Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Monday, November 12, 2007

The choice between Abp. Burke and Bp. Paprocki

Before finding out which candidate, Abp. Raymond Burke of St. Louis or Chicago auxiliary bishop Thomas Paprocki, has been elected to chair the USCCB Committee on Canonical Affairs, I write to say only that both candidates are highly qualified and widely recognized among American bishops for credentials, competence, and orthodoxy. Each one has a doctorate in canon law (both from the Gregorian), and while Burke has extensive Roman judicial experience, Paprocki is a licensed civil lawyer. It's a happy day, folks, when the choice is between two such excellent lawyers.

There is, though, I regret to note, some speculation out there that the choice between Burke and Paprocki might shed light on the USCCB attitude toward Burke's stand on Canon 915, a stand resulting in withholding Holy Communion from certain notoriously pro-abortion politicians. But I wonder how it could show any such thing.

To my knowledge, Paprocki has made no statements on Canon 915 (nor need he have), so just what is there to compare with Burke here? But, if anyone thinks Paprocki is one to shy away from straight talk, I need only point them to his recent Red Mass homily in Grand Rapids MI, where he says bluntly that, amid the proper use of civil law to pursue justice for the victims of clergy sexual abuse, the force of American law is being also used a club to punish the wrong people (chiefly, faithful Catholics in the pew) in some of those cases. Predictably, he's been vilified in some quarters for it.

I'd be happy see either man elected, if only both because both bishops have shown considerable savvy in agreeing to write forewords to some recent canon law books. Abp. Burke wrote the foreword to Edward Peters, Incrementa in Progressu 1983 Codicis Iuris Canoici (2005), and Bp. Paprocki did likewise for Edward Peters, Excommunication and the Catholic Church (2006).

What more can I say?


PS: I should say, some critics of Bp. Paprocki's homily have much more credibility than the LA Times, including Catholic World News and Gerald Augustinus. Still, I think both have missed the bishop's main point, but that discussion needs to wait a bit.

Update 13 November: Bp. Paprocki was elected.