fifth edition of the Charter is dedicated to Father Dennis Geaney, O.S.A.,
who died on November 23, 1992. The word "Catholic" is used for "Roman Catholic"
and "Church" for "Roman Catholic Church" throughout this document.
The following groups affiliated
with COR (Catholics Organizations for Renewal) and parallel organizations
in Europe have endorsed the Charter as of January 1994:
CCC (Coalition of Concerned
CITI (Celibacy is the Issue)
CORPUS (a national association
for a married priesthood)
CTA (Call to Action)
FCM (Federation of Christian
New Ways Ministry
Renewal Coordinating Committee
WOC (Women's Ordination
Christenrechte in der Kirche
Droits et Libertes dans
les Eglises (France)
European Conference for
Human Rights in the Church
(federation of eight national
Although in the first instance
this Charter was formulated by Catholics of the United States, it is the
result of dialogue among Catholics from many countries. This dialogue needs
to be continued. All suggestions for future editions of the Charter should
be forwarded to:
ARCC, P.O. Box 912, Delran,
NJ 08075, FAX: 215-477-5928; E-mail: DIALOGUE@VM.TEMPLE.EDU
The rights of Catholics in
the Church derive both from our basic humanity as persons and from our
baptism as Christians. Membership in the human community and membership
in the community of the Church, therefore, jointly confer the rights here
presented which guarantee our dignity and freedom as persons and as Catholics.1
Fundamental human rights
are clearly set forth in the United Nations Charter (see Appendix II in
the Charter Booklet). This Charter of the Rights of Catholics in the Church
presupposes the rights expressed in the U.N. Charter. These basic human
rights are supplemented by the common rights and freedom of Christians
bestowed at baptism, and which are based on: (1) the priesthood of all
believers, (2) the fundamental equality of believers, and (3) the prophetic
role of all believers.
Moreover, Vatican Council
II urged the Church to read and learn from "the signs of the times." One
of the clear signs of the times in many countries is a concern for human
rights. The framers of this Charter of Rights for Catholics maintain that
faithfulness to the message of the Gospel mandates a concern for justice
in the Church, as well as in the world. The Church, by its very nature,
must labor for the liberation of those oppressed and marginalized by sinful
social structures, which often make it impossible for many men and women
to claim even their basic human rights. The Church as a People of God,
and not individual Christians only, is called to give witness to the love
commandment. This responsibility entails, especially, the renewal of the
Church's own structural organization where it is seen to foster injustice
and to deny to some Catholics the rights of persons and the freedom of
Christians.2 "Justice is love's absolute minimum" (Paul VI). The institutional
Church, as a human society, can therefore no longer justify an authoritarian
and patriarchal order appropriate to earlier stages of human development.
The Social Justice teachings of the Church, especially as set forth in
Paul VI's "Populorum Progressio," are presupposed by this Charter.
Fundamental to this Charter
is the principle that all Catholics are radically equal. Canon 208 of the
revised Code of Canon Law states:
There exists among all the
Christian faithful, in virtue of their rebirth in Christ, a true equality
with regard to dignity and activity; all cooperate in the building up of
the body of Christ in accord with each one's own condition and function.
In other words, the equality
of all Catholics is based on their one God, one faith, one call and one
common sacramental initiation. Therefore, rights and equality are not diminished
by the differing gifts and roles of Church members. Christ has destroyed
all divisions, "between Jew and gentile, male and female, slave and free"
(Gal. 3:28). Thus, because all are equally beloved by God, each one's ability
to respond to that God and to actualize his or her capacities within the
Church community, must not be limited by considerations of race, age, nationality,
sex, sexual orientation, state-of-life or social position.
The revised Code of Canon
Law (see Appendix I) only partially articulates the principles which should
inform a just, loving, and therefore fruitful relationship between Church
authorities and the People of God.
Rights do not exist in isolation,
but only in conjunction with corresponding responsibilities. But it is
vital to remember that no responsibilities can be properly carried out
without the safeguarding and exercising of those human and Catholic rights.
