Pope Benedict XVI issued yesterday an apostolic letter motu proprio, De Caritate Ministranda, on the Church's charitable activities.
“The Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold
responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God (kerygma-martyria),
celebrating the sacraments (leitourgia) and exercising the ministry of
charity (diakonia). These duties presuppose each other and are
inseparable” (Deus Caritas Est, 25).
The service of charity is also a constitutive element of the Church’s mission
and an indispensable expression of her very being (cf. ibid.); all the
faithful have the right and duty to devote themselves personally to living the
new commandment that Christ left us (cf. Jn 15:12), and to offering our
contemporaries not only material assistance, but also refreshment and care for
their souls (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 28). The Church is also called as a
whole to the exercise of the diakonia of charity, whether in the small
communities of particular Churches or on the level of the universal Church.
This requires organization “if it is to be an ordered service to the community”
(cf. ibid., 20), an organization which entails a variety of institutional
With regard to this diakonia of charity, in my Encyclical Deus Caritas
Est I pointed out that “in conformity with the episcopal structure of the
Church, the Bishops, as successors of the Apostles, are charged with primary
responsibility for carrying out in the particular Churches” the service of
charity (No. 32); at the same time, however, I noted that “the Code of Canon
Law, in the canons on the ministry of the Bishop, does not expressly mention
charity as a specific sector of episcopal activity” (ibid.). Although
“the Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops explored more
specifically the duty of charity as a responsibility incumbent upon the whole
Church and upon each Bishop in his Diocese” (ibid.), there was still a
need to fill the aforementioned lacuna and to give adequate expression in
canonical legislation to both the essential nature of the service of charity in
the Church and its constitutive relationship with the episcopal ministry, while
outlining the legal aspects of this ecclesial service, especially when carried
out in an organized way and with the explicit support of the Bishops.
In view of this, with the present Motu Proprio I intend to provide an
organic legislative framework for the better overall ordering of the various
organized ecclesial forms of the service of charity, which are closely related
to the diaconal nature of the Church and the episcopal ministry.
It is important, however, to keep in mind that “practical activity will always
be insufficient, unless it visibly expresses a love for man, a love nourished by
an encounter with Christ” (ibid., 34). In carrying out their charitable
activity, therefore, the various Catholic organizations should not limit
themselves merely to collecting and distributing funds, but should show special
concern for individuals in need and exercise a valuable educational function
within the Christian community, helping people to appreciate the importance of
sharing, respect and love in the spirit of the Gospel of Christ. The Church’s
charitable activity at all levels must avoid the risk of becoming just another
form of organized social assistance (cf. ibid., 31).
The organized charitable initiatives promoted by the faithful in various places
differ widely one from the other, and call for appropriate management. In a
particular way, the work of Caritas has expanded at the parish, diocesan,
national and international levels. Caritas is an institution promoted by
the ecclesiastical Hierarchy which has rightly earned the esteem and trust of
the faithful and of many other people around the world for its generous and
consistent witness of faith and its concrete ability to respond to the needs of
the poor. In addition to this broad initiative, officially supported by the
Church’s authority, many other initiatives have arisen in different places from
the free enterprise of the faithful, who themselves wish to help in various ways
to offer a concrete witness of charity towards those in need. While differing
in their origin and juridical status, both are expressions of sensitivity and a
desire to respond to the same pressing need.
The Church as an institution is not extraneous to those organized initiatives
which represent a free expression of the concern of the baptized for individuals
and peoples in need. The Church’s Pastors should always welcome these
initiatives as a sign of the sharing of all the faithful in the mission of the
Church; they should respect the specific characteristics and administrative
autonomy which these initiatives enjoy, in accordance with their nature, as a
manifestation of the freedom of the baptized.
Alongside these, the Church’s authority has, on its own initiative, promoted
specific agencies which provide institutionally for allocating donations made by
the faithful, following suitable legal and administrative methods which allow
for a more effective response to concrete needs.
Nevertheless, to the extent that such activities are promoted by the Hierarchy
itself, or are explicitly supported by the authority of the Church’s Pastors,
there is a need to ensure that they are managed in conformity with the demands
of the Church’s teaching and the intentions of the faithful, and that they
likewise respect the legitimate norms laid down by civil authorities. In view
of these requirements, it became necessary to establish in the Church’s law
certain essential norms inspired by the general criteria of canonical
discipline, which would make explicit in this sector of activity the legal
responsibilities assumed by the various subjects involved, specifying in
particular the position of authority and coordination belonging to the diocesan
Bishop. At the same time, the norms in question need to be broad enough to
embrace the significant diversity of the institutions of Catholic inspiration
which are engaged as such in this sector, whether those originating from the
Hierarchy or those born of the direct initiative of the faithful, received and
encouraged by the local Pastors. While it was necessary to lay down norms in
this regard, there was also a need to consider the requirements of justice and
the responsibility of Bishops before the faithful, with respect for the
legitimate autonomy of each institution.
