The Temporal Goods of the Church
§1 The catholic Church has the inherent right, independently of any secular power, to acquire, retain, administer and alienate temporal goods, in pursuit of its proper objectives.
§2 These proper objectives are principally the regulation of divine worship, the provision of fitting support for the clergy and other ministers, and the carrying out of works of the sacred apostolate and of charity, especially for the needy.
The universal Church, as well as the Apostolic See, particular Churches and all other public and private juridical persons are capable of acquiring, retaining, administering and alienating temporal goods, in accordance with the law.
Under the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff, ownership of goods belongs to that juridical person which has lawfully acquired them.
§1 All temporal goods belonging to the universal Church, to the Apostolic
See or to other public juridical persons in the Church, are ecclesiastical goods and are regulated by the canons which follow, as well as by their own statutes.
§2 Unless it is otherwise expressly provided, temporal goods belonging to a private juridical person are regulated by its own statutes, not by these canons.
Canon 1258.The Temporal Goods of the Church
In the canons which follow, the term Church signifies not only the universal Church or the Apostolic See, but also any public juridical person in the
Church, unless the contrary is clear from the context or from the nature of the matter.
» The Acquisition of Goods
The Church may acquire temporal goods in any way in which, by either natural or positive law, it is lawful for others to do this.
The Church has the inherent right to require from the faithful whatever is necessary for its proper objectives.
§1 The faithful have the right to donate temporal goods for the benefit of the Church.
§2 The diocesan Bishop is bound to remind the faithful of the obligation mentioned in can. 222
§1, and in an appropriate manner to urge it.
The faithful are to give their support to the Church in response to appeals and in accordance with the norms laid down by the Episcopal Conference.
The diocesan Bishop, after consulting the finance committee and the council of priests, has the right to levy on public juridical persons subject to his authority a tax for the needs of the diocese. This tax must be moderate and proportionate to their income. He may impose an extraordinary and moderate tax on other physical and juridical persons only in a grave necessity and under the same conditions, but without prejudice to particular laws and customs which may give him greater rights.
[NB see Authentic Interpretation of canon 1263, 20.V.1989]
Unless the law prescribes otherwise, it is for the provincial Bishops’ meeting to:
1° determine the taxes, to be approved by the Apostolic See, for acts of executive authority which grant a favour, or for the execution of rescripts from the Apostolic
2° determine the offerings on the occasion of the administration of the sacraments and sacramentals.
§1 Without prejudice to the right of mendicant religious, all private juridical or physical persons are forbidden to make a collection for any pious or ecclesiastical institute or purpose without the written permission of their proper
Ordinary and of the local Ordinary.
§2 The Episcopal Conference can draw up rules regarding collections, which must be observed by all, including those who from their foundation are called and are
§1 In all churches and oratories regularly open to Christ’s faithful, including those belonging to religious institutes, the local Ordinary may order that a special collection be taken up for specified parochial, diocesan, national or universal initiatives. The collection must afterwards be carefully forwarded to the diocesan curia.
§1 Unless the contrary is clear, offerings made to Superiors or administrators of any ecclesiastical juridical person, even a private one, are presumed to have been made to the juridical person itself.
§2 If there is question of a public juridical person, the offerings mentioned in §1 cannot be refused except for a just reason and, in matters of greater importance, with the permission of the Ordinary. Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 1295,
permission of the Ordinary is also required for the acceptance of offerings to which are attached some qualifying obligation or condition.
§3 Offerings given by the faithful for a specified purpose may be used only for that purpose.
The Church recognises prescription, in accordance with can. 197-199,
as a means both of acquiring temporal goods and of being freed from their obligations.
Sacred objects in private ownership may be acquired by private persons by prescription, but they may not be used for secular purposes unless they have lost their dedication or blessing. If, however, they belong to a public ecclesiastical juridical person, they may be acquired only by another public ecclesiastical juridical person.