In view of these considerations, there is, then, a need for a clear and
complete Charter of the Rights of Catholics in the Church, rights that
are founded on (and limited by) the Gospel and on the authentic tradition
of the Church.
This Charter, therefore,
proclaims the following Catholic rights.
No. 1. All Catholics have
the right to follow their informed consciences in all matters. (C. 748.1)
No. 2. Officers of the Church
have the right to teach on matters both of private and public morality
only after wide consultation with the faithful prior to the formulation
of the teaching.4 (C. 212, C. 747, C. 749, C. 752, C. 774.1)
No. 3. All Catholics have
the right to engage in any activity which does not infringe on the rights
of others, e.g., they have the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the
press, and freedom of association. (C. 212:2,3, C. 215, C. 223:1)
No. 4. All Catholics have
the right of access to all information possessed by Church authorities
concerning the former's spiritual and temporal welfare, provided such access
does not infringe on the rights of others. (C. 218, C. 221:1,2,3, C. 223:1,
Decision-making and Dissent5
No. 5. All Catholics have
the right to a voice in all decisions that affect them, including the choosing
of their leaders. (C. 212:3)
No. 6. All Catholics have
the right to have their leaders accountable to them. (C. 492, C. 1287.2)
No. 7. All Catholics have
the right to form voluntary associations to pursue Catholic aims including
the right to worship together; such associations have the right to decide
on their own rules of governance. (C. 215, C. 299, C. 300, C. 305, C. 309)
No. 8. All Catholics have
the right to express publicly their dissent in regard to decisions made
by Church authorities. (C. 212:3, C. 218, C. 753)
No. 9. All Catholics have
the right to be dealt with according to commonly accepted norms of fair
administrative and judicial procedures without undue delay. (C. 221:1,2,3,
C. 223, 1,2)
No. 10. All Catholics have
the right to redress of grievances through regular procedures of law. (C.
221:1,2,3, C. 223:1,2)
No. 11. All Catholics have
the right not to have their good reputations impugned or their privacy
violated. (C. 220)
Ministries and Spirituality6
No. 12. All Catholics have
the right to receive from the Church those ministries which are needed
for the living of a fully Christian life, including:
a) Instruction in the
Catholic tradition and the presentation of moral teaching in a way that
promotes the helpfulness and relevance of Christian values to contemporary
b) Worship which reflects
the joys and concerns of the gathered community and instructs and inspires
it. c) Pastoral counseling that applies with love and effectiveness the
Christian heritage to persons in particular situations. (C. 213, C. 217)
No. 13. All Catholics have
the right, while being mindful of Gospel norms, to follow whatever paths
will enhance their life in Christ (i.e., their self-realization as unique
human beings created by God). They also have the right to guidance that
will foster authentic human living both on a personal level and in relation
to their communities and the world. (C. 213)
No. 14. All Catholics have
the right to follow the customs and laws of the rite of their choice and
to worship accordingly. (C. 214)
No. 15. All Catholics, regardless
of race, age, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, state-of-life, or social
position have the right to receive all the sacraments for which they are
adequately prepared. (C. 213, C. 843:1)
No. 16. All Catholics, regardless
of canonical status (lay or clerical), sex or sexual orientation, have
the right to exercise all ministries in the Church for which they are adequately
prepared, according to the needs and with the approval of the community.
(C. 225:1, C. 274:1, C. 1024)
No. 17. All Catholics have
the right to have Church office- holders foster a sense of community. (C.
369, C. 515)
No. 18. Office-holders in
the Church have the right to proper training and fair financial support
for the exercise of their offices, as well as the requisite respect and
liberty needed for the proper exercise thereof. (C. 231:2, C. 281)
No. 19. All Catholics have
the right to expect all office- holders in the Church to be properly trained
and to continue their education throughout their term of office. (C. 217,
C. 231:1, C. 232, C. 279, C. 819)
No. 20. Catholic teachers
of theology have a right to responsible academic freedom. The acceptability
of their teaching is to be judged in dialogue with their peers, keeping
in mind the legitimacy of responsible dissent and pluralism of belief.