Consequently, upon the proposal of the Cardinal President of the Pontifical
Council Cor Unum, and after consultation with the Pontifical Council for
Legislative Texts, I establish and decree the following:
Art. 1. - § 1. The faithful have the right to join in associations and to
establish agencies to carry out specific charitable services, especially on
behalf of the poor and suffering. To the extent that these are linked to the
charitable service of the Church’s Pastors and/or intend to use for this purpose
contributions made by the faithful, they must submit their own Statutes for the
approval of the competent ecclesiastical authority and comply with the following
§ 2. Similarly, it is also the right of the faithful to establish foundations to
fund concrete charitable initiatives, in accordance with the norms of canons
1303 of the Code of Canon Law (CIC) and 1047 of the Code of Canons of the
Eastern Churches (CCEO). If foundations of this type correspond to the
characteristics set forth in § 1, they will also observe, congrua congruis
referendo, the provisions of the present law.
§ 3. In addition to observing the canonical legislation, the collective
charitable initiatives to which this Motu Proprio refers are required to
follow Catholic principles in their activity and they may not accept commitments
which could in any way affect the observance of those principles.
§ 4. Agencies and foundations for charitable purposes promoted by Institutes of
Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life are required to comply with
these norms, and they must follow the prescriptions of canons 312 § 2 CIC and
575 § 2 CCEO.
Art. 2. - § 1. The Statutes of each charitable agency referred to in the preceding
article must also contain, in addition to its institutional offices and
structures of governance in accordance with canon 95 § 1 CIC, the guiding
principles and objectives of the initiative, the management of funds, the
profile of its workers, as well as the reports and information which must be
presented to the competent ecclesiastical authority.
§ 2. A charitable agency may use the name “Catholic” only with the written
consent of the competent authority, as laid down by canon 300 CIC.
§ 3. Agencies promoted by the faithful for charitable purposes can have an
Ecclesiastical Assistant appointed in accordance with the Statutes, according to
the norm of canons 324 § 2 and 317 CIC.
§ 4. At the same time, the ecclesiastical authority must bear in mind its duty
to regulate the exercise of the rights of the faithful in accordance with canons
223 § 2 CIC and 26 § 3 CCEO, and thus to avoid the proliferation of charitable
initiatives to the detriment of their activity and effectiveness with regard to
their stated goals.
Art. 3. - § 1. With regard to the preceding articles, it is understood that the
competent authority at the respective levels is that indicated by canons 312 CIC
and 575 CCEO.
§ 2. For agencies not approved at the national level, even though they operate
in different Dioceses, the competent authority is understood to be the diocesan
Bishop of the place where the agency has its principal office. In any event,
the agency has the duty to inform the Bishops of other Dioceses where it
operates and to respect the guidelines for the activities of the various
charitable agencies present in those Dioceses.
Art. 4. § 1. The diocesan Bishop (cf. canon 134 § 3 CIC and canon 987 CCEO)
exercises his proper pastoral solicitude for the service of charity in the
particular Church entrusted to him as its Pastor, guide and the one primarily
responsible for that service.
§ 2. The diocesan Bishop encourages and supports the initiatives and works of
service to neighbour in his particular Church, and encourages in the faithful
the spirit of practical charity as an expression of the Christian life and
sharing in the mission of the Church, as indicated in canons 215 and 222 CIC and
25 and 18 CCEO.
§ 3. It is the responsibility of the diocesan Bishop to ensure that in the
activities and management of these agencies the norms of the Church’s universal
and particular law are respected, as well as the intentions of the faithful who
made donations or bequests for these specific purposes (cf. canons 1300 CIC and
Art. 5. - The diocesan Bishop is to ensure that the Church enjoys the right to
carry out charitable activities, and he is to take care that the faithful and
the institutions under his supervision comply with the legitimate civil
legislation in this area.
Art. 6. It is the responsibility of the diocesan Bishop, as indicated by canons
394 § 1 CIC and 203 § 1 CCEO, to coordinate within his territory the different
works of charitable service, both those promoted by the Hierarchy itself and
those arising from initiatives of the faithful, without prejudice to their
proper autonomy in accordance with their respective Statutes. In particular, he
is to take care that their activities keep alive the spirit of the Gospel.
Art. 7. - § 1. The agencies referred to in Article 1 § 1 are required to select
their personnel from among persons who share, or at least respect, the Catholic
identity of these works.
§ 2. To ensure an evangelical witness in the service of charity, the diocesan
Bishop is to take care that those who work in the Church’s charitable
apostolate, along with due professional competence, give an example of Christian
life and witness to a formation of heart which testifies to a faith working
through charity. To this end, he is also to provide for their theological and
pastoral formation, through specific curricula agreed upon by the officers of
various agencies and through suitable aids to the spiritual life.
