Introduction

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Continue on to Chapter I:  The Standard for Removal in Canon 1740

A pastor is generally appointed to serve a parish for an indefinite time and therefore possesses stability in office.  Stability allows a pastor to dedicate himself to the service of his parishioners, to guide the faithful entrusted to him, and to promote their spiritual growth.  A pastor with stability in office is better able to know his people and to gain their trust.  A pastorís stability is a reflection of the enduring bond that joins a pastor to his parishioners in a spiritual relationship.  This spiritual relationship is akin to the marriage bond that unites a bridegroom in a spiritual relationship with his bride.  As Christ is the bridegroom and the Church is his bride, so a pastor is to represent Christ to his parishioners in a spirit of loving service. {1}  This marital image underscores the kind of dedication that should characterize the ministry of a pastor in his parish.

Unfortunately, the ideal relationship between a pastor and his parish is sometimes absent.  A pastor might do harm to the parishioners he is required to help.  He might fail to provide them with the ministry they deserve.  A pastorís lack of dedication could lead his flock to be suspicious of him rather than trusting of his good will.  When the service of a pastor is so detrimental that the faithful suffer, the pastor ceases to be an instrument to draw the faithful closer to Christ.  Rather, he becomes an obstacle to that goal.  In this adverse situation, a diocesan bishop faces the difficult decision that he may need to remove the pastor from office.

The removal of a pastor is always lamentable, and stands as the last and most severe remedy for a pastorís negative ministry to his parish.  The removal of a pastor severs the spiritual bond that should exist between a pastor and his people and can traumatically affect the life of a parish.  If the relationship between a pastor and his parishioners can be compared to the marital covenant, the removal of a pastor can have some of the painful characteristics of a separation and divorce.  Although the removal of a pastor is traumatic, it may be the only solution to an already difficult situation in which the faithful have suffered grave harm in their parish because of their pastorís ministry.  The removal of a pastor is sometimes necessary for the spiritual and pastoral good of all those involved.

This thesis will examine the causes and the proofs in the removal of a pastor as described in canons 1740, 1741, and the first part of 1742 ß1.  The first chapter will consider the standard that must be met for the removal of the pastor as defined in canon 1740.  The removal of a pastor depends on his ministry, and so the first chapter will also consider the essential elements of a pastorís ministry as described in canons 528-530 and 532.  The second chapter will consider the list of possible causes in canon 1741 that are sufficient for the removal of the pastor.  The third chapter will consider the investigation into the pastorís ministry as described in canon 1742 ß1.  Since the investigation into the pastorís ministry will involve the collection of proofs, the third chapter will also consider the types of proofs that might be collected in light of canons 1526-1586.  A careful study of the legal principles that govern the removal of a pastor will help this procedure to be used prudently, judiciously, and effectively.

Continue on to Chapter I:  The Standard for Removal in Canon 1740

Chapter Endnotes

1.  Eph. 5:32.