Article 4The Parish Priest and the Parish
The non-ordained faithful, as happens in many worthy cases, may collaborate effectively in the pastoral ministry of clerics in parishes, health care centres, charitable and educational institutions, prisons, Military Ordinariates etc. Provisions regulating such extraordinary form of collaboration are provided by Canon 517, § 2.
§ 1. The right understanding and application of this canon, according to which "si ob sacerdotum penuriam Episcopus dioecesanus aestimaverit participationem in exercitio curae pastoralis paroeciae concredendam esse diacono aliive personae sacerdotali charactere non insignate aut personarum communitati, sacerdotem constitat aliquem qui, potestatibus facultatibus parochi instructus curam pastoralem moderetur", requires that this exceptional provision be used only with strict adherence to conditions contained in it.
a) ob sacerdotum penuriam and not for reasons of convenience or ambiguous "advancement of the laity", etc.;
b) this is participatio in exercitio curae pastoralis and not directing, coordinating, moderating or governing the Parish; these competencies, according to the canon, are the competencies of a priest alone.
Because these are exceptional cases, before employing them, other possibilities should be availed of, such as using of the services of retired priests still capable of such service, or entrusting several parishes to one priest or to a coetus sacerdotum.(75)
In any event, the preference which this canon gives to deacons cannot be overlooked.
The same canon, however, reaffirms that these forms of participation in the pastoral care of parishes cannot, in any way, replace the office of Parish Priest. The same canon decrees that "Episcopus dioecesanus (...) sacerdotem constituat aliquem qui potestatibus et facultatibus parochi instructus, curam pastoralem moderetur." Indeed, the office of Parish Priest can be assigned validly only to a priest (cf. Canon 521, § 1) even in cases where there is a shortage of clergy.(76)
§ 2. In the same regard, it must be noted that the Parish Priest is the Pastor proper to the parish entrusted to him(77) and remains such until his pastoral office shall have ceased.(78)
The presentation of resignation at the age of 75 by a Parish Priest does not of itself (ipso iure) terminate his pastoral office. Such takes effect only when the diocesan Bishop, following prudent consideration of all the circumstances, shall have definitively accepted his resignation in accordance with Canon 538, § 3 and communicated such to him in writing.(79) In the light of those situations where scarcity of priests exists, the use of special prudence in this matter would be judicious.
In view of the right of every cleric to exercise the ministry proper to him, and in the absence of any grave health or disciplinary reasons, it should be noted that having reached the age of 75 does not constitute a binding reason for the diocesan Bishop to accept a Parish Priest's resignation. This also serves to avoid a functional concept of the Sacred Ministry.(80)