Chapter II:  The Causes for Removal in Canon 1741

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Continue on to Chapter III:  The Collection and Evaluation of Proofs

The first chapter considered canon 1740 and the fundamental standard that a pastor can be removed if his ministry has become harmful or ineffective.  While this is the only standard for the removal of a pastor, the causes that produce this negative ministry may vary greatly.  This chapter will consider the five illustrative causes presented in canon 1741.  These two canons should be interpreted in relation with one another.  Canon 1740 contains the implicit causes for the removal of a pastor:  any cause which renders the pastor’s ministry harmful or ineffective.  Canon 1741 contains several explicit causes for a pastor’s removal:  a list of five causes that can result in the pastor’s detrimental ministry.  These five causes are examples which apply the standard for removal laid out in the previous canon. {1}  References will be made periodically to some of the topics mentioned in the first chapter.  While it is not possible to mention every connection with the previous chapter, it suffices to recall that each of the five causes considered in this chapter should be thought of in light of the observations of the previous chapter.

Detriment or Disturbance to Ecclesiastical Communion (C. 1741, 1º)

The first cause for the removal of a pastor is “a manner of acting which brings grave detriment or disturbance to ecclesiastical communion.” {2}  This cause focuses on a manner of acting (modus agendi) of the pastor.  A modus agendi is very broad and encompasses a range of actions.  Because the pastor’s actions are not limited to any specific sphere, these actions could be ministerial or non-ministerial in nature; that is, they could be connected to what the pastor does while performing his parochial duties, or what he does while he is away from the parish. {3}  Even if this modus agendi is non-ministerial in nature, the pastor cannot be removed unless his manner of acting somehow renders his ministry harmful or ineffective.  The modus agendi could be connected to the pastor’s own personal words and actions, or his act of approving of something harmful which is introduced by another person.

Although the modus agendi is in one sense very broad, it must also be specifically related to some concrete action on the part of the pastor that is demonstrable and manifest. {4}  The modus agendi must be an action and not a characteristic, quality, or appearance.  For example, a pastor harms his parishioners if he publicly ridicules home schooling families, but not if his stern demeanor simply gives the appearance that he is critical of those who do not attend his parochial school.  The modus agendi must be attributed to the pastor and not merely to some other person.  For example, a pastor preaches error if he personally advocates the ordination of women, but he might not be responsible for his director of religious education who may believe that women have a right be ordained.  The modus agendi must be demonstrable and not vague.  For example, a pastor demonstrably violates the law if he invites all Protestants to receive the Eucharist, but not if he simply offers them words of welcome at Mass.  The modus agendi must be externally manifest and not merely suspected or rumored.  For example, a pastor harms his relationship with his bishop if he preaches against a diocesan tax, but not if it is rumored that he does not like the way his diocese raises money.  These characteristics of the modus agendi flow from the observation in the previous chapter that a pastor can only be removed for a cause which is juridically proven.

The actions of the pastor must somehow affect ecclesiastical communion (communio ecclesiastica).  As discussed with respect to canon 529 §2, a pastor may harm the horizontal communion that binds the parishioners together, the vertical communion that unites the parishioners under the authority of the diocesan bishop and the pope, or the triple bonds of faith, sacraments, and governance.  The bond of communion can be broken by heresy (the obstinate denial or doubt of a truth that is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith), by apostasy (the total repudiation of the Christian faith), or by schism (the refusal of submission to the pope or a refusal of communion with the other members of the Church). {5}  A pastor who has personally committed one of these delicts may be subject to a penalty.  However, the removal of a pastor depends not so much on his commission of a delict but rather on his detrimental ministry.  Therefore, this cause for removal applies only when the pastor’s actions have affected the faithful by leading them to doubt or reject some element of their communion with the Church.  A pastor may be removed for harm to communio ecclesiastica under this cause only when it can be proven that his actions have affected at least some portion of the faithful.

The actions of the pastor must bring grave detriment or disturbance (detrimentum vel perturbatio) to this communion.  Detrimentum implies an act that injures or wounds communion.  Perturbatio implies an act that weakens communion or places it in peril.  Detriment and disturbance are not equivalent to breaking or defecting from communion.  If a pastor were to break communion or formally defect from the Catholic faith, he loses office by the law itself. {6}  The detriment or disturbance to ecclesiastical communion must be grave but need not be so severe that communion is actually broken.  It must be shown that the pastor has seriously injured or weakened the bond of communion among the people of God.  It is sufficient to demonstrate that the pastor’s actions have fostered dissension, sustained a lack of peace, scandalized the faithful, or promoted a lack of reverence toward legitimate authority. {7}

