Title III. Sacred Ministers or Clerics
Chapter I. The Formation of Clerics
Can. 232 The Church has the duty and the proper and exclusive right to form those who are designated for the sacred ministries.
Can. 233 §1. The duty of fostering vocations rests with the entire Christian community so that the needs of the sacred ministry in the universal Church are provided for sufficiently. This duty especially binds Christian families, educators, and, in a special way, priests, particularly pastors. Diocesan bishops, who most especially are to be concerned for promoting vocations, are to teach the people entrusted to them of the importance of the sacred ministry and of the need for ministers in the Church and are to encourage and support endeavors to foster vocations, especially by means of projects established for that purpose.
§2. Moreover, priests, and especially diocesan bishops, are to have concern that men of a more mature age who consider themselves called to the sacred ministries are prudently assisted in word and deed and duly prepared.
Can. 234 §1. Minor seminaries and other similar institutions are to be preserved, where they exist, and fostered; for the sake of fostering vocations, these institutions provide special religious formation together with instruction in the humanities and science. Where the diocesan bishop judges it expedient, he is to erect a minor seminary or similar institution.
§2. Unless in certain cases circumstances indicate otherwise, young men disposed to the priesthood are to be provided with that formation in the humanities and science by which the youth in their own region are prepared to pursue higher studies.
Can. 235 §1. Young men who intend to enter the priesthood are to be provided with a suitable spiritual formation and prepared for their proper duties in a major seminary throughout the entire time of formation or, if in the judgment of the diocesan bishop circumstances demand it, for at least four years.
§2. The diocesan bishop is to entrust those who legitimately reside outside a seminary to a devout and suitable priest who is to be watchful that they are carefully formed in the spiritual life and in discipline.
Can. 236 According to the prescripts of the conference of bishops, those aspiring to the permanent diaconate are to be formed to nourish a spiritual life and instructed to fulfill correctly the duties proper to that order:
1° young men are to live at least three years in some special house unless the diocesan bishop has established otherwise for grave reasons;
2° men of a more mature age, whether celibate or married, are to spend three years in a program defined by the conference of bishops.
Can. 237 §1. Where it is possible and expedient, there is to be a major seminary in every diocese; otherwise, the students who are preparing for the sacred ministries are to be entrusted to another seminary, or an interdiocesan seminary is to be erected.
§2. An interdiocesan seminary is not to be erected unless the conference of bishops, if the seminary is for its entire territory, or the bishops involved have obtained the prior approval of the Apostolic See for both the erection of the seminary and its statutes.
Can. 238 §1. Seminaries legitimately erected possess juridic personality in the Church by the law itself.
§2. In the handling of all affairs, the rector of the seminary represents it unless competent authority has established otherwise for certain affairs.
Can. 239 §1. Every seminary is to have a rector who presides over it, a vice-rector if one is needed, a finance officer, and, if the students pursue their studies in the seminary itself, teachers who give instruction in various disciplines coordinated in an appropriate manner.
§2. Every seminary is to have at least one spiritual director, though the students remain free to approach other priests who have been designated for this function by the bishop.
§3. The statutes of a seminary are to provide ways through which the other moderators, the teachers, and even the students themselves participate in the responsibility of the rector, especially in maintaining discipline.
Can. 240 §1. In addition to ordinary confessors, other confessors are to come regularly to the seminary. Without prejudice to the discipline of the seminary, students are always free to approach any confessor, whether in the seminary or outside it.
§2. When decisions are made about admitting students to orders or dismissing them from the seminary, the opinion of the spiritual director and confessors can never be sought.
Can. 241 §1. A diocesan bishop is to admit to a major seminary only those who are judged qualified to dedicate themselves permanently to the sacred ministries; he is to consider their human, moral, spiritual, and intellectual qualities, their physical and psychic health, and their correct intention.
§2. Before they are accepted, they must submit documents of the reception of baptism and confirmation and any other things required by the prescripts of the program of priestly formation.
