co-responsibility, the church community has the right to elect its leaders.
5. Accountability: All leaders shall report to the church community regularly on their work, including presenting independently audited financial statements. Leaders at all levels of church are elected for a limited term of office. In the event of serious violations of Christian principles and laws, an appropriate ecclesiastical tribunal can order the removal from office.
6. Subsidiarity: Every decisional level in the church should have an inalienable right and responsibility to determine both what decisions and actions falls within their competence, and what instead should be decided by delegation to, or accomplished better in cooperation with, the higher level.
Conversely, each higher level may only undertake those decisions and actions which the lower level freely delegates to them, and may not impose restrictions on the lower levels as to matters for decision or action without their consent.
7. Separation of powers: Legislative, executive and judicial powers must be separated in the church. Courts will be established at all levels above the parish whose decisions will be independent of the leadership offices. This will ensure fair judicial procedures.
A new constitution for the Catholic Church must fully incorporate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “No foundation therefore remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between humans or peoples, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned” (Nostra ætate §5)
A Proposed Constitution for the Catholic Church
1. Nature and Purpose of the Church
1. The Catholic Church (hereafter “the Church”) is a communion of churches united by a common faith, mission, and historic relationship of communion with the See of Rome. It is part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church together with other Christian Churches.
2. The sources of the common faith of the Catholic Church are the Bible, and the Tradition by which the Bible is received, guarded, interpreted, and passed on by the entire community. Together, the Bible and Tradition comprise the “deposit of faith”.
3. The Catholic Church’s mission, grounded in the Bible, includes the responsibility to:
● Facilitate the fulfilment of the Greatest Commandment to love God with all one’s heart, and with all one’s soul, and with all one’s strength, and with all one’s mind; and one’s neighbour as oneself;
● Interpret, expound, and proclaim the deposit of faith, in light of the signs of the times and the different economic, social, and cultural circumstances in which the Church operates;
● Cooperate in the advent of God’s kingdom of justice and peace by overcoming the physical, psychological, economic, social, cultural, and environmental barriers to it, thereby contributing to integral human development and liberation, including by promoting the dignity and fundamental human rights of all people.
4. The entire Catholic Church is responsible for the fulfilment of its mission. The entire Catholic Church is also the carrier and guardian of the deposit of faith. It has a right to interpret it, deepen its understanding of it, and determine the limits of permissible theological opinion.
Membership of the Catholic Church
5. By virtue of the freedom of conscience and religion, acquiring as well as relinquishing juridical membership of the Catholic Church entailing the acceptance of ecclesiastical rights and responsibilities must be the result of a free choice.
Such a free choice can only be made by an adult with the sufficient use of reason, shall have a formal, public expression, and shall confer all the juridical rights and responsibilities of church membership.
Everyone duly prepared has a right to obtain membership of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has an obligation to grant membership to duly prepared people who freely approach the Church desiring to become Catholics.
Every Catholic faithful has the right to freely leave the Catholic Church, including by joining other Christian Churches, thus relinquishing their rights and responsibilities as members of that Church. People who leave the Catholic Church also have the right to have their names and personal details removed from church registers.
Spiritual membership of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church as a community of grace is obtained through the sacrament of baptism, whether by actual reception or by desire. Through baptism people are freed from sin, are reborn as children of God, and, configured to Christ by an indelible character, are incorporated into the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
Baptism grants the relevant spiritual gifts and baptismal rights, but does not bind the baptised person to the juridical responsibilities and obligations of membership of the Catholic Church until, having reached the sufficient use of reason, they freely, formally, and publicly consent to them.
Baptism can be administered validly not only to freely consenting and duly prepared adults, but also to minors who have not reached the age of reasons, and to persons who are not responsible for themselves (non sui compos).
2. Rights of Catholics
6. All human beings have been created in God’s likeness as free and responsible agents; they have the same nature and origin, have been redeemed by Christ and enjoy the same divine calling and destiny. For this reason, all human beings are equal in dignity and possess the same inalienable human rights.
In virtue of their fundamental human dignity, basic equality, and common baptism, all Catholic faithful possess within the Church both fundamental human rights and baptismal rights, which are enumerated in the canons of this title.
With respect to both kind of rights, every type of discrimination, whether based on race, ethnic, tribal or national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, economic or social condition is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent.
The Church has the responsibility to remove the obstacles – whether economic, social, or cultural – which, by limiting the freedom and equality of all its members, hinder their full human and Christian development, the exercise of their fundamental human and baptismal rights, and their effective participation in the governance and mission of the Church.
7. All people have the right, based on human dignity itself, to be free in religious matters from any kind of coercion.
8. By virtue of their creation as rational and responsible agents, and of their being co-responsible for the fulfilment of the Church’s divine mandate, at every level of the Catholic communion all adult Catholics, regardless of race, ethnic, tribal or national origin, gender, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, economic or social condition, have the inalienable right to take part in the government of the Church, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
9. Every Catholic faithful has the right to freedom of conscience, opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, and regardless of frontiers.
It also includes freedom to hold and express opinions which contradict current official church teachings on matters which are regarded by the Church or its representative bodies as not essential for the unity of the Church and for their cooperation in its shared mission.
It further includes the academic freedom of research and publication in all disciplines, and particularly biblical studies, theology, and canon law.
In exercising their right to freedom of expression, Catholics should have respect both for the rights of others and for their own duties toward others and for the common welfare of all.
In particular, freedom of expression does not extend to all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify any form of hatred based on intolerance, which infringes the rights of others, or which constitutes a serious threat to ecclesial or social peace.
The protection and promotion of such an inviolable right to free expression is an essential duty of the Church.
10. All Catholics are at liberty freely to found and direct communities, associations, and unions – including institutes of consecrated life – for the promotion of what they regard to be the Christian mission in the world, and to hold meetings for the common pursuit of that goal.
