Can a US bishop censor a priest? The Law.


Canon 831—§2. “It is for the conference of bishops to establish norms concerning the requirements for clerics and members of religious institutes to take part on radio or television in dealing with questions of Catholic doctrine or morals.”

NCCB Complementary Norm for Canon 831 §2:

“The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, in accord with the prescriptions of canon 831 §2, hereby decrees that, provided no harm to the Church could result from their presence, clerics and members of religious institutes may participate in radio and television programs which treat of Catholic doctrine and morals. A cleric or religious who regularly takes part in such programs must be qualified by his or her knowledge of the subject and the teaching of the magisterium, and must obtain the permission of either his or her proper diocesan bishop or the diocesan bishop of the place where the radio or television program is originally broadcast. In the case of members of religious institutes, permission of the competent superior is also required.”

This norm was granted recognitio by the Congregation for Bishops in accord with article 82 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus and issued by decree of the Congregation for Bishops signed by His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect, and His Excellency Most Reverend Franciscus Monterisi, Secretary, and dated November 27, 2001.

There are quite a few ambiguous terms in the US bishops’ norm, which could result in the violation of basic rights of members of the Catholic faithful to be free from being hindered. In any event, this norm is so wide that it would give the right to a diocesan bishop to hinder a cleric from saying nearly anything in an radio or television broadcast provided that he is broadcast or disseminated more than once.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Tim from St. Agnes says:

    Thanks for researching this.

    …thankfully, a Bishop can not censor the laity…

  2. Alas, that is not entirely accurate. There is an accompanying norm from the (then) NCCB for 1983 CIC c. 772, §2 which is virtually identical to the one I provided above for clerics, except the bishops applied it to non-clerics and non-religious, that is to say, lay people in general. The bishops reserve to themselves the right to permit or deny permission to LAY PEOPLE to be broadcast on TV and radio.

    How can they enforce that? I suppose they can apply a censure of some sort. I am not sure if any bishop has ever applied this to any lay person in the USA. The fact remains that the norm is on the books.

    Bishops have a thousand ways by which they may justly or unjustly crush a cleric under his thumb. They have a great deal effective less power with lay people. Of course, obedience is the key in all cases. That is what the bishop depends on: obedience. Obedience is in many ways the lymph in the Church’s Mystical Body.

Comments are closed.