Immovable goods, precious movable goods, rights and legal claims, whether personal or real, which belong to the Apostolic See, are prescribed after a period of one hundred years. For those goods which belong to another public ecclesiastical juridical person, the period for prescription is thirty years.
By reason of their bond of unity and charity, and according to the resources of their dioceses, Bishops are to join together to produce those means which the Apostolic See may from time to time need to exercise properly its service of the universal Church.
Canon 1272.The Temporal Goods of the Church
In those regions where benefices properly so called still exist, it is for the
Episcopal Conference to regulate such benefices by appropriate norms, agreed with and approved by the Apostolic See. The purpose of these norms is that the income and as far as possible the capital itself of the benefice should by degrees be transferred to the fund mentioned in can. 1274
» The Administration of Goods
The Roman Pontiff, by virtue of his primacy of governance, is the supreme administrator and steward of all ecclesiastical goods.
§1 In every diocese there is to be a special fund which collects offerings and temporal goods for the purpose of providing, in accordance with can. 281,
for the support of the clergy who serve the diocese, unless they are otherwise catered for.
§2 Where there is as yet no properly organised system of social provision for the clergy, the Episcopal Conference is to see that a fund is established which will furnish adequate social security for them.
§3 To the extent that it is required, a common reserve is to be established in every diocese by which the Bishop is enabled to fulfil his obligations towards other persons
who serve the Church and to meet various needs of the diocese, this can also be the means by which wealthier dioceses may help poorer ones.
§4 Depending on differing local circumstances, the purposes described in §§2 and 3 might better be achieved by amalgamating various diocesan funds, or by cooperation between various dioceses, or even by setting up a suitable association for them, or indeed for the whole territory of the Episcopal Conference itself.
§5 If possible, these funds are to be established in such a manner that they will have standing also in the civil law.
A reserve set up by a number of different dioceses is to be administered according to norms opportunely agreed upon by the Bishops concerned.
§1 Ordinaries must carefully supervise the administration of all the goods which belong to public juridical persons subject to them, without prejudice to lawful titles which may give the Ordinary greater rights.
§2 Taking into account rights, lawful customs and the circumstances, Ordinaries are to regulate the whole matter of the administration of ecclesiastical goods by issuing special instructions, within the limits of universal and particular law.
In carrying out acts of administration which, in the light of the financial situation of the diocese, are of major importance, the diocesan Bishop must consult the finance committee and the college of consultors. For acts of extraordinary administration, except in cases expressly provided for in the universal law or stated in the documents of foundation, the diocesan Bishop needs the consent of the committee and of the college of consultors. It is for the Episcopal Conference to determine what are to be regarded as acts of extraordinary administration.
Besides the duties mentioned in cann. 494 §§3 and 4
, the diocesan Bishop may also entrust to the financial administrator the duties mentioned in can. 1276
§1 and can. 1279
§1 The administration of ecclesiastical goods pertains to the one with direct power of governance over the person to whom the goods belong, unless particular law or statutes or legitimate custom state otherwise, and without prejudice to the right of the Ordinary to intervene where there is negligence on the part of the administrator.
§2 Where no administrators are appointed for a public juridical person by law or by the documents of foundation or by its own statutes, the Ordinary to which it is subject is to appoint suitable persons as administrators for a three-year term. The same persons can be re-appointed by the Ordinary.
Every juridical person is to have its own finance committee, or at least two counsellors, who are to assist in the performance of the administrator’s duties, in accordance with the statutes.
§1 Without prejudice to the provisions of the statutes administrators act invalidly when they go beyond the limits and manner of ordinary administration, unless they have first received in writing from the Ordinary the faculty to do so.
§2 The statutes are to determine what acts go beyond the limits and manner of ordinary administration. If the statutes are silent on this point, it is for the diocesan
Bishop, after consulting the finance committee, to determine these acts for the persons subject to him.