Such communities, association, and unions have the right to decide on their own rules of governance, without prejudice to the right of all their pleno iure members to have active voice, direct or indirect, in the constitution of the bodies that elect the central governing body.
Since they participate in the mission of the Church, all Catholics have the right to promote or sustain apostolic action even by their own undertakings, according to their own state and condition.
11. All Catholics have the right of access to all information possessed by Church authorities concerning their own spiritual and temporal welfare, provided such access does not infringe on the rights of others.
12. All Catholics have the right to a Christian education by which they are to be instructed properly to strive for the maturity of the human person and at the same time to know and live the mystery of salvation.
All Catholics are bound by the obligation and possess the right to acquire knowledge of Christian doctrine appropriate to the capacity and condition of each in order for them to be able to live according to this doctrine, announce it themselves, defend it if necessary, and take their part in exercising the apostolate.
They thereby also possess the right to pursue the academic study of the Bible, the theology and canon law of the Catholic Church and of other Christian Churches, and the theology or philosophy of other religions; they also possess the right of teaching those disciplines, subject to possessing the required academic qualifications.
Those engaged in those disciplines have a right to just freedom of inquiry and of expressing their opinion.
13. As a consequence of the basic human right to marry all Catholics have the right to be free from any kind of coercion in choosing a state of life; this includes the right for both laity and ordained ministers to marry, remain single or embrace celibacy.
Marriage is for the well-being of the spouses. All Catholics have the right to withdraw from a marriage which has irretrievably broken down, when so determined by competent authority.
All such Catholics retain the inalienable right to remarry; and all divorced and remarried Catholics who are in conscience reconciled to the Church retain the right to the same ministries, including all the sacraments, as do other Catholics.
14. As a consequence of the basic human rights to marry and to education, all Catholic parents have the following rights and responsibilities:
● To determine in conscience the size of their families,
● To choose appropriate methods of family planning, and
● To see to the education of their children, including by giving them a sound Christian education.
15. People employed by the Church have a right to equitable work conditions and to a decent remuneration suited to their condition; by such remuneration they should be able to provide decently for their own needs and for those of their dependents, with due regard for the prescriptions of all applicable civil laws relating to labour and social life, and of the conventions of the International Labour Organisation.
People employed by the Church likewise have the right that their pension, social security and health benefits be provided. They further enjoy any additional rights and benefits guaranteed by the legislation of the country in which they exercise their activity.
They also have a right to freely associate to vindicate their rights.
Basic Baptismal Rights and Responsibilities
16. As a consequence of their baptism, all Catholics have the right to:
· exercise all ministries in the Church for which they are adequately prepared, according to the needs and with the approval or commissioning of the community;
· receive in the Church those ministries which are needed for the living of a fully Christian life, including worship, instruction in the Christian tradition, and pastoral care;
· receive all the sacraments for which they are adequately prepared;
17. As a consequence of their baptism, all Catholics have a responsibility to support the Church through their time, talents and financial resources, and a right to decide on their allocation and administration, either directly or through duly deputed representatives.
18. No one is permitted to harm illegitimately the good reputation which a person possesses nor to injure the right of any person to protect his or her own privacy.
19. All Catholics have the inalienable right to equality before canon law, and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
20. All Catholics can legitimately vindicate and defend the rights which they possess in the Church in the competent ecclesiastical forum according to the norm of law.
That includes the right to challenge via a process of judicial review the lawfulness and constitutionality of legislative, executive, and administrative decisions, actions and omissions by ecclesiastical authorities.
If they are summoned to a trial by a competent authority, the Christian faithful also have the right to be judged according to the prescripts of the law applied with equity.
Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.
21. In the determination of any criminal charge against them, everyone shall be entitled to the following minimum guarantees, in full equality:
· (a) To be informed promptly and in detail in a language which they understand of the nature and cause of the charge against them;
· (b) To have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of their defence and to communicate with counsel of their own choosing;
· (c) To be tried and obtain a judgment without undue delay;
· (d) To be tried in their presence, and to defend themselves in person or through legal assistance of their own choosing; to be informed, if they do not have legal assistance, of this right; and to have legal assistance assigned to them, in any case where the interests of justice so require, and without payment by them in any such case if they do not have sufficient means to pay for it;
· (e) To examine, or have examined, the witnesses against them and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on their behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against them;
· (f) To have the free assistance of an interpreter if they cannot understand or speak the language used in court;
· (g) Not to be compelled to testify against themselves, or to confess guilt.
In the case of juvenile persons, the procedure shall be such as will take account of their age and the desirability of promoting their rehabilitation.
22. Everyone convicted of a crime shall have the right to their conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.
23. No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which they have already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law and penal procedure.
24. All Catholics have the right not to be punished with canonical penalties except according to the norm of law.
25. Children have all the rights described in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the rights of survival, protection, and education; the right to be protected from violence and sexual abuse. The Church has a responsibility to protect and promote those rights.
26. All Catholics are obliged to promote social justice and, mindful of the precept of the Lord, to assist the poor from their own resources.
27. In the exercise of their rights and freedoms, all Catholics shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order, the common good of the Church, and the preservation of what is essential for the continuation of unity and cooperation in a shared mission
3. Church Government
1. General Principles
1. The Legitimate Exercise of Authority is Mediated by Consent of the Church
28. All Catholics are co-responsible for the fulfilment of the Church’s mission, and therefore have an inalienable right to participate in its government, either directly or via freely chosen and duly deputed representatives. The Church has a responsibility to protect and promote such a right at every level of its communion.
29. For the fulfilment of its mission, the Church is endowed with the powers of governance (or jurisdictional power), order (or sacramental power), and teaching. The power of governance is distinguished as legislative, executive, and judicial.
