Justice for the Laity

ParYves Alain

Justice for the Laity

Chapter 4: Justice for the Laity

(Extracts of the book Administrative Justice in the Catholic church, by Yves Alain Ducass, Paris 2018, 374 p).

At the end of 2014, the number of Catholics in the world was estimated at 1.27 billion[1]. In this regard, the dogmatic Constitution of the Church Lumen Gentium recalled the principle of obedience, which has startled so many of our contemporaries in the Western world, because of their exacerbated freedom of the individual, which has the tendency to oppose individual freedom and authority[2].

The laity should, as all Christians, promptly accept in Christian obedience decisions of their spiritual shepherds, since they are representatives of Christ as well as teachers and rulers in the Church[3].

At the same time, Cardinal Kasper contends that the Second Vatican Council has flipped the situation on its head, by ceasing to consider the laity « as the extended arm of the clergy [4] » to the extent that they obtained their mission from Christ Himself, by virtue of their baptism, not a mandate of the clergy[5]. Some bishops make a wide appeal to the laity, such as the bishop of Dallas[6]:

I consulted them on all the pastoral decisions which I was facing. (…) I wanted to ensure that the priests are what they are supposed to be: sacramentals and teachers of the faith. And I wanted to leave the administration to persons who were more competent than them, the laity[7]

In 1983, the Code of Canon Law introduced a new chapter on the rights and obligations of the faithful in general and of the laity in particular. Canons 208 to 231 constitute an undeniable novelty in relation to the 1917 Code, and they appear to have been relatively well received by both the hierarchy and the faithful. However, the receipt of these provisions is not free of tensions, as evidenced by Cardinal Kasper:

I am concerned especially by […] the growing distance between the hierarchical vision « at the top » and the vision of the members of the Church « at the bottom, » which is already almost a de facto schism. […] The consciousness of the laity is one of the pleasing fruits of the Second Vatican Council; but after the Second Vatican Council it has also become the source of much misunderstanding and of new controversies[8].

Testimony gathered in Dakar[9]  shows that most of the Catholic faithful, including the best trained, are not aware of the existence of administrative justice in the Church. In cases of conflict, many think that if they address their case to the ecclesiastical hierarchy rather than to the civil courts, they are likely to be harmed because there will be nobody to defend their point of view.

In order to appreciate the role of administrative justice in the Church for the laity, we have extracted from our database 153 appeals from the laity[10], or 27% of the 742 recourses for which the status of the petitioner was specified. We have added 27 appeals of decrees of the Pontifical Council for the Laity [11], giving us a sample of 180 recourses registered by the Supreme Tribunal concerning the laity that we analyze briefly in this chapter—without pretending to write a treatise on law and jurisprudence, which would require thousands of pages.

Contrary to what might have been expected, it is not the Pontifical Council for the Laity whose decisions are the most contested by the laity, but the Congregation for Clergy[12].

Here are also the main themes concerning contentious cases regarding the laity, which are subjects of contentious administrative recourse.

By grouping dismissals and transfers into a rubric relating to specific decrees for the laity, we get fivemajor areas as shown in the plan below:

  • Reshaping parishes;
  • The reduction of churches to a profane use which is not improper;
  • Specific decrees concerning the laity;
  • Associations of the faithful;
  • Other cases.
  1. Reshaping Parishes

Urbanization, mobility and the secularization of society impel the Church to adapt, not looking to the past, but rather seeking new synodal solutions including the reorganization of parishes. The applicable law is described mainly in canons 515 to 520 on « The Internal Organization of the Particular Churches.”

In her thesis[13], Elisabeth Abbal shows that between 1980 and 2015, all the dioceses of France have reshaped their territory by creating, regrouping, amending or suppressing parishes and parish groupings. The situation varies widely from one diocese to another. In Poitiers, for example, many parishes have been regrouped together. In Strasbourg, none of the 567 parishes has been suppressed, but communities of parishes were created, allowing a parish priest to be responsible for several parishes simultaneously. In Tulle, there has not been an ordination of young priests for 20 years; as a result, the parishes were regrouped into 22 church groups, to adapt the actual situation to the number of parish priests able to take on the curial role, and for the future, to support the dynamism of pastoral and missionary teams by local priestly fraternities.

From a survey of 53 practicing Catholics[14], Louisa Plouchart has found that 66% of the parishioners are not at all disturbed by the reorganizations, and take part in the life of their new parish. We can also deduce that a third of the parishioners are a little upset. To the extent that the faithful are attached to their parish, it results in tensions, some of which lead to hierarchical and contentious recourses.

In addition to canons 50, 51, 120 to 123, 127 and 166, the law applicable to groupings of parishes is mainly derived from canon 515 § 2:

Canon 515 §2. It is only for the diocesan bishop to erect, suppress, or alter parishes. He is neither to erect, suppress, nor alter notably parishes, unless he has heard the presbyteral council.

When a parish is modified, there may be various recourses, emanating from the parish priest (cf. Prot 43915/10 CA) but also from the laity who attend the parish. They are in general addressed to the Congregation for the Clergy, which finds « various difficulties in recent years.” Thanks to the resulting jurisprudence, on April 30, 2013 the Congregation published a series of recommendations to the Bishops for the modification of parishes and the closure of parish churches, of which here are some excerpts:

It is necessary to distinguish clearly the three canonical procedures: 1) change of parishes, 2) of relegation of churches to a profane use and 3) of the alienation of the buildings. […] Each procedure has its own rules which must be followed correctly and with care. There is no procedure to close a church temporarily, for example for repairs. It is the same to limit its use, for example by removing the Sunday Mass in the measure where the Church remains open to the faithful. Each type of Decision (amendment of parish, reduction of a church to a profane use, assignment of goods), must be the subject of a written decree separated, duly communicated at the time of its adoption[15].

Sometimes the decision of the Congregation for the Clergy rejects the recourse, considering that the bishop has not violated in law, neither in substance nor in procedure[16], and petitioners sometimes submit contentious administrative recourses that are rejected in limine, not admitted to discussion, or admitted to discussion and then accepted or rejected.

On 20 June 1992, the College examined the recourse of two parishioners, considering that they were justified in submitting it, since the decree of the Congregation for the Clergy did not meet canons 515-2 and 1222-2, and finally deciding that the bishop was to restore to the parish church to its previous status[17].


Among the disputes handled by the Apostolic Signatura, some relate to parishes entrusted to religious, whose status is modified by the bishop without prior agreement with the religious in question. The Congregation for the Clergy also cites difficulties in connection with the ownership of assets of modified parishes or dioceses.

The Dioceses of Barbastro-Monzon[18] et de Lerida[19] disagree about the property of the ecclesiastical heritage of Frange d’Aragon[20]  in a dispute characterized by nationalistic tensions between Catalans and Aragonese, following changes to the borders between the dioceses. Several books[21] and internet sites[22]  describe the epic civil and canonical litigation which resulted[23].

The largest number of appeals, however, concern the fate of churches in suppressed parishes, which leads us to address the question of the reduction of churches to a profane use that is not improper.

  1. The Reduction of Churches to Profane Use

In Africa, just as in the suburbs of large cities, the Church seeks to build new churches to meet the needs of the faithful who are increasing; while in Europe, many churches are empty, in particular in rural areas.

In 2007 an article published in the French press[24]  gave rise to an awareness of the risk of the destruction of churches.  It prompted 25,000 signatures to be collected, while the French observatory of religious heritage[25]  estimated the French religious heritage to include approximately 100,000 churches and cultural monuments.

In France, every year about 20 parish churches are destroyed, such as the chapel of Saint-Bernard of Clairmarais, (diocese of Arras); and the funeral chapel of the Counts de La Hitte, in the Château d’Esclignac (in Montfort, diocese of Auch).

With regard to the current uses of churches reduced to profane use, they include social enterprises like the Farlab of Lille[26], a center for the disabled in Oran, columbaria (grave sites), restaurants, etc. There are also churches reduced to profane use, for which the proper-use clause was respected by the first purchaser, but the building has been transmitted to a new buyer who has devoted it to a improper use such as a bar or dance hall.

