Is it against canon law to switch parishes?
Is there a law preventing one from changing one’s parish? After changing to a new parish, my previous parish priest visited me and said that it is against canon law to change parishes, and he had no option but to discharge me and would no longer be available to me for sacraments or even burial. Is this correct?
As they say, the law is the law, and by canon law you cannot change your parish. The law says you become and remain a member of a parish, a lawfully defined geographical area, by residing in that area. Your residence is known as your domicile, and you generally acquire this by living permanently there or having the intention of doing so.
You maintain this domicile even if you regularly fulfil your Sunday obligation or confess your sins in a parish church in which you have no domicile. And if you decide to register as a parishioner in that other parish, and neither your own parish priest nor the adopted parish priest objects, you remain by law under the pastoral care of your parish of domicile.
This is why it is essential that, if you prefer to worship and belong to a parish in which you are not domiciled, the parish priests of your adopted parish and of your parish of domicile should agree to this, in order to avoid any later dispute about who will be responsible for providing you with pastoral care.
In your case, it may be that your parish priest of domicile was offended by not being advised of your abandoning his parish. It would be a blessing if you could reconcile with him. In modern society, people are more mobile than in the past, and priests normally show sympathetic understanding of this.
However, it is doubtful in law whether this priest could say he is discharging you from his parish. Because you are domiciled in his area, this is canonically impossible, unless otherwise authorised by the diocesan bishop.
Canon 1177 stipulates that the funeral of a deceased member of the faithful should normally be celebrated in the church of the person’s parish of domicile. The parish priest, as a rule, has no right to refuse to bury anyone domiciled in his parish.
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