Catholic priests in public office

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Canon law of the
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A number of Catholic priests have served in civil office. In keeping with the principle of separation of church and state, [1] [ dubious ] the Catholic Church discourages this practice.

In canon law

Canon law is internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of churches. In the Roman Catholic Church, it is promulgated by the pope. The Codex Iuris Canonici governs the Latin Church, which comprises the larger part of the Roman Catholic Church. [2]

Canon law is a set of ordinances and regulations made by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of a Christian organization or church and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law, or operational policy, governing the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the individual national churches within the Anglican Communion. The way that such church law is legislated, interpreted and at times adjudicated varies widely among these three bodies of churches. In all three traditions, a canon was originally a rule adopted by a church council; these canons formed the foundation of canon law.

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.

Anglicanism The practices, liturgy and identity of the Church of England

Anglicanism is a Western Christian tradition which has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England following the English Reformation.

Canon 285 of the 1983 Codex Iuris Canonici is a provision of Roman Catholic canon law that prohibits members of the Catholic clergy from doing things that are "unbecoming" or "foreign to the clerical state". [3] In addition, it prohibits diocesan priests and bishops from serving in "public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power". [3]

Law in particular countries


The Constitution of Bolivia prohibits clergy from serving as president. [4]

Constitution of Bolivia

The current Constitution of Bolivia came into effect on February 7, 2009 when it was promulgated by President Evo Morales. after being approved in a referendum with 90.24% participation. The referendum was held on January 25, 2009, and the constitution was approved by 61.43% of voters.

President of Bolivia position

The President of Bolivia officially known as the President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, is head of state and head of government of Bolivia. According to the current Constitution, the president is elected by popular vote to a five-year term, renewable once. In 2016, in a referendum the country voted to maintain term limits. Since 2009, if no candidate wins a majority, the top two candidates advance to a runoff election. Prior to 2009, if no candidate won half the popular vote, the president was chosen by a vote in a joint legislative session from among the top two candidates.

Costa Rica

The Constitution of Costa Rica prohibits clergy from serving as president. [4]

Constitution of Costa Rica

The Constitution of Costa Rica is the supreme law of Costa Rica. At the end of the 1948 Costa Rican Civil War, José Figueres Ferrer oversaw the Costa Rican Constitutional Assembly, which drafted the document. It was approved on 1949 November 7. Several older constitutions had been in effect starting from 1812, with the most recent former constitution ratified in 1871. The Costa Rican Constitution is remarkable in that in its Article 12 of the Constitution of Costa Rica abolished the Costa Rican military, making it the second nation after Japan to do so by law. Another unusual clause include an amendment asserting the right to live in a healthy natural environment.

President of Costa Rica head of state and head of government of Costa Rica

The President of Costa Rica is the head of state and head of government of Costa Rica. The President is currently elected in direct elections for a period of four years, which is not immediately renewable. Two Vice presidents are elected in the same ticket with the president. The president appoints the Council of Ministers. Due to the abolition of the military of Costa Rica in 1948, the president is not a Commander-in-chief, unlike the norm in most other countries, although the Constitution does describe him as commander in chief of the civil defense public forces.

El Salvador

The Constitution of El Salvador prohibits clergy from serving as president. [4]

Constitution of El Salvador El Salvadors Current Constitution (1983)

The current constitution of El Salvador was enacted in 1983 and amended in 2003. The 1983 constitution of El Salvador is similar to that of 1962, often incorporating verbatim passages from the earlier document. The constitution consists of 11 titles, subdivided into 274 articles.

President of El Salvador Head of state of El Salvador

The President of El Salvador officially known as the President of the Republic of El Salvador is the head of state of El Salvador. The office was created in the Constitution of 1841. From 1821 until 1841, the head of state of El Salvador was styled simply as Head of State.


The Constitution of Honduras prohibits clergy from serving as president. [4]


The Constitution of Mexico prohibits clergy from serving as president. [4]


Article 121, section i of the Constitution of Myanmar prohibits a member of a religious order from serving as president. [4] [5]


The Constitution of Nicaragua prohibits clergy from serving as president. [4]


Article 235 of the Constitution of Paraguay prohibits any minister of any religion from serving as the president.


The Constitution of Venezuela prohibits clergy from serving as president. [4]

Examples by country


Ignaz Seipel, a priest, theologian and academic, served as the Foreign Minister of Austria from 1926 to 1929 and in 1930, and served as Chancellor of Austria from 1922 to 1924 and 1926 to 1929.

Theodor Innitzer, who would become a cardinal and Archbishop of Vienna, served as the Austrian Minister of Social Affairs from 1929 to 1930.


Rev. Andrew Hogan was the first Catholic priest to serve as a Canadian Member of Parliament, first elected to the House of Commons of Canada in 1974 and serving until losing the 1980 election.

Rev. Robert Ogle was elected to the House of Commons in 1979 and served until 1984, when he did not run for reelection as a result of the new Vatican ban on clergy in public office.

In 2008, Rev. Raymond Gravel was forced by the Vatican to leave the House of Commons of Canada because, among other things, he supported abortion rights and same-sex marriage. [6]

Czech Republic

Daniel Herman is laicized Roman Catholic priest and he is currently Minister of Culture representing Christian Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People's Party (KDU-ČSL).

