Canonical age

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The canonical age originally denotes any determination of a number of years of life in order to obtain certain rights and obligations under canon law .

In particular, however, the canonical age is understood to mean the rule that a candidate must have reached the age of 25 in order to receive the priestly sacrament of ordination (canon 1031 CIC ). A dispensation from this regulation is possible. An age of 35 years is required to exercise the office of bishop (canon 378 CIC). Previously (since the Third Lateran Council ) the age of 30 was considered here.

Further rules include admission to the novitiate (canon 643: 17 years), the making of temporary (canon 656: 18 years) and perpetual profession (canon 658: 21 years); admission to secular institutes (canon 721: age of majority) or a society of apostolic life (canons 643; 735 § 2: 17 years); the minimum age for taking on a baptismal sponsorship (canon 874: 16 years, "except by the diocesan bishop another age limit is set or the pastor or the baptismal donor an exception seems permissible for a just reason" ) or corporate sponsorship (canon 893: ditto) as well as the valid one and allowed sacramental marriage (canon 1083: man 16, woman 14 years).

In Protestant church law there is a comparable age limit for ordination .

In popular parlance , the unspecified age requirement for unrelated rectory housekeepers ( provectior aetas , usually 40–45 years) was called canonical age.


  • Hans-Jürgen Becker: Canonical age. In: RGG , 4th ed., Volume 4, Col. 778
  • Anton Stiegler: Age III. In canon law. In: LThK , Volume 1, Col. 381
  • Klaus Mörsdorf : Textbook of canon law based on the Codex iuris canonici. Founded by Eduard Eichmann. 11th edition, Paderborn: Schöningh 1964, Volume 1, pp. 188-191
  • Richard Puza : Catholic canon law. 2nd edition, Heidelberg 1993, p. 147f.