Chapter I:  The Standard for Removal in Canon 1740

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Continue on to Chapter II:  The Causes for Removal in Canon 1741

This chapter will consider canon 1740 and the fundamental standard which must be met for the removal of any pastor:  the pastor’s ministry is demonstrated to be harmful or ineffective.  In the second chapter, the five causes for removal in canon 1741 will be presented as examples of circumstances that might lead to the removal of a pastor.  Each of these circumstances can render a pastor’s ministry harmful or ineffective according to the standard of canon 1740.  Although several detailed causes are listed in canon 1741, a pastor’s detrimental ministry remains the basis for his removal.  And therefore, the provisions of canon 1740 and its standard for removal ultimately control this procedure.

The first part of this chapter will consider the standard for removal presented in canon 1740.  As the removal of a pastor is justified only when his ministry is harmful or ineffective, the second part of this chapter will consider the essential elements of a pastor’s ministry.  The examination of these essential elements is helpful because the deficiencies in a pastor’s ministry will be more clearly identified in light of the ideal ministry a pastor is to provide.

Part A:  Exegesis of Canon 1740

Canon 1740 states the general standard to be used when deciding whether to remove a pastor:

When the ministry of any pastor becomes harmful or at least ineffective for any cause, even through no grave personal negligence, the diocesan bishop can remove him from the parish. {2}

The focus in the procedure of the removal of a pastor is not on the person of the pastor but on the ministry (ministerium) that the pastor provides.  The pastor’s ministry consists of governing his parish, exercising pastoral care, and attending to the good of the faithful entrusted to him.  The pastor is to be a shepherd of souls who shares in the ministry of Christ, the Good Shepherd. {3}  As a shepherd, the ministry of the pastor is ordered toward the service of the people of God.  The pastor’s ministry to his parishioners binds them together in a mutual relationship:  The pastor has the obligation to provide this ministry to the faithful, just as the faithful have the right to receive spiritual assistance from their pastor. {4}  Nevertheless, a pastor might not live up to his obligation, which would cause the faithful to suffer as they would be deprived of their right to spiritual assistance.  The law governing a pastor’s removal provides a pastoral remedy that protects the rights of the faithful and consequently looks to the good of souls. {5}  In 1910, the Sacred Congregation of the Consistory established a non-penal procedure for the removal of a pastor in its decree, Maxima Cura.  The preface of this decree emphasized the good of souls in the ministry of the pastor:

The salvation of the people is indeed the supreme law:  and the ministry of the pastor was instituted in the Church not for the benefit of the one to whom it is entrusted, but for the salvation of those for whom it is conferred. {6}

When deciding whether a pastor should be removed, the diocesan bishop rightly keeps before his eyes the good of souls and the protection of the rights of the faithful. {7}

A pastor may be removed when his ministry becomes harmful or at least ineffective (noxium aut saltem inefficax evadat).  A pastor’s ministry is noxius when he does harm or acts in an affirmative way that injures the rights of the faithful.  A pastor’s ministry is inefficax when he does not do a necessary good or when he fails to fulfill a duty that he is obligated to provide for the faithful. {8}  For example, a pastor’s ministry is harmful if his preaching contains doctrinal error.  Conversely, a pastor’s ministry is ineffective if his vacuous preaching lacks all spiritual content.  As the pastor’s removal hinges on his ministry which is noxius or inefficax, a cause and effect relationship must exist between the negative aspect of the pastor’s ministry and the detrimental effect on the people of God.  The pastor’s ministry must either positively or negatively result in some damage to the faithful.  The adverb saltem implies that a pastor’s ministry may appear to be more detrimental when he does actual harm (noxius) than when he simply fails to do good (inefficax).  Nevertheless, the pastor may still be removed from office even when his ministry is deemed merely ineffective.

The pastor’s ministry is affected in its totality if every essential aspect of his pastoral duties is rendered harmful or ineffective.  The pastor’s ministry is affected in part if only one area is harmful or ineffective while his ministry is otherwise sufficient or even praiseworthy.  The diocesan bishop may remove a pastor whose ministry is negative only in part, provided that the negative aspect of the pastor’s ministry is in an area of greater importance. {9}  For example, one pastor may preach well but be unable to administer the parish finances competently.  Another pastor may be a good shepherd of his parish when he is present, but his illegitimate absence from his parish may cause his ministry to suffer.  Alternatively, a third pastor may be unable to sing.  While the first two pastors may be removed because their ministry is deficient in an essential aspect, the last pastor should not be removed because singing is not essential to his pastoral ministry.

