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Posted February 17, 2010

Book: Church Property: A Commentary on Canon Law Governing Temporal Goods in the United States and Canada
Author: Rev. Msgr. John A. Renken
St Paul’s, Staten Island, New York. 2009. Pp. 415

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

From its earliest days, the Church has used material goods to assist it in performing its mission which is, in last analysis, the salvation of souls. Over the centuries, much canonical legislation has developed concerning the ownership and care of the temporal goods needed for this purpose. Book V of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, entitled The Temporal Goods of the Church, is devoted precisely to this very important and very timely topic, viz., the acquisition, retention, administration, and alienation of temporal good. While making brief reference also to the 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, this commentary treats matters relating to Church property in great detail as they apply to the Church in the United States and Canada. Every diocese, parish, and religious institution will find here the guidance they will need to properly handle in a lawful and efficient way the many financial transactions which cross their desks each day.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Parish Finance Council. The code explains that a parish is a juridic person a jure which is represented in all juridic affairs by its pastor who “is to take care that the goods of the parish are administered according to the nomr of cann. 1281-1288" (canon 532). The code also requires that each parish have its own finance council (and not merely two financial counselors) whose members assist the pastor in his parochial administration:

Can. 537 – In each parish there is to be a finance council which is governed, in addition to universal law, by norms issued by the diocesan bishop and in which the Christian faithful, selected according to these norms, are to assist the pastor in the administration of the goods of the parish without prejudice to the prescript of can. 532.

Several important observations are to be made about this canon. The parish finance council is required by law; it is not optional. Since this is a constitutive law, the diocesan bishop cannot dispense from it. Its purpose is to assist the pastor in his administration of parochial goods according to the norms of canons 1281-1288; this assistance is offered in such a way, however, that the pastor remains responsible for taking care that parochial goods are administered properly. Its functions are determined by universal law and by the particular law established by the diocesan bishop. It is comprised of members of the Christian faithful. Canon 537 does not say that the parish finance council “possesses a consultative vote only, as canon 536/2 does say about the parish pastoral council, which is not required by universal law but may be required by the particular law of the diocese.

The specific functions of the parish finance council are to be determined by universal law and especially by diocesan particular law. As a matter of fact, the universal law assigns to the parish finance council only the general function of assisting the pastor in the administration of parish good. No more specific functions are identified. I would appear appropriate that particular law assign to the parish finance council at least two basic or routine functions mandated by universal law for the diocesan finance council – i.e.

1. To prepare an annual budget (which is required for dioceses in canon 493, but only strongly recommended for the other juridic persons by universal law, which provides that the annual parish budget may be required by particular law: see canon 1284/3)

2. To examine the annual statement of income and expenditures (see canon 493)

If these documents are prepared by the pastor or a parish staff member, particular law may require that the parish finance council offer its counsel before they are presented to the local ordinary.

Table of Contents:

1. History of the development of Book V

2. Preliminary canons (canons 1254-1258)

3. The acquisition of goods (title I: Canons 1259-1272)

4. The administration of goods (title II: canons 1273-1289)

5. Contracts and especially alienation

6. Pious wills in general and pious foundations