following observations represent my opinions. While I believe that the opinions expressed here are consistent with c.
212 § 3, I submit all to the ultimate judgment of the Catholic Church.
The letter “c.” stands for “canon” of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. All
translations are mine, even if they coincide at times with those of others. Dr. Edward N. Peters
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In the Light of the Law:
blog on current issues
December 21, 2009
On the HSPO statement of Dec 19
original press reports I saw on the HSPO statement of Dec 19 regarding the use
of "figures" of the pope did not include a dicasterial attribution (besides the
Press Office, of course) for the declaration, but
a posting on the Vatican website confirms that it was the Secretariat of State.
That answers one of my two main questions about the binding character of the
assertion, and rather than try to update my original post to reflect that point,
I find it simpler to substitute this post for the original.
My second question, as to whether norms for behavior in the Church can be
promulgated via weekend press releases, still stands (see, eg,
1983 CIC 8). But,
question only arises if the assertion is, after all, meant to bind behavior in
Some are reporting, however, that this press statement is really about
international copyright law.
I leave to experts in that field whether this press statement, in form and
substance, suffices for that purpose, and limit my observations to whether the
declaration constitutes a binding norm for Catholics in the Church. On that
point, several questions would remain, including (1) does this regulation apply
to the regnal and/or baptismal name of all popes?; (2) do the permissions
henceforth apparently to be sought go beyond those that already apply under
copyright law?*; and, (3) how are such broad phrases as "the use of
directly to the person or office of the Supreme Pontiff" to be understood in
I will watch for elucidations and, as always, appreciate leads from my readers.
+ + +
* It's possible that they do. For example, Canon 300 regulates the use of the
in regard to certain kinds of associations and Canon 803.3 extends that
regulation to schools, but neither of these canons is dependent upon civil
copyright law for their binding force.
December 19, 2009
Why is this Milingo case getting complicated?
be nice to have
Rev. Ciro Benedettini's actual words. He is the Vatican spokesman who is
reported as asserting that
Milingo's expulsion from the clerical state
invalid any future ordinations the disgraced former archbishop
might attempt. But, hmmm. What precedent is there for such a stance (well, later
than St. Cyprian, anyway)?
I asked day before yesterday whether anyone knew of a precedent for
"withholding recognition" of certain ordinations, and a couple-three
knowledgeable readers pointed me to
73 (1976) at 858,
5: 1388-1391. Indeed, the language of "withholding recognition" of orders in the
Thuc/Palmarian case was used there.* So, thank you, folks, you have advanced
our discussion of this case.
Another colleague further suggested that the language about "non-recognition"
was also tried for some centuries to describe the Roman stance on Anglican
orders, but lingering confusion over what the phrase "to withhold recognition"
actually meant lead Leo XIII eventually to declare the invalidity of Anglican
orders (primarily on the basis of their faulty form and contrary intention) in
Apostolicae curiae (1896). Again, thank you, this too is an
advance in our understanding (or in mine, at least) of this situation.
Pretty obviously, use of the phrase "to withhold recognition" of holy orders
allows Church officials to punt on the question of their validity. Nothing wrong
with that; better caution than haste in such matters. But the danger, as I see
it, is in misconstruing "withholding recognition" of orders into something much
more fundamental. As might be happening here.
To say that the
of one to confer valid holy orders is dependent upon that one being a member of
the Catholic clerical state--if that is what Benedettini is really saying--is
something quite different from saying that the Church does not plan "to
recognize" these conferrals of orders or those. We would have gone from deciding
not to decide, to deciding not. And I wonder, can we?
So, I ask again for help: does anyone know of any precedent for saying that one
must be a cleric in good standing with the Catholic Church in order to confer
valid orders? Mind, I am open to such arguments (I think it's maybe time to
revisit Cyprian on this question, and I further suggest that we have already
quietly started to do so in another context), but I would caution that such
inquiries should take place with a full appreciation of just how weighty is the
sacramental and canonical scholarship holding
of schismatic bishops to confer valid holy orders, albeit in schism.
As far as Milingo himself is concerned, I could see questioning the validity of
orders he has attempted or might attempt to confer on a number of traditional
grounds, including form, intention, and the capacity of certain recipients.
But to challenge them on the basis that he has been dismissed from the clerical
I think, would be something quite new. + + +
* " . . . whatever might be said about the validity of such ordinations, the
Church does not and will not recognize them . . . ." My trans.
December 17, 2009
Milingo's case is closed canonically, but it rasies some interesting questions
developments as of 19 December 2009, posted above.
bizarre antics of Abp. Emmanuel Milingo, suspended in 2001 for
attempting marriage, and
excommunicated in 2006 for ordaining to men to the episcopate without pontifical
mandate, have finally resulted in his dismissal from the clerical state.
This is unquestionably the right thing to do.
HSPO press release leaves only a few questions:
1. Is Milingo's "persistent contumacy" (what
Decretal Law would have called "insordescence", a concept worth recovering,
I suggest) is it, I ask, being assessed under Canon 1326.1.1, with dismissal
in punishment of the
offenses, or is this dismissal being applied
under Canon 1392 (whereby one who violates the obligations imposed by an earlier
penalty can be punished additionally), or is this a matter wherein the Holy See
against a bishop whose conduct can, I think, find parallels only in the dustiest
tomes of Church history? Any one of these theories would account for today's
news, I'm just wondering which one it is.
2. Has Milingo been released from the obligation of celibacy? That favor would
have required a
act by the Roman Pontiff (c. 291), and there's no report that such dispensation
was included in the decree of dismissal.
3. Most interestingly, what does the Holy See mean when it says about the
ordinations attempted by Milingo, that the Church "does not recognise these
ordinations, nor does she intend to recognise them, or any subsequent
ordinations based on them, in the future. Hence the canonical status of the
supposed bishops remains as it was prior to the ordination conferred by
interesting language, folks. I said so in 2006, but now it's being reiterated.
If the line refers to the "ordinations" of people incapable of receiving
episcopal orders (basically, unbaptized men or even-baptized women, per c.
1024), then the line makes perfect sense. Of course the Church does not
recognize such "ordinations". Likewise, if Milingo has so modified the "form"
(the words) used in his rites that the form no longer conveys the sense of the
sacrament (as happened with Anglican orders centuries ago, leading to their
perpetual invalidity) the Church would never reconize them.
if Milingo is using proper form (as he easily could), and if he is attempting to
confer orders on baptized, consenting males (as we know he did at least few
times), then the Holy See's stance would be truly remarkable. In one of two
ways, if not in both ways, that I have in mind.
But let's not get ahead of things here. More facts are required before more
In any event, the disturbing Milingo case is closed canonically, but it's not
closed pastorally. He still might repent, and the joy in Heaven would be great.
John Allen has more information here, including the following unattributed
assertion: "A Vatican spokesperson said this morning that since Milingo has been
removed from the clerical state, any future ordinations he performs will be not
only illicit, but invalid." Can anyone suggest a
precedent for such a stance?
Update 2, same
A correspondent is suggesting that similar language (about non-recognition of
orders) was used in the mid-1970s re the "Palmarian
Catholic Church", citing to
73 (1976) at 858. Can't wait to check it out. Thanks!
December 15, 2009
Omnium in mentum: two important changes in the Code
Of the two
changes to the 1983 Code announced today in
Omnium in mentem, the second (that dealing with the obligation
of canonical form for marriage) may be explained quickly.
Ever since the 1983 Code, chiefly in Canon 1117, exempted Catholics from the
requirement of observing canonical form if they had "formally defected" from the
Church, there have been high-level grumblings against the admittedly novel
provision, along the lines of, why should Catholics get to pick and choose which
canon laws they want to follow and which ones they don't (as if that were a fair
way to describe the situation).
Overlooked in most such complaints, though, was the fact that, by exempting
Catholics from having to observe form if they had left the Church before
marrying outside of it, Canon 1117 made it
for those renegade Catholics to later walk away from marriages they had entered
with people, Protestants and others, who often enough had married them in good
After years of canonical debate,
a strained (in my opinion) interpretation of what constituted "formal defection"
came down in 2006 which
narrowly defined what would count as the formal defection sufficient to exempt
one from observing canonical form. But the ensuing debate* for and against that
interpretation (itself a novel one) is now moot: all Catholics are bound by
canonical form in marrying, period. The number of null marriages out there will
Personally, I thought that Canon 1117 was a step (albeit an imperfect one)
basically in the right direction, and I considered the narrow constraints on
formal defection laid down in 2006 to be impractical, but today's decision
revoking the exemption
while unquestionably within the authority of the Church to pronounce (c. 841),
makes it imperative, I think, to ask a deeper question: does the requirement of
canonical form still serve the best interest of the Church, or is it a solution
that has outlived the problem that occasioned it (historically, clandestine
I'll only say, strong arguments can be raised
the continued requirement of form, and I caution anyone from concluding either
way on the issue until one is familiar with the literature.
Now, about the first change announced today, that dealing with the description
of deacons under canon law (cc. 1108-1109), it is
interesting, obviously, and I need time to study it. The language here obviously
does not seem to underscore the unity that permeates the three level of holy
orders, but (per
Abp. Francesco Coccopalmerio of the Text Council) it is more consistent with
the language of CCC 1581, as it was revised in 1998. In any case, I'll certainly
be consulting the
on this one.
+ + +
* For a fine overview of the debate by an author who defended the intepretation,
see J. Huels, "Defection from the Catholic Church by a formal act and the
Circular Letter of 13 March 2006",
41 (2007) 515-549.
November 22, 2009
Bp. Tobin, Rep. Kennedy, and Holy Communion: First question
Bp. Tobin's statement released just a few minutes ago as saying that
have been taken by Tobin in regard to reception of holy Communion by
pro-abortion Democrat Patrick Kennedy, resident in Tobin's diocese. It appears,
to the contrary, that Kennedy has -- God knoweth why -- parlayed Tobin's letter
to him of February 2007, urging Kennedy to refrain from taking Communion, into a
news story in November 2009 that he has been barred from receiving.
Mind, Tobin can, if he judges it pastorally useful, move to an actual
prohibition against reception by Kennedy under Canon 915, but to date at least,
Tobin's stance seems to be one of urging Kennedy to examine his conscience under
Canon 916 before approaching the Eucharist. It's an open question as to how long
such an approach might be tried before being found insufficient but as I read
it, it's still being tried, Kennedy's claims notwithstanding.
I've not followed Kennedy's career closely, but ever since his tasteless remarks
at his father's funeral, I've wondered about his public judgment. Guess I'll
wonder a little more now.
PS: My favorite Tobin line? "I will absolutely respond publicly and strongly
whenever he attacks the Catholic Church, misrepresents the teachings of the
Church, or issues inaccurate statements about my pastoral ministry." Right-on,
The first question is always,
press is widely reporting that Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D, RI) has been barred
from receiving holy Communion by Bp. Thomas Tobin of Providence. There are some
serious inconsistencies in these news reports, however, but so far, Kennedy is
making most of the comments.
Now, the act of receiving holy Communion is a
one, and the act of barring one from receiving holy Communion is a
one. Therefore, a statement from Bp. Tobin's office is quite in order.
These two points at a minimum need clarification:
(1) has Tobin barred Kennedy from reception of holy Communion in accord with
Canon 915, or has he perhaps urged Kennedy to examine his conscience carefully
in accord with Canon 916, maybe as a last step before Tobin acts under Canon
915, or has he done nothing; and,
(2) if Kennedy has been barred from reception, have the priests (and other
ministers of holy Communion) been instructed to abide by the bishop's directive
until the bishop's office notifies them otherwise?
Let's get the facts straight first, and
talk about it. + + +
Did you see this
screamer line about the Kennedy story from
Rachel Stockton, an accountant (huh?) who serves as reporter for
FoodConsumer.org (for who?), and steward (um, whatever) of the "Self-Help"
section of the
Religion Channel (the what?):
"Practicing Roman Catholics believe in extreme unction; in other words, that the
wine and unleavened bread are transformed into the actual body and blood of
Christ -- a belief that in itself, is somewhat controversial."
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Time to go back to recipes, Rachel. Or checking receipts.
Nov. 25: Fr. Vincent Bertrand, JCL,
comments well here, to which I add two quick points. First, we need always
to be careful about contrasting a so-called "pastoral" approach with a
"canonical" approach. Canonical calls for pastoral, pastoral embraces canonical.
Second, I don't think Bp. Tobin has yet formally invoked Canon 915. He can, of
course, but I don't think he
November 19, 2009
Licentiate in Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary
As many of
you know, I teach in the seminary and graduate programs at
Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, MI. Our Licentiate degree in
Theology (STL), is affiliated with the Angelicum in Rome and specializes in the
New Evangelization. It's an exciting program with (if I may so say)
amazing faculty and fascinating students from around the world.
There is a new, short video (just under 9 minutes) about our Licentiate in the
New Evangelization here:
Check it out, and please pass it along to someone you know who might be looking
for just this sort of opportunity!
November 18, 2009
Yes, Robbie, the bishop in that case was right
December 2009 issue of the always terrific
Dr. Robert George, responding (graciously and, I think, decisively) to several
critics of his article "What marriage is, and what it isn't" (August-September
2009), writes: "When I lived in England in the 1980s, the Catholic Church came
in for rather rough criticism by the British newspapers when a diocese declined
to solemnize the marriage of two Catholics who (as the result of the paraplegia
of one of the spouses) intended to live in an unconsummated marriage. A canon
lawyer would have to tell us whether the bishop responsible for the decision
a canon lawyer, and I say, it's more than likely the bishop ruled correctly in
To use venerable contract-language, marriage can be described as a complex of
reciprocal rights and duties (yes, I
marriage is much more than that, but marriage is
that, or it isn't marriage), and among those rights and duties figures the
performance of acts
suitable for the generation of children. Thus, if one
render and/or receive such acts, one
enter a contract that calls for, among other things, just such ability. See
generally 1983 CIC
1084. The bishop in this case, guardian of the sacraments in his diocese (c.
392.2), apparently acted to prevent an attempted exchange of consent by a
of fulfilling his (or her) concomitant duty. It's that simple.
Folks wishing to discuss the marriage of Mary and Joseph, or marriages of the
sterile, or dissolution of consummated or non-consummated marriages, or the
practice of periodic abstinence, should consult the approved authors.
November 10, 2009
Rep. Patrick Kennedy should thank God he has such a bishop
Kennedy (D) of Rhode Island has been for some time now a typical
platitude-pandering, pro-abortion Catholic representative in the US House of
Well, I have just read
Bp. Thomas Tobin's (Providence RI) open letter to Rep. Kennedy and all I can
say is, Kennedy should thank the Good God that He sent him a bishop who cares
enough about him to challenge him the way Tobin did. And if Kennedy (who must be
stunned to have gotten such a serious reply to his shallow political cant) is
not able to bring himself to thank God for Bp. Tobin quite yet, the rest of us
Bp. Tobin's letter is
It well rewards the few minutes it takes to read it.
bishop through his
communications webpage here.
November 05, 2009
The celebration of sacraments in sign language
I got some
good news today. My article, "The ordination of men bereft of speech and the
celebration of sacraments in sign language", has been published in
42 (2008) pp. 331-345. Here's hoping it proves useful.
November 04, 2009
Memo to press secretaries for prelates: Don't assume, Ask.
to see us someday reach the point where arch/diocesan staffers learn to avoid
speculating (at least in public) on canonical matters. These well-intentioned
people rarely know anything about canon law, yet they frequently say things that
muddy the waters for the rest of us, or are simply wrong. The recent comments on
the Donna Quinn case made by Colleen Dolan, press secretary to Chicago's Cdl.
George, are a good example.
Per Dolan, "The Cardinal and the other bishops have no power to exert
disciplinary action . . . over this sister or her order . . . Sisters and nuns
are not priests so the authority of the Cardinal and the bishops does not apply
to their discipline."
That is just
Besides the already-quite-sufficient-to-act-in-this-case jurisdictional canons I
already cited in regard to Quinn's possible delicts, Canon 1320 (in tandem
with Canons 392 and 678) grants arch/bishops express authority to exert coercive
power over offending religious in their territory, and a metropolitan (like
George) is specifically expected "to inform the Roman Pontiff of abuses"
occurring within his province under Canon 436.1.1. The canonists working for
these prelates are doubtless aware of these norms, but why should they have to
correct the misstatements of the nice people working down the hall? And why
should the faithful be left, in the meantime, with impression that Catholic
prelates are powerless to rein in abortion-abetting nuns?
My suggestion: if an arch/diocesan press secretary is going to issue a statement
with words like "disciplinary matters" or "authority of the Cardinal", run the
statement past Canonical Affairs or the Tribunal first.
