Dr. Antony Pinheiro, OCD


The IX Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be held in Rome in October 1994. The theme of the Synod is “The Consecrated Life and its Role in the Church and in the World”. In the light of the working document (Lineamenta) published in 1992 by the Secretariat of the Synod, preparations at various levels are going on. The Lineamenta deals with the issue of Bishop-religious relationship in nn.39 & 40.

As a preparation for the Synod, the Union of Superiors General has organized Extraordinary Congress on Religious Life Today which will be held in Rome in November-December 1993. The main objectives of this Congress are:

— to verify and promote the self-understanding of religious life starting from the following key readings, “identity, communion and mission”.

— to study the problems that the religious encounter;

— to indicate the operative lines which the religious should propose in the Synod.

For study and reflection a questionnaire was circulated to the religious through their major superiors. This questionnaire contained 3 main questions with various sub-questions. The 2nd question was: “What is the situation and how are the relations between the bishops, secular clergy, laity and the religious? Positive aspect, main problems, future perspectives were to be pointed out.

In India the CBCI has initiated a study and reflection on “consecrated life and its mission in the situation of our country” by sending a questionnaire to the Bishops. It has 3 parts. Part II, section 6 deals with the issue of Bishops Councils are also engaged in the study of “Lineamenta”. They also organize consultations at the diocese and regional levels. There arise various points connected with the issue of bishop-religious relationship.

The Bishop-Religious relationship has been always a burning issue, a vexed problem, and still it continues to be so, though in a different way and approach. There are conflicts and tensions between bishops and religious. There are defects and deviations in their mutual relationship. There exist general and particular problems and tensions in the area of bishop-religious relationship at the national, regional and local levels.

The II Vatican Council focused its attention on this issue and outlined certain fundamental principles for good relations between bishops and religious in the Church. On May 14, 1978 the Roman Congregation for Bishops and Congregation for Religious jointly published the document MUTUAE RELATIONES (MR) and proposed the fundamental practical criteria for more fruitful relations between bishops and religious in the Church. The CIC indicates the norms of action for various instances of bishop-religious relationship. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the document MR, the Cardinal Prefects of the Roman Congregation for Bishops and Congregation for Religious jointly sent a letter to the Presidents of the Conferences of Bishops and of the Major Superiors of religious institutes, and invited them to reflect attentively on the document. Pope John Paul II in his addresses to the Bishops and to the Religious repeatedly reminds and emphasizes the need of maintaining and fostering good relations between bishops and religious in the dioceses.

In some assemblies of the CBCI and in the CBCI-CRI joint committee meetings the issue of bishop-religious relationship has been a bone of contention.

In October 1991 CCEO came into force. In inter-ritual matters/relations the Latins have taken into account also the prescriptions of CCEO and the particular law of oriental churches.

Our Indian Church is at a turning point in its history. The Syro-Malabar Church has become a full-fledged “sui iuris” church. Its Synod will promulgate its particular law in due time.

The religious of different oriental religious institutes exist and work in some latin dioceses. Many orientals are members of latin religious institutes in India, and, in some latin religious communities they outnumber their latin members (ex. SDB, MSFS, CMF, etc.) Oriental religious of latin religious institutes have their own house/s or province attached to oriental eparchies.

All these factors should impel us to take up a study of Bishop-Religious relationship in the light of CIC & CCEO. Since our Indian Church is inter-ritual in nature, a comparative presentation of the theme is always beneficial.

This is a systematic review of the canonical provisions on bishop-religious relationship in the diocese. The chief purpose of this study is to highlight the relevant norms given in CIC (The Latin Code of Canon Law, 1983) and to point out their corresponding or parallel provisions given in CCEO (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, 1990). However, for various reasons, I have not here attempted a detailed, analytical and critical comparative study of these canonical provisions of CIC & CCEO.

At the start, a general outline of the Canons on religious life given in CIC & CCEO is presented; the general sources of religious canon law are mentioned; the section of canons on bishop-religious relationship is also pointed out. Then, the meaning and implications of Autonomy and Exemption, the two canonical institutions closely connected with the issue of bishop-religious relationship, are briefly discussed. Next, the bishop-religious relationship on the basis of the juridical status of religious institutes as Pontifical, Sui Iuris, Diocesan and Patriarchal is explained. Finally, the particular areas of bishop-religious relationship in the diocese are enumerated and elaborated in the light of CIC & CCEO. It is the most central part of this study.

I. Canons on Religious Life in CIC & CCEO

I. 1. CIC 573-746 deal with “Institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life”. (II Book, part III). This part has 2 sections, the one on “Institutes of consecrated life”, and the other, one “Societies of Apostolic life” (cc. 731-746). Section I includes 3 titles. The first title gives the “Norms common to all institutes of consecrated life” (cc 573-606). Title 2 treats “Religious Institutes” (cc. 607-709), while title 3 deals with “Secular Institutes” (cc. 710-730). To our purpose, main attention is given to the titles 1 & 2 (cc. 573-606 & 607-709).

CCEO, title XII, cc. 410-572 deal with “Monks and other religious as well as members of other institutes of consecrated life”.

This Title has 4 chapters:

Chapter I – Monks and other religious (cc. 410-533)

Chapter II – Societies of common life according to the manner of religious (cc. 554-562)

Chapter III – Secular Institutes (cc. 563-569)

Chapter IV – Other forms of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life (cc. 570-572).

Chapter I is divided into 3 articles. Art. 1 gives “General Canons” (cc.410-432); Art. 2 is on “Monasteries” (cc. 433-503); Art.3 presents “Orders and congregations” (Cc.504-553). To our interest and concern, Chapter I with its 3 articles is all important.

1.2 The Terminology employed in CIC & CCEO

Religious Institutes (cc. 607-709) Monasteries (cc. 433-503)
Secular Institutes (cc.710-730) Orders & Congregations (cc. 504-553)
Hermits/Anchorites (c. 603) Societies of Common Life (cc. 554-562)
Order of Virgins (c. 604) Secular Institutes (cc. 563-569)
Societies of Apostolic life (cc.731-746) Ascetics/hermits (c.570)
Consecrated Virgins/widows (c.570)
Societies of Apostolic life (C.572)

I.3. The sources of canon law on religious life

1917 CIC, cc. 487-672 “De Religiosis”
LG 43-47
CD 33-35
ES I & II (Paul VI, AP. Letter, Norms for implementing CD & PC, 6.8.66)
Renovationis Causam (SCRIS, Instruction on the renewal of religious formation, 6.1.69)
Venite seorsum (SCRIS, Instruction on the contemplative life, 15.8.69)
Evangelica Testificatio (Paul VI, Ap.Ex. on the renewal of religious life acc. to Vatican II, 29.6.71)
Mutuae Relationes (SCRIS-SCEp, Directives for mutual relations between bishops and religious in the Church, 23.4.78) CCEO :
Pius XII, M.P., Postquam Apostolicis Litteris (De Monachis Religiosis), 9.2.52 (231 canons)
LG 43-47
CD 33-35
OE 6
UR 16
Post Conciliar Documents

1.4. Three States of life in the Church

207 speaks about 3 canonical states of life in the Church, namely, lay state, clerical state, and consecrated state. While CCEO 323.2 distinguishes between lay state & clerical state of life (as in CIC 207.2, 574.1 & 2).
I. 5. Canons on Bishop-Religious Relationship
CIC gives various provisions on Bishop-Religious relationship in general in the chapter dealing with the norms common to all institutes of consecrated life (cc. 573-606). In particular the topic is treated in the chapter on religious apostolate (CIC 673-683).
CCEO presents certain norms on Bishop-Religious relationship in general at the very beginning of chapter I of the Title XII, just after defining religious life: “Dependence of religious o the eparchial bishop, the patriarch and the Apostolic See” (CCEO 417). The particular areas of relationship are treated in other canons of the same chapter (CCEO 418-553). CCEO does not set apart a separate section to deal with the apostolate of religious and the consequent relations between bishop and religious in the diocese.