It has been previously observed that any cause for removal must be grave.  In this light, the pastor’s actions must jeopardize some essential element of ecclesiastical communion.  For example, a pastor who consecrates invalid matter at Mass threatens a fundamental sacramental element of ecclesiastical communion:  the Eucharist. {8}  On the other hand, a pastor who wears an illegitimate blue vestment on a Marian feast commits a less significant liturgical offense.  However, the adjective grave (gravis) in this canon specifically modifies detrimentum.  Grammatically, the adjective gravis should be taken distributively to mean “grave detriment or grave disturbance.”  In other words, not only must the threatened object be essential to maintaining ecclesiastical communion, but the manner in which communion is threatened must also be grave.  For example, a pastor gravely threatens the bond of faith if he publicly encourages the use of contraception, but the threat to communion is less severe if he advocates contraception when privately counseling a few married couples.  The judgment of the gravity of the cause for removal is left to the diocesan bishop.  Nevertheless, the cause must be sufficiently grave that removal is necessary in order to safeguard the good of souls.

Ineptitude or Infirmity (C. 1741, 2º)

The second cause for the removal of a pastor is “ineptitude or a permanent infirmity of mind or body which renders the pastor unable to fulfill his functions usefully.” {9}  A pastor can be removed for ineptitude (imperitia) or infirmity (infirmitas).  Imperitia is the opposite of knowledge, skill, or expertise (peritia).  An inept pastor is unable to act or acts poorly because of ignorance, a lack of discretion of judgment, or a fault of character.  On the other hand, infirmitas is an illness or condition that affects a pastor’s health.  An infirm pastor can suffer from either a mental or a bodily illness. {10}

The canon explicitly requires that infirmitas be permanent (permanens) to be sufficient for the removal of a pastor.  Therefore, this cause for removal would not apply to a pastor who is gravely ill but expected to make a recovery.  The pastor may be removed if he will not recover his health, or at least if the probability of recovering in the foreseeable future is remote.  While a temporary illness may cause the ministry of the pastor to suffer, this problem can be overcome through the appointment of a parochial vicar or a parochial administrator who can meet the pastoral needs of the parish for a time. {11}  It was observed in the first chapter that a cause for removal must be lasting.  The illness is lasting if it will affect the pastor perpetually or for an indefinite period of time.  While a pastor possesses stability in office for the sake of the people whom he serves, he may be removed when the long duration of his illness causes more harm than good to the faithful.  In the case of a protracted illness, the ministerial needs of the parish outweigh the right of the pastor to stability in office, and the pastor may be removed.

The canon does not indicate that imperitia must be permanens.  However, ineptitude is an enduring (not temporary) quality that inhibits the pastor from acting in the way he should.  Hence, in this context, imperitia is implicitly permanens.  This enduring quality of imperitia is consistent with the observation in the previous chapter that any cause for removal must be lasting.  The pastor must have a certain pastoral art or tact in order to fulfill his ministry. {12}  The inept pastor does not possess this pastoral art because of a lack of knowledge, expertise, or skill.  Although a pastor may or may not be aware of his ineptitude, this cause for removal depends on the pastor’s inability to minister to his parish and not on the pastor’s recognition of his lack of ability.

Both imperitia and infirmitas must render the pastor unable to usefully fulfill his functions.  The Latin text says that the obstacle renders the pastor unequal (impar) to the duty (munus) which must be usefully (utiliter) fulfilled.  A pastor who cannot fulfill his munus is unable to provide adequate ministry, and therefore can be removed in virtue of canon 1740.  Yet, only an ineptitude or illness that impacts the ministry of the pastor can be used as a cause for removal.  For example, a pastor who has a basic knowledge of Spanish and is able to prepare a Spanish homily with the help of a translator may usefully minister to a parish that has a number of Spanish speaking members.  Similarly, a pastor who suffers from a chronic but treatable illness may usefully fulfill his ministerial obligations, such as a pastor who manages his diabetes with insulin.  This cause for removal requires proof of the pastor’s ineptitude or illness, and proof of its effect on the pastor’s ministry.  The pastor’s deficiency must gravely affect either some essential part of his ministry or his ministry as a whole, and must result in some harm to the people in his care.

A pastor who does not perform his duties usefully (utiliter) has failed to provide his people with the ministry that they deserve.  Utiliter can imply either that the pastor does not act in regards to an obligation of his office, or that he acts poorly in a way that is inadequate to the needs of his parish.  No pastor fulfills all his pastoral duties perfectly, but a pastor who ministers usefully at least meets his essential obligations to his people.  An obstacle that prevents the pastor from fulfilling his essential duties usefully would be sufficiently grave to justify the pastor’s removal.  The judgment of what makes a pastor’s ministry useful must be considered in light of the needs of the persons in a particular parish. {13}  For example, a pastor who is only able to give simple or down-to-earth homilies may usefully minister to a largely rural and less educated parish, but may not minister usefully to a more educated parish near a university that expects more scholarly preaching.  Similarly, a pastor who is prevented from driving after sundown by a physical condition may usefully minister to a small inner-city parish with limited parish boundaries, but may not minister usefully to a rural parish that requires the pastor to drive great distances at night to answer a sick call.

