Canonical visitation

Last updated
Scale of justice, canon law.svg
Part of a series on the
Canon law of the
Catholic Church
046CupolaSPietro.jpg Catholicismportal

A canonical visitation is the act of an ecclesiastical superior who in the discharge of his office visits persons or places with a view to maintaining faith and discipline, and of correcting abuses. A person delegated to carry out such a visitation is called a visitor. When, in exceptional circumstances, the Holy See delegates an Apostolic visitor (or visitors) "to evaluate an ecclesiastical institute such as a seminary, diocese, or religious institute ... to assist the institute in question to improve the way in which it carries out its function in the life of the Church," this is known as an apostolic visitation. [1]

Apostolic visitor position

In the Catholic Church, an apostolic visitor is a papal representative with a transient mission to perform a canonical visitation of relatively short duration. The visitor is deputed to investigate a special circumstance in a diocese or country, and to submit a report to the Holy See at the conclusion of the investigation.

Catholic usage

The practice was reaffirmed in the Catholic Church by the Council of Trent (1545 to 1563) in these words:

Catholic Church Largest Christian church, led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

Council of Trent Synod

The Council of Trent, held between 1545 and 1563 in Trent, was the 19th ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. Prompted by the Protestant Reformation, it has been described as the embodiment of the Counter-Reformation.

Patriarchs, primates, metropolitans and bishops shall not fail to visit their respective dioceses either personally, or if they be lawfully hindered, by their Vicar-general or visitor; if they shall not be able on account of its extent, to make the visitation of the whole [diocese] annually, they shall visit at least the greater part thereof, so that the whole shall be completed [with]in two years, either by themselves or by their visitors. [2]

Of the purpose of visitation the Council says:

But the principal object of all the visitations shall be to lead to sound and orthodox doctrine, by banishing heresies; to maintain good morals, and to correct such as are evil; to animate the people, by exhortations and admonitions, to religion, peacefulness, and innocence; and to establish such other things as to the prudence of the visitors shall seem for the profit of the faithful, according as time, place and opportunity shall allow. [2]

Rights of visitation

The right of visitation belongs to all prelates who have ordinary jurisdiction over persons in the external forum. The pope through his delegates may institute a visitation throughout the world, patriarchs, primates, metropolitans, bishops, a vicar apostolic and a vicar capitular or administrator of a vacant diocese, all in their respective territories, religious superiors within their own jurisdiction. A prelate nullius enjoys this right in conjunction with the neighbouring bishop, whose precepts in case of disagreement will prevail. Visitation does not, however, fall within the province of a vicar-general unless he be specially commissioned by the bishop. A metropolitan is not permitted to visit the dioceses of his suffragan bishops save for reasons approved in a provincial synod, and then only after the visitation of his own diocese has been completed.

Pope Leader of the Catholic Church

The pope, also known as the supreme pontiff, is the bishop of Rome and leader of the worldwide Catholic Church. Since 1929, the pope has also been head of state of Vatican City, a city-state enclaved within Rome, Italy. The current pope is Francis, who was elected on 13 March 2013, succeeding Benedict XVI.

Patriarch ecclesiastical title

The highest-ranking bishops in Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Catholic Church, and the Church of the East are termed patriarchs.

Primate (bishop) High-ranking bishop in certain Christian churches

Primate is a title or rank bestowed on some archbishops in certain Christian churches. Depending on the particular tradition, it can denote either jurisdictional authority or (usually) ceremonial precedence.

The canonical visitation of a diocese is incumbent on the bishop personally unless lawfully hindered. A bishop may visit the various parts of his diocese as often as he chooses. According to the Council of Trent he must do so every year if possible, or at least every two years. A decree by the Sacred Congregation of the Consistory was A remotissima, of 31 December 1909. The Third Plenary Council of Baltimore required a bishop to visit every part of his diocese at least once every three years, not only that he may administer the Sacrament of Confirmation, but likewise that he may know his people.

Regulars in matters pertaining to the cure of souls and divine worship are subject to episcopal visitation and correction. As delegate of the Apostolic See, a bishop may also visit exempt places, but may punish delinquents therein only when the regular superior, being duly notified, fails to do so. Religious communities of nuns are visited by the bishop either by virtue of his own right or as delegate of the Holy See.

Religious superiors also visit canonically institutions and persons subject to them, each observing the constitution and customs of his own order. The efforts of female religious superiors in visiting their houses are directed chiefly to promoting zeal and discipline; their authority is confined to correcting minor breaches of rule, since they are devoid of canonical jurisdiction. Difficulties beyond their power to settle are reported to the bishop or other lawful superior.

Practical matters

The visitation comprises persons, places, and things. It is an examination into the conduct of persons, viz. clergy, nuns, and laity; into the condition of churches, cemeteries, seminaries, convents, hospitals, asylums, etc., with their furnishing and appurtenances, into the administration of church property, finances, records, state of religion: briefly, it is a complete investigation of the spiritual and temporal affairs of the diocese. The visitor hears complaints, investigates crimes, sees whether pastors and others properly discharge their duties, and inquires into the private conduct or morals of clergy and laity.