II. Autonomy of Religious Institutes:

CIC 586, 578 (Not given in CCEO)

LG 45; CD 35:2-4; MR 13c, 34,9c-d,28,52; PC 2b, ES II 16:3

One of the guiding principles for the revision of canon law (CIC & CCEO) was the principle of subsidiarity. Such a principle was aptly applied to the legislation on consecrated life. To that effect an important provision in CIC is the autonomy of all religious institutes in the Church (c.586). A similar provision is not given in CCEO.

Through CIC 586 the supreme legislator has acknowledged (‘agnoscitur’, not ‘conceditur’ as a concession, privilege) the just autonomy (iusta autonomia) of every institute of consecrated life. Such an autonomy is a “ius nativum”, a right derived from the very ecclesial nature and mission of consecrated life in the Church of Christ. It is a privilege, a possibility, a concession granted by law.

Autonomy signifies the right to emanate proper norms for oneself, within the limits indicated by the universal laws of the Church, and the right to live and act as a self-governing community/institute (juridical person) according to such norms, so that it can preserve (fideliter servare) its “patrimony” (charism) (CIC 578). Acknowledging this right of autonomy the law protects its patrimony (CIC 578 & 586.1). And, according to CIC 586.2, the local ordinaries should safeguard and protect the autonomy of each institute.

The autonomy acknowledged by law is ‘iusta autonomia’. It is not an absolute or unlimited right in the Church. The ‘iusta’ aspect of autonomy depends on the nature, character, spirit and purpose of each institute. The judgement and juridical determination of autonomy as ‘iusta’ is not up to the institute and its members; it is not a right of the superiors or chapters of the institute, though they have their own role according to the norms of law. In the final juridical moment, it is the responsibility of the hierarchical authority of the Church. Principally this judgement is made through the approval of the Constitutions of the Institute by the Ap. See or by the diocesan bishop as the case may be according to law (cf. CIC 587, 594,593). In short, just autonomy means an autonomy within the limits of common law and in keeping with the proper law of an institute duly approved by the competent authority of the Church. It is not an unrestricted autonomy.

III. Exemption

CIC 591

CCEO 412.2

LG 45b; CD 35:3; MR 8, 22, c & e.

Exemption is a traditionally existing canonical institution connected with bishop-religious relationship in the Church. In front of “iusta autonomia” of religious institutes guaranteed by law, exemption in not so much actual. However, CIC & CCEO have not abolished it. In fact, the conciliar, and post-conciliar teachings of the Church positively speak about exemption (LG 45b, CD 35.3, MR 8, 22 c & e). Canon law has followed this line. CIC 591 & CCEO 412.2 prescribes exemption as a “papal possibility”. However, after the promulgation of CIC & CCEO those exempted religious institutes in the past still remain exempted by virtue of CIC 4 (CCEO 5), unless new decrees from Ap. See modify or change it.

Difference between autonomy and exemption: autonomy is a must, a necessity, an exigency deriving from the charism of an institute, a constitutive aspect of religious life. While exemption is only a possibility, a concession granted by the Ap. See for the greater advantage of autonomy, for re-enforcing it or for a higher grade of autonomy.
Scope of exemption: (a) for a better provision for the good of the institute; (b) for a better provision for the needs of apostolate; (c) for the common good of the Church (CIC 591; CCEO 412.2; LG 45, CD 35.3, MR 22).
The presence of exempt religious in a diocese is a sign and reminder of diocesan bishop’s pastoral concern for the needs of the universal Church and his communion with the Pope and his apostolic mission in the Church (LG 23b, AG 38a, MR 8, 22d, 23c). In the past, exemption of religious has helped the Church for greater missionary expeditions, conquest of people and land for Christ, for the expansion of the Church, for qualified apostolic services (though some have misused it and caused problems to diocesan bishops).
Exemption does not exempt religious from diocesan insertion, collaboration and cooperation with their apostolic services. It does not prevent them from being fully engaged in diocesan life, or from bringing to it their specific witness, mission, apostolic service. Exemption is not for escapism from, and evasion of sincere collaboration in diocesan level. Religious are also part of the diocesan family (CD 34). Religious are in, and for the universal Church by being in, and for the diocesan church (John Paul II).
Exempt religious and institutes are at the disposal of the Ap.See for the common good of the universal Church. But when it refers to the actual “exercise” of the works of apostolate in each diocese, they are also subject to the authority of the diocesan bishop, in accordance with the prescriptions of law. And, they are free or removed from the power of the diocesan bishop only in accordance with the law.
cf. CIC 397, 567, 678-679, 683, 801-803, 806, 823-824, 831-832, 1320.
CCEO 415.1, 543, 416, 415.2, 420.3, 417, 635, 639, 632, 636.1, 638, 652, 654, 662, 660, 653, 415.4.
CD 33-35; ES I, 25-40.

IV. Bishop-Religious Relationship
IV.1. The four-fold functions: 

CIC 576 refers to the “interpreting, constituting, moderating and caring” authority of the hierarchy (bishops) in relation to religious life. “Corresponding provision is not given in CCEO. (Cf. LG 45a, 43a). it is to concretely exercise these four-fold functions of hierarchical authority in relation to religious life that the Codes give other norms. The four-fold competencies of a diocesan bishop over a religious community/institute are juridically determined by reason of the juridical condition of religious institutes as “pontifical”, “sui iuris” and “diocesan” (according to CCEO, as pontifical, sui iuris, patriarchal, eparchial).

IV. 2. The Bishop and Religious institute of Pontifical right:

A religious institute of pontifical right is an institute of consecrated life which has been erected by the Ap.See or approved by a formal decree of the Ap.See (CIC 589; CCEO 505). According to present law, it is essentially the erection or formal approbation of an institute by the Ap.See which establishes it as pontifical. An institute may, after its establishment as a diocesan institute, later seek recognition as a pontifical institute. Normally this takes place after considerable growth and the spread of the institute into various dioceses.

All religious, by reason of their vow of obedience, are bound to obey the Pope as their highest superior (CIC 590; CCEO 412). However, the religious of pontifical right are directly under the authority of Pope/Ap.See. in the realm of governance within the institute of pontifical right an authority inferior to Ap.See cannot interfere. The norms of the Constitutions of such an institute assume the same legal force as that of pontifical laws. In the case of clerical religious institutes of pontifical right the major superiors become Ordinaries in law (CIC 134.1; CCEO 984.3).

The degree and extension of diocesan bishop’s power over the religious of pontifical right is, in a certain sense, limited. In the light of CIC 586.2 a diocesan bishop has the obligation of protecting and promoting religious life in keeping with the charisms of one or the other community/institute of pontifical right existing and working in his diocese. When the bishop presents the quinquennial report to the Ap.See, he has to include also the required information about the religious of pontifical right institutes that are existing and working in his diocese (CIC 399; CCEO 206).

The diocesan bishop has the authority to visit churches, oratories, schools and other religious and charitable works carried out in his diocese by the religious of pontifical institutes (CIC 397.1 & 2; 628.2; 983.1’ CCEO 415.2; 420-3; 414-1.n.3; CD 35; ES I, 38 & 39.2). He can prohibit a religious, belonging to whatever category of institute of consecrated life, on the ground of “gravissima causa” (CIC 679).

All are subject to the bishop’s authority in those matters which involve the care of souls, public exercise of divine worship, and other works of apostolate in the diocese (CIC 678; CCEO 415.1; CD 35; ESI 39). The bishop has the power to foster various forms of apostolate in his diocese, to coordinate, under his direction, all works of apostolate, with due regard for the character of each apostolate, to insist and urge the religious to take u various works of apostolate, according to the condition and talents of each, and according to the needs of place and time (CIC 394; CCEO 203). He should also promote an orderly cooperation and coordination of various kinds of apostolic works and activities among various religious institutes and also between religious and secular clergy (CIC 680; MR 55, 56 & 59). Respecting the purpose of specific apostolate for which the House of an institute is erected in the diocese, the diocesan bishop can entrust works of apostolate to the religious of pontifical right. Such works are subject to the authority and direction of the bishop (CIC 681.1; CCEO 415.3).

It is the diocesan bishop who appoints the rector of the church belonging to a clerical religious institute of pontifical right (CIC 557.2; CCEO 305). The person is presented to the bishop by the competent superior. The bishop has the right to preach the word of God also in the churches and oratories of religious of pontifical right (CIC 763; CCEO 610.1).

