Canon Text
Canon 617.Superiors are to fulfil their office and exercise their authority in accordance with the norms of the universal law and of their own law.
Canon 618.The authority which Superiors receive from God through the ministry of the
Church is to be exercised by them in a spirit of service. In fulfilling their office they are to be docile to the will of God, and are to govern those subject to them as children of God. By their reverence for the human person, they are to promote voluntary obedience. They are to listen willingly to their subjects and foster their cooperation for the good of the institute and the Church, without prejudice however to their authority to decide and to command what is to be done.
Canon 619.Superiors are to devote themselves to their office with diligence. Together with the members entrusted to them, they are to strive to build in Christ a fraternal community, in which God is sought and loved above all. They are therefore frequently to nourish their members with the food of God’s word and lead them to the celebration of the liturgy. They are to be an example to the members in cultivating virtue and in observing the laws and traditions proper to the institute.
They are to give the members opportune assistance in their personal needs. They are to be solicitous in caring for and visiting the sick; they are to chide the restless, console the fainthearted and be patient with all.
Canon 620.Major Superiors are those who govern an entire institute, or a province or a part equivalent to a province, or an autonomous house; the vicars of the above are also major Superiors. To these are added the Abbot Primate and the Superior of a
monastic congregation, though these do not have all the authority which the universal law gives to major Superiors.
Canon 621.A province is a union of several houses which, under one superior, constitutes an immediate part of the same institute, and is canonically established by lawful authority.
Canon 622.The supreme Moderator has authority over all provinces, houses and members of the institute, to be exercised in accordance with the institute’s own law.
Other Superiors have authority within the limits of their office.
Canon 623.To be validly appointed or elected to the office of Superior, members must have been perpetually or definitively professed for an appropriate period of time, to be determined by their own law or, for major Superiors, by the constitutions.
Canon 624.§1 Superiors are to be constituted for a certain and appropriate period of time, according to the nature and needs of the institute unless the constitutions establish otherwise for the supreme Moderator and for Superiors of an autonomous house.

§2 An institute’s own law is to make suitable provisions so that Superiors constituted for a defined time do not continue in offices of governance for too long a period of time without an interval.

§3 During their period in office, however, Superiors may be removed or transferred to another office, for reasons prescribed in the institute’s own law.
Canon 625.The supreme Moderator of the institute is to be designated by canonical election, in accordance with the constitutions.

§2 The Bishop of the principal house of the institute presides at the election of the
Superior of the autonomous monastery mentioned in can. 615, and at the election of the supreme Moderator of an institute of diocesan right.

§3 Other Superiors are to be constituted in accordance with the constitutions, but in such a way that if they are elected, they require the confirmation of the competent major Superior; if they are appointed by the Superior, the appointment is to be preceded by suitable consultation.
Canon 626.Superiors in conferring offices, and members in electing to office, are to observe the norms of the universal law and the institute’s own law, avoiding any abuse or preference of persons. They are to have nothing but God and the good of the institute before their eyes, and appoint or elect those whom, in the Lord, they know to be worthy and fitting. In elections, besides, they are to avoid directly or indirectly lobbying for votes, either for themselves or for others.
Canon 627.§1 Superiors are to have their own council, in accordance with the constitutions, and they must make use of it in the exercise of their office.

§2 Apart from the cases prescribed in the universal law, an institute’s own law is to determine the cases in which the validity of an act depends upon consent or advice being sought in accordance with can. 127.
Canon 628.§1 Superiors who are designated for this office by the institute’s own law are at stated times to visit the houses and the members entrusted to them, in accordance with the norms of the same law.

§2 The diocesan Bishop has the right and the duty to visit the following, even in respect of religious discipline:

1° the autonomous monasteries mentioned in can. 615;

NB Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated life and Societies of Apostolic Life,
Instruction Cor Orans, 1 April 2018:

111. In exemption of can. 628, §2, 1° CJC, the Federation President, within the established time, accompanies the Regular Visitator in the canonical visit to the federated monasteries as a Co-Visitator.
[Exemption approved by the Holy Father in a specific form.]

2° the individual houses of an institute of diocesan right situated in his territory.

§3 The members are to act with confidence towards the visitator, to whom when lawfully questioning they are bound to reply truthfully and with charity. It is not lawful for anyone in any way to divert the members from this obligation or otherwise to hinder the scope of the visitation.
Canon 629.Superiors are to reside each in his or her own house, and they are not to leave it except in accordance with the institute’s own law.
Canon 630.§1 While safeguarding the discipline of the institute, Superiors are to acknowledge the freedom due to the members concerning the sacrament of penance and the direction of conscience.

§2 Superiors are to take care, in accordance with the institute’s own law, that the members have suitable confessors available, to whom they may confess frequently.

§3 In monasteries of cloistered nuns, in houses of formation, and in large lay communities, there are to be ordinary confessors, approved by the local Ordinary after consultation with the community. There is however, no obligation to approach these confessors.

§4 Superiors are not to hear the confessions of their subjects unless the members spontaneously request them to do so.

§5 The members are to approach their superiors with trust and be able to open their minds freely and spontaneously to them. Superiors, however, are forbidden in any way to induce the members to make a manifestation of conscience to themselves.
Canon 631.§1 In an institute the general chapter has supreme authority in accordance with the constitutions. It is to be composed in such a way that it represents the whole institute and becomes a true sign of its unity in charity. Its principal functions are to protect the patrimony of the institute mentioned in can. 578 and to foster appropriate renewal in accord with that patrimony. It also elects the supreme Moderator, deals with matters of greater importance, and issues norms which all are bound to obey.