A pastor can be removed for any cause (ob aliquam causam).  There is fundamentally only one cause sufficient for the removal of a pastor:  that his ministry is harmful or at least ineffective.  Even so, the code does not limit the types of causes that can generate this negative ministry.  Many factors may affect the ability of a pastor to meet his obligations.  Yet, the removal of a pastor depends primarily on his detrimental ministry and secondarily on the cause by which his ministry has suffered.  A pastor may be removed for any cause provided that it leads to his harmful or ineffective ministry.

Although the causes for removal are unrestricted, canon 1741 gives a list of five causae that are sufficient for removal.  These five causes will be thoroughly addressed in chapter two.  The list in canon 1741 is understood to be illustrative and not taxative, not only because canon 1740 permits removal ob aliquam causam, but also because canon 1741 states that “the causes . . . are especially the following.” {10}  The use of “especially” (praesertim) indicates that other causes beyond those mentioned in canon 1741 can be used for the removal of a pastor.  In spite of the great variety among these five causes, they share the common characteristic that they can render a pastor’s ministry harmful or ineffective.

In the jurisprudence of the Apostolic Signatura, a cause that has rendered the pastor’s ministry harmful or ineffective is sufficient for removal if it has three characteristics:  The cause must be grave, lasting, and proven. {11}

First, the cause must be grave.  A grave cause is one in which the diocesan bishop judges that the removal of the pastor is necessary for the good of souls.  A diocesan bishop weighs the gravity of a cause in light of its impact on the ministry of the pastor and the faithful whom the pastor is bound to serve.  A merely just cause in which the diocesan bishop considers the removal to be prudent or beneficial is insufficient.  A grave cause is required to remove anyone stably appointed to an office for an indeterminate period of time.  As a pastor possesses stability in office, the law itself requires a grave cause for his removal. {12}  Although the cause for the pastor’s removal may arise from a variety of circumstances, the cause must always be grave for removal to be justified.  Therefore, the use of aliquis in canon 1740 permits causes of various types, but not causes of lesser gravity.  

Second, the cause for removal must be lasting.  A lasting cause is one that endures for a time, but it need not be permanent.  However, a temporary cause is one that will likely cease in a brief time and is insufficient for removal. {13}  The diocesan bishop must judge whether the cause has sufficient longevity to render a pastor’s ministry gravely harmful or ineffective, thus justifying the removal of the pastor.

Third, the cause must be proven.  A cause is proven through objective and demonstrable evidence, but not by means of rumor or subjective opinion.  The cause is proven through the investigation of the pastor’s ministry which will be addressed in the third chapter.  The results of this investigation must be evaluated by the diocesan bishop to determine if there is sufficient evidence to justify removal.

No pastor fulfills the many duties of his office perfectly, and human weakness will always render some aspects of a pastor’s ministry insufficient.  Yet, it would be an injustice to remove a pastor for any fault whatsoever, no matter how insignificant.  A pastor’s minor fault should not be considered sufficient for removal, even if it does lead to some measure of harm or some lack of effectiveness in his ministry.  The cause must be sufficiently serious that the pastor’s ministry is impaired in a fundamental way. {14}  If a pastor’s preaching is considered as the basis for his removal, the cause is grave if he preached doctrinal error, but not if he began a homily with a distasteful joke.  The cause is lasting if his preaching was routinely harmful or ineffective, but not if he gave only one poor homily.  The cause is proven if it is supported by evidence, but not if it is simply alleged.

While there may be several possible causes for the removal of a pastor in a specific case, at least one cause must be grave, lasting, and proven.  The following response of the Apostolic Signatura emphasizes this point:

Even if all the causes [for the removal of a pastor] are not certain, [X.] thinks that, from their sum, the Ordinary can form the conclusion that there exists a juridically sufficient cause.  This is true only if at least one cause is juridically valid and certain:  from the accumulation of probability one cannot in fact arrive at certainty. {15}

Therefore, even if there are several causes for removal, at least one of them must be sufficient to warrant the removal of a pastor.

