CODE OF CANON LAW
THE TEMPORAL GOODS OF THE CHURCH
THE TEMPORAL GOODS OF THE CHURCH LIBER V. DE BONIS ECCLESIAE
Can. 1254 §1. To pursue its proper purposes, the Catholic Church by innate
right is able to acquire, retain, administer, and alienate temporal goods
independently from civil power.
§2. The proper purposes are principally: to order divine worship, to care for
the decent support of the clergy and other ministers, and to exercise works of
the sacred apostolate and of charity, especially toward the needy.
Can. 1255 The universal Church and the Apostolic See, the particular
churches, as well as any other juridic person, public or private, are subjects
capable of acquiring, retaining, administering, and alienating temporal goods
according to the norm of law.
Can. 1256 Under the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff, ownership of
goods belongs to that juridic person which has acquired them legitimately.
Can. 1257 §1. All temporal goods which belong to the universal Church, the
Apostolic See, or other public juridic persons in the Church are ecclesiastical
goods and are governed by the following canons and their own statutes.
§2. The temporal goods of a private juridic person are governed by its own
statutes but not by these canons unless other provision is expressly made.
Can. 1258 In the following canons, the term Church signifies not only the
universal Church or the Apostolic See but also any public juridic person in the
Church unless it is otherwise apparent from the context or the nature of the
THE ACQUISITION OF GOODS (Cann. 1259 - 1272)
Can. 1259 The Church can acquire temporal goods by every just means of
natural or positive law permitted to others.
Can. 1260 The Church has an innate right to require from the Christian
faithful those things which are necessary for the purposes proper to it.
Can. 1261 §1. The Christian faithful are free to give temporal goods for the
benefit of the Church.
§2. The diocesan bishop is bound to admonish the faithful of the obligation
mentioned in can. 222, §1 and in an appropriate manner to urge its observance.
Can. 1262 The faithful are to give support to the Church by responding to
appeals and according to the norms issued by the conference of bishops.
Can. 1263 After the diocesan bishop has heard the finance council and the
presbyteral council, he has the right to impose a moderate tax for the needs of
the diocese upon public juridic persons subject to his governance; this tax is
to be proportionate to their income. He is permitted only to impose an
extraordinary and moderate exaction upon other physical and juridic persons in
case of grave necessity and under the same conditions, without prejudice to
particular laws and customs which attribute greater rights to him.
Can. 1264 Unless the law has provided otherwise, it is for a meeting of the
bishops of a province:
1/ to fix the fees for acts of executive power granting a favor or for the
execution of rescripts of the Apostolic See, to be approved by the Apostolic See
2/ to set a limit on the offerings on the occasion of the administration of
sacraments and sacramentals.
Can. 1265 §1. Without prejudice to the right of religious mendicants, any
private person, whether physical or juridic, is forbidden to beg for alms for
any pious or ecclesiastical institute or purpose without the written permission
of that person’s own ordinary and of the local ordinary.
§2. The conference of bishops can establish norms for begging for alms which
all must observe, including those who by their foundation are called and are
Can. 1266 In all churches and oratories which are, in fact, habitually open
to the Christian faithful, including those which belong to religious institutes,
the local ordinary can order the taking up of a special collection for specific
parochial, diocesan, national, or universal projects; this collection must be
diligently sent afterwards to the diocesan curia.
Can. 1267 §1. Unless the contrary is established, offerings given to
superiors or administrators of any ecclesiastical juridic person, even a private
one, are presumed given to the juridic person itself.
§2. The offerings mentioned in §1 cannot be refused except for a just cause
and, in matters of greater importance if it concerns a public juridic person,
with the permission of the ordinary; the permission of the same ordinary is
required to accept offerings burdened by a modal obligation or condition,
without prejudice to the prescript of can. 1295.
§3. Offerings given by the faithful for a certain purpose can be applied only
for that same purpose.
Can. 1268 The Church recognizes prescription as a means of acquiring temporal
goods and freeing oneself from them, according to the norm of cann. 197-199.
Can. 1269 If sacred objects are privately owned, private persons can acquire
them through prescription, but it is not permitted to employ them for profane
uses unless they have lost their dedication or blessing; if they belong to a
public ecclesiastical juridic person, however, only another public
ecclesiastical juridic person can acquire them.