There is required the prior consent of the diocesan bishop (local ordinary) of the diocese where a clerical religious intends to remain, when he is given exclaustration by the superior general (CIC 686, CIC 693; CCEO 478,489,548), the bishop has the authority to incardinate into his diocese or to take “ad experimentum” an exclaustered religious (CIC 686 CCEO 478, 489. 548), or those who received an indult of departure from the Institute. He can also refuse them (CIC 693, 701; CCEO 494).

For the canonical erection of a religious house the prior written consent of the diocesan bishop is necessary (CIC 609; CCEO 436.2, 509.1). Permission is also required to build a church attached to the religious house (CIC 1215.3; CCEO 437.1, 509.2). For the suppression of a house the bishop should be consulted, though his consent is not necessary (CIC 616.1; CCEO 438, 507.2). The consent of the bishop is required if a religious house is to be used for apostolic works other than those for which it was established (CIC 612; CCEO 437.1, 2).

The Comparative list of Canons concerning the relations between the Bishops & the Religious of Pontifical right:

589 505
590 412
134.1 984.3
399 206
397.1 & 2; 628.2, 683.1 415.2; 420.3; 414.1 n.3
679 ….
678 415.1
394 203
680 ….
557.2 305
681.1 415.3
686 478, 489, 548
693 494
763 610.1
609 436.2, 509.1
1215.3 437.1, 509.2
616.1 438, 507.2
612 437.1,2

IV.3. Diocesan bishop & “sui iuris” houses:

Respecting the long standing tradition of monastic religious life in the Church, the Codes have given a particular juridical status to monastic communities. In law the communities of monastic life are called “sui iuris” houses/monasteries (CIC 613-615; CCEO 433-436).

CCEO considers monastic life as the most typical form of religious life and hence gives it primary importance and priority (CCEO 433- 503). In the case of CIC, the Code-Commission (PCCICR) had first maintained such an approval to religious life (cf. 1977 Schema), later it was given up. However, CIC has taken into account the tradition of monastic life, its peculiar structures and has prescribed suitable norms for monastic life within the section on the norms common to all religious institutes (cf. CIC 613-615, 616. 3-4, 620, 628.2.n.1, 630.3, 638.4, 667, 674).

In general, a diocesan bishop has a limited authority over “sui iuris’ houses. They are similar to institutes of pontifical right. The local superior (prior, prioress, abbot, abbess) of a “sui iuris” house is by law a major superior (CIC 613,2; CCEO 418.1). An associated or incorporated “sui iuris” house has other major superior above the local major superior. An isolated or standing-alone “sui iuris” house has no other higher major superior (CIC 615).

CIC attributes some special competencies to a diocesan bishop in the case of a “sui iuris” house of nuns, and that too especially in the case of “sui iuris” house standing alone, as said in CIC 615.

For the erection of a “sui iuris” house written consent of the diocesan bishop is necessary, as is the case of the foundation of any religious house in a diocese (cf. CIC 609.1; CCEO 435.1, 436-2). For the erection of a “sui iuris” house of nuns, permission of the Apostolic See is also needed (CIC 609.2).

The diocesan bishop has the right to enter the cloister of nuns located in his diocese, and, with the permission of the superior, to allow others to enter it for a just reason. For a just reason and for a truly necessary period of time the bishop, with the consent of the superior, also allows the nuns to leave the cloister (CIC 667.4; CCEO 477, 478).

The diocesan bishop/local ordinary, after consulting the community of nuns, has to approve the ordinary confessors for the nuns (CIC 630.3; CCEO 475.1).

The diocesan bishop should have a special vigilance over the “sui iuris” houses ‘standing alone’ (CIC 625.2; CCEO 443.1). He has the right and duty to make canonical visitation to these convents, even with regard to their religious discipline (CIC 628.2, n.1; CCEO 415.2). This type of convent has to render an annual account of the administration to the bishop/local ordinary (CIC 637). It is the diocesan bishop/local ordinary who has to give written permission for the alienation of property and all similar transactions under the provision of CIC 638.1-3 (CIC 638.4). The dispensation from temporary profession and indult of departure from the convent of c.615 during the period of temporary profession are validly given by the superior with the consent of the council only with the confirmation of the diocesan bishop (CIC 688.2; CCEO 496.2).

While an indult of exclaustration for cloistered nuns for all types can be granted only by the Ap.See (CIC 686.2; CCEO 492.2), for the dismissal of a religious of a convent of c.615 the final decision pertains to the diocesan bishop, to whom the superior has to submit the acts of dismissal examined by her council (CIC 699.2; CCEO 497.2, 498.2; 499). However, such a decree of dismissal has to be confirmed by the Ap.See (CIC 700).

The Comparative list of Canons concerning the relations between the Bishop & the Religious of Sui Iuris Houses:

613-615 433-436
613.2 418.1
609.1 435.1, 436.2
609.2 ……
667.4 477,478
630.3 475.1
625.2 443.1
628.2.n.1 415.2
637 ……
638.4 ……
688.2 496.2
686.2 492.2
699.2 497.2, 498.2, 499
700 ……

IV.4 Diocesan bishop & religious institute of diocesan right:

An institute of diocesan right is the one which has been erected through the approval of a diocesan bishop, and which, after having been so erected, has not been raised to the pontifical right through a decree of approval by the Ap.See (CIC 589; CCEO 413, 505). A diocesan bishop can erect an ICL by a formal decree, provided the Ap.See has been consulted (CIC 579; CCEO 435.1, 506. 556).

The basic norm is that a religious institute of diocesan right remains “sub speciali cura episcope dioecesani” (CIC 594; CCEO 413, 414). However, the bishop should not consider himself as the superior of the institute, and he should not interfere in its internal autonomy (CIC 586). For, once approved and erected, it has its own autonomy in keeping with its Constitutions (and universal laws of the Church).

In speaking about the competencies of diocesan bishop in relation to an institute of diocesan right, the Code distinguishes between the diocesan bishop of principal seat and other bishops to whose territories the institute is spread out (CIC 595; CCEO 414.3).

It is the competence of the diocesan bishop of principal seat (generalate) to approve the Constitutions or the modifications introduced into them, to deal with the matters of major concern which relate to the whole institute and which exceed the power of internal authority. If the institute is spread to other diocese/s, in these matters he has to consult other bishop/s too (CIC 595.1; CCEO 414.3). The bishop of the principal seat presides over the elections of the supreme moderator of the institute (CCEO 625.2 & 631.1; CCEO 443.1, 515).

Every diocesan bishop, in whose territory the house of the institute of diocesan right is situated, has the power in the following cases:

(a) He can grant the members of the house dispensations from the Constitutions in particular cases (not general dispensations) (CIC 595.2; CCEO 414.1.n.2.).

(b) He has the right and duty to visit, even with respect to external and external religious discipline, every and all the houses of the institute situated in the diocese (CIC 628.2.n.2; CCEO 414.1.n.3; 420.3).

(c) A house of the institute is obliged to render the annual account and report of his finances, administration to the diocesan bishop/local Ordinary (CIC 637; CCEO 425).

(d) A written consent of the diocesan bishop/local Ordinary is an added requirement for the institute (CIC 638.4) for a valid alienation of goods or for any other economic transaction in which the patrimonial condition of the house/province can be adversely affected, or if such a transaction exceeds the maximum sum fixed by the Ap.See/Ep.Conference of the region (CIC 1292), or if the thing in question is given to the Church in virtue of a vow, or is a precious art or historically valuable (CIC 638.1-3; CCEO 1036, 1038).

(e) It is reserved to the diocesan bishop to grant the indult of exclaustration to the members for more than three years (CIC 686.1; CCEO 478, 489.2, 548).

(f) The diocesan bishop has the power to impose or enforce exclaustration, for a grave reason (CIC 686.3), on a member, at the request of the supreme moderator with the consent of the council, whether the member consents, or opposes, or is indifferent to such a decree (CIC 686.3; CCEO 478, 489, 548).

(g) It is the right of the diocesan bishop too to grant the indult of leaving the religious institute to a member after the perpetual profession, requested through the supreme moderator of the institute. (The bishop of the diocese in which the house, where the petitioned religious resides, in located). CIC 691.2; CCEO 549.2,n.2).