Contracts between dioceses and the buyers of churches are generally covered by a civil law contract, which should address the fate of the church after the first purchaser.

2.1. Applicable Law

The Code of Canon Law provides the definition of a church[27], recalling the rites of dedication or blessing, which now prohibit profane usage of the building[28].

Apart from instances of desecration which necessitate a new dedication or blessing, there are two types of cases in which a church can be reduced to a profane use that is not unseemly, thus losing its sacred character[29].

First, there is the case provided for by canon 1222 §1, regarding churches which have been damaged and cannot be repaired. In many countries, the owner of the church is usually the parish or the diocese, and the reason for the destruction is financial. Before such a decision is taken, the Bishop must seek all possible solutions, such as selling land and other buildings, appealing to sponsors, or mobilizing his own resources. Yet, even though the Church in Germany spends more than 500 million Euros per year for church repairs, it cannot preserve them all, and some are sold[30]. It is the same in the United States[31].

In the case of France, it is otherwise since there are approximately 45,000 parish churches, of which 35% were built in the nineteenth century[32], and for the clear majority of these, their property and its maintenance are the responsibility of the local government.  Any decision regarding their destruction devolves to the mayor when the Church is not classified as a historical monument, which is the case for most of them. Similarly, considering the increasing cost of their maintenance for a decreasing number of faithful, the mayors sometimes choose to shut them down. About 30 churches have already been destroyed in France, and nearly 10,000 churches are threatened with destruction. The bishops are naturally consulted, to take charge of part of the work of restoration, but often they decline this option as beyond their means. The many disputes that occur[33]  are then mostly brought before the civil administrative courts, which produce abundant jurisprudence and inspired the circular issued by the French Ministry of the Interior on 29 July 2011[34], incorporating the decision of the Council of State on 19 July 2011. Regarding civil law, we will not address this problem as it is beyond the scope of our study.

It is different for those churches which are not doomed to destruction, and for which the decision on reduction to a profane use comes from the Local Ordinary[35]. This type of case, which is governed by canon 1222 §2, is possible when five conditions are met:

1) Serious reasons exist;

2) The Presbyteral Council has been heard;

3) Consent has been received from those who have legitimate rights on the building;

4) There is the absence of damage to the good of souls;

5) There are minimum guarantees on the building’s future use, which should be suitable.

Here is an example of a case where the last condition was not respected:

On 21 April 2016, the Diocese of Rodez sold for a symbolic one Euro the church of Fontvernes and its 14 acres, to a professional who wanted to transfer there his organ manufacturing business. In November 2017, he sought to sell the church for 50 000 €, on the grounds that the company suffered a decline in orders, and this money is needed to lay off his workers[36].

Law is constantly evolving, namely when it comes to relics. As a matter of fact, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has published an Instruction about the « Relics in the Church: authenticity and conservation » which says that trade or sale of relics, their exhibition in secular or unauthorized places are « absolutely prohibited »[37]. Following the example of the Gregorian University[38] and the Canon Law Society of America[39], the digital library of Canonists without Borders[40]   strives to make the new sources of the Roman Curia easily accessible to the canonists.

2.2. Difficulties and Recourses

The decision of the bishop is an administrative decision, subject to administrative appeal. When there is a dispute[41], the Congregation for the Clergy is competent under Article 98 of Pastor Bonus and it accepts or sometimes rejects the recourse of parishioners, taking into account whether the bishop has violated a law in substance or procedure [42].

Its decisions are subject to appeal to the Apostolic Signatura, and this is not only theoretical, since many contentious administrative recourses are presented to the Supreme Tribunal. This Tribunal has published some sentences concerning demolition[43], repair[44], or reduction of a church to profane use, for example in cases of suppression or the regrouping of parishes[45]. These sentences have been the subject of analysis on the part of Mgr. Frans Daneels, in 1998[46] then in 2010[47], as well as Mgr. Gian-Paolo Montini in 2000[48], Nicholas Schöch in 2007[49], and Javier Canosa in 2011[50].

In his analysis of ‘major judgments » of administrative case law, Javier Canosa refers in particular to a 20 June 1992 sentence which recognizes for the first time that the faithful who are members of a parish community have the possibility to validly make recourse relating to a decision affecting the parish (Prot 22036/90 CA).

The number of contentious recourses filed with the Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, for reductions of churches to profane use, is in sharp increase since the year 2011. This is a sign that disputes are occurring more and more frequently between of the faithful who wish to maintain a church as a place of worship, and a bishop who opposes it. The reason for this lies in the fact that the number of churches reduced to profane use is increasing dramatically in developed regions where the number of faithful and clergy decreases.

Number of known contentious recourses by year of registration:
Years 1990-1999 2000-2009 2010-2013
Number of cases 5 4 16
Source = Database      

Unfortunately, the sentences published are few in number and old, and so it is necessary to resort to the comments of members of the Supreme Tribunal in order to get an accurate view of the law today, informed by jurisprudence, as we propose below in a synthetic manner:

  • A layperson must demonstrate that he is subject to harm in order for his appeal to be accepted[51];
  • The definitive closure of a church is equivalent to its reduction to profane use, even if the bishop has not made a final decision as to its later use[52];
  • The application of canon 1222 §2 requires that all the conditions imposed are met[53]. The absence of negative impact on the good of souls is not a sufficient reason[54];
  • The lack of priests or the suppression of a parish does not constitute a sufficiently serious reason to reduce a church to a profane use, because it has already happened in the history that in the absence of a priest, pious laypersons may preserve a church as a sacred building in witness to the Catholic faith[55];
  • The serious reasons referred to should be present at the time of the decree and not only represent fears for the future;
  • In contrast, the Supreme Tribunal has accepted as a serious reason the inability of the parishioners to maintain a church;
  • When a church has suffered damage and must be repaired, but financial reasons justify a different course of action, yet moral impossibility cannot be proven, it is appropriate to apply canon 1222, § 2, knowing that the bishop has the authority to decide whether the financial difficulty is a serious reason, after having heard the presbyteral council on the matter;
  • A Diocese’s financial exigency does not constitute a serious enough reason to sell a Church which would belong to its heritage[56].
  • It is necessary to undertake an appropriate study of the state of the building, the cost of repairs, and the possibility of finding funds, before the bishop compels a parish or religious institute to repair a church which is not a parish church;
  • Concerning the Presbyteral Council, its hearing should focus explicitly on the reduction to profane use of a church and not only on the supression of parishes, making a sharp distinction between the two decisions[57];
  • The altar, and other objects involved in worship, do not lose their sacred character[58] with the reduction of a church to a profane use which is not improper. They must therefore be transported elsewhere.

There is also jurisprudence about the ownership of the goods of churches reduced to a profane use:

When a church had been reduced to a profane use, one of the parties reported the existence of a previous donation of the land on which the church was built, with a moral clause specifying that if the church was to be sold, the field should return to the family and its descendants. The party lost its appeal, because the clause was not included explicitly in the contract, since it was written there that the land was free of easements[59].

Another case specified that a title of ownership or a donation did not necessarily confer rights on a parish church, unless a valid juridic act specified explicitly that the donation or the provision was conditioned to a determined use of this church[60].

Mgr. Daneels concluded his analysis of the case law in these terms:

It appears, finally, that the Congregation for the Clergy has reformed on several occasions the decisions of diocesan bishops that reduced a parish to a profane, non-improper use, but it is not easy for a bishop to obtain from the Signatura a decision invalidating that of the Congregation. The supression of a parish does not automatically imply the reduction of the parish church to profane use. But it also appears that it is not easy for parishioners to demonstrate before the Signatura the illegitimacy of a decision of the Congregation for the Clergy, concerning a decision of the bishop[61].

In any event, here is proof of the action of the Supreme Tribunal in this area.

A group of American parishioners presented a hierarchical recourse against a 12 June 2007 decision of their bishop concerning the reduction of a church to a profane use. The Congregation for the Clergy initially rejected the recourse, on the grounds that it emanated from a group of persons not having juridic personality to take such recourse. Once the recourse was presented again by persons intuitu personae, the Congregation convalidated the decree of the bishop and the parishioners filed a contentious administrative recourse. On 21 May 2011, the Supreme Tribunal found that there had been a violation of the law in the decree of the Congregation for Clergy of 5 August 2008, because the Bishop had not cited a grave reason justifying the reduction of this church to profane use[62]. We should point out that the process continued for 4 ½ years, until the final decision on 18 November 2011.