Can. 1270 If they belong to the Apostolic See, immovable property, precious
movable objects, and personal or real rights and actions are prescribed by a
period of a hundred years; if they belong to another public ecclesiastical
juridic person, they are prescribed by a period of thirty years.
Can. 1271 By reason of the bond of unity and charity and according to the
resources of their dioceses, bishops are to assist in procuring those means
which the Apostolic See needs, according to the conditions of the times, so that
it is able to offer service properly to the universal Church.
Can. 1272 In regions where benefices properly so called still exist, it is
for the conference of bishops, through appropriate norms agreed to and approved
by the Apostolic See, to direct the governance of such benefices in such a way
that the income and even, insofar as possible, the endowment itself of the
benefices are gradually transferred to the institute mentioned in can. 1274, §1.
THE ADMINISTRATION OF GOODS (Cann. 1273 - 1289)
Can. 1273 By virtue of his primacy of governance, the Roman Pontiff is the
supreme administrator and steward of all ecclesiastical goods.
Can. 1274 §1. Each diocese is to have a special institute which is to collect
goods or offerings for the purpose of providing, according to the norm of can.
281, for the support of clerics who offer service for the benefit of the
diocese, unless provision is made for them in another way.
§2. Where social provision for the benefit of clergy has not yet been
suitably arranged, the conference of bishops is to take care that there is an
institute which provides sufficiently for the social security of clerics.
§3. Insofar as necessary, each diocese is to establish a common fund through
which bishops are able to satisfy obligations towards other persons who serve
the Church and meet the various needs of the diocese and through which the
richer dioceses can also assist the poorer ones.
§4. According to different local circumstances, the purposes mentioned in §§2
and 3 can be obtained more suitably through a federation of diocesan institutes,
through a cooperative endeavor, or even through an appropriate association
established for various dioceses or for the entire territory of the conference
§5. If possible, these institutes are to be established in such a way that
they also have recognition in civil law.
Can. 1275 An aggregate of goods which come from different dioceses is
administered according to the norms appropriately agreed upon by the bishops
Can. 1276 §1. It is for the ordinary to exercise careful vigilance over the
administration of all the goods which belong to public juridic persons subject
to him, without prejudice to legitimate titles which attribute more significant
rights to him.
§2. With due regard for rights, legitimate customs, and circumstances,
ordinaries are to take care of the ordering of the entire matter of the
administration of ecclesiastical goods by issuing special instructions within
the limits of universal and particular law.
Can. 1277 The diocesan bishop must hear the finance council and college of
consultors to place acts of administration which are more important in light of
the economic condition of the diocese. In addition to the cases specially
expressed in universal law or the charter of a foundation, however, he needs the
consent of the finance council and of the college of consultors to place acts of
extraordinary administration. It is for the conference of bishops to define
which acts are to be considered of extraordinary administration.
Can. 1278 In addition to the functions mentioned in can. 494, §§3 and 4, the
diocesan bishop can entrust to the finance officer the functions mentioned in
cann. 1276, §1 and 1279, §2.
Can. 1279 §1. The administration of ecclesiastical goods pertains to the one
who immediately governs the person to which the goods belong unless particular
law, statutes, or legitimate custom determine otherwise and without prejudice to
the right of the ordinary to intervene in case of negligence by an
§2. In the administration of the goods of a public juridic person which does
not have its own administrators by law, the charter of the foundation, or its
own statutes, the ordinary to whom it is subject is to appoint suitable persons
for three years; the same persons can be reappointed by the ordinary.
Can. 1280 Each juridic person is to have its own finance council or at least
two counselors who, according to the norm of the statutes, are to assist the
administrator in ful-filling his or her function.
Can. 1281 §1. Without prejudice to the prescripts of the statutes,
administrators invalidly place acts which exceed the limits and manner of
ordinary administration unless they have first obtained a written faculty from
§2. The statutes are to define the acts which exceed the limit and manner of
ordinary administration; if the statutes are silent in this regard, however, the
diocesan bishop is competent to determine such acts for the persons subject to
him, after having heard the finance council.