(h) For the validity of a decree of dismissal of the religious from the institute of diocesan right, it is necessary that it be confirmed by the bishop of the place, where the house, to which the dismissed religious is assigned, is situated (CIC 700; CCEO 497.2, 551).

The Comparative list of Canons concerning the relations between the Bishop & the Religious of Diocesan right:

579 435.1, 506, 556
589 413, 505
594 413, 414
595 443.3
625.2, 631.1 443.1, 515
595.2 414.1.n.2
628.2.n.2 414.2.n.3, 413, 420.3
637 425
638 1036, 1038
686 478,489, 548
691.2 549.2.n.2
700 497.2, 551

IV.5. Religious institute of patriarchal right

This type of religious institute (monastery, order, congregation) exists in oriental churches. A monastery is of patriarchal right if it is stauropegial one. A stauropegial monastery is a monastery immediately subject to the patriarch. The Greek word “stauropegia” refers to the ancient rite of the dedication and blessing of a monastery by fixing (pignumi) a cross (stauros) at the site of the future altar. The term later came to be reserved to monasteries under direct patriarchal control. (CCEO 434, 486). An order is of patriarchal right, if it has not obtained the decree of recognition from the Ap.See (CCEO 505.1). a Congregation is of patriarchal right if, erected by the patriarch or recognized as such by his decree, and it has not obtained a decree of recognition from the Ap.See (CCEO 505.2.n.2).

According to the CCEO 413, religious institutes are subject with respect to internal rule and religious discipline, unless law provides otherwise, directly and exclusively to the Ap.See if they are of pontifical right; if they are of patriarchal or eparchial right, they are directly subject to the patriarch or eparchial bishop, with due regard for can.418.2. “Under the designation of superior of monks and other religious does not come wither the local hierarch or the patriarch, without prejudice to the canons which assign power over them to the patriarch or to the local hierarch” (C. 418.2).

The concrete instances of patriarchal power in relation to Monasteries, Orders, Congregations of patriarchal right are given in…

CCEO 414.2; 435; 438; 480; 486; 487.3; 496.2; 499; 500.4; 501.3; 505; 506; 507.2; 509; 510; 544.1; 549.2.n.1; 551; 553.

V. Areas of Bishop-Religious relationship in a diocese

The latin term “relationes” (relations, relationship) means the aggregate of the connections, or modes of connections by which one person is brought into tough with another. In relation to our topic it means the sum total of multiple modes of connection (bond), such as acts, facts, functions, positions, structures and other conditional factors, by which the diocesan bishop and the religious are brought into mutual directedness, interdependence, co-responsibility, cooperation, collaboration, subordination, submission and communion, in order to more faithfully and effectively realize the unique mission of Christ and His Church on earth, according to the contribution each is called to make in building up the Church in the diocese at various levels of its realization.

Various are the ecclesial circumstances, situations, factors and instances that call for mutual relations between the bishop and the religious in a diocese. In the light of canon law we can classify them into seven areas of relationship:

1) Foundation of Houses

2) Written agreement

3) Exercise of apostolate

4) Entrusted works of apostolate/Ecclesiastical offices

5) Pastoral visitation

6) Sanction

7) Taxation

V.1. Foundation of religious houses:

In general the religious of a particular religious institute being to lead their style of religious life and exercise the works of apostolate in a diocese through the establishment of their religious house/s in that diocese. Indeed, the religious exist and operate in the universal Church by their actual presence and activities in a particular church/diocese. The residential seat (“sede”/”casa”) of a religious community is a religious house. In a religious house the community or groups of religious live their common life together (CIC 665.1; CCEO 433.1).

For the foundation of a religious house in a diocese CIC demands the following (CIC 608-610):

1) A place of locality

2) The community (at least 3 persons – CIC 115.2; CCEO 923)

3) Superior

4) Oratory

5) Suitable provision for the needs of the members

6) Ecclesial need, the usefulness for the Church and for the institute.

7) Written consent of the diocesan bishop

8) Formal erection by the competent authority of religious institute.

Among these elements, the consent of the diocesan bishop is important. It is a must for the validity of erection of a religious house (CIC 609, 127.2.n.1; CCEO 436.2, 509.1, 934.2.n.1). The competent religious superior will have to get it previously, before he/she issues the decree of erection. It has to be given in written form. For the establishment of a convent of cloistered nuns, the permission of the Ap.See is also needed (CIC 609.1).

Through the consent of the bishop and the consequent foundation of a religious house in the diocese, the charism proper to that religious institute is officially received and inserted into the diocesan life and apostolate (CIC 611; CCEO 437.1, 509.2).

Another permission from the bishop is required to build a church attached to the religious house (CIC 1215.3). According to CCEO 437.1 & 509.2 it is included in the permission given for the foundation of the house.

To convert the religious house to apostolic works different from those for which it was established, a new permission of the diocesan bishop is necessary (CIC 612, CCEO 437.3). However, such a permission is not required if it is a matter of change which affects only the internal governance and discipline, with due regard to the conditions fixed at the time of foundation of the house (CIC 612; CCEO 437.3). According to CCEO 437.2 a written permission of the eparchial bishop is required for the construction and opening of schools, guest-houses or similar buildings distinct from the house.

For the suppression of a house the bishop is to be consulted, though his consent for it is not necessary (CIC 616.1; CCEO 438, 509.2).

When the text of CIC 609 was formulated, the problem of small houses/communities was presented and the necessity or not of the diocesan bishop’s permission for such houses was raised. But the Code Commission deliberately wanted not to legislate on the phenomenon of small communities because of their great diversity (cf. COMMUNICATIONES 12 (1980) 136-137).

In this regard the directive given by the CBCI is: If the residence is of a stable or regular nature, e.g. a residence for the members of a religious institute who are pursuing university studies, a summer villa, a farm-house or a health centre, the authorization of the Bishop is needed. If the residence in only of a temporary nature, the diocesan bishop should be informed about the residence and its purpose. This is to be done by the Major Superior of the institute. When a group of religious, with the permission of the superior stays in a place for a short period, say for a month, in an isolated case (i.e. not regularly repeated) the diocesan bishop need not necessarily be informed (cf. CBCI President, Circular Letter to all the Bishops in India, 1990).

CCEO 509 states that an order or congregation cannot validly erect a house without the written consent of the eparchial bishop. Accordingly for the foundation of a house of an oriental religious institute in a latin diocese, the written consent of the latin diocesan bishop is required. Besides, to ascribe/attach a house of an oriental religious institute to an oriental church, the consent of the Ap. See is needed (CCEO 432). If an order or congregation of patriarchal right wants to establish its first house in a diocese (not the first house of that order or congregation, but the first house in that diocese), there is required the consent of the patriarch in whose territorial boundaries of the church exists the diocese in which the house is to be erected. Otherwise (if the diocese, in which the house is to be erected, exists outside the territorial boundaries of the patriarchal church), the consent of the Ap. See is necessary (CCEO 509.1).

In my opinion, in a territory of double (latin and oriental) jurisdiction, if a house of an oriental religious institute has to be erected in a locality or area which is dominated by latin faithful, with a latin parish, institutions, etc., then, before giving the required permission for such a house, the oriental bishop of the place has to consult the latin bishop of the place, and vice versa.

A written agreement between the bishop and competent religious superior at the time/foundation is highly desirable and very useful for the welfare of the diocese and the religious institute.

V.2. Written Agreement:

In the context of bishop-religious relationship, a written agreement (“conventio scripta”) is a bilateral contract in a broader sense, made between the bishop and the competent religious superior, which sets forth norms of personal nature out of which there arise certain mutual obligations and rights (Cf. Andres D.J., El Derecho de los Religiosos 2nd ed., Madrid-Roma, 1983, p. 552 & 553). It is to establish, regulate or dissolve particular modes of bond between the bishop and religious in question. According to CIC 37 (CCEO 1514) the administrative acts which concern the external forum is to be effected in writing. Strictly speaking, it is not a legal contract canonized by CIC 1290 (CCEO 1034), and as such it cannot, and does not create obligations and rights in civil law; also, there is no question of seeking commutative justice before the civil court nor of filing a suit in the court to solve the litigations arising from the stipulations of the agreement.