We have seen that in the field of parishes and churches, the administrative justice of the Church has played a role in the resolution of a conflict, by respecting canon law.


  1. Particular Decrees for the Laity


To be more precise, we should include in our title not only the laity but also the non-baptized, such as precatechumens and catechumens, as well as non-Catholic Christians with regard to their access to baptism and the other sacraments.

  • Admission to the Sacraments

Canon law lists impediments for admission to the catechumenate (cf. Canon 788[63] and particular law[64]) and for baptism, conditioning access to the other sacraments (cf. canons 843[65]  and 865[66]).

It is important to identify and eventually resolve these potential impediments as early as possible during the preparation for baptism, to avoid last-minute setbacks as sometimes happens. One of the potential impediments frequently encountered is the irregular marital status of a catechumen or his or her spouse, but there are a number of canonical solutions to resolve some cases of this type, of which persons responsible for the catechumenate are not always aware[67]. This can result in unjustified refusal for admission to the catechumenate, refusal of baptism and other sacraments[68], as we can see in the following examples:

A few weeks before his baptism, a man was denied baptism because his Catholic spouse had been married to a man who left her after a few weeks, and her situation had not been regularized. During the last interview before the decisive call for his baptism, a catechumen declares that he wants to marry, but does not want children. Without any dialogue, the parish priest replied that in this case, baptism is not possible and the woman was stopped in her path to Christ and the Church.

The question then is whether the refusal is or is not subject to recourse. We have met with such a case where the application has resulted:

Without understanding the reason, a precatechumen was denied, on several occasions, access to the catechumenate.  He sent an appeal to the Pope, which was retured to the local level by the Roman Curia, which addressed the problem and decided to admit him to the catechumenate[69].

In the present case, there was no particular written administrative act, but procrastination by those involved, which could have been transformed into refusal at the end of three months of silence on their part. In all cases, the denial of access to the catechumenate or to a sacrament by a particular administrative act must be fairly rare, because we have not found contentious-administrative case law on this issue.

  • The laity employed by the Church

The Church employs a growing number of lay employees or volunteers for varied works of the apostolate, teaching and service. Sometimes, it refuses to give the work to competent people who seek to be hired, or it takes the work away from people who were hired, and this can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.

For many teachers (clerics or lay persons), a general feeling remains that their rights are not sufficiently protected. For many of them, the possibility which is offered to them to defend themselves by an administrative appeal does not appear satisfactory. In this regard, they bemoan the absence of administrative tribunals at the national level[70].


Outside of Catholic education, one encounters situations of this type in dioceses:

Following a change of Bishop, the Portuguese employee of a diocese experienced a situation that his friends characterized as moral harassment. He made known his discomfort to the bishop, who did not respond. Not wanting to turn to the civil courts, he asked for a conventional break in his contract, thus losing all his rights. Today, he has failed to recover, while one of the priests who defended him was summoned by his bishop because he dared to talk about his case, and five other employees of the Diocese were also forced to leave their employment.

Very few among the laity know canon law, and so they appeal only exceptionally to the administrative justice of the Church in making, in good time, hierarchical recourse to the Roman Curia.


When the Council for the Laity has not resolved them, the Apostolic Signatura must address the administrative-contentious recourses, sometimes ruling in favor of the petitioners against the Dicastery concerned. These recourses mainly concern the following topics:

  • Taking away the position of a teacher or university rector[71];
  • Refusal of admission to sacred orders[72];
  • Dismissal from the physical plant of St. Peter’s Basilica[73];
  • Removal from the job of Defender of the Bond[74];
  • Expulsion from a house belonging to the Church[75];
  • Suspension of a married deacon[76];
  • Removal from the position of seminary professor[77] ;
  • Expulsion from a parish church.

Here is an example:

In a case heard in 1987, four lay people of the United States were expelled from their parish after denouncing liturgical abuses and doctrinal errors of their parish priest. The Apostolic Signatura remanded the recourse to the Dicasteries it considered to be concerned, namely the Council of the Laity and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith[78]. Later on[79], the Tribunal did not accept on appeal a recourse against a decision of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, because the Dicastery justified its refusal by the fact that the parishioners were fomenting disorder, protesting loudly against the style of the new pastor, for which reason the recourse appeared to be without foundation.

In another area, it should be noted that recourses relating to the work of the employees and former employees of the Holy See against the acts committed by the competent service are processed by the Labor Office of the Apostolic See, which handles arbitrations that are not subject to appeal to the Supreme Tribunal[80].

  1. Associations of the Faithful

« “Lay associations have always been present throughout the Church’s history”, Saint John Paul II reminded us[81], yet it took a dispute between a Bishop of Argentina and the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul in 1921, to lead the Sacred Congregation of the Second Vatican Council to overcome a narrow vision of the 1917 Code and recognize

“…the legitimacy of the autonomy of the laity in constituting and directing lay associations, distinguishing clearly on this occasion ecclesiastical associations from lay associations[82].

The Second Vatican Council effectively quoted the resolutio Corrienten[83]  in the 1965 Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity [84], when it evoked in these terms the right the laity to form associations, to lead them, and to join those which already exist:

Maintaining the proper relationship to Church authorities, the laity have the right to found and control such associations and to join those already existing[85].

In 1983, the Code affirms this right of the faithful and then, in 1988, the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici showed appreciation for the path already travelled. Similarly, in 2011 Pope Benedict XVI recalled:

The obvious opening to the contribution of the laity, and the declaration of unequivocal « ecclesial criteria » by Christifideles Laici, have helped to ripen « a deep awareness of the charismatic dimension of the Church, [which has] lead us to appreciate and value both the more simple charisms that provide Divine Providence to people, and those that generate a great fruitfulness that is spiritual, educational, and missionary in nature[86].

Pope Francis has gone in the same direction:

Let us thank the Lord for the abundant fruits and for the many challenges of those years. Let us remember, for example, the new era which, alongside the lay associations with a long and worthy history, has seen the rise of many movements and new communities with great missionary zeal; movements whose development you have followed with care, and assisted in the delicate phase of the legal recognition of their Statutes[87].

Yet the number of associations of the faithful that have been juridically recognized is low, as Olivier Echappé recalled:

The observation of the ecclesial reality of our country [France] is based on a finding that is contradictory to the extraordinary flowering of the associative model in the Church, as elsewhere in the whole of society, and the remarkable success of the law of 1 July 1901, whereas correlatively the episcopal chanceries are not overburdened with the weight of requests for recognitio or probatio.[88]

Based on publications of the Pontifical Council for the Laity[89] and some dioceses, the author believes that in 2011 the number of associations of the faithful per Catholic[90] is approximately one thousand times less than the number of civil associations per inhabitant[91].



Can Ass
Ass. / faith.







Ass /
M. hab.


can Ass / civ Ass


International Associations 1 000 122 0,12 60,00 9 910 165 1 354
France 36,00 78 2,17 60,00 983 803 16 397 7 568
Diocese of Paris 1,33 11 8,29 2,21 71 222 32 208 3 885
New York / United States 0,45 19 41,85 312,00 1 900 000 6 090 146
Diocese of Créteil 0,79 3 3,81 1,31 39 000 29 751 7 800
Diocese of Saint Denis 0,90 1 1,11 1,51 45 000 29 871 27 000
Diocese of Nancy 0,44 71 162,10 0,73 11 616 15 912 98


Even though the results should be accepted with caution, the difference is enormous, and one can question whether canon law constitutes an obstacle to the creation of associations of the faithful. In 1985, then-Cardinal Ratzinger reflected in this say on the new movements:

It is certain that these movements also pose some problems, and to a degree some dangers, but the same goes for everything that is alive. […] This is not the result of the planning by a pastoral administration, but rather it has arisen by itself. In this regard, administrative bodies – just when they want to be very open to progress – do not know what to do with it; it does not fit with their ideas. Thus tensions are created when it comes to inserting these movements into the current structure of institutions[92].