A pastor can be removed if his ministry has suffered, even through no fault of his own (etiam citra gravem ipsius culpam).  The removal of a pastor from office is distinguished from the punishment of a pastor for a delict.  The punishment of a delict requires that the offender be imputable by reason of malice (dolus) or fault (culpa). {16}  Similarly, a pastor’s harmful or ineffective ministry may arise by reason of the pastor’s own malicious actions or his culpable negligence.  However, unlike in a penal process, a pastor’s ministry may also be rendered harmful or ineffective through no fault of the pastor whatsoever.  While there must be a grave cause to justify the removal of a pastor from office, there is no need to demonstrate grave culpability on the part of the pastor. {17}  Therefore, a pastor may be removed for a grave cause, even if the culpability of the pastor is light or even non-existent.  For example, a pastor whose ministry is ineffective because of senility is not at fault for his condition, even though his condition may cause grave harm to his people through his inadequate ministry. {18}

The removal of a pastor is not a penal act.  Rather, the procedure for removal provides for the needs of the faithful and the good of souls which have been negatively affected by the ministry of the pastor. {19}  For this reason, removal is described not as a penal remedy, but as a pastoral remedy. {20}  The importance of this pastoral focus of the law is reflected in the last canon of this section of the code which states that the salvation of souls is the supreme law in the Church. {21}  The good of souls takes precedence over the stability of the pastor in office when these two values come into direct conflict.

Part B:  The Ministry of the Pastor

Every case of removal is based on some form of harmful or ineffective ministry.  A pastor may be removed because, in some way, he has seriously failed to provide the pastoral service that he owes to his people.  The definition of what makes a pastor’s ministry harmful or ineffective is best understood in light of the essential elements of his ministry.  A pastor has many responsibilities that are addressed in various parts of the code, though some of these responsibilities are more essential to a pastor’s ministry than others. {22}  The remainder of this chapter will consider those responsibilities in canons 528-530 and 532 at the core of a pastor’s mission and which are a sine qua non for his successful ministry. {23}  A pastor’s ministry becomes harmful or ineffective when one of its essential elements has been compromised.  The pastor may be removed when his failure in one of the essential elements of his ministry results in some grave harm to his parish.

Ministry of the Word (C. 528 §1)

A pastor is responsible for carrying out the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing for his parish. {24}  As an expression of the first of these functions, canon 528 §1 obligates the pastor to proclaim the word of God, and to insure that the faithful are accurately instructed in the truths of the faith.  As a part of this function, the pastor must foster spiritual works, support social justice, care for the education of children, and reach out to those who have fallen away from the faith and those who are not Catholic.  These obligations are aspects of the fundamental duty that binds especially pastors to proclaim the gospel. {25}

According to canon 528 §1, the pastor fulfills this ministry of the word by two primary means:  giving a homily on Sundays and holy days of obligation, and offering catechetical instruction.  These two means are also treated in the first title of book three of the code on the ministry of the divine word which is divided into two chapters:  preaching and catechetical instruction. {26}  Among all the forms of preaching, the homily is preeminent and holds a place of importance in the proclamation of the essential mysteries of the faith. {27}  A pastor must also take care that all those in his parish receive suitable catechesis, especially in preparation for the sacraments. {28}  Therefore, the preaching of the homily and the catechetical formation of his parishioners are two essential and indispensable elements of a pastor’s ministry of the word.

A pastor’s ministry becomes harmful or ineffective if he is gravely deficient in either his preaching of the homily or his catechetical formation of his parishioners.  A pastor’s homilies may render his ministry harmful if he preaches false doctrine, leads the people into serious doubt, or offends the sensibilities of the faithful by his crudeness.  A pastor might also do harm by actively advocating political candidates for partisan reasons. {29}  A pastor’s ministry may be ineffective if he regularly omits the homily on Sundays, or delivers listless homilies devoid of spiritual value.  A pastor may also be ineffective if he cannot speak the language of the people or cannot be understood because he mumbles or has a speech impediment.  The pastor’s ministry would also be deficient if he fails to make adequate provision for the catechesis of children, for those preparing for the sacraments, or for converts who wish to undergo instruction in preparation for joining the Church.