CIC 681.2 prescribes a written agreement to be drawn up between the diocesan bishop and the competent religious superior, when the bishop entrusts works of apostolate to religious (cf. ES I, 30.11; MR 57b, 58a). Such a provision is not given in CCEO. It is obligatory only when a work of apostolate, which belongs to the diocese and is to be carried out in the name of, and on behalf of the diocese, is entrusted by the bishop to religious.

Concerning the subject matter of the agreement, CIC 681.2 states that it should, among other things, expressly and accurately define what pertains to the work to be carried out, the persons to be devoted to it, and economic matters.

A written agreement is required and is useful (not a must canonically) in other cases, especially when a religious house of an institute is erected in a diocese. Certain canons of CIC indirectly refer to such written agreements. Thus, CIC 612 speaks of “the laws of foundation” (it means also the conditions connected with pious foundations (cf. CIC 1303-1310; CCEO 1047-1054) and “the apostolic works for which a house was established”. CIC 611.n.2 refers to “conditions attached to the consent” given by the diocesan bishop for the erection of a religious house, as per CIC 609. According to CIC 678.3, in directing the apostolic works of religious, the diocesan bishop and the religious superiors must proceed by way of mutual consultation. At the time of foundation of a religious house this can be surely done, and decisions can be formulated through a written agreement, so that the religious can carry out their apostolate in the diocese in a stable and organized manner. CIC 612 affirms that the consent of the diocesan bishop is required if a religious house is to be used for apostolic works other than those for which it was established (CCEO 437.3). It implies that the apostolic cooperation in certain area/s of apostolate (according to the proper apostolate of the institute or particular need of the diocese) was agreed upon by the bishop and the religious superior of the institute, at the time of foundation. CIC 790 prescribes proper agreements between the diocesan bishop and the religious superior of an institute, when the religious work in mission territories. CIC 801 concerning the school apostolate also stands for the desirability of written agreements.

The directive given by the CBCI is this: In the case of works entrusted by the Bishop to an institute, a written agreement between the Major Superior and the Bishop is required in accordance with CIC 681. In other cases the Code does not oblige Religious to enter into such agreements. However, considering the sings and needs of the times, it is recommended that this be done with a view to greater co-ordination in the apostolate in the diocese there is no obligation for religious who have already been working in the diocese for a long time to make written agreements with the Bishop regarding their existing works. However, such written agreements might sometimes be advisable especially if misunderstandings and doubts have arisen (CBCI President, Circular Letter to all the Bishops in India, 1990).

Apostolate is an essential element of consecrated life (EE,23). The institutes and the religious dedicated to the works of apostolate carry out their apostolate in the Church/ in a diocese through their apostolic activities (CIC 675, 676 & 588.2; CCEO 416).

The mission and the apostolate of the Church is only one, committed to her by Christ. However, it is carried out by all the faithful according to the gifts given by God (CIC 208 & 216; CCEO 11 & 19). These gifts are not man-made but God-given; they are from the Holy Spirit (cf.1 Cor.12.4; Rom 12.5-8).

In the case of religious institutes, their particular gifts of apostolate are officially recognized and approved by the Church, and thus, for such a proper apostolate in the Church, each institute has received the mandate of the Church (CIC 576, 578, 587.1 & 2, 586, 588.2 & 3, 676). And, in accordance with the particular gift of apostolate of the institute al religious are obliged to work zealously and diligently for the building up and growth of the whole Church and or the good of the diocese (CD 33a). They should also comply promptly and faithfully with the requests and desires of the diocesan bishop for the apostolate, but respecting the character and purpose of the institute in which they are members (CD 35.1; CCEO 542).

Now, one thing is the “proper apostolate”, that is, the “modus apostolatum exercendi” of the institute, another it is the “ipsum exercitium”. The apostolate proper to the institute (modus apostolatum exercendi) even that of the institute of diocesan right, once it is as such accepted, acknowledged and approved by the Church as an essential element of the patrimony (CIC 578), is not subject to the power of the diocesan bishop, rather he is subject to it, in the sense that he has to safeguard and protect it (CIC 586.2); he has to even respect it when coordinating the apostolic activities of the diocese (CIC 680) and in fostering, urging and recommending various works of the apostolate according to the particular needs of the diocese (CIC 394; CCEO 203). The law also states that in directing the apostolic works of religious diocesan bishops and religious superiors must proceed by way of mutual consultation (CIC 678.3; CCEO 416). Moreover, in the exercise of apostolic activities, religious should be also subject to their own superiors and should remain faithful to the discipline of the institute. If there is need, the bishops themselves should not fail to insist on this obligation of religious (CIC 678.2; CCEO 543).

The general prescription in that all religious, when they exercise/carry out their apostolic activities, are subject to the authority of the bishops. “In matters concerning the care of souls, the public exercise of divine worship and other works of the apostolate, religious are subject to the authority of the bishops, whom they are bound to treat with sincere obedience and reverence” (CIC 678.1). “All religious are subject to the authority of the local hierarch in matters which pertain to the public celebration of divine worship, to the preaching of the word of God to the people, to the religious and moral education of the Christian faithful, especially of children, to catechetical and liturgical instruction and to what becomes the clerical state, as well as to various works of the apostolate” (CCEO 415.1).

“Omnes religiosi…ordinariorum locorum potestati subsunt in iis quae ad publicum exercitium cultus divini,… ad curam animarum… necnon ad varia opera in iis quae sacri apostolatus exercitium respiciunt” (CD 35.4).

“Omnes religiosi… tenentur legibus, decretis et ordinationibus ab Ordinario loci latis… in iis quae sacri apostolatus exercitum respiciunt” (ES I, 25.1).

“Quod autem attinet ad sacri apostolatus exercitium in variis dioecesibus, religosi sodales subsunt etiam Episcoporum iurisdictioni…, salva semper apostolatus natura ipsorum propria…” (Paul VI, Allocution to Superiors General, 23.5.1964).

Accordingly, the sphere of competence which belongs to the authority of the diocesan bishop and to which all religious are subject is that of the “exercitium apostolatus”, and not that of the “modus apostolatus” (mode, method, form of apostolate proper to each religious institute).

In the light of CIC 678.1 (CCEO 415.1) let us briefly consider various forms of apostolate and the prescribed “subjection” of religious to the authority of a diocesan bishop when they exercise such apostolic activities in the diocese.

V. 3. (1) Preaching the Word of God: (CIC 762-772; CCEO 609-616)

CIC 386 demands that the diocesan bishop has to seriously assume his obligation of “teaching ministry” (CD 12-14) and carefully watch over the exercise of preaching by others in the diocese (CCEO 196). According to CIC 576.2, he is the “moderator” of the ministry of the word of God in his diocese (CCEO 609). While CIC 758 states that by reason of their consecration to God, members of institute of consecrated life bear particular witness to the Gospel, and so are fittingly called upon by the Bishop to help in proclaiming the Gospel (CCEO 608). At the same time, by virtue of CIC 764 and 386.2 the Bishop can restrict or take away from religious their faculty of preaching in his diocese (CCEO 613).

The diocesan bishop has the legislative power of issuing particular norms concerning the exercise of preaching in the diocese (CIC 772; CCEO 609, 615). He can prescribe certain types of preaching, especially at certain times and adapted to certain needs of the faithful (CIC 770; CCEO 615. The religious are to obey these directives of the bishop in exercising their apostolate of preaching to the people. Besides, preaching ministry is exercised by lay religious in keeping with the norms given by the Episcopal conference of the place (CIC 766; CCEO 610.4).

V. 3 (2) Catechetical-liturgical formation: (CIC 773-780; CCEO 617-626)

Priests and religious have in catechesis a pre-eminent field for their apostolate (John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae, 16.10.1979, nn. 16, 64, 67). CIC 776 prescribes that the members of ICL have to collaborate with, and assist the parish priest in the pastoral care through their apostolate of catechism, with due regard for the character of each institute (CCEO 624.1). The superiors are obliged to see that catechetical formation is diligently imparted in their churches, schools and in other centers of apostolate entrusted to them (CIC 778; CCEO 479). And, observing the prescriptions of the Apostolic See, it is the responsibility of the diocesan bishop to give norms concerning catechetics and to make provisions that suitable instruments for catechesis are available, even by preparing a catechism, if such seems appropriate, and by fostering and coordinating catechetical endeavors (CIC 775; CCEO 623).