Dominican Republic

Fernando Arturo de Meriño, a priest who would later become an archbishop, served as the President of the Dominican Republic from 1880 to 1882.


Barthélemy Boganda, a priest from Ubangi-Shari, was elected to the French National Assembly in 1946, serving until 1958. He left the priesthood in 1950 and married, and from 1958 to 1959 he was the first Prime Minister of Central African Republic.


Beda Weber was a German Benedictine priest who served as a member of the Frankfurt Parliament in 1849.

Ludwig Kaas was a priest of the Weimar Republic. In 1919 he was elected to the Weimar National Assembly and in 1920 was elected to the Reichstag, where he served until 1933.


For a brief period in 2011, during the Libyan Civil War, the Nicaraguan priest Rev. Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann served as the Libyan ambassador to the United Nations.


In the 1970s and 80s, the President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, appointed three priests to his cabinet: Rev. Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rev. Fernando Cardenal as Minister of Education, and his brother, Rev. Ernesto Cardenal, as Minister of Culture.


In 2005, Bishop Fernando Lugo requested laicization to run for office. His request was denied. In 2008, he was elected president of Paraguay, in spite of article 235 of the Constitution of Paraguay, which prohibits any minister of any religion from serving as President. After his election, he was laicized. In 2012 he was removed from the presidency for unrelated reasons.


Hugo Kołłątaj was a Polish noble and Catholic priest who in 1786 received the office of the Referendary of Lithuania. He co-authored the Constitution of May 3, 1791 and held a variety of posts before falling out of political favor in 1802 as a result of his radical views.

Stanisław Staszic was a philosopher and political activist who served in the government of Congress Poland.

Slovakia and Czechoslovakia

Rev. Andrej Hlinka served in the Parliament of Czechoslovakia from 1920 to 1938 and was leader of the Slovak People's Party from 1913 until his death.

From 1939 to 1945, Jozef Tiso, a priest, was President of the First Slovak Republic, a satellite state of Nazi Germany. Following World War II, he was convicted and hanged for treason that subsumed also war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Solomon Islands

Augustine Geve was a Catholic priest who served as a member of the National Parliament from 2001 to 2002 and was Minister of Youth, Women and Sports from 2001 to 2002. He was assassinated on 20 August 2002.

United States

Possibly the earliest known instance of a Catholic priest serving in public office in the United States was Gabriel Richard. Born in France, he founded the University of Michigan and served as a delegate from Michigan Territory from 1823 to 1825.

Two priests, Robert Drinan and Robert John Cornell, have served in the United States Congress. In 1980, when Pope John Paul II insisted that priests not serve in elective office, [7] Representative Drinan withdrew from his re-election campaign, and Cornell withdrew from his bid to re-gain the seat he had lost in the 1978 Congressional election. In 1983, the prohibition on serving in governmental office was codified as section 3 of canon 285 of the Codex Iuris Canonici.

List of priests who have held public office

Listed below are the names of the priests, and the countries they served in parentheses.

See also

Related Research Articles

Eastern Catholic Churches Autonomous, self-governing particular Churches in full communion with the Pope

The Eastern Catholic Churches or Oriental Catholic Churches, also called the Eastern-rite Catholic Churches, and in some historical cases Uniate Churches, are twenty-three Eastern Christian particular churches sui iuris in full communion with the Pope in Rome, as part of the worldwide Catholic Church. Headed by patriarchs, metropolitans, and major archbishops, the Eastern Catholic Churches are governed in accordance with the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, although each church also has its own canons and laws on top of this, and the preservation of their own traditions is explicitly encouraged. The total membership of the various churches accounts for about 18 million, according to the Annuario Pontificio, thus making up about 1.5 percent of the Catholic Church, with the rest of its more than 1.3 billion members belonging to the Latin Church, also known as the Western Church or the Roman Catholic Church.

Defrocking, unfrocking, or laicization of clergy is the removal of their rights to exercise the functions of the ordained ministry. It may be grounded on criminal convictions, disciplinary problems, or disagreements over doctrine or dogma, but may also be done at their request for personal reasons, such as running for civil office, taking over a family business, declining health or old age, desire to marry against the rules for clergy in a particular church, or an unresolved dispute. The form of the procedure varies according to the Christian denomination concerned. The term defrocking implies forced laicization for misconduct, while laicization is a neutral term, applicable also when clergy have requested to be released from their ordination vows.

In the canon law of the Catholic Church, the loss of the clerical state is the removal of a bishop, priest or deacon from the status of being a member of the clergy.

Biretta Square cap with three or four peaks or horns

The biretta is a square cap with three or four peaks or horns, sometimes surmounted by a tuft. Traditionally the three peaked biretta is worn by Roman Catholic clergy and some Anglican and Lutheran clergy. The four peaked biretta is worn as academic dress by those holding a doctoral degree from a pontifical faculty or pontifical university. Occasionally the biretta is worn by advocates in law courts, for instance the advocates in the Channel Islands.

