Ecclesia supplet

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Ecclesia supplet ( Latin for "supplements the church") is a principle of canon law. According to the understanding of the Roman Catholic Church , an act in the name of the Church can, in spite of a lack of jurisdiction , still acquire validity under certain circumstances because the Church as a whole complements what the agent lacks. The term for this act is suppletion .

Theological, pastoral and legal aspects

The theological starting point of ecclesia supplet is the principle that someone who acts on behalf of the church does not carry out his own will, but that the Catholic Church works through him . Therefore the Church “supplements” when the person involved is subject to error or doubt as to the legal basis or the facts on which that action is based . For example, the donor of a sacrament may be unsure whether he has been given the authority required for the donation. This deficiency is made up for by acting on behalf of the Church. His actions thus become the institution's actions.

The principle is important in pastoral care insofar as it helps to ensure that the believers' access to the sacraments does not fail because of obstacles such as the errors or doubts mentioned on the part of the giver of the sacrament.

The principle in the Codex Iuris Canonici in can. 144 CIC expressed:

"1. In the event of an actually existing or legally presumable general error and also in the event of a positive and well-founded legal or factual doubt, the Church replaces the lack of executive power for the external and internal areas.
2. The same norm applies to those mentioned in cann. 882, 883, 966 and 1111, § 1 applied. "

The principle of ecclesia supplet is therefore "not about the healing of invalid legal acts, but about a legal delegation of management power".


Very early on, during the persecution of Christians in the first centuries , the question arose whether a bishop or a priest who had fallen away from the teaching of the Catholic Church had validly donated the sacrament of baptism (see also heretic baptism controversy ). At that time it was decided that in case of doubt a baptism is to be regarded as validly donated and does not need to be baptized again. Similar questions have cropped up over the course of two millennia.

As a result, the Ecclesia supplet can already be found in older canon law sources. In the predecessor of the current CIC from 1983, the CIC from 1917 , there was a similarly formulated Canon 209: In errore communi aut in dubio positivo et probabili sive iuris, sive facti, iurisdictionem supplet Ecclesia pro foro tum externo tum interno . The CIC of 1983 refers the principle “ecclesia supplet” specifically to the sacrament of Confirmation (can. 882f), the sacrament of confession (can. 966) and marriage (can. 1111 § 1).


Individual evidence

  1. ^ "Supplieren" = "add, supplement, complete, insert, replace", so the German dictionary by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (vol. 20, col. 1248).
  2. Hans Heimerl , Helmuth Pree : Church Law. General norms and marriage law ( Springer's series of short textbooks on law ). Springer, Vienna / New York 1983, ISBN 3-211-81758-1 , especially pp. 118–120 (significance of the standard as a whole) and pp. 238–240 (impact on Catholic marriage law).
  3. Canon Law. Textbook based on the Codex Iuris Canonici . Founded by Eduard Eichmann , continued by Klaus Mörsdorf , revised by Winfried Aymans (“ Mörsdorf – Aymans ”), Vol. 1: Introductory basic questions and general norms . Schöningh, Paderborn, 13th, completely revised. Edition 1991, ISBN 3-506-70491-5 , therein § 41: Exercise of pastoral power , especially p. 443f.
  4. Thomas Schüller : Mercy as the principle of the application of law in the church in the service of the salus animarum. A canonical contribution to methodological problems in canon law theory . Echter, Würzburg 1993, ISBN 3-429-01486-7 , pp. 202-209.
  5. ^ Richard Potz: Ecclesia supplet / Suppletion . In: Religion in Past and Present (RGG), study edition, Vol. 2, Sp. 1046.
  6. Maurice Villain: Is an apostolic succession outside the chain of the laying on of hands possible? , in: Concilium , Jg. 4 (1968), pp. 275-284, here p. 275.
  7. ^ Helmuth Pree: The exercise of power of attorney . In: Joseph Listl , Hubert Müller , Heribert Schmitz (eds.): Handbook of Catholic Church Law . Pustet, Regensburg 1983, ISBN 3-7917-0860-0 , pp. 131-141.
  8. ^ Hansen Fredrik: The Unity and Threefold Expression of the Potestas Regiminis of the Diocesan Bishop. Cann. 381 § 1 and 391 . Edizioni Pontificia Università Gregoriana, Rome 2014, ISBN 978-88-7839-276-2 , p. 41.