November 03, 2009
Well, really, it's more of a "non-note" on celibacy for incoming Anglican
A few days
Holy See Press Office issued a note on whether married Anglican ministers
coming into full communion would be required to observe celibacy if they sought
Catholic holy orders. The statement clarifies that the obligation of celibacy
for Western clerics remains in place (c. 277), but that individual exceptions to
celibacy can be petitioned and granted. In other words, former Anglican
ministers seeking Catholic ordination will be required to observe celibacy.
Unless they won't be required to observe it.
Because the note portends no change in the law of celibacy and no change in the
process by which married candidates from Protestant denominations can petition
for and, if selected for orders, be exempted from the law of celibacy, what the
Vatican Information Service calls a "note" seems more of a "non-note".
Good information on the "Pastoral Provision" under which (primarily)
Anglican married ministers have received Catholic orders;
a Wiki overview of the Pastoral Provision with texts and links to important
documents such as
and "In June".
Some interesting related blog posts:
Carl Olson (3 nov.);
Jimmy Akin (2 nov.);
Fr. Zuhlsdorf (31 oct.);
October 26, 2009
Canonical options in the Sr. Donna Quinn case
chances are slim that the
Sinsinawa Dominicans will do anything about their
Sr. Donna Quinn who publicly and formally cooperates in the death of babies by
abortion. Chances are slim that anything will be done about her because,
well, such are the times we live in: a Catholic religious can act for years as
abortion clinic escort
and cause barely a ripple in her religious community, the local church, or in
Rome. History won't believe it.
But a slim chance is still some chance, and the moral poverty of the age is no
bar to our doing what we can in response to such conduct. I can at least point
out the possibility of canonical consequences for Sr. Donna.
1. Canon 695 calls for the mandatory dismissal of a religious guilty of the
delict of abortion described in Canon 1398. A case can be made, I think, that
Sr. Donna is an accomplice to abortion under Canon 1329, which, in turn, might
bring her within the scope of the dismissal provision of Canon 695. The novelty
of nuns serving as murder mistresses at abortion clinics means that there is not
much jurisprudence for such cases, I grant, but it is still a theory worth
If, however, a more direct process is desired, Canon 696 seems a better place to
2. Under Canon 696, dismissal from religious life can be imposed against one who
gives "grave scandal arising from culpable behavior". This unusually broad
language allows superiors to move against a religious whose specific conduct
could not have been predicted when the revised Code was being drafted (perhaps,
like Sr. Donna's, it could scarcely have been imagined!), but which we now know
can be both imagined and committed. So, to the extent that conducting babies to
their death is scandalous behavior for a religious woman, Sr. Donna deserves
3. Various provisions of penal law, for example Canon 1369 (authorizing a "just
penalty" against those who use the means of social communication to gravely
injure good morals or to excite contempt against religion or the Church) are
applicable, I suggest, in response to the kind of verbiage that Sr. Donna
directs from time to time against religion in general and the Catholic Church in
particular. But again, all of this seems self-evident.
Or it would, in any other age. +++
Over at AmericanPapist, a good question was posted:
motherhouse (commonly called 'The Mound') is located in Sinsinawa - the Diocese
of Madison. Donna Quinn lives in the Archdiocese of Chicago and the abortion
clinic she is 'volunteering' at is located in the Diocese of Joliet. So that
leaves a question, Which Bishop should take action?"
Of course, religious superiors should take action regarding a member's basic
status, but if they fail to act satisfactorily, arch/diocesan authority can
still move in regard to potential delicts. Penal jurisdiction is in the
alternative, so all three arch/dioceses would have jurisdiction to proceed here,
Madison (because Sr. Donna has domicile there per cc. 103 and 1408), Chicago
(because she has at least quasi-domicile there by cc. 102, 103, and 1408), and
Joliet (because it is the place of the delict to which she might be an
accomplice per c. 1412).
The problem is never one of finding an authority
to act - - canon law can always do that; the problem is finding an authority
In an exchange over at
Jimmy Akin's website, I posted something that might be of interest to my
blog readers. The context is the ridiculousness of Sr. Donna's claim that people
need protection from pro-lifers. My comment was as follows:
hateful, foul, vitriolic harangue ever -- and I mean ever -- launched on me was
delivered by an abortion clinic escort while I stood with literature in the
parking lot outside of an abortion clinic, oh, must have been 30 years ago now.
As the venom (I have no other word for it) spewed forth, I'd have sworn, I saw
EVIL in the woman's eyes. It deeply frightened me. I thought I was in a scene
facing Satan. Several people who saw it happen ran over to help me walk away. I
slumped down on some steps for several minutes, and I couldn't even think. I
don't think I have ever gone to an abortion clinic since without asking for the
special protection of my Guardian Angel.
Script, November 2:
This, from the Sinsinawa Domincans website: Public Statement of the Sinsinawa
Dominican Congregation 11/2/09. Several months ago, the leadership of the
Sinsinawa Dominicans was informed that Sister Donna Quinn, OP, acted as a
volunteer escort at a Chicago area clinic that among other procedures, performs
abortions. After investigating the allegation, Congregation leaders have
informed Sr. Donna that her actions are in violation of her profession as a
Dominican religious. They regret that her actions have created controversy and
resulted in public scandal. They are working with Sr. Donna to resolve the
Congregation leaders offer the following statement on behalf of members of the
Congregation. We as Sinsinawa Dominican women are called to proclaim the Gospel
through the ministry of preaching and teaching to participate in the building of
a holy and just society. As Dominican religious, we fully support the teaching
of the Catholic Church regarding the dignity and value of every human life from
conception to natural death. We believe that abortion is an act of violence that
destroys the life of the unborn. We do not engage in activity that witnesses to
support of abortion.
LifeSiteNews (nov. 3);
ChicagoCatholicNews (nov. 4 updates);
Carl Olson (4 nov.)
October 20, 2009
First thoughts on an Anglican ordinariate
announcement today from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
alerts us to an upcoming apostolic constitution establishing a "personal
ordinariate for Anglicans entering the Catholic Church". Till the document
itself is published, only a few observations can be offered.
An "apostolic constitution" is the form of document used by the Holy See to make
the most significant canonical and disciplinary provisions for the Church. It is
not, then, a simple "decree" (1983 CIC 29 etc), say, or an "instruction" (1983
The establishment of a "personal ordinariate" will be something of an innovation
in modern canon law, although this ordinariate is apparently going to be similar
to "personal arch/dioceses" such as those used for the military (1983 CIC 368
and ap. con.
or to personal prelatures (1983 CIC 294-297), with Opus Dei being the only
example thereof to date. One wonders, though, why both of these structures were
apparently found to be inadequate for the reception of Anglicans, and why a
third way was invented? We'll have to see.
In any case, the idea of a "personal ordinariate" is another sign of the (I
think) inevitable trend away from purely
jurisdictional units in the Roman Church and toward greater use of
jurisdiction. This trend has been evident in western canon law at least since
the late 1960s (see, e.g., 1967 Synod of Bishops, "Principles Guiding the
Revision of Canon Law", no. 8) and is reflected in the 1983 Code (e.g., 1983 CIC
372, 518). Provided this shift is pursued in an orderly manner, I think it a
step in the right direction for people who are coming to see themselves as less
identified with various locales, and more with social groupings. Certainly
several other groups in the Church will be watching the Anglican project with an
eye to applying innovative structures in their own spheres.
Lastly, it strikes me as a bit odd that CDF is, at present, the lead dicastery
in this matter. Provisions for "particular churches" usually come from the
Congregation for Bishops (ap. con.
75-76), not CDF. While theological issues (and there are some here, of course)
are better addressed by doctrinal experts in CDF, organizational issues (which
are numerous here) seem better left to administrative experts in the Cong. for
Bishops. But, I'm sure someone has already thought of that.
I'll keep my eyes open for more on this one. It is, as I say, interesting. +++
AmericanPapist helps contextualize the wider situation here.
October 15, 2009
The NCRep's "simple fact" about marriage is simply wrong
Editor Joe "the-bishops-be-damned" Feuerherd's 2008 screed against the US
bishops, nothing it says should be taken seriously. But some of what the
says can be taken for chuckles.
NCRep is attacking a draft of the proposed US bishops'
Pastoral Letter on Marriage (how the editors obtained a copy is
unclear). Anyway, one of the rhetorical questions posed by
editors -- one meant, I suppose to embarrass the bishops by alleging their
obtuseness in the face of what the
assumes everyone knows -- reads as follows: "Nowhere
does the [bishops'] document state the simple fact that the sacrament of
marriage is conferred in a nuptial Mass. Why is this so?"
Why is this so? Gee, I dunno, is it 'cuz the bishops realize that a "simple"
assertion that "the sacrament of marriage is conferred in a nuptial Mass" would
be sacramentally, canonically, and historically misleading, even wrong?
Sacramentally, marriage in the Roman Church is conferred within
a rite celebrated
thereto, which ritualized exchange of consent, however, might
occur within a Mass celebrated
Furthermore, even if matrimonial consent is validly exchanged within a nuptial
Mass, that exchange might
result in a sacrament being conferred, depending on the baptismal status of at
least one party.
the requirement of "matrimonial form", which some moderns assume applies to the
wedding Mass, actually impacts
jurisdiction of the official witness
exchange of consent,
which witness, moreover, need
even be a priest! Finally,
it seems that the practice of celebrating most Catholic marriages specifically
within a Mass is
of rather recent origin. So much for
claims about it being a "simple fact" that "sacramental marriage is conferred in
a nuptial Mass".
Bottom line, advice from the
on how to improve pastoral letters on marriage might be read for possible
amusement value, but not for anything that requires theological, canonical,
and/or historical accuracy.
Instead, I'd suggest reading someone like
October 09, 2009
A response to Fr. Gerard Moloney's attack
yes, I was angry: accused of taking a position on an important ecclesiastical
matter that I never took, and in fact, one I had repeatedly argued
Next, I was sad, sad that a Catholic priest and religious, editor of what I
assume is a respected Catholic publication, would so meanly rebuke another in
obvious disregard for what that other had actually said on the matter.
But finally, as the cleric parlayed his gross mistakes about my alleged position
on Ted Kennedy's funeral into an attempt to cast blame on folks like me for --
are you ready this? --
clergy and religious child sexual abuse scandal
(!), I ran out of emotions, and now feel, I dunno, nothing.
Editorializing in the October issue of
Reality magazine Fr. Gerard Moloney, cssr, rips those who
opposed the decision to grant Ted Kennedy a Catholic funeral.* Says Moloney,
"Not only did [funeral critics] not agree with Ted Kennedy's politics or like
him as a man, they didn't want him to have a Catholic funeral. They didn't think
he was entitled to it." Or again, "Those who criticised the decision to give
Senator Edward Kennedy a Catholic funeral not only don't know a lot about being
a Catholic, they know very little about being Christian." Or yet again, in
referring to protest emails sent to the Redemptorist basilica that hosted
Kennedy's funeral, Moloney describes them as "not only angry, they were
hate-filled; they dripped with righteous indignation."
I was beginning to wonder just who's writing with contempt for others when, to
my amazement, I saw
presented as Moloney's poster boy of his evil "holier-than-thous"! According to
quotes from Moloney's editorial, I apparently figure prominently among those who
claimed that Ted Kennedy was not entitled to a Catholic funeral and who
criticized the decision to grant him one.
So, I ask Fr. Moloney: did you
what I wrote about the Kennedy funeral question?
I defended --
Father -- Ted Kennedy's right to a Catholic funeral
Teddy's right to Catholic funeral despite his chronic, scandalous abandonment of
innocent babies to abortionism and despite several events in his life that cast
grave doubts on his prudence and truthfulness. I
Teddy's funeral rights against attractive arguments offered by several
respected pro-life leaders that Teddy's repentance of his scandalous
behavior should have been "more public". Against
these reasonable adversaries, I argued that, under Church law and based on
public news reports, Kennedy
offered signs considered sufficient under canon law for him to be accorded a
How can you possibly say or even imply otherwise about me, Fr. Moloney?
Even in my criticisms of
Kennedy's funeral liturgy
criticisms I stand by, I reiterated my defense of Teddy's basic right to funeral
under canon law! Characterize my opinions on the liturgy itself any way you
want, Father (I'm content to let readers decide for themselves whether I was "so
sanctimonious, so judgmental, so self-righteous. Not much charity or compassion
there," etc.), but do not accuse me of objecting to the grant of a Catholic
funeral to Ted Kennedy or of holding Kennedy responsible for how his funeral was
conducted, because I didn't. For that matter, every word I wrote on Teddy's
funeral was public. I sent no emails, nasty other otherwise, to the
So, how can you publicly tar me with the blame you feel is deserved by people
who expressed their opinions -- perhaps rudely, I have no way of knowing -- in
personal messages to your co-religionists?
Ed, you're working your way back up to angry here.
Okay, let's put everything up to this point off to one side. There's still one
more matter to address.
Moloney's reckless characterization of me as an opponent of Kennedy's funeral
disintegrates, finally, into what I can only term the
goes on (I can't believe I reporting this) to blame me and mine for, of all
clergy and religious sexual abuse crisis!
Yes, you read that correctly: according to Moloney, the people who objected to
Ted Kennedy's funeral and/or the blatant way it was politicized are the same
kind of people whose "theology" lay behind the decades of sexual abuse committed
against children by Irish Catholic priests and religious!
Don't believe me? Per
another news article on Moloney's piece: "Referring to the Ryan Report [on
the Irish clergy and religious child abuse scandal], Fr. Moloney says that in
Ireland we are still trying to understand how those events could have happened
and what warped theology lay behind them. In his view, the theology responsible
was a 'theology of condescension, of arrogance, without compassion or heart,
that saw the speck in other people's eyes while being blind to the plank in
What can one say in reply to a priest who thinks that way, let alone to one who
would publish something like that? + + +
* I asked [October 9]
magazine for a copy of Moloney's editorial, an electronic version being
sufficient. I have not yet received one and so I react only to quotations from
Moloney's piece. . . . As of
I still have not been provided a copy, in any format, of Moloney's editorial.
Maybe it's coming ordinary post, ya think?
September 24, 2009
I doubt Abp. Burke charged "the Church" with erring
journalists usually have some say over how their writings are
even the best reporters tend to have little control over how their articles are
Over the years I've cringed at some of the titles pasted atop my work, so I want
to avoid assuming David Gibson's responsibility for the goofy charge that
report of Abp. Raymond Burke's recent address to guests at
InsideCatholic.com's 14th Annual Partnership Dinner.
The title to Gibson's article reads "Vatican Official: Church Erred in Holding
Kennedy Funeral." Not only did Burke never say "the Church erred" in this way or
any other (seriously, can anyone imagine Burke making such a reckless claim
Gibson's own article makes no such allegation.
say about Catholic politicians who publicly support abortion (and a few other
issues gravely at odds with Church teaching) was that "Neither Holy Communion
nor funeral rites should be administered to such politicians", adding that "To
deny these is not a judgment of the soul, but a recognition of the scandal and
its effects." In speaking thus, Burke falls squarely within the bounds of
Catholic canon law and orthodoxy, however little companionship he might enjoy
there these days.
It was only later, in a line Gibson adequately paraphrased
but which he should have quoted, that Burke said "with greatly sinful acts
about fundamental questions like abortion and marriage, [a politician's]
repentance must also be public" adding, "Anyone who grasps the gravity of what
he has done will understand the need to make it public." Again, a pastorally
sound position, in my opinion.
But, from these two utterances, Gibson concludes that Burke "openly oppose(d)
the judgment of Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley . . . regarding sacraments for
Kennedy . . . and (held) that politicians like Kennedy should not be provided a
(Catholic) funeral." Now, while Gibson's characterization of Burke's statements
still doesn't support a headline claiming that
claim that Burke disagreed with O'Malley's decision to accord Kennedy a Catholic
funeral. Hmmm. I wonder about even that.
I don't know whether Burke disagreed with O'Malley's decision, but Burke's
actual statements here (at least the ones I have access to), when taken at face
value, express no such disagreement.
Consider: what Burke actually said was that Catholic politicians who work in
open contradiction to Church teaching on certain grave issues are ineligible to
participate in the sacraments (like the Eucharist under
c. 915) and sacramentals (like funerals under
c. 1184). All correct, in my opinion.
But, what Burke did
say was that such politicians, if they give "signs of repentance", should
be denied a Catholic funeral. (Really, show me where Burke ever said that.)
Instead, what Burke said was that, in his opinion, such signs of repentance must
be "public". Ah, I see how people are confused.