§3 Except and insofar as it is to its benefit, a juridical person is not held responsible for the invalid actions of its administrators. The juridical person is, however, responsible when such actions are valid but unlawful, without prejudice to its right to bring an action or have recourse against the administrators who have caused it damage.
All persons, whether clerics or laity, who lawfully take part in the administration of ecclesiastical goods, are bound to fulfil their duties in the name of the Church, in accordance with the law.
Before administrators undertake their duties:
1° they must take an oath, in the presence of the Ordinary or his delegate, that they will well and truly perform their office;
2° they are to draw up a clear and accurate inventory, to be signed by themselves, of all immovable goods, of those movable goods which are precious or of a high cultural value, and of all other goods, with a description and an estimate of their value; when this has been compiled, it is to be certified as correct;
3° one copy of this inventory is to be kept in the administration office and another in the curial archive; any change which takes place in the property is to be noted on both copies.
§1 All administrators are to perform their duties with the diligence of a good householder.
§2 Therefore they must:
1° be vigilant that no goods placed in their care in any way perish or suffer damage; to this end they are, to the extent necessary, to arrange insurance contracts;
2° ensure that the ownership of ecclesiastical goods is safeguarded in ways which are valid in civil law;
3° observe the provisions of canon and civil law, and the stipulations of the founder or donor or lawful authority; they are to take special care that damage will not be suffered by the Church through the non-observance of the civil law;
4° seek accurately and at the proper time the income and produce of the goods, guard them securely and expend them in accordance with the wishes of the founder or lawful norms;
5° at the proper time pay the interest which is due by reason of a loan or pledge, and take care that in due time the capital is repaid;
6° with the consent of the Ordinary make use of money which is surplus after payment of expenses and which can be profitably invested for the purposes of the juridical person;
7° keep accurate records of income and expenditure;
8° draw up an account of their administration at the end of each year;
9° keep in order and preserve in a convenient and suitable archive the documents and records establishing the rights of the Church or institute to its goods; where conveniently possible, authentic copies must be placed in the curial archives.
§3 It is earnestly recommended that administrators draw up each year a budget of income and expenditure. However, it is left to particular law to make this an obligation and to determine more precisely how it is to be presented.
Solely within the limits of ordinary administration, administrators are allowed to make gifts for pious purposes or christian charity out of the movable goods which do not form part of the stable patrimony.
Administrators of temporal goods:
1° in making contracts of employment, are accurately to observe also, according to the principles taught by the Church, the civil laws relating to labour and social life
2° are to pay to those who work for them under contract a just and honest wage which will be sufficient to provide for their needs and those of their dependents.
§1 Where ecclesiastical goods of any kind are not lawfully withdrawn from the power of governance of the diocesan Bishop, their administrators, both clerical and lay, are bound to submit each year to the local Ordinary an account of
their administration, which he is to pass on to his finance committee for examination.
Any contrary custom is reprobated.
§2 Administrators are to render accounts to the faithful concerning the goods they have given to the Church, in accordance with the norms to be laid down by particular law.
Administrators are not to begin legal proceedings in the name of a public juridical person, nor are they to contest them in a secular court, without first obtaining the written permission of their proper Ordinary.
Canon 1289.The Temporal Goods of the Church
Although they may not be bound to the work of administration by virtue of an ecclesiastical office, administrators may not arbitrarily relinquish the work they have undertaken. If they do so, and this occasions damage to the Church, they are bound to restitution.
» Contracts and Especially Alienation
Without prejudice to can. 1547
, whatever the local civil law decrees about contracts, both generally and specifically, and about the voiding of contracts, is to be observed regarding goods which are subject to the power of governance of the
Church, and with the same effect, provided that the civil law is not contrary to divine law, and that canon law does not provide otherwise.
The permission of the authority competent by law is required for the valid alienation of goods which, by lawful assignment, constitute the stable patrimony of a public juridical person, whenever their value exceeds the sum determined by law.