Art. 8. Wherever necessary, due to the number and variety of initiatives, the
diocesan Bishop is to establish in the Church entrusted to his care an Office to
direct and coordinate the service of charity in his name.
Art. 9. - § 1. The Bishop is to encourage in every parish of his territory the
creation of a local Caritas service or a similar body, which will also
promote in the whole community educational activities aimed at fostering a
spirit of sharing and authentic charity. When appropriate, this service is to
be established jointly by various parishes in the same territory.
§ 2. It is the responsibility of the Bishop and the respective parish priest to
ensure that together with Caritas, other charitable initiatives can
coexist and develop within the parish under the general coordination of the
parish priest, taking into account, however, the prescriptions of Article 2 § 4
§ 3. It is the duty of the diocesan Bishop and the respective parish priests to
see that in this area the faithful are not led into error or misunderstanding;
hence they are to prevent publicity being given through parish or diocesan
structures to initiatives which, while presenting themselves as charitable,
propose choices or methods at odds with the Church’s teaching.
Art. 10. - § 1. It is the responsibility of the Bishop to supervise the
ecclesiastical goods of the charitable agencies subject to his authority.
§ 2. It is the duty of the diocesan Bishop to ensure that the proceeds of
collections made in accordance with canons 1265 and 1266 CIC and canons 1014 and
1015 CCEO are used for their stated purposes [cf. canons 1267 CIC, 1016 CCEO].
§ 3. In particular, the diocesan Bishop is to ensure that charitable agencies
dependent upon him do not receive financial support from groups or institutions
that pursue ends contrary to Church’s teaching. Similarly, lest scandal be
given to the faithful, the diocesan Bishop is to ensure that these charitable
agencies do not accept contributions for initiatives whose ends, or the means
used to pursue them, are not in conformity with the Church’s teaching.
§ 4. In a particular way, the Bishop is to see that the management of
initiatives dependent on him offers a testimony of Christian simplicity of life.
To this end, he will ensure that salaries and operational expenses, while
respecting the demands of justice and a necessary level of professionalism, are
in due proportion to analogous expenses of his diocesan Curia.
§ 5. To permit the ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Article 3 § 1 to
exercise its duty of supervision, the agencies mentioned in Article 1 § 1, are
required to submit to the competent Ordinary an annual financial report in a way
which he himself will indicate.
Art. 11. The diocesan Bishop is obliged, if necessary, to make known to the faithful
the fact that the activity of a particular charitable agency is no longer being
carried out in conformity with the Church’s teaching, and then to prohibit that
agency from using the name “Catholic” and to take the necessary measures should
personal responsibilities emerge.
Art. 12. - § 1. The diocesan Bishop is to encourage the national and international
activity of the charitable agencies under his care, especially cooperation with
poorer ecclesiastical circumscriptions by analogy with the prescriptions of
canons 1274 § 3 CIC and 1021 § 3 CCEO.
§ 2. Pastoral concern for charitable works, depending on circumstances of time
and place, can be carried out jointly by various neighbouring Bishops with
regard to a number of Churches, in accordance with the norm of law. When such
joint activity is international in character, the competent Dicastery of the
Holy See is to be consulted in advance. For charitable initiatives on the
national level, it is fitting that the Bishop consult the respective office of
the Bishops’ Conference.
Art. 13. The local ecclesiastical authority retains the full right to give
permission for initiatives undertaken by Catholic agencies in areas of his
jurisdiction, with due respect for canonical norms and the specific identity of
the individual agencies. It is also the duty of the Bishop to ensure that the
activities carried out in his Diocese are conducted in conformity with
ecclesiastical discipline, either prohibiting them or adopting any measures
needed in cases where that discipline is not respected.
Art. 14. Where appropriate, the Bishop is to promote charitable initiatives in
cooperation with other Churches or Ecclesial Communities, respecting the proper
identity of each.
Art. 15. - § 1. The Pontifical Council Cor Unum has the task of promoting the
application of this legislation and ensuring that it is applied at all levels,
without prejudice to the competence of the Pontifical Council for the Laity with
regard to associations of the faithful as provided for in Article 133 of the
Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, the competence of the Secretariat of
State’s Section for Relations with States, and the general competences of other
Dicasteries and Institutes of the Roman Curia. In particular, the Pontifical
Council Cor Unum is to take care that the charitable service of Catholic
institutions at the international level is always to be carried out in communion
with the various local Churches.
§ 2. The Pontifical Council Cor Unum is also competent for the canonical
establishment of charitable agencies at the international level; it thus takes
on the responsibilities of discipline and promotion entailed by law.
I order that everything I have laid down in this Apostolic Letter issued Motu
Proprio be fully observed, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, even if
worthy of particular mention, and I decree that it be promulgated by publication
in the daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano and enter into force on 10
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 11 November, in the year 2012, the eighth of
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
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