Those powers are a gift from God, and their legitimate exercise is mediated through, and subject to, the consent of the churches on behalf of which those powers are exercised.
Such a consent shall have an institutional expression:
● Ministers exercising legislative power (church representatives) or executive power (church leaders) shall be chosen by universal, equal, and secret suffrage, direct or indirect.
● All ministers are accountable to the community they represent or serve for as long as they are in office.
● Church ministers exercising the legislative or executive power remain in office only for a limited term, recommended to be five years.
● Church ministers exercising the judicial, sacramental, or teaching power, whether appointed or elected, shall have guaranteed tenure until a mandatory retirement age or the expiry of their term of office, where such exists.
Except for the sacramental power of order, all other powers may be exercised by groups or individuals.
Church ministers to whom the legislative power is delegated are called church representatives; those to whom the executive power is delegated are called church leaders; those to whom the judicial power is delegated are called ecclesiastical judges. Ministers selected and appointed by a community to exercise the sacramental power of order are called ordained ministers.
30. At every level of the Catholic communion, a church has the right, either directly or through freely chosen representatives, and compatibly with its belonging to and interdependence with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church universal, to:
● Select its ministers exercising the powers of governance, order, or teaching;
● Interpret the deposit of faith, pass doctrinal decisions, and determine doctrinal standards and the limits of permissible theological opinion: including by determining what are matters of opinion and what are instead matters about which agreement is essential to preserve cooperation with the other Churches of the Catholic Communion.
In so doing, it shall cooperate closely with, and take into consideration the deliberations of, other Christian Churches which belong to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church and are engaged in the same process of discernment.
● Determine what its common good is, and how best it should be pursued.
2. Consent, Reception, and Custom concerning Laws and Doctrines
31. Official church laws and doctrines passed by church representatives must reflect the consent of the churches or communities to which they apply, and they are to be regarded as valid for as long as they enjoy that consent, in agreement with art. 33 [on tacit consent and subsequent consent].
32. Explicit consent occurs via the legislative process, which must include public discussion and agreement by a majority of the Church to which they will apply, or a majority of its freely chosen and duly deputed representatives.
Opinions which obtain open, well-known and pervasive support from the majority of Catholic faithful should be considered during the legislative process as potentially voicing that “consent of the faithful” (consensus fidelium), which is a criterion for determining whether a particular doctrine or practice belongs to the apostolic faith.
33. Tacit consent and subsequent consent are expressed by means of a process of reception involving open, well-known and pervasive belief in and practice of those laws and doctrines. When there is reasonable doubt as to whether reception is occurring recourse shall be made to independent sociological surveys.
Lack of such a reception, together with disuse and the formation of an open, well-known and pervasive contrary belief or custom for thirty continuous and complete years, are grounds for abrogation by the competent authority.
Conversely, unless the competent legislator has specifically approved it, a custom contrary to the canon law now in force or one beyond a canonical law (praeter legem canonicam) obtains the force of law only if it has been legitimately observed for thirty continuous and complete years.
A contrary custom or law revokes a custom which is contrary to or beyond the law (praeter legem). Unless it makes express mention of them, however, a law does not revoke centenary or immemorial customs, nor does a universal law revoke particular customs.
Only that custom introduced by a community of the faithful and approved by the legislator according to the norm of the relevant canons has the force of law.
34. The Catholic Church shall at every level of its organisation abide by the principle of subsidiarity, according to which a greater and higher association shall not take from lesser and subordinate organizations what they can accomplish by their own initiative.
Each church or decisional level in the church has an inalienable right and responsibility to determine both what decisions and actions falls within their competence, and what instead should be decided by delegation to, or better accomplished in cooperation with, the higher level.
Conversely, each higher decisional level may only undertake those decisions and actions which the lower level freely delegates to them, and may not impose restrictions on the lower levels as to matters for decision or action without their consent.
In agreement with the principle of subsidiarity the following applies to each church within the Catholic communion, with due regard for its belonging to and interdependence with the church universal, and without prejudice to the rights of Catholics.
Autonomy and Interdependence of the Churches
35. At every level of the Catholic communion, each church is autonomous in respect of its freedom of self-government.
Each autonomous church is free to order and regulate its affairs through its own system of government and canon law. That freedom includes the right to do what is affirmed by Art. 30.
36. The validity within a church of any ecclesiastical act is governed by the law of that church in which the act is performed.
The exercise within a church of any ecclesiastical function is governed by the law of that church in which the function is exercised.
No church is legally bound by a decision of any ecclesiastical body external to itself, unless that decision is authorised under or incorporated into its own law.
A church may impose by its own law restraints on the exercise of its freedom of self-governance.
37. Through the process of tradition, particular churches receive and interpret the biblical witness in different ways, and apply it according to the specific circumstances in which they live, while maintaining unity in what is essential for cooperation in the shared mission.
Each autonomous church has the greatest possible liberty to order its life and affairs, appropriate to its people in their geographical, economic, social, cultural and historical context.
Each church and those bodies within it which are competent to do so may develop liturgical texts or other forms of service for the public worship of God provided these are consistent with the Word of God and Catholic doctrine.
Mutual Respect Between Churches
38. A church shall respect the autonomy of each church in the communion of churches of the Catholic Church.
Each church and its individual members should respect a legislative, executive, judicial or other decision or action duly authorised under the law of another church.
No church, or any authority or person within it, shall intervene in the internal affairs of another church without the consent of that other church given in such manner as may be prescribed by its own law.
It is within the jurisdiction of the main representative assembly of a church to regulate relationships between that church and other churches of the communion of churches of the Catholic Church.
