08 February, 2014

What is a priest who has been convicted of a crime entitled to from his diocese?

In the wake of the tragic number of clergy who have been found guilty of crimes in recent years, a visitor to the blog sent me a question about what support such priests were entitled to receive from the Church after their conviction.

In looking for the answer to that question I found a couple of articles that shed light on canon 281 of the Code of Canon Law which reads as follows:

Can. 281 §1. Since clerics dedicate themselves to ecclesiastical ministry, they deserve remuneration which is consistent with their condition, taking into account the nature of their function and the conditions of places and times, and by which they can provide for the necessities of their life as well as for the equitable payment of those whose services they need.
§2. Provision must also be made so that they possess that social assistance which provides for their needs suitably if they suffer from illness, incapacity, or old age.
§3. Married deacons who devote themselves completely to ecclesiastical ministry deserve remuneration by which they are able to provide for the support of themselves and their families. Those who receive remuneration by reason of a civil profession which they exercise or have exercised, however, are to take care of the needs of themselves and their families from the income derived from it.
The first is an article from 'America Magazine'. The link is listed directly below:

A Bum Rap | America Magazine

The second is taken from a commentary on the Code and is more explicit in its detail. Again the link is directly below:


In summary, these articles explain that a suspended or convicted cleric is entitled to sufficient support such as is necessary to live. This can include providing accommodations for said priest if he is unable to afford it on his own. There seems therefore to be some 'wiggle room' or latitude that a Bishop can employ in determining what salary and/or support that a suspended cleric is entitled to receive so long as he remains within the clerical state. The situation changes if this same priest is expelled from Holy Orders as punishment following a Church trial. (Note: Such trials are now mandatory in all cases where a cleric has been credibly found guilty by a civil court, a procedure set in place by Pope B16 and which continues under the reign of Pope Francis.)

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