§3. Unless and to the extent that it is to its own advantage, a juridic
person is not bound to answer for acts invalidly placed by its administrators. A
juridic person itself, however, will answer for acts illegitimately but validly
placed by its administrators, without prejudice to its right of action or
recourse against the administrators who have damaged it.
Can. 1282 All clerics or lay persons who take part in the administration of
ecclesiastical goods by a legitimate title are bound to fulfill their functions
in the name of the Church according to the norm of law.
Can. 1283 Before administrators begin their function:
1/ they must take an oath before the ordinary or his delegate that they will
administer well and faithfully;
2/ they are to prepare and sign an accurate and clear inventory of immovable
property, movable objects, whether precious or of some cultural value, or other
goods, with their description and appraisal; any inventory already done is to be
3/ one copy of this inventory is to be preserved in the archive of the
administration and another in the archive of the curia; any change which the
patrimony happens to undergo is to be noted in each copy.
Can. 1284 §1. All administrators are bound to fulfill their function with the
diligence of a good householder.
§2. Consequently they must:
1/ exercise vigilance so that the goods entrusted to their care are in no way
lost or damaged, taking out insurance policies for this purpose insofar as
2/ take care that the ownership of ecclesiastical goods is protected by
civilly valid methods;
3/ observe the prescripts of both canon and civil law or those imposed by a
founder, a donor, or legitimate authority, and especially be on guard so that no
damage comes to the Church from the non-observance of civil laws;
4/ collect the return of goods and the income accurately and on time, protect
what is collected, and use them according to the intention of the founder or
5/ pay at the stated time the interest due on a loan or mortgage and take
care that the capital debt itself is repaid in a timely manner;
6/ with the consent of the ordinary, invest the money which is left over
after expenses and can be usefully set aside for the purposes of the juridic
7/ keep well organized books of receipts and expenditures;
8/ draw up a report of the administration at the end of each year;
9/ organize correctly and protect in a suitable and proper archive the
documents and records on which the property rights of the Church or the
institute are based, and deposit authentic copies of them in the archive of the
curia when it can be done conveniently.
§3. It is strongly recommended that administrators prepare budgets of incomes
and expenditures each year; it is left to particular law, however, to require
them and to determine more precisely the ways in which they are to be presented.
Can. 1285 Within the limits of ordinary administration only, administrators
are permitted to make donations for purposes of piety or Christian charity from
movable goods which do not belong to the stable patrimony.
Can. 1286 Administrators of goods:
1/ in the employment of workers are to observe meticulously also the civil
laws concerning labor and social policy, according to the principles handed on
by the Church;
2/ are to pay a just and decent wage to employees so that they are able to
provide fittingly for their own needs and those of their dependents.
Can. 1287 §1. Both clerical and lay administrators of any ecclesiastical
goods whatever which have not been legitimately exempted from the power of
governance of the diocesan bishop are bound by their office to present an annual
report to the local ordinary who is to present it for examination by the finance
council; any contrary custom is reprobated.
§2. According to norms to be determined by particular law, administrators are
to render an account to the faithful concerning the goods oVered by the faithful
to the Church.
Can. 1288 Administrators are neither to initiate nor to contest litigation in
a civil forum in the name of a public juridic person unless they have obtained
the written permission of their own ordinary.
Can. 1289 Even if not bound to administration by the title of an
ecclesiastical office, administrators cannot relinquish their function on their
own initiative; if the Church is harmed from an arbitrary withdrawal, moreover,
they are bound to restitution.
CONTRACTS AND ESPECIALLY ALIENATION (Cann. 1290 - 1298)
Can. 1290 The general and particular provisions which the civil law in a
territory has established for contracts and their disposition are to be observed
with the same eVects in canon law insofar as the matters are subject to the
power of governance of the Church unless the provisions are contrary to divine
law or canon law provides otherwise, and without prejudice to the prescript of
Can. 1291 The permission of the authority competent according to the norm of
law is required for the valid alienation of goods which constitute by legitimate
designation the stable patrimony of a public juridic person and whose value
exceeds the sum defined by law.