Liturgical instruction and formation of the faithful is also part and parcel of the catechetics (cf. SC 14b & 35.5). With zeal and patience pastors of souls must promote the liturgical instruction of the faithful and also their active participation, both internal and external, taking into account their age, condition, way of life and standard of religious culture (cf. SC 19). As sacred liturgy and the liturgical apostolate of the diocese are under the direction of the diocesan bishop, religious are subject to the authority of the bishop in this area of apostolate too (cf. SC 45).

V. 3. (3) Public exercise of divine worship:

The prescription of CIC 678.1 is that all religious are subject to the authority of diocesan bishop in matters concerning the “public exercise” (celebration) of divine worship (CCEO 415.1). It refers to public exercise/public celebration. According to canonists’ opinion, it means the exercise of divine worship which involves many people, which is open indiscriminately to all, or which is known by many, and which is not non-public, private, individual or small group exercise of divine worship. Hence, the “private exercise” of divine worship realized within the religious community and for the community is not the object of diocesan bishop’s competence. However, religious are obliged to observe the general liturgical norms and regulations of the Church concerning divine worship.

The general norms given in CIC 834-839 (CCEO 674, 667) are applicable to religious for their liturgical celebrations in their private chapels. Then there are the liturgical norms for each kind of celebration.

Through the liturgy a complete public worship is offered to God. This worship takes place when it is offered in the name of the Church, by persons lawfully deputed and through actions approved by ecclesiastical authority (CIC 834; CCEO 668.1). The Diocesan Bishop is the moderator, promoter and guardian of the entire liturgical life in the diocese entrusted to his care (CIC 835.1; CCEO199.1). liturgical actions are not private but are celebrations of the Church itself as the sacrament of unity, that is, the holy people united and ordered under the Bishops (CIC 837.1). The ordering and guidance of the sacred liturgy depends solely upon the authority of the Church, namely, that of the Apostolic See and, as provided by law, that of the diocesan bishop. (CIC 838.1; CCEO 668.2).

The diocesan bishop can, within the limit of his competence, lay down for his diocese liturgical regulations which are building on all (CIC 838.4; CCEO 668.2). The bishop should also ensure that the liturgical practices of the faithful are in full harmony with the laws of the Church (CIC 839.2). he is to ensure that abuses do not creep into ecclesiastical discipline, especially concerning the ministry of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, the worship of God and the cult of saints (CIC 392.2; CCEO 201).

CIC 678.1 (CCEO 415.1) refers expressly to the public exercise of divine worship, and not simply the exercise of public worship. For, divine worship of the Church, especially though the liturgy and administration of the sacraments, whether celebrated or exercised privately alone, or with two or three persons or publicly with a group of the faithful is always “public actions” and not private actions (cf. SC 26 & CIC 837, CCEO 668.1).

Divine worship, when done through liturgical celebrations, is always public worship (CIC 834.1, 837; CCEO 381.2, 673). Private worship is done through para-liturgical or non-liturgical/devotional practices. Now, “public exercise” of private divine worship also falls within the power of a diocesan bishop, especially when such public exercise of worship is not beneficial to the proper care of souls in the diocese, or when it is not in conformity with catholic faith and good morals.

The religious, therefore, have to observe these norms and try their best not to introduce innovations or adaptations that are not in agreement with the directives of the Church/ecclesiastical authority (cf. CIC 846, CCEO 674).

V. 3. (4) Parish ministry: (CIC 515-555; CCEO 279-303)

Parishes can be entrusted to the clerical religious institute (CIC 520; CCEO 281.2, 282). The diocesan bishop with the consent of the competent religious superior can entrust a parish to religious. He can also erect a parish in a church of the religious community, with the condition that one priest should be the proper pastor of the parish, or if it is entrusted to a term of religious, one priest should act as the moderator (CIC 517.1). A juridic person is not to be a parish priest (CIC 520.1; CCEO 281.2).

The religious parish priest is appointed by the diocesan bishop, with the previous presentation or at least with consent of the major superior of the religious who is to be the parish priest (CIC 523 & 682.1; CCEO 284.1 & 2). The removal of a religious parish priest can be done by the bishop at his discretion after notifying the religious superior of it, or by the religious superior at his discretion after notifying the bishop of it; neither requires the consent of the other (CIC 682.2, 538, 1742.2; CCEO 297, 1391.2).

It is an ecclesiastical office entrusted to religious, and as such it is truly and properly subject to the authority of the diocesan bishop. The religious as parish priest has to exercise the pastoral care of the faithful in the parish community “under the authority of the diocesan bishop” (CIC 515.1, 519; CCEO 279, 281.1). The norms given in CIC 515-555 (CCEO 279-303) and in different provisions of the Code for parish ministry are to be followed by the religious parish priest.

What has been said regarding the religious parish priest is equally extendable to the religious who is assigned as the proper pastor of a ‘quasi parish’ or of the community of the faithful as provided by the diocesan bishop (CIC 516). The pastoral care exercised by religious as parochial vicar (CIC 541, 545-552; CCEO 300, 301-303), or as ‘team priest’ (sacerdotes in solidum) (CIC 517.1, 542-543), or as a parish administrator (CIC 539-540; CCEO 298, 299) is also subject to the power of diocesan bishop in accordance with norms of law.

When there is shortage of priests, the diocesan bishop can entrust the pastoral care of a parish to a religious who is not a priest (religious deacon, brother or sister) or to a community of non-clerical religious. In such a case the bishop has to appoint some priest who, with the powers and faculties of a parish priest, will direct the pastoral care (CIC 517.2).

If a religious is appointed rector of the church (CIC 557; CCEO 305), the provisions of CIC 556-563; CCEO 304-310 are to be observed.

CIC 564-572 treat about the chaplains. A chaplain is appointed by the local ordinary (CIC 565). The chaplain for a religious community is appointed by the local ordinary after having consulter the superior of the community, who has the right of proposing a priest after hearing the religious community (CIC 567.1).

V. 3. (5) Exercise of missionary works: (CIC 781-792; CCEO 584-594)

All religious, by virtue of their special consecration to the service of the Church, are obliged in a special manner to engage in missionary work, according to the character of the institute (CIC 783; LG 44, AG 40, PC 20). The religious dedicated to missionary activities in mission territories are subject to the directives/prescriptions give by the bishop/authority equivalent to the diocesan bishop, with the view to promoting, supervising and coordinating the endeavors and activities which concern the mission (CIC 790.2). The making of a written agreement between the bishop of the mission-diocese and the institute engaged in the mission is prescribed b CIC 790.1n.2. Accordingly, the stipulations of such an agreement are also binding on religious working in the mission.

CCEO 584-594 speak about the evangelization of people and give general norms for missionary activities; they do not have the above said prescriptions of CIC in relation to the missionary works of religious.

V. 3. (6) Catholic schools, religious-moral education: (CIC 793-821; CCEO 627-650)

The schools provide great opportunities and possibilities for catechism, for giving education in faith. This is especially true of catholic schools. It is a principal way of helping the parents to fulfil their role in the education of their children (CIC 796; CCEO 630, 631). The religious who have education as their proper apostolate should keep faithfully to this apostolate and earnestly strive to devote themselves to catholic education, providing it also through their own schools which, with the consent of the diocesan bishop, they have established (CIC 801).

The provisions of CIC 802-806 outline the role and functions of the diocesan bishop in this area of diocesan apostolate. And CIC 806 states that the diocesan bishop has the right to watch over and inspect catholic schools situated in his territory, even those established or directed by religious. He also has the right to issue directives concerning the general regulation of catholic schools. Such directives apply also the schools conducted by religious, although the religious retain their autonomy in the management of their schools (CCEO 636.1, 638).

Religious-moral education is also a part of the catechesis (John Paul II, Catechesi tradendae, n. 25 & 26). The diocesan bishop has to take case that the religion teachers, both in catholic and non-catholic schools in the diocese, are outstanding for their correct doctrine, for their witness of Christian living and for their pedagogical skill (CIC 804.1 & 2). He has the power to name or approve them and likewise to remove them or to demand that they be removed, if it is required for reasons of religion or morals (CIC 805; CCEO 636.2).