The episcopal visitation should be a paternal investigation of diocesan matters. Formal trials and judicial penalties consequently will not be common: from such, should they be made use of, a suspensive appeal may be taken. Otherwise an appeal from decrees promulgated in visitation will beget merely a devolutive effect. The laws made should be enforced, and an authentic account of the entire visitation should be preserved in the diocesan archives as an official record, as well as to enable the bishop in his visit ad limina to render to the Holy See an accurate report of conditions in his diocese. This report to the pope is to be signed not only by the bishop, but likewise by one of the associate visitors. A bishop or other visitor, content with hospitality, will accept no offering for the visitation.

The Pontifical prescribes the ceremonies to be observed in a formal visitation of a parish. At the door of the church the bishop in cappa magna kisses the crucifix, receives holy water, and is incensed; then proceeding to the sanctuary he kneels till a prescribed prayer is sung. Ascending the altar the bishop gives his solemn episcopal blessing. A sermon follows in which the bishop refers to the purpose of the visitation. Later he imparts the indulgence that he is empowered to grant. Putting on a black cope and simple mitre, the bishop recites certain prayers for the deceased bishops of the diocese. The procession then proceeds to the cemetery if nearby, otherwise to some convenient place in the church where a catafalque shall have been erected: there prayers are offered for all the faithful departed. The ceremony is terminated on returning to the sanctuary by still another prayer for the dead. White vestments being substituted for black, the bishop examines the tabernacle and contents (blessing the people with the ciborium), altars, baptismal font, sacred oils, confessionals, relics, sacristy, records, cemetery, edifices, etc. as above. Finally the Pontifical contains other prayers to be said privately before the departure of the bishop and his assistants.

Recent apostolic visitations

In 2000, the Holy See ordered an apostolic visitation of the media network EWTN, run by the Franciscan nun Mother Angelica. Archbishop Roberto González Nieves of San Juan, Puerto Rico, was sent to investigate. Nieves determined that there were three distinct problems: the actual ownership of the network, the monastery's right to give property to EWTN, and, since she had never been elected, the legitimacy of Mother Angelica's authority. [3]

An apostolic visitation team visited more than 200 U.S. seminaries and formation houses in 2005 and 2006 to evaluate issues of sexual morality. They concluded that U.S. Catholic seminaries and houses of priestly formation are generally healthy, but recommended a stronger focus on moral theology, increased oversight of seminarians and greater involvement of diocesan bishops in the formation process. [4]

In a bid to find out why numbers have decreased so drastically over the last 40 years, the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life announced an apostolic visitation of US religious women's institutes. [5] The study was complete in 2011. [6]

In 2010 the Vatican ordered an apostolic visitation of the institutions of the Legionaries of Christ following disclosures of sexual impropriety by the order's late founder, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado. [7] [8]

On Monday, May 31, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI, in dealing with another large-scale child sex abuse scandal, ordered the formation of a panel of nine members (including two nuns, the current archbishops of Toronto, Ottawa, Boston, and New York, and the archbishop emeritus of Westminster) to investigate the Irish church hierarchy's handling of the sex abuse scandal there. [9]

Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, USA asked Professor Rev. James J. Conn to conduct a visitation of the Intercessors of the Lamb community during May 2010. [10]


See also

Related Research Articles

Marcel Lefebvre French Roman Catholic archbishop

Marcel François Marie Joseph Lefebvre was a French Roman Catholic archbishop, known for founding the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). Ordained a diocesan priest in 1929, he joined the Holy Ghost Fathers for missionary work and was assigned to teach at a seminary in Gabon in 1932. In 1947, he was appointed Vicar Apostolic of Dakar, Senegal, and the next year as the Apostolic Delegate for West Africa.

Society of Saint Pius X society of apostolic life

The Society of Saint Pius X, also known as the SSPX, or the FSSPX, is an international priestly fraternity founded in 1970 by Marcel Lefebvre, the French archbishop of the titular see of Synnada in Phrygia.

Personal prelature

Personal prelature is a canonical structure of the Catholic Church which comprises a prelate, clergy and laity who undertake specific pastoral activities. The first personal prelature is Opus Dei. Personal prelatures, similar to dioceses and military ordinariates, are under the governance of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops. These three types of ecclesiastical structures are composed of lay people served by their own secular clergy and prelate. Unlike dioceses which cover territories, personal prelatures—like military ordinariates—take charge of persons as regards some objectives regardless of where they live.

Legion of Christ organization

The Legion of Christ (LC) is a Roman Catholic religious institute, made up of priests and seminarians studying for the priesthood. It is affiliated with the apostolic movement Regnum Christi, founded in 1959, which includes lay persons and diocesan priests and has branches of lay Consecrated Men and Regnum Christi Consecrated Women.

Marcial Maciel Mexican priest and founder of the Legion of Christ

Marcial Maciel Degollado was a Mexican Catholic priest who founded the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement, serving as general director of the legion from 1941 to 2005. Throughout most of his career, he was respected within the church as "the greatest fundraiser of the modern Roman Catholic church" and as a prolific recruiter of new seminarians. Late in his life, Maciel was revealed to have sexually abused boys and young men. After his death, it came to light that he had also maintained relationships with at least two women, one of whom was a minor. He fathered as many as six children, and allegedly abused two of these children as well.

