Part II, Article 4. The Parish Priest and the Parish
The non-ordained faithful, as happens in many worthy cases, may
collaborate effectively in the pastoral ministry of clerics in parishes,
health care centers, charitable and educational institutions, prisons,
Military Ordinariates etc. Provisions regulating such extraordinary form
of collaboration are provided by Canon 517, § 2.
§ 1. The right understanding and application of this canon, according to
which "si ob sacerdotum penuriam Episcopus dioecesanus aestimaverit
participationem in exercitio curae pastoralis paroeciae concredendam
esse diacono aliive personae sacerdotali charactere non insignate aut
personarum communitati, sacerdotem constitat aliquem qui, potestatibus
facultatibus parochi instructus curam pastoralem moderetur", requires
that this exceptional provision be used only with strict adherence to
conditions contained in it. These are:
a) ob sacerdotum penuriam and not for reasons of convenience or
ambiguous "advancement of the laity", etc.;
b) this is participatio in exercitio curae pastoralis and not directing,
coordinating, moderating or governing the Parish; these competencies,
according to the canon, are the competencies of a priest alone.
Because these are exceptional cases, before employing them, other
possibilities should be availed of, such as using of the services of
retired priests still capable of such service, or entrusting several
parishes to one priest or to a coetus sacerdotum.
In any event, the preference which this canon gives to deacons cannot be
The same canon, however, reaffirms that these forms of participation in
the pastoral care of parishes cannot, in any way, replace the office of
Parish Priest. The same canon decrees that "Episcopus dioecesanus [...]
sacerdotem constituat aliquem qui potestatibus et facultatibus parochi
instructus, curam pastoralem moderetur." Indeed, the office of Parish
Priest can be assigned validly only to a priest [cf. Canon 521, § 1]
even in cases where there is a shortage of clergy.
§ 2. In the same regard, it must be noted that the Parish Priest is the
Pastor proper to the parish entrusted to him and remains such until
his pastoral office shall have ceased.
The presentation of resignation at the age of 75 by a Parish Priest does
not of itself (ipso iure) terminate his pastoral office. Such takes
effect only when the diocesan Bishop, following prudent consideration of
all the circumstances, shall have definitively accepted his resignation
in accordance with Canon 538, § 3 and communicated such to him in
writing. In the light of those situations where scarcity of priests
exists, the use of special prudence in this matter would be judicious.
In view of the right of every cleric to exercise the ministry proper to
him, and in the absence of any grave health or disciplinary reasons, it
should be noted that having reached the age of 75 does not constitute a
binding reason for the diocesan Bishop to accept a Parish Priest's
resignation. This also serves to avoid a functional concept of the