V. 3. (7) Media apostolate: CIC 822-832; CCEO 651-666)

Religious exercise their apostolate through the media of press, news papers, magazines, periodicals, radio, television, and other instruments of social communication (cf. IM 3 & 10). CIC 822-832 (CCEO 651-666) deals with this kind of church apostolate.

According to CIC 831.2, the Episcopal conference has to lay down norms determining the requirements for clerics and religious to take part in radio and television programmes which concern catholic doctrine or morals (CCEO 653 = particular la has to prescribe such norms; it refers also to the “ use of cinema”) (cf. also CIC 772; CCEO 609).

“The CCBI directs all clerics and religious to keep in mind the Church’s teaching on faith and morals when taking part in radio and television programmes. It is recommended that, as for as possible, approval of the diocesan bishop be obtained before taking part in radio or television programmes which concern catholic doctrine or morals” (CCBI at Kottayam 1988, Holy See approved on 11.3.1989.).

In the case of written media, the religious require the permission of their major superior, in accordance with the Constitutions, for publishing writings on matters of religion or morals (CIC 832; no mention of it in CCEO). Besides, for various kinds of written works, the religious require approval or permission or the bishop/local ordinary in the light of CIC 822-831 (CCEO 651-666). To clarify these prescriptions of law, the Roman congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has recently issued an Instruction (CDF, Instr. Supervising the written media, Rome, 30.3.1992, publ.9.6.1992. cf. Catholic International, Vol.3, n.16, pp.756-760). It offers the catholic bishops of the world a summary of their duties and responsibilities in supervising the written media. It points out also the responsibility of religious superiors.

Section I – Bishops responsibilities in general (art. 1-6);

Section II – Approval or permission for various kinds of written works (art. 7-13);

Section III – Apostolate of the christian faithful in the publishing field, particularly in catholic publishing houses (art. 14-15).

Section IV – Responsibility of religious superiors (art. 16-18).

V. 3 (8) Association of the faithful (CIC 298-329; CCEO 573-583)

It is the competence of the diocesan bishop to erect public associations of the faithful (CIC 312.1.n.3 & 312.2; CCEO 575). The associations working in the diocese are subject to the vigilance of local ordinary (CIC 305.2; CCEO 577). CIC 317.1 & 2 refers to the power of the diocesan bishop in appointing the supreme moderator and the chaplain for the associations. The bishop can suppress an association which he has established, and also those which the religious have established by apostolic indult and with the consent of the bishop himself (CIC 320.2; CCEO 583.2). Religious also are bound by particular laws, decrees and ordinances of the bishop or of the Episcopal conference of the place concerning the membership in or the cooperation with, societies or associations.

V. 3. (9) Exercise of other forms of apostolate:

CIC 678.1 (CCEO 415.1) extends the area of subjection and obedience of religious to the authority of the diocesan bishop also to the exercise of other works of the apostolate in the diocese (alia apostolatus opera/varia opera). It simply means that the religious are to be obedient to the bishop in exercising all types of apostolic works in the diocese (diverse services through spiritual and corporeal works of mercy, social services, etc.). in this connection the provisions of CIC 285, 286 & 287 concerning the public office business/trade, politics and labour unions (CCEO 383, 384 & 385) are of importance and the religious working in a diocese are obliged to observe them by virtue of CIC 672 (CCEO 427). In these matters they have to follow also the diocesan laws or directives given in view of the need to protect the rights of the church and to protect the common good of the faithful in the diocese (CIC 287.2 ;CCEO 384.2). The criteria of “public order” in the life and activities of the diocese can also force the bishop of the place to demand from the religious to follow certain prescriptions in the exercise of their activities in the diocese (cf. COMMUNICATIONIS 13 (1981) 203).

CCEO 415.1 has an additional expression, that is, “All religious are subject to the authority of the local hierarch in matters which pertain … ad status clericalis decorem necnon ad varia oper …” (cf. CD.35.4).

V. 3. (10) Public comportment of religious:

Public appearance of the religious living and working in a diocese is also a matter connected with bishop-religious relationship. CIC 669 prescribes that the religious should, as a sign of their consecration and as a witness of poverty, wear the habit of their institute, determined in accordance with the institute’s own law. But the religious clerics who do not have a special habit. (eg. SJ.SDB) should wear the clerical dress following the prescription of CIC 284, that is, “clerics are to wear suitable ecclesiastical dress, in accordance with the norms established by the Episcopal Conference and legitimate local custom”. The oriental clerics follow their particular law (CCEO387). The oriental religious are to follow the prescriptions of the statutes of their institute with regard to religious habit, and outside their own houses also the norms of the eparchial bishop (CCEO 540).

E.S.I.25.2.d prescribed that the local ordinary of the Episcopal conference could, to prevent scandal to the faithful, prohibit clerics, both secular and religious, even exempt religious, form wearing lay dress in public (though this prescription is not juridically binding after the promulgation of CIC & CCEO, it can be considered for understanding the spirit of the law and for applying it in individual cases).

V. 4. Entrusted works of apostolate/Ecclesiastical offices:

To ensure stability in pastoral cooperation and collaboration by the religious, certain forms of organized participation in, and systematic performance of apostolic works are also very necessary (MR 57). The bishop, being conscious of it, has to offer the religious enough opportunities for such organized and systematic activities, and shall not consider the religious as “substitutes” or use them for “filling gaps” here and there when his diocesan personnel fall sick or are temporarily absent or on leave or in urgent situations. In an organized programme of the diocese certainly there is the need ad opportunity of including also the organized participation and collaboration of the religious in the apostolate of the diocese. In this context there arises the necessity of entrusting certain determined works of the diocesan apostolate to the religious. CIC 681 presupposes this exigency of the diocesan apostolate (CCEO 415.3).

Thus, the religious in a diocese can have their “proper” works of apostolate ad “entrusted” apostolic activities. However, an entrusted work can embrace both the sphere of works proper to the institute and other types of works which are prudently adaptable by the religious according to the needs of time and place (CIC 677.1). In no event can it be contrary to the nature and character of the institute.

In entrusting works of apostolate to the religious, the bishop has to keep in mind the principle of placing the right people in the right place. In this connection there arises the problem of lack of stability and duration for a considerable period of time in the entrusted works, due to the triennial or decennial or even an earlier transfer of religious from one House to another, from one diocese to another, requested by religious themselves or necessitated by some just reasons from the part of superiors or communities. An easy solution to this problem associated with the bishop-religious relationship in the diocese cannot be proposed. A possible remedy prescribed by the Code is that “in directing the apostolic works of religious, diocesan bishops and religious superiors must proceed by way of mutual consultation” (CIC 678.3; CCEO416). The written agreement, which is a must in the case of entrusted works, should include also the matters concerning the assignment, transfer, removal of persons connected with the works (CIC 681.2).

The works which the diocesan bishop entrusts to religious are under the authority and direction of the bishop (CIC 681.1). So, the entrusted works are subject not only to the pastoral authority of the bishop but also to his own direction. According to CIC 678.1 religious are subject to the authority of the bishop in the exercise of apostolic activities. This is true also in the case of entrusted works. However, in the exercise of entrusted works the religious are subject also to the direction of the bishop, this is to say, to is guidance and moderation, to his pastoral vigilance and visitation and to is other particular and practical criteria and guidelines given to effectively engage in and fulfil the work as he desires and in the way he wills for the good of the diocese. This does not, however, free the religious, in exercising the entrusted works, from being obedient to their own superiors and from being faithful to the discipline of the institute (CIC 681.1, 678.2 & 3; CCEO 415.3, 543).

Ecclesiastical offices (CIC 145-196; CCEO 936-978) also can be entrusted to/conferred on religious (CIC 682; CCEO 431). If an ecclesiastical office in a diocese is to be conferred on a religious, the religious is appointed by the diocesan bishop on presentation by, or at least with the consent of, the competent religious superior. The religious can be removed from the office at the discretion of the authority who made the appointment, with prior notice being given to the religious superior; or by the religious superior, with prior notice being given to the appointing authority. Neither requires the other’s consent (CIC 682; CCEO 89.22, 431.1).