§3. If it concerns admitting those who were dismissed from another seminary or religious institute, testimony of the respective superior is also required, especially concerning the cause for their dismissal or departure.
Can. 242 §1. Each nation is to have a program of priestly formation which is to be established by the conference of bishops, attentive to the norms issued by the supreme authority of the Church, and which is to be approved by the Holy See. This program is to be adapted to new circumstances, also with the approval of the Holy See, and is to define the main principles of the instruction to be given in the seminary and general norms adapted to the pastoral needs of each region or province.
§2. All seminaries, both diocesan and interdiocesan, are to observe the norms of the program mentioned in §1.
Can. 243 In addition, each seminary is to have its own rule, approved by the diocesan bishop, or, if it is an interdiocesan seminary, by the bishops involved, which is to adapt the norms of the program of priestly formation to particular circumstances and especially to determine more precisely the points of discipline which pertain to the daily life of the students and the order of the entire seminary.
Can. 244 The spiritual formation and doctrinal instruction of the students in a seminary are to be arranged harmoniously and so organized that each student, according to his character, acquires the spirit of the gospel and a close relationship with Christ along with appropriate human maturity.
Can. 245 §1. Through their spiritual formation, students are to become equipped to exercise the pastoral ministry fruitfully and are to be formed in a missionary spirit; they are to learn that ministry always carried out in living faith and charity fosters their own sanctification. They also are to learn to cultivate those virtues which are valued highly in human relations so that they are able to achieve an appropriate integration between human and supernatural goods.
§2. Students are so to be formed that, imbued with love of the Church of Christ, they are bound by humble and filial charity to the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, are attached to their own bishop as faithful coworkers, and work together with their brothers. Through common life in the seminary and through relationships of friendship and of association cultivated with others, they are to be prepared for fraternal union with the diocesan presbyterium whose partners they will be in the service of the Church.
Can. 246 §1. The eucharistic celebration is to be the center of the entire life of a seminary in such a way that, sharing in the very love of Christ, the students daily draw strength of spirit for apostolic work and for their spiritual life especially from this richest of sources.
§2. They are to be formed in the celebration of the liturgy of the hours by which the ministers of God pray to God in the name of the Church for all the people entrusted to them, and indeed, for the whole world.
§3. The veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, including the Marian rosary, mental prayer, and other exercises of piety are to be fostered; through these, students are to acquire a spirit of prayer and gain strength in their vocation.
§4. Students are to become accustomed to approach the sacrament of penance frequently; it is also recommended that each have a director of his spiritual life whom he has freely chosen and to whom he can confidently open his conscience.
§5. Each year students are to make a spiritual retreat.
Can. 247 §1. Students are to be prepared through suitable education to observe the state of celibacy and are to learn to honor it as a special gift of God.
§2. They are duly to be informed of the duties and burdens which are proper to sacred ministers of the Church; no difficulty of the priestly life is to be omitted.
Can. 248 The doctrinal instruction given is to be directed so that students acquire an extensive and solid learning in the sacred disciplines along with a general culture appropriate to the necessities of place and time, in such way that, grounded in their own faith and nourished thereby, they are able to announce in a suitable way the teaching of the gospel to the people of their own time in a manner adapted to their understanding.
Can. 249 The program of priestly formation is to provide that students not only are carefully taught their native language but also understand Latin well and have a suitable understanding of those foreign languages which seem necessary or useful for their formation or for the exercise of pastoral ministry.
Can. 250 The philosophical and theological studies which are organized in the seminary itself can be pursued either successively or conjointly, in accord with the program of priestly formation. These studies are to encompass at least six full years in such a way that the time dedicated to philosophical disciplines equals two full years and to theological studies four full years.
Can. 251 Philosophical instruction must be grounded in the perennially valid philosophical heritage and also take into account philosophical investigation over the course of time. It is to be taught in such a way that it perfects the human development of the students, sharpens their minds, and makes them better able to pursue theological studies.