Ministry of the Sacred Liturgy (Cc. 528 §2 and 530)

The second function of sanctifying the people of God is expressed in canon 528 §2 which obligates the pastor to assist the faithful through the celebration of the sacraments.  The pastor is to make the Eucharist the center of parish life, nourish the faithful through the celebration of the sacraments, encourage frequent reception of the Eucharist and penance, promote family prayer, and encourage active participation in the liturgy while guarding against abuse. {30}  Some of the most important sacramental functions in the life of a parish are singled out as especially (specialiter) entrusted to the pastor by canon 530.  These functions include the celebration of baptism, confirmation in danger of death, viaticum, marriage, funeral rites, special blessings, and solemn Masses.  While the pastor is not prevented from delegating other qualified ministers to assist him in his sacramental ministry, the pastor retains the obligation of ensuring that the sacramental needs of his parishioners are met.  As part of his obligation, the pastor is not to deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times unless the person is not properly disposed or prohibited by law. {31}  Book four of the code refers to other obligations of the pastor in the celebration of individual sacraments. {32}

A pastor’s sacramental ministry may be detrimental for several reasons.  A pastor’s ministry is harmful if he celebrates invalid sacraments, or if he scandalizes the faithful through violations of liturgical law.  For example, a pastor might celebrate an invalid marriage of two persons whom he knows are not free to marry in the Church. {33}  A pastor might concelebrate Mass with non-Catholic ministers, or might promote the regular distribution of the Eucharist to non-Catholics. {34}  A pastor might do harm to souls if he is unnecessarily rigorous or unconsciously lax with penitents in the confessional. {35}  A pastor’s ministry is ineffective if he fails to provide suitable access to the sacraments.  For example, a pastor might cancel Sunday Mass without making provision for the faithful. {36}  A pastor might fail to offer adequate opportunities for confession. {37}  A pastor might fail to provide the sacraments of viaticum and anointing of the sick for the dying. {38}

Ministry of Pastoral Governance (C. 529 §1)

After the code addressed the teaching and sanctifying function of the pastor in canon 528, a treatment of the third function of governing is expected.  Canon 529 §1 addresses the governance of a parish, although from the perspective of pastoral charity.  A pastor is obligated to visit his people, share their griefs, help the sick, seek out the poor, and support spouses and parents in their family life.  These responsibilities go to the heart of what it means to be a pastor and to be a “father” to his people.  A pastor is to shepherd those under his care with a loving and gentle hand, just as a father loves and nourishes his children.  While this model of governing through service may initially be unexpected, the function of governing (munus regendi) in the Church can never be exercised apart from a Christian model of service. {39}

As a consequence of his duty of pastoral governance, the pastor is obligated to provide comprehensive pastoral care to the entire community of persons entrusted to him. {40}  Because most parishes are territorial, a pastor is generally bound to provide pastoral care to all those within the territorial boundaries of his parish.  In some cases, however, a parish may be established for a particular group of the faithful, such as those of a particular rite, language, or nationality.  In such a case, a pastor is bound to provide pastoral care for that corresponding portion of the people of God within a certain region. {41}  This duty is analogous to the obligation of a diocesan bishop who is to care for all the Christian faithful in his territory regardless of age, condition or nationality. {42}  A pastor accepts this obligation and is bound by it from the moment he takes possession of his parish. {43}

As a second consequence of his duty of pastoral governance, the pastor is obligated to reside in a rectory near his church, and may be away from the parish on vacation only for a limited time. {44}  The obligation of residence is a natural corollary to the pastor’s other responsibilities, because the pastor will not be able to meet the needs of his parishioners if he does not live near them.  Similarly, a pastor who is absent from his parish too frequently will not be able to minister adequately to his parishioners.

A pastor’s ministry may be harmful or ineffective if he fails in his pastoral duties to his parishioners.  A pastor’s ministry is harmful if he refuses to provide pastoral care or rejects those he is bound to care for.  For example, a pastor might behave in an antagonistic manner or might spurn those who seek his help.  A pastor’s ministry is ineffective if he fails to know his people or provide adequate pastoral care.  For example, a pastor might fail to care for his people because of his illegitimate absence from his parish.  A pastor might fail to provide ministry to a portion of his parishioners, such as those of a particular racial or ethnic group, perhaps because he cannot speak their language.  A pastor might fail to care for the elderly if he does not visit those in nursing homes or hospitals within his parish boundaries.  A pastor might fail to care for the sick if he does not respond to emergency sick calls.  A negative reaction to the pastor in a parish may be a sign that the pastor’s inadequate ministry has caused him to lose the trust and confidence of his people.