In 1983, the Code of Canon Law incorporated the principles laid down by the decree of the Second Vatican Council on the Apostolate of the Laity, and juridically structured them with canons 215ff:

Can. 215 The Christian faithful are at liberty freely to found and direct associations for purposes of charity or piety or for the promotion of the Christian vocation in the world and to hold meetings for the common pursuit of these purposes[93].

Once established as per canons 298 and 299 §1, these associations become associations of fact, but they are allowed in the Church only in accord with one of the canons below:

  1. Canon 299 §3[94], for private associations whose statutes are recognized by competent authority (recognitio);
  2. Canon 322, for associations with legal personality (probatio)[95];
  3. Canons 298 §2[96] and 299 §2[97], for associations praised and recommended by the Church;
  4. Canon 300[98] for private associations with the word Catholic in their name;
  5. Canon 301§3[99] for public associations of the faithful;
  6. Canon 302[100] for clerical associations[101].

At the end of the 1987 Ordinary Synod of Bishops, Pope John Paul II specified what criteria the associations to be recognized by the Church must follow, without making a distinction between the six types of recognition just mentioned[102].

It is always from the perspective of the Church’s communion and mission, and not in opposition to the freedom to associate, that one understands the necessity of having clear and definite criteria for discerning and recognizing such lay groups, also called « Criteria of Ecclesiality. » The following basic criteria might be helpful in evaluating an association of the lay faithful in the Church:

  • The primacy given to the call of every Christian to holiness.
  • The responsibility of professing the Catholic faith.
  • The witness to a strong and authentic communion in filial relationship to the Pope.
  • Conformity to and participation in the Church’s apostolic goals.
  • A commitment to a presence in human society, which in light of the Church’s social doctrine, places it at the service of the total dignity of the person.

The fundamental criteria mentioned at this time find their verification in the actual fruits that various group forms show in their organizational life and the works they perform, such as: the renewed appreciation for prayer, contemplation, liturgical and sacramental life, the reawakening of vocations to Christian marriage, the ministerial priesthood and the consecrated life; a readiness to participate in programmes and Church activities at the local, national and international levels; a commitment to catechesis and a capacity for teaching and forming Christians; a desire to be present as Christians in various settings of social life and the creation and awakening of charitable, cultural and spiritual works; the spirit of detachment and evangelical poverty leading to a greater generosity in charity towards all; conversion to the Christian life or the return to Church communion of those baptized members who have fallen away from the faith.

Since then Pope Francis has several times referred to the criteria of ecclesiality[103], and his words were widely commented on. Still, one of the main difficulties encountered by associations of the faithful concerns their recognition by the Church and their acquisition of legal personality. In the absence of rules for the application of the criteria of ecclesiality for the different levels of recognition[104], there is in fact a definite inconsistency in interpretations by canonists:

  • On the one hand, Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach[105] considered that the recognition of the statute includes subjective criteria, such as utility, to avoid the dispersion of forces and the duplication of associations having similar aims;
  • Without going so far, L. Navarro[106] considered that the recognitio is related to the verification of the statutes, but also to the analysis of other sources of information to identify the effective reality of the association. Roch Pagé held the same view[107];
  • On the contrary, S. Pettinano spoke of a right to recognition[108], while Feliciani wrote: ‘[….the ministerial intervention] can be considered not as a discretionary decision, but as a required action, in the sense that it is limited to the statement that, in the examination of the structures of the association, its resources and its goals, there is nothing contrary to the faith, to the discipline and integrity of customs. […] On the reasons for pastoral opportunity, it is difficult to reconcile with the right of association recognized to the faithful[109]”;
  • Finally, canonists such as P.A. Bonnet[110] have recognized that there may be conflict and administrative appeal.

A similar difficulty existed for the approval of translations of liturgical books, and so Pope Francis promulgated the Apostolic Letter Principum Magnum, amending canon 838 of the Code of Canon Law. In the absence of specific criteria, the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship felt that there was no fundamental difference as to the role of the Apostolic See, between the actual domain of the recognitio and the confirmatio, and so the Holy Father had to require a different treatment of reports. Today we can hope that a similar motu proprio similar will aid in distinguishing the various modes of recognition of associations of the faithful.

In the absence of such specifics, there are sometimes situations where a bishop arbitrarily defers the recognition, as we can see in the example below:

A year after having been elected, moderators of an association of the faithful with 8,000 members asked to be received by the new bishop of the Diocese where their seat is located, « to show their approach to the path to recognition.” On 13 July 2016, they received a letter from the Vicar General: « Mgr. … asked me to let you know that, after reflection, it does not seem appropriate to give you an appointment because the conditions for recognition are not met in the light of information he has in his possession. He assures you of his prayers.” A canonist could question the respect for the rights of the faithful: the right to receive the assistance of pastors (c. 203), the right to recognition of their association (recognitio) and to its legal personality (probatio) (c. 300[111] and c.322-§1) when it meets the criteria of ecclesiality, the right to a good reputation and that of their members (c.220) and the right to defend themselves (c. 221), since the information is known to the bishop but not to the moderators, and it may very well be the result of slander.


The absence of canonical recognition of an association may lead to a trial in civil courts, instead of the issue being resolved by canonical administrative justice, as we can see in the example below:

In 1980 in Paris, the Archdiocese of Paris signed a convention of 17 years with the Association of Cultural Charity of the Croatian Mission (ABCMC), entrusting it with the use of Saint-Cyrille-Saint-Méthode Church. Over time, internal tensions mounted around the material issues such that in 2007, the Convention was not renewed.  The association, however, did not accept this decision, and continued to occupy the premises, celebrating, among other things, Masses in Croatian, and catechizing children. The Archdiocese of Paris sued the association in civil court and obtained several decisions from the civil justice system to make the association leave the premises. However, a group of Croatian parishioners rebelled, and protested in the streets, saying: « We are appalled, disappointed and shocked that our Catholic brethren behave like this toward other Catholics […] At a time when churches are being closed for lack of parishioners, or lack of maintenance, some Catholics who have rebuilt a church with their own money and have kept it open, are being expelled like dirt by their Catholic brethren. It is unacceptable. » For its part, the parish priest of the parish where the Church is located said he was ready to accept the Catholic Croats, but not their association[112].


Even if the association is recognized, we can expect that the interventions of the bishop will probably cause conflicts:

“Agape[113]”, a recognized private association of the faithful under the responsibility of the Bishop, holds inner-healing sessions in which tens of thousands of people are involved with great benefit. Holding opinions different from those of his predecessor, the new bishop sought to reestablish the association on a new base. A doctor, facilitator and training-session founder was given an ultimatum to cease activities with a prohibition of residence in town « without any reason, » according to the press[114].


In Rome, the Pontifical Council for the Laity regularly receives recourses, as it indicates each year in the following manner in its activity reports:

The Pontifical Council for the Laity has resolved the controversies submitted for its consideration, by associations of the faithful, with administrative recourses[115].

But not all the controversies are resolved by the Pontifical Council, since the Supreme Tribunal also must be involved in certain contentious administrative recourses relating to associations, including those relating to:

  • their public or private character (Prot. 23966/93/CA);
  • the possibility of making recourse while legal capacity has not been recognized (Prot. 17445/ 85 CA and prot. 17914/86 CA) [116];
  • their constitution and the designation of their moderators (Prot. 32943/01 CA, Prot. 35378/03 CA)
  • their suppression (Prot. 20012/88, Prot. 37399/05 CA)


One can wonder about the fact that no published decision is based on the application of the criteria of ecclesiality for the recognition of associations. Maybe there are unpublished cases, or even insufficiently detailed published cases which the author can collect on this topic?

Some recourses have been filed and rejected in limine, for lack of legitimacy of the petitioner:

The Council for the Laity rejected the hierarchical recourse of a group of American lay faithful against a decree of their bishop, because of the lack of legitimacy of the petitioner[117]. After several exchanges, the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts proposed a solution on 29 April 1987, with an interpretion of canon 299 §3:

  1. – Can a group of the faithful which does not have legal personality, nor even recognition as per c. 299, § 3, legitimately introduce a hierarchical recourse against a decree of their diocesan bishop?
  2. – No, as a group; yes, as a member of the faithful who act separately or in common, provided that they have really suffered injury. For the estimation of this injury, it is necessary that the judge enjoys appropriate discretion.