Can. 252 §1. Theological instruction is to be imparted in the light of faith and under the leadership of the magisterium in such a way that the students understand the entire Catholic doctrine grounded in divine revelation, gain nourishment for their own spiritual life, and are able properly to announce and safeguard it in the exercise of the ministry.
§2. Students are to be instructed in sacred scripture with special diligence in such a way that they acquire a comprehensive view of the whole of sacred scripture.
§3. There are to be classes in dogmatic theology, always grounded in the written word of God together with sacred tradition; through these, students are to learn to penetrate more intimately the mysteries of salvation, especially with St. Thomas as a teacher. There are also to be classes in moral and pastoral theology, canon law, liturgy, ecclesiastical history, and other auxiliary and special disciplines, according to the norm of the prescripts of the program of priestly formation.
Can. 253 §1. The bishop or bishops concerned are to appoint to the function of teacher in philosophical, theological, and juridic disciplines only those who are outstanding in virtue and have obtained a doctorate or licentiate from a university or faculty recognized by the Holy See.
§2. Care is to be taken that different teachers are appointed to teach sacred scripture, dogmatic theology, moral theology, liturgy, philosophy, canon law, ecclesiastical history, and other disciplines which must be taught according to their proper methodology.
§3. The authority mentioned in §1 is to remove a teacher who is gravely deficient in his or her function.
Can. 254 §1. In giving instruction in their disciplines, teachers are to have a constant concern for the intimate unity and harmony of the entire doctrine of the faith so that students find that they learn one science. For this to be realized more suitably, there is to be someone in the seminary who directs the entire curriculum of studies.
§2. Students are to be instructed in such a way that they also become qualified to examine questions by their own appropriate research and with scientific methodology; therefore, there are to be assignments in which the students learn to pursue certain studies through their own efforts under the direction of the teachers.
Can. 255 Although the entire formation of students in the seminary has a pastoral purpose, strictly pastoral instruction is to be organized through which students learn the principles and skills which, attentive also to the needs of place and time, pertain to the exercise of the ministry of teaching, sanctifying, and governing the people of God.
Can. 256 §1. Students are to be instructed diligently in those things which in a particular manner pertain to the sacred ministry, especially in catechetical and homiletic skills, in divine worship and particularly the celebration of the sacraments, in relationships with people, even non-Catholics or non-believers, in the administration of a parish, and in the fulfillment of other functions.
§2. Students are to be instructed about the needs of the universal Church in such a way that they have solicitude for the promotion of vocations and for missionary, ecumenical, and other more urgent questions, including social ones.
Can. 257 §1. The instruction of students is to provide that they have solicitude not only for the particular church in whose service they are to be incardinated but also for the universal Church, and that they show themselves prepared to devote themselves to particular churches which are in grave need.
§2. The diocesan bishop is to take care that clerics intending to move from their own particular church to a particular church of another region are suitably prepared to exercise the sacred ministry there, that is, that they learn the language of the region and understand its institutions, social conditions, usages, and customs.
Can. 258 In order that students also learn the art of exercising the apostolate in practice, during the course of studies and especially during times of vacation they are to be initiated into pastoral practice by means of appropriate activities, determined by judgment of the ordinary, adapted to the age of the students and the conditions of the places, and always under the direction of a skilled priest.
Can. 259 §1. The diocesan bishop or, for an interdiocesan seminary, the bishops involved are competent to decide those things which pertain to the above-mentioned governance and administration of the seminary.
§2. The diocesan bishop or, for an interdiocesan seminary, the bishops involved are to visit the seminary frequently, to watch over the formation of their own students as well as the philosophical and theological instruction taught in the seminary, and to keep themselves informed about the vocation, character, piety, and progress of the students, especially with a view to the conferral of sacred ordination.
Can. 260 In carrying out their proper functions, all must obey the rector, to whom it belongs to care for the daily supervision of the seminary according to the norm of the program of priestly formation and of the rule of the seminary.
Can. 261 §1. The rector of a seminary and, under his authority, the moderators and teachers for their part are to take care that the students observe exactly the norms prescribed by the program of priestly formation and by the rule of the seminary.
