Title V. A Vow and An Oath


Chapter I. A Vow

Can. 1191 §1. A vow, that is, a deliberate and free promise made to God about a possible and better good, must be fulfilled by reason of the virtue of religion.

§2. Unless they are prohibited by law, all who possess suitable use of reason are capable of making a vow.

§3. A vow made out of grave and unjust fear or malice is null by the law itself.

Can. 1192 §1. A vow is public if a legitimate superior accepts it in the name of the Church; otherwise, it is private.

§2. A vow is solemn if the Church has recognized it as such; otherwise, it is simple.

§3. A vow is personal if the person making the vow promises an action; real if the person making the vow promises some thing; mixed if it shares the nature of a personal and a real vow.

Can. 1193 By its nature a vow obliges only the person who makes it.

Can. 1194 A vow ceases by the lapse of the time designated to fulfill the obligation, by a substantial change of the matter promised, by the absence of a condition on which the vow depends, by the absence of the purpose of the vow, by dispensation, or by commutation.

Can. 1195 The person who has power over the matter of the vow can suspend the obligation of the vow for as long a time as the fulfillment of the vow brings disadvantage to that person.

Can. 1196 In addition to the Roman Pontiff, the following can dispense from private vows for a just cause provided that a dispensation does not injure a right acquired by others:

1° the local ordinary and the pastor with regard to all their subjects and even travelers;

2° the superior of a religious institute or society of apostolic life if it is clerical and of pontifical right with regard to members, novices, and persons who live day and night in a house of the institute or society;

3° those to whom the Apostolic See or the local ordinary has delegated the power of dispensing.

Can. 1197 The person who makes a private vow can commute the work promised by the vow into a better or equal good; however, one who has the power of dispensing according to the norm of can. 1196 can commute it into a lesser good.

Can. 1198 Vows made before religious profession are suspended while the person who made the vow remains in the religious institute.

Chapter II. An Oath

Can. 1199 §1. An oath, that is, the invocation of the divine name in witness to the truth, cannot be taken unless in truth, in judgment, and in justice.

§2. An oath which the canons require or permit cannot be taken validly through a proxy.

Can. 1200 §1. A person who freely swears to do something is bound by a special obligation of religion to fulfill what he or she affirmed by oath.

§2. An oath extorted by malice, force, or grave fear is null by the law itself.

Can. 1201 §1. A promissory oath follows the nature and conditions of the act to which it is attached.

§2. If an oath is added to an act which directly tends toward the harm of others or toward the disadvantage of the public good or of eternal salvation, then the act is not reinforced by the oath.

Can. 1202 The obligation arising from a promissory oath ceases:

1° if it is remitted by the person for whose benefit the oath was made;

2° if the matter sworn to is substantially changed or if, after the circumstances have changed, it becomes either evil or entirely indifferent or, finally, impedes a greater good;

3° if the purpose or a condition under which the oath may have been taken ceases;

4° by dispensation or commutation, according to the norm of can. 1203.

Can. 1203 Those who can suspend, dispense, or commute a vow have the same power in the same manner over a promissory oath; but if the dispensation from the oath tends to the disadvantage of others who refuse to remit the obligation of the oath, only the Apostolic See can dispense the oath.

Can. 1204 An oath must be interpreted strictly according to the law and according to the intention of the person taking the oath or, if that person acts out of malice, according to the intention of the person to whom the oath is made.