Some other recourses have been rejected in limine because the administrative act preventing the recognition did not have the character of a particular administrative act:

Tribunal against a letter of the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, addressed to the Bishop of Lincoln, confirming the legality of a decision of the latter with, under certain conditions, a prohibition that became an excommunication of members of several diocesan associations, including the association « Call to Action Nebraska.” The Bishop accused them of holding views contrary to Catholic doctrine, including the marriage of priests and the ordination of women. The Secretary of the Supreme Tribunal replied that the Tribunal was not competent to deal with such an appeal, inasmuch as Article 123 of Pastor Bonus refers to specific decrees promulgated or confirmed by a Dicastery of the Roman Curia, which is not the case for a general diocesan decree or a clarification by a Dicastery concerning the legality of this Act[118].


Subject to information to the contrary, therefore, it does not appear that ecclesiastical administrative justice has played its full role in clarifying the recognition of private associations of the faithful, as was the case in 1921 with the resolutio Corrientes.

  1. Other Substantive Reasons for Recourse

There are many other, less common subjects of recourse, which it is not possible to relate in detail.

In addition to the case of employees of Catholic associations, mentioned in the introductory chapter, we may cite the case of hospital or military chaplains, as well as employees of the Diocesan curias who are sometimes fired.

A military man, promoted to vice-chancellor of a military ordinariate, was removed from his job as a result of the arrival of a new chancellor. The Congregation for Clergy refused his hierarchical recourse, and the Supreme Tribunal rejected his appeal to the court by lack of foundation, because the arrival of a new Chancellor is a reason deemed sufficient under canon 485.  The reason for his expulsion was not considered to be defamatory, and the victim’s financial support was not an issue, because his salary continued to be paid by the army[119].

Another common case concerns the ownership of assets of associations, which is regularly the subject of recourse in civil courts despite the canonical importance of the problem, as pointed out by Olivier Echappé:

It is not a question here of a theoretical hypothesis: everyone knows that in France, the real estate patrimony of Catholic schools is in the hands of associations, hastily established in the aftermath of the separation and despoliation of 1905. These have no canonical status, even though their object (and the justification for their existence) is to teach Christian doctrine in the name of the Church, which, canonically, confers on them a public character and makes their property ecclesiastical goods[120].

We can also cite the case of faithful who feel they do not receive from their pastors the assistance they are entitled to expect. Here is an example that relates to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:

In New-Sevilla, in the United States, several parishioners were shocked by the liturgical innovations that their new priest made. As a sign of protest, a parishioner made such a scene that the priest was obliged to call the police, and the archbishop ordered her to stop disrupting the liturgy. But she persisted to the point that, at their meeting on 1 December 1986, the bishop promulgated an extrajudicial criminal decree citing canon 1336, thus prohibiting her from entering the church. When she made hierarchical recourse, on 12 May 1989 the decree was confirmed by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.  In April 1989, the complainant made recourse to the second section of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, believing that she acted in a state of self-defense against an aggressor who attacked unfairly, while keeping the moderation required. (c. 1323 5° b). On October 30, 1990, the Tribunal concluded that the archbishop had the right to issue his extrajudicial decree in accord with canons 1720 and 1731 2°; that he had complied with the rules set forth in this canon, including receiving the complainant. Consequently, the recourse was not admitted to discussion at the Tribunal. On 24 November, the complainant filed a new recourse but here again, the Tribunal refused to discuss it because of lack of foundation, considering that in continuing to disturb the liturgical celebrations despite being forbidden to do so, the complainant had not observed the moderation that would have allowed her to be exempted from punishment[121].


In this case, the recourse appears to have been illegal, but not all situations are of this type and there are also cases of abuse on the part of ecclesiastical authorities. After having examined a series of topics which have been the subject of recourse, we can legitimately ask ourselves if areas exist which are the topics of administrative decisions concerning the laity, and which are the subject of contentious-administrative recourse.  In Africa, for example, the faithful are too often faced with a bad management of their parish, as reported Achille Mbala-Kyé and Emmanuel Bizogo of Cameroon[122].

According to the law, the parish priest is the manager of the property of the Church (c. 532 and c. 1281-1288), but often the parishes coffers are empty during the transfer of ministry, that is to say when the parish priest changes. In fact, there are difficulties in putting finance councils in place, and many parishes do not send their accounts to the Diocesan entity.  Often, the accounts of the parishes are unused: the priest does not use this account for the income and expenses of his parish. He never deposits any money, but instead is allowed to leave the account in the red over the years.


Following the presentation of Professor Zalbidea at the 16th International Congress of the Consociatio, the question remained open as to whether a member of the faithful may take administrative recourse when a parish priest leaves his parish without rendering an account of its financial management, as provided for in c. 1287 §.2[123], with reasonable chances to obtain restitution for the Parish of sums unduly taken away. Further discussion would be useful in this area, where we have not found in any case law of the Apostolic Signatura.

In another area, here are three Canadian testimonies regarding receiving Holy Communion on one’s knees, where it is regrettable that the local Church has not been able to resolve the situations, since we found the first two on an internet site and the third is before Canada’s Supreme Court.

Last week, I went to Sunday Mass with my husband in a neighboring parish. It was the first time that I went there. At the time of communion, we approached, and I went down on my knees before the priest to receive the host. The priest said to me « No! On your feet! « I thought I had heard wrongly. « Uh…sorry? »  » On your feet! Here communion is only given to those who stand! « Then I rose, a little disturbed, and the priest gave me the host on my tongue. My husband, behind me, did the same thing, and the priest refused to give him communion on his knees too[124].

I once saw in my parish two priests distributing communion, one next to the other, the vicar and a visiting priest.  The visiting priest refused to give communion to a person who was kneeling. A little later, I heard the vicar berating him, “If you do that one more time, you will never set foot in this parish again[125] ».

An example of refusal of the sacraments which has been handled by the Supreme Court of Canada is the « Stellerton Case » which involved the refusal to give the Eucharist to six Catholic faithful because they wanted to receive it kneeling, and not standing. The Court ruled in favor of the complainants[126].

In fact, there are hierarchical recourses which are resolved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:

The Congregation is concerned about the large number of complaints… and considers that the refusal to give Holy Communion to a member of the faithful because he is on his knees constitutes a serious violation of one of the most fundamental rights of the Christian faithful… Such a refusal should never take place… except in the case of… of public sin without repentance on the part of the person, or of his persistence in heresy or schism. When the Congregation approved legislation concerning standing to receive Holy Communion… it did so while affirming that communicants… who kneel must not be denied Holy Communion… In fact, His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has recently stressed… that kneeling to receive Holy Communion has in its favor a secular tradition quite appropriate in light of the real, true and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated Species[127].

In another area, we cite the challenge of a Bishop by members of his diocese, for which Charles Wackenheim seems to suggest that administrative recourse would not apply[128].

As a result of the appointment of bishops who were strongly contested, the members of the dioceses in question asked how they could make themselves heard, not as individuals or through anonymous letters, but publicly and collectively. The Code says nothing of it. We would also like to know what the law stipulates when a bishop has publicly failed in his mission. The Code envisages this possibility… in the case of a parish priest (c. 1740)[129]

Cases like these are not so rare.

In 2015 in France, some members of a diocese have been faced with a decision of their bishop requiring parents to pay the church tax before enrolling their children in catechism classes. These members were directed to Canonists without Borders in order to verify the current law[130]. After some exchanges, it appears that this decision derived from the fact that the bishop had just presented a building permit for the construction of their future parish house, thus putting at risk the finances of the diocese. After having inquired about the procedures of hierarchical recourse and litigation, the members of the diocese concerned decided neither to bring the matter onto the public stage in order to avoid harming the Church, nor to initiate a recourse considered too complex.  Soon after the bishop was replaced, for reasons of age.