(C. 212:1, C. 218, C. 750, C. 752, C. 754, C. 279:1, C. 810, C. 812)
Social and Cultural Rights
No. 21. All Catholics have
the right to freedom in political matters. (C. 227)
No. 22. All Catholics have
the right to follow their informed consciences in working for justice and
peace in the world. (C. 225:2)
No. 23. All employees of
the Church have the right to decent working conditions and just wages.
They also have the right not to have their employment terminated without
due process. (C. 231:2)
No. 24. All Catholics have
the right to exercise their artistic and cultural talents without interference
(e.g., censorship) from Church authorities; likewise all Catholics have
the right freely to enjoy the fruits of the arts and culture.
States of Life
No. 25. All Catholics have
the right to choose their state in life; this includes the right to marry
and the right to embrace celibacy.
No. 26. All Catholic women
have an equal right with men to the resources and the exercise of all the
powers of the Church.
No. 27. All Catholics have
the right to expect that the resources of the Church be fairly expended
on their behalf without prejudice to race, age, nationality, sex, sexual
orientation, state-of-life, or social position. a) All Catholic parents
have the right to expect, where needed, fair material and other assistance
from Church authorities in the religious education of their children. b)
All single Catholics have the right to expect that the resources of the
Church be fairly expended on their behalf.
No. 28. All married Catholics
have the right to determine in conscience the size of their families and
the appropriate methods of family planning.
No. 29. All Catholic parents
have the right to see to the education of their children in all areas of
life. (C. 226:2)
No. 30. All married Catholics
have the right to withdraw from a marriage which has irretrievably broken
down. All such Catholics retain the radical right to remarry.
No. 31. All Catholics who
are divorced and remarried and who are in conscience reconciled to the
Church have the right to the same ministries, including all sacraments,
as do other Catholics.
No. 32. All Catholics have
the right to expect that Church documents and materials will avoid sexist
language, and that symbols and imagery of God will not be exclusively masculine.
(I. Shafer's comment: The
Notes refer to appendices which are not part of my file. I'll try to locate
them and post them at a later time.)
1 Cf. Synod of Bishops,
Justice in the World, III "The Practice of Justice~The Church's Witness."
3 For Vatican II documentation,
see Appendix IV.
4 Where a right expressed
in this Charter is treated in some way in the new Code of Canon Law, the
relevant canon is referred to after the right, and can be found in Appendix
5 For Vatican II documentation,
see Appendix IV.
When You Think Your Rights
Have Been Violated . . .
1) Do what the gospel says:
"Go and speak to your sister or brother; if they listens to you, you have
won them over." (Mt. 18) Attempt a personal reconciliation. Try to meet
with and talk to the person responsible for the violation.
2) Go to the local due process
office or dispute-resolution agency. Many dioceses and some parishes have
offices of conciliation, mediation or arbitration. Some have a grievance
officer or ombudsperson who can intervene or put an informal process in
motion. This process is strongly recommended in the Code of Canon Law (C.
3) File a petition with the
diocesan tribunal (i.e., the bishop's court). Canon 221.1 states: "The
Christian faithful can legitimately vindicate and defend the rights which
they enjoy in the Church before a competent ecclesiastical court." The
chief judge (called judicial vicar or officialis) and secretary of the
tribunal are located among the diocesan offices, and they should offer
instruction on how to file a petition to begin a case.
4) Appeal administratively;
that is, appeal to the church administrator who is the superior of the
person responsible for the violation, e.g., from the school principal to
the pastor of the parish, from the pastor to the bishop. This is an official
and approved procedure: confer canons 1732 and following:
a) The diocesan bishop is
the administrative superior in the diocese, and appeals should be addressed
b) Appeal may be made from
the bishop to the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio in Washington (the representative
of the pope in our country), or to the appropriate congregation in Rome.
(The congregations and their competencies are listed in the front of The
Official Catholic Directory).
c) The Apostolic Signatura
in Rome is the high court which supervises all of the other church courts
and corrects abuses of administrative authority. The "second section" of
the Signatura hears appeals against such administrative violations. (Officials
and addresses are also listed in the front of The Official Catholic Directory.)