In speaking as he did, Burke seems to be accepting of the current legislation
(and, as far as I can tell, of
the unbroken line of interpretation given thereto*)
that Catholic funerals can be accorded to public sinners who give "signs of
repentance", but that, in light of the obvious consternation caused in some
cases by the current law, he wants to see canon law come to require "public
signs of repentance" (as opposed to
what we witnessed in Kennedy's case, namely, traditional but "private" signs of
repentance, like calling a priest to his deathbed, and so on).
That's a very different claim, folks.
Many people feel that Kennedy's funeral exposed a weakness in the current canon
law on funerals, and that the Code should be amended to require
signs of repentance before funeral rites are accorded public sinners like
Kennedy. That's fine; one can certainly argue that. Even if I think that some
such calls have been prompted by
the terrible way that Kennedy's funeral was actually conducted, and that the
present law, while not perfect, is better than any proposal I've seen to amend
it, I grant that questions about how the law
to read are much better assessed by ecclesiastical leaders like Burke than by
little lawyers like me.
But, in the meantime, I
know how the law reads
and I know how that law has been consistently interpreted over the centuries,
and so I know that the decision to accord Ted Kennedy a Catholic funeral was
made in accord with the current canon law on funerals.
And that's all I've ever argued. + + +
The privation of ecclesiastical burial by this canon [1917 CIC 1240 then, 1983
CIC 1184 today] has the nature of a
and hence is to be strictly interpreted; moreover
of repentance before death excuses from the penalty; this means some positive
sign, such as calling for a priest, kissing a crucifix, an expressed desire not
to die without the sacraments. In doubt the Ordinary is to be consulted, but if
the doubt in favor of the deceased remains, the decision should be in his favor.
Bouscaren & Ellis,
a Text and Commentary
(2nd ed., 1951) at 683, original emphasis.
September 09, 2009
A reply to Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro Carambula in re Kennedy's funeral
Ignacio Barreiro Carambula, Doctor of Dogmatic Theology and
head of the Rome office of Human Life International, has written a criticism
of the Catholic funeral recently accorded Sen. Edward Kennedy. I think several
of the monsignor's criticisms are ill-founded.
Monsignor's original article is here, my reactions (in CAPITAL LETTERS) are
AUTHOR'S NOTE AND PARAS 1-3. FOR PRESENT PURPOSES, GRANTED.
4. If a Catholic is engaged in politics, the Church has a right
and a duty to request coherence from this person. AMBIGUOUS WORD, "COHERENCE".
WHAT DOES "COHERENCE" MEAN HERE? HOW IS IT TO BE ASSESSED IN THE EXTERNAL FORUM?
THIS IDIOSYNCRACTIC USEAGE WILL CAUSE PROBLEMS LATER.
If, regrettably, this Catholic refuses to be coherent HOW DOES ONE DO THAT,
"REFUSE TO BE COHERENT"? HOW IS "COHERENCE" TO BE ASSESSED?
the Church has the right and the duty to refuse him the reception of the Holy
Eucharist as it is established in Canon 915: "Those who have been excommunicated
or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others
obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy
communion." NO, THE CHUCH CAN ENFORCE CANON 915
IN THE FACE OF OBSTINATE PERSERVERANCE IN MANIFEST GRAVE SIN. IS
WHAT THE AUTHOR MEANS BY "COHERENCE"? IF SO, WHY CHANGE WORDS?
5. FOR PRESENT PURPOSES, GRANTED.
6. In the same way that publicly incoherent Catholics might be
denied communion, OH? THIS WORD "COHERENCE" IS POORLY DEFINED AND IS BEING
LOOSELY USED. BECAUSE IT HAS SUCH IMPORTANCE FOR HIS ARGUMENT, THE AUTHOR MUST
EXPLAIN AND DEFEND HIS USE OF THIS TERM.
these persons can also be denied ecclesiastical funeral rites. WHAT PERSONS?
"INCOHERENT" CATHOLICS? WHO ARE THEY?
The Code of Canon Law establishes, Can. "1184.1. Unless they gave some signs of
repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical
funerals: 3/ other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical
funerals without public scandal of the faithful."
7. The Code establishes two cumulative requirements to permit
the ecclesiastical funeral of public sinners: some signs of repentance and the
avoidance of public scandal of the faithful. QUITE WRONG. THE AUTHOR HAS LIFTED
A QUALIFIER FROM ONE PASSAGE OF THE LAW AND ELEVATED IT INTO A CO-EQUAL
REQUIREMENT WITH ANOTHER PASSAGE OF THE LAW.
8. We are informed by the press that the person THE PERSON?
IF WE ARE
TALKING ABOUT SEN. EDWARD KENENDY, WHO ARE WE TALKING ABOUT? IF WE
TALKING ABOUT KENNEDY, NAME HIM. SUCH FASTIDIOUSNESS IN USING THE NAME OF A
MAJOR PUBLIC FIGURE IS SILLY AND DISTRACTING.
who received the recent funeral in Boston gave some signs of repentance; RIGHT.
ALL THE LAW REQUIRES.
ONE NEED SIMPLY READ THE CANON TO SEE THIS.
but those signs were not specific at all with regards to the many grave and
public violations that he committed against the teachings of the Church. SO
WHAT? NEITHER THE LAW NOR CANONICAL TRADITION REQUIRE SUCH SPECIFICTY.
Even if the signs of repentance would have been judged sufficient by competent
local ecclesiastical authority, the problem of the scandal remains because the
ordinary of the place where the funeral was officiated could not have been
ignorant that the funeral was going to be turned into a celebration of the life
of that particular person. THIS SENTENCE MIGHT BE BADLY TRANSLATED, BUT I CANNOT
IMAGINE IT MEANS WHAT IT PURPORTS TO SAY.
9. Here we should also remember the norm of the General
Instruction of the Roman Missal that establishes: "382. At the Funeral Mass
there should, as a rule, be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind."
There is ample public evidence provided by the press that this norm was not
respected in a recent Boston funeral and that fact is in itself a reasonable
source of scandal. FINE, I HAPPEN TO AGREE (AND
SAID SO HERE), BUT
THE FUNERAL WAS CELEBRATED IS
KENNEDY SHOULD HAVE BEEN GRANTED A FUNERAL IN THE FIRST PLACE.
10. We should also remember that Catholics that are scandalized
by this recent funeral in Boston WHAT RECENT FUNERAL IN BOSTON? OH, KENNEDY'S.
have a right to express their complaints to competent Church authorities in
accordance with the instruction
of the Congregation for Divine Worship of March 25, 2004, that establishes:
"184. Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ's faithful,
has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan
Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic
See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff. It is fitting, however,
insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the
diocesan Bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity." YES. THEY
CAN COMPLAIN ABOUT LITURGICAL ABUSE IN THIS FUNERAL (THERE WERE SEVERAL
INSTANCES I NOTED), BUT
ABOUT WHETHER CANON LAW WAS FOLLOWED IN GRANTING KENNEDY A FUNERAL.
11. To uphold the teachings of the Church with regards to the
responsibility of Catholic political leaders is a two-fold exercise of mercy. I
WOULD HAVE THOUGHT IT TO BE AN EXERCISE IN JUSTICE, PERHAPS IN CHARITY, BUT
NO. ELSE, WHAT LEGAL CONSEQUENCE IS BEING FORGONE HERE, AS HAPPENS IN SITUATIONS
First, it is for the good of the soul of the politician. ECCLESIASTICAL FUNERALS
ARE IRRELEVANT TO THE STATUS OF THE SOUL OF ANY CATHOLIC, POLITICIAN OR
OTHERWISE. WHAT DOES THE AUTHOR HAVE IN MIND HERE?
A politician that is acting contrary to fundamental teachings of the Church in
his public life is risking his eternal salvation. YES.
So to warn this person in due canonical fashion and then, if he persists, to
apply to him canonical sanctions will help him to repent and change his life.
SANCTIONS? WHAT SANCTIONS? DENIAL OF A CHURCH FUNERAL IS
A SANCTION, AND THEREFORE NO PENAL PROCESS NEED BE FOLLOWED. AGAIN, IMPRECISE
TERMINOLOGY IS CONFUSING THE ISSUE.
The Church, sharing the infinite love of Jesus Christ, does not want that any of
its members should perish and be deprived of eternal life. OKAY, BUT SO WHAT
HERE? WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH THE FUNERAL QUESTION BEING DEBATED?
12. Second, it is an act of mercy towards society, AGAIN,
because any thing that tends to confuse or blur the Christian message of
salvation damages the ability of the Church to fulfill her saving mission. OK?
BUT WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH
SUCH POOR LANGUAGE USAGE THROWS DOUBT ON THE ACCURACY OF OTHER TERMS USED
As a consequence in this particular case it would have been an act of mercy
towards all Catholics and to many other persons of good will who suffered
scandal by this recent funeral WHAT FUNERAL? KENNEDY'S, I GUESS.
to deny it. NO, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A VIOLATION OF CANON LAW TO DENY A CHURCH
FUNERAL TO ONE WHO SATISFIED THE MINIMAL REQUIREMENTS OF LAW FOR HAVING ONE,
AS I ARGUE KENNEDY DID.
13. In conclusion, the Church should examine with attention the
recent funeral in Boston WHAT RECENT FUNERAL IN BOSTON? KENNEDY'S?
and determine in an official and authoritative way if corrective action is
necessary to avoid the furtherance of this type of scandal in the future.
EXACTLY WHAT SCANDAL? THE LITURGICAL ABUSE THAT OCCURRED IN THE FUNERAL? SURE, I
A FUNERAL WAS GRANTED IN THE FIRST PLACE? THAT WAS NOT SCANDALOUS, THAT WAS
FOLLOWING THE TRADITIONAL REQUIREMENTS OF THE LAW.
MY CONCLUDING REMARK: IF MONSIGNOR WOULD LIKE TO SEE CANON 1184 REPHRASED (SAY,
BY REQUIRING THAT
REPENTENCE BE SHOWN FOR EVERY GRAVE SIN), HE MAY OF COURSE SUGGEST IT. (I THINK
SUCH A STANDARD IS UNREALISTIC IN THE PASTORAL ORDER, BUT WHO AM I TO DECIDE?)
BUT IF, AS IT SEEMS, MONSIGNOR IS ARGUING THAT THE CURRENT CANON WAS NOT
CORRECTLY FOLLOWED IN REGARD TO GRANTING TED KENNEDY'S FUNERAL, I THINK HE IS
August 31, 2009
About Teddy's letter to the pope
many readers who have asked my opinion on
Ted Kennedy's letter to the pope, I offer a few thoughts.
1. The great majority of Teddy's letter (aside from the platitudes) strikes me
as an exercise in self-justification.
2. A small part of the letter, however,
be construed as expressive of some level repentance and of a desire to be
reconciled with the Church: "And
though I have fallen short [in my efforts to be a faithful Catholic] through
human failings I've never failed to believe and respect the fundamental
teachings of my faith. I continue to pray for God's blessings on you and on our
church and would be most thankful for your prayers for me."
Obviously, Teddy's language here does not
such a generous interpretation, but it would support a plausible case being made
3. That said, looking at it alone, I doubt that this letter (which was not made
public till after the funeral Mass), sufficed canonically as a "sign of
repentance" sufficient to win Kennedy a Catholic funeral, for there seems to me
little actual repentance expressed in it, and whatever was expressed (to the
pope) seems inadequately conveyed to count precisely as a "sign" of repentance
for the wider community. No, Teddy's request for Catholic funeral was licitly
granted on other evidence, as
I have argued elsewhere.
4. But if I made add one more observation: Recall that the letter was written
at least six weeks before Kennedy's death. Now, if one were to describe
Catholic politician as the paradigmatic man who over many decades has dug
himself into a dreadfully deep pit, then one
see in his letter some indications that Teddy has at least stopped digging, and
that he might even be coming to sense that he needs help from his Church in
climbing out again.
If that's true, then another six weeks of terminal brain cancer, spent
apparently lucidly, might have spurred Teddy toward the means to escape from his
past that all good Catholics want to see for him. The pope obviously did not
want to crush what might have been the smoldering embers in Ted's letter and so,
I think, despite his having precious little to build on, the pope nevertheless
answered Teddy's letter and asked God grace upon him.
Whether Teddy in fact repented is known to him and God alone (and, I repeat, the
of repentance is not an issue in the decision to grant a manifest sinner an
ecclesiastical funeral), but I wonder whether his letter might not, at the end
of time, be seen rather like the arrogant but utterly lost driver who, after so
many hours of driving the wrong way, finally pulls over and considers asking for
directions. + + +
Some other interesting posts:
1. Mark Brumley on "Signs
of Repenance or of the Status Quo"
2. Carl Olson on "The
funeral and the letter"
3. A longish
exchange on Kennedy's right to a Catholic funeral
August 29, 2009
Some non-canonical reflections on Kennedy's funeral
that can be said about Ted Kennedy's funeral is, It could have been worse.
The celebrant, who strove to avoid masculine references to God in the liturgy
(his verbal substitutions plainly clashing with the voices of others sticking to
the approved texts), managed to forget the
during the Eucharistic Prayer, and later asked the congregation join him "in the
words Our Father taught us."
The homily, which started well enough but steadily deteriorated, fell into
various holes like (I'm quoting from memory): "the fruits of [Kennedy's] work in
politics well-prepared him for God's kingdom" (Lord, I hope that's not what he
really meant); and "Kennedy tied his faith to justice in the land" (good grief,
for millions of unborn babies in the land? was
the fruit of Teddy's faith?); and "we are confident that Kennedy has entered
into the new dwelling of God" (maybe you are, Father).
The kid's intercessions came out as unabashed advertisements for Democratic
Party policy goals.
Mercifully, all the major networks used a single video feed, and pretty
ahead of time and ordered "Don't,
under any circumstances, show the Communion lines!", so we were spared wincing
as this famous Catholic pro-abort or that approached the Eucharist.
And finally, whodathunkit?, President Obama's eulogy, though offered in
violation of liturgical law, was actually the most palatable of what turned out
eulogies offered in violation of liturgical law, the first, Teddy Jr.'s, being
maudlin, but mostly coherent if at times inappropriately partisan, while the
second, that of Rep. Pat Kennedy, was embarrassingly pathetic and even included
a joke about "that damn Kennedy" from the sanctuary. Sigh.
But what, in the end, most struck me, through whole ceremony, was how oblivious
all the participants seemed to be (again, with the sole exception of Obama, who
at least made one veiled reference to Kennedy's "public faults", and who was the
only speaker to offer a prayer for Teddy's soul), how oblivious, I say, all the
participants were to Ted Kennedy's disgraceful and chronic failings to defend
the natural right to life (e.g., abortion, embryonic stem cell research), his
refusal to protect the natural institution of marriage lately under such attack,
and his bad example on a host of other issues of importance to Catholics and to
the country. While a funeral is no place to rehearse, say, a man's role in the
death of a beautiful young woman, such events and conduct should have, I think,
restraint in the rush to proclaim the man's accomplishments. (As for those
"accomplishments", well, if one is wedded to the idea of a gigantic state, then
Teddy's accomplishments were admittedly many. But if you're not enamored of
statism, one might say that the
Teddy helped inflict on the nation was great.) Instead, one speaker after
another gushed on and on about Ted.
The whole experience left me less hopeful about "dialogue" on life issues (not
that I was very hopeful to begin with): we are, it seems clear, talking to
people who have
sense of the enormity of the crimes being committed daily against the innocent.
So, as I said, the best one can say about Ted Kennedy's Catholic funeral (to
which, yes, he had a right, in accord with law) is, it could have been
August 28, 2009
Some thoughts on Abp. Sheehan's recent comments regarding Eucharistic discipline
offer no opinion on the
recent comments made by Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe to the
National Catholic Reporter regarding his take on inter-episcopal
relations (that's between arch/bishops), his assertions on the canon law of
Eucharistic reception are something else. In my opinion, several of Abp.
Sheehan's assertions thereon are flawed. Even so, I might have let them pass,
except that Sheehan, besides being an archbishop, also has a doctorate in canon
law (Lateran, 1971) and thus some might incline to his views based on those
credentials. So, here goes.
Sheehan sums up his views on withholding Communion from major pro-abortion
Catholic legislators thus: "You have to be very careful. The Vatican doesn't do
these big sanctions, you're out of the church if you vote this way. They've
tried it, it doesn't work, and I try to learn from what the Vatican has to teach
and to use that myself . . . The primary responsibility for someone receiving
communion is the person himself or herself and their conscience, to come forward
to receive. The priest shouldn't be like a watchdog, looking around and finding
out who's unworthy."
