The pastoral office was linked by Christ to the grave responsibilities of teaching and sanctifying, of binding and loosing. Bishops in all ages have fulfilled this charge with shining examples of the highest charity, in spite of facing many obstacles.
As the concerns and works of the Church have increased with the passing of centuries, the Holy See has been always intently and readily responsive to the requests of bishops bearing on their pastoral concern. The Holy See has not only used its peculiar authority and jurisdiction to increase the number of diocesan bishops, but has also bestowed on them the special faculties and privileges required to meet current needs effectively.
As the second session of Vatican Council II draws to a close, out of a strong desire to assure the conciliar Fathers of our high esteem for all our brothers in the episcopate, we have decided to accede gladly to the bishops’ petitions and to make those concessions to them that will highlight their episcopal dignity and at the same time make their pastoral charge more effective and unencumbered. This we believe to be eminently consistent with our own office as universal pastor. As we extend these concessions to bishops, we ask at the same time that, joining themselves to Christ and to ourself, his vicar on earth, and animated by a burning charity, they strive by the help of their own work to lighten the “care of all the Churches” (see 2 Cor 11:28) that rests on our shoulders.
The faculties in question are extraordinary and consequently we grant them in such a way that bishops may not delegate them to anyone else except a coadjutor or auxiliary bishop and a vicar general, unless the formula conceding specific faculties determines otherwise.
In keeping with the rule of law currently in force, the faculties that we declare to belong by law to residential bishops belong also by law to vicars and prefects apostolic, to appointed apostolic administrators, to abbots and prelates nullius. All of these possess personally within their own territory those rights and faculties belonging to residential bishops within their own dioceses. Vicars and prefects apostolic, although not authorized to appoint a vicar general, have, nevertheless, the power lawfully to delegate the faculties in question to their pro-vicar or pro-prefect.
With all due deliberation and by reason of our respect and love toward all the bishops of the Catholic Church, we therefore decree and establish motu proprio and in virtue of our apostolic authority, that from 8 December 1963 bishops may at once make use of the following faculties and privileges.
1. FACULTIES THAT BELONG BY RIGHT TO A RESIDENTIAL BISHOP FROM THE MOMENT HE TAKES CANONICAL POSSESSION OF HIS DIOCESE, BUT THAT, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF HIS COADJUTOR AND AUXILIARY BISHOPS AND THE VICAR GENERAL, HE CANNOT DELEGATE TO OTHERS UNLESS THE CONTRARY IS EXPRESSLY STATED IN THE
1. To extend for just cause but not beyond one month the lawful use of expired rescripts or indults granted by the Holy See, without petition for their extension having to be sent first to the Holy See, but with the obligation of immediate recourse pro gratia or, if petition has already been made, to obtain a response.
2. To permit priests, because of the scarcity of clergy and for just cause, to celebrate Mass twice on weekdays and even three times on Sundays and holydays of obligation, provided there is genuine pastoral need.
3. To permit priests who celebrate two or three Masses to take something to drink even though an interval of one hour does not intervene before the celebration of the next Mass.
4. To permit priests, for a just cause, to celebrate Mass at any hour of the day and to distribute communion in the evening, but with due observance of other requirements of the law.
5. To permit priests suffering from poor eyesight or some other infirmity to celebrate daily the votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary or a Mass for the dead assisted, if necessary, by another priest or a deacon and observing the Instruction issued by the Congregation of Rites on 15 April 1961.
6. To grant the same faculty to priests who are totally blind, provided they are always assisted by another priest or deacon.
7. To permit priests to celebrate Mass outside a place of worship on an altar stone, provided the place is decent and becoming; never, however, in a bedroom. This faculty can be granted in individual cases for a just cause, but it can be granted as a permanent faculty only for a more serious reason.
8. Likewise, to grant permission to celebrate Mass for just cause at sea and on rivers, but with due precautions.
9. To permit priests having the indult for a portable altar to use in place of an altar stone, for a just and serious cause, a Greek antimensium or a linen cloth blessed by a bishop, in the right-hand corner of which must be placed relics of martyrs also approved by a bishop. The other prescriptions of the rubrics, especially concerning altar cloths and the corporal, must be observed.
10. To permit infirm or elderly priests to celebrate Mass daily at home (but not in a bedroom) even on the more solemn feasts. They must observe the liturgical requirements, but have permission to sit if they are unable to stand.
11. On the basis of diminished revenue and for as long as this continues, to reduce, on the ratio of the lawfully prevailing stipend in the diocese, the number of Masses required by an autonomous bequest. The condition is that there is no one bound by the obligation to increase the bequest who can in any practical way be constrained to do so.
12. Likewise, to reduce Mass obligations or endowments binding on benefices or other ecclesiastical institutions, if the income from the benefices or institutions proves insufficient for the adequate support of the beneficiary and for the fulfillment of the sacred ministries attached to the benefice or for the attainment of the goal proper to the ecclesiastical institution.
13. To grant chaplains of any kind of hospital, orphanage, or prison the faculty to administer the sacrament of confirmation, in the absence of the pastor, to those faithful who are in danger of death. The norms set forth by the Congregation of the Sacraments in its Decree Spiritus Sancti munera, 14 September 1946, for a priest administering the sacrament of confirmation are to be observed.