§1 Without prejudice to the provision of can. 638
§3, when the amount of the goods to be alienated is between the minimum and maximum sums to be established by the Episcopal Conference for its region, the competent authority in the case of juridical persons not subject to the diocesan Bishop is determined by the juridical person’s own statutes. In other cases, the competent authority is the diocesan
Bishop acting with the consent of the finance committee, of the college of consultors, and of any interested parties. The diocesan Bishop needs the consent of these same persons to alienate goods which belong to the diocese itself.
§2 The permission of the Holy See also is required for the valid alienation of goods whose value exceeds the maximum sum, or if it is a question of the alienation of something given to the Church by reason of a vow, or of objects which are precious by reason of their artistic or historical significance.
§3 When a request is made to alienate goods which are divisible, the request must state what parts have already been alienated; otherwise, the permission is invalid.
§4 Those who must give advice about or consent to the alienation of goods are not to give this advice or consent until they have first been informed precisely both about the economic situation of the juridical person whose goods it is proposed to alienate and about alienations which have already taken place.
§1 To alienate goods whose value exceeds the determined minimum sum, it is also required that there be:
1° a just reason, such as urgent necessity, evident advantage, or a religious, charitable or other grave pastoral reason;
2° a written expert valuation of the goods to be alienated.
§2 To avoid harm to the Church, any other precautions drawn up by lawful authority are also to be followed.
§1 Normally goods must not be alienated for a price lower than that given in the valuation.
§2 The money obtained from alienation must be carefully invested for the benefit of the Church, or prudently expended according to the purposes of the alienation.
The provisions of can. 1291-1294,
to which the statutes of juridical persons are to conform, must be observed not only in alienation, but also in any dealings in which the patrimonial condition of the juridical person may be jeopardised.
When alienation has taken place without-the prescribed canonical formalities, but is valid in civil law, the competent authority must carefully weigh all the circumstances and decide whether, and if so what, action is to be taken, namely personal or real, by whom and against whom, to vindicate the rights of the Church.
It is the duty of the Episcopal Conference, taking into account the local circumstances, to determine norms about the leasing of ecclesiastical goods, especially about permission to be obtained from the competent ecclesiastical authority.
Canon 1298.The Temporal Goods of the Church
Unless they are of little value, ecclesiastical goods are not to be sold or leased to the administrators themselves or to their relatives up to the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity, without the special written permission of the competent authority.
» Pious Wills in General and Pious Foundations
§1 Those who by the natural law and by canon law can freely dispose of their goods may leave them to pious causes either by an act inter vivos or by an act mortis causa.
§2 In arrangements mortis causa in favour of the Church, the formalities of the civil law are as far as possible to be observed. If these formalities have been omitted, the heirs must be advised of their obligation to fulfil the intention of the testator.
The intentions of the faithful who give or leave goods to pious causes, whether by an act inter vivos or by an act mortis causa, once lawfully accepted, are to be most carefully observed, even in the manner of the administration and the expending of the goods, without prejudice to the provisions of can. 1301
§1 The Ordinary is the executor of all pious dispositions whether made mortis causa or inter vivos.
§2 By this right the Ordinary can and must ensure, even by making a visitation, that pious dispositions are fulfilled. Other executors are to render him an account when they have finished their task.
§3 Any clause contrary to this right of the Ordinary which is added to a last will, is to be regarded as non-existent.
§1 Anyone who receives goods in trust for pious causes, whether by an act inter vivos or by last will, must inform the Ordinary about the trust, as well as about the goods in question, both movable and immovable, and about any obligations attached to them. If the donor has expressly and totally forbidden this, the trust is not to be accepted.
§2 The Ordinary must demand that goods left in trust be safely preserved and, in accordance with can. 1301,
he must ensure that the pious disposition is executed.
