Renunciation (Lat. renuntiare), a canonical term signifying the resignation of an ecclesiastical office or benefice. It may be defined as the abdication of a clerical dignity made freely and spontaneously, for just reasons, into the hands of the legitimate superior who accepts it. Generally speaking, any ecclesiastic may renounce his dignity, whether his office be perpetual or temporal. To be valid, the resignation must be free, that is, not extorted by fear, or threats, or fraud. It must be made into the hands of the superior who had conferred it, that is of the pope for bishops and holders of major benefices; of the ordinary for parish priests and all incumbents of minor benefices. As to the pope himself, he may abdicate his dignity, but, as he has no earthly superior, his resignation must simply be declared canonically (see Abdication). Before a renunciation is canonically valid, it must be accepted by the legitimate superior, for otherwise it would work great detriment to the Church. Moreover, no one is at liberty to resign his office unless he is certain of revenues for his competent support. A resignation may be absolute or conditional. The latter term is used for renunciations that are made in favor of a third person, or with reservation of a pension, or when incumbents exchange benefices. The causes for which resignations are lawful are given in verse in the “Corpus juris canonici” (cap. x, “de renunt”, 1, 9); Debilis, ignarus, male conscius, irregularis, Quem mala plebs odit, dans scandala, cedere possit. Therefore, one may justly resign on account of ill-health, want of proper knowledge, consciousness of guilt, clerical irregularity, ill-will of the people, or scandalous behavior.
WILLIAM H. W. FANNING