The code gives examples of physical infirmities that can impact the ministry of a pastor.  A priest may have difficulty in offering Mass if he cannot stand, is blind, or suffers from another infirmity.  While the code allows a priest in this situation to continue offering Mass as best he can, he may not be able to celebrate Mass in public, as the people may be scandalized. {14}  A pastor who has such difficulties in offering Mass would be hindered in providing an essential aspect of his ministry and should resign his parish.

The law provides a further example of a psychological infirmity that could affect a priest.  A severe psychic illness may cause a priest to be impeded altogether from the exercise of orders. {15}  Yet, even a less severe mental illness may affect the pastor’s ability to provide pastoral ministry.  A pastor who suffers from some mental illness should resign his office if his condition prevents him from fulfilling his essential pastoral responsibilities.  In some cases, a pastor may not recognize the significance of his mental disability, and the diocesan bishop appropriately intervenes to remove the pastor.

A priest may be less and less able to fulfill his pastoral responsibilities simply due to his advanced years.  The code requests that a pastor submit his resignation from office at age seventy-five. {16}  His resignation is requested but not required, since the pastor may still have the vigor necessary to continue his ministry beyond the age of seventy-five.  When a pastor does submit his resignation, his bishop decides whether to accept the resignation or defer it for a time.  Any bishop is similarly requested to submit his resignation at age seventy-five.  However, a bishop is also requested to submit his resignation when he is less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or another grave cause. {17}  While a pastor is not explicitly invited to resign his office in the case of sickness, his bishop can name a parochial administrator when a pastor is prevented from exercising his office by reason of captivity, exile, banishment, incapacity, or ill health. {18}  If a pastor anticipates that he will not improve, it is appropriate that he (like a bishop) submit his resignation.  If a pastor resigns his office for reasons of health, his bishop should provide support commensurate with the norms governing a retired pastor, even if the priest in question is not yet seventy-five years old. {19}  It was previously observed that canon 1740 permits the removal of a pastor even through no personal fault of his own.  A pastor’s declining health is a good example of a cause for removal in which the pastor is not personally at fault for his deficient ministry.

In addition to these examples of infirmity in the code, there are other circumstances that could lead to the removal of a pastor, provided the cause for removal is grave, lasting, and proven.  A pastor might suffer from senility which affects his ability to effectively preach or to keep appointments.  A pastor might recover from an illness but be left in a permanently weakened state, such that he lacks the strength to fulfill even his minimal responsibilities.  A pastor might lack the skill to govern his parish if he repeatedly shows extremely poor judgment in handling daily affairs, or allows the property of the parish to fall into a serious state of disrepair.

Loss of a Good Reputation or Aversion to the Pastor (C. 1741, 3º)

The third cause for the removal of a pastor is “loss of a good reputation among upright and responsible parishioners or an aversion to the pastor which it appears will not cease in a brief time.” {20}  A pastor may be removed for the loss of his good reputation (bonae existimationis amissio), or for an aversion to him (aversio in parochum).  Both the amissio and the aversio entail a negative perception of the pastor on the part of his parishioners, or at least a substantial proportion of them.  To be sufficient for removal, this negative perception must impact the pastor’s ability to conduct his ministry, either because the faithful refuse to accept his ministry, or because they have serious difficulty in doing so. {21}

A bonae existimationis amissio occurs because some negative quality causes the people to critically judge (existimare) him.  The negative judgment must be based on a visible quality, and therefore the loss of a good reputation is an objective reality which must also be objectively proven.  A pastor who has lost his good reputation is considered suspect and untrustworthy, which may result in the rejection of his ministry by the faithful.  In the words of St. Gregory the Great, “When the conduct of one is scorned, so too is his preaching.” {22}

In order to prove that a pastor’s reputation has objectively suffered, his reputation must be weighed from the perspective of upright and responsible parishioners (penes probos et graves paroecianos).  Parishioners are probi if they are good, honest, and reject lies.  These persons will examine (probare) a thing before drawing a conclusion and will form a judgment based on the truth.  Parishioners are graves if they are serious and do not judge lightly.  These persons will weigh a situation before forming a negative judgment.  Parishioners who are probi et graves will recognize that an evil must be significant and established before it can legitimately affect a pastor’s reputation.  These parishioners will not leap to a negative judgment on hearsay or rumor. {23}