5. Pastoral visitation

For the diocesan bishop pastoral visitation, to a certain extent, is an efficient means and a canonically proved way of relating himself, his authority and power to the religious life and to the religious apostolic activities carried out in the diocese. For the religious it is an occasion to personally come in contact with the diocesan bishop and ameliorate their relations with him.

The bishop has the obligation to make the pastoral visitation of his entire diocese atleast every five years (CIC 396.1; CCEO 205.1). Persons, catholic institutes, pious objects and places within the boundaries of the diocese are subject to ordinary Episcopal visitation. The bishop may visit the members of religious institutes of pontifical right and their houses only in the cases stated in the law (CIC 397; CCEO 205.2 &3). The diocesan bishop has the right and duty to visit the following, even in respect to religious discipline: i) the autonomous monasteries mentioned in CIC 615; ii) the individual houses of an institute of diocesan right situated in his territory (CIC 628.2).

To apply these general norms of law on Episcopal visitation to the area of apostolic activities of relisious in the diocese, CIC 683 says: Either personally or through a delegate, the diocesan bishop can visit churches or oratories to which Christ’s faithful have habitual access, schools other than those open only to the institute’s own members, and other works of religion and charity entrusted to religious, whether these works be spiritual or temporal. He can do this at the time of pastoral visitation, or in a case of necessity (CIC 683.1; CCEO 415.2, 420.3).

This canonically prescribed visitation is quite different from the possible visits that the bishop makes for the sake of courtesy, cordiality, fraternity, friendship and esteem for his religious in the diocese, which of course is a great means to fostering the good relationship between bishop and religious.

The true purpose of pastoral visitation is the good functioning of the communities and institutions of the Church. It gives the bishop a favourable opportunity to praise, inspire and comfort those who labour for the Gospel and to see for himself the difficulties of apostolic activities, to observe and evaluate the whole programme of pastoral action, to touch the hearts of his brothers and sisters, to bring new life to the forces that have slackened off, and finally, to call all concerned to a new consciousness and more earnest apostolic action.

As to the obligation of religious at the time of pastoral visitation the Code prescribes that they are to act with confidence towards the visitor, to whom when lawfully questioning they are bound to reply truthfully and with charity. It is not lawful for anyone in any way to divert the religious from this obligation or otherwise to hinder the scope of the visitation (CIC 628.3; CCEO420.2).

When the bishop discovers an abuse or certain abuses at the time of visitation, he is to first notify the matter to the competent religious superior, according to the gravity of the abuse and person involved, to local or major superior, and may advise the superior that the situation be corrected. But, if after having notified the situation of abuse, the superior concerned has not taken necessary measures, or if the superior’s action proves to be ineffective and I vain, then the bishop can provide or take remedial action on his own authority (CIC 683.2; CCEO 417). According to CCEO 417 the local hierarch is obliged only to defer the matter without delay to the attention of the authority to which the institute is immediately subject.

V. 6. Sanction

The faithful of the diocese, especially the delinquent faithful, are subject to the penal power of the diocesan bishop (CIC 1345.1; CCEO 1405.1). However, because of the particular position of religious life, because of the particular competence of religious authority in the church, because of the “iusta autonomia” acknowledged to religious life, and because of the exemption of religious, doubt can arise whether the religious too are subject to the penal power of the diocesan bishop. To clear off such a doubt the Code prescribes: “In all matters in which they come under the authority of the local ordinary, religious can be constrained by him with penalties” (CIC 1320). A particular application of this norm to the area of religious apostolate and to the religious working in the diocese is the prescription: “For a very grave reason a diocesan bishop can forbid a member of a religious institute to remain in his diocese, provided the person’s major superior has been informed and has failed to act; the matter must immediately be reported to the Holy See” (CIC 679). Such a provision is not given in CCEO; however CCEO 415.4 states: “Religious who committed a delict outside their house and have not been punished by their proper superior and who have been warned by the local hierarch, can be punished by that hierarch”.

The penalty prescribed by CIC 679 (CCEO 415.4) is not obligatory but only facultative (protest). Accordingly, to rectify the delinquent situation of religious in the diocese, the bishop can make use of other pastoral means.

The punishment indicated in CIC 679 is the prohibition of religious against his/her remaining/residing in the diocese (cf. CIC 1336.1.n.1, 1337; CCEO 1429). It is a “ferendae sententiae” and not a “latae sententiae” penalty (CIC 1336.2; CCEO 1402.1). And so, it does not bind the guilty party until after it has been imposed (CIC 1314; CCEO 1408).

The reason for imposing this penalty is “urgente gravissima causa”. That is, the cause must be simultaneously “urgente” and “gravissima”. In the context of CIC 678.1 (CCEO 415.1), the cause is connected with the matters in which the religious are subject to the power of the diocesan bishop in exercising their apostolic activities in the diocese.

Finally, in the application of this penalty CIC 679 demands three conditions: i) the bishop must notify the major superior of “urgente gravissima causa” of the religious in question; ii) the major superior has failed to act; iii) the bishop should report the matter to the Ap.See.

V. 7. Taxation

CIC 1263 says that the diocesan bishop, after consulting the finance committee and the council of priests, has the right to levy on public juridical persons subject to this authority a tax for the needs of the diocese. He can also impose an extraordinary and moderate tax on other physical and juridical persons in a grave necessity (cf. CCEO1012). In this regard a doubt was raised “whether the words of c. 1263 – public juridic persons subject to his governance comprise also external school of religious institutes of Pontifical right”. The response given on 24.1.1989 by the Pontifical Council for authoritative interpretation of legislative texts was negative (Pontifical approval, 25.5.1989; Promulgation, 10.8.1989). To provide for the needs of the seminary, the bishop can impose a levy in the diocese. Every ecclesiastical juridical person is subject to the levy for the seminary, including even private juridical persons, which have a centre in the diocese (CIC 264; CCEO341). In the light of thee prescriptions the diocesan bishop enjoys the power to impose a tax on religious.

In this regard the directive given by the CBCI is:

1) the diocesan bishop has the right to levy on public juridical persons subject to his authority a tax for the needs of the diocese; this right of taxation does not apply to religious of pontifical right.

2) He may impose an extraordinary tax on their physical or juridical persons only in cases of grave necessity e.g. flood, other natural calamities, very serious needs of the diocese.

3) In addition to this, the bishop can impose a tax on all juridical persons in the diocese to provide for the needs of the seminary in accordance with canon 264. However, all religious should contribute generously to the needs of the local church (CIC 222 & 640) (cf. CBCI President, Circular letter to all the Bishops in India, 1990) Cf. CCEO 25, 341, 1012.


Religious life does not belong to the hierarchical structure of the Church. However, it is necessarily and closely connected with the hierarchy of the Church.

CIC & CCEO prescribe and specify the general and particular aspects and areas of relationship between bishop and religious. My purpose has been to present these provisions of law in a simple and systematic way.

In the light of these prescriptions of CIC & CCEO we have definite structures and ways of maintaining ad fostering good, healthy and harmonious relations between bishops and religious. Now, it is upto the bishops and the religious to know and understand these provisions of law, these structures and ways of relationship and to implement them in the practical areas of diocesan life and apostolate.

The degree, extent and various levels, at which real relationship should take place, cannot be fully and perfectly formulated in law. The concrete expressions of living relationship are far more complex and demanding, and they require greater attention and personal commitment than the legal formulation.

“Quod non est in Codice non est in mundo” cannot be applied to the issue of bishop-religious relationship. The document MUTUAE RELATIONES will have to be taken as a companion guide to the provisions of law, to get further orientations, inspirations and guidelines for good relations between bishops and religious.

Problems can prevail and continue to occur. But it is the responsibility of both the parties to seek just ecclesial solutions. This task is real, sensitive and sometimes difficult to be achieved. But, with a lot of good will and a spirit of total dedication to the cause of Christ in his Church, a good, fraternal and friendly relationship can be resumed and maintained, in spite of the drawbacks and the possible defects. “It will depend mainly on a supernatural attitude of heart and mind grounded on charity” (CD 35.4).

Every law is open, and no law is perfect. It is true about the legislative texts of CIC & CCEO on bishop-religious relationship. Let us, therefore, strive after what is more perfect and good in the context of our ecclesial experience and situations.