70 Jurist 396 (2010)
Towards Refining the Notion of Office in Canon Law

handle is hein.journals/juristcu70 and id is 402 raw text is: THE JURIST 70 (2010) 396-433

TOWARDS REFINING THE NOTION
OF 'OFFICE' IN CANON LAW
JOHN M. HUELS*
Canon 145, §1 of the Code of Canon Law (CIC) defines ecclesiastical
office (officium) as any stable position (munus) established by divine or
ecclesiastical ordinance to be exercised for a spiritual purpose.' This de-
finition has been critiqued by authors for being too broad and imprecise.
Georg May dismisses it as infelicitous and practically unusable.2 Luigi
Chiappetta says that something is lacking in the definition because it can
be applied to positions and competencies that are not ecclesiastical of-
fices in the juridic sense, like catechist, godparent, or sacristan.3 This
lack of technical clarity and juridical precision has resulted in relatively
little consensus among the authors on the essential elements of office4 or
the ways of classifying offices.' Also contributing to the lack of clarity is
the inconsistent use of different terms closely related to office such as
benefice, dignity, ministry, and munus, and the word officium itself is
used variously in the law.6
* Professor of Canon Law, Saint Paul University, Ottawa
All translations in this study are mine.
2 May, commentary in Handbuch des katholischen Kirchenrechts, 2nd ed., ed. Joseph
Listl and Heribert Schmitz (Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet, 1999) 175.
3 Chiappetta, 11 Codice di Diritto Canonico: Commento giuridico-pastorale, 2nd ed.
(Rome: Edizioni Dehoniane, 1996) 1:231. These could not be considered offices without
canonical provision, which certainly is not done in the case of godparents and sacristans;
but this points to the need to include canonical provision as a defining element of office.
' According to Jesds Mifiambres, The principal traits of the concept of ecclesiastical
office have not yet been pacifically shared by all the authors. See Concorso di diritti
nelle provviste canoniche, in lus Ecclesiae 7 (1995) 115.
5 Juan IgnacioArrieta describes five of the more useful classifications of offices: by
origin, by the nature of the position, by the scope of competence, by stability, and by the
manner of designating the officeholder. See Exegetical Commentary on the Code of
Canon Law, ed. Angel J. Marzoa, Jorge Miras, Rafael Rodriguez-Ocahia, English lan-
guage edition ed. Ernest Caparros et al. (Montr6al: Wilson & LaFleur, 2004) 1:897-898.
He offers his own classification of offices in Diritto dell'organizzazione ecclesiastica,
Pontificio Ateneo della Santa Croce, Trattati di Diritto 3 (Milan: Dott. A. Giuffrb Editore,
1997) 154-156.
6 Officium also has other meanings in canon law, especially that of duty and, less
commonly, an institution of administration such as a catechetical office (c. 775, §3). It can
also refer to secular offices, e.g., canons 289, §2; 317, §4; 385, §§3-4; 1042, §2. See Hu-
bert Socha, commentary in MUnsterischer Kommentar zum Codex luris Canonici, ed.
Klaus Ludicke (Essen: Ludgerus, 1984) 145/1 and 145/5.

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