CODE OF CANON LAW
BOOK I. GENERAL NORMS
- TITLE IV. SINGULAR ADMINISTRATIVE ACTS (Cann. 35 - 93)
SINGULAR ADMINISTRATIVE ACTS (Cann.
35 - 93)
Can. 35 A singular administrative act, whether it is a decree, a precept, or
a rescript, can be issued by one who possesses executive power within the limits
of that person’s competence, without prejudice to the prescript of can.
Can. 36 §1. An administrative act must be understood according to the proper
meaning of the words and the common manner of speaking. In a case of doubt,
those which refer to litigation, pertain to threatening or inflicting penalties,
restrict the rights of a person, injure the acquired rights of others, or are
contrary to a law which benefits private persons are subject to a strict
interpretation; all others are subject to a broad interpretation.
§2. An administrative act must not be extended to other cases besides those
Can. 37 An administrative act which regards the external forum must be put in
Furthermore, if it is given in commissariat form, the act of its execution
must be put in writing.
Can. 38 An administrative act, even if it is a rescript given motu proprio,
lacks effect insofar as it injures the acquired right of another or is contrary
to a law or approved custom, unless the competent authority has expressly added
a derogating clause.
Can. 39 Conditions in an administrative act are considered added for validity
only when they are expressed by the particles if (si), unless (nisi),
or provided that (dummodo).
Can. 40 The executor of any administrative act invalidly carries out his or
her function before receiving the relevant letter and verifying its authenticity
and integrity, unless previous notice of the letter had been communicated to the
executor by authority of the one who issued the act.
Can. 41 The executor of an administrative act to whom is entrusted merely the
task of execution cannot refuse the execution of this act unless it clearly
appears that the act itself is null or cannot be upheld for another grave cause,
or the conditions attached to the administrative act itself have not been
fulfilled. Nevertheless, if the execution of the administrative act seems
inopportune due to the circumstances of person or place, the executor is to
suspend the execution. In such cases the executor is to inform immediately the
authority who issued the act.
Can. 42 The executor of an administrative act must proceed according to the
norm of the mandate. If, however, the executor did not fulfill the essential
conditions attached to the relevant letter and did not observe the substantial
form of proceeding, the execution is invalid.
Can. 43 The executor of an administrative act can, according to his or her
prudent judgment, substitute another as executor unless substitution has been
forbidden, the executor has been chosen for personal qualifications, or a
substitute has been predetermined. In these cases, however, the executor may
entrust the preparatory acts to another.
Can. 44 The executor’s successor in office can also execute an administrative
act unless the executor was chosen for personal qualifications.
Can. 45 If the executor has erred in any way in the execution of an
administrative act, the executor is permitted to execute the same act again.
Can. 46 An administrative act does not cease when the authority of the one
who established it expires unless the law expressly provides otherwise.
Can. 47 The revocation of an administrative act by another administrative act
of a competent authority takes effect only from the moment at which the
revocation is legitimately made known to the person for whom it has been given.
SINGULAR DECREES AND PRECEPTS
Can. 48 A singular decree is an administrative act issued by a competent
executive authority in which a decision is given or a provision is made for a
particular case according to the norms of law. Of their nature, these decisions
or provisions do not presuppose a petition made by someone.
Can. 49 A singular precept is a decree which directly and legitimately
enjoins a specific person or persons to do or omit something, especially in
order to urge the observance of law.
Can. 50 Before issuing a singular decree, an authority is to seek out the
necessary information and proofs and, insofar as possible, to hear those whose
rights can be injured.
Can. 51 A decree is to be issued in writing, with the reasons at least
summarily expressed if it is a decision.
Can. 52 A singular decree has force only in respect to the matters which it
decides and for the persons for whom it was given. It obliges these persons
everywhere, however, unless it is otherwise evident.
Can. 53 If decrees are contrary to one another, a particular decree prevails
over a general in those matters which are specifically expressed. If they are
equally particular or equally general, the decree later in time modifies the
earlier to the extent that the later one is contrary to it.
Can. 54 §1. A singular decree whose application is entrusted to an executor
takes effect from the moment of execution; otherwise, from the moment it is made
known to the person by the authority of the one who issued it.
§2. To be enforced, a singular decree must be made known by a legitimate
document according to the norm of law.
Can. 55 Without prejudice to the prescripts of cann. 37 and 51, when a very
grave reason prevents the handing over of the written text of a decree, the
decree is considered to have been made known if it is read to the person to whom
it is destined in the presence of a notary or two witnesses. After a written
record of what has occurred has been prepared, all those present must sign it.
