Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


Pastors’ Duties Under Canon Law

May 11th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

I thought it might be helpful in exploring concerns about who is and who is not permitted to be a pastor (and how to get rid of those who damage souls)  to also explore a bit of what Canon Law says on the subject.  I am also wondering if a Pastoral Administrator could be removed under this section of Canon Law.  I don’t know, but it seems to me that if a group of parishioners wanted to make a case to Rome about an illicit or invalid pastoring person (aka LEM?), this might be a section that could apply.  Has any parishioner group tried this?  Or a group of parishioners from various parishes who have LEM’s “in charge?” 

Duties of a Pastor, excerpted:    Let the Canons of Law speak for themselves:

 Canon 521:   §1. “To become a pastor validly, one must be in the sacred order of the presbyterate. ” 

 §2. Moreover, he is to be outstanding in sound doctrine and integrity of morals and endowed with zeal for souls and other virtues; he is also to possess those qualities which are required by universal or particular law to care for the parish in question.”

 Canon 524:  “A diocesan bishop is to entrust a vacant parish to the one whom he considers suited to fulfill its parochial care, after weighing all the circumstances and without any favoritism….”

Canon 528: §1 “… [a pastor] is to take care that the lay members of the Christian faithful are instructed in the truths of the faith, especially by giving a homily on Sundays and holy days of obligation and by offering catechetical instruction.  …He is to have particular care for the Catholic education of children and youth.  He is to make every effort, even with the collaboration of the Christian faithful, so that the message of the gospel comes also to those who have ceased the practice of their religion or do not profess the true faith.”

            §2:  “The pastor is to see to it that the Most Holy Eucharist is the center of the parish assembly of the faithful.  He is to work so that the Christian faithful are nourished through the devout celebration of the sacraments and, in a special way, that they frequently approach the sacraments of the Most Holy Eucharist and penance.  He is also to endeavor that they are led to practice prayer even as families and take part consciously and actively in the sacred liturgy which, under the authority of the diocesan bishop, the pastor must direct in his own parish and is bound to watch over so that no abuses creep in.”

Canon 529:  §1 In order to fulfill his office diligently, a pastor is to strive to know the faithful entrusted to his care.  Therefore he is to visit families, sharing especially in the cares, anxieties, and griefs of the faithful, strengthening them in the Lord, and prudently correcting them if they are failing in certain areas.  With generous love he is to help the sick, particularly those close to death, by refreshing them solicitously with the sacraments and commending their souls to God; with particular diligence he is to seek out the poor, the afflicted, the lonely, those exiled from their country, and similarly those weighed down by special difficulties.  He is to work so that spouses and parents are supported in fulfilling their proper duties and is to foster growth of Christian life in the family.”

            §2.  A pastor is to recognize and promote the proper part which the lay members of the Christian faithful have in the mission of the Church, by fostering their associations for the purposes of religion….” 


Canon 532: In all juridic affairs the pastor represents the parish according to the norm of law.  He is to take care that the goods of the parish are administered according to the norm of cann. 1281-1288. [Many key financial guidelines.]

Removal of Pastors, excerpted: 

Canon 1740 – “When the ministry of any pastor becomes harmful or at least ineffective for any cause, even through no grave personal negligence, the diocesan bishop can remove him from the parish.”

Examples of Reasons for Removal 

Canon 1741 – “The causes for which a pastor can be removed legitimately from his parish are especially the following:

  1. a manner of acting which brings grave detriment or disturbance to ecclesiastical communion;
  2. ineptitude or a permanent infirmity of mind or body which renders the pastor unable to fulfill his functions usefully;
  3. 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;
  4. grave neglect or violation of parochial duties which persists after a warning;
  5. poor administration of temporal affairs with grave damage to the Church whenever another remedy to this harm cannot be found.”


11 Responses to “Pastors’ Duties Under Canon Law”

  1. avatar Louis E. says:

    But if a “Pastoral Minister” or “Pastoral Administrator” is delinquent in her duties,does Canon Law make any provision for her removal?…maybe the lack of explicit provision for that(or definition of those duties except per Clark) will be their excuse for clinging to power a few years from now?

  2. avatar Bruce says:

    The Vatican, CDF, and the DoR all have addresses/email/phone numbers to contact. Perhaps it is time to “storm heaven and earth” and contact as many people as you can asking them WHY they think they can break Church law. That, and of course, storm heaven with prayer! The Victory over lame lay pastors and liturgical abuse has been won, and it is only a matter of days before the last retreating band of liberals in this diocese is put out to pasture.

  3. avatar Raymond Rice says:

    Diane!! very articulately rendered but the judges do not appear to be listening to canon law!!

  4. avatar Anonymous says:

    I’m confused – what’s the point here? I don’t think anyone is saying a Pastoral Administrator is the same as a pastor.

    Pastoral Administrators (although not so named in Canon Law) are expressly permitted in law when in the bishop’s opinion, there is a need. Others have correctly posted that the liturgical/sacramental aspects of the parish are to be overseen by a priest (moderator) and I’m not sure that’s being done in our diocese, but before anyone “storms heaven and earth” they should be careful to note exactly what violations are occurring.

  5. avatar Bruce says:

    Anonymous-135225, lay persons are not to be the overseers and spiritual guides of parishes. That is the job of a pastor, who by Canon Law, is to be a priest. In the DoR ,there are several women who claim the duties of a pastor, and do so illicitly. They also received their positions as pastors, illicitly, over other priests who were available. This is a violation of Church law, and as noting what happened to Bishop Morris when he violated Church law, the stakes are high. If Bishop Clark will not be removed for such violations, and instead allowed to retire next year, you can bet that the few lay pastors who are currently working will not be pastors next year.

  6. avatar Scott W. says:

    Arrr! I tripped the two-link spam filter.

  7. avatar Scott W. says:

    In the post about the stained glass. I’m not really insane by the way. At least I don’t think…

  8. avatar Snowshoes says:

    Bruce admirably applied the canon law so elegantly expressed by Diane on the topic of the Parish Pastor.

    Permit me to describe one of the specific problems seen at Mass: the pastoral administrator processes in with the priest, and gives opening remarks, prior to the Sign of the Cross, sometimes like a homily, then when the children come up to receive the Bible for the children’s liturgy of the word, there is another homily to the children by the pastoral administrator, and then in remarks prior to the Final Blessing, the pastoral administrator gives yet another homily, each extending to several minutes. (At least at the Masses I’ve attended the PA hasn’t given the ACTUAL homily, but of course, that wasn’t necessary…)

    The PA also stands next to the priest at the Consecration and does not kneel. Very serious abuses. And how can we teach our children good manners when such uncouth behavior goes unchallenged right at Sunday Mass? God have mercy on us.

  9. avatar Bruce says:

    If it happens as Snowshoes describes, then these lay women pastors are actually crossing the line into heresy.

  10. avatar Anonymous says:

    Bruce and Snowshoes – I think we can all agree that what goes on in the DoR crosses the line of what Canon Law permits. That said, Canon Law does permit parishes to be administered by deacons and lay, although not the liturgical and spiritual needs of the parish.

    Snowshoes – I’ve seen this as well, and it’s a shame. PAs ought not be vested or even seen in the sanctuary except perhaps to read announcements.

  11. avatar militia says:

    The PA practices have crossed the line for a long time. Sr. Alice Cooney used to do most of those things at St. Joseph in Rush, including being sole presenter of the homily on a regular basis. She was albed too. What most bothered me was her standing next to the altar during the consecration. The priest at least genuflected at the appropriate times. She didn’t. Maybe albs get dirty if one kneels in them?

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