I'm helping draft a some statutes for a Catholic Lay Organization and we want to come up with a fairly exclusive group for our leadership and thought. The phrase, "Catholic in good standing" sounded like a good way of putting it. Is there a Canonical definition of what a Catholic in Good Standing is?

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    The Code of Canon Law in its description of requirements for baptismal sponsors states that a sponsor must be "a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on" and must not be "bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared" (canon 874, section 1, notes 3 and 4). Would that be a decent starting point? Commented Sep 16, 2020 at 10:17
  • A risk of using a phrase like "good standing" is that saying a person is unsuitable for leadership in your organization becomes tantamount to accusing the person of being in bad standing. Similarly using a definition from canon law raises the question as to who has authority to judge a person to be in violation of canon law. It might be better to have clear and factual requirements for your leadership such as frequency of attending mass etc.
    – davidlol
    Commented Sep 22, 2020 at 16:15

2 Answers 2


It's not a term used in canon law.

Canonist Charles Augustine, O.S.B., uses the the phrase "good standing" in his commentary on canon law, but it doesn't appear anywhere in the code of canon law itself.

The OED defines "to be in good standing with" as "to stand well with, be in favour with". Thus, a Catholic in good standing is one who is not excommunicated and practices the faith.


Does the phrase “in good standing” have a definition in Catholicism?

The term as such is not in Canon Law. So a definition has to be found in different channels within the Church.

Basically speaking a Catholic in good standing is a practicing (practical) Catholic!

The Knights of Columbus employ this phrase in defining what is the definition of a practical Catholic.

To be a Catholic in good standing on must be a Catholic who are in union with the Holy See and accepts the teaching authority of the Catholic Church on matters of faith and morals, aspires to live in accord with the precepts of the Catholic Church, and is in good standing in the Catholic Church.

Membership in the Knights of Columbus is open to men 18 years of age or older who are practical (that is, practicing) Catholics in union with the Holy See.

A practical Catholic accepts the teaching authority of the Catholic Church on matters of faith and morals, aspires to live in accord with the precepts of the Catholic Church, and is in good standing in the Catholic Church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) lays the precepts or norms of life to be a Catholic in good standing.

This whole question reminds me a little bit of the question posed to Our Lord in Gospels: [What must I do to obtain eternal life? (Matthew 19:16-22)

What does it mean to be a Catholic in good standing?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) lays the precepts or norms of life as a faithful Catholic.1 They are as follows:

  1. Honor the Lord on Sundays by actively participating at Mass and resting from work;

We participate at Mass to give glory to God and be nourished by the Holy Eucharist in order to live out our Faith. Mass is not meant to be entertaining, but when properly understood and actively participated in, Mass is definitely exciting!

  1. Participate in the Sacrament of Confession at least once a year;

Regular Confession is for the soul what a doctor’s visit is for the body. Confession strengthens us with sacramental grace to live a more Christian life. This is why the Church asks all Catholics to go at least once a year.

  1. Participate in worthy reception of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season;

The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic Faith. Receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ Himself is the ultimate gift, thus we must receive Him worthily.

  1. Observe the Church’s Holy Days of Obligation; The Holy Days of Obligation (in the USA) are:

January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

November 1, the solemnity of All Saints

December 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

December 25, the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

  1. Observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence from meat;

The days of Fasting from large meals are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The days to abstain from meat are primarily the Fridays during Lent.

  1. Support the Church in Her needs through Stewardship (time, talent, treasure).

The Church is our Home as Catholics, we must care for Her upkeep by offering our time in volunteering, our talent in Her functions, and our treasure through tithing.

The Church reminds us “the precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life, bound to and nourished by liturgical life.” In other words, the rules of life are bookended in the moral life and prayer of our Faith – it is a ‘package deal.’ Therefore, to be in good standing with God and His Church:

  • one cannot support abortion;

  • one cannot support contraception;

  • one cannot support redefining marriage;

  • one cannot support the erroneous belief that attendance at the Christmas and Easter Masses are sufficient for a relationship with Christ

  • one cannot support the gravely erroneous belief that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is unimportant

  • if married, one’s marriage must be recognized by the Catholic Church

  • if unmarried, one cannot be cohabitating with his/her boyfriend/girlfriend

The following articles may be of interest here:

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