Ministry of Ecclesiastical Communion (C. 529 §2)

Canon 529 §2 obligates a pastor to recognize and promote the mission of the laity, and to work with his bishop and the priests of his diocese. {45}  He must foster among the faithful a concern for parochial communion and an awareness of their place within their diocese and the universal Church.  This canon, which has no corresponding canon in the 1917 code, reflects the emphasis on the ecclesiology of communion in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. {46}  Although the code does not define communion, it is helpful to consider the description of communion in Lumen Gentium.  Communion is a relationship that exists among all members of the Church.  “All the faithful scattered throughout the world are in communion with each other in the Holy Spirit.” {47}  This general and universal communion that exists among all members of the Body of Christ can be referred to as ecclesiastical communion (communio ecclesiastica). {48}  The pastor promotes horizontal communion through which the faithful see themselves as united with one another in their parish and with Christians throughout the world.  The pastor also promotes vertical communion through which the faithful recognize the leadership of their diocesan bishop and the Holy Father. {49}  Furthermore, the code describes full communion, which requires that the faithful be united with the Church through the bonds of the profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical governance. {50}  The pastor is obligated to promote these triple bonds of communion among his people, just as his people are obligated to maintain their communion with the Church. {51}

A pastor’s ministry may harm communion if he injures the rights of the faithful in the Church.  For example, a pastor might sow discord or division among his parishioners, or he might impose his own personal opinions with a spirit of authoritarianism, intolerance, or inflexibility.  A pastor’s ministry may be ineffective in promoting communion if he neglects the rights of the faithful.  For example, a pastor might refuse to cooperate in a pastoral endeavor with his own bishop and his brother priests with some harm coming to his parishioners because of his intransigence.  A pastor’s ministry may be harmful or ineffective with respect to the triple bonds of communion if his witness contradicts one of these bonds to the detriment of the faithful.  For example, a pastor might disturb the bond of faith if he publicly questions the magisterium, dissents from definitive teachings on faith or morals in his published writings, or supports movements opposed to Catholic doctrine.  A pastor might disturb the bond of the sacraments if he denies the importance of individual sacraments by his words or actions, teaches that any Christian service is equivalent to Sunday Mass, or questions the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass in order to promote the Tridentine Mass.  A pastor might disturb the bond of governance if he publicly refuses to submit to the authority of the diocesan bishop or the Holy Father through his disregard of universal or particular law. {52}

Financial Administration (C. 532)

In virtue of canon 532, a pastor represents his parish in all juridic affairs and is responsible for the correct administration of the temporal goods of his parish.  The pastor’s care for the assets of his parish is essential to his ministry, because these resources allow the parish to continue to fulfill its mission and to serve its parishioners.  The assets of a parish are used to pay for the needs of divine worship, the support of the clergy and ministers, and works of the apostolate and of charity. {53}

Many important financial obligations of the pastor are found in book five of the code.  In particular, a pastor has the obligation to care diligently for those offerings given to his parish.  He must place the voluntary contributions of the faithful in the parochial account, show respect for the intentions of the donors, and keep a careful record of offerings for Mass intentions. {54}  He has a responsibility to safeguard parish property by his own vigilance, by means of insurance policies, and through the careful observance of canon and civil law.  He must ensure that income is protected, debts are paid, and surplus funds are invested with the consent of the ordinary.  He is obligated to keep careful books, safeguard archived reports, and report on his administration to the local ordinary and to his parishioners according to the norms of particular law. {55}

The diocesan bishop has an important role in the oversight of the financial management of a parish.  The diocesan bishop has the right to issue particular laws or instructions that regulate the administration of ecclesiastical goods, and he has the right to intervene if the pastor is negligent in his administration. {56}  The diocesan bishop determines the limits of the pastor’s ordinary administration through parish statutes or particular law.  A pastor may not validly place acts of extraordinary administration without a written faculty from the ordinary, nor may he alienate parish property except in accord with the norm of law.  A pastor may be held accountable for the financial consequences of an invalid act of administration if the parish suffered illegitimate harm. {57}

