(Latin: corpus, body)

An association recognized by law and considered in ordinary transactions as an individual. An ecclesiastical corporation, i.e., a moral person, is a juridical entity which from public authority is perfectly capable of acquiring and exercising legal rights. Such a corporation may be collegiate, e.g., chapters or religious orders, which are made up of individuals; collective, in which the members merely combine some of their powers and rights; or non-collegiate, e.g., seminaries or benefices, whose legal rights are exercised by administrators. The Catholic Church and the Apostolic See receive their legal personality from God; other moral persons, from ecclesiastical authority, either by enactment of the law, or by a formal decree of erection granted by the legitimate superior. Simple approval suffices for collective persons. The reason for the existence of moral persons must be religious or charitable. At least three physical persons are required for a collegiate body; a certain patrimony must be assigned for a non-collegiate body, to be administered for the accomplishment of the purpose of the institution. All moral persons are assimilated to minors, the law extending to them the protection it affords those under age. Non-collegiate bodies act through their administrators. Collegiate bodies act through the votes of their members, an absolute majority being necessary for deciding questions. By their nature, moral persons are perpetual. They cease to exist legally if suppressed by the power that can erect them. A collegiate body ceases de facto by the loss of all its members; but legally it exists for 100 years, so that 75 years after the death of the last member such a body could be revived. Ecclesiastical corporations, as such, are not recognized by the law of the United States; they are, however, given the status of private corporations.

New Catholic Dictionary

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