Religious order (Catholic) Type of religious community in the Roman Catholic Church characterised by its members professing solemn vows

In the Catholic Church, a religious order is a type of religious community characterised by its members professing solemn vows. According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, they are classed as a type of religious institute.

Regnum Christi organization

Regnum Christi is an international Catholic Movement. It is open to all lay Catholics and in addition has three consecrated branches the Legion of Christ, consecrated women, and consecrated men. Regnum Christi is dedicated to promoting the Catholic faith. Their motto is "Love Christ, Serve People, Build the Church."

Pontifical North American College

The Pontifical North American College is a Roman Catholic educational institution in Rome, Italy, that forms seminarians for priestly ministry in the dioceses of the United States and elsewhere, and that provides a residence for priests from the United States and elsewhere who are pursuing graduate studies or continuing formation programs in Rome. Oversight of the college is the responsibility of the Holy See's Congregation for the Clergy, which is delegated for most matters to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops acting through the college's episcopal board of governors.

Syro-Malabar Catholic Major Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese

Major Archeparchy of Ernakulam-Angamaly is an archeparchy and the See of the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. Maran Mar Cardinal George Alencherry is the present Major Archbishop and his Vicar is Archbishop Mar Antony Karayil CMI who is responsible for the ordinary administration of the Archeparchy. He is reportable to the Major Archbishop and the Holy Synod of the Syro Malabar Church. Mar Jacob Manathodath, Bishop of Palghat was the former apostolic administrator sede plena;. Blessed Rani Maria, Venerable Payyappilly Varghese Kathanar and Servant of God Mary Celine Payyappilly are the saints from the archeparchy. Kothamangalam and Idukki are the two suffragan eparchies of the archeparchy.

Plenary Councils of Baltimore Wikimedia list article

The Plenary Councils of Baltimore were three national meetings of Catholic bishops in the United States in 1852, 1866 and 1884 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney apostolic administration

The Personal Apostolic Administration of Saint John Mary Vianney was established on 18 January 2002 by Pope John Paul II for traditionalist Catholic clergy and laity within the Diocese of Campos in Brazil. It is the only personal apostolic administration in existence, and the only Catholic Church jurisdiction devoted exclusively to celebrating the pre-1965 form of the Roman Rite. Its current Apostolic Administrator is Bishop Fernando Arêas Rifan.

The Scandinavian Bishops Conference is an episcopal conference of Roman Catholic bishops covering the Nordic countries of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland. At present, it has 12 members who represent all five Catholic dioceses and all two territorial prelatures in the Nordic countries. It is unusual for bishops' conferences to be organised across several countries, but this reflects the fact that there are fewer than half a million Catholics in these countries. The Conference states as its tasks:

Agostino Vallini Catholic cardinal

Agostino Vallini is an Italian prelate of the Catholic Church. He has been a cardinal since 2006. From 2008 to 2017 he served as Vicar General of Rome. He is also the Archpriest emeritus of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.

Holy orders in the Catholic Church Sacrament in the Roman Catholic Church

The sacrament of holy orders in the Catholic Church includes three orders: bishop, priest, and deacon. In the phrase "holy orders", the word "holy" simply means "set apart for some purpose." The word "order" designates an established civil body or corporation with a hierarchy, and ordination means legal incorporation into an order. In context, therefore, a group with a hierarchical structure that is set apart for ministry in the Church.

Canonical faculties, in the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church, are ecclesiastical rights conferred on a subordinate, by a superior who enjoys jurisdiction in the external forum. These rights then allow the subordinate to act, in the external or internal forum, validly or lawfully, or at least safely.

There are several controversies surrounding the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi, including aggressive recruiting practices, elitism, rampant sexual abuse scandals of minors, and having multi-million dollar offshore holdings in tax havens.

A personal ordinariate, sometimes called a "personal ordinariate for former Anglicans" or more informally an "Anglican ordinariate", is a canonical structure within the Catholic Church established in accordance with the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus of 4 November 2009 and its complementary norms. The ordinariates were established in order to enable "groups of Anglicans" to join the Catholic Church while preserving elements of their liturgical and spiritual patrimony. They are juridically equivalent to a diocese, "a particular church in which and from which exists the one and unique Catholic Church", but may be erected in the same territory as other dioceses "by reason of the rite of the faithful or some similar reason".

This is a glossary of terms used within the Catholic Church.

The Apostolic visitation to Ireland was announced on 20 March 2010 in the pastoral letter written by Pope Benedict XVI to Irish Catholics after the publication of the Ryan and Murphy Reports on Catholic Church sexual abuse of children in Ireland in 2009. In his letter Pope Benedict said that the visitation was to be "Pastoral in nature, the Visitation ‘is intended to assist the local Church on her path of renewal’ and is a sign of the Holy Father’s desire, as the Successor of Peter, to offer his pastoral solicitude to the Church in Ireland".