A pastor’s ministry is negatively affected if he poorly administrates the temporal goods of his parish.  A pastor might directly harm the parish by embezzling funds or spending the assets of a parish on something inconsistent with the mission of the Church, such as making large parish contributions to a political candidate.  A pastor might make imprudent decisions that imperil the parish finances by frivolously purchasing too many expensive objects for the parish church.  A pastor might spend money on needed things, but purchase items of such poor quality that the parish is consequentially harmed.  A pastor might be negligent and ineffective if he fails to promote adequate revenue or fails to protect the assets of the parish.  A pastor might be negligent in safeguarding the parish resources by squandering the assets of the parish on unsound investments, or by neglecting to take out insurance that should prudently be obtained.  A pastor’s negligence could violate civil law if he failed to report the salaries of his staff to the Internal Revenue Service, or if he violated important labor laws. {58}  These violations might cause the parish to be subject to a fine or even to litigation.  A pastor’s negligence might violate canon law if he failed to observe a requirement of book five of the code, such as illegitimately alienating property without a written faculty.  Even if the pastor obeys the requirements of book five of the code, he might make large and imprudent (though well-intentioned) contributions to a noble charity, thereby depriving the parish of sufficient assets to continue its mission.

Other Causes of a Pastor’s Harmful or Ineffective Ministry

Canons 528-530 and 532 touch on the most important aspects of a pastor’s ministry.  If a pastor’s ministry suffers in one of these areas, he may be removed from office.  A cause for removal, however, may focus on some element of a pastor’s ministry other than those mentioned above.  In fact, any cause that renders a pastor’s ministry gravely harmful or ineffective can form the basis for his removal.

A pastor’s ministry may suffer if he fails to meet other obligations that are proper to the clerical state.  While these obligations are common to all clerics, a pastor who violates one of his clerical obligations may lose his credibility as a representative of the Church, thus rendering ineffective his ministry and leadership in his parish.  For example, a pastor might be known to have violated his promise of celibacy, or might have an intimate friendship with another person which causes scandal among the faithful.  Although clerics are to foster simplicity of life, a pastor might develop a reputation for extreme materialism.  Although clerics are to wear appropriate ecclesiastical garb in accord with legitimate custom, a pastor might frequently wear inappropriate attire that upsets the faithful.  A pastor might behave in a way that is unbecoming to the clerical state by frequently gambling with large sums of money, attending inappropriate or sordid performances, or the like.  A pastor’s actions may appear incongruous with his state in life if he were to routinely carry a handgun on his person, practice hypnotherapy when counseling his parishioners, or engage in other questionable activities. {59}

Although there are many possible causes that would lead to the removal of a pastor, the specific cause must be grave, lasting, and proven, and must render the pastor’s ministry harmful or ineffective, either totally or at least in some essential aspect.  The removal of the pastor is justified, not as a punishment for some fault on the part of the pastor, but because his deficient ministry has resulted in some harm to the faithful who have a right to receive benefit from the spiritual goods of the Church.  In this light, every removal is motivated ultimately by the desire to care for the good of souls.

Continue on to Chapter II:  The Causes for Removal in Canon 1741

Chapter Endnotes

2. Codex Iuris Canonici auctoritate Ioannis Pauli PP. II promulgatus (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1983) c. 1740: “Cum alicuius parochi ministerium ob aliquam causam, etiam citra gravem ipsius culpam, noxium aut saltem inefficax evadat, potest ipse ab Episcopo dioecesano a paroecia amoveri.”  English translation from Code of Canon Law, Latin-English Edition: New English Translation (Washington, DC: CLSA, 1998).  All English translations of canons from this code are taken from this source unless otherwise indicated.

3. C. 519.  Francesco Coccopalmerio, “De Causis ad Amotionem Parochorum Requisitis,” Periodica 75 (1986) 276.

4. C. 213.  Ángel Marzoa, “Sectio II: De procedura in parochis amovendis vel transferendis (cc. 1740-1752)” in Exegetical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, ed. Ángel Marzoa et al. (Chicago: Midwest Theological Forum, 2004) IV/2:2112.

5. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 276.  Zenon Grocholewski, “Trasferimento e rimozione del parroco” in La Parrocchia, Studi Giuridici, vol. 43 (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997) 213.