While this case remained secret, here is another, which was made public:

In 2002 in the United States, the Boston Globe newspaper investigated that publicly revealed the personal responsibility of the Cardinal Archbishop, who had covered up the actions of dozens of pedophile priests of his diocese. Despite its bias, the film Spotlight[131]  shows that the justice of the Church failed to seriously listen to the victims.


In the previous case, it is the press, and not ecclesiastical justice, which helped to protect the victims. This has led to a recent evolution of the law on the transfer and removal of a bishop, when he commits neglect which puts minors in danger[132].

Here is another case in which the Episcopal Conference sided with public opinion after a financial scandal has been revealed.

In 2013 in Germany, the President of the Episcopal Conference participated in a petition by members of the diocese which lead to the transfer of a bishop. The outraged faithful of the Diocese of Limburg called for the resignation of Mgr. T. More than 4,000 of them already signed an open letter against him. In Limburg, near Frankfurt, the population is shocked. On Sunday, approximately 200 opponents gathered in front of the cathedral to protest against « the Bishop of Bling, » as he was nicknamed by the press, and his « egomania. [133] »


In other cases, the petition of the diocesan faithful is taken to Rome:

In 2013, in Nigeria, the appointment of Msgr xxx as the head of the Diocese of Ahiara was refused by some Catholics for ethnic reasons. Cardinal Onaiyekan was appointed apostolic administrator of Ahiara. In 2017, a delegation of members of the diocese, accompanied by the President of the Episcopal Conference of Nigeria, travelled to Rome to explain the problem to Pope Francis. He listened to the members of the delegation and judged « unacceptable the character of the situation in Ahiara, » intending to take appropriate measures[134].


The previous developments show that administrative ecclesiastical justice sometimes intervenes in disputes between the laity and the ecclesiastical hierarchy, but the frequency of these interventions is low.  This suggests the need for an administrative justice closer to the people, for example at the national level.



[1] According to the Pontifical Directory 2016

[2] Sarah (Card. Robert), Dieu ou rien, interviewed by Nicolas Piat, Paris 2016, ed Pluriel, p. 249/420.

[3] Paul VI, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, No 37.

[4] Cf. Kasper (Card. William), L’Église catholique, son être, sa réalisation, sa mission. Paris, Cerf, Collection Cogitatio Fidei  avril 2014, p. 300/592.

[5] Paul VI (Blessed Pope), Apostolicam actuositatem,

[6] He was promoted to the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life.

[7] Farrell (Mgr. Kevin) Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life., According to Anne Kurian, Zénit, 16 novembre 2016. Translated from French

[8] Kasper (Card. William), L’Église catholique, op. cit. p. 295. Translated from French.

[9] Saint Augustine Center of Dakar, symposium of 22-24 February 2017 on the theme of « Repentance: Genesis and timeliness.”

[10] Extraction on 7 November 2016: 88 appeals have been filed by men, 43 by women, 32 by men or women.

[11] The 27 recourses were made by associations (13 cases), bishops (3 cases), priests (4 cases) or applicants non-identified (7 cases). For example, a recourse from a Bishop was examined on 13 June 1987 by the College of the second section, which found a violation of procedure followed by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Cf. ASS (1987), p. 1293.

[12] Here is the breakdown by dicastery of the 184 recourses in our sample concerning the laity:

  • Congregation for the Clergy in 110 cases
  • Pontifical Council for the Laity in 35 cases
  • Congregation for Consecrated Life in 17 cases
  • Congregation for Catholic Education in 7 cases
  • Congregation for Divine Worship in 3 cases
  • Congregation for the Eastern Churches in 3 cases
  • Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in 3 cases
  • Congregation for Bishops in 3 cases
  • Pontifical Council for the Family in one casepicture


  • Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in one case (defender of the bond)
  • Fabric of Saint Peter in one case

Some cases on the same topics are submitted by either clerics or religious. Insofar as they are concerned with the laity, we will not return to them in the following chapters.

[13] ABBAL (Elisabeth), Paroisse et territorialité dans le contexte français, Paris, Cerf, 2016, 520 p.

[14] PLOUCHART (Louisa), 2013, « Le diocèse de Rennes, Dol et Saint-Malo : maillage paroissial et pratiques religieuses,” p. 19 à 63, In B. Merdrignac, D. Pichot, L. Plouchart, G. Provost (Dir.) La paroisse, communauté et territoire, Constitution et recomposition du maillage paroissial, Rennes, Ed. PUR, Coll. Histoire, 541 P.

[15] Congregation for the clergy, « Procedural guidelines for the modification of parishes and closure of parish churches,” Roman Replies, (2013).

[16] This is for example in the case cited by RR (2013), p. 13-17 about a dispute on the improper recourse of a church. (C. 1210)

[17] Translation of the author of ASS 1992, p. 1117, concerning recourse No. 22036.

[18] Spanish diocese created in 1995.

[19] Lleida in Spanish.

[20] It is usually referred to under the name of Frange of Aragon (Franja de Aragón in Castilian, Franja of Aragó in Catalan, and Franja of Aragón in Aragonese), a territory of the Autonomous Community of Aragon, Spain, and bordering Catalonia, where the language traditionally spoken is Catalan.

[21] AZNAR (Gil, F. R.) and Sanchez (Roman, R). Los bienes artísticos de las parroquias of Franja: el proceso canónico (1995-2008), Fundación Teresa de Jesús, Zaragoza, 2009.

[22] For example, the art-history site of Antonio VALMAS.

as: www.antonionavalmas.net/spip.php?article56 consulted on 11 August 2015.

[23] Antonio VALMAS recounts 444 steps on the abovementioned site.

[24] RAVINEL (Sophie of), “Des maires sont contraints de détruire leur église.” Le Figaro, 18 May 2007. www.patrimoine-religieux.fr/

[25] www.patrimoine-religieux.fr/

[26] The Church of Saint Louis of Lille has been transformed into a Center for the Safeguarding of Heritage.

[27] Can.  1214 By the term church is understood a sacred building designated for divine worship to which the faithful have the right of entry for the exercise, especially the public exercise, of divine worship.

[28] There are exceptions where all or some part of a church can be used for purposes other than worship, without the church losing its sacred character. This is the case in particular if it is temporarily closed, or lent for a time to a non-Catholic Christian community which later returns it in the same state. It is the same if a part of the church is assigned to uses other than those of worship (administration, meeting room, etc.) so long as the church is not damaged. Similarly, the installation of antennas on the roof or advertisements on the walls while working is possible without the church losing its sacred use. Cf. Nicholas Schöch, OFM, « Relegation of Churches to Profane Use (c. 1222, §2): Reasons and Procedure,” The Jurist, 67 (2007) 485-502.

[29] Can.  1222 §1. If a church cannot be used in any way for divine worship and there is no possibility of repairing it, the diocesan bishop can relegate it to profane but not sordid use.
§2. Where other grave causes suggest that a church no longer be used for divine worship, the diocesan bishop, after having heard the presbyteral council, can relegate it to profane but not sordid use, with the consent of those who legitimately claim rights for themselves in the church and provided that the good of souls suVers no detriment thereby.

[30] Schöch Nicholas, “Deutsche Welle, Churches Profit from Foundation” Boom, 29 January 2006, www.dw/article/0,2122,1846722,00.html, p. 493, note 27.

[31] Provost (James H.), « Some Canonical Considerations on Closing Parishes », The Jurist, 53 (1993), 362.