§2 The composition of the general chapter and the limits of its powers are to be defined in the constitutions. The institute’s own law is to determine in further detail the order to be observed in the celebration of the chapter, especially regarding elections and the matters to be treated.

§3 According to the norms determined in the institute’s own law, not only provinces and local communities, but also any individual member may freely submit their wishes and suggestions to the general chapter.
Canon 632.The institute’s own law is to determine in greater detail matters concerning other chapters and other similar assemblies of the institute, that is, concerning their nature, authority, composition, procedure and time of celebration.
Canon 633.§1 Participatory and consultative bodies are faithfully to carry out the task entrusted to them, in accordance with the universal law and the institute’s own law.
In their own way they are to express the care and participation of all the members for the good of the whole institute or community .

§2 In establishing and utilising these means of participation and consultation, a wise discernment is to be observed, and the way in which they operate is to be in conformity with the character and purpose of the institute.
Canon 634.§1 Since they are by virtue of the law juridical persons, institutes, provinces and houses have the capacity to acquire, possess, administer and alienate temporal goods, unless this capacity is excluded or limited in the constitutions.

§2 They are, however, to avoid all appearance of luxury, excessive gain and the accumulation of goods.
Canon 635.§1 Since the temporal goods of religious institutes are ecclesiastical goods, they are governed by the provisions of Book V on ‘The Temporal Goods of the
Church’, unless there is express provision to the contrary.

§2 Each institute, however, is to establish suitable norms for the use and administration of goods, so that the poverty proper to the institute may be fostered, defended and expressed.
Canon 636.§1 In each institute, and in each province ruled by a major Superior, there is to be a financial administrator, distinct from the major Superior and constituted in accordance with the institute’s own law. The financial administrator is to administer the goods under the direction of the respective Superior. Even in local communities a financial administrator, distinct from the local Superior, is in so far as possible to be constituted.

§2 At the time and in the manner determined in the institute’s own law the financial administrator and others with financial responsibilities are to render an account of their administration to the competent authority.
Canon 637.Once a year, the autonomous monasteries mentioned in can. 615 are to render an account of their administration to the local Ordinary. The local Ordinary also has the right to be informed about the financial affairs of a religious house of diocesan right.
Canon 638.§1 It is for an institute’s own law, within the limits of the universal law, to define the acts which exceed the purpose and the manner of ordinary administration, and to establish what is needed for the validity of an act of extraordinary administration.

§2 Besides Superiors, other officials designated for this task in the institute’s own law may, within the limits of their office, validly make payments and perform juridical acts of ordinary administration.

§3 For the validity of alienation, and of any transaction by which the patrimonial condition of the juridical person could be adversely affected there is required the written permission of the competent Superior, given with the consent of his or her council. Moreover, the permission of the Holy See is required if the transaction involves a sum exceeding that which the Holy See has determined for each region, or if it concerns things donated to the Church as a result of a vow, or objects which are precious by reason of their artistic or historical value.

§4 For the autonomous monasteries mentioned in can. 615, and for institutes of diocesan right, the written consent of the diocesan Bishop is necessary.

NB Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated life and Societies of Apostolic Life,
Instruction Cor Orans, 1 April 2018:

52. In derogation from can. 638, §4 CJC, for the validity of the alienation and of any other transaction by which the patrimonial situation of the monastery could be damaged, the written permission of the Major Superior is required with the consent of the Council or of the conventual Chapter, depending on the value of the sale and the transaction, and the opinion of the Federal President.
[Exemption approved by the Holy Father in a specific form.]

81. As regards the female monasteries entrusted to the particular vigilance of the diocesan Bishop, this is expressed in respect to the monastery community mainly in the cases established by the universal law; as the diocesan Bishop, he:
… d) in derogation from can. 638, §4 CJC, gives as Local Ordinary, his written consent for particular administrative acts, if established by its proper law.
[Exemption approved by the Holy Father in a specific form.]

108. In derogation from can. 638, §4 CJC, for the validity of the alienation of the assets of the suppressed monasteries, the President of the Federation and the Federal Council, beyond the value of the asset to be alienated, always and exclusively requires written permission from the Holy See.
[Exemption approved by the Holy Father in a specific form.]
Canon 639.§1 If a juridical person has contracted debts and obligations, even with the permission of the Superior, it is responsible for them.

§2 If individual members have, with the permission of the Superior, entered into contracts concerning their own property, they are responsible. If, however, they have conducted business for the institute on the mandate of a Superior, the institute is responsible.

§3 If a religious has entered into a contract without any permission of Superiors, the religious is responsible, not the juridical person.

§4 However, an action can always be brought against a person who has gained from a contract entered into.

§5 Superiors are to be careful not to allow debts to be contracted unless they are certain that normal income can service the interest on the debt, and by lawful amortization repay the capital over a period which is not unduly extended.
Canon 640.Taking into account the circumstances of the individual places, institutes are to make a special effort to give, as it were, a collective testimony of charity and poverty. They are to do all in their power to donate something from their own resources to help the needs of the Church and the support of the poor.

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