Can. 56 A decree is considered to have been made known if the one for whom it
is destined has been properly summoned to receive or hear the decree but,
without a just cause, did not appear or refused to sign.
Can. 57 §1. Whenever the law orders a decree to be issued or an interested
party legitimately proposes a petition or recourse to obtain a decree, the
competent authority is to provide for the matter within three months from the
receipt of the petition or recourse unless the law prescribes some other time
§2. When this time period has passed, if the decree has not yet been given,
the response is presumed to be negative with respect to the presentation of
§3. A presumed negative response does not exempt the competent authority from
the obligation of issuing the decree and even of repairing the damage possibly
incurred, according to the norm of can. 128.
Can. 58 §1. A singular decree ceases to have force through legitimate
revocation by competent authority as well as through cessation of the law for
whose execution it was given.
§2. A singular precept not imposed by a legitimate document ceases when the
authority of the one who issued it expires.
Can. 59 §1. A rescript is an administrative act issued in writing by
competent executive authority; of its very nature, a rescript grants a
privilege, dispensation, or other favor at someone’s request.
§2. The prescripts established for rescripts are valid also for the oral
granting of a permission or favors unless it is otherwise evident.
Can. 60 Any rescript can be requested by all those who are not expressly
prohibited from doing so.
Can. 61 Unless it is otherwise evident, a rescript can be requested for
another even without the person’s assent and has force before the person’s
acceptance, without prejudice to contrary clauses.
Can. 62 A rescript in which no executor is given has effect at the moment the
letter is given; other rescripts, at the moment of execution.
Can. 63 §1. Subreption, or concealment of the truth, prevents the validity of
a rescript if in the request those things were not expressed which according to
law, style, and canonical practice must be expressed for validity, unless it is
a rescript of favor which is given motu proprio.
§2. Obreption, or a statement of falsehood, also prevents the validity of a
rescript if not even one proposed motivating reason is true.
§3. The motivating reason in rescripts for which there is no executor must be
true at the time when the rescript is given; in others, at the time of
Can. 64 Without prejudice to the authority of the Penitentiary for the
internal forum, a favor denied by any dicastery of the Roman Curia cannot be
granted validly by any other dicastery of the same Curia or by another competent
authority below the Roman Pontiff without the assent of the dicastery before
which the matter was initiated.
Can. 65 §1. Without prejudice to the prescripts of §§2 and 3, no one is to
petition from another ordinary a favor denied by one’s own ordinary unless
mention of the denial has been made. When this mention has been made, however,
the ordinary is not to grant the favor unless he has obtained the reasons for
the denial from the prior ordinary.
§2. A favor denied by a vicar general or by an episcopal vicar cannot be
granted validly by another vicar of the same bishop even if the reasons for the
denial have been obtained from the vicar who denied it.
§3. A favor denied by a vicar general or by an episcopal vicar and afterwards
obtained from the diocesan bishop without any mention made of this denial is
invalid. A favor denied by a diocesan bishop, however, even if mention is made
of the denial, cannot be obtained validly from his vicar general or episcopal
vicar without the consent of the bishop.
Can. 66 A rescript does not become invalid due to an error in the name of the
person to whom it is given or by whom it is issued, or of the place where the
person resides, or in the matter concerned, provided that, in the judgment of
the ordinary, there is no doubt about the person or the matter.
Can. 67 §1. If it happens that two contrary rescripts are obtained for one
and the same thing, the particular prevails over the general in those matters
which are particularly expressed.
§2. If they are equally particular or equally general, the earlier in time
prevails over the later unless there is express mention of the earlier one in
the later one or unless the person who obtained the earlier one has not used the
rescript out of malice or notable negligence.
§3. In a case of doubt whether a rescript is invalid or not, recourse is to
be made to the one who issued it.
Can. 68 A rescript of the Apostolic See in which no executor is given must be
presented to the ordinary of the one who obtained it only when it is prescribed
in the same letter, or it concerns public matters, or it is necessary that
conditions be verified.
Can. 69 A rescript for whose presentation no time is specified can be shown
to the executor at any time, provided that there is neither fraud nor malice.
Can. 70 If in a rescript the granting of a favor is entrusted to an executor,
it is up to the prudent judgment and conscience of the executor to grant or deny
Can. 71 No one is bound to use a rescript given only in his or her favor
unless bound to do so by a canonical obligation from another source.
Can. 72 Rescripts granted by the Apostolic See which have expired can be
extended once by the diocesan bishop for a just cause, but not beyond three
Can. 73 Rescripts are not revoked by a contrary law unless the law itself
Can. 74 Although one can use in the internal forum a favor granted orally,
the person is bound to prove the favor in the external forum whenever someone
legitimately requests it.