Can. 1292 §1. Without prejudice to the prescript of can. 638, §3, when the
value of the goods whose alienation is proposed falls within the minimum and
maximum amounts to be defined by the conference of bishops for its own region,
the competent authority is determined by the statutes of juridic persons if they
are not subject to the diocesan bishop; otherwise, the competent authority is
the diocesan bishop with the consent of the finance council, the college of
consultors, and those concerned. The diocesan bishop himself also needs their
consent to alienate the goods of the diocese.
§2. The permission of the Holy See is also required for the valid alienation
of goods whose value exceeds the maximum amount, goods given to the Church by
vow, or goods precious for artistic or historical reasons.
§3. If the asset to be alienated is divisible, the parts already alienated
must be mentioned when seeking permission for the alienation; otherwise the
permission is invalid.
§4. Those who by advice or consent must take part in alienating goods are not
to offer advice or consent unless they have first been thoroughly informed both
of the economic state of the juridic person whose goods are proposed for
alienation and of previous alienations.
Can. 1293 §1. The alienation of goods whose value exceeds the defined minimum
amount also requires the following:
1/ a just cause, such as urgent necessity, evident advantage, piety, charity,
or some other grave pastoral reason;
2/ a written appraisal by experts of the asset to be alienated.
§2. Other precautions prescribed by legitimate authority are also to be
observed to avoid harm to the Church.
Can. 1294 §1. An asset ordinarily must not be alienated for a price less than
that indicated in the appraisal.
§2. The money received from the alienation is either to be invested carefully
for the advantage of the Church or to be expended prudently according to the
purposes of the alienation.
Can. 1295 The requirements of cann. 1291-1294, to which the statutes of
juridic persons must also conform, must be observed not only in alienation but
also in any transaction which can worsen the patrimonial condition of a juridic
Can. 1296 Whenever ecclesiastical goods have been alienated without the
required canonical formalities but the alienation is valid civilly, it is for
the competent authority, after having considered everything thoroughly, to
decide whether and what type of action, namely, personal or real, is to be
instituted by whom and against whom in order to vindicate the rights of the
Can. 1297 Attentive to local circumstances, it is for the conference of
bishops to establish norms for the leasing of Church goods, especially regarding
the permission to be obtained from competent ecclesiastical authority.
Can. 1298 Unless an asset is of little value, ecclesiastical goods are not to
be sold or leased to the administrators of these goods or to their relatives up
to the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity without the special written
permission of competent authority.
PIOUS WILLS IN GENERAL AND PIOUS FOUNDATIONS (Cann. 1299 -
Can. 1299 §1. A person who by natural law and canon law is able freely to
dispose of his or her goods can bestow goods for pious causes either through an
act inter vivos or through an act mortis causa.
§2. In dispositions mortis causa for the good of the Church, the formalities
of civil law are to be observed if possible; if they have been omitted, the
heirs must be admonished regarding the obligation, to which they are bound, of
ful-filling the intention of the testator.
Can. 1300 The legitimately accepted wills of the faithful who give or leave
their resources for pious causes, whether through an act inter vivos or through
an act mortis causa, are to be fulfilled most diligently even regarding the
manner of administration and distribution of goods, without prejudice to the
prescript of can. 1301, §3.
Can. 1301 §1. The ordinary is the executor of all pious wills whether mortis
causa or inter vivos.
§2. By this right, the ordinary can and must exercise vigilance, even through
visitation, so that pious wills are fulfilled, and other executors are bound to
render him an account after they have performed their function.
§3. Stipulations contrary to this right of an ordinary attached to last wills
and testaments are to be considered non-existent.
Can. 1302 §1. A person who has accepted goods in trust for pious causes
either through an act inter vivos or by a last will and testament must inform
the ordinary of the trust and indicate to him all its movable and immovable
goods with the obligations attached to them. If the donor has expressly and
entirely prohibited this, however, the person is not to accept the trust.
§2. The ordinary must demand that goods held in trust are safeguarded and
also exercise vigilance for the execution of the pious will according to the
norm of can. 1301.