Okay, in that order:
1. Yes, withholding Communion from the publicly unworthy should be done only
with great care. But,
2. Withholding Communion under
Canon 915 is
a penal "sanction" (though Sheehan implied several times it was), rather
it is a sacramental disciplinary norm. The differences (procedurally,
pastorally, etc.) between these two kinds of actions are many. And,
3. Withholding Communion under Canon 915 has nothing to do with retaining one's
membership in the Church, so why even bring it up? Furthermore,
4. While the
responsibility for a worthy reception of Communion rests with the individual
Canon 916, if we need a norm to prove the point), "primary" responsibility
is not the same thing as "sole" responsibility. Ministers of holy Communion,
like it or not, have the responsibility under Canon 915 to withhold the
Eucharist from certain members of the faithful under certain circumstances.
This is so
why even have a Canon 915 if the would-be recipient of Communion were the
person authorized to decide on reception? Moreover,
5. Canon 915 does
require ministers to determine "who's
to receive Communion (to phrase the question that way is to misconstrue the Code
and sacramental theology on this point), but rather, it requires ministers to be
alert to the possibility that under certain circumstances some Catholics are not
to receive Communion.
Elsewhere, say in his example about Communion for a couple in a potentially
irregular marriage, Sheehan seems again to confuse Canons 915 and 916, and his
remarks are in any case difficult to reconcile with the tenor of CDF's 1994
the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced-and-Remarried Members of the
Faithful" (esp. as it invokes
Familiaris consortio n. 84)*, but these discussions can be left
for another day.
I will say, I am disappointed that Abp. Sheehan described those faithful
(including, one must conclude,
some major American prelates) who call for the just enforcement of Canon 915
as being engaged in "hysterical activity". To me, it seems labeling others that
way is itself a hysterical act. + + +
Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration (II), 24 June 2000.
August 27, 2009
A Catholic Funeral for Ted Kennedy?
Teddy Kennedy's politics, and most of whatever parts of his personal life I knew
through the media, angered and sometimes even disgusted me. But my opinions
about Teddy's legacy are not at issue in assessing his right to a Catholic
funeral under canon law. I trust that my writings on the proper understanding
and correct application of
1983 CIC 1184 (the canon regulating the funeral rites to be accorded - - or
not, as the case may be - - to Catholics) are reasonably well-known to readers
of this blog.* So let's move directly to the canonical question of Kennedy's
Now, any man with a 100% rating from NARAL (to highlight just the
tip of the iceberg of Teddy's decades-long campaign against natural rights)
has, to put it mildly, the burden of proof in seeking a Catholic funeral (okay,
have the burden of proof, but you see the point) in that notorious pro-aborts
seem to be "manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals
without public scandal of the faithful."
that is, "they gave some sign of repentance before death." And there is at least
some evidence that Ted Kennedy did just that.
Mark Leibovich of the
New York Times notes that, among things, "The Rev. Mark Hession,
the priest at the Kennedys' parish on the Cape, made regular visits to the
Kennedy home this summer and held a private family Mass in the living room every
Sunday. Even in his final days, Mr. Kennedy led the family in prayer after the
death of his sister Eunice . . . [and when] the senator's condition took a turn
Tuesday night a priest, the Rev. Patrick Tarrant of Our Lady of Victory Church
in Centerville, was called to his bedside."
Folks, my reading of the canonical tradition behind Canon 1184**
says that those actions suffice as "some signs of repentance", making Ted
Kennedy eligible for a Catholic funeral. Of course I wish that Teddy's
repentance, if that is what it was, had been more explicit, for the scandal the
man left was enormous and demanded great atonement in this life (or more
dreadfully in the next). But on the narrow question as to whether Edward Kennedy
is eligible for a Catholic funeral, the information before me suggests that he
is, and that a bishop who permits such rites can find support in the Code of
Canon Law for his decision.
Now, about President Obama giving a
thereat, don't even get me started.
See, e.g., Edward Peters, "Lest
amateurs argue canon law: a reply to Patrick Gordon's brief against Bp. Thomas
86 (2006) 121-142 (defending Bp. Daily's decision to withhold Catholic funeral
rites from a notorious mobster), Edward Peters, "State-sanctioned
suicide and ecclesiastical funerals",
2009) 30-40 (questioning whether Catholic funerals should be granted in such
cases), and Edward Peters, "Steven
Sueppel should not be granted an ecclesiastical funeral",
26 March 2008 (arguing that "family annihilators" should be deprived of Church
See, e.g., J. Manzanares, [commentary on Canon 1184], in L. Echeverria, ed.,
Derecho Canonico: Edicion Bilingue Comentada,
5th ed., (1985) at 574, wherein: "Those [manifest sinners] are no longer
considered unworthy who, before death, give some sign of repentance. Moreover,
this clause should receive a benign interpretation.
A sign of
repentance could be not only calling for a confessor,
asking publicly for the forgiveness of God, or kissing a crucifix, etc., and
could also be gleaned, despite one's otherwise irregular situation, by giving
clear signs of adhesion to the Church, for example, by collaborating in its
works, sending children to catechism, or participating themselves in
ecclesiastical initiatives whenever possible." My translation and emphasis.
now available in French at Americatho.
August 13, 2009
A canonical look at the Rick Pitino case
follow college hoops, but those who do will immediately recognize the name of
Rick Pitino, coach of a perennially successful men's basketball team at the
University of Louisville. Reports indicate that Pitino
is an active Roman Catholic and
attended at least some Catholic schools.
Pitino admits to having had sex with a woman not his wife some six years
ago, learning later that she was pregnant, giving her $ 3,000, and the woman
promptly procuring an abortion. Most everything else about the story is
disputed, however, including whether the sex was consensual or criminal and
whether Pitino gave the money for an abortion or to buy insurance to provide
No mention is made in the reports I've seen that, one way or another, a baby was
killed here. Please offer a prayer for this baby's soul, and for all those
responsible for this killing
. . .
Now, let me go on to ask whether there are canonical consequences arising from
the abortion in this case. As I see it:
1. If Pitino gave the woman money with the intention of providing insurance
coverage for prenatal care, he faces no canonical problems in that regard.
2. If Pitino gave her the money with the intention of providing insurance
coverage for an abortion or with the intention of paying for the abortion, he
would have, in my opinion, formally cooperated with the abortion which makes him
objectively guilty of grave sin (with consequences under
1983 CIC 916); moreover, he would have provided the means with which this
abortion was procured, making him, again in my opinion, an accomplice to
1983 CIC 1329.
But we may be spared having to think through the 20-plus ways of dodging
(automatic) -- which institute, as I have said before, is disappearing from
canon law and should be dropped entirely -- nor need we discuss the admittedly
fewer loopholes available to defendants in excommunication
(formal) cases for the simple reason that the canonical statute of limitations
has already run: the abortion canon,
c. 1398, has a five-year "prescription" period per
1983 CIC 1362, meaning that a canonical investigation cannot be opened now
regarding an abortion that all sides agree occurred on August 29, 2003.
If Pitino has any concerns related to his eligibility to receive holy Communion
per Canon 916, those can be, and should be, dealt with in sacramental
Fr. Edward Panlilio and Philippines political office
All Kresta and I recently discussed the case of
Philippine priest Edward Panlilio holding a governorship in, and now running
for the presidency of, the Philippines. Those wishing more information on the
matter can begin by consulting
Canon 285 of the 1983 Code, and then reading my general comments on this
sort of case in the 2007
at p. 60.
July 16, 2009
CLSA Advisory Opinions, 1984-2008
One of my
most cherished 'canonical collectibles' is a personal letter that Franciscan
canonist Stanislaus Woywod wrote in 1939 to a priest with questions about Mass
stipends. Woywod's letter has hung on my office wall for 20 years, a gentle
reminder to say yes
to as many requests for informal advice as I reasonably can. And then some.
Indeed, giving good answers to questions posed by the faithful has long been a
staple of canonical service, and the literary genre we call today "advisory
opinion" goes back several centuries in the Church (just one example being
seu Responsa Juris
from the 1720s). The service took on new importance in the twentieth century,
however, as the Church transitioned from Decretal law to codified canon law.
Consultationes Iuris Canonici
from the 1930s or Conway's
in Canon Law
from 1956 were invaluable in their day, and canon law reviews such as
sometimes carried 'Cases & Studies' sections.
But the Woywod letter illustrates another point: while considerable canonical
scholarship goes into a typical advisory opinion, such writings usually receive
scant circulation. That's a pity, for too few people benefit that way from the
erudition and experience contained in such opinions.
Canon Law Society of America has been doing something about that for, oh,
about 35 years.
Since 1984, the CLSA has published on an annual basis advisory opinions on a
wide variety of canonical questions. After the 1983 Code itself, and a major
commentary or two, CLSA Advisory Opinions are usually the first place I turn to
for insights into canonical questions. Finding a CLSA advisory opinion on point
is usually good news for a researcher.
Since the CLSA began publishing these materials, some 140 canonists have
contributed nearly 800 opinions on hundreds of canons. James Provost (rip)
prepared the most opinions (an astounding 121, though 40 canonists--including
yours truly--have published at least five), and, turns out,
Canon 1673 dealing with jurisdiction in marriage nullity cases is the most
commented upon norm. Interesting.
Anyway, this summer I finished a project I started sometime ago, namely, an
evaluative bibliography of CLSA advisory opinions from 1984 through 2008. I just
index of the opinions (according to canon number of the Code) on my website
http://www.canonlaw.info/, to help inform canonists and other researchers as
to whether a CLSA advisory opinion on such-and-such a canon exists in the first
place and, if so, who wrote it and when, and where the opinion appeared. For my
index, I used the
editions of the advisory opinions, but
three volumes of
collected opinions have been produced in recent the years.
The worth of an advisory opinion is not measured by its length (indeed, brevity
is a virtue and I think at least few opinions probably should have been
published as short articles somewhere else!) nor by the number of opinions that
a canonist publishes (while Provost is indisputably a
he is not 121 times more reliable than, say, Roch Page
or Ladislaus Orsy, each of whom have contributed only one advisory opinion). For
that matter, no private opinion is the last word on any given topic, and several
CLSA opinions openly disagree with one another. But, with few exceptions, I
think every opinion is worth consulting, if not for bolstering the approach that
one might have been inclined to in the first place, then at least for alerting
an ecclesiastical administrator or canonical advocate to a position he or she
might have to consider in a given case.
July 09, 2009
The Canadian Communion blunder
Video tape shows Abp. Andre
Richard (Moncton, New Brunswick) giving holy Communion to Canadian Prime
Minister Stephen Harper at a state funeral. It is, of course, inconceivable that
Richard did not know that
Harper is an evangelical Protestant. Obviously unsure what to do,
Harper apparently slipped the Host into his pocket (!), and his office has
not said what he eventually did with It.
Canon 844 specifies the conditions under which a Catholic minister may
licitly administer Communion to baptized non-Catholics and none of its five
sections, including the most relevant section 4, seem satisfied in this case. I
see, for example, no "grave necessity" for Harper to have taken holy Communion
in the first place, it is doubtful that he approached on his own accord, and
there is no evidence whatsoever that Harper "manifest[ed] Catholic faith in
respect to [this] sacrament". Any one of these points, not to mention others,
stand in the way of Harper licitly receiving the Eucharist.
For this grave blunder, however, I do not tend to hold Harper responsible,
though he might have been poorly advised by his protocol staff. Rather, I look
to the archbishop who, as the chief presider over the Eucharist in his local
CIC 389) and as the one charged with upholding ecclesiastical laws and
sacramental discipline (1983
CIC 392), should have known better.
In any case, I hope his Excellency's office is
pursuing the question as to what happened to the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity
of Our Lord last seen headed toward a politician's pocket.
Sources say Harper consumed the Host,
some claiming right away, others, just after Mass when he asked a Catholic
what to do with it. Either way, the PM's decorum is commendable. Now, about
Catholics putting Protestants in such positions to begin with . . .
July 08, 2009
Book Note: Siegel, The Human Right to Language
Siegel has been a legal consultant in Deaf and special education issues for over
30 years. He is an
adjunct professor at U Cal Hastings College of Law and runs the
National Deaf Education Workshop. His latest book is "The
Human Right to Language: Communication Access for Deaf Children" (Gallaudet,
2008) 164 pp. I picked up a copy from the parents' book shelf at the
De Sales Center / Holley Ear Institute, Family Village in Michigan where my
family often attends Deaf activities, and perused it this week. It's a
Siegel makes the case that legal arguments for greater communications access for
Deaf children need to start incorporating constitutional claims from the First
and Fourteenth Amendments, and that continued heavy reliance on the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1975/1997/2004)
with its "least restrictive environment" (LRE) test, can actually hurt the
educational prospects of Deaf children more than help them. He argues that
constitutional language, especially Bill of Rights jurisprudence, contains much
that can correct the still controlling law set out in
While it helps to be a lawyer when reading this work, it is by no means a
requirement. Siegel provides good fact outlines and concise summaries of various
arguments. The notes and index seem pretty good, but a single bibliography would
have been nice. The book should be highly recommended for legislative aides and
law clerks dealing with proposals or litigation in deaf education matters, but
school administrators and even parents (folks already with many things on their
to-do list!) would benefit as well.
The Recife excommunications: Summum ius, summa iniuria
ius, summa iniuria
means "the greater the right, the greater the wrong". When a great right (e.g.,
the right to life) is violated, it results in a great wrong. Similarly, when
those with great responsibility (say, Curial officials) commit blunders in
office, they do much more harm than would others. The continuing crisis over
recent statements by certain Roman dicastery officials in regard to the
Recife excommunications case features, I suggest, wrongs of both these
What is required of those who want to assess
the comments by Abp. Rino
Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life,
published last March in
concerning the excommunications of those performing a double abortion on a
nine-year old girl in Brazil? Well, for starters, they must bear in mind that it
is never easy to analyze comments (1) made in one language but translated into
another, especially when (2) the person making those comments seems unaware of
how poor his grasp of the facts is, and particularly when (3) his comments
involve applying highly technical but imperfect laws (4) to emotion-laden fact
Until I see the brief prepared on behalf of the (now-emeritus) Archbishop of
Olinda and Recife, Jose
Sobrinho, against Fisichella's comments, I refer interested
Magister's insightful reporting on the matter here, in light
of which report I offer a few observations.
Some preliminary points: (1)
L'Osservatore Romano is acting with unprofessional bias in
stone-walling Cardoso's request to defend himself against the accusations made
in the pages of
(2) Vatican spokesman Fr.
has once again made statements on a high-profile case that seem to blunt the
meaning of the pope's own words about the case, showing himself ill-suited to
being the spokesman for the pontiff; (3) deliberate abortion is gravely evil
(CCC 2271) and should result in one's excommunication (1983 CIC 1398), but the
canonical debate over whether that (or any other) penalty should operate
must be separated from the discussion of Fisichella's statements.
Now, even with all those caveats in mind, I find Fisichella's statements on this
case nigh on unbelievable.
There is nothing,
'ambiguous' or 'hard' or 'difficult' to grasp about the Church's unexceptioned
condemnation of the deliberate killing of an innocent human life. For the
prelate in charge of the pope's primary office concerned with life issues to
have expressed himself in such a way as to even
(not just once, but several times!) that such a heinous deed might
be justifiable is grounds for him to resign.
Perhaps some will think my interpretation of Fisichella's comments unfair? I
invite them to consider the
devastating analysis of Fisichella's comments offered by Msgr Michel
Schooyans, a Belgian bioethicist and member of
three pontifical academies,
the Academy of Life. He finds Fisichella's comments "astonishing" and is urging
nothing less than a personal papal intervention in correction thereof. Or,
Kissling took comfort in Fisicella's comments, showing
thereby how poorly the prelate served his office and the wider cause of
defending preborn babies from the abortionists' savagery.
ius, summa iniuria,
et consequenter summa obligatio scandalum reparandi.
PS: Once again it may be said, too many of those who are supposed to be making
Benedict XVI's pontificate more effective are in fact making things more
+ + +
11 July 2009:
Sandro Magister writes "The congregation for the doctrine of the faith has
released a 'clarification' that in fact repudiates the article published in
by the president of the pontifical academy for life, on the abortion performed
on a Brazilian mother-child."
June 30, 2009
L'OR and the Loss of Reason
of my life
has been a sleepy Roman rag that arrived weeks after its publication date,
printed in cheap ink that soiled the fingers of those who felt the need to read
page after page of boilerplate remarks on the latest ambassador from anywhere
shown in his tuxedo presenting diplomatic credentials. Aside, I suppose, from an
occasionally interesting book review,
has for decades carried nothing of serious interest that could not be found much
more quickly in a half-dozen other venues, ones, moreover, that didn't compel
readers to wash their hands before handling anything beige or white.
has decided to become relevant. God help us.
