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In the
canon law of the Catholic Church The canon law of the Catholic Church ("canon law" comes from Latin ') is "how the Church organizes and governs herself". It is the system of laws and ecclesiastical legal principles made and enforced by the hierarchical authorities of the Catho ...
, a person is a subject of certain legal rights and
obligations An obligation is a course of action that someone is required to take, whether legal or moral. Obligations are constraints; they limit freedom. People who are under obligations may choose to freely act under obligations. Obligation exists when the ...
. Persons may be distinguished between physical and juridic persons. Juridic persons may be distinguished as collegial or non-collegial, and public or private juridical persons. The
Holy See The Holy See ( lat, Sancta Sedes, ; it, Santa Sede ), also called the See of Rome, Petrine See or Apostolic See, is the jurisdiction of the Pope in his role as the bishop of Rome. It includes the apostolic episcopal see of the Diocese of R ...
and the
Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptized Catholics worldwide . It is among the world's oldest and largest international institutions, and has played a ...
as such are not juridic persons since juridic persons are created by ecclesiastical law. Rather, they are moral persons by
divine law Divine law is any body of law that is perceived as deriving from a transcendent source, such as the will of God or godsin contrast to man-made law or to secular law. According to Angelos Chaniotis and Rudolph F. Peters, divine laws are typicall ...
.


Physical persons

By baptism, a natural person is incorporated into the church and is constituted a person in the same. All the validly baptized, called ''Christifideles'', have the status of physical persons under Catholic canon law.


Age of reason

The age of reason, sometimes called the age of discretion, is the age at which children attain the use of reason and begin to have
moral responsibility In philosophy, moral responsibility is the status of morally deserving praise, blame, reward, or punishment for an act or omission in accordance with one's moral obligations. Deciding what (if anything) counts as "morally obligatory" is a p ...
. On completion of the seventh year, a minor is presumed to have the use of reason, but
intellectual disability Intellectual disability (ID), also known as general learning disability in the United Kingdom and formerly mental retardation,Rosa's Law, Pub. L. 111-256124 Stat. 2643(2010). is a generalized neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by signifi ...
can prevent some individuals from ever attaining the use of reason. The term "use of reason" appears in the 1983 ''Code of Canon Law'' 17 times, but "age of reason" does not appear. However, the term "age of reason" is used in canon law commentaries such as the ''New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law'' published by Paulist Press in 2002. Children who do not have the use of reason and the mentally disabled are sometimes called "innocents" because of their inability to commit
sin In a religious context, sin is a transgression against divine law. Each culture has its own interpretation of what it means to commit a sin. While sins are generally considered actions, any thought, word, or act considered immoral, selfish, ...
s: even if their actions are objectively sinful, they sometimes lack the capacity for subjective guilt. In the
Eastern Catholic Churches The Eastern Catholic Churches or Oriental Catholic Churches, also called the Eastern-Rite Catholic Churches, Eastern Rite Catholicism, or simply the Eastern Churches, are 23 Eastern Christian autonomous ('' sui iuris'') particular churches of t ...
, the
Eucharist The Eucharist (; from Greek , , ), also known as Holy Communion and the Lord's Supper, is a Christian rite that is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. According to the New Testament, the rite was institut ...
and
Confirmation In Christian denominations that practice infant baptism, confirmation is seen as the sealing of the covenant created in baptism. Those being confirmed are known as confirmands. For adults, it is an affirmation of belief. It involves laying on ...
are given immediately after baptism, even to infants who do not yet have the use of reason. In
Latin Rite Latin liturgical rites, or Western liturgical rites, are Catholic rites of public worship employed by the Latin Church, the largest particular church '' sui iuris'' of the Catholic Church, that originated in Europe where the Latin language onc ...
Catholicism, Confirmation is conferred, except in danger of death, only on persons who have the use of reason; and
Holy Communion The Eucharist (; from Greek , , ), also known as Holy Communion and the Lord's Supper, is a Christian rite that is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. According to the New Testament, the rite was institute ...
may be administered to children only if "they have sufficient knowledge and careful preparation so that they understand the mystery of Christ according to their capacity and are able to receive the
Body of Christ In Christian theology, the term Body of Christ () has two main but separate meanings: it may refer to Jesus' words over the bread at the celebration of the Jewish feast of Passover that "This is my body" in (see Last Supper), or it may refer ...
with
faith Faith, derived from Latin ''fides'' and Old French ''feid'', is confidence or trust in a person, thing, or In the context of religion, one can define faith as "belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion". Religious people often ...
and devotion." In danger of death, the Eucharist may be administered also to children who lack the use of reason if the child can distinguish the sacrament from ordinary food and receive it reverently.Code of Canon Law, canon 913
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Age of majority

The age of majority in the Latin Catholic Church is 18 though, until the entry into force of the 1983 ''Code of Canon Law'' in 1983, the age of majority was 21.