Alternatively, aversio in parochum occurs when parishioners have a negative reaction to their pastor, which causes them to reject his ministry. {24}  Unlike the loss of a good reputation, aversio is not principally based on a negative quality of the pastor in se, but on the negative reaction of the parishioners to the pastor.  This negative reaction can arise for objective or subjective reasons.  Aversio is objective if the basis for the aversion of the parishioners is founded in the actions of the pastor.  Aversio is subjective if there is no evil in the pastor, but a negative reaction has arisen due to other circumstances. {25}  For example, parishioners may have an aversion to their pastor because they believe he is prone to anger.  Their aversion is objective if it arises from witnessing the pastor firmly disciplining an erring parishioner.  It is subjective, if the pastor simply has a severe appearance, or it is merely rumored that he has a temper.  A pastor can be removed even for a merely subjective aversion, since the cause for removal does not require demonstrating any personal fault on the part of the pastor. {26}

The stability of a pastor is meant to foster a spiritual relationship between a pastor and his people through his ministry.  When parishioners develop an aversio to their pastor, even the good efforts of the pastor in his ministry will be rejected.  Aversio results in harm to souls because the parishioners are unable to draw benefit from the pastor’s ministry.  It is because of the concern for the good of souls that a pastor can be removed because of an aversio on the part of the faithful.

The loss of reputation or the aversion to the pastor must be foreseen not to cease in a brief time (quae praevideantur non brevi cessaturae), and must therefore be lasting.  A pastor should not be removed if his parishioners are upset only for a time because of a decision he has made.  For example, a parish might be upset only for a time if a pastor was compelled to close his parish school.  The negative sentiment in the parish does not appear to cease quickly if the level of discontent remains consistent or increases over time.  Only a negative sentiment that is lasting can constitute a grave cause sufficient for the removal of the pastor.

Some other factors should also be considered.  First, the amissio or aversio should be held by a large number of the parishioners, although it does not need to be universal. {27}  In every parish, there will always be some parishioners who like their pastor and others who dislike their pastor.  The opinion of only a few persons is insufficient as a cause for removal, and the mere existence of a negative perception of a pastor by some parishioners does not mean that his removal must follow automatically.  The diocesan bishop must judge whether the discontent seriously affects the pastor’s ministry in his parish.  The aversion or the loss of a good reputation does not generally arise out of one isolated event, but rather from a pattern of behavior over time.  This pattern leads to the attribution of a poor reputation or the development of aversion by the faithful.  It is possible that early intervention may lead a pastor to change his ways, thus healing the rift in the parish, and avoiding the need for removal. {28}

Second, when a pastor commits a delict, he may be punished by a penalty provided that prescription has not extinguished this possibility.  However, even if no action may be brought against the pastor because of the passage of time, a past crime that becomes widely known in a parish may result in a loss of the pastor’s reputation or an aversion to him.  Although this circumstance was specifically mentioned in the 1917 code, it was not explicitly repeated in the 1983 code. {29}  However, the discovery of a past crime can still form a sufficient basis for the removal of a pastor under this cause if the loss of the pastor’s reputation renders the pastor’s ministry gravely harmful or ineffective.

Third, it appears unbefitting to use a manifestly unjust perception of the pastor as the reason for his removal. {30}  Some parishioners may form a negative opinion of their pastor because his preaching on faith and morals challenges their consciences.  Such a pastor should not suffer removal on account of his fidelity to his mission.  Alternatively, a pastor may be falsely accused of wrongdoing and yet be able to prove his innocence.  Even if some parishioners remain suspicious of their pastor, it is fitting for the diocesan bishop to help rehabilitate this pastor’s reputation rather than remove him from office. {31}

There are many circumstances that might lead to the removal of the pastor under this cause.  With respect to the loss of a good reputation, any crime or seriously immoral behavior could imperil a pastor’s ministry.  A pastor who is addicted to alcohol or to gambling might lose his good name.  Obviously a serious sexual addiction, especially related to child abuse, would cause a pastor’s reputation to suffer.  With respect to aversion of the faithful, a parish might come to disdain a pastor who frequently had outbursts of irrational anger.  A foreign pastor might be disliked by his parish if his English was so poor that no one could understand him.  A parish might become averse to a pastor who showed grave imprudence in managing the parish assets, perhaps by spending exorbitant amounts of money on the pastor’s private rectory while neglecting to provide for other needed improvements in the church. {32}  An aversion to the pastor might also arise from a particular circumstance in a parish.  A pastor with a traditional liturgical style might be despised by a parish accustomed to a more progressive style, especially if he attempted too quickly to make radical changes in the life of the parish, perhaps by firing a beloved musician in order to change the style of music.