Having just emerged,
battered, but, I thought, moderately chastened after its embarrassingly
naive and harmful editorial in praise of Pres. Obama,
L'OR treats the world to a high-schoolish tribute to the highly
talented and utterly pathetic entertainer Michael Jackson.
Jackson might not be fully responsible for the swirling chaos that was his life
and death, but for
even to mention his death - - without simultaneously urging Catholics to pray
for his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed - - astounds me.
report leaves Catholics little sense that much of Jackson's work was sexually
exploitative, at times quasi-obscene; it dismisses as insignificant the terrible
example that Jackson's chronic pursuit of superficial "beauty" gave to millions
of young people; and, worst of all, it trivializes the serious, and in some
cases unresolved, allegations of child sexual abuse made against him.
need not assume the worst about Jackson's conduct in these cases, but it should
have implied that such allegations,
they are true,
cannot tarnish the world-wide esteem in which he is held! Good grief. Has
completely lost its reason?
If the Vatican wants a newspaper to provide a Catholic perspective on the world,
fine. Item Number One on the to-do list, though, should be to find Catholics who
can write and edit such a paper coherently. Anyone can lurch from gaff to gaff.
In the meantime, if you really want to get in on the Jackson Praise Train, check
out M-TV, dude. Their graphics are like
The insordescence of Abp. Milingo demands response
It's not a likable word. It's not a likable thing. But Abp. Milingo is
insordescent. And he needs to be dealt with.
Suspended in 2006 when he resumed cohabiting with his wife from a Moonie
wedding, and excommunicated about the same time when he ordained some married
men in America to the episcopate, Milingo's latest affront to the Church is
ordain to the episcopate
sine mandato yet another married man, this time in Kenya, one of
the Church's brightest spots in Africa.
In the old days (that is, before codified law), they had a term for an
excommunicate who passed one (nb:
year without seeking reconciliation: Insordescence, a status that made one
(especially clerics) liable to heightened penalties. See
Law of the Church (1906) at 371. For clergy, these penalties
were more or less along the lines of what we would today call "dismissal from
the clerical state".
Though mentioned just once the Pio-Benedictine Code (see 1917 CIC 2340 and
at 83), and not used at all in the Johanno-Pauline Code, the basic concept of
insordescence nevertheless survives, I suggest, in such norms as 1983 CIC
1326.1.1: "A judge can punish the following more gravely than the law or precept
has established: a person who after a condemnation or after the declaration of a
penalty continues so to offend that from the circumstances the obstinate ill
will of the person can prudently be inferred". Other norms reinforce this canon,
but this one should suffice to get the ball rolling.
years (not just for
that triggered insordescence), Milingo has shown nothing but obstinate ill will.
Thus, an additional penalty, one designed to address the scandal that he has
given the faith community around the world and the chronic abuse he extends
toward his holy state, is called for: namely, the expiatory penalty of dismissal
from the clerical state.
And yes, I recognize the possibility that Milingo is mentally disordered; I
think that, in accord with
1983 CIC 1323 and 1324, he should be allowed to raise that defense at his
Speaking of trials, only the pope can put a bishop on trial (1983
CIC 1405.1.3), a rule that helps popes protect bishops from facing canonical
prosecution from those below them; but it also means that if Rome does not act
in this case, nothing will get done.
The Lugo case showed (those who needed convincing) that wolves in shepherd's
clothing can petition for and be returned to the lay state. Milingo, whose
acting out is as bad and in some ways worse than Lugo's, shows no interest in
surrendering his clerical status; Rome should remove him from that distinguished
state for our sake, if not theirs.
Some related posts:
Catholic Culture News Briefs, and my
07 Sep 2008, Honk if you've had it with Milingo
24 Apr 2008, Rome's four options in regard to Bp. Fernando Lugo
25 Sep 2006, This time Milingo made it easy (two same-day installments)
19 Sep 2006, More on the Milingo mess
June 23, 2009
Three points on the recent SSPX ordinations
really isn't any "news" associated with
the recent SSPX ordinations in Minnesota--and there is certainly nothing
about them--though three comments seem in order.
contrary to some reports, the Catholic Church does recognize these ordinations,
by which we must understand, though, that 13 more men have taken the priesthood
of Christ illegally from bishops acting in a schismatic manner. While there is
no excommunication associated with such priestly ordinations
(as there is for episcopal ordinations contrary to
1983 CIC 1382), objectively speaking, participation in these ceremonies was
still gravely sinful.
Second, any comments that I might have offered concerning
excommunication for (what seem clearly to be) new acts of schism under
1983 CIC 1364 seem pre-empted by
Rome's gratuitous lifting of the excommunications against SSPX leadership
last January. Indeed, I am hard-pressed to think of
canons that Rome appears willing to enforce against the SSPX.
But these two points suggest an ironic
the fewer sacramental acts that Rome defends against SSPX appropriation, the
more the SSPX seems to resemble the Orthodox Churches and a few other
groups--Rome recognizes the validity of their orders, too, but (per
1983 CIC 1) it does not attempt to impose canonical penalties on them for
conferring those orders outside of its communion.
I thought lifting the SSPX excommunications was meant to bring them closer to
Catholic unity; instead, it seems to confirm their drifting more distant.
If Safranek, et al., were professor-ministers at Ave Maria, would that make
Monaghan their chancellor-pope?
spent over $ 8,500 on children's orthodontics this morning, I was ready for a
good laugh this afternoon. Thomas S. Monaghan, the college drop-out who is
Chancellor at Ave Maria "University", provided a real belly-buster.
As part of his efforts to avoid answering legally claims made against the
treatment that Ave Maria has accorded several law school faculty members,
understand him correctly,
arguing that his law school is fundamentally a
organization, that its professors are essentially
and that consequently no civil court can examine Ave's treatment of its
ministers without running afoul of various constitutional barriers.
I say, "if I understand him correctly", because it's hard to believe that such a
laugh-out-loud ridiculous argument would be tendered seriously. But
apparently I'm not the only one thunder-struck here: Attorneys for the former
faculty members begin
their reply to Monaghan's brief by observing that Ave Maria is taking "a
position so untenable it is difficult to absorb in one reading."
The colors on my civil law pennant are somewhat faded now, so I offer no
observations on how civil lawyers for the faculty responded to Monaghan's latest
legal ploy. But canon law is something I do keep up on, and canon law, I
suggest, takes a dim view of casually labeling every Catholic who regards his
faith seriously as
Though representing just the tip of an argument-iceberg here, the famous
interdicasterial instruction "On certain questions regarding the collaboration
of the non-ordained faithful in the sacred ministry of the priest"
Ecclesiae de Mysterio
(15 August 1997) went to great lengths to distinguish, in theory and in
practice, the Catholic concept of "ministry"
as something undertaken almost exclusively by the ordained in virtue of
that is, as works performed especially by lay persons in virtue of
Now, as much as the Catholic Church cherishes civil law and legal education,
there is virtually no way that she views law school professors as being engaged
in "ministry", and certainly not in a ministry on her behalf such that the
Church would assert jurisdiction over their situation as she would have to
assert for any number of genuinely ministerial works. Whatever monarchial
religious models might shape Monaghan's perception of himself at Ave Maria
as he leads all those souls to heaven, Ave law profs like Safranek saw
themselves as degreed professionals engaged in an important educational
one befitting them as Catholic laity, and not as wanna-be clerics.
Still not clear yet? Okay, ask the local Catholic bishop whether he considers
Ave Maria law school professors to be ecclesiastical ministers authorized by him
to speak on behalf of the Catholic Church? Betcha he'll deny it
faster than Tom Monaghan can say a Hail Mary, which is pretty darn fast. It
is even more preposterous to assert that canon law considers ecclesiastical
recognition of the Catholic character of a given school (assuming Ave Maria has
that) as rendering the school immune from civil scrutiny in regard to the basic
treatment it accords faculty (and students and staff, for that matter). That is
But, however goofy it is, we should be clear: In the world beyond the moat
behind which sits Tom's Town, the implications of his claim are
serious. Should Ave Maria's argument get so much as the time of day from the
trial court, I predict we'll see amicus briefs from the grown-ups at the United
States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Association of Catholic Colleges
to name just two of the
dozens of groups with a major stake in these matters, urging
appellate courts to reject any theories by which denominational university
faculty can be suddenly characterized as "ministerial employees" and
consequently stripped of a variety of civil rights. Pity is, that many groups
with real work to do - - and not blessed with millions of dollars to do it with
- - would have to take valuable time to dispose of the dreck in Ave Maria's
motion without marring a few points that might be (as is a stopped clock twice a
day) accidentally correct therein, like, I dunno, that the Church
have some legitimate interests in Catholic higher education.
The history of relations between Church and State in regard to higher education
in the United States is far more complex than Monaghan (who
wonders whether Catholic schools can be franchised like pizzerias!) could
possibly imagine. Among many titles here, see James Conn,
Universities in the US and Ecclesiastical Authority
(Gregorian JCD diss. 1991); Sharon Euart,
Church-State Implications in the United States of Canon 812 of the 1983 Code of
Canon Law Studies No. 526, (Catholic University of America: Washington, DC,
1988); and R. McClory, "The implementation of
in the United States" (Angelicum JCL Thesis 2000). I think that Church-State
jurisprudence, both canonical and civil, has nobler purposes than to generate
just enough smoke to obfuscate Monaghan's chronically questionable governance.
And I think
should think so, too.
keep waiting for Ave Maria to find a bottom in how far it is
willing to descend in its efforts to avoid treating certain Catholics (the sort
Monaghan dismisses as "academic
terrorists") with due dignity. But this month, Monaghan and Ave Maria tried
to label its law school faculty as some sort of religious ministers,
conveniently according their academic administrators a discretionary power over
Ave Maria law faculty akin to that
enjoyed by bishops over priests!
Looks like I'll just have to go on waiting.
June 17, 2009
Abp Weakland will not stop his attacks on Church teaching, so Rome must finally
George Neumayr writes in the July 2009
Catholic World Report, Abp. Rembert Weakland's autobiography
really is, among other things, a "memoir in praise of homosexual behavior" in
which the prominent prelate admits "several affairs with men" and "argues that
the Church should endorse the 'physical, genital expression' of homosexuality",
then Rome has, as I see it, no defensible choice but, in accord with canons
1717, to launch an investigation into the allegation that Weakland has, in
Canon 1369, used "published writings or other . . . instruments of social
communication . . . to gravely injure good morals" and visit upon him a fitting
penalty. That Weakland is an archbishop should not shield him from canonical
investigation and punishment, but rather serves to underscore the need for his
c. 1326.1.2. Moreover, the Order of St. Benedict should, I think, signal its
willingness to participate in the process in accord with law (esp. cc.
It's obvious that Weakland has no intention of stopping his attacks on various
Church teachings or of refraining from giving protracted scandal to the
faithful. The damage he has done, especially to the Church of Milwaukee, but to
the Church Universal as well, is incalculable. What Rome
have done during the decades of defiance shown it by Weakland is a matter for
historians to debate. The only question today, as I see it, is what, if
anything, will Rome finally do to vindicate the faithful against the appalling
and on-going scandal of Abp. Rembert Weakland?
Fire David Letterman
sick of the King of Smug, and think that 14-year-old girls should be off-limits
when it comes to CBS insult-mongers, then check out:
http://www.firedavidletterman.com/ I did.
Sarah's satified, so am I. (Frankly, I think she let him off easy. Maybe
she's just being a good example to the rest of us.)
State-sanctioned suicide and ecclesiastical funerals
column, "State-sanctioned suicide and ecclesiastical funerals" is coming
available in the
New Oxford Review
(June 2009) at 39-40. In the column, I ask whether the conditions for
withholding ecclesiastical funerals from Catholics who kill themselves in accord
with recent civil suicide legislation might be met. As American law continues
its headlong pursuit of calling evil good (Isaiah V:20),
Canon 1184 frames a question that, I fear, we Catholics are going to have to
ask ourselves ever more frequently.
original article has been made available at the NOR website.
May 28, 2009
Fr. Alberto Cutie's schismatic act
see why this should take very long.
Fr. Alberto Cutie's entry into the Anglican communion is an act of schism
1983 CIC 1364.1, for which he is liable to (automatic) excommunication. A
cleric, moreover, is also liable to dismissal from the clerical state "if
contumacy of long duration or the gravity of scandal demands it". The publicity
with which Fr. Cutie has garnished his act of schism, etc., sure seems to me
call for his prompt dismissal from the clerical state.
May 09, 2009
Lay ministers of holy Communion should stop offering
"blessings-in-lieu-of-Communion" at Mass
about swine flu have prompted
many parishes to discontinue the routine administration of the Precious Blood.
Okay, fine.* But there's
Communion rite practice that should also cease if only out of concerns for
public health. This time, however, it's a practice that (unlike distribution
from the Cup) is an abuse
namely, that of lay ministers of holy Communion purporting to confer
"blessings-in-lieu-of-Communion" on every Tom, Pat, and Harriet who comes up in
Lay ministers of holy Communion (by definition, extraordinary ministers
thereof), in response to people approaching them
the intention to receive Communion (maybe such folks are non-Catholics** or are
Catholic kids prior to First Communion), currently do one of three things: they
(1) speak and gesture a sign of the cross over such folks, or (2) lay hands on
such persons' heads or shoulders while voicing a blessing, or (3) waive the
Eucharist over them while purporting to confer a blessing. I think all three
actions are liturgical abuses.
Let's consider them in order of gravity:
1. Blessing the faithful with the Most August Sacrament is expressly reserved to
the ordained. Lay persons may not confer
blessings with the Host (Eucharistic
worship outside of Mass
nn. 91, 97-99, and
1983 CIC 1168). This practice should therefore be
halted wherever it has cropped up.
2. Touching many persons' hair, faces, and/or garments while serving food
(albeit divine Food) to the public
to be a violation of some health and safety regulation somewhere, not to mention
its being poor manners. If the swine flu makes distribution from a common Cup an
issue, surely touching hair and heads while serving others food from a common
Plate is a problem. This particular practice should therefore be halted
promptly, regardless of what one might think about lay blessings during Mass.
3. Ministers of holy Communion have, I suggest, no authority by their office***
sort of blessing on anyone. Neither the
Instruction on the Roman Missal
(which later source makes provisions for laity to administer certain blessings)
authorizes ministers of Communion to confer blessings during Mass. Given that
lay persons serving as extraordinary ministers of holy Communion have no
the administration of Communion, the introduction of a mini-blessing rite to be
performed by them seems to me a plain violation of
Canon 846. This practice should, I think, be halted pending a study of its
liceity by qualified persons and, if appropriate, its authorization by the
competent authority (1983 CIC
In brief, I suggest that lay ministers of holy Communion have no authority to
bless anyone in Communion lines, they should refrain from touching people while
distributing holy Communion, and they should immediately cease using the Blessed
Sacrament for mini-Benediction rites.
If it takes swine flu to provide the occasion of halting these liturgically
illicit, and hygienically unsound, lay blessing practices during Mass, so be it.
+ + +
Personally, while I appreciate the enhanced sign value (Sacrosanctum
55) of receiving from the Cup on special occasions, say, at First Communions or
weddings, or maybe at Easter, I find the every-Sunday, even every-day,
administration of the Precious Blood to be a time-consuming process that
regularly exposes the Sacred Species to profanation. I have directly witnessed
at least a half-dozen spills over the last several years, and I'm not counting
dribbles on shirts or dresses, or reports from others. Whatever reason is being
offered for discontinuing this excessive use of the Cup, I'm for it.
Non-Catholics are eligible for certain blessings (1983
CIC 1170), but what's at issue here are blessings by lay persons in the
context of Mass.
Clergy enjoy a spiritual authority over their people, as do parents over their
children. Such figures may and should extend blessings to their charges at
appropriate times (1983
CIC 1167-1169). But what authority do extraordinary ministers of holy
Communion have over the faithful? None. Who put extraordinary ministers of holy
Communion in charge of anything besides distributing holy Communion? No one.
Liturgical experts should explore whether the Communion procession ought to be
allowed to morph into a "blessing procession" in the first place but, even if
"blessings-in-lieu-of-Communion" during Mass are found licit, surely they should
be conferred only by priests or deacons.
