Canon Law and Parish Councils

Q1: Can a parish council ever vote to overrule a decision made by the pastor of the parish? If not, then what’s the point of having a parish council in the first place?  –Stephanie

Q2: Is it obligatory for every parish to have a finance council? –Damian

A: Many people wrongly confuse their church’s parish council with a finance council. In actual fact, they are two distinct entities, one of which is legally required while the other is not.  Let’s see what canon law has to say about each one in turn. Continue reading

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Tithing and Excommunication

Q: I am a graduate theology student, and in class we covered the reforms of the Council of Trent. I came across this passage from Chapter 12 of the Decree on Reformation of Session 25: “The holy synod therefore enjoins on all, of what rank and condition soever they be, to whom the payment of tithes belongs, that they henceforth pay in full the tithes, to which they are bound in law, to the cathedral church, or to what other churches… they are lawfully due. And they who either withhold them, or hinder them [from being paid], shall be excommunicated…”

As a young graduate student, my income is very limited and my giving to the Church has been small. I have only given to a parish occasionally, and from the small amounts of cash in my wallet. In light of the text from Trent above, has my lack of giving to a parish caused me to be excommunicated?  If so, does this discipline still apply in light of the current code of canon law saying nothing of the sort? Any help would be much appreciated! –Anthony Continue reading

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What Does the Church Say About Usury?

Q1: There is no canon in the current Code of Canon Law relating to usury.  The 1917 Code contained an explicit provision, canon 1543.  What is the Church’s latest position on usury? –David

Q2: I am a lay Catholic in need of answers to the question of usury in the Church.  The Catholic Encyclopedia is ambiguous, to say the least: the Third Lateran Council (1179) and the Second Council of Lyons (1274) condemn usurers, but then the Fifth Lateran Council (1517) said usurers “ought not to be condemned in any way.”  What does the Church define usury as?  When (if at all) is it permitted? –Thomas

A: David is absolutely correct that the current Code of Canon Law is silent on the subject of usury.  Over the course of previous centuries, however, there have been countless church regulations and declarations on the subject—which, as Thomas notes, often contradicted each other.  Let’s take a look at how the term “usury” is defined, and at past church pronouncements about it.  Then we might be able to draw some conclusions as to why the code says nothing about usury today—and what current Catholic teaching on the subject really is. Continue reading

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Can a Priest Refuse to Hear My Confession?

Q: My teenager wanted to go to confession after Mass, so he went to the sacristy to ask the priest.  Inside, Father was just hanging around, laughing and joking with the altar servers.  When my son asked for confession, he was told to come back at the time when confessions are heard, and that he should check the schedule if he doesn’t know when that is!

Don’t we Catholics have the right to receive the sacraments from our priests?  How could the priest violate my son’s rights like this?  What should we do? –Francesca

A:   In “When Can a Priest Refuse to Absolve a Penitent in the Confessional?” we looked at a case in which a person went into the confessional and confessed his sins, but the priest wouldn’t grant absolution.  The situation described by Francesca is certainly related, but it’s not identical: in her son’s case, the priest wouldn’t even hear the confession to begin with.  Can a priest do that? Continue reading

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How Can a Priest Transfer to Another Diocese?

Q: I am a priest in good standing in the Diocese of X.  After years of constant friction and acrimony when dealing with my bishop, I discerned after much prayer that it is better to move to another diocese….

I found [another bishop] who fully understands the situation and wants to incardinate me into his own diocese, but my own bishop is refusing me excardination.  He gives no reason and I assume that it is motivated by a sort of vengeance.  Does he have the legal right to do this?  I don’t dare ask the canonists of my diocese this question… –Father J. Continue reading

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