Neglect or Violation of Parochial Duties (C. 1741, 4º)

The fourth cause for the removal of a pastor is “grave neglect or violation of parochial duties which persists after a warning.” {33}  A pastor may be removed for a neglect (neglectus) or a violation (violatio) of his duties.  A violatio is an action contrary to an obligation while neglectus is a failure to meet an obligation.  The combination of neglectus vel violatio is comprehensive since it encompasses actions in both the positive and negative sense.  This pairing of words is similar to the description of harmful or ineffective ministry, which encompasses a pastor’s deficient ministry in both the active and the passive sense.

The offence must be with respect to the pastor’s essential parochial duties (officiorum paroecialium) which were discussed in the first chapter. {34}  The pastor may be removed for a failure to provide adequate ministry of the word through his homilies and catechetical instruction, or a failure to offer sufficient access to the sacraments for his parishioners.  The pastor may be removed if he fails to properly govern his parish and care for his parishioners.  A pastor is obligated to promote communion, although a violation or neglect in this area would most likely be treated under the first cause for removal.  A pastor is bound to properly care for the assets of a parish, although harmful or ineffective financial management of these assets would be covered under the fifth cause for removal.

It was observed in the first chapter that a grave cause is required for the removal of a pastor.  A pastor’s offence with respect to his parochial duties is grave if the pastor violates or neglects a duty that is essential to his office.  A pastor’s failure with respect to a non-essential duty would not constitute a grave cause.  However, the adjective “grave” (gravis) modifies neglectus, which requires not only that duty which is neglected must be essential to the pastor’s ministry, but that the failure of pastor to do his duty must also be grave.  For example, a pastor who occasionally neglects to visit the sick should not be removed from office, while a pastor who notoriously fails to visit his parishioners in the local hospital has gravely neglected his duty.  Although the canon only indicates that the neglectus must be gravis, this adjective should be read distributively so that a violatio must also be grave to justify removal.  For example, a pastor who takes a few more days of vacation time than permitted should not be subject to removal.  However, a pastor whose frequent trips cause him to be absent from his parish for several months out of a year has gravely violated his obligation of residence. {35}

A pastor may be removed under this cause only after a warning (post monitionem).  This monitio places the pastor on notice by means of a paternal correction and gives him an opportunity to reform his behavior.  The pastor must have sufficient time to change his behavior after the warning, before he can be removed.  This monitio can be given by the diocesan bishop, or by another local ordinary such as the vicar general, although only the diocesan bishop can undertake the removal of the pastor.  The monitio can be given verbally or in writing.  Witnesses should be present if the monitio is given verbally so it can be juridically established if a procedure for removal is subsequently initiated. {36}  After the warning is given, the removal can only be effected if the offensive behavior persists (quae . . . persistat). {37}  The behavior persists if the manner of acting does not change or becomes worse after a suitable period of time.  Like the monitio, the persistence of the pastor’s negative behavior must also be certainly established.  The monitio and the subsequent persistence of the offensive behavior help to prove that the cause for removal is lasting.

Poor Administration of Temporal Affairs (C. 1741, 5º)

The fifth cause for the removal of a pastor is “poor administration of temporal affairs with grave damage to the Church whenever another remedy to this harm cannot be found.” {38}  A pastor may be removed for poor administration of temporal affairs (res temporales).  The canon uses res temporales, and not simply ecclesiastical goods (bona ecclesiastica) or temporal goods (bona temporalia).  There is no doubt that the assets of a parish, as a public juridic person, are bona ecclesiastica and are governed by the canons of book five of the code. {39}  However, res temporales is a broader concept and encompasses the manner in which temporal goods are used.  The temporal affairs of a parish should be rightly ordered so that the assets of the parish are protected, but also so that the acquisition, retention, administration, and alienation of those goods are done with integrity and according to canon law and civil law. {40}  For example, a pastor who defrauds people to raise money may increase the temporal goods of his parish, but he is a poor administrator of its temporal affairs because he acts in a dishonest way.

A pastor may be removed for poor administration (mala administratio).  Mala administratio includes any violation of the law, especially the canons of book five of the code, but also a violation of particular law or the statutes of the parish.  Mala administratio includes both positive acts that harm the financial standing of the parish, and negative acts of the omission of some required act of diligence for the protection of the goods of the parish.  A positive act of harm to parochial goods can render the pastor’s ministry harmful, just as a negative act of omission can render the pastor’s ministry ineffective.  Mala administratio may include other acts not proscribed by law.  For example, a pastor demonstrates poor administration if he takes an action that is licit, but imprudent and results in some financial harm. {41}  A pastor may be a poor administrator if he causes the parish to go into debt by regularly spending more money than the parish receives.

