From a reader:
My question is about the requirements for the Chancellor of a diocese. Some people have told me that the Chancellor is supposed to always be a priest. Is this correct? (Our diocese has had a woman Chancellor for decades.)
The chancellor is the chief notary of a diocese. The law requires that a chancellor (and any notary) must be of unimpaired reputation and above all suspicion” (can. 483).
That is it!
I am pretty sure that if the matter being notarized involves the reputation of a priest, the notary must be a priest.
Many diocesan bishops have added other responsibilities (in addition to that of being the chief notary) on the shoulders of the chancellor. These responsibilities (e.g., processing requests for dispensation, advising the bishop, drawing up statutes or other decrees) are technically not essential to the role of a chancellor. The default duty of a chancellor is to provide proof that the bishop did sign something. Of course if a bishop asks the chancellor to do X, the chancellor is probably going to salute and do X.
It’s not unbecoming for a layperson to be a chancellor. However, depending on the diocese, some lay chancellors have been given certain responsibilities that probably should be in the hands of a cleric.
I should make it clear that my response to this question is not a tacit invitation for people to write about strange or bad situations where they are.
My “Ask Father Question Box” is not “The Wailing Wall”.