Sunday, 23 October 2011

Canon Law and the Chaplain issue

Thanks to Amette who left a comment regarding the school chaplain issue.
The appointment of a chaplain is covered under Canon Law 564....and the person appointed should be a priest. Does this place Archbishop Nichols in breach of CL?

This is what it says:

Can. 564 A chaplain is a priest to whom is entrusted in a
 stable manner the pastoral care, at least in part, of some community or
 special group of Christ's faithful, to be exercised in accordance with
 universal and particular law.
Can. 565 Unless the law provides otherwise or unless special rights
 lawfully belong to someone, a chaplain is appointed by the local Ordinary,
to whom also it belongs to appoint one who has been presented or to confirm
one elected.
Can. 566 §1 A chaplain must be given all the faculties which due pastoral
care demands.
 Besides those which are given by particular law or by special delegation,
a chaplain has by virtue of his office the faculty to hear the confessions of the
faithful entrusted to his care, to preach to them the word of God, to administer
Viaticum and the anointing of the sick, and to confer the sacrament of
 confirmation when they are in danger of death.
§2 In hospitals and prisons and on sea voyages, a chaplain has the further
to be exercised only in those places, to absolve from latae sententiae censures
are neither reserved nor declared, without prejudice to can. 976.
Can. 567 §1 The local Ordinary is not to proceed to the appointment of a
 chaplain to a house of a lay religious institute without consulting the Superior.
The Superior has the right, after consulting the community, to propose a
 particular priest.
§2 It is the responsibility of the chaplain to celebrate or to direct liturgical
he may not, however, involve himself in the internal governance of the institute.

Well, that all seems pretty clear and straightforward.
 Now how could a layman hold this position in the light of the law?


  1. "Now how could a layman hold this position in the light of the law?" He or she can be a LAY chaplain - not a chaplain.

  2. Part-time Pilgrim.....umm...."a Chaplain is a priest....." Canon Law 564.

  3. "Now how could a layman hold this position in the light of the law?"

    How indeed? It seems you are absolutely right.

    Perhaps someone should put the question to ++Vincent Nichols - and not hold their breath.

    Chris Wright

  4. Richard
    You can legitimately* argue that a Lay Chaplain should be given a different title to avoid confusion with a Chaplain but you can’t argue that a Lay Chaplain is the same as a Chaplain. If you use the search facility on the CESEW website you will find some model job descriptions for this role and you will see it is not the same as the position outlined in Canon Law.

    I don’t know about the practice in Westminster but all the schools I have worked in across the country had both a Chaplain (a priest) and a Lay Chaplain at the same time.

    In the days when there were enough assistant priests in parishes to assign one to a school as a Chaplain and he could take on every aspect of the role without being distracted by his other duties, Lay Chaplains were unnecessary and would have hampered the ordained minister and confused staff and pupils. Now, when a school Chaplain is almost always in charge of a parish, may have a secondary school, primary school, a hospital and a prison to minister to, he is not able to devote all the time the job requires. Lay Chaplains who cover those aspects of the role not proper to ordained priests are important in preserving the Catholic nature of our schools and give important service to students and staff.

    *Legitimately but not, I think, convincingly. Schools are well able to distinguish between Assistant Headteachers, Deputy Headteachers and Headteachers realising that adding a word to a job title fundamentally changes the position being described.

  5. The claim Chaplain is in writing at the school a certain young man works in. His face is next to the title, and when told that this title should be Lay- Chaplain as it could cause confusion to the pupils he says that is the title given to him by his Archbishop. (V. Nichols.) and (stamp, stamp, stamp) I am a Chaplain!

  6. Momangelica - interesting, I nearly went to that school but it was long bfore there was such a thing as chaplains!