19. Ignorance of obligations and rights
19. Ignorance of obligations and rights

19. Ignorance of obligations and rights

Ignorance of the law excuses no one (ignorantia legis neminem excusat). This legal principle means that if people break the law, they are still liable even if they did not know of the law being broken. This principle is necessary to avoid people feigning ignorance for a law they intentionally violated. Without this principle, the law loses its effect, and society falls into disorder.

In moral theology, there is “invincible ignorance” which refers to “the state of persons who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the fact that the Christian message is true”. The opposite of this term is vincible ignorance, and it means that a person could remove ignorance by applying reasonable diligence in the given set of circumstances. To be vincible (capable of being overcome) connotes imputability (one is held liable for not overcoming).

Therefore, canon 1325 provides that crass, supine or affected ignorance are irrelevant when considering who is culpable for an offence committed. Crass ignorance means “gross ignorance about what a reasonable person should know”. Supine ignorance is “a careless indifference to knowing what other persons regard as necessary knowledge”. Affected ignorance is one “deliberately cultivated to excuse a legal violation”.

Based on the 2021 Okigwe diocesan directory, the following are the various diocesan councils and commissions—laity, pastoral, finance, liturgical, priests’ welfare, fathers’ higher education, education, medical, sacred music, catechetical; justice, development, and peace; transport, pontifical mission works, theological, seminary, inculturation, inter-religious dialogue, ecumenical, pastoral, biblical, media; lands, building, and projects; causes of saints, legal/canon law, family and human life, peace and conflict resolution, sacred arts, and arts preservation. Some of these commissions ought to have a permanent office to deal with issues that come up weekly. Others must meet at least three times a year according to our diocesan directory (p.120-123).

In a diocese, only three bodies require the bishop alone to convene a meeting and preside over it – the Presbyteral council (Can. 500), the College of Consultors except in the case of an impeded or vacant see (sede impedita aut vacante) (Can 502 §2) and the pastoral council (Can. 514 §1). The bishop or his delegate can preside over the diocesan finance council (Can. 492). In Okigwe diocesan directory, the bishop is the chairman of the Fathers’ Higher Education Commission; hence, only the bishop or his delegate can convene the meeting of the commission. Other commissions are headed by priests.

When last did our commission meet or are we waiting for the bishop to remind or force us to meet? If the chairman has forgotten, have we reminded him to convene a meeting? Even if the bishop has forgotten, does Christian charity and canon law not require us to remind him of it gently (Can. 212 §3)? Does a chairman consider and run a diocesan commission as his personal affair? Are we disinterested because our commission does not have the flow of cash? Are we ignorant that we are even members of a diocesan commission?

The overall purpose of the curia is to assist the bishop in discharging his pastoral responsibilities. Therefore, curial offices exist to be the means for studying, planning, and suggesting ideas which the bishop ponders and weighs together with the presbyterial council and/or college of consultors and/or pastoral council.

With the uniqueness of each person, Okigwe diocese needs your unique input. There is so much to be done for our beautiful diocese for the salvation of souls.

Ka Chineke mezie okwu 🙏🏾


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  1. Pingback: 31. Collaboration with the laity – The Catholic Church in the contemporary society

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