6. Sacred Congregation of the Consistory, Decree Maxima Cura preface, 20 August 1910, AAS 2 (1910) 636: “Salus enim populi suprema lex est: et parochi ministerium fuit in Ecclesia institutum, non in commodum eius cui committitur, sed in eorum salutem pro quibus confertur.”  All translations not taken from the Code of Canon Law are provided by the author of this thesis unless otherwise noted.

7. C. 1752.

8. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 276.  Grocholewski, 214.

9. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 277.  The areas of greater importance referred to by Coccopalmerio should be understood as those elements which are essential to a pastor’s ministry.  These essential elements will be discussed in the second part of this chapter.

10. C. 1741: “Causae . . . hae praesertim sunt.”  This list would be understood to be taxative if the canon indicated that only these five causes can be considered for removal.  See Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 275.

11. Frans Daneels, “The Removal or Transfer of a Pastor in the Light of the Jurisprudence of the Apostolic Signatura,” Forum 8:2 (1997) 296.

12. Cc. 193 §§1 and 2, and 522.

13. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 277.  The causes for removal listed in canon 1741 have different standards with respect to the duration of the cause.  For example, a mental or physical infirmity should be permanent to justify removal (c. 1741, 2º).  However, an aversion to the pastor on the part of his parishioners must only be foreseen not to cease in a brief time (c. 1741, 3º).

14. Grocholewski, 214.

15. Grocholewski, 216, footnote 60: “[X] pensa che anche se tutte le cause non sono certe, da tutto l’insieme l’Ordinario possa formarsi il concetto dell’esistenza di una causa giuridicamente sufficiente.  Questo è vero solo se almeno una causa è giuridicamente valida e certa: da un cumulo di probabilità infatti non si genera la certezza (excerpt from a letter of the Apostolic Signatura to the Secretary of State, Prot. N. 9036/77 CA, 24 July 1978).”

16. C. 1321 §1.

17. Grocholewski, 215.  Canon 193 requires a grave cause (ob graves causas) for the removal of a pastor, although canon 1740 does not require that the pastor be gravely at fault (citra gravem culpam).

18. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 277.

19. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 299.  Marzoa, 2109.  Daneels indicates that a crime can serve as a cause for the removal of the pastor, provided that the diocesan bishop seeks not to punish a crime but to make provision for the good of souls.  In this case, the procedure does not seek to prove the imputability of the pastor for a delict, but the harm done to the faithful.  See Daneels, 296.

20. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 278.  Florentius Romita, “De Parochorum Amotione, Translatione et Renuntiatione juxta Vaticanum II,” Monitor Ecclesiasticus 94 (1969) 433.  Romita notes that the procedure for removal is administrative in as much as it arises from ecclesiastical authority.  It is pastoral in as much as it tends solely and directly to the good of souls.  It is juridic in as much as it is governed by legal norms.  It is also paternal in as much as the diocesan bishop is bound to guard and protect the rights of human persons, both the rights of his pastor and the rights of his faithful.

21. C. 1752.

22. Canons 519-538 contain obligations for pastors, while canons 273-289 contain obligations common to all clerics.  A pastor is also bound by the obligations to teach and instruct the faithful expressed in book three of the code, and by the obligations to sanctify the faithful through the celebration of the sacraments expressed in book four of the code.  Furthermore, the canons of book five of the code bind pastors as the administrators of the temporal goods of their parishes.  For a more thorough treatment on the obligations of a pastor, see Edward A. Sweeney, The Obligations and Rights of the Pastor of a Parish: according to the Code of Canon Law (Ottawa: Alba House, 2002); Marcello Morgante, La Parrocchia nel Codice del Diritto Canonico: Commento giuridico-pastorale (Milan: Edizione Pauline, 1985); or Francesco Coccopalmerio, De Paroecia, (Rome: Pontificia Università Gregoriana, 1991).