Fr. Edward McNamara recently dealt with the same question and came down
largely against the practice of lay conferral of blessing during the Mass. He
quotes from a November 2008 (in ecclesiastical times, that's
private letter signed by an undersecretary of the Congregation of Divine
Worship. Okay, such a letter is not law, I grant, but it's pointing pretty
clearly against the practice criticized above. Here's hoping Rome can issue its
May 07, 2009
A response to Abp. Wuerl's claims that canon law supports his inaction in regard
to Nancy Pelosi
Abp. Donald Wuerl of Washington DC continues to defend his refusal to withhold
holy Communion from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in a number of ways,
but his recent claims that canon law supports his inaction attract my attention.
I think the prelate's canonical claims are wrong.
Wuerl claims that "there's a question about whether [Canon 915] was ever
intended to be used to bring politicians to heel . . . I stand with the great
majority of American bishops and bishops around the world in saying this canon
was never intended to be used this way.''
Okay, for starters, "the great majority of American bishops and bishops around
the world" (that's more than 3,000 men!), have not made
comments about the impact of Canon 915 on politicians, let alone have they made
statements holding Canon 915 inapplicable to politicians. There's no need to
belabor this exaggeration further.
More importantly, I wonder: exactly where is "the question" about whether Canon
915 was "intended to bring politicians to heel" (that's a derogatory description
of Church leaders and Catholic politicians alike) being raised? Who poses the
problem in this manner? I'd be happy to examine such sources for the claim as
one might care to offer, but I rather doubt any serious ones can be found. Why?
canon in the Code was written with the intention of bringing politicians to
heel. That's a disingenuous way to frame this issue.
Canons are designed to advance the salvific mission of the Church (c. 1752).
They help to establish an ecclesial order rooted in Scripture and Tradition (JP2,
Sacrae disciplinae leges, esp. para. 16). To hold, therefore,
that any canon is intended to bring a particular secular grouping of people "to
heel" is to misunderstand what canon law is for. But the mistake is compounded
when one goes on to use that mischaracterization of canon law to avoid the
correct application of canon law.
Let's consider this matter from another angle: Catholic politicians are members
of the Catholic Church and thus subject to its discipline (c. 11). Right? Of
course right. But one may still wonder whether Catholic politicians might enjoy
some express or implied
from canon law.
Actually, they do!
"Heads of state", for example, can be tried only by the pope (c. 1405), certain
civil officials are exempt from testifying about official secrets (c. 1548), and
others enjoy the privilege of choosing the place wherein their testimony must be
offered (c. 1558). Rare cases, I grant, but clearly, if the 1983 Code wants to
make exceptions for politicians, it knows how to. So, does Wuerl think there
Are Catholic politicians
bound by, say, the canons on the Sunday obligation (cc. 1246-1248) or the laws
of fast and abstinence (c. 1252)? Are they exempt from the canons on marriage
(c. 1108) or from the duty to educate their children in the Catholic faith (cc.
1136, 1366)? Do Catholic politicians (of all people!)
have the responsibility "to imbue and perfect the order of temporal affairs with
the spirit of the Gospel and thus give witness to Christ" (c. 225)?
If, as I feel sure, Wuerl would not regard Catholic politicians as exempt from
canonical requirements, where does he find an exemption for them (or for anyone
else) from Canon 915? The answer is, he cannot: there simply
no "politician" exemption from Canon 915.
wants to argue that Pelosi has not acted in a way as to make herself liable to
consequences under Canon 915, he's free to make his case. (I think he'd lose
that argument, but he's free to make it.) But he cannot gratuitously assert that
Canon 915 was never "intended" to apply to the Pelosis
of this world and leave the matter thus. Canon 915 unquestionably applies to all
Roman Catholics regardless of their civil status or secular profession.
Wuerl asserts, "Pelosi, as a San Franciscan, isn't part of my flock!"
the chief shepherd over the territory assigned to him (cc. 369, 372, 381) and
chief presider over the Eucharist celebrated therein (c. 835 and
of the Catholic Church
1142, 1369, 1561). Canons on sacramental discipline are universally applicable
to Roman Catholics (cc. 12, 915). None of these norms is thwarted by the fact
that a specific member of the faithful might have a "foreign" domicile,
quasi-domicile, or residence if that individual is
within the territory of the arch/bishop.
Consider moreover, by way of analogy, that if Pelosi's actions in Washington
were canonically criminal (that is not my claim here), Canon 1412 would
authorize Wuerl to take penal action against her regardless of her "foreign"
status. Now, if Wuerl is authorized to take the harsher route of
action against someone based only on the fact that his or her actions occurred
within his territory, it is difficult to see how he is suddenly forbidden from
action against anyone who is acting contrary to sacramental law in his
There is, I conclude, simply no question but that an arch/bishop is authorized
by canon law to take the steps necessary to protect the sacraments (especially
the Eucharist, cc. 897-898) from unworthy administration in his territory and
his people from the danger of scandal that might be given by such reception.
The only question I see here is whether, and if so when, Wuerl will take that
The ultimate solution to this problem is, of course, for Nancy Pelosi to give up
her unrelenting campaign against unborn babies, or, in default of that, at least
to refrain from approaching holy Communion (c. 916). Unless she takes either
step, however, I see no choice for Abp. Wuerl but to order enforcement of Canon
915 against her. In the meantime, however, I must say, nothing gives the forces
of darkness greater pleasure than to see those committed following Christ at
serious odds with one another. Such disputes must, in a fallen world, arise, but
we should strive to resolve them correctly as quickly as possible and, once
settled, to go on more united than ever toward the next struggle. There is no
place for brooding over one another's failures, or for gloating over one
"Faculties" for baptism?
An unsigned article in
Sydney Morning Herald states that Brisbane Fr. Peter Kennedy,
removed from his parish for a long list of good reasons, faces further
restrictions on his "ministry" given his continuing antics. An archdiocesan
spokesman apparently said that Brisbane Abp. John Bathersby might "revoke Fr.
Kennedy's priestly faculties - that is, his authority to perform weddings,
baptisms, preach and hear confessions." Fine by me, of course, with one
question: What can removal of one's faculties to perform baptism mean?
have a certain right to perform baptisms in their parish per
1983 CIC 530, but Kennedy, it seems, is already out as pastor, so what is
there to remove? No one can deprive Kennedy, or anyone else for that matter, of
to perform baptisms, however
such baptisms might be (1983
CIC 861, CCC 1256, and assuming Kennedy has decided that
valid baptisms should be performed). So, something's a little
off, either in the spokesman's remarks or in
reporting of this long-standing mess.
April 30, 2009
Dunnigan is worth reading on Legion debacle
Dunnigan, a canon and civil lawyer, has just published in
Christifidelis (27/2, May 1, 2009) a very interesting analysis
of the stagnant mess that is the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. (How
unfortunate that such a sentence must even be written.)
Anyway, Dunnigan explores several canonical questions that others have only been
able to suggest, and he does so, I think, with balance and insight. I won't try
to recap those points here; instead, I just pass along that, for those
interested in seeing the LC/RC disaster settled as best one can, Dunningham's
observations should be considered.
Until the Dunnigan article appears on the Christifidelis website, you can read
April 29, 2009
Beyond parody: a priest wearing a Nazi arm-band
pulled by a
priest* who was recently pictured outside a Catholic Church sporting a Nazi
swastika armband is beneath contempt.
Canonically speaking, I think Fr. Angelo Idi is in plain violation of, among
various other norms, Canon 285.1, which requires priests to "refrain from all
those things which are unbecoming to their state". Now, this general canon can
easily be supplemented by a specific personal precept (c. 49) against wearing
Nazi gear, and such a precept could in turn be enforced by penalty (c. 1321).
Personally, I think an excellent penalty for a priest honoring Nazism would be
his dismissal from the clerical state (cc. 290, 1425). Yes, I understand that c.
1319 might be raised as an obstacle to my proposal, but I think there are
canonically sound ways to address that concern, albeit discussion of these ways
exceeds the limits of a blog post.
As a layman,
Idi might be ignored as just one more kook; but as a priest,
Idi's execrable stunt is being flashed around the world. We need no more
disasters in the priesthood. When a cleric shows himself so obviously unfit for
sacred ministry, I say, expel him (and try to figure out, if possible, how he
ever got ordained in the first place.) + + +
There are now some
Italian sources that identify Idi as a (lay) "sacristan". Well, that would
simplify things nicely. The Italian source in particular indicates that the
local diocese is "taking action." Good.
April 27, 2009
Mary Ann Glendon brings good out of evil
Dr. Mary Ann Glendon's refusal to provide cover for Notre Dame's inexcusable
conferral of honors on a prominent pro-abortion politician as an application
of Canon 209.1 "The Christian faithful, even in their own manner of acting, are
always obliged to maintain communion with the Church", or of Canon 225.2
"According to each one's own condition, [laity] are also bound by a particular
duty to imbue and perfect the order of temporal affairs with the spirit of the
gospel and thus to give witness to Christ, especially in carrying out these same
affairs and in exercising secular functions."
The evil that ND President Jenkins and his Board of Trustees committed has,
occasioned one of the
most striking displays of episcopal fortitude I can remember,
mobilized hundreds of thousands of American Catholics against another quiet
surrender to the Culture of Death, and effected notice to several once great
Catholic institutions that it's time, finally,
to decide where they stand.
I say, God bless
April 24, 2009
Three thoughts occasioned by Fr. Mullady's Q&A column
column by Fr. Brian Mullady, op, in
& Pastoral Review
always teaches me something, if not something new in substance, then at least a
new way of explaining difficult concepts. Occasionally though, I find an
explanation that, while correct, I think should have been put another way.
Mullady's column in the April 2009 HPR has three such instances which I'd like
to raise for consideration.
First, after correctly stating that a priest who attempts confection of the
Eucharist with certain altered words acts invalidly, Mullady adds "The
communicants would receive a spiritual communion, but not the true body and
blood of Christ." I see what Mullady's getting at, I think, but I don't think we
should put things quite that way.
Central to the typical act of "spiritual communion" is the intention to receive
But persons in a Communion line at Mass do not have that intention; they intend
to receive Christ
It's not clear, then, how one can perform a specific spiritual act without the
intention of performing
spiritual act. Persons receiving un-consecrated hosts in good faith commit no
sin and God recognizes the good of their actions toward receiving the Eucharist,
but one can offer such reassurances without parlaying would-be communicants'
actions into their having made a "spiritual communion", at least not without
some allusion to issues of implied or contructive intentionality. The blunt fact
is that, because the celebrant grievously (Mullady's good description) violated
liturgical and sacramental law, he deprived the faithful of the graces they
strove for and placed them in a position of committing material idolatry. Such a
priest should be punished in accord with
1983 CIC 1379.
Second, Mullady correctly explained that couples who attempt marriage with the
positive intention to contracept for a time would, according to current
canonical jurisprudence, presumably marry
But I would have been more cautious about adding, as Mullady did, that they also
Anyone who receives a sacrament with the specific intention to commit a gravely
sinful act after that reception seems to me to receive that sacrament illicitly,
notwithstanding its validity. Even the possibility that contraception-oriented
couples receive the sacrament of matrimony "formlessly" (because of their evil
intentions) raises, I suggest, questions about the
of such reception (1983
CIC 843, CCC 1131). In addition, as to whether a priest should proceed to
witness such a wedding, the question needed more space than Mullady could give
it, obviously, but I'd point people to
1983 CIC 1066 and
1075 for starters.
Third, in the same question, Mullady said that marriages attempted "with the
to have a child can be annulled." This seems poor phraseology. Marriages aren't
"annulled" as if something is done
them by a tribunal; rather, some marriages are "declared null", which means that
something is determined
them by a tribunal, namely, their nullity. It's a terminological distinction
that is hard to get across, but that we should always strive to respect.
April 21, 2009
A canonical look at Saint Louis' new archbishop
feelings, of course: Bp. Robert Carlson will be
missed here in Michigan, but he's a
choice for the Archdiocese of Saint Louis. While others can better describe
his work with, say, the Institute for Priestly Formation, Cursillo, or
Charismatic Renewal, it's Carlson the
who interests me.
Carlson's licentiate thesis (written at CUA in 1979*) was entitled "The mission
of the diocesan priest to preach in light of the Second Vatican Council." I've
not read it, but it seems an earlier indicator of what would be an abiding
interest for the future arch/bishop: helping priests become, among other things,
more effective preachers in a world that desperately needs to hear Good News.
Among Carlson's canonical academic works, two caught my eye over the years:
first, an address he gave at the
1982 CLSA convention entitled "Chancery issues: impediments and
dispensations, validity of acts, relationships between bodies", see
Society of America Proceedings
44 (1982) 093-104, which was a solid, very practical look at three important
areas of chancery practice, namely marriage dispensations, administrative acts,
and consultative bodies; and second, his essay on "The rights and
responsibilities of bishops: a canonical perspective", published in L.
Cooperation between Theologians and the Ecclesiastical Magisterium: a Report of
the Joint Committee of the Canon Law Society of America and The Catholic
Theological Society of America
(CLSA, 1982) at 31-52, written at a time when the distinctive roles of
theologians and bishops needed especial clarification.
It's no secret that the Archdiocese of Saint Louis is
a remarkable place in terms of bishops. Native sons (mostly by birth, some
by service) now
shepherd millions of souls in New York**, Philadelphia, Memphis, Knoxville,
Kansas City MO and Kansas City KS, Springfield IL, Colorado Springs, Jefferson
City, Belleville, Bismarck and even in Bolivia, while
Abp. Raymond Burke directs Rome's supreme administrative court, the
Signatura. More remotely, Saint Louis builds on an episcopal
legacy founded by the missionary Rosati, the theologian Kenrick, the builder
Glennon, the champion of racial equality Ritter, and the erudite Carberry, to
name a few.
Abp. Carlson, I suggest, will serve that tradition admirably.
*Carlson's JCL class was small (only 13) but interesting. One classmate is now
an archbishop (Schnurr in Cincinnati), another ran the CLSA for a number of
years (the Franciscan Espelage), and several others are names that I recognize
as having made various contributions to canonistics over the years.
**Come to think of it, Carlson might make his trip to Rome to receive his
archepiscopal pallium (1983
CIC 437) at the time that Abp. Timothy Dolan goes to receives his for New
York. Wouldn't a middle seat on
trans-Atlantic flight be worth scrunching-in for?
April 19, 2009
Are "family annihilators" owed a Church funeral?
obviously, the term "family
annihilator" is one that Catholic pastoral ministers are going to have to
add to their lexicon.
Men who kill their families, and then often take their own lives, are not found
only amid the unchurched or even the fallen-aways; the Sueppel family last year,
the Wood family this year, are proof of that. Both families appear to have
been active members of their respective Catholic parishes, active, that is,
until the day their husbands/fathers, with all the appearances of deliberate
planning and sufficient awareness of the evilness of their acts, killed their
wives and children before killing themselves.
I can scarcely imagine a clearer example of "a manifest sinner" who "cannot be
granted [an] ecclesiastical funeral without scandal for the faithful" per
1983 CIC 1184, than a murderous husband and father.
Last year, Steven Sueppel was granted an ecclesiastical funeral alongside the
wife and children he murdered.
I thought that was wrong. Murderers should
be treated with the same deference as their victims. This year, the question of
according Alan Wood the same funeral rites as his victims will probably be
raised. I, for one, hope the answer will be No.
In any case, it is surely not too much to suggest that the canonical, pastoral,
and liturgical questions raised by "family annihilator" cases are
likely to go away on their own, and that therefore canonists, bishops, and
liturgists should spend some time thinking through these cases before answers
are demanded of them in the midst of shock, and grief, and media spotlights.
April 16, 2009
RIP Dr. Thomas Dillon
charity, kindly remember the soul of Dr. Thomas Dillon, President of Thomas
who was killed in a car crash yesterday. He was a real hero in Catholic
higher education who, among many services, successfully fought some years ago an
attempt by certain accrediting agencies to impose their own weird criteria for
"Great Books" college curricula. It was a victory that benefits sound Catholic
colleges and universities to this day. Thank you, edp.
April 09, 2009
Fr. Jenkins discovers canon law. Not.
Bp. Darcy's letter of today correcting Fr. Jenkins purported "canonical
defense" is a must-read.
Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins continues to flail about for an adequate
response (though short of
an adequate response) to his monumental gaff of bestowing an honorary doctor of
laws degree on a president who has spent his entire political career seeing to
it that millions of human beings are excluded from the protection of law.
