CHECKLIST IN THE REMOVAL OF A PASTOR
The following is a checklist of steps to be followed in the removal of a pastor in accord with the procedures in canons 1740-1747.
- As provided by canon 1742, §1, the diocesan bishop should propose a list of pastors to the presbyteral council (unless this has already been done). From this list, the presbyteral council establishes a group of pastors to serve as the "Pastors’ Review Panel" from which the bishop can select two pastors with whom he will consult as required in the various steps of this process.
- Although it is not required by canon law, the diocesan bishop might speak informally and pastorally with the priest whose pastorate is in question to discuss the situation.
- If the bishop believes it is warranted by circumstances, he can begin the canonical process for removal of the pastor by:
- appointing a priest (e.g. vicar general/chancellor/vicar for priests ) in writing to conduct an inquiry to determine if a cause mentioned in canons 1740-1741 is present which would warrant the removal of the pastor.
- sending letters to two priest-consultors appointing them to serve in accord with canon 1742 §1.
- (optional) sending a letter to the pastor informing him that this process is being initiated.
- The diocesan bishop should meet with the two pastor–consultors, as required by canon 1742§1, to discuss the matter with them and receive their recommendations. They should be reminded of the obligation of confidentiality (c.127§3) and the right to privacy (c.220) of the parties involved. A memo recording the minutes should be drawn up, notarized by a priest-notary, and filed (c.483§2).
- If the diocesan bishop decides that the removal must take place, "he paternally is to persuade the pastor to resign within fifteen days, after having explained for validity, the cause and arguments for removal." (c.1741§1). This should be done by means of a personal meeting between the bishop and the pastor, with a priest-notary present also. A letter from the bishop to the pastor, notarized by a priest-notary should summarize the conversation and request for the pastor’s resignation along with the reasons and arguments for removal.
- First Scenario – Resignation: If the pastor is willing to resign, this should be done in writing and the bishop should send the pastor a letter accepting the resignation (cc.474 and 483§2). If the priest resigns, he no longer is pastor and the remaining steps can be disregarded.
- Second Scenario – No Response or Simple Refusal: "If the pastor has not responded within the prescribed days [15 days], the bishop is to repeat the invitation [to resign] and extend the useful time to respond" (c.1744§1). This should be done by means of a letter to the pastor from the bishop. The letter should be notarized by a priest–notary and sent by certified mail, return receipt requested (Cf.c.1744§2). An additional time period of at least another fifteen days would be a reasonable extension.
- After the additional time period has expired and the return receipt of certified mail delivery has been received, if there is no response although the pastor is "not prevented by any impediment, or if the pastor refuses to resign without giving the reasons, the bishop is to issue a decree of removal" (c. 1744§2). Again this decree should be notarized by a priest–notary.
- Third Scenario ‐ Opposition to Removal: If the pastor expresses his opposition to the removal and its reasons alleging reasons which appear insufficient to the bishop, canon 1745 requires the bishop, for validity:
- "to invite the pastor to organize his objections in a written report after he has inspected the acts and offer any proofs he has to the contrary."
- "when any necessary instruction is completed, to consider the matter together with the same pastors mentioned in canon 1742§1 unless others must be designated because those pastors are unavailable."
- "finally to establish whether the pastor must be removed or not and promptly to issue a decree on the matter."
- After the removal is completed, the bishop is either to give the priest another assignment if he is suitable for this, or the priest should be provided a pension, as the case requires and circumstances permit (c. 1746).
- If the removed pastor has recourse to the Holy See, he can no longer function as pastor and cannot live in the rectory (c. 1747§1) unless he is too sick to be transferred elsewhere (c. 1747§2), but a new pastor cannot be named while recourse is pending; meanwhile the bishop is to provide a parochial administrator (c. 1747§3).