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The People of God » Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life » Institutes of Consecrated Life » Religious Institutes » The governance of institutes » Temporal goods and their administration
Canon 634. §1 Since they are by virtue of the law juridical persons, institutes, provinces and houses have the capacity to acquire, possess, administer and alienate temporal goods, unless this capacity is excluded or limited in the constitutions.

§2 They are, however, to avoid all appearance of luxury, excessive gain and the accumulation of goods.
Canon 635. §1 Since the temporal goods of religious institutes are ecclesiastical goods, they are governed by the provisions of Book V on ‘The Temporal Goods of the
Church’, unless there is express provision to the contrary.

§2 Each institute, however, is to establish suitable norms for the use and administration of goods, so that the poverty proper to the institute may be fostered, defended and expressed.
Canon 636. §1 In each institute, and in each province ruled by a major Superior, there is to be a financial administrator, distinct from the major Superior and constituted in accordance with the institute’s own law. The financial administrator is to administer the goods under the direction of the respective Superior. Even in local communities a financial administrator, distinct from the local Superior, is in so far as possible to be constituted.

§2 At the time and in the manner determined in the institute’s own law the financial administrator and others with financial responsibilities are to render an account of their administration to the competent authority.
Canon 637. Once a year, the autonomous monasteries mentioned in can. 615 are to render an account of their administration to the local Ordinary. The local Ordinary also has the right to be informed about the financial affairs of a religious house of diocesan right.
Canon 638. §1 It is for an institute’s own law, within the limits of the universal law, to define the acts which exceed the purpose and the manner of ordinary administration, and to establish what is needed for the validity of an act of extraordinary administration.

§2 Besides Superiors, other officials designated for this task in the institute’s own law may, within the limits of their office, validly make payments and perform juridical acts of ordinary administration.

§3 For the validity of alienation, and of any transaction by which the patrimonial condition of the juridical person could be adversely affected there is required the written permission of the competent Superior, given with the consent of his or her council. Moreover, the permission of the Holy See is required if the transaction involves a sum exceeding that which the Holy See has determined for each region, or if it concerns things donated to the Church as a result of a vow, or objects which are precious by reason of their artistic or historical value.

§4 For the autonomous monasteries mentioned in can. 615, and for institutes of diocesan right, the written consent of the diocesan Bishop is necessary.

NB Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated life and Societies of Apostolic Life,
Instruction Cor Orans, 1 April 2018:

52. In derogation from can. 638, §4 CJC, for the validity of the alienation and of any other transaction by which the patrimonial situation of the monastery could be damaged, the written permission of the Major Superior is required with the consent of the Council or of the conventual Chapter, depending on the value of the sale and the transaction, and the opinion of the Federal President.
[Exemption approved by the Holy Father in a specific form.]

81. As regards the female monasteries entrusted to the particular vigilance of the diocesan Bishop, this is expressed in respect to the monastery community mainly in the cases established by the universal law; as the diocesan Bishop, he:
… d) in derogation from can. 638, §4 CJC, gives as Local Ordinary, his written consent for particular administrative acts, if established by its proper law.
[Exemption approved by the Holy Father in a specific form.]

108. In derogation from can. 638, §4 CJC, for the validity of the alienation of the assets of the suppressed monasteries, the President of the Federation and the Federal Council, beyond the value of the asset to be alienated, always and exclusively requires written permission from the Holy See.
[Exemption approved by the Holy Father in a specific form.]
Canon 639. §1 If a juridical person has contracted debts and obligations, even with the permission of the Superior, it is responsible for them.

§2 If individual members have, with the permission of the Superior, entered into contracts concerning their own property, they are responsible. If, however, they have conducted business for the institute on the mandate of a Superior, the institute is responsible.

§3 If a religious has entered into a contract without any permission of Superiors, the religious is responsible, not the juridical person.

§4 However, an action can always be brought against a person who has gained from a contract entered into.

§5 Superiors are to be careful not to allow debts to be contracted unless they are certain that normal income can service the interest on the debt, and by lawful amortization repay the capital over a period which is not unduly extended.
Canon 640. Taking into account the circumstances of the individual places, institutes are to make a special effort to give, as it were, a collective testimony of charity and poverty. They are to do all in their power to donate something from their own resources to help the needs of the Church and the support of the poor.

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