Jenkin's latest lunge is for the life ring stamped "canon lawyers we
It is paradigmatic of the theological Left to ignore canon law when it poses the
slightest inconvenience for its plans, but to hide behind canons (or at least
even anonymous ones) when they afford some cover (however thin) for obvious
blunders or malfeasance. And so Jenkins, invoking unidentified canon lawyers,
holds that the USCCB's 2004 statement, "Catholics
in Political Life", merely restricts Catholic institutions from honoring
whose public record evidences disdain for fundamental moral principles.
Is the man serious?
think that Catholic bishops would countenance a Catholic institution honoring a
philanthropic murderer, or a free-speech crusading pornographer, or a
right-to-privacy pimp, provided merely that the awardee was
Really, that's too bizarre for words.
But speaking of words, Jenkins' unnamed canon lawyers (assuming, by the way,
that they were answering the question Jenkins thought he was asking, and that
Jenkins understood and is accurately conveying their response) tell him that "by
definition, only Catholics who implicitly recognize the authority of Church
teaching can act in 'defiance' of it." Huh?
What's this "by definition" stuff? What definition? A definition of "defiance"?
The word "defiance" is not in the Code. Even the Latin
does not seem to apply to our facts, so, what exactly is Jenkins talking about
here? I don't know, but whatever Jenkins or his canonists hope it means, the
sentence he/they put so much stock in was obviously not drafted to stand up to
close textual parsing. Else, all a Catholic would have to do to avoid the charge
of acting in "defiance" of Church authority would be to decline recognizing
Church authority in the first place!
Likewise, watch how Jenkin's claim that bestowing an honorary doctorate on the
pro-abortion movement's most powerful politician ever does not "suggest support"
for the politician's pro-abortion record, can be parsed into a
of Jenkins: an honorary doctorate of
not "suggest" support for a politicians' legal
philosophy, no, instead it
it. Therefore, Jenkins is not guilty of "suggesting" support. Aren't word games
Seriously, what I wonder is, why, amid the canon lawyers Jenkins claims to have
consulted, not one, it seems, pointed out the most obvious solutions to their
The USCCB's statement applies only to "Catholic institutions", right? Well, all
Jenkins and the ND board need do is declare that Notre Dame is
a "Catholic institution", and
all these problems disappear. Notre Dame could confer honorary doctorates in law
on anybody it wants after that, even on people who have built a career out of
denying unborn babies the protection of law, and nary a bishop would say a word
April 01, 2009
A few thoughts on "de-baptism"
Britons, we are told, have downloaded some 100,000 "de-baptism" forms, and
another 1,500 blokes have paid $ 5 each for a "de-baptism" parchment.
Presumably, people sign these forms and what, we're not sure, hang them up on
the wall or something.
A few thoughts, beginning with: there's no such thing as "de-baptism".
Once you are baptized, you are baptized. It's not just a "church rule" that one
can't cancel a baptism, it's divine law. I can no more cancel my baptism than I
can cancel having been born in Missouri. Admittedly, folks who deny there is a
God will also deny that 'divine law' makes impossible de-baptism, but that's a
problem for apologetics, not canon law. Anyway, as cheesy as internet
"de-baptism" certificates might be, at least they provide the inimitable
Jeff Miller over at Curt Jester with fodder for humor: Says Miller, Julian
the Apostate, when he wanted to renounce his baptism, had himself drenched in
bull's blood. Such a stunt, quips Miller, is "just as ineffective as an internet
certificate, but it at least shows commitment." LOL!
Second, the "de-baptism" fad does occasion (or, re-occasion, as the case may be)
some questions about whether,
notwithstanding the indelible character of baptism,
one might be able to renounce one's
There are good arguments for and against the possibility that one can cancel
in the Catholic Church or even abrogate one's
as Christian (without
"voiding" one's baptism, which is impossible). I mention this only to caution
against overly-hasty resort to pithy expressions like
Catholicus semper Catholicus
Christianus semper Christianus
when what might have been meant was only
baptizatus semper baptizatus
and what exactly that means.
Third, signing these "de-baptism" forms does not, of itself, suffice for a
"formal act of defection" under canon law (for an excellent article on this
complex area of the 1983 Code, see J. Huels, "Defection from the Catholic Church
by a formal act and the Circular Letter of 13 March 2006",
41 (2007) 515-549), but signing such a form is certainly at least a step toward,
indeed, objectively speaking, a
step toward, such defection. Moreover, the proliferation of these documents (not
just in Britain, but around the world) is going to force some closer attention
to several related issues in canon law, e.g., in criminal and matrimonial law,
to say nothing of its serving as an topic for evangelization and catechesis
Finally, recognizing that the folks using such forms need our prayers (even if
don't recognize it), we might encourage the
hundreds of thousands of persons
coming into the Church this Easter to pray especially for those
her. The newly baptized, and the newly received, flush with great graces, would
make powerful prayer allies in this matter!
PS: I had to laugh when radical secularist Terry Sanderson, who sells de-baptism
certificates for about $ 5 each, said "The fact that people are willing to pay
for the parchments shows how seriously they are taking them." Yeah, right. I
remember when folks would pay $ 15 for a pet rock. That only showed us how
serious people were about being dopes.
March 31, 2009
Abps. Wuerl (c. 916) & Burke (cc. 915-916) on admission to Communion
tell my students, the answer to a canonical question is seldom found in a single
Two prominent American prelates,
Abp. Donald Wuerl of Washington DC and
Abp. Raymond Burke of the Apostolic Signatura, are the lead figures in a
significant disagreement over admitting certain pro-abortion Catholic
politicians to holy Communion. Wuerl basically believes that, under
Canon 916, Catholics, including pro-abortion politicians, should determine
their own eligibility for reception of Communion. Burke argues that, beyond
Canon 915 requires ministers of holy Communion to withhold the Eucharist
from some pro-abortion politicians if they don't refrain from approaching on
their own. Both sides can't be right, and I suspect that the more compelling
case is made by reading the two canons together instead of reading one to the
exclusion of the other.
Some preliminary thoughts toward sorting this out.
First, awareness of Church history helps contemporary Catholics sleep at night.
This is not the first time that upright bishops have differed over important
points of pastoral practice; for that matter, strong episcopal conflicts over
(unsettled) matters of doctrine are not unknown in the Church. So, let's be
confident in the Holy Spirit's power to lead the Church through this issue as He
has led us through others.
Second, one must avoid "personalizing" the debate. Both archbishops are
distinguished thinkers and both have many decades of loyal service to the Church
behind them, including some services rendered under very difficult
circumstances. In short, each is an attractive figure. But, while it's tempting
to rally behind one or the other, personalities are not what's at issue here.
Rather, if we want to resolve the question of Communion admission, we must
plainly identify the core of the disagreement. I think it's this: may one rely
on a single canon to absolve arch/bishops of any direct responsibility to act
when pro-abortion Catholic politicians present themselves for Communion, or must
one read both the relevant canons in these cases, even if one of those canons
requires ministerial intervention under certain circumstances?
The two relevant canons are not complicated.
Canon 916 expresses the fundamental responsibility of individual Catholics
to weigh their conscience before approaching the Holy Banquet and to refrain
from receiving Communion if they believe themselves to be in grave sin.
Canon 915 requires ministers of holy Communion to withhold the Eucharist
from Catholics who, though their public conduct is gravely at odds with Church
teaching and/or morals, insist on presenting themselves for holy Communion.
I suggest that, for one to argue that Communion reception by Catholics is a
purely personal decision under Canon 916 is to ignore impermissibly Canon 915
and its assertion of ministerial obligations in certain cases.
To be sure, both canons make serious demands on the faithful.
It's not easy for an individual Catholic to refrain from going to holy Communion
The so-called 'Communion fast' offers no cover for a Catholic with a doubtful,
let alone a guilty, conscience. These days, to remain in the pew while
everyone else goes to Communion is tantamount to saying "I think I'm in the
state of grave sin." Who wants to imply that? But neither is it easy on a
minister of holy Communion to withhold the sacrament from a Catholic seeking it.
Who wants the responsibility of taking the most august sacrament, the source and
summit of the Christian life (1983
CIC 897), into one's own hands, only to say to a fellow Catholic in the
Communion line "move along"?
So the question squarely confronts us: is the answer to the canonical problem of
admitting notoriously pro-abortion Catholics to Communion found in a single
canon, or is it found primarily in two canons? Do we read Canon 916 as if it
sufficed to let pro-abortion Catholics decide about their own eligibility to
receive holy Communion, or do we read Canons 915 and 916 together, being willing
to invoke Canon 915 against certain Catholics who insist on receiving holy
Communion despite their public disregard of important points of Catholic
doctrine and/or morals?
Wuerl seems to think that one canon, namely 916, settles the question. Burke
says that we must read both norms, Canons 915 and 916, together to arrive at the
What can I say? I think Burke's right.
1. Wuerl recently indicated that, while he expects a politician's home
arch/bishop to determine whether a given politician is eligible to receive holy
he, Wuerl, would honor that decision. Setting aside whether Wuerl's position
is, in the long run, adequate for this question, I think
Deal Hudson is right to point out that this stance seems, among other
things, to commit Wuerl to the possibility of withholding holy Communion from
some Catholic politicians
of their own opinions on their eligibility under Canon 916. Interesting. And
There are, of course, other norms with relevance to this issue, canons such
as 18, 214, 843, and 912. These are not in dispute and both sides make plausible
claims about honoring them.
Burke's recent video statements on Canon 915, although seriously misused by
Randall Terry (to
Burke's obvious anger), reinforce
Burke's earlier call to apply Canon 915 in the face of the scandalous and
potentially sacrilegious reception of holy Communion by some notoriously
pro-abortion Catholic politicians.
The alleged action of the USCCB in 2004 to the effect of 'allowing'
individual arch/bishops to decide questions of admission at the local level is
much ado about nothing: the USCCB had, and claimed, no authority over admission
to holy Communion questions; it had, and claimed, no authority to tell local
bishops to handle such questions locally. It's
time to stop invoking the 2004 conference statement as if it countenanced
arch/bishops looking the other way in Communion cases.
March 24, 2009
Breviter: Two things Bp. D'Arcy couldn't do re Notre Dame
I read all
my email and try, within the limits imposed by work, other consults, and family,
to respond to the many good questions sent my way. The most common question sent
to me this week has been about possible canonical responses to Notre Dame's
unbelievable honoring of a major pro-abortion politician, namely, President
This matter is not simple and my analysis of it would not lend itself to
blog-style discussion anyway. But, for the benefit of readers who have asked, I
can at least take two options
the table. Briefly:
1. The local bishop cannot put Notre Dame under a local interdict, even for a
brief period, if for no other reason (and there
be other reasons) than that
interdict is not a penal option under the 1983 Code. While local interdict (and
community interdict, its cousin) were possible under the Pio-Benedictine Code
(see 1917 CIC 2268-2277), today, interdict is a purely
penalty, meaning that only specific
convicted of a canonical crime, can be interdicted (1983
2. The local bishop cannot forbid the celebration of Mass in campus oratories
and chapels by a precept under
1983 CIC 1225. While the argument here rests more on scholarly opinion than
does that above, I think the weight of that opinion would
support a bishop's using a precept to forbid Mass on campus during graduation
Mind, nothing in Bp. D'Arcy's statement today suggested that he was considering
either option, but my advice to folks who have been considering suggesting them
would be to save your time: neither action would be supportable under 1983 Code.
Whither Notre Dame
my dad saying forty years ago that "Notre Dame is the alma mater of every
Catholic who never went to college." He was right.
Forty years ago, most Catholics, like most Americans, had not been to college,
though there was a growing sense that college was a good thing to do and thus a
good thing to support. More importantly, forty years ago, Notre Dame's
Catholicism was still recognizable by Catholics in the pews of America, so when
Catholic parents dreamed of college for a son (and later, for a daughter), they
dreamed of Notre Dame.
But all that's changed now.
Millions of American Catholics have gone to hundreds of colleges and
universities, meaning that they have their own alma maters,
thank you very much. More importantly, the kind of Catholicism that Notre Dame
has been fostering since my dad's day has been less and less something a pew
Catholic would even recognize, let alone support.
For as long as my (now middle-aged) generation of Catholics can remember, Notre
Dame, as an institution, has been awol from the culture wars, and often caught
flirting, even cavorting, with the enemy. We see in Fr. Jenkins' homage to Obama
not the sudden betrayal of Notre Dame's Catholic legacy, but the consummation of
an on-going repudiation that has been underway there since the late 1960s.
I say "as an institution" because there have always been some fine Catholic
faculty members at Notre Dame, though most of them have retired or are about to.
But then, I could say the same thing about my alma mater, Mizzou; it, too, had
some fine Catholics on the faculty. What's so special about Notre Dame anymore?
In short, nothing. It's an undisciplined child that has run through the
inheritance (moral and perhaps even financial) that was bequeathed to it by my
parents' and grandparents' generation (most of whom could never go to Notre
Dame), and has made almost no new friends among their children and grandchildren
(most of whom went somewhere else). Well, at least, it's made no new friends
among those who care for Notre Dame's once-robust Catholic identity.
When Notre Dame eventually goes the way that so many other Catholic institutions
of higher education first in Europe, now in America, have gone, as I think it
will, it will hardly be missed by those who remain committed to making the Faith
matter in public life. Notre Dame will hardly be missed by my generation, let
alone by my children's, when it is gone, because it has hardly been noticed
while it was around.
Notre Dame's Shame: do we care enough to click? and
Cdl. Newman Society's protest petition page.
March 23, 2009
Notre Dame's Shame: do we care enough to click?
the internet, it has never been easier for people to express their opinion on
public affairs than it is today. Granting that kooks can express their opinions
with ease as well, the simple fact remains that
people can now weigh in on important issues like they never have before. Which
means, I suggest, that good people have a heightened
to stand up for the right thing when they can do so with next-to-no
Notre Dame University has just invited President Obama, the greatest foe of
unborn innocents ever to hold that office, to speak to its graduates, and has
further determined to honor him with a Doctor of Laws degree. Not too long ago,
Catholics who heard about it would have been basically limited to tsk-tsking
another step in the dismantling of Catholic higher education.
Not anymore. There
something you can do about this.
Go the Cardinal Newman Society website,
click on the Notre Dame Scandal Petition page, and record your name as being
opposed to this invitation and honor being accorded by a purportedly Catholic
institution to an open enemy of the unborn. It's that simple.
For myself, I can only say, this is a list that I personally, would much,
rather have my name recorded on at Judgment, than have to explain why I didn't
bother to sign.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Fr. Mike Depcik's "Renewal Prayer for the Deaf Catholic Church"
Depcik, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales now living in Chicago, was our Deaf
pastor during his ministry in the Diocese of Lansing. His website,
Fr. MD's Kitchen Table, is a spiritual treasure for Deaf Catholics and
anyone else who knows some American Sign Language.
Fr. Mike asked Catholics to join him in praying, especially on Fridays, for the
Deaf Catholic Church. After a short Introduction video as to why he thinks
that special prayers are needed for the Deaf Catholic community, Fr. Mike sets
out in ASL a simple, very short, but beautiful prayer for our Deaf Catholic
brothers and sisters. Below is my translation of that prayer.
Please consider accepting Fr. Mike's request to join him in praying for a
renewal and a deepening of Christ's Gospel in the hearts of the Deaf community!
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
we ask You, please look with love on us in your Deaf Catholic Church.
for our bishops, our spiritual leaders. Bless them, and give them the strength
and wisdom to lead us. Help them to see, and to understand, and to support us in
for our priests, deacons, religious men and women, and lay persons who serve
Deaf Catholic people. Inspire them, and help them in turn to make Deaf Catholics
eager to know You, and to love You, and to serve You and your Deaf Catholic
for Catholic brothers and sisters after their baptism, that You send your Holy
Spirit upon them and touch their hearts and inspire them to want to pray and to
keep receiving the sacraments and to serve other people.
young people, Lord, who have received baptism in your Catholic Church, must grow
up in a world that is filled with confusion. Please help them to understand that
the ways of the world do not lead to Life, and that so much better is your way
that leads to Life. So please, touch their hearts and lead to embrace your love,
and bring them back to you Church. Help them to pray, and to want to receive the
sacraments, and to serve other people in your Church.
Spirit, come upon us and transform us! We pray this though Christ our Lord.
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us! Amen.
22 March 2009:
Fr. MD has provided me
the English text of a slightly longer version of the same the prayer.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
If Robert McElvaine hasn't violated Canon 1369, who has?
Post seems to be specializing in religious screeds.
About a year ago, WaPo made room for
Joe "the-bishops-be-damned" Feuerherd's rant against the American episcopate
for its articulation of pro-life ethics in politics. I said then that Feueherd's
contempt must not be allowed to go unchecked. The US bishops let the insults
pass. Well, except perhaps for
a good reply by Sr. Mary Ann Walsh.