§3. When goods held in trust have been entrusted to a member of a religious
institute or society of apostolic life and if the goods have also been
designated for some place or diocese or for the assistance of their inhabitants
or pious causes, the ordinary mentioned in §§1 and 2 is the local ordinary;
otherwise, it is the major superior in a clerical institute of pontifical right
and in clerical societies of apostolic life of pontifical right or the proper
ordinary of the member in other religious institutes.
Can. 1303 §1. In law, the term pious foundations includes:
1/ autonomous pious foundations, that is, aggregates of things (universitates
rerum) destined for the purposes mentioned in can. 114, §2 and erected as a
juridic person by competent ecclesiastical authority;
2/ non-autonomous pious foundations, that _is, temporal goods given in some
way to a public juridic person with the obligation for a long time, to be
determined by particular law, of celebrating Masses and performing other
specified ecclesiastical functions or of otherwise pursuing the purposes
mentioned in can. 114, §2, from the annual revenues.
§2. If the goods of a non-autonomous pious foundation have been entrusted to
a juridic person subject to a diocesan bishop, they must be remanded to the
institute mentioned in can. 1274, §1 when the time is completed unless some
other intention of the founder had been expressly manifested; otherwise, they
accrue to the juridic person itself.
Can. 1304 §1. For a juridic person to be able to accept a foundation validly,
the written permission of the ordinary is required. He is not to grant this
permission before he has legitimately determined that the juridic person can
satisfy both the new obligation to be undertaken and those already undertaken;
most especially he is to be on guard so that the revenues completely respond to
the attached obligations, according to the practice of each place or region.
§2. Particular law is to define additional conditions for the establishment
and acceptance of foundations.
Can. 1305 Money and movable goods assigned to an endowment are to be
deposited immediately in a safe place approved by the ordinary so that the money
or value of the movable goods is protected; as soon as possible, these are to be
invested cautiously and usefully for the benefit of the foundation, with express
and specific mention made of the obligation; this investment is to be made
according to the prudent judgment of the ordinary, after he has heard those
concerned and his own finance council.
Can. 1306 §1. Foundations, even if made orally, are to be put in writing.
§2. One copy of the charter is to be preserved safely in the archive of the
curia and another copy in the archive of the juridic person to which the
Can. 1307 §1. A list of the obligations incumbent upon pious foundations is
to be composed and displayed in an accessible place so that the obligations to
be fulfilled are not forgotten; the prescripts of cann. 1300-1302 and 1287 are
to be observed.
§2. In addition to the book mentioned in can. 958, §1, another book is to be
maintained and kept by the pastor or rector in which the individual obligations,
their fulfillment, and the offerings are noted.
Can. 1308 §1. A reduction of the obligations of Masses, to be made only for a
just and necessary cause, is reserved to the Apostolic See, without prejudice to
the following prescripts.
§2. If it is expressly provided for in the charters of the foundations, the
ordinary is able to reduce the Mass obligations because of diminished revenues.
§3. With regard to Masses independently founded in legacies or in any other
way, the diocesan bishop has the power, because of diminished revenues and for
as long as the cause exists, to reduce the obligations to the level of offering
legitimately established in the diocese, provided that there is no one obliged
to increase the offering who can effectively be made to do so.
§4. The diocesan bishop also has the power to reduce the obligations or
legacies of Masses binding an ecclesiastical institute if the revenue has become
insufficient to pursue appropriately the proper purpose of the institute.
§5. The supreme moderator of a clerical religious institute of pontifical
right possesses the same powers mentioned in §§3 and 4.
Can. 1309 The authorities mentioned in can. 1308 also have the power to
transfer, for an appropriate cause, the obligations of Masses to days, churches,
or altars different from those determined in the foundations.
Can. 1310 §1. The ordinary, only for a just and necessary cause, can reduce,
moderate, or commute the wills of the faithful for pious causes if the founder
has expressly entrusted this power to him.
§2. If through no fault of the administrators the fulfillment of the imposed
obligations has become impossible because of diminished revenues or some other
cause, the ordinary can equitably lessen these obligations, after having heard
those concerned and his own finance council and with the intention of the
founder preserved as much as possible; this does not hold for the reduction of
Masses, which is governed by the prescripts of can. 1308.
§3. In other cases, recourse is to be made to the Apostolic See.