WASHINGTON (October 15, 2002) -- At their upcoming meeting here, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will be asked by their Committee on Canonical Affairs to approve complementary norms to the Church's Code of Canon Law.
The three norms pertain to those canons in the Code which: (1) govern fund-raising appeals; (2) adjust the dollar limits that determine when a diocesan bishop along with the diocesan finance council and the college of consultors must give approval and when a diocese must get approval from the Holy See to "alienate," or sell, property; and (3) govern the leasing of church property.
The Code of Canon Law sets out universal laws for the Church throughout the world and then gives national bishops' conferences like the USCCB the task in certain instances of writing more detailed laws tailored to the specific circumstances of each country. The process has been described as analogous to local ordinances which implement state or federal laws.
The three complementary norms were prepared by the USCCB Committee on Canonical Affairs. The bishops will meet here November 11-14 at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill.
Canon 1262 of the Code of Canon Law states: "The faithful are to give support to the Church by responding to appeals and according to the norms issued by the Conference of Bishops."
The 17 elements of the norm proposed to implement Canon 1262 have been grouped according to the topics: Motivation; Competent Ecclesiastical Authority; Accountability; Procedures; and Oversight.
The first of the proposed elements says "Fund-raising appeals should be truthful and forthright, theologically sound, and should strive to motivate the faithful to a greater love of God and neighbor." Another states that the relationship of trust between donor and fund-raiser requires that funds collected be used for their intended purposes, and that funds collected not be absorbed by excessive fund-raising costs.
Some of the other elements in the complementary norm for Canon 1262 pertain to such matters as the approval needed from the competent authority before funds may be solicited; the obligation of fund-raisers to provide regular reports on the extent to which promises expressed or implied in the solicitation of funds have been fulfilled; the need for fund-raisers to maintain ethical business relationships with suppliers of goods and services; and the obligation of competent authority to ensure that fund-raising organizations make available reports to benefactors on a regular basis or upon reasonable request.
Canon 1292, § 1 says "...when the value of the goods whose alienation is proposed falls within the minimum and maximum amounts to be defined by the conference of bishops for its own region, the competent authority is determined by the statutes of juridic persons if they are not subject to the diocesan bishop; otherwise, the competent authority is the diocesan bishop with the consent of the finance council, the college of consultors, and those concerned. The diocesan bishop himself also needs their consent to alienate the goods of the diocese."
The principal complementary norm proposed for implementing Canon 1292, § 1, specifies that "the maximum limit for alienation of property canonically owned by a Diocese be $10,000,000 for Dioceses with Catholic populations of half a million persons or more. For all other Dioceses the maximum limit will be $5,000,000." It also says that "the minimum limit for alienation of property canonically owned by a diocese be $1,000,000 for Dioceses with Catholic populations of half a million persons or more. For all other Dioceses the minimum limit will be $500,000." Up until now, the maximum had to be $3,000,000 for all dioceses and the minimum $500,000.
Canon 1297 says: "Attentive to local circumstances, it is for the conference of bishops to establish norms for the leasing of Church goods, especially regarding the permission to be obtained from competent ecclesiastical authority."
The norm to implement Canon 1297 says that prior to leasing real estate (land and/or buildings) that is canonically owned by the Diocese, the diocesan bishop must hear the financial council and the college of consultors when the market value of the property to be leased exceeds $400,000. The diocesan bishop must obtain the consent of the finance council and the college of consultors when the market value of the property to be leased exceeds $1,000,000 or the lease is to be for three years or longer. Another of these norms says: "When the market value of real estate to be leased by any public juridic person exceeds $10,000,000, the consent of the Holy See is also required."
If the complementary norms are approved by the body of bishops, they will require subsequent approval by the Holy See.
The USCCB's November meeting opens Monday, November 11 and continues through Thursday, November 14. Media seeking credentials can find information at www.usccb.org. Media credential applications should be submitted by October 28.