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1911 Vatican Directive
Bishops of the United States Concerning Church Property
Christine M. Roussel, Ph.D.
The following is a directive written to the Bishops of
the United States by the Sacred Congregation of the Council in Rome on
July 29, 1911. As discussed by Bouscaren et al in Canon Law: A Text and
Commentary (Milwaukee, 1963) on pages 805-6, there were many reasons
for issuing this directive:
the diversity of laws in force in individual states regarding the tenure
of church property, various methods of holding such property have been
resorted to. No one of these methods is in perfect conformity with the
prescriptions of canon law. During the course of a century [the nineteenth
century] many problems and difficulties had arisen. In 1911, the Sacred
Congregation of the Council, at the request of certain bishops who had
asked the Holy See for suitable regulations, after having consulted the
Apostolic Delegate and the Most Reverend Archbishops, issued the following
norms.... No matter what method of tenure be followed, ownership of the
property is vested in the moral person (c. 1499, Sec. 2). The Bishop is
merely the administrator of such property, even though according to civil
law the property is owned by him.
These norms were in effect during the entire period of the
so-called Pio-Benedictine or 1917 Code of Canon Law and were referenced in every
copy of that Code published in the United States, in Chapter XXII on Church
Property. They do not seem to be referenced in the New Code of Canon Law. That
means that, although these directives do not seem to be in force at the present,
they were supposed to have been enforced for the middle 72 years of the
twentieth century, and all the dioceses in existence in the United States during
that time were supposed to be brought into conformity with these provisions.
The translation below is a cooperative effort coordinated and
transcribed by Christine M. Roussel, Ph.D. David Efroymson, Ph.D., obtained the
original text and translated the opening three paragraphs; the middle three
provisions are from Bouscaren, 805-6; and James Biechler, Ph.D., J.C.L., translated
the closing and the honorific abbreviations throughout.
Link to Code of Civil Law for the State of New York (From the
Ecclesiastical Review XLV , pp. 596-98).
ORIGINAL LATIN TEXT:
ET ADMINISTRANDI BONA
ECCLESIASTICA IN STAT.
FROM THE SACRED
CONGREGATION OF THE
ON THE METHODS
UNITED STATES OF
|Sacrorum Antistitum Foederatorum Statuum Americae
magna laus est quod, inter sedulas curas, quibus pro incremento catholicae
religionis et pro fidelium pietate fovenda animum et vires impendunt, etiam
rerum temporalium Ecclesiae tuitoni et rectae administrationi prudentur
consulere nunquam omiserint. Eorum pastoralis sollicitudinis et in hoc plura
praesto sunt argumenta, quae inter profecto adnumeranda sunt quae de bonorum
administratione in plenariis synodis Baltimorensibus constituta inveniuntur.
|| It is to the credit of the sacred bishops of the United States of America
that, among the diligent concerns on which they expend their will and
energies for the growth of the Catholic religion and for the fostering of
piety, they have never neglected prudently to consider the safekeeping and
administration of the temporal goods of the Church. The many proofs of their
pastoral care stand out, among which especially are to be numbered those
decisions on the administration of goods found in the plenary councils of
nonulli ex Episcopis, praesentibus attentis circumstantiis et aliquorum
locorum peculiaribus necessitatibus perspectis, consilia a S.[anctae] Sede
expetere opportunum censuerunt, simulque SSmum [Santissimum] D. N. [Dominum
Nostrum] exorarunt, ut aptae normae ad res temporales gerendas pro tota
Statuum foederatorum Americana republica constituerentur.
| Lately some of the bishops, in light of present circumstances and of the
special requirements of certain places, have decided to seek the advice of
the Holy See and at the same time they petition Our Most Holy Lord [i.e.,
the pope] that appropriate norms be set up for taking care of temporal
things for the whole republic of the United States of America.
haec Concilii Congregatio, cui negotium demandatum est, omnibus mature
perpensis, ac prius per R.[everendissimus] P.[ater] D.[ominum] Delegatum
Apostolicum exquisito voto Rmorum [Reverendissimorum] Archiespiscoporum
istius regionis, atque huic voto praesertim inhaerens, in plenariis comitiis
diei 29 Iulii postremo elapsi, sequentia proponere et statuere censuit:
|| This Sacred Congregation of the Council, to which the request was made,
having taken into account all these things, and first, through the Apostolic
Delegate, having carefully sought out the opinion of the Most Reverend
Archbishops of that region, and sticking to that opinion, in plenary session
on last July 29, have decided to propose and legislate the following:
methodis quae pro possidendis et administrandis ecclesiasticis bonis nunc
vigent in Statibus Americae Foederatis ea ceteris praeferenda est, quae
vulgo dicitur Parish Corporation, cum illis tamen conditionibus et
cautelis, quibus in statu Neo-eboracensi in usu est. Hanc igitur methodum
Episcopi, si lex civilis consentiat, quoad bona temporalia in suam dioecesim
introducere statim curabunt. Si vero lex non consentiat, apud civiles
auctoritates efficaciter instabunt ut quam primum concedatur
| 1. Among the methods which are now in use in the United States for holding
and administering church property, the one known as Parish Corporation is preferable to the others, but with the conditions and safeguards
which are now in use in the state of New York. The Bishops, therefore,
should immediately take steps to introduce this method for handling property
in their dioceses, if the civil law allows it. If the civil law does not
allow it, they should exert their influence with the civil authorities that
it may be made legal as soon as possible.
|2. In locis
tantum in quibus a lege civili non admittitur Parish Corporation et
donec eius concessio obtineri nequeat, permittitur alia methodus quae dici
solet Corporation sole, ita tamen ut Episcopus in administratione
bonorum ecclesiasticorum procedat, auditis interesse habentibus et
consultoribus dioecesanis, et in negotiis maioris momenti de eorum consensu,
super hoc ipsius Episcopi conscientia onerata.
| 2. Only in those places where the civil law does not recognize Parish
Corporations and only until such recognition is obtained, the method
commonly called Corporation Sole is allowed with the understanding that in
the administration of ecclesiastical property, the Bishop is to act with the
advice, and in more important matters with the consent, of those who have an
interest in the premises and of the diocesan consultors, this being a
conscientious obligation for the Bishop in person.
quam vocant in Fee simple omnino est abolenda.
Haec quae EE.[Eminentissimus] PP. [Patri] salubriter constituere
opportunum duxerunt, A. T. de auctoritate SS.[Santissimum] D.N. [Dominum
Nostrum] communicare gaudeo, spe fretus ex eorum executione in ista
praenobili regione maiora bona esse Ecclesiae profutura.
| 3. The method called in Fee simple is to be entirely abandoned.
the conclusions which the most eminent fathers have managed to establish,
from the throne of the apostles. By the authority of Our Most Holy Lord [the
pope] I am happy to forward these, relying on the hope that their execution
in that celebrated region will be for the greater good of the Church
fausta omnia Tibi ex corde adprecor a Domino, et qua par est reverentia me
profiteor. A. T.
C. CARD. GENNARI, Praefectus
B. POMPILI, Secretarius
| In the meantime I heartfully ask the Lord for all blessings for you and at
the same time profess my own highest regard.
C. Cardinal Gennari, Prefect
B. Pompili, Secretary
From Ecclesiastical Review, XLV (1911), 585-86; 596-98.
Link to Acrobat Reader PDF file of
Link to Acrobat Reader PDF file of
the Code of Civil Law for the State of New York (From the Ecclesiastical Review
XLV , pp. 596-98).
Questions From a Ewe
Challenges Facing Catholicism
(Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in converation with Dr Ingrid Shafer)