4. Separation of Powers
39. The legislative, executive, judicial, sacramental, and teaching powers are separated:
· A person or body holding one of those powers, with the exception of the power of order, shall not concomitantly hold any of the others;
o Ministers holding any of the powers other than the power of order shall not ordinarily exercise the power of order save and except when strictly necessary for the fulfilment of their official duties;
o Ministers holding the power of order shall not ordinarily exercise any of the other powers save and except when strictly necessary for the fulfilment of their sacramental responsibilities;
· Procedures for the selection of candidates to positions exercising the legislative, executive, judicial, sacramental, or teaching power must be independent from the other powers. While they may involve church officials exercising any of the other powers, at no step in the selection process can those officials be the majority or have power of veto.
o In the case of the elections of ministers exercising the legislative or executive power:
§ When those elections occur by direct universal suffrage, ministers exercising either power can vote also in the election of ministers exercising the other power;
§ When those elections occur by indirect universal suffrage, ministers exercising either power can never vote as delegates or representatives in the election of ministers exercising the other power.
o In the case of the selection of ministers exercising the judicial power, officials exercising any of the other powers can never be a majority of those with voting rights or have power of veto.
· Academic, professional, and other requirements for eligibility to the sacramental, judicial, or teaching ministries shall be determined by the members of those ministries themselves, either directly or via a representative professional association.
5. Selection of Church Ministers
40. At every level of the Catholic communion, the church has the inalienable right freely to do the following, either directly or via freely chosen and duly deputed representatives:
● Elect ministers exercising legislative power (church representatives), and ministers exercising executive power (church leaders), by means of direct or indirect universal suffrage, in accordance with Art. 29;
o the relevant academic or professional training and qualifications required of candidates to ministries holding the sacramental, judicial, or teaching power, and any other ministry requiring specialised knowledge, as needed by their community, without prejudice to art. 8 [on non-discrimination], and
o the independent procedures, including peer-review, to evaluate those qualifications and select the best candidates available.
In addition, at every level of the Catholic communion, each adult Catholic, regardless of race, ethnic, tribal or national origin, gender, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, and economic or social condition, has the right to
● put themselves forward as candidates for, and participate by equal direct or indirect suffrage in the selection of, church representatives and church leaders;
● put themselves forward as candidates for any other church ministry, provided they fulfil the required qualifications determined by the church they will serve, in accordance with Art. 16.
Election of Church Representatives and Church Leaders
41. The delegation to church representatives and church leaders shall occur through free elections by direct or indirect universal suffrage of the delegating community. It is recommended that:
● at every level of church communion below and including the diocesan, church representatives and church leaders be elected directly, i.e. by general suffrage of the church or community they will serve;
● at every level of church communion above the diocesan, church representatives and church leaders be elected indirectly, i.e. by assemblies of freely chosen representatives.
Without prejudice to art. 8 [on non-discrimination], a local church may set the criteria for eligibility to the ministries of church representative and church leader.
Elections to the ministries of church representative and church leader shall be free, transparent, and regular.
The church at every level has a responsibility to protect and promote free elections, by removing the obstacles – whether economic, social, or cultural – which, by limiting the freedom and equality of all members, hinder their effective participation in those elections.
To that end, the relevant ecclesial resources must be used to help facilitate the expression of, and debate about, candidates and their visions.
All eligible candidates must be given equal access to the relevant ecclesial resources and platforms without favouritism, to facilitate a public discussion and discernment of the best available candidate.
Candidates should set out their vision for the particular church they wish to represent or lead via ecclesial mass media, social media, hustings, etc.
2. Power of Governance
42. Persons who exercise the power of governance in the church do so on behalf and at the service of the delegating church; in agreement with its needs, values and goals; and with regard to its common good and the dignity, rights, and gifts of all.
Persons who exercise the power of governance must not act arbitrarily but give, as appropriate, reasons for their decisions.
Persons who exercise the power of governance must be helped in the financial administration of the goods of the church by competent, independent, and honest financial administrators, individually or in groups such as Finance Councils.
Persons who exercise the power of governance are to be a visible sign of unity and should not jeopardise that unity or be the cause or focus of division and strife by the exercise of their leadership.
1. Legislative Power
43. The legislative power is the authority to make church laws and policies and alter or repeal them, with regard to worship, education, social outreach, administration, finances and other activities carried out in the name of the Diocese.
The legitimate exercise of legislative power is mediated through, and delegated by, the particular church or community on whose behalf it is exercised, and whose consent, values, and goals it must represent.
Legislative power may be exercised by church representatives, either individually or gathered in representative legislative assemblies.
44. Whenever legislative decisions require specialised knowledge – e.g. in biblical studies, theology, canon law, medicine, psychology, economics, sociology, financial administration, etc. – church representatives, either individually or in groups, have a duty to seek and take into account relevant and independent expert advice, including by ministers exercising the power of teaching, in agreement with Section 4 [On the Power of Teaching].
2. Representative Legislative Assemblies (Councils, Synods)
45. At every level of church communion – local, diocesan, national, and universal, or other as warranted – an assembly of church representatives must be established – namely a synod, council or other body – which shall serve as the principal legislative and decision-making bodies.
Church officials exercising executive, judicial, sacramental, or teaching power may not be elected members of such assemblies, in agreement with art 39 [on the separation of powers].
All members of such assemblies shall have an equal deliberative vote. Decisions shall be taken by majority rule. No one shall have veto power.
Scope and Remit of Representative Assemblies
46. At every level of church communion, the representative assembly shall bear ultimate responsibility for church legislation and policy, particularly on worship, education, social outreach, administration, finances and other activities carried out in the name of the Church it represents.
In order to do so, a representative assembly is the steward of the ecclesiastical goods of the church it represents, and so it possesses the authority to decide on their allocation, prioritisation and use.
It must do so with the help of an independent Finance Council, whose responsibility it is to provide the representative assembly with professional financial analysis, in agreement with Art. 94.