But now, Feuerherdian contempt has been taken to a new level by Robert McElvaine.
In fewer than 500 words, McElvaine manages to insult meanly and repeatedly
Pope Benedict XVI and to impugn (sophomorically, I grant, but nevertheless
clearly and directly) a half-dozen important Church teachings on sacraments,
ecclesiology, and moral doctrine. If McElvaine's column does not constitute a
violation of, among other norms,
Canon 1369, then folks, I am never going to recognize it when it
Now, it's one thing for the bishops to have ignored gross insults to themselves
(I think they were wrong to have done that last year, but I can see why they
might have acted thus). But
entirely something else for them to ignore the kind of venom that
McElvaine has just poured out on the pope.
A canonical penal process should be undertaken against Robert McElvaine. Such a
process would start with an investigation according to
Canon 1717. From what I can gather
about McElvaine, it seems that he would have canonical domicile or
quasi-domicile in the Diocese of Jackson MS; his offensive conduct appears to
have been committed there and/or in the Archdiocese of Washington DC. Thus,
either local Church could act in this matter (1983
CIC 1408, 1412), but a coordinated approach might be beneficial.
Yes, I know that McElvaine is hawking a book and might enjoy the publicity of an
ecclesiastical penal process being brought against him. So what? Just because
someone might get paid to spread hatred of Christ's vicar and His Church doesn't
mean he's immune from canonical consequences for his behavior.
As I have explained before,
canon lawyers can't enforce ecclesiastical discipline. We can only make
suggestions. Fine. Consider this one suggested.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Benedict's letter on the SSPX excommunications
hardly praise a pope without sounding a bit presumptuous, but here goes:
the 10 March 2009 letter of Benedict XVI on the SSPX excommunications remission
is a fine document.
The pope's letter acknowledges that the excommunication remissions came as a
surprise to all and were issued without adequate contemporaneous explanations.
As a result, even friends of the pope were ill-prepared to defend his actions in
the court of human opinion (and yes,
the court of
human opinion matters, as evidenced by the pope's letter itself).
Church enemies had a field day amid the confusion, but since that's what enemies
do anyway, there's not much more to be said about them.
In any case, the canonical explanations I suggested for the excommunication
27 Jan 2009 (see also
24 Jan 2009 and even
3 Feb 2006) now seem verified. I had said that: either the pope was acting
on the basis of information available to him privately concerning the necessary
withdrawal from contumacy before censures can be lifted under
1983 CIC 1358, or, that the pope was acting
in lifting the censures as a pure gesture of mercy.
Now Benedict writes: "The withdrawal of the excommunication . . . was possible
after the affected had expressed their fundamental recognition of the pope and
his pastoral authority, albeit with reservations as far as obedience to his
magisterial authority and that of the Council is concerned." I take this to mean
that the four bishops expressed to Benedict their regret at having taken
episcopal orders contrary to the directives of John Paul II (albeit with some
canonically irrelevant reservations about popes and councils). If I am right
about that, such an apology would suffice as a withdrawal from contumacy for the
act of illegal ordinations and would enable Benedict XVI to lift the penalty in
accord with Canon 1358. But, even if the bishops did not apologize for their
action, the pope (but no other authority in the Church) could
have lifted the excommunications as a
gesture of mercy intended to encourage the SSPX to move toward full communion.
If the pope's action were of the second sort, one might be able to question its
212), but not its legality.
Briefly, in regard to two other points: (1) to no one's surprise (well, not if
In Light of
the Law!), Benedict XVI did not repudiate John Paul II's imposition
of the excommunication in 1988; and (2) the pope confirmed that the remission of
the censures impacts only the canonical status of four individual bishops and
has no impact on the status of the SSPX itself, which is still irregular.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Why does Prof Kmiec insist on dragging the Faith into everything?
Even if I
could get beyond being bored with Doug Kmiec, I could probably only work up to
being amused by Doug Kmiec. His
latest romp through the poppy fields of nominalism has him essentially
arguing that, although gay unions are "marriage" (because he and the far-left
would have it so), that won't quite fly politically yet, so in the meantime,
let's not recognize
as a "marriage" and instead label everything a "civil union". Either way, it's
nominalism, a school which holds, among other things, that some things exist
because we name them so, and other things don't exist because we refuse to name
them. And yes, the line between nominalism and delusion is at times a fine one.
But while others take apart the Pepperdine law prof's legal logic, I pause only
to react to Kmiec's invocation, for the umpteenth time, of his Catholic faith as
if it were some sort of inversely proportional credential as to why he must be
right: the Catholic Church strongly opposes "same-sex marriage", so a Catholic
layman must be very right to support it. He writes "As a Roman Catholic [my]
faith stands against the recognition of same-sex marriage".
Beg pardon, but faith has nothing to do with it, counselor.
If she wanted to, the Catholic Church
mount an impressive doctrinal or theological case against "same sex marriage",
though if she did, I frankly wonder whether Kmiec would be able to follow the
argument. It's not his field.
Be that as it may, though, the Church is not making a
argument against "same sex marriage", but rather, she offers a
specifically a natural law, assertion against it.
Canon 1055, the first norm on marriage, describes marriage as being
a union of man and woman ordered to, among other things, the procreation of
a theological assertion, it's a philosophical and anthropological claim, one
which admittedly the Church hopes that men and women of any religious
affiliation would be able to grasp, but one for which, in any case, the Church
simply does not use a creedal premise.
Argue with nature, if you want, Prof. Kmiec, argue logic, argue law both natural
and civil, but don't argue Catholic faith when, in this regard anyway, it is not
being invoked by your opponents. In opposing "same-sex marriage", the Church is
that's something even we lawyers should be able to understand.
Saturday, March 07, 2009
Rev. Reese and the Fallacy of the Mean
Rev. Thomas Reese, sj, after
proposing ways to limit research on embryonic human beings, admits that his
suggestions "will not satisfy those who find any use of embryos ethically
objectionable, but it will indicate that the Obama administration is trying to
that gives some respect to the many Americans who find such research repugnant."
Well, Reese is certainly right about one thing: his proposal won't satisfy
anyone who sees how perfectly, indeed almost literally, his suggestion commits
the "Fallacy of the Mean".
The "Fallacy of the Mean" holds that when faced with choosing between two
opposed options, a middle course is best. Sure, if I'm trying to decide between
having two scoops of ice cream, and having none, I might choose to have just
one. But that's about as far as "the mean" approach gets a bloke.
Example, some folks believed that no Jews should be gassed. Hitler thought that
they all should be gassed. Should one offer to split the difference, and gas
just half of them?
Don't like Nazi analogies? Okay. . .
Some Founding Fathers thought slavery should be protected throughout the
country, others thought it should be made illegal everywhere. So they
compromised, and made half the States slave, half free. We all know how
one turned out, don't we?
I believe that no embryonic human being should be experimented upon, let alone
killed. The Obama administration believes that they all can be treated so. Reese
suggests we settle our differences by only experimenting on and killing "the
extra ones". How one squares Reese's compromise with the absolute prohibition
against deliberately taking an innocent human life (Evangelium
vitae, 57) I have no idea.
And yes, I
they're (almost certainly) "going to die anyway", and not like you or I are
"going to die anyway." But that does not mean that these tiny people should die
by my hand, or with my dollars.
As we look for a way out of Complication No. 658 that follows in the wake of
separating sex from procreation, we're going to need better options than
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Brazilian abortion excommunication case
reports coming out of Brazil are accurate, an abortion performed against the
unborn baby of nine-year-old rape/incest victim has resulted in the declared
excommunication of the doctors who committed the abortion* (1983
CIC 1398) and of those who directly assisted in the deed (1983
CIC 1329). The mother of the aborted baby* (the term "mother" hardly seems
to make sense here) was not excommunicated for a number of reasons, but her age
alone would have been sufficient to prevent her incurring any penalty (1983
This is not the first time
Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of Olinda e Recife has vigoursly defended
innocent human life in his particular church.
I blogged about him in January 2008 regarding his firm stance against
distributions of "morning after" pills.
As for the perpetrator of the rape, there isn't a mine shaft deep enough on this
earth for him. Purely personal opinion, that.
*I found out later, the doctors actually aborted
twins. Miserere nobis,
Sunday, March 01, 2009
Young Voices, old canards, and Canon 1369
months ago, Joe "the-bishops-be-damned"
Feuerherd, publisher and editor of
National Catholic Reporter, introduced readers to some "Young
Voices", supposedly harbingers of the coming Church in America. One such voice,
Kate Childs Graham, recently published a callow essay in the "I
am a pro-choice Catholic" vein. I guess Feuerherd thinks that Graham speaks
for the future because she calls upon her Catholic faith chiefly as a
justification for crediting her repudiation of Church teaching on the
inviolability of innocent human life.
In any case, Graham presents a somewhat different profile from that of most
other Catholics who are effectively lapsed in regard to Church moral teaching
(even if they adhere to some of the social justice principles and/or liturgical
practices). Graham claims to have been pro-life at one point and to have taken a
small but active role in college pro-life activities, only to have later changed
her opinion after extensive study and prayer.
I wonder whether Graham fully realizes what she has just done.
Consider: Graham published her essay justifying the abandonment of unborn
innocents to prenatal slaughter in a widely accessible, indeed internationally
accessible, medium. I think that her remarks, considered specifically and
generally, "gravely injure good morals" and thus constitute the kind of abuse of
the instruments of social communication that renders one liable to a "just
penalty" under canon law (1983
CIC 1369). Finally, and this is what distinguishes Graham's essay from the
typical pro-abortion Catholic palaver, by her own words, she vitiates several
defenses that might have been raised for such conduct, defenses based on say,
one's ignorance of Church teaching, or because one acted without sufficient
1983 CIC 1323-1324). I can scarcely conclude other than that Graham is
daring the bishops to do something about her.
Good canonists advise bishops against turning to sanctions as a first reaction
to published attacks on good morals. But good canonists also remind bishops
that, in the end, penalties (especially flexible sanctions such as Canon 1369's
"just penalty") were placed in the Code by the Legislator to help bishops defend
important ecclesiastical values, and that the enforcement of Church discipline
is one of a bishop's most important responsibilities (1983
CIC 392). In short, I think that the bishops should consider taking young
Graham up on her offer.
Of course, I also think that Graham's essay is the just latest symptom of a
deeper disorder long at work in the
The bishops, sooner or later, are going to have to take another,
much harder, look at Joe "the-bishops-be-damned" Feuerherd's standing
invitation to be disciplined for his anti-ecclesial conduct and his professional
abetting of similar conduct by several others in the pages of his newspaper.
It might as well be sooner.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
The Pewsitter Petition on Canon 915
Pewsitter.com has published an
on-line petition by which Catholics may call upon bishops to withhold holy
Communion from Catholic political figures who gravely disregard Church teaching
on certain fundamental life issues. The petition invokes canon law in support of
some of its propositions. I know nothing about the organization behind the
petition, but I feel confident in commenting on its canonical aspects.
The petition seems to me to qualify under
1983 CIC 212.3 as one way of helping the faithful to express "to sacred
pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to
make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful." I do not think
the petition pretends to an expertise it cannot claim, nor does it seem to be
violative of basic norms on faith, morals, reverence toward pastors, etc. It
does not impugn the fidelity of those who choose
The petition calls for withholding of holy Communion under
Canon 915 and in this regard it avoids the highly contentious,
and I think erroneous, claim that certain politicians should be subject to
excommunication for their actions. Moreover, the petition avoids
identifying specific politicians for action under Canon 915, even though a
strong case can be made for such action in the case of, say,
Nancy Pelosi. Each politician's situation,
as I have said, needs to be examined individually by competent experts; this
is by no means an impossible task, but it is not one best conducted in the
The petition highlights the
being created under the continued reception of holy Communion by those Catholic
politicians who routinely ignore Church teaching on the sacredness of innocent
human life; in this respect, the petition seems securely grounded in the
arguments of Abp. Raymond Burke whose
landmark article on Canon 915 makes correction of scandal a centerpiece.
I would not have offered, however, in the petition any speculation on whether
certain politicians need to be 'reconciled with the Church', for such language
sounds more in the internal forum than the external. Given, however, that the
rest of the petition has in view only
political behavior and demonstrable Church teaching, and calls for action only
in regard to one's
conduct, I am inclined to think that petition language about 'reconciliation' is
the result of the authors' unfamiliarity with the nuances of certain phrases
used by professionals, and that they intend no judgment about the state of the
souls of Catholic politicians. In short, such language, to the degree a bishop
think it approaches an assertion about the internal forum, simply can and will
In the same vein, the petition's use of the word 'discipline', while it is
canonically correct, is liable to confusion in the public mind, and I would have
avoided it. Canon 915 is indeed a sacramental
disciplinary norm (unlike,
Canon 1331 on excommunication, which is a
norm) but, to describe a bishop's action under Canon 915 as a way to
'discipline' recalcitrant Catholic politicians seems to imply that some
is being inflicted on them. It is not, but it's a distinction one would not
expect lay readers to make. Thus, while the word 'discipline' is defendable
here, I would have phrased the line differently to avoid public confusion on the
nature of the action being petitioned.
I just came across
Michael Sean Winters' post on Canon 915 over at the
America magazine group
blog. Winters' qualifications to opine on matters canonical were not immediately
evident to me, but he assures readers that applying Canon 915 in response to the
scandal of pro-abortion Catholic politicians would be "a radical innovation that
should be resisted", that it "requires applying the canons in ways that are
novel and dubious" and that canon law "should be applied with gentleness not
vengeance" (you know, as if everyone agrees on what those terms actually
in the concrete order), and so on.
Winters bravely confronts an evil unnamed blogger who, in a series of obvious
misstatements, paints a picture of Canon 915 run amok. This device allows
Winters to assume the mantle of moderation and warn us against those dangerous
"cranks" who would substitute a blogger's opinion for that of pastor. Nice way
to dispatch opposing views, that, present an obvious caricature, then tsk-tsk it
Ironically, it does not seem to occur to Winters that he is quite willing to
opinion on how canon 915 should be applied for that of
like Abp. Raymond Burke (a prelate whose credentials in canon law dwarf mine
and, I'm guessing, Winters'). Burke offers
a powerful, and I suggest compelling, case for the application of Canon 915
in the face of the metastasizing scandal of the prominent pro-abortion Catholic
politician. Has Winters read it?
In any case, I echo Winters' concern about "judgmentalism" being "profoundly
uncharitable". But such concern should, I think, forbid labeling those who call
for the correct application of Canon 915 as "cranks". Or is "judgmentalism" a
temptation to only one side of this debate?
Friday, February 13, 2009
L/RC: Reform from within? Carry on the charism?
that Fr. Alvaro Corcuera's apparent claim that
he knows nothing about Maciel's behavior, except that Maciel sired a
daughter, is utterly unbelievable. I have nothing else to say about this kind of
stone-walling. I will simply re-endorse
Dr. Germain Grisez's and
Mr. George Weigel's proposals for direct intervention by the Holy See. (See
Robert Moynihan's Feb 13 editorial at SperoNews.)
In the meantime, I'll offer some brief comments on two assertions that have
surfaced in discussions about the Legion, namely, the "reform-from-within"
assertion, and the "carry-on-the-charism" assertion.
Because the Legion and Regnum Christi have within their ranks many obviously
good and faithful Catholics, they should be allowed to try a reform from within.
the presence of good and faithful Catholics within an organization, particularly
when the organization (in terms of Church history, if nothing else) is so young,
says almost nothing about whether the
itself is sound and/or salvageable. History affords us many examples
of organizations or movements that were fundamentally and even fatally flawed,
but which for a time attracted and held good Catholics in membership; but that
only shows that good Catholics, too, can be duped. That's not their fault,
innocence does not guarantee the basic soundness of the
in which they serve. Membership is distinguishable from institution.
Maciel's canonical crime spree was a grave personal failing, but it does not
negate the L/RC 'charism', and they should be allowed to continue their work.
This argument misses the key question, namely, whether
Maciel ever bequeathed an authentic charism to the L/RC, or whether he left
instead a legacy of systemic deception clothed in an attractive rhetoric that
trusting men could
for a new route toward Christian perfection. There is, I think, at least as much
reason to wonder whether Maciel set up an institute in order to assure himself
of ample access to sexual targets and unaccountable funds, or whether he
suffered from some warped psycho-emotional condition that enabled him to
compartmentalize pious devotional practices and sexual predation for decades on
end, as there is to wonder whether he left a real charism to a Catholic
clerical, religious, and lay organization.
I do not know whether the L/RC can (following a complete leadