Proxy (Canon Law)

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The fundamental principle of canon law regarding proxy is that one can do through others what one can do oneself. There are, of course, many exceptions to this principle, arising either from the nature of the case or from the law itself. The law expressly forbids the use of proxies in diocesan synods or eparchial assemblies (Codex iuris canonici c. 464; CCEO c. 239), in a profession of faith demanded by the law (Codex iuris canonici c. 833), and in the taking of oaths where required or permitted by the law (Codex iuris canonici c. 1199 § 2). Non-Catholic Christians or non-Christians can act validly as proxies in ecclesiastical matters, but not lawfully without a grave reason. Proxies are either extrajudicial or judicial. An oral authorization (mandate) is, in general, sufficient for the valid appointment of extrajudicial proxies.

Proxies for the contracting parties in matrimony in the Latin Church require for validity a special mandate for the contracting of marriage with a specific person, signed by the person giving the mandate and by the pastor or ordinary of the place or a priest designated by one of these priests, or by at least two witnesses (Codex iuris canonici c. 1105). If the mandate is revoked or the party giving the mandate develops amentia before the proxy contracts, the mandate is invalidated immediately (Codex iuris canonici c. 1105 § 4). A minister is generally not to assist at a marriage in which one of the parties is represented by a proxy without first obtaining the permission of a local ordinary (Codex iuris canonici c. 1071 § 1, 7°).

Generally speaking, one who possesses legal capacity to enter or defend a suit in person is free to appoint a proxy (attorney or procurator) to represent him in the course of the trial (Codex iuris canonici cc. 1481 § 1, 1482, 1483; CCEO cc. 1139 § 1, 1140, 1141). However, the law or the judge may at times demand personal appearance (Codex iuris canonici c. 1477; CCEO c. 1135). On the other hand, the law demands that some persons (e.g., juridic persons; minors, in certain cases), in order to stand in court at all, must act through proxies (Codex iuris canonici cc. 1478, 1480; CCEO cc. 1136, 1138).

For the validity of judicial appointment, the principal must give his proxy a special written and signed mandate authorizing the proxy to represent him in judicial matters (Codex iuris canonici c. 1484; CCEO c. 1142). Some judicial acts require a further specific authorization by the principal (Codex iuris canonici c. 1485, CCEO c. 1143).

A proxy may be rejected by the judge for cause or removed by the principal at any time (Codex iuris canonici c. 1487; CCEO c. 1145).

Bibliography: j. abbo and j. hannan, The Sacred Canons (St. Louis 1960). s. woywod, A Practical Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, rev. and enl. c. smith (New York 1963). c. connors, Extra-Judicial Procurators in the Code of Canon Law (Catholic University of America Canon Law Studies, 192; Washington 1944). j. hogan, Judicial Advocates and Procurators (Catholic University of America Canon Law Studies, 133; Washington 1941).

[j. d. king/

j. staab]