[32] « Une vague de démolition d’églises menace le patrimoine » » in Le Point.fr of 13 August 2013, consulted on 15 July 2015 on www.lepoint.fr/culture/une-vague-de-demolition-d-eglises-menace-le-patrimoine-13-08-2013-1713609_3.php

[33] MASSIN Le Goff (Guy), Conservationist in the department of antiquities and objects of art, of Maine-et-Loire, the General Council of Maine-et-Loire, wrote: « The violent reactions of some of the inhabitants of this commune in the face of this project are the reflection of a deep emotion which often causes damage in the political order, but especially causes sociological damage. Opinions clash, disputes arise, recourses to justice multiply, fractures between supporters and opponents will resonate for decades, weighing on the commune in a heavy climate of bitterness. » In  » Polémique autour de la démolition des églises : le cas du Maine-et-Loire,”put online on 03 November 2009, consulted on 15 July 2015. URL: Http://insitu.revues.org/5563

[34] Circular of the Minister of the Interior, Overseas, of territorial communities and immigration, referenced nor/IOC/D/11/21246C, dated July 29, 2011, addressed to the Prefect of police and ladies and gentlemen of the Prefects (metropolis) on the buildings of worship: property, construction, repair and maintenance, rules of urban planning, taxation, published on the official French site of Legifrance: http://circulaire.legifrance.gouv.fr/pdf/2011/08/ric_33668.pdf

[35] Habert (Mgr. Jacques), « Ces églises qui font l’Église » Document of the bishops, Conference of the Bishops of France, No. 6/7, Paris 2017.

[36] La Dépêche du midi, Decazeville, 2 November 2017.

[37] Congrégation pour la cause des saint, instruction « Le reliquie nella Chiesa: Autenticità e Conservazione » du 16 décembre 2017.

[38] https://www.iuscangreg.it/diss.php?lang=EN

[39] www.clsadb.com

[40] www.canonistes.org/biblio

[41] Voir par exemple « US Catholics win rare victories on church closings » in USA today, See for example « US Catholics Win Rare Victories on Church Closings,” USA Today, March 5, 2011.

[42] Several cases are described in Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions, 2011, p. 5-14. and RR (2013), p. 13-17 about a dispute on the improper use of a church. (Canon 1210).

[43] Prot No 17447/85 CA published in Ministerium Justitiae…, Montréal, 2011, 441-528.

[44] Prot No 21024/89 CA, published in Notitiae 26 (1990) 142-144 and in Ministerium Justitiae, op. cit. p. 461-466.

[45] Prot. NO 24388/93 CA published in Ministerium Justitiae…, op. cit,. p. 502-528.

[46] Daneels (Mgr; Frans), « Soppressione, unione di parrochie e riduzione ad uso profano della chiesa parrochiale », Ius Ecclesiae 10 (1998) 111-148.

[47] Daneels (Mgr. Frans) « The reduction of a Former Parish Church to Profane use in the light of the Recent Jurisprudence of the Apostolic Signatura » in « Quod justum est et aequum. Scritti in onore del Cardinale Zenone Grocholewski per il cinquantesimo di sacerdocio », a cura di Mgr Marek Jedraszewski, Facoltà teologica dell’università di Poznan. 2013, (p. 165-169)

[48] Montini (Mgr Gian-Paolo), (Mgr. Gian-Paolo), Promoter of Justice of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, « La cessazione degli Edifici di culto,” Quaderni di diritto ecclesiale 13 (2000) 281-299..

[49] Schöch (Nicolas), Vice-defender of the bond to the Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, « Relegation of Churches to Profane Use (C . 1222, §2): Reasons and Procedures,” The Jurist 67 (2007), 485-502.

[50] Canosa (Javier), « Giustizia amministrativa eclésiastica e giurisprudenza », in Ius ecclesiae XXIII, 2011, p. 563-582.

[51] Prot No 21024/89 CA, Notitiae 26 (1990) 142-144 and Ministerium Justitiae, op. cit., p. 461-466.

[52] Daneels (Mgr Frans), « Soppressione, unione di parrochie e riduzione ad uso profano della chiesa parrochiale », Ius Ecclesiae 10 (1998) 111-148, cited by Nicholas Schöch, op. cit. p. 488 et note 12.

[53] Mgr Daneels relies in particular on the sentence coram Burke of 21 May 2011, Prot. 41719/08 CA, as well as prot. 45242/11 CA.

[54] Mgr Daneels relies in particular on the sentence coram Burke of 21 May 2011, Prot. 41719/08 CA, as well as prot. 45242/11 CA.

[55] Idem.

[56] Prot. 31208/00 CA, unpublished decision cited by Nicholas Schön (op. cit.. p. 502 note 59).

[57] Mgr Daneels DANEELS relies on three sentences: coram Burke (Prot. 42278/09 CA) of 21 May 2011; coram Caffara (Prot. 41719/08 CA) of 21 May 2011, as well as on the decree of the Congress of 11 May 2012 (Prot. no. 45190B/11 CA).

Cf. can. 1238 § 2.

[58] Cf. can. 1238 § 2.

[59] Coram Burke, 11 May 2011, Prot41719/08 CA, The Jurist 73 (2013) 597-643

[60] Coram Burke, 11 May 2011, Prot41719/08 CA, The Jurist 73 (2013) 597-643

[61] Mgr Daneels in op. cit. p. 168.

[62] Coram Burke, 11 May 2011, Prot. 41719/08 CA, The Jurist 73 (2013) 597-643

[63] Can. 788 §1. When the period of the precatechumenate has been completed, those who have made known their intention to embrace faith in Christ are to be admitted to the catechumenate in liturgical ceremonies and their names are to be inscribed in the book designated for this purpose.

  • 2. Through instruction and the first experience of Christian life, catechumens are to be initiated suitably into the mystery of salvation and introduced into the life of the faith, the liturgy, the charity of the people of God, and the apostolate.
  • 3. It is for the conference of bishops to issue statutes which regulate the catechumenate by determining what things must be expected of the catechumens and by defining what prerogatives are to be recognized as theirs.

[64] In France, this involves in particular the rite of Christian initiation of adults (RICA) and document n° 9 of the Bishops’ Conference of France, “Réflexions sur le catéchuménat,” Paris 2014.

[65] Can.  843 §1. Sacred ministers cannot deny the sacraments to those who seek them at appropriate times, are properly disposed, and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.

[66] Can.  865 §1. For an adult to be baptized, the person must have manifested the intention to receive baptism, have been instructed sufficiently about the truths of the faith and Christian obligations, and have been tested in the Christian life through the catechumenate. The adult is also to be urged to have sorrow for personal sins.

[67] Ordinary trial, brief or documentary finding of nullity, Pauline or Petrine privilege, procedure Super Rato, trial in presumption of death of the spouse, etc. governed by the Code of Canon Law, the Motu Proprio Mitis Iudex, the 30 April 2001 instruction Potestas Ecclesiae, etc.

[68] There exist also unjustified decisions of acceptance to the sacraments which lead to scandals in the community, such as for example the baptism of a person living in public concubinage, or a request for “debaptism” by a neophyte who had not understood what he had committed to by his baptism.

[69] Chevalier (Catherine) “Critères canoniques et pastoraux pour l’admssion au catéchuménat,” in Le droit de l’Eglise au service du catéchuménat, Paris Arpège 2018, 100 p.

[70] Rhode (Prof. Ulrich), « la funzione d’insegnare della chiesa in un contesto secularizzato » Conference given at Rome on Octobre 6th 2017 during the 16th international meeting of the Consociatio.

[71] Prot 30266/99 CA cited by ASS (1999) p. 936.

[72] Prot 30677/99 CA and 30678/99CA cited by ASS (1990), p. 892.

[73] Cases not referenced, cited by ASS (1978) p. 625.

[74] Prot. 36007/04 CA not admitted to the discussion by the decision of the Congress on 01/06/06, and then of the College on 28/04/2007.

[75] Prot. 23208/92 CA not admitted to discussion by decision of the Congress of 23/11/1992.

[76] A German married deacon filed an appeal in 1987 for having been suspended, but his application was not admitted to discussion. (ASS (1988), p. 1405)

[77] Cf. ASS (1988), p. 1405 Coram Stickler, on 28 January 1988. Registration No. (Prot) not indicated.

[78] Case cited by the ASS (1987), p. 1292.

[79] Case cited by the ASS (1987), p. 1292.

[80] Cf. art 136 of the General Regulation of the Roman Curia, 1999.

[81] John-Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, No. 29.

[82] Miayoukou (Hervé), « L’émergence en droit canonique des associations privées de fidèles » L’année canonique, 52, 2010, p. 249-256.

[83] Cf. S.C. of the Second Vatican Council, resolution Corrienten. 13 November 1920: AAS 13 (1921), p. 139.

[84] John-Paul II (saint), Christifideles laici

[85] Paul VI, Apostolicam actuositatem, No 19.