§2. The rector of a seminary and the director of studies are carefully to provide that the teachers properly perform their function according to the prescripts of the program of priestly formation and of the rule of the seminary.
Can. 262 A seminary is to be exempt from parochial governance. The rector of the seminary or his delegate fulfills the office of pastor for all those who are in the seminary, except for matrimonial matters and without prejudice to the prescript of can. 985.
Can. 263 The diocesan bishop or, for an interdiocesan seminary, the bishops involved in a way determined by them through common counsel must take care that provision is made for the establishment and maintenance of the seminary, the support of the students, the remuneration of the teachers, and the other needs of the seminary.
Can. 264 §1. In addition to the offering mentioned in can. 1266, a bishop can impose a tax in the diocese to provide for the needs of the seminary.
§2. All ecclesiastical juridic persons, even private ones, which have a seat in the diocese are subject to the tax for the seminary unless they are sustained by alms alone or in fact have a college of students or teachers to promote the common good of the Church. A tax of this type must be general, in proportion to the revenues of those who are subject to it, and determined according to the needs of the seminary.
Chapter II. The Enrollment, or Incardination, of Clerics
Can. 265 Every cleric must be incardinated either in a particular church or personal prelature, or in an institute of consecrated life or society endowed with this faculty, in such a way that unattached or transient clerics are not allowed at all.
Can. 266 §1. Through the reception of the diaconate, a person becomes a cleric and is incardinated in the particular church or personal prelature for whose service he has been advanced.
§2. Through the reception of the diaconate, a perpetually professed religious or a definitively incorporated member of a clerical society of apostolic life is incardinated as a cleric in the same institute or society unless, in the case of societies, the constitutions establish otherwise.
§3. Through the reception of the diaconate, a member of a secular institute is incardinated in the particular church for whose service he has been advanced unless he is incardinated in the institute itself by virtue of a grant of the Apostolic See.
Can. 267 §1. For a cleric already incardinated to be incardinated validly in another particular church, he must obtain from the diocesan bishop a letter of excardination signed by the same bishop and a letter of incardination from the diocesan bishop of the particular church in which he desires to be incardinated signed by that bishop.
§2. Excardination thus granted does not take effect unless incardination in another particular church has been obtained.
Can. 268 §1. A cleric who has legitimately moved from his own particular church to another is incardinated in the latter particular church by the law itself after five years if he has made such a desire known in writing both to the diocesan bishop of the host church and to his own diocesan bishop and neither of them has expressed opposition in writing to him within four months of receiving the letter.
§2. Through perpetual or definitive admission into an institute of consecrated life or into a society of apostolic life, a cleric who is incardinated in the same institute or society according to the norm of can. 266, §2 is excardinated from his own particular church.
Can. 269 A diocesan bishop is not to allow the incardination of a cleric unless:
1° the necessity or advantage of his own particular church demands it, and without prejudice to the prescripts of the law concerning the decent support of clerics;
2° he knows by a lawful document that excardination has been granted, and has also obtained from the excardinating bishop, under secrecy if need be, appropriate testimonials concerning the cleric’s life, behavior and studies;
3° the cleric has declared in writing to the same diocesan bishop that he wishes to be dedicated to the service of the new particular church according to the norm of law.
Can. 270 Excardination can be licitly granted only for just causes such as the advantage of the Church or the good of the cleric himself. It cannot be denied, however, except for evident, grave causes. A cleric who thinks he has been wronged and has found an accepting bishop, however, is permitted to make recourse against the decision.
Can. 271 §1. Apart from the case of true necessity of his own particular church, a diocesan bishop is not to deny permission to clerics, whom he knows are prepared and considers suitable and who request it, to move to regions laboring under a grave lack of clergy where they will exercise the sacred ministry. He is also to make provision that the rights and duties of these clerics are determined through a written agreement with the diocesan bishop of the place they request.
§2. A diocesan bishop can grant permission for his clerics to move to another particular church for a predetermined time, which can even be renewed several times. Nevertheless, this is to be done so that these clerics remain incardinated in their own particular church and, when they return to it, possess all the rights which they would have had if they had been dedicated to the sacred ministry there.