Clerical marriage is a term used to described the practice of allowing Christian clergy to marry. This practice is distinct from allowing married persons to become clergy. Clerical marriage is admitted among Protestants, including both Anglicans and Lutherans.

Sui iuris, also spelled as sui juris, is a Latin phrase that literally means "of one's own right". It is used in both civil law and canon law by the Catholic Church. The term church sui iuris is used in the Catholic Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO) to denote the autonomous churches in Catholic communion:

A church sui iuris is "a community of the Christian faithful, which is joined together by a hierarchy according to the norm of law and which is expressly or tacitly recognized as sui iuris by the supreme authority of the Church" (CCEO.27). The term sui iuris is an innovation of the CCEO, and it denotes the relative autonomy of the oriental Catholic Churches. This canonical term, pregnant with many juridical nuances, indicates the God-given mission of the Oriental Catholic Churches to keep up their patrimonial autonomous nature. And the autonomy of these churches is relative in the sense that it is under the supreme authority of the Roman Pontiff.

Ernesto Cardenal Nicaraguan priest and politician

Ernesto Cardenal Martínez is a Nicaraguan Catholic priest, poet, and politician. He is a liberation theologian and the founder of the primitivist art community in the Solentiname Islands, where he lived for more than ten years (1965–1977). A member of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, a party he has since left, he was Nicaragua's minister of culture from 1979 to 1987. He was prohibited from administering the sacraments in 1984 by Pope John Paul II, but rehabilitated by Pope Francis in 2019.

Hierarchy of the Catholic Church Organization of the Catholic Church

The hierarchy of the Catholic Church consists of its bishops, priests, and deacons. In the ecclesiological sense of the term, "hierarchy" strictly means the "holy ordering" of the Church, the Body of Christ, so to respect the diversity of gifts and ministries necessary for genuine unity.

Miguel dEscoto Brockmann Nicaraguan-American Catholic priest and diplomat

Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann was an American-born Nicaraguan diplomat, politician and Catholic priest of the Maryknoll Missionary Society. As the President of the United Nations General Assembly from September 2008 to September 2009, he presided over the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly. He was also nominated as Libyan Representative to the UN in March 2011. He died on 8 June 2017, having suffered a stroke several months earlier.

The canon law of the Catholic Church is the system of laws and legal principles made and enforced by the hierarchical authorities of the Catholic Church to regulate its external organization and government and to order and direct the activities of Catholics toward the mission of the Church. It was the first modern Western legal system and is the oldest continuously functioning legal system in the West, while the unique traditions of Oriental canon law govern the 23 Eastern Catholic particular churches sui iuris.

Regulæ Iuris, also spelled Regulae - and - Juris is a generic term for general rules or principles of the interpretation of canon laws of the Catholic Church. While they no longer have binding force of law since the 1917 Code of Canon Law abrogated them, they remain good principles of law used in interpreting canon law.

El Grupo de los Doce, or Group of Twelve, were a dozen members of the Nicaraguan establishment whose support for the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) against President Anastasio Somoza Debayle played a pivotal role in the acceptance of the Sandinistas by foreign and domestic opinion.

Fernando Lugo 52nd President of Paraguay

Fernando Armindo Lugo Méndez is a Paraguayan politician who was President of Paraguay from 2008 to 2012. Previously he was a Roman Catholic priest and bishop, serving as Bishop of the Diocese of San Pedro from 1994 to 2005. He was elected as president in 2008, an election that ended 61 years of rule by the Colorado Party.

The 1917 Code of Canon Law, also referred to as the Pio-Benedictine Code, was the first official comprehensive codification of Latin canon law. It was promulgated on 27 May 1917 and took legal effect on 19 May 1918. It was in force until the 1983 Code of Canon Law took legal effect and abrogated it on 27 November 1983. It has been described as "the greatest revolution in canon law since the time of Gratian".

Fernando Cardenal Nicaraguan Jesuit

Fernando Cardenal Martínez was a Nicaraguan Jesuit and liberation theologian.

The following lists events in the year 2017 in Nicaragua.

Sixty-third session of the United Nations General Assembly

The Sixty-third session of the United Nations General Assembly was the session of the United Nations General Assembly that ran from 16 September 2008 to 14 September 2009.


  1. Kevin Schmiesing. "John A. Ryan, Virgil Michel, and the problem of clerical politics".
  2. The Catholic Church includes a number of "particular" churches that share the same faith and are in communion with the Pope in Rome. The term "particular church" can be used to refer either to a diocese, under the leadership of a bishop, or to an "Ecclesia ritualis sui iuris", which is a larger body of believers that may comprise many dioceses. Nearly all of the geographical dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, for example, belong to the Latin Church.
  3. 1 2 "THE OBLIGATIONS AND RIGHTS OF CLERICS". Code of Canon Law - IntraText. Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "In 30 countries, heads of state must belong to a certain religion". 2014-07-22. Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  5. "Constitute". Retrieved 2016-09-11.
  6. "Priest MP leaves politics after pressure from Vatican"
  7. Martin, Douglas (12 May 2009). "Robert J. Cornell, Priest Who Served as Congressman, Is Dead at 89". obituary. The New York Times.