IN THE 1983 CODE OF CANON LAW
Msgr. Rey Manuel S. Monsanto, HP, JCD
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro
Canon 482 of the CIC:
Practically there is only one canon in the Code that talks directly about the Chancellor: c. 482. It talks about his/her appointment, his/her principal office or work, and his/her work as notary and secretary of the diocesan curia. It also talks about an assistant to be called “vice-chancellor”. The canon states:
Par. 1: In each curia a chancellor is to be appointed, whose principal office, unless particular law states otherwise, is to ensure that the acts of the curia are drawn up and dispatched, and that they are kept safe in the archive of the curia.
Par. 2: If it is considered necessary, the chancellor may be given an assistant, who is to be called the vice-chancellor.
Par. 3: The chancellor and vice-chancellor are automatically notaries and secretaries of the curia.
The 1917 Code also allotted only one canon on the chancellor: c. 372, and more or less are repeated by the 1983 Code.
The appointment of a person to the Office of Chancellor can be done only by the diocesan bishop, for c.470 states: The appointment of those who fulfill an office in the diocesan curia belongs to the diocesan bishop. (See also c.157.) This “appointment” seems to refer more to what is called in canon law as “free conferral” of an office to be done by “the competent ecclesiastical authority” (see: c.147). For appointment in the canons on the provision of an ecclesiastical office is a result of a prior presentation (see: c.147) to be made “by a person having the right of presentation” (c.158). Now nowhere in the Code is there a person, whether physical or juridical, who has been given the right to present a candidate for the Office of Chancellor. However, there is also no law, which positively prohibits a diocesan bishop from asking the presbyterium or a group of priests, like the presbyteral council or the college of consultors, or even individuals like the Moderator of the Curia, to present a person or persons from whom he can choose. But the diocesan bishop will still not be bound to the presentation made (cfr: c.127, par.2, no.2). He is still free to choose someone even if not presented.
The Term of Office:
The Code is silent about the term of office of the diocesan Chancellor. It seems therefore that his/her term is “ad nutum episcopi” (at the will of the bishop). Many commentators however suggest that there should be a term so that he/she can also be given the chance to assume other tasks or work, like parochial work especially if he is a priest. Some authors suggest 3 or 5 years or according to the term of the reshuffling of the priests of the diocese. Some bishops however have solved this by giving the Chancellor also a parish work albeit a small or easily manageable one. This is because the office of the Chancellor is not for every priest, as we shall in the qualifications and functions of a Chancellor.
And because freely appointed they can also be freely removed: “The chancellor and the other notaries can be freely removed by the diocesan bishop” (c.485). Although freely appointed by the diocesan Bishop and basically “ad nutum episcopi”, he/she cannot however be removed whimsically by the diocesan bishop. For c.193, par.3 clearly states he can only be removed “for a just reason”. The full canon says: “When in accordance with the provisions of law an office is conferred upon someone at the prudent discretion of the competent authority, that person may, upon the judgment of the same authority, removed from the office for a just reason” (underlining ours).
The Chancellor is not “co-terminus” with the appointing bishop. Thus, when the appointing bishop resigns, retires, is transferred, or dies, the Chancellor remains. He can be changed by the next diocesan bishop but not by the Diocesan or Apostolic Administrator except with the consent of the diocesan consultors: “They can be removed by a diocesan (read also: apostolic) Administrator only with the consent of the college of consultors” (c.485).
If the Chancellor is a layperson then the laws of the land on employment and separation of workers and the rights of the diocesan Bishop have to be harmonized. And if a Religious then the laws of the Code on Religious working in the Diocese are to be observed (cfr. c.682).
In talking about the functions we will deal first with what Canon Law says are his/her functions as Chancellor and then as Notary, and then about the other tasks that can be combined with his/her being Chancellor and others he/she may be asked to do.
C.482, par.1 states three main tasks of a Chancellor:
to ensure that the acts of the Curia are drawn up
to ensure that those acts to be dispatched are dispatched
to keep those acts safe in the archive of the Curia
While the 1917 Code made the Chancellor simply as archivist or guardian of the acts of the Curia (i.e., to safeguard the acts in the archive, to put them in chronological order and to make a table of index of them – see c.372), the present Code makes his/her tasks correspond more to the tasks of a Notary; that is, he/she is also to draw up the acts of the Curia and then to see to it that they are properly transmitted to the persons for whom they are intended. This is the reason why the Chancellor as wells as the Vice-Chancellor are automatically Notaries and Secretaries of the Curia (see par.3of c.482). As secretary he/she has to do what every secretary of an association or organization is supposed to do.
According to the practice of the Church and good management, acts that are destined for persons should be dispatched or transmitted properly as soon as possible and in the safest way.
The 1983 Code of Canon Law lists a number of tasks a Notary has to do. And because a Chancellor is automatically a Notary then he/she also assumes the same duties. They are:
He/she authenticates public documents by his/her signature (c.483, par1). This is the reason is why the Chancellor always countersigns the public documents of the diocesan Bishop and of the Curia. The lack of his/her signature however does not invalidate an act unless it is required as a formality needed for validity (cfr. c.124, par.1). His/her signature only says that the document is truly or authentically issuing from the said source or authority.
He/she is to write acts and documents concerning decrees, arrangements, obligations, and other matters which require their intervention (c.484, no.1);
He/she is to faithfully record in writing what is done, and sign the document, with a note of the place, the day, the month and the year (c.484, no.2);
He/she is to show acts and documents from the archives to those who lawfully request them, and verify that copies conform to the original (c.484, no.3). (See also c.487, par.2.)