Can. 75 If a rescript contains a privilege or dispensation, the prescripts of
the following canons are also to be observed.
Can. 76 §1. A privilege is a favor given through a particular act to the
benefit of certain physical or juridic persons; it can be granted by the
legislator as well as by an executive authority to whom the legislator has
granted this power.
§2. Centenary or immemorial possession induces the presumption that a
privilege has been granted.
Can. 77 A privilege must be interpreted according to the norm of can. 36, §1,
but that interpretation must always be used by which the beneficiaries of a
privilege actually obtain some favor.
Can. 78 §1. A privilege is presumed to be perpetual unless the contrary is
§2. A personal privilege, namely one which follows the person, is
extinguished with that person’s death.
§3. A real privilege ceases through the complete destruction of the thing or
place; a local privilege, however, revives if the place is restored within fifty
Can. 79 A privilege ceases through revocation by the competent authority
according to the norm of can. 47, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 81.
Can. 80 §1. No privilege ceases through renunciation unless the competent
authority has accepted the renunciation.
§2. Any physical person can renounce a privilege granted only in that
§3. Individual persons cannot renounce a privilege granted to some juridic
person or granted in consideration of the dignity of a place or of a thing, nor
is a juridic person free to renounce a privilege granted to it if the
renunciation brings disadvantage to the Church or to others.
Can. 81 A privilege is not extinguished when the authority of the one who
granted it expires unless it has been given with the clause, at our good
pleasure (ad beneplacitum nostrum), or some other equivalent expression.
Can. 82 A privilege which is not burdensome to others does not cease through
non-use or contrary use. If it is to the disadvantage of others, however, it is
lost if legitimate prescription takes place.
Can. 83 §1. A privilege ceases through the lapse of the time period or
through the completion of the number of cases for which it had been granted,
without prejudice to the prescript of can. 142, §2.
§2. It also ceases if, in the judgment of the competent authority,
circumstances are so changed in the course of time that it becomes harmful or
its use illicit.
Can. 84 One who abuses the power given by a privilege deserves to be deprived
of that privilege.
Therefore, when the holder of a privilege has been warned in vain, an
ordinary is to deprive the one who gravely abuses it of a privilege which he
himself has granted. If the privilege was granted by the Apostolic See, however,
an ordinary is bound to notify the Apostolic See.
Can. 85 A dispensation, or the relaxation of a merely ecclesiastical law in a
particular case, can be granted by those who possess executive power within the
limits of their competence, as well as by those who have the power to dispense
explicitly or implicitly either by the law itself or by legitimate delegation.
Can. 86 Laws are not subject to dispensation to the extent that they define
those things which are essentially constitutive of juridic institutes or acts.
Can. 87 §1. A diocesan bishop, whenever he judges that it contributes to
their spiritual good, is able to dispense the faithful from universal and
particular disciplinary laws issued for his territory or his subjects by the
supreme authority of the Church. He is not able to dispense, however, from
procedural or penal laws nor from those whose dispensation is specially reserved
to the Apostolic See or some other authority.
§2. If recourse to the Holy See is difficult and, at the same time, there is
danger of grave harm in delay, any ordinary is able to dispense from these same
laws even if dispensation is reserved to the Holy See, provided that it concerns
a dispensation which the Holy See is accustomed to grant under the same
circumstances, without prejudice to the prescript of can. 291.
Can. 88 A local ordinary is able to dispense from diocesan laws and, whenever
he judges that it contributes to the good of the faithful, from laws issued by a
plenary or provincial council or by the conference of bishops.
Can. 89 A pastor and other presbyters or deacons are not able to dispense
from universal and particular law unless this power has been expressly granted
Can. 90 §1. One is not to be dispensed from an ecclesiastical law without a
just and reasonable cause, after taking into account the circumstances of the
case and the gravity of the law from which dispensation is given; otherwise the
dispensation is illicit and, unless it is given by the legislator himself or his
superior, also invalid.
§2. In a case of doubt concerning the sufficiency of the cause, a
dispensation is granted validly and licitly.
Can. 91 Even when outside his territory, one who possesses the power to
dispense is able to exercise it with respect to his subjects even though they
are absent from the territory, and, unless the contrary is expressly
established, also with respect to travelers actually present in the territory,
as well as with respect to himself.
Can. 92 A dispensation is subject to a strict interpretation according to the
norm of can. 36, §1, as is the very power to dispense granted for a particular
Can. 93 A dispensation which has successive application ceases in the same
ways as a privilege as well as by the certain and total cessation of the