Today’s appointment of Nancy J. Werner as Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis (reported here) raises a question to which many may not know the answer:

What does the Chancellor do?

The office of Chancellor is mentioned several times in the Code of Canon Law. Here are the most relevent entries:


Can. 482 §1 In each curia a chancellor is to be appointed, whose principal office, unless particular law states otherwise, is to ensure that the acts of the curia are drawn up and dispatched, and that they are kept safe in the archive of the curia.

§2 If it is considered necessary, the chancellor may be given an assistant, who is to be called the vice-chancellor.

§3 The chancellor and vice-chancellor are automatically notaries and secretaries of the curia.

Can. 483 §1 Besides the chancellor, other notaries may be appointed, whose writing or signature authenticates public documents. These notaries may be appointed for all acts, or for judicial acts alone, or only for acts concerning a particular issue or business.

§2 The chancellor and notaries must be of unblemished reputation and above suspicion. In cases which could involve the reputation of a priest, the notary must be a priest.

Can. 484 The office of notary involves:

1° writing acts and documents concerning decrees, arrangements, obligations, and other matters which require their intervention;

2° faithfully recording in writing what is done, and signing the document, with a note of the place, the day, the month and the year;

3° while observing all that must be observed, showing acts or documents from the archives to those who lawfully request them, and verifying that copies conform to the original.

Can. 485 The chancellor and the other notaries can be freely removed by the diocesan Bishop. They can be removed by a diocesan Administrator only with the consent of the college of consultors.


Can. 487 §1 The archive must be locked, and only the Bishop and the chancellor are to have the key; no one may be allowed to enter unless with the permission of the Bishop, or with the permission of both the Moderator of the curia and the chancellor. §2 Persons concerned have the right to receive, personally or by proxy, an authentic written or photostat copy of documents which are of their nature public and which concern their own personal status.