Juridic persons

In simple terms, a juridic person is an artificial construct under canon law that allows a group of persons or things to function and be treated under canon law as a single unit. The 1917 ''Code of Canon Law'' referred to all juridic persons as "moral persons", while the 1983 ''Code of Canon Law'' uses the term "moral person" solely to designate the
Apostolic See An apostolic see is an episcopal see whose foundation is attributed to one or more of the apostles of Jesus or to one of their close associates. In Catholicism the phrase, preceded by the definite article and usually capitalized, refers to the ...
and the
Catholic Church The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptized Catholics worldwide . It is among the world's oldest and largest international institutions, and has played a ...
itself. Kennedy gives a more thorough definition: "A juridic person is an artificial person, distinct from all natural persons or material goods, constituted by competent ecclesiastical authority for an apostolic purpose, with a capacity for continuous existence and with canonical rights and duties like those of a natural person conferred upon it by law or by the authority which constitutes it and to which it is also accountable under canon law." The doctrine of juridic personality is thought to have its origins in
canon law Canon law (from grc, κανών, , a 'straight measuring rod, ruler') is a set of ordinances and regulations made by ecclesiastical authority (church leadership) for the government of a Christian organization or church and its members. It is t ...
. It has been attributed to
Pope Innocent IV Pope Innocent IV ( la, Innocentius IV; – 7 December 1254), born Sinibaldo Fieschi, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 25 June 1243 to his death in 1254. Fieschi was born in Genoa and studied at the universiti ...
, who seems at least to have helped spread the idea of ''persona ficta'' as it is called in Latin. In the early church, the doctrine of ''persona ficta'' allowed
monasteries A monastery is a building or complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplaces of monastics, monks or nuns, whether living in communities or alone (hermits). A monastery generally includes a place reserved for prayer whic ...
to have a legal existence apart from the monks, simplifying the difficulty in balancing the need for such groups to have infrastructure despite monks' vows of personal poverty. Another effect of this was that as a fictional person, a monastery could not be held guilty of
delict Delict (from Latin ''dēlictum'', past participle of ''dēlinquere'' ‘to be at fault, offend’) is a term in civil and mixed law jurisdictions whose exact meaning varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but is always centered on the notion o ...
due to not having a soul, helping to protect the organization from non-contractual obligations to surrounding communities. This effectively moved such liability to individuals acting within the organization while protecting the structure itself since individuals were considered to have a soul and, therefore, capable of being guilty of negligence and excommunicated.


Canonical age

The canonical age in Roman Catholic canon law is an age when the faithful becomes capable of incurring certain obligations, enjoying special privileges, embracing special states of life, holding office or dignity, or receiving the sacraments. Each of these human acts requires the development of mind, body, or spirit appropriate to its free and voluntary acceptance and adequate knowledge of, and capability for, the duties and obligations attached. The ages prescribed by canon law differ, as do the privileges, offices, and dignities to which they apply.


Sacraments

#
Baptism Baptism (from grc-x-koine, βάπτισμα, váptisma) is a form of ritual purification—a characteristic of many religions throughout time and geography. In Christianity, it is a Christian sacrament of initiation and adoption, almost in ...
: the sacrament can be validly administered regardless of age. #
Confirmation In Christian denominations that practice infant baptism, confirmation is seen as the sealing of the covenant created in baptism. Those being confirmed are known as confirmands. For adults, it is an affirmation of belief. It involves laying on ...
: the canonical age is the age of reason. #
Holy Communion The Eucharist (; from Greek , , ), also known as Holy Communion and the Lord's Supper, is a Christian rite that is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. According to the New Testament, the rite was institute ...
: the canonical age is the age of reason. Children in danger of death, capable of committing and confessing to mortal sin, and distinguishing heavenly from ordinary food when desirous of receiving Holy Communion, must not be denied, although they may not have achieved the minimum age prescribed. # Confession: the canonical age is the age of reason. After reaching the age of reason, each member of the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully their grave sins at least once a year. (CIC can. 989) # Anointing of the Sick: the sacrament is to be administered to any Catholic who desires it (normally it is the sick or older person who suffers from infirmity) or who is in mortal danger # Holy Orders: the sacrament can be received at the earliest at 23 years (deacons), 25 years (priest), or 35 years (bishop), according to canon 1031 CIC. The Apostolic See can grant dispensations. #
Marriage Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a culturally and often legally recognized union between people called spouses. It establishes rights and obligations between them, as well as between them and their children, and between ...
: the age for a valid sacramental marriage is, according to can. 1083, 16 years for males and 14 years for females. The conference of bishops is free to establish a higher age for the licit celebration of marriage. All Catholics are bound to attend Holy Mass on Sundays and every
holy day of obligation In the Catholic Church, holy days of obligation are days on which the faithful are expected to attend Mass, and engage in rest from work and recreation (id est, they are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed ...
. To be a
godparent In infant baptism and denominations of Christianity, a godparent (also known as a sponsor, or '' gossiprede'') is someone who bears witness to a child's christening and later is willing to help in their catechesis, as well as their lifelo ...
at the bestowal of baptism and confirmation, a Catholic must be confirmed and must normally be 16 years old (canon 874 CIC). The days of abstinence are to be respected by Catholics of at least 14 years of age; the law of fasting from 18 to the beginning of the sixtieth year (canon 1252 CIC).