§3 When goods given in trust to a member of a religious institute or society of apostolic life, are destined for a particular place or diocese or their inhabitants, or for pious causes, the Ordinary mentioned in §§1 and 2 is the local Ordinary. Otherwise, when the person is a member of a pontifical clerical institute or of a pontifical clerical society of apostolic life, it is the major Superior; when of other religious institutes, it is the member’s proper Ordinary.
§1 In law the term pious foundation comprises:
1° autonomous pious foundations, that is, aggregates of things destined for the purposes described in can. 114
§2, and established as juridical persons by the competent ecclesiastical authority.
2° non-autonomous pious foundations, that is, temporal goods given in any way to a public juridical person and carrying with them a long-term obligation, such period to be determined by particular law. The obligation is for the juridical person, from the annual income, to celebrate Masses, or to perform other determined ecclesiastical functions, or in some other way to fulfil the purposes mentioned in can. 114
§2 If the goods of a non-autonomous pious foundation are entrusted to a juridical person subject to the diocesan Bishop, they are, on the expiry of the time, to be sent to the fund mentioned in can. 1274
§1, unless some other intention was expressly manifested by the donor. Otherwise, the goods fall to the juridical person itself.
§1 For the valid acceptance of a pious foundation by a juridical person, the written permission of the Ordinary is required. He is not to give this permission until he has lawfully established that the juridical person can satisfy not only the new obligations to be undertaken, but also any already undertaken. The Ordinary is to take special care that the revenue fully corresponds to the obligations laid down, taking into account the customs of the region or place.
§2 Other conditions for the establishment or acceptance of a pious foundation are to be determined by particular law.
Money and movable goods which are assigned as a dowry are immediately to be put in a safe place approved by the Ordinary, so that the money or the value of the movable goods is safeguarded; as soon as possible, they are to be carefully and profitably invested for the good of the foundation, with an express and individual mention of the obligation undertaken, in accordance with the prudent judgement of the Ordinary when he has consulted those concerned and his own finance committee.
§1 All foundations, even if made orally, are to be recorded in writing.
§2 One copy of the document is to be carefully preserved in the curial archive and another copy in the archive of the juridical person to which the foundation pertains.
§1 When the provisions of cann. 1300-1302 and 1287
have been observed, a document showing the obligations arising from the pious foundations is to be drawn up. This is to be displayed in a conspicuous place, so that the obligations to be fulfilled are not forgotten.
§2 Apart from the book mentioned in can. 958
§1, another book is to be kept by the parish priest or rector, in which each of the obligations, their fulfilment and the offering given, is to be recorded.
§1 A reduction of the obligations of Masses, to be made only for a just and necessary cause, is reserved to the diocesan bishop and to the supreme moderator of a clerical institute of consecrated life or a society of apostolic life.
§2 With regard to Masses independently founded in legacies, the diocesan bishop has the power, because of diminished revenues and for as long as the cause exists, to reduce the obligations to the level of offering legitimately established in the diocese, provided that there is no one obliged to increase the offering who can effectively be made to do so.
§3 The diocesan bishop also has the power to reduce the obligations or legacies of
Masses binding an ecclesiastical institute if the revenue has become insufficient to pursue appropriately the proper purpose of the institute.
§4 The supreme moderator of a clerical institute of consecrated life or a society of apostolic life possesses the same powers mentioned in §§2 and 3.
[revised wording according to m.p. Competentias quasdam decernere, 11.II.2022]
Where a fitting reason exists, the authorities mentioned in can. 1308
have the power to transfer Mass obligations to days, churches or altars other than those determined in the foundation.
§1 The ordinary, only for a just and necessary cause, can reduce, moderate or commute the wills of the faithful for pious causes, after having heard those concerned and his own finance council and with the intention of the founder preserved as much as possible.
§2 In other cases, recourse is to be made to the Apostolic See.
[revised wording according to m.p. Competentias quasdam decernere, 11.II.2022]
[The whole of Book VI has been revised by the m.p. Passcite gregm Dei, 23.v.2021]
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