The fact that a parish has decreasing revenues or rising debts does not automatically prove that the pastor has been a poor administrator.  It may happen that a parish cannot avoid losing money if its membership is declining, the cost of maintaining old parish buildings is rising, or the support of a parochial school draws upon the parish reserves.  While consistently declining revenues is a cause for concern and may require serious action, this fact alone does not automatically mean that the pastor is guilty of mala administratio.

Because of the many responsibilities of the pastor, the day-to-day administration of financial matters is often handed over to another knowledgeable person, such as a parish bookkeeper.  Even if the bookkeeper handles the financial recordkeeping, the pastor is still responsible for overseeing the administration of the temporal affairs of the parish.  A pastor is responsible for the mala administratio of the parish’s assets if he hires an unqualified bookkeeper or fails to discipline a bookkeeper after discovering some act of mismanagement. {42}

As with any cause for removal, the mala administratio must be grave to justify removal.  For example, a pastor who invalidly alienates the stable patrimony of a parish commits a grave violation of the law, while a pastor who fails to prepare the recommended budget does not commit a grave offense. {43}  However, this cause for removal requires that the mala administratio must also result in grave damage to the Church (cum gravi Ecclesiae damno).  The damnum must be grave such that removal is required for the sake of the parish and consequently for the good of souls.  The damnum must be proven by means of objective and demonstrable evidence.  It is necessary to prove not only that damage has been done, but that there is also a cause and effect relationship between the mala administratio of the pastor and the damnum suffered by the Church.  For example, a pastor might invalidly alienate some parish property, but the transaction might be very beneficial to the parish.  In this case, the pastor is guilty of poor administration and may be subject to a penalty, but removal is not warranted because the parish suffered no harm.  The diocesan bishop judges whether the damage is proven and sufficiently gravis to warrant removal.

The grave damage must be done to the Church (Ecclesia).  With respect to temporal goods, the term Ecclesia in book five of the code refers to any public juridic person. {44}  Therefore, a pastor may be removed for poor administration of temporal affairs which has caused grave harm to any public juridic person, including his parish or his diocese.  In most circumstances of financial negligence, the grave damage will directly affect the parish.  However, a pastor may be removed if grave damage was done to the diocese or another public juridic person in the Church, even if the parish suffered no harm. {45}  For example, the diocese might suffer if a pastor’s willful negligence results in a sizeable insurance claim from a self-insured diocesan fund that depletes diocesan assets and leads to dramatically higher insurance premiums for every other parish in the diocese.

If the entity that suffered the grave harm was not a public juridic person, the diocesan bishop should demonstrate how the pastor’s poor financial administration has harmed the Church before he removes the pastor.  It may be possible to argue that financial harm to a private juridic person constitutes harm to the Church, especially if the private juridic person performs a function essential to the Church’s mission.  For example, the financial harm might affect a Catholic hospital or a Catholic association that serves the poor which has been established as a private juridic person.  If the financial harm was suffered by one or more private individuals, removal is justified under this cause only if the Church has also suffered actual harm.  For example, the Church would suffer if the aggrieved party or parties brought a lawsuit against the parish or the diocese because of the pastor’s actions.  However, if a pastor’s poor administration of another person’s finances does not result in grave harm to the Church, the pastor cannot be removed under this fifth cause.  Even so, the pastor’s unscrupulous financial management might result in the loss of his reputation, which could lead to his removal under another cause.

Removal may be effected only when no other remedy to this harm can be found (quoties huic malo aliud remedium afferri nequeat).  This provision distinguishes this fifth cause for removal from the neglect or violation of pastoral duties in the fourth cause.  When the diocesan bishop notices that a priest fails in a pastoral duty, he must give him a warning before proceeding to removal.  In the case of poor financial administration, the diocesan bishop must not simply warn the pastor, but he must attempt to find another remedy before proceeding to removal. {46}  Removal is to be a refuge of last resort.

One possible remedium could come from a professional audit or the assistance of an accountant.  A pastor who is able to balance his books with the help of a qualified lay person may avoid removal.  Another possible remedium is the appointment of an administrator or a parochial vicar to oversee the finances of the parish.  A pastor who lacks financial skill may remain in office if his financial duties are cared for by another priest.  The appointment of an administrator for parish finances is especially appropriate if the financially inept pastor is truly gifted in the other aspects of his ministry. {47}  However, the pastor may object to this appointment and might refuse to relinquish his authority to administer the temporal goods of his parish which he has by office. {48}  If the diocesan bishop attempts to appoint someone to help manage the finances, but the pastor refuses to cooperate, the bishop might conclude that no other remedy is possible and that the pastor must be removed.

