Catholic priests in public office
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In canon law
Canon law is the internal religious law governing the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of churches. In the Catholic Church, it is promulgated by the Pope as its head. The Codex Iuris Canonici (Code of Canon Law, currently the 1983 version) governs the Latin Church, which comprises the larger part of the Catholic Church.
Canon 285 of the 1983 Codex Iuris Canonici is a provision of Roman Catholic canon law that prohibits members of the Catholic clergy from doing things that are "unbecoming" or "foreign to the clerical state". In addition, it prohibits diocesan priests and bishops from serving in "public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power".
Law in particular countries
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Examples by country
Three Catholic priests have been elected to the House of Commons of Canada.
Andrew Hogan was the first Catholic priest to serve as a Canadian Member of Parliament. First elected to represent the electoral district of Cape Breton—East Richmond, Nova Scotia, in the 1974 federal election, he was re-elected in 1979 but defeated in 1980. Hogan was a member of the New Democratic Party.
Robert Ogle was elected to the House of Commons in 1979 in the electoral district of Saskatoon East, Saskatchewan. Ogle was re-elected in 1980. He chose not to seek re-election in 1984 as a result of the new ban by the Holy See on clergy in public office. Like Hogan, Ogle was a member of the New Democratic Party.
Raymond Gravel was elected in a 2006 by-election in the electoral district of Repentigny, Quebec. He had received a dispensation from his diocesan bishop to enter politics. Gravel did not seek re-election in the 2008 federal election after Holy See authorities ordered him to choose between politics and the priesthood following controversy over his opposition to anti-abortion Bill C-484 and his support for the Order of Canada nomination of abortion rights activist Henry Morgentaler. Although he chose to leave politics, Gravel maintained that he remained, in accordance with Catholic doctrine, opposed to abortion. Gravel was a member of the nationalist Bloc Québécois.
Barthélemy Boganda, a priest from Ubangi-Shari (today the Central African Republic), was elected to the French National Assembly in 1946, serving until 1958. He left the priesthood in 1950 and married, and from 1958 to 1959 served as the first Prime Minister of the Central African Republic.
In the 1970s and 80s, the President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, appointed three priests to his cabinet: Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fernando Cardenal as Minister of Education, and his brother, Ernesto Cardenal, as Minister of Culture.
In 2005, Fernando Lugo, the Bishop of San Pedro, requested laicization to run for office but it was denied. In 2008, he was elected President of Paraguay, in spite of Article 235 of the Constitution prohibiting any minister of any religion from serving as President. After his election he was laicized. In 2012, he was impeached for unrelated reasons.
Hugo Kołłątaj was a Polish noble and Catholic priest who in 1786 received the office of the Referendary of Lithuania. He co-authored the Constitution of May 3, 1791 and held a variety of posts before falling out of political favor in 1802 as a result of his radical views.
Slovakia and Czechoslovakia
From 1939 to 1945, the priest Jozef Tiso was President of the First Slovak Republic, a satellite state of Nazi Germany. Following World War II, he was convicted and hanged for treason that subsumed also war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Augustine Geve was a Catholic priest who served as a member of the National Parliament from 2001 to 2002 and was Minister of Youth, Women and Sports from 2001 to 2002. He was assassinated on 20 August 2002.
Possibly the earliest known instance of a Catholic priest serving in public office in the United States was Gabriel Richard. Born in France, he founded the University of Michigan and served as a delegate from Michigan Territory from 1823 to 1825.
Two priests, Robert Drinan and Robert John Cornell, have served in the United States Congress. In 1980, when Pope John Paul II decreed that priests not serve in elected office, Representative Drinan withdrew from his re-election campaign, and Cornell withdrew from his bid to re-gain the seat he had lost in the 1978 Congressional election. In 1983, the prohibition on serving in governmental office was codified as section 3 of canon 285 of the Codex Iuris Canonici.
List of priests who have held public office
Listed below are the names of the priests, and the countries they served in parentheses.
- Fernando Arturo de Meriño (Dominican Republic)
- Barthélemy Boganda (France, Central African Republic)
- Ernesto Cardenal (Nicaragua)
- Fernando Cardenal (Nicaragua)
- Robert John Cornell (US)
- Robert Drinan (US)
- Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann (Nicaragua, Libya)
- Augustine Geve (Solomon Islands)
- Raymond Gravel (Canada)
- Andrej Hlinka (Czechoslovakia)
- Andrew Hogan (Canada)
- Theodor Innitzer (Austria)
- Ludwig Kaas (Germany)
- Hugo Kołłątaj (Poland)
- Fernando Lugo (Paraguay)
- Robert Ogle (Canada)
- Gabriel Richard (US)
- Ignaz Seipel (Austria)
- Stanisław Staszic (Poland)
- Jozef Tiso (Slovakia)
- Beda Weber (Germany)
- Fulbert Youlou (France, Republic of the Congo)
- Jean-Bertrand Aristide (Haiti)
- Kevin Schmiesing. "John A. Ryan, Virgil Michel, and the problem of clerical politics". VLex.com.
- The Catholic Church includes a number of "particular" churches that share the same faith and are in communion with the Pope in Rome. The term "particular church" can be used to refer either to a diocese, under the leadership of a bishop, or to an "Ecclesia ritualis sui iuris", which is a larger body of believers that may comprise many dioceses. Nearly all geographical dioceses of the Catholic Church in the United States, for example, belong to the Latin Church.
- "THE OBLIGATIONS AND RIGHTS OF CLERICS". Code of Canon Law - IntraText. Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
- "In 30 countries, heads of state must belong to a certain religion". 2014-07-22. Retrieved 2016-09-11.
- "Constitute". www.constituteproject.org. Retrieved 2016-09-11.
- "Priest MP leaves politics after pressure from Vatican"
- Martin, Douglas (12 May 2009). "Robert J. Cornell, Priest Who Served as Congressman, Is Dead at 89". obituary. The New York Times.