As the primary legislative body of a church, a representative assembly may establish a constitution outlining the governance of the particular community or church, including:
● the composition, jurisdiction, and governing regulations of the legislative, executive and judicial branches, without prejudice to art. 39 [on the separation of powers];
● the number, manner of election, and term of office of church representatives to the legislative assembly, church leaders charged with the executive power, church judges, ministers exercising the power of order, and other church ministers;
● the administrative institutions and bodies which may assist the legislative and executive branches in the fulfilment of their responsibilities.
● how decision-making responsibilities are to be distributed – including, whenever applicable, in relation to other decisional levels of church communion in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity;
● specifying any other church procedure as required.
The constitutions of each level of church life shall preserve the general human and baptismal rights, as well as governance and other principles expressed in this constitution.
47. A representative legislative assembly is accountable to the church or community they represent. In line with this, it must publish reports at least annually detailing their budget, expenditures, and main actions, with the help of the Finance Council.
48. A parish is a certain community of the Christian faithful stably constituted in a particular church.
A parish is primarily a community of faith – of Catholics praying, sharing the Eucharistic meal, and working together to advance God’s Kingdom on earth – and not merely an administrative unit within the Church.
The members of every Parish (or equivalent) shall elect a representative assembly (Parish Council), which shall be its principal decision-making body.
If there is not already a parish body of governing regulations (constitution), the Parish Council shall formulate such, to be approved by the Parish, bearing in mind the appropriate regulations of the regional and broader communities.
The Parish Council, either directly or through committees, shall bear ultimate responsibility for Parish policy on any activity carried out in the name of the Parish, including social outreach, education, worship, administration, and finances.
49. Every Diocese shall elect a Diocesan Council, which shall be the principal decision-making body of the Diocese.
If there is not already a Diocesan Constitution and/or body of governing regulations, the Diocesan Council shall formulate one or both, to be approved by two-thirds of the Parish Councils of the Diocese, bearing in mind the appropriate regulations of the national and international communities.
The Diocesan Council, either directly or through committees or agencies, shall bear ultimate responsibility for diocesan policy and regulations on worship, education, social outreach, administration, finances and other activities carried out in the name of the Diocese.
50. Normally the Diocesan Councils of a nation will establish a National Council. If for reasons of size or other constraints certain Diocesan Councils decide that establishing a National Council would not be appropriate for them, they shall apply to the General Council for permission to join or establish an appropriate alternative superior Council. The National Council, or its alternative, shall be the principal legislative decision-making body of the national Church.
If there is not already a National Constitution and/or body of governing regulations, the National Council shall formulate one or both, to be approved by two-thirds of the Diocesan Councils of the nation, bearing in mind the appropriate regulations of the universal Church.
The National Council, either directly or through committees or agencies, shall bear ultimate responsibility for national policy and regulations on worship, education, social outreach, administration, finances and other activities carried out in the name of the National Council.
51. If several National Councils (e.g., of a continent or discrete geographical area, etc.) decide it would be helpful to gather formally, they will formulate a multinational body of regulations by which to govern themselves, to be approved by the National Councils involved, preserving the basic governance principles expressed in this Constitution.
52. The National Councils shall elect every ten years a General Council, which shall function as the highest representative legislative assembly of the Catholic Church.
53. The General Council shall bear ultimate responsibility for the formulation of the laws and regulations governing the universal Church, as well as the establishment of policies and regulations concerning doctrine, morals, worship, education, social outreach, administration, finances and other activities carried out in the name of the universal Church, without prejudice to the principle of subsidiarity.
54. The General Council shall be the final institution for deciding disagreements between its member churches concerning the interpretation of the deposit of faith and the determination of doctrinal standards, the limits of permissible theological opinion, and what are the matters essential for the maintenance of unity and cooperation in the shared mission of the churches of the Catholic Communion, and between the latter and other Christian Churches.
55. As an instrument of its autonomous member churches, and in agreement with the principle of subsidiarity, the General Council may only take action in matters committed to it by the national or international churches. It may act on behalf of one or more churches in such specific tasks as they commit to it. It may ask individual member churches to assume tasks on behalf of the entire Communion.
56. The General Council determines the remit and scope of any instrumentality it sets up to implement its laws, regulations and policies, including the Curia of the Catholic Communion.
57. The General Council shall be representative of all Catholics, in a way proportional to the number of registered Catholics in each National Church, to be determined by an independent international committee.
It is recommended that:
· its membership be approximately 500;
· countries with a smaller number of Catholics than required for at least one delegate shall join together into larger units;
· its members be elected in staggered fashion for ten year terms;
· it meet at least once a year.
58. If there is not already a General Council Constitution and/or body of governing regulations, the first General Council shall formulate one or both, to be approved by two-thirds of the National Councils, preserving the basic governance principles expressed in this Constitution.
59. The General Council shall be responsible for organising:
· the election of its members;
· the election of the Pope by a dedicated Papal Electoral Council comprising delegates from all National Councils.
To that end the General Council should establish appropriate independent commissions.
3. Executive Power
60. The executive and administrative power (executive power) enacts the laws and policies set by the legislative power.
The executive power is only permitted to enact those laws and regulations which have been duly passed by the legislative power; it is never permitted to act outside or beyond the scope of what has been legislated.
The legitimate exercise of executive power is mediated through, and delegated by, the particular church or community on whose behalf it is exercised, and whose consent, values, and goals it must represent.
Executive power may be exercised by representative individuals or groups.
61. Whenever executive decisions require specialised knowledge – e.g. in biblical studies, theology, canon law, medicine, psychology, economics, sociology, etc. – church leaders, either individually or in groups, have a duty to seek and take into account relevant and independent expert advice, including by ministers exercising the power of teaching, in agreement with Section 4 [On the Power of Teaching].
The Office of the Pope and the Curia of the Catholic Communion
62. The Pope shall exercise the executive and administrative power at the service of the Catholic Church.
As such, and in agreement with Art. 42, the Pope is responsible for enacting the laws and regulations duly passed by the General Council; it is never permitted to act outside or beyond the scope of what has been legislated.