Priesthood, orders, and clerical office

The ancient discipline was neither universal nor fixed but varied with circumstances of time and locality. The requisite age, according to Gratian, for tonsure and the first three minor orders, those of doorkeeper, reader, and exorcist, was seven, and for acolyte, twelve years. The Council of Trent fixed the ages of 21 years and 1 day for
subdeacon Subdeacon (or sub-deacon) is a minor order or ministry for men in various branches of Christianity. The subdeacon has a specific liturgical role and is placed between the acolyte (or reader) and the deacon in the order of precedence. Subdeacons i ...
ship, 22 years and 1 day for
deacon A deacon is a member of the diaconate, an office in Christian churches that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions. Major Christian churches, such as the Catholic Chur ...
ship, and 24 years and 1 day for
priest A priest is a religious leader authorized to perform the sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in partic ...
hood. Canon 1031 CIC fixed the ages of 23 for
deacon A deacon is a member of the diaconate, an office in Christian churches that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions. Major Christian churches, such as the Catholic Chur ...
ship and 25 for
priest A priest is a religious leader authorized to perform the sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in partic ...
hood. The first day of the year the canonical age is to be reached is sufficiently timely for the reception of the order. Trent confirmed the Lateran age of thirty years for the episcopate. The 1983 ''Code of Canon Law'' estimates the general age for a permanent deacon as thirty-five years. A candidate for the permanent diaconate who is not married is not to be admitted to the diaconate until after completing at least the twenty-fifth year of age; one who is married, not until after completing at least the thirty-fifth year of age.Code of Canon Law can. 1031 For admission to the canonical
novitiate The novitiate, also called the noviciate, is the period of training and preparation that a Christian ''novice'' (or ''prospective'') monastic, apostolic, or member of a religious order undergoes prior to taking vows in order to discern whether ...
, an age of 17 years is fixed by Canon law (can. 643); for admission to the solemn vows (and analogously to the Consecration of virgins), it is 21 (can. 658). Generals, provincials,
abbot Abbot is an ecclesiastical title given to the male head of a monastery in various Western religious traditions, including Christianity. The office may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not the head of a monastery. Th ...
s, and other regular
prelate A prelate () is a high-ranking member of the Christian clergy who is an ordinary or who ranks in precedence with ordinaries. The word derives from the Latin , the past participle of , which means 'carry before', 'be set above or over' or 'pre ...
s having quasi-episcopal jurisdiction must, according to many constitutions, have completed their thirtieth year before an election; according to others, their 25th year. However, various orders and congregations have rules for the requisite ages for inferior offices and dignities. The
Council of Trent The Council of Trent ( la, Concilium Tridentinum), held between 1545 and 1563 in Trent (or Trento), now in northern Italy, was the 19th ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. Prompted by the Protestant Reformation, it has been described as ...
(Sess. xxv, cap. 7, de regular. et monial.) fixed forty years, and eight years after her solemn vows, for an
abbess An abbess (Latin: ''abbatissa''), also known as a mother superior, is the female superior of a community of Catholic nuns in an abbey. Description In the Catholic Church (both the Latin Church and Eastern Catholic), Eastern Orthodox, Cop ...
, mother general, or prioress of a religious order. If a convent (monastery) had no
nun A nun is a woman who vows to dedicate her life to religious service, typically living under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the enclosure of a monastery or convent.''The Oxford English Dictionary'', vol. X, page 599. The term is ...
or
religious sister A religious sister (abbreviated ''Sr.'' or Sist.) in the Catholic Church is a woman who has taken public vows in a religious institute dedicated to apostolic works, as distinguished from a nun who lives a cloistered monastic life dedicated to pra ...
meeting those requirements, then one over thirty years old and more than five years professed can be elected. An election contrary to these rules is invalid.


References


Bibliography

* James A. Coriden, Thomas J. Green, Donald E. Heintschel (eds), ''The Code of Canon Law: A Text and Commentary'', Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1985. {{Catholic, title=Canonical Age


Further reading


Catholic Encyclopedia: Canonical Age
(of historical value only) Catholic canon law of persons