[86] Site of the Pontifical Council of the Laity, www.laici.va, consulted on 27 November 2011 in the rubric « Twenty years after. »

[87] Francis (Pope), Speech of 17 June 2016 before the Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.Translated from French.

[88] Echappé (Olivier), « Les biens des associations d’Église », L’année canonique, 47, 2005, p. 51-62.

[89] Ryłko (Cardinal Stanisław), Titular Archbishop of Novica, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, «  préface du répertoire des associations,” consulted on the website of the Vatican on 17 November 2011 at the address: www.laici.va/content/laici/fr/sezioni/associazione/repertorio/preface_du_card_stanisawryko.html

[90] Column 1: Millions of the faithful; Column 2: Number of recognized associations of the faithful; Column 3: Number of recognized associations of the faithful by million Catholics = ratio col. 1 / col 2.

[91] Column 4: Number of inhabitants; Column 5: Number of civil associations; Column 6: Number of civil associations recognized by million of inhabitants; Column 7 = Column 1 / column 4.

[92] Ratzinger (Cardinal Joseph), « Entretiens sur la foi », remarks reported by Vittorio Messori, Paris, 1985, Fayard, p. 48/252.

[93] CIC/83 C 215

[94] Canon 299 §3. No private association of the Christian faithful is recognized in the Church unless competent authority reviews its statutes.

[95] The conditions for obtaining legal personality are specified in canon 114: it must be that associations are: 1) Ordered for purposes (useful, cf. §3) which agree with the mission of the Church (works of piety, apostolate, charity, cf. §2); 2) oriented on an object that is broaer than the interests of members; 3) equipped with sufficient means to ensure their sustainability

[96] Can. 298 §2. The Christian faithful are to join especially those associations which competent ecclesiastical authority has erected, praised, or commended.

[97] Can. 299 §2. Even if ecclesiastical authority praises or commends them, associations of this type are called private associations.

[98] Can. 300 No association is to assume the name Catholic without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority according to the norm of can. 312.

[99] Can. 301 §3. Associations of the Christian faithful which are erected by competent ecclesiastical authority are called public associations.

[100] Can. 302 Those associations of the Christian faithful are called clerical which are under the direction of clerics, assume the exercise of sacred orders, and are recognized as such by competent authority.

[101] In terms of competencies, the Supreme tribunal stated that the recourse relating to the pious-association negotiations is the responsibility of the Congregation for the Clergy, not the Council for the Laity (Prot. 13782/81 CA).

[102] John-Paul II, post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici of 30-12-1988 (AAS 81 [1989] 393-521.


[103] Francis (Pope), Evangeli Gaudium, No 130.

[104]“À propos des critères d’ecclésialité from John-Paul II to Pope Francis, La Croix, 19 March 2017.

For example, it would be possible to predict a gradation in the recognition for simple private associations:

  • a simple examination of the existence of the statute for associations governed by canon 299 §3;
  • a substantive review of the statutes, to ensure that they respect the right of persons and the right of the Church to obtain legal personality, in accordance with canon 322;
  • the requirement of three years of existence and the review of the criteria of ecclesiality for associations praised and recommended by the Church, in accordance with canon 299 §3.

[105] Martinez Sistach (cardinal Lluis), Associations of Christ’s Faithful, coll. Gratianus, Montréal, Wilson & Lafleur Ltée, 2008, 24×16, p. 113/174 p.

[106] Navarro (L.), Diritto di associazione e associazioni di fedeli 1991, pp. 290,, cf. Note 2.

[107] Pagé (Roch), « La reconnaissance des associations de fidèles » in Studia canonica, 19, (1985), p. 332-333. Translated from French.

[108] Pettinato (S.), « Le associazioni dei fedeli: la condizione giuridica dei battezzati », in Il fedele cristiano, Bologna, 1989, p. 234 Cited by P.A. Bonnet, « Recognitio statutorum consociationum privatum », in Periodica 90 (2001) 3-43, p. 41 note 184.

[109] Feliciani (Giorgio). “Il diritto di associazione e le possibilità della sua realizzazione ell’ordinamento canonico”, in Das konsoziative Element in der Kirche. Akten des VI. Internationalen Kongresses für kanonisches Recht, München, 14.-19. September 1987, St. Ottilien, EOS, 1989, pp. 397-418. Cited by P.A. Bonnet, Recognitio statutorum consociationum privatum, in Periodica 90 (2001) 3-43, p. 41 note 184.

[110] Bonnet (Piero Antonio),  La « recognitio degli statuti delle associazioni private quale granzia di pluralismo nella chiesa (can 299 § 3 CIC), Periodica 89 (2000) 531-563 et Periodica 90 (2001), p. 3-43.

[111] c. 299 §3. No private association of the Christian faithful is recognized in the Church unless competent authority reviews its statutes.

[112] Riposte catholique, 23 June 2017.

[113] https://agape-lepuy.fr/qui-sommes-nous/historique-agape-nd-du-puy/ consulted on 11 july 2017.

[114] Salon Beige 9 July 2017; Riposte catholique, 10 July 2017.

[115] ASS (2014), p. 845.

[116] Navarro (Luis) “La tutella giudiziaria dei sogetti senza personalità giuridica canonica » in Studi giuridici XLV, Roma 1977, p. 211-228.

[117] Registration Number (Prot) not indicated, cf. ASS (1989), p. 1218, 9th case.

[118] Prot. 39305/CA, RR (2007), p. 43-44. « Canon 1311 and followings ».

[119] Prot. 48091/13 CA, in Monitor eccelsiasticus, CXXXI (2016), p 37-39.

[120] Echappé (Olivier), « Les biens des associations d’Église », L’année canonique, 47, 2005, p. 51-62. Translated from French.

[121] Notitiae 26 (1990) 711-713 and Ministerium Iustitiae, op. cit., p. 603.

[122] Bidzogo (Emmanuel), Eglises en Afrique et autofinancement, L’Harmattan, Paris 2006, p. 87 et 88/140.

[123] C. 1287 §2. Les administrateurs rendront compte aux fidèles de l’usage des biens que ceux-ci ont offerts à l’Église, selon des règles à établir par le droit particulier.

[124] Forum de la famille catholique, http://forumfc.clicforum.com/t2736-Refus-de-la-communion-a-genoux.htm

[125] Ibidem

[126] Cogan (Patrick J.), the protection of rights in hierarchical churches: an ecumenical survey, The Jurist, 46 (1986), p. 227. Double translation.

[127] Medina Estevez (cardinal Jorge), Notitiae, review of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the discipline of the Sacraments, November-December 2002, quoted by the Forum of the Catholic family.

[128] For my part, I would tend to think that a hierarchical recourse or even litigation, is theoretically possible, but that its chances for success favorably in time reason-nables are minimal, if although the diocesan him prefer the diplomatic channel or the media channel.

[129] Wackenheim (Charles), Une Église au péril de ses lois, Montréal, 2007, Novalis, p. 27/204 p.

[130] www.canonistes.org/un-pretre-peut-il-mettre-des-conditions-a-linscrition-au-catechisme-et-notamment-le-fait-davoir-paye-le-denier-du-culte/

[131] It particularly resulted the film Spotlight. The latter had obtained an Oscar at the Cannes Festival in 2016, by a jury which had probably not a position very objective by report to the Catholic Church.

[132] Francis (Pope), Apostolic Letter in the form of a Motu Proprio: « As a loving mother« »

[133] Cf. Apic et KNA, www.news.va/fr/news/les-depenses-faramineuses-de-leveque-de-limbourg-e

[134] Zenit, 8 June 2017, Anne Kurian

À propos de l’auteur

Yves Alain administrator

Je suis un homme ordinaire, évoluant d'une posture de sachant à celle de sage. La vie m'a donné de nombreux privilèges : français, catholique, marié, père de six enfants, grand-père, ingénieur polytechnicien, canoniste, médiateur, coach, écrivain et chef d'entreprise (https://energeTIC.fr) Il me faut les lâcher peu à peu pour trouver l'essentiel. Dans cette quête, j'ai besoin de Dieu, de la nature et peut-être de vous.