14. To grant to confessors eminent for their knowledge and prudence the faculty of absolving, in conjunction with sacramental confession, any of the faithful from all censures, even though reserved, except: a. censures ab homine; b. censures reserved specialissimo modo to the Holy See; c. censures attached to the violation of the secret of the Holy Office; d. excommunication for priests and their partners who presume to contract marriage, even civilly, and are actually living together.
15. To dispense ordinands for a just cause from the defect of being underage, provided no more than six complete months is involved.
16. To dispense from the impediment that bars sons of non-Catholics from receiving orders as long as their parents continue to be in error.
17. To dispense those already ordained from every kind of irregularity, arising from either delict or defect, in order that they may celebrate Mass and receive and retain ecclesiastical benefices. This faculty requires that no scandal come from its use and that the ministry of the altar be rightly performed. Excluded from the faculty are those irregularities mentioned in CIC can. 985, nos. 3 and 4. If the crime of heresy or schism is involved, an abjuration in the hands of the one absolving must precede the dispensation.
18. To confer holy orders outside the cathedral church and outside the canonical times, and even on weekdays, if pastoral considerations so require.
23. To permit, for serious cause, the interpellations of the nonbelieving spouse that are to take place before the baptism of the spouse converting; also for serious cause, to dispense from the interpellations before or after the baptism of the one converting, providing that it is clear, from at least a summary and extrajudicial process, that the interpellations would be impossible or pointless.
24. To reduce, for a good cause, the obligation of cathedral or collegiate chapters of canons to the daily recitation of the divine office in choir by granting satisfaction of this obligation through the choral recitation on certain days only or through recitation of a certain part of the office only.
25. To assign, in case of need, some canons to works of ministry, teaching, or the apostolate, excusing them from choir, but without prejudice to their rights to receive prebendary income. But any right to the daily distributions or those referred to as inter praesentes is excluded.
26. To commute the divine office to a daily recitation of at least a third part of the rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or of other prayers, because of poor eyesight or another reason as long as such conditions last.
27. To depute in particular cases or for a time the vicar general, or another priest holding an office, to consecrate portable altars, chalices, and patens according to the form prescribed in the Roman Pontifical and with the use of the sacred oils blessed by the bishop.
28. To permit minor clerics, lay religious as well as devout women to perform even the first washing of palls, corporals, and purificators.
29. To use the faculties and privileges, in accord with their scope and tenor, that religious institutes having houses in the diocese possess for the welfare of the faithful.
30. To grant priests the faculty to erect, observing the rites prescribed by the Church, the Stations of the Cross, even outdoors, and to attach all the indulgences imparted to those who practice this devotion. This faculty, however, may not be
used in a parish territory in which there is a house of religious who by apostolic indult possess the privilege of erecting the Stations of the Cross.
33. To confirm up to even a fifth three-year term an ordinary confessor for religious women. This may be done if a shortage of priests suitable for this office leaves no other course or if a majority of the religious, including those who have no voting rights in other matters, agree to the confirmation. In this case, however, other provisions are to be made for the minority.
11. PRIVILEGES THAT IN ADDITION TO THOSE ENUMERATED IN THE CIC BELONG TO ALL BISHOPS, BOTH RESIDENTIAL AND TITULAR, FROM THE RECEIPT OF AUTHENTIC NOTICE OF THEIR CANONICAL APPOINTMENT:
1. To preach the word of God everywhere in the world, unless a local Ordinary expressly disapproves.
2. To hear confessions of the faithful, even of women religious, everywhere in the world, unless a local Ordinary expressly disapproves.
3. To absolve anyone of the faithful anywhere from all reserved sins, with the exception of the sin of false denunciation, by which an innocent priest is accused before ecclesiastical judges of the crime of solicitation.
4. To absolve anyone of the faithful anywhere in the act of sacramental confession from all, even reserved, censures with the exception of: a. censures ab homine; b. censures reserved specialissimo modo to the Holy See; c. censures for the violation of the secret of the Holy Office; d. the excommunication for priests and their partners who presume to contract marriage, even civilly, and are actually living together.
Residential bishops may use this faculty in their subjects’ favor even in regard to the external forum.
5. To reserve the blessed sacrament in an oratory in their home, provided the prescriptions of liturgical law are properly observed.
6. To celebrate Mass for just cause at any hour of the day and to distribute communion even in the evening, with due observance of the other prescriptions of law.
7. To bless anywhere with one sign of the cross, and with all the indulgences customarily granted by the Holy See, rosaries and other chaplets, crosses, medals, and scapulars approved by the Holy See and to impose the scapulars without the obligation of enrolling the names.
8. To erect in churches and oratories, even private ones, with only one blessing, the Stations of the Cross, attaching all the indulgences that have been granted to those who practice this devotion.
These faculties and privileges we gladly grant to our brothers in the episcopate with the intention and desire mentioned already, namely, that all these favors may form part of the beauty and well-being of the Church of Christ, to which we owe all that we are and all that we have.
All things to the contrary notwithstanding, even those worthy of special mention.