23. Coccopalmerio cites canons 519, 528-530 and 534 as essential to a pastor’s ministry.  See Coccopalmerio, De Paroecia, 61.  Parizek cites canons 519, 521, 528-530, and 535 as central to a pastor’s ministry.  See James F. Parizek, “Section II: Procedure in Removal and Transfer of Pastors (cc. 1740-1752)” in The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary (hereafter Text and Commentary) , ed. James A. Coriden et al. (New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1985) 1036 and 1039.  Janicki cites canons 528-530 as the primary duties of a pastor.  See Joseph A. Janicki, “Chapter VI: Parishes, Pastors, and Parochial Vicars (cc. 515-552)” in Text and Commentary, ed. James A. Coriden et al., 420.  Other commentators refrain from singling out individual canons of particular importance.

The importance of canons 528-530 is commonly recognized among scholars.  This author has also chosen to treat canon 532 because of its important connection with financial administration (see c. 1741, 5º).  Canon 519 defines those the pastor is bound to care for and will be treated within the context of canon 529 §1 which describes the ministry of pastoral governance.  Canons 534 (regarding the Mass to be offered for the people) and 535 (regarding recordkeeping) will not be treated as they are not likely to serve as a basis for the removal of the pastor.

24. C. 519.

25. C. 757.  Coccopalmerio, De Paroecia, 66 and 69-70.

26. See cc. 756-780.  Coccopalmerio, De Paroecia, 72.

27. Cc. 767-769.

28. Cc. 773, 776, and 777.

29. C. 287 §2.  Clerics are not to have an active part in political parties unless the competent authority judges that the protection of the rights of the Church or the promotion of the common good is at stake.

30. Coccopalmerio, De Paroecia, 82.

31. C. 843 §1.  Coccopalmerio, De Paroecia, 85.

32. There are many obligations imposed on a pastor in book four of the code.  For example, a pastor is obliged to carefully secure the key to the tabernacle (c. 938 §5).  A pastor is obligated to assist a couple preparing for marriage and must diligently complete the pre-marital investigation (cc. 1063, 2º and 1067).  A pastor is also to protect the cleanliness and beauty of the parish church and is to securely protect the parish’s sacred goods (c. 1220).

33. C. 1066.

34. Cc. 908 and 844 §4.  It is licit to distribute the Eucharist to non-Catholics under the conditions specified in canon 844 §4.

35. Cc. 978-981.  A diocesan bishop must proceed cautiously with a cause for removal on the basis of the pastor’s ministry within the confessional because the seal of confession will prevent the pastor from defending his ministry.  Regarding the caution to be used when investigating matters protected by the seal of confession, see John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela, Art. 20, 30 April 2001, AAS 93 (2001) 737-739.

36. Canon 533 §3 permits particular law to establish norms that see to the pastoral care of a parish when the pastor is absent.

37. According to canon 961 §1, 2º, it is not legitimate to have recourse to general absolution if the presence of a large number of penitents on a single occasion is the result of the pastor’s failure to provide adequate opportunities for confession on a regular basis.

38. Cc. 911 §1 and 1001.

39. Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium 27, 21 November 1964, AAS 62 (1965) 32 (hereafter LG).  The governance of a pastor may be compared to that of bishops who are called to govern their dioceses in the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served, but to serve.

40. C. 519.

41. Cc. 515 §1 and 518.

42. C. 383 §1.  See also c. 518.

43. C. 527 §1.

44. C. 533.  A pastor is permitted to be absent from his parish for up to one month per year, not counting time spent on retreat.

45. Coccopalmerio cites canons 204 and 208-231 as expressions of the mission of the laity.  See Coccopalmerio, De Paroecia, 89.

46. Parizek, 1037.

47. LG 13, AAS 17: “Cuncti enim per orbem sparsi fideles cum ceteris in Spiritu Sancto communicant.”

48. Canons 96 and 840 give examples of communio ecclesiastica in which all the faithful are united by the grace of baptism or by the other sacraments.

49. LG 32.

50. C. 205.

51. C. 209 §1.

52. Marzoa, 2113.

53. C. 1254 §2.  Any juridic person, including a parish, is not to be established unless it can be foreseen that it will have the resources necessary to fulfill its mission (see c. 114 §3).

54. Cc. 531, 958 §1, and 1267 §§1 and 3.

55. Cc. 1284 §2 and 1287.

56. Cc. 392 §2, 1276 §2, and 1279 §1.

57. Cc. 1281 §§1 and 3, and 1291-1295.

58. C. 1286, 1º.

59. See cc. 277, 282, 284, and 285.

Continue on to Chapter II:  The Causes for Removal in Canon 1741