Josemaría Escrivá Obras

In fact a cleric, and particularly a priest, incorporated by the sacrament of Holy Orders into the Ordo presbyterorum, is constituted by divine law as a cooperator of the Episcopal Order. The specific ministerial function of diocesan priests is determined, according to the practice of ecclesiastical law, by incardination, which attaches a priest to the service of a local church, under the authority of the respective bishop, and by a canonical mission, which confers upon a priest a definite ministry within the unity of the presbyterium whose head is the bishop. It is obvious, therefore, that the priest depends on his bishop, by virtue of a sacrament and juridical bond, in everything which refers to the assignment of his particular pastoral work; the doctrinal and disciplinary instructions which he receives for the exercise of his ministry; a just financial remuneration; and in all the pastoral indications which the bishop may give for the care of souls, for divine worship and for applying the prescriptions of common law relating to the rights and obligations derived from the clerical state.

All these necessary relations of dependence give juridical expression to the pastoral obedience, unity and communion with his own Ordinary which a priest ought to live with tact and refinement. But there also exists in the life of a secular priest a legitimate sphere of personal autonomy, freedom and responsibility, in which he enjoys the same rights and obligations as any other person in the Church. His juridical condition is thus clearly different from that of minors (cf. Canon 89 of the Code of Canon Law), and from that of the religious, who renounce the exercise of all or some of their personal rights by virtue of their religious profession.

Within the general limits of morality and of the duties proper to his state, a secular priest can freely administer and decide, individually or together with others in an association, all the spiritual, cultural and financial aspects of his personal life. He is free to look after his own development in accordance with his personal preferences and capabilities. He is free to lead the social life he wishes, and to order his life as he thinks best, provided that he fulfils the obligations of his ministry. He is free to dispose of his personal private goods according to the dictates of his conscience. And above all, he is free in his spiritual and ascetic life and in his acts of piety to follow the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, and to choose, from among the many means which the Church counsels or permits, those which are most suited to his own particular circumstances.

Both the Second Vatican Council and Pope Paul VI in his Sacerdotalis Coelibatus have earnestly commended diocesan and interdiocesan, national and world-wide associations which foster the holiness of priests in the exercise of their ministry and have been approved by the appropriate ecclesiastical authorities. The existence of such associations in no way weakens, as I have already said, the bond of communion and dependence which links each priest with his bishop, the brotherly unity which unites the members of the priesthood, nor the effectiveness of each priest's service in his own local Church.

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