Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Monday, September 10, 2007

Abp. Raymond Burke on Canon 915

Is this cool or what?

One of America's sharpest canon lawyer bishops (Abp. Raymond Burke of St. Louis), has just published a terrific article in perhaps the world's most prestigious canon law journal (Periodica de re Canonica in Rome), on a topic of vital interest to the Church in the world (the correct application of Canon 915 on denial of Holy Communion). Best of all, it's available on-line here.

Like I say, it's just too cool.

Back in 2004, Abp. Burke was one of handful of bishops who understood and enforced Canon 915 against certain pro-abortion Catholic politicians who were attempting to receive Holy Communion despite their patent non-compliance with Church discipline. He suffered more than his share of slings and arrows over the months that followed, including some tsk-tsks from certain folks who really should have thought twice before putting their canonical acumen up against Burke's. In any case his article, "Canon 915: The discipline regarding the denial of Holy Communion to those obstinately persisting in manifest grave sin" Periodica 96 (2007) 3-58, demonstrates just how much law and sound pastoral theology Burke had, and has, behind him.

Periodica does not publish articles for beginners and Burke assumes that his audience knows, e.g., what the Decree of Gratian and the Decretals of Gregory are, and why Eastern canon law and the Pio-Benedictine Code are important for contemporary Roman canonical analysis. But even if you don't know these things, you can still read Burke's article with profit; it only means taking my word for it that arguments built on such foundations are very important and lend mighty support to the position Burke took with regard to recalcitrant politicians. Which they do.

Some of my favorite points? Burke's obvious understanding of the importance of legal history, his demolishing of the confusion in some minds that Canons 915 and 916 are just two ways of saying the same thing (not!), and his underscoring the fact that the scandal of unworthy reception can be assessed objectively, not just subjectively.

Oh, how I wish someone would give a prize for "Most Important Canonical Article Published in a Peer-Reviewed Journal". I know what I would nominate for 2007.