ecclesiastical property


All temporal goods which pertain to the universal Church, to the Apostolic See, or to any moral person in the church, as real estate, money, edifices, and sacred vessels. Jesus Christ instituted the Church as a perfect, independent, and visible society whose end is the sanctification and salvation of men, to be accomplished by the exercises of religion. To attain this end the Church must support its ministers, must build churches and altars, must establish and maintain religious and charitable institutions. Since the Church has been given the right to work for the salvation of men, it necessarily follows that it has the right to the means necessary for the attainment of that end; hence the right of the Church to property. The doctors and pastors of the Church have always maintained the principle of absolute ownership and free administration of ecclesiastical property independently of the civil power. This power of acquiring and possessing property belongs to the Catholic Church and to the Apostolic See by divine right. Individual dioceses, incorporated as independent entities, and the singular churches of the diocese, can possess and administer property. If canonically established as moral persons, chapters, religious orders, religious congregations and seminaries, can also exercise this right. In the United States church property is safeguarded by different methods; the bishop being instituted a corporation sole or by holding the ecclesiastical property in trust in the name of the diocese or in his own name by an absolute and full legal title. In some dioceses, each church is incorporated separately. The members of this corporation are ex officio the bishop, vicar general, and the pastor, who selects two laymen from the parish to represent the congregation. In this way, the bishop remains always in control.

MLA Citation

  • “ecclesiastical property. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 14 August 2010. Web. 27 September 2020. <>