63. The Pope shall exercise their functions with the assistance of the Curia of the Catholic Communion and other appropriate instrumentalities.
In agreement with Art. 8 and Art. 40, any suitably qualified member of the Church shall be eligible to participate in, and lead, any department of the Curia of the Catholic Communion.
64. As instruments of its autonomous member churches, and in agreement with the principle of subsidiarity, the Pope and the Curia of the Catholic Communion may only take action in matters committed to them by the member churches, either directly or through the General Council. They may act on behalf of one or more churches in such specific tasks as they commit to it. They may ask individual member churches to assume tasks on behalf of the entire Catholic Church.
65. In agreement with art. 39, the Pope and the Curia of the Catholic Communion shall only exercise the executive power, and shall not ordinarily exercise the legislative, judicial, sacramental, or teaching powers.
66. The Pope shall be a sign of unity of the Catholic Church. Like any other church leader, the Pope should not jeopardise such unity or be the cause or focus of division and strife by the exercise of their leadership: instead, they should represent and give voice to the consent of the Church as expressed by the General Council.
67. In agreement with Art. 29 and 40, the Pope shall be elected by indirect universal suffrage for a single non-renewable ten-year term by Delegates selected by the National Councils, gathered in the Papal Electoral College.
· The number of Delegates from National Councils to the Papal Electoral Council shall be proportional to the number of registered Catholics in a nation, to be determined by an appropriate international committee.
· The Delegates shall be chosen as representatively as possible.
4. Power of Teaching
68. It is the duty of all Christians to work so that the evangelical message may spread. They fulfil such ministry of the word of God by studying the deposit of faith, interpreting and deepening their understanding of it, applying it according to the specific circumstances in which they live, and communicating it to others through their actions and words.
However, in order to exercise the ministry of the word of God in the name of the Church, this mission has to be granted by the competent authority on the basis of the relevant academic or professional qualifications, either by a special faculty given for this purpose or by the reception of an office to which this function is attached.
69. The power of teaching is the power to officially exercise the ministry of the word of God in the name of the Church.
Its distinctive responsibility is to carry out scientifically rigorous academic evaluations of the degree of uncertainty and error of different interpretations of:
· the deposit of faith, by means of specialist knowledge biblical studies, theology, canon law, and church history, and
· the evidence from other disciplines – such as medicine, psychology, economics, sociology, etc. – whenever their specialist knowledge is required by the application of the deposit of faith to matters arising in the world.
Ministers exercising the power of teaching have a right and responsibility to help the Church at large, as well as its representatives and leaders, determine doctrinal standards and the limits of permissible theological opinion, and pass doctrinal decisions.
70. Representative legislative and executive ministers and bodies have a duty to inform themselves in the appropriate manner before making decisions.
Should a decision require specialist knowledge – e.g. in biblical studies, theology, canon law, medicine, psychology, economics, sociology, etc. – church representatives and leaders, either individually or in groups, have a legal duty to seek and take into account relevant and independent expert advice.
71. The appointment of independent experts, either as individuals or gathered together in advisory bodies, is optional for decision-making levels below and including the diocesan; it is compulsory for all representative legislative and executive ministers and bodies above the diocesan level, up to and including the General Council, the Pope, and the Curia of the Catholic Communion.
72. All ministers holding teaching power, whether individually or as a body, shall be appropriately qualified.
In agreement with art. 39 [on the “Separation of Powers”] and art. 40 [on “Selection and Accountability of Church Ministers”], candidates shall be selected via an open and transparent peer-review process, whose criteria for selection must include relevant expertise, lack of conflict of interests, independence from church representatives and church leaders, and good standing within the relevant scientific community.
The selection of advisers should match the nature of the issue and should be sufficiently wide to reflect the diversity of opinion amongst experts in the appropriate field(s) in a balanced way.
The official advice provided by such independent advisory bodies should make church representatives and all Catholic faithful aware of the full range of opinion within the relevant disciplines, particularly when there is uncertainty.
When there is no consensus, the official advice should include the majority and minority positions, explaining the differences and reasons for them.
Advice should be in terms that can be understood by a member of the public. Papers and reports should be written in accessible language to ensure that all matters are accessible to all interested parties regardless of specialist knowledge.
The official advice provided by such independent expert advisory bodies shall be made public.
1. Remit, scope, and responsibilities of independent expert advisors and advisory bodies
73. What follows applies to expert advisors both as individuals and gathered together in advisory bodies.
Church representatives and representative bodies have the right to establish the remit and scope of expert advisors.
Expert advisors shall provide church representatives with the best available interpretation of the relevant facts, and with an assessment of the degree of uncertainty and error of a given interpretation (including biblical interpretations).
Unless asked by church representatives, they do not ordinarily give advice on ethical considerations bearing on their judgments of fact. In those cases when they are in fact asked to do so, they should make explicit what processes or expertise they have drawn on in reaching their conclusions.
Experts shall provide advice based on the best available evidence, and they have a responsibility to make the expert advisory bodies or the church representatives aware of the full range of opinion within the discipline.
2. Responsibilities of church representatives and church leaders when using expert advice
74. Church representatives and leaders shall treat expert advice with regard to matters of fact – as distinct from matter of values – as accurate, and the best available approximation to what is true. Judgments of fact include assessments of the degree of uncertainty and error of a given interpretation (including biblical interpretations).
Where church representatives and leaders reject the advice of experts, they shall make clear in writing to the experts and the public what part of the advice they are rejecting: scientific advice on matters of fact, or other kinds of expert advice. Regarding scientific advice on matters of fact, church representatives and leaders should only reject an expert body’s factual assessment of the scientific evidence in exceptional circumstances, and in these circumstances their reasons should be clearly laid out.