§3. For a just cause the diocesan bishop can recall a cleric who has moved legitimately to another particular church while remaining incardinated in his own church provided that the agreements entered into with the other bishop and natural equity are observed; the diocesan bishop of the other particular church, after having observed these same conditions and for a just cause, likewise can deny the same cleric permission for further residence in his territory.
Can. 272 A diocesan administrator cannot grant excardination or incardination or even permission to move to another particular church unless the episcopal see has been vacant for a year and he has the consent of the college of consultors.
Chapter III. The Obligations and Rights of Clerics
Can. 273 Clerics are bound by a special obligation to show reverence and obedience to the Supreme Pontiff and their own ordinary.
Can. 274 §1. Only clerics can obtain offices for whose exercise the power of orders or the power of ecclesiastical governance is required.
§2. Unless a legitimate impediment excuses them, clerics are bound to undertake and fulfill faithfully a function which their ordinary has entrusted to them.
Can. 275 §1. Since clerics all work for the same purpose, namely, the building up of the Body of Christ, they are to be united among themselves by a bond of brotherhood and prayer and are to strive for cooperation among themselves according to the prescripts of particular law.
§2. Clerics are to acknowledge and promote the mission which the laity, each for his or her part, exercise in the Church and in the world.
Can. 276 §1. In leading their lives, clerics are bound in a special way to pursue holiness since, having been consecrated to God by a new title in the reception of orders, they are dispensers of the mysteries of God in the service of His people.
§2. In order to be able to pursue this perfection:
1° they are first of all to fulfill faithfully and tirelessly the duties of the pastoral ministry;
2° they are to nourish their spiritual life from the two-fold table of sacred scripture and the Eucharist; therefore, priests are earnestly invited to offer the eucharistic sacrifice daily and deacons to participate in its offering daily;
3° priests and deacons aspiring to the presbyterate are obliged to carry out the liturgy of the hours daily according to the proper and approved liturgical books; permanent deacons, however, are to carry out the same to the extent defined by the conference of bishops;
4° they are equally bound to make time for spiritual retreats according to the prescripts of particular law;
5° they are urged to engage in mental prayer regularly, to approach the sacrament of penance frequently, to honor the Virgin Mother of God with particular veneration, and to use other common and particular means of sanctification.
Can. 277 §1. Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity.
§2. Clerics are to behave with due prudence towards persons whose company can endanger their obligation to observe continence or give rise to scandal among the faithful.
§3. The diocesan bishop is competent to establish more specific norms concerning this matter and to pass judgment in particular cases concerning the observance of this obligation.
Can. 278 §1. Secular clerics have the right to associate with others to pursue purposes in keeping with the clerical state.
§2. Secular clerics are to hold in esteem especially those associations which, having statutes recognized by competent authority, foster their holiness in the exercise of the ministry through a suitable and properly approved rule of life and through fraternal assistance and which promote the unity of clerics among themselves and with their own bishop.
§3. Clerics are to refrain from establishing or participating in associations whose purpose or activity cannot be reconciled with the obligations proper to the clerical state or can prevent the diligent fulfillment of the function entrusted to them by competent ecclesiastical authority.
Can. 279 §1. Even after ordination to the priesthood, clerics are to pursue sacred studies and are to strive after that solid doctrine founded in sacred scripture, handed on by their predecessors, and commonly accepted by the Church, as set out especially in the documents of councils and of the Roman Pontiffs. They are to avoid profane novelties and pseudo-science.
§2. According to the prescripts of particular law, priests are to attend pastoral lectures held after priestly ordination and, at times established by the same law, are also to attend other lectures, theological meetings, and conferences which offer them the opportunity to acquire a fuller knowledge of the sacred sciences and pastoral methods.
§3. They are also to acquire knowledge of other sciences, especially of those which are connected with the sacred sciences, particularly insofar as such knowledge contributes to the exercise of pastoral ministry.
