17. Regarding obligations and rights of one occupying an ecclesiastical office
17. Regarding obligations and rights of one occupying an ecclesiastical office

17. Regarding obligations and rights of one occupying an ecclesiastical office

Last week I did a general discussion on ecclesiastical offices. Today’s post comments on the obligations and rights of one occupying an office. In Book 2 of the Code of Canon law, “The People of God”, there are two important features.

First, obligations and rights are often discussed together. This is because, in the Church, one cannot clearly distinguish between private and public interest. The ultimate goal of the Church is the salvation of a single soul, and this cannot be achieved without the ecclesiastical community.

Second, obligations are presented before rights. This is because since I have the obligation to be holy (Lev 19:2; Matt 5:48), I have the rights that help me to be holy. This is unlike civil law where rights come first before obligations.

Canon 145 §2 states that “the obligations and rights proper to individual ecclesiastical offices are defined either in the law by which the office is constituted or in the decree of the competent authority by which the office is at the same time constituted and conferred”.

Based on this provision, there are obligations and rights attached to all ecclesiastical offices. Some are defined by the universal law while the diocesan bishop who provides for the office can include extra duties. As one occupying an office, do you know your obligations and rights? Do you act beyond the limits of your competence?

Although there is a leader among officeholders, being a leader does not mean that other persons were not appointed to an ecclesiastical office. Peter was not the first Jesus appointed. It was Andrew that brought Peter to Jesus (John 1:35-42), yet Jesus made him the leader (Matt 16:18).

Hence, the seminary rector is not the employer of other formators nor are the latter his employees. He was appointed to the office of a Rector by the bishops just as other formators were appointed by the same bishops. The parish priest is not the employer of the assistant parish priest—both were appointed by the bishop.

However, this does not mean that the rector or the parish priest cannot assign duties to their subordinates who are bound to follow the directives. It also does not mean that leaders do not deserve respect from their subordinates.

Furthermore, while some offices are prominent, it does not mean that others are secondary or irrelevant. Every office is important and that is why the Church establishes offices in a stable manner. The Church works as a synergy in which all parts of the body are important to effectively carry out the salvific mission (1 Cor 12: 4-7, 12).

If we really love God and his Church and want to feed the flock as Jesus told Peter, we will realise that there is no alternative to working together.

May God continue to help us.🙏🏾


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