Informed by the factual assessment of experts, church representatives and leaders shall make decisions on the basis of the values and goals of the ecclesial constituency they represent.
5. Power of Order
75. The power of order is the power to celebrate the sacraments. It is bestowed via the sacrament of Holy Order and it is exercised as a service for the building up of the Church. Church officials exercising it are called ordained ministers.
76. Ordained ministers shall be selected in agreement with art. 40 [on “Selection of Church Ministers”].
77. Ordained ministers can only legitimately exercise their power of order and sacramental ministry in the particular community or church which has commissioned them.
78. In agreement with art. 39 [on the “Separation of powers”], ordinarily ordained ministers shall only exercise the powers of governance and teaching strictly necessary for the fulfilment of their sacramental responsibilities.
79. Ordained ministers bear the main responsibility for the worship, spiritual and moral instruction, and pastoral care dimensions of the particular community or church they serve, in accordance with the laws and policies set by the Parish Council. This responsibility entails:
b) Instruction in the Christian tradition and the presentation of spirituality and moral teaching; and
c) Pastoral care that applies with love and effectiveness the Christian heritage to persons in particular situations.
80. Ordained ministers have both a right to and responsibility for proper training and continuation of their education throughout the term of their office.
81. Ordained ministers have a right to fair financial support for the exercise of their office, as well as the requisite liberty needed for the proper exercise thereof.
6. Judicial System
82. A church as an institution has the right to enforce discipline and to resolve conflicts amongst the faithful.
83. A church shall have in place a mechanism for the enforcement and vindication of the rights and duties of the faithful.
84. All members of a church are subject to, and equal before, its laws, and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.
85. All Catholics must be judged in the church according to law applied with equity, and disciplinary procedures must secure fair, impartial, and due process.
The parties, particularly the accused, have the right to notice, to be heard, to question evidence, to an unbiased hearing, and where appropriate to an appeal.
86. Church institutions are also subject to the law to the extent that canon law provides.
The lawfulness and constitutionality of decisions, actions or omissions made by individual or bodies holding the legislative, executive or administrative power may be subject to judicial review.
87. Ecclesiastical disputes may be settled by a variety of formal and informal means including administrative process.
Every effort must be made by the faithful, and especially church representatives, leaders, and ordained ministers, to settle their disputes amicably, lawfully, justly, and equitably, without recourse in the first instance to church courts and tribunals.
Formal process is mandatory if church law or civil law require it.
88. All personnel involved in the Church’s judicial system shall be appropriately trained and competent.
Ecclesiastical judges shall be selected in agreement with art. 40 [on “Selection of Church Ministers”].
At every level of church life above and including the diocesan, it is recommended that the selection and appointment of ecclesiastical judges shall occur via a Judicial Appointment Commission independent from the legislative and executive branches of church government.
It is recommended that such Judicial Appointment Commissions shall:
· have the duty to promote vacancies to all those who are eligible, evaluate all candidates, and select them on merit, competence, and good character.
· include members with legal expertise as well as from a wider background, to be chosen through an open and transparent recruitment process, so as to ensure the commissions have a breadth of knowledge, expertise, and independence.
All members of such commissions shall have an equal deliberative vote in selecting the best candidates available. Decisions shall be taken by majority rule. No one shall have veto power.
89. In agreement with art. 39 [on the “Separation of powers”], ecclesiastical judges shall not concomitantly exercise the legislative, executive, teaching, or sacramental power.
90. The Church shall have a system of tribunals, independent of the legislative and executive branches, with jurisdiction over all cases (judicial and non-judicial, criminal, civil, family, and administrative, i.e. concerning the lawfulness or constitutionality of decisions, action, and omissions by the legislative branch or the executive and administrative branch) of the community they serve.
Such a system shall include tribunals at the diocesan, provincial (when appropriate), national, international, and universal levels, with designated first-instance courts as well as designated routes of appeal.
91. The Church shall also have a system of administrative and constitutional tribunals for hearing cases concerning the lawfulness or constitutionality of decisions, action, and omissions by the legislative branch or the executive and administrative branch, including:
· cases concerning any question about whether an official decision, action, or omission of church representatives or church leaders (including the Pope), either individually or as a group, is illegal or unconstitutional.
· cases concerning any other question about whether a function is exercisable within the competence of the legislative branch or the executive branch;
· cases concerning any question about the application of the principle of subsidiarity, i.e. about whether a function is exercisable within the competence of a particular church, or whether it is the competence of a higher level of church life within the Catholic Communion.
Such a system shall include tribunals at the diocesan, provincial (when appropriate), national, international, and universal levels, with designated first-instance courts as well as designated routes of appeal.
In agreement with Art. 54, in reaching their judgments administrative and constitutional tribunals shall take into account the relevant decisions by the legislative branch concerning the interpretation of the deposit of faith and the determination of doctrinal standards, the limits of permissible theological opinion, and what are the matters essential for the maintenance of unity and cooperation in the shared mission of the churches of the Catholic Communion.
92. At the level of the universal Church, the General Council shall establish an independent Supreme Tribunal – without prejudice to Art. 39 and in agreement with Art. 40 – which shall serve as the court of final appeal for all criminal, civil, and family cases brought before it by lower courts or by the General Council.
The Supreme Tribunal shall also have jurisdiction over administrative and constitutional matters referred to it by lower courts or other competent authorities, including cases concerning any question about whether an official decision, action, or omission of individuals or bodies exercising legislative or executive power (including the Pope) is illegal or unconstitutional.
There shall be no judicial appeal from the judgments of the Supreme Tribunal.
7. Financial Administration
93. The universal Church and the Apostolic See, the particular churches, as well as any other juridic person, public or private, are subjects capable of acquiring, retaining, administering, and alienating temporal goods according to the norm of law.