Can. 280 Some practice of common life is highly recommended to clerics; where it exists, it must be preserved as far as possible.
Can. 281 §1. Since clerics dedicate themselves to ecclesiastical ministry, they deserve remuneration which is consistent with their condition, taking into account the nature of their function and the conditions of places and times, and by which they can provide for the necessities of their life as well as for the equitable payment of those whose services they need.
§2. Provision must also be made so that they possess that social assistance which provides for their needs suitably if they suffer from illness, incapacity, or old age.
§3. Married deacons who devote themselves completely to ecclesiastical ministry deserve remuneration by which they are able to provide for the support of themselves and their families. Those who receive remuneration by reason of a civil profession which they exercise or have exercised, however, are to take care of the needs of themselves and their families from the income derived from it.
Can. 282 §1. Clerics are to foster simplicity of life and are to refrain from all things that have a semblance of vanity.
§2. They are to wish to use for the good of the Church and works of charity those goods which have come to them on the occasion of the exercise of ecclesiastical office and which are left over after provision has been made for their decent support and for the fulfillment of all the duties of their own state.
Can. 283 §1. Even if clerics do not have a residential office, they nevertheless are not to be absent from their diocese for a notable period of time, to be determined by particular law, without at least the presumed permission of their proper ordinary.
§2. They are entitled, however, to a fitting and sufficient time of vacation each year as determined by universal or particular law.
Can. 284 Clerics are to wear suitable ecclesiastical garb according to the norms issued by the conference of bishops and according to legitimate local customs.
Can. 285 §1. Clerics are to refrain completely from all those things which are unbecoming to their state, according to the prescripts of particular law.
§2. Clerics are to avoid those things which, although not unbecoming, are nevertheless foreign to the clerical state.
§3. Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power.
§4. Without the permission of their ordinary, they are not to take on the management of goods belonging to lay persons or secular offices which entail an obligation of rendering accounts. They are prohibited from giving surety even with their own goods without consultation with their proper ordinary. They also are to refrain from signing promissory notes, namely, those through which they assume an obligation to make payment on demand.
Can. 286 Clerics are prohibited from conducting business or trade personally or through others, for their own advantage or that of others, except with the permission of legitimate ecclesiastical authority.
Can. 287 §1. Most especially, clerics are always to foster the peace and harmony based on justice which are to be observed among people.
§2. They are not to have an active part in political parties and in governing labor unions unless, in the judgment of competent ecclesiastical authority, the protection of the rights of the Church or the promotion of the common good requires it.
Can. 288 The prescripts of cann. 284, 285, §§3 and 4, 286, and 287, §2 do not bind permanent deacons unless particular law establishes otherwise.
Can. 289 §1. Since military service is hardly in keeping with the clerical state, clerics and candidates for sacred orders are not to volunteer for military service except with the permission of their ordinary.
§2. Clerics are to use exemptions from exercising functions and public civil offices foreign to the clerical state which laws and agreements or customs grant in their favor unless their proper ordinary has decided otherwise in particular cases.
Chapter IV. Loss of the Clerical State
Can. 290 Once validly received, sacred ordination never becomes invalid. A cleric, nevertheless, loses the clerical state:
1° by a judicial sentence or administrative decree, which declares the invalidity of sacred ordination;
2° by the penalty of dismissal lawfully imposed;
3° by rescript of the Apostolic See which grants it to deacons only for grave causes and to presbyters only for most grave causes.
Can. 291 Apart from the case mentioned in can. 290, n. 1, loss of the clerical state does not entail a dispensation from the obligation of celibacy, which only the Roman Pontiff grants.
Can. 292 A cleric who loses the clerical state according to the norm of law loses with it the rights proper to the clerical state and is no longer bound by any obligations of the clerical state, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 291. He is prohibited from exercising the power of orders, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 976. By the loss of the clerical state, he is deprived of all offices, functions, and any delegated power.
Can. 293 A cleric who loses the clerical state cannot be enrolled among clerics again except through a rescript of the Apostolic See.