It may be that no remedium whatsoever is possible because of the nature of the grave harm.  If the harm has occurred because of a one-time fault that cannot be reversed, there may be no other solution.  For example, a pastor may pay a large amount to a disreputable contractor for a building project.  If the pastor’s negligence to heed legitimate warnings about the contractor or his failure to insure his project results in the irrevocable loss of millions of dollars, there may be no possible remedy to this poor administration.  If there is no alternative solution, the diocesan bishop should demonstrate the lack of a viable remedy before proceeding with the removal.

Other Possible Causes

Because the list of causes in canon 1741 is illustrative, there are theoretically other possible causes that might lead to the removal of a pastor.  Many possible causes for removal were listed in the decree Maxima Cura, most of which are incorporated into the current code at least in a substantially equivalent form.  One possible cause for removal not found in the current code is the pastor’s disobedience of a precept of the ordinary in a grave matter. {49}  Under the 1983 code, disobedience of a precept can result in the imposition of a just penalty. {50}  However, disobedience should not be used for the removal of the pastor unless it can be proven that the act rendered the pastor’s ministry gravely harmful or ineffective.  Florentius Romita proposed other possible causes for the removal of a pastor in light of Vatican II:  A pastor might be removed for failing to preserve parish unity, for resistance to the innovations of the Council, and for an inability to collaborate effectively within his parish, his vicariate, or his presbyterate. {51}  These reasons, which were proposed before the 1983 code, are encompassed in the general scope of the first cause:  a disturbance of ecclesiastical communion.

The structure of the five causes in canon 1741 demonstrates that they address the possible reasons for the removal of a pastor in a systematic and comprehensive way.  The first cause addresses the importance of the right relationship of the pastor with the church (ecclesiastical communion).  The second and third causes address an inability to provide ministry.  In the second cause, the inability is on the part of the pastor (infirmity or ineptitude), while in the third cause the inability is on account of the parishioners who cannot accept the pastor’s ministry (loss of reputation or aversion).  The fourth and fifth causes address a deficiency in the pastor’s ministry.  In the fourth cause, the pastor’s deficiency is in relation to his pastoral duties, while in the fifth cause, the pastor’s deficiency is in governing the temporal affairs of his parish.

While there may be other possible causes to remove a pastor, it is likely that any cause will fall within the general scope of one of the five causes already presented.  Nevertheless, because these causes are illustrative, it is entirely legitimate to pursue the removal of a pastor for a reason not found in canon 1741 provided that it can be demonstrated that the cause is grave, lasting, and proven, and that the cause rendered the pastor’s ministry harmful or ineffective.

Continue on to Chapter III:  The Collection and Evaluation of Proofs

Chapter Endnotes

1. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 275.  Grocholewski, 213

2. C. 1741, 1º: “modus agendi qui ecclesiasticae communioni grave detrimentum vel perturbationem afferat.”

3. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 282.

4. Ibid., 300.

5. C. 751.

6. C. 194 §1, 2º.

7. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 283.

8. C. 924.

9. C. 1741, 2º: “imperitia aut permanens mentis vel corporis infirmitas, quae parochum suis muneribus utiliter obeundis imparem reddunt.”

10. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 285.

11. Ibid., 281.

12. Marzoa, 2115.

13. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 284-285.  Parizek, 1038.  When a priest is appointed pastor of a parish, he must be judged suitable to be pastor of that specific parish, and not merely suitable to be a pastor in general.  See Coccopalmerio, De Paroecia, 120.

14. C. 930.  The local ordinary may judge whether a priest in these circumstances can offer Mass publicly.

15. Cc. 1044 §2, 2º and 1041, 1º.

16. C. 538 §3.

17. C. 401.

18. C. 539.  Sweeny, 213.  Sweeny notes that Christus Dominus 31 invites a pastor to spontaneously offer his resignation when he is unable to fulfill his office due to old age or another serious reason.  See Vatican Council II, Decree Christus Dominus 31, 28 October 1965, AAS 58 (1966) 689.

19. See c. 538 §3.

20. C. 1741, 3º: “bonae existimationis amissio penes probos et graves paroecianos vel aversio in parochum, quae praevideantur non brevi cessaturae.”

21. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 288.

22. Gregory the Great, Homilies, 22, ML 76, 1119, quoted in Marzoa, 2116.

23. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 289.

24. M. de Sancristóval y Murúa, “El ‘Odium Plebis’ como Causa de Remoción del Parroco,” Ius Canonicum 1 (1961) 402.  For removal, the aversio must not be directed at the office of the pastor, but at the person of the pastor.   Aversio may be directed at the office of the pastor if the pastor is disliked because of something he was bound to do by office.  For example, some parishioners may dislike their pastor because he refuses their request to frequently offer general absolution.  Removal will not solve this problem, because the next pastor will presumably be rejected for the same reason.  Removal can proceed if the aversio is directed at the person of the pastor because of who he is or the abrasive way in which he carries out his duties.

25. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 289.

26. C. 1740.  A merely subjective aversio on the part of the parishioners can result in gravely harmful or ineffective ministry, and suffices for removal.  Yet, if the pastor is a virtuous man and the aversio of the faithful is merely subjective, it may not be prudent to dishonor the pastor by removing him, especially if the ill will among the parishioners is rooted in some bigotry.  If the diocesan bishop determines that the pastor cannot remain in the parish, he might demonstrate his trust and confidence in the pastor by transferring the priest to another parish as pastor or to another significant office within the diocese.  See Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 293.

27. Codex Iuris Canonici Pii X Pontificis Maximi iussu digestus Benedicti Papae XV auctoritate promulgatus (Rome: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1917) C. 2147 §2, 2º (hereafter CIC 1917).  The 1917 code did not require the odium plebis to be universal for a pastor to be removed, but significant enough to impede the ministry of the pastor.

28. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 292.

29. CIC 1917, c. 2147 §2, 3º.

30. Parizek, 1037.  The 1917 code permitted a pastor to be removed if his reputation suffered because of the crime of a family member or a person with whom the pastor lives (CIC 1917, c. 2147 §2, 3º).  This provision was not retained in the 1983 code, perhaps because it appeared unjust for a pastor to suffer because of the evil deeds of another.

31. de Sancristóval, 402.  In matters of sexual abuse, when an accusation against a cleric is shown to be unfounded, a diocesan bishop should attempt to restore the cleric’s good name.  See United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Decree Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, Art. 13, 5 May 2006 (Washington, DC:  USCCB, 2006).

32. This example could fall under the fifth reason for removal due to the poor administration of temporal affairs if grave harm came to a parish because of the pastor’s actions.

33. C. 1741, 4º: “gravis neglectus vel violatio officiorum paroecialium quae post monitionem persistat.”

34. Canon 2182 of the 1917 code provided for the removal of a pastor who was negligent in specific pastoral duties.  Each of these duties is reflected in canons 528-530 of the 1983 code except for one: A pastor could be removed if he failed to protect the cleanliness of the parish church or if he permitted business transactions in the church (CIC 1917, cc. 1178 and 2182).

35. C. 533.

36. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 295.  The 1917 code explicitly required the warning to be given in writing or orally before witnesses (CIC 1917, c. 2143).

37. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 296.  Grammatically speaking, because quae is feminine and persistat is singular, the antecedent of this relative clause is the feminine noun, violatio.  The other noun, neglectus, is masculine.  However, it would be incorrect to conclude that only a violation must persist, but that a pastor can be removed for pastoral neglect whether it persists or not.  In Latin, a relative pronoun that agrees with its closest antecedent may still be taken distributively.  Coccopalmerio argues convincingly that the relative clause should be rewritten for clarity in the plural, qui . . . persistant, in order to eliminate any doubt and to specify that neglect also must persist to justify removal.

38. C. 1741, 5º: “mala rerum temporalium administratio cum gravi Ecclesiae damno, quoties huic malo aliud remedium afferri nequeat.”

39. C. 1257 §1.

40. Canon 1284 §2, 3º mentions the importance of observing civil and canon law.  The purpose of res temporales is mentioned in other canons: Canon 225 §2 speaks of the obligation of the faithful to imbue and perfect the order of temporal affairs (res temporales) with the spirit of the gospel.  Canon 768 §2 makes reference to the obligation of those who preach to make known the doctrine set forth by the magisterium concerning the right ordering of temporal affairs (res temporales) according to the plan established by God.

41. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 297.

42. Ibid., 298.

43. Cc. 1284 §3 and 1291.

44. C. 1258.

45. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 298.

46. Marzoa, 2118.

47. Coccopalmerio, De Causis, 299.  Ineptitude in financial matters might also be treated under the second cause for removal if the focus is on the ineptitude of the pastor and not the financial harm to the parish.

48. Cc. 532 and 1279 §1.

49. Maxima Cura, can. 1, 9º.  A pastor might be removed if he disobeyed a precept that ordered him to avoid keeping inappropriate company with a person or a family, to care for the upkeep of his parish church, or to pay a parish tax.

50. C. 1371, 2º.  It may be possible to remove a pastor who disobeys a precept of his ordinary if his disobedience results in a disturbance of ecclesiastical communion by leading the faithful to question or reject the bond of hierarchical governance.

51. Romita, 440-441.

Continue on to Chapter III:  The Collection and Evaluation of Proofs