Ownership of goods belongs to that juridic person which has acquired them legitimately.
All temporal goods which belong to the universal Church, the Apostolic See, or other public juridic persons in the Church are ecclesiastical goods and are governed by the following articles and their own statutes.
94. Churches should satisfy those requirements of civil law which apply to the acquisition, ownership, administration and alienation of ecclesiastical goods.
Ecclesiastical goods are to be used to advance the mission of a church, and for the benefit, use, and common good of its members, from generation to generation, in accordance with the law of that church.
The mission of a church and its common good are determined by its representative legislative assembly. Representative legislative assemblies are the stewards of ecclesiastical goods, which they hold in trust for their churches.
Representative legislative assemblies manage the ecclesiastical goods of the churches they represent by determining their allocation, prioritisation, use, and oversight, including by framing relevant laws.
In doing so, representative legislative assemblies must be helped by a Finance Council, whose members must be selected on the basis of their relevant competence, integrity, and independence.
95. A Finance Council provides advice concerning the stewardship of ecclesiastical goods, and how to implement from a financial perspective the goals and priorities set by the representative legislative assembly. It assists it by:
· Conducting long range financial planning with regard to funding operational and capital needs in the church;
· Developing and overseeing a church budget process which results in an annual church budget;
· Providing financial analysis of current fiscal status reports;
· Providing for adherence to the church Investment Policy, where it exists, developed by the representative legislative assemblies;
· Providing the church with periodic (no less than annually) reports on the financial position of the church;
· The Finance Council must review and consent to all proposed church expenditures over a set amount determined by the representative legislative assembly in light of the economic condition of the church before the expenditure is authorized by the competent authority.
While the Finance Council has significant responsibility for the stewardship of the ecclesiastical financial resources, it is not the role of the Finance Committee to recommend directions, priorities, or programs other than those related to its delegation by church representatives: fiscal stewardship.
Investigation of complaints of financial mismanagement should be carried out by an independent body with an appeal lying to an appropriate ecclesiastical authority.
96. The Christian faithful must contribute financially and otherwise, according to their means, what is necessary for the Church to carry out its work.
The disposal of income from offerings is to be determined by the representative legislative assembly of the relevant church. Funds must be used according to the terms of any gift by which they are acquired.
A parish has a responsibility to contribute financially and according to its means towards the finances of the diocese.
A diocese has a responsibility to contribute financially and according to its means to the national, regional or provincial church to fund activities undertaken at these levels.
97. A church should support and sustain those engaged in ministry according to their need and circumstance.
Ministers in full-time ministry have a legitimate expectation to a stipend or other remuneration payable by virtue of the office or other position held by them.
Stipend funds may be held and administered at a national, regional, provincial, diocesan or other level provided by law.
Stipend rates may be determined by a national, regional, provincial, diocesan or parish assembly as provided by law.
A church should make provision for the recurrent expenses of ministers.
98. An ecclesiastical organisation must:
· comply with such financial procedures and controls as are prescribed by law;
· keep financial accounts and submit an annual report with the audited accounts to the appropriate church assembly in order for that assembly to review the financial management and affairs of that organisation.
No-one shall deny or obstruct access to any ecclesiastical person or body lawfully entitled to enter or use church property.
99. Trusteeship of Ecclesiastical Goods
Ecclesiastical goods are held in trust for a church and should not be alienated or encumbered without such consents as may be prescribed by law.
Ecclesiastical goods are held by those authorities within a church which enjoy legal personality as trustees or other entities of a fiduciary nature under civil law and competence under church law.
Ecclesiastical trustees may sell, purchase and exchange ecclesiastical goods in the manner and to the extent authorised by law.
National, regional, provincial, diocesan, parish or other church trustees must perform their functions under the order and control of the respective representative legislative assembly.
100. Ecclesiastical trustees and administrators of ecclesiastical goods:
· in the employment of workers are to observe meticulously also the civil laws concerning labour and social policy, according to the principles handed on by the Church;
· are to pay a just and decent wage to employees so that they are able to provide fittingly for their own needs and those of their dependents.
· are bound by their office to present an annual report to the representative assembly which is to present it for examination by the finance council; any contrary custom is reprobated.
· According to norms to be determined by particular law, administrators are to render an account to the faithful concerning the goods offered by the faithful to the Church.
A church which invests money should do so prudently and in ventures which are consistent with the ethical standards of the church.
Church trustees may make such financial investments as are authorised by law.
Powers of investment enjoyed by trustees at all levels of a church are to be exercised subject to the direction and control of the relevant representative assembly.
Trustees are not liable personally for any financial loss resulting from an investment unless such loss is due to their own wilful default or culpable negligence.
8. Final Provisions
102. The canons of the Constitution of the Church have the force of law within the entire Catholic Church, for all Christian believers.
103. The canons of this Constitution of the Church prevail over all other ecclesiastical laws and also over all decrees or regulations issued by any other ecclesiastical authority. In so far as other ecclesiastical laws – both universal and those issued for a particular Rite of the Church, as well as particular laws, decrees or regulations of any kind – conflict with the canons of this Constitution, they lack any force.
Universal and particular customs that conflict with prescriptions of this Constitution are rejected.
Other laws and customs enacted or approved by any authority, as well as decrees and regulations of any kind, are to be interpreted and applied according to the prescripts of this Constitution.
104. The Supreme Tribunal has the power to annul any law, decree or regulation contrary to the prescripts of this Constitution at the request of those who consider themselves burdened by them.
Any church court or tribunal can and must, in the particular cases entrusted to it, reject the application of those laws, decrees or regulations which are deemed contrary to the provisions of this Constitution.
105. This Constitution can be amended by a three-quarter vote of the General Council, and a subsequent ratification by three fourths of the National Councils within a two-year period after the passage of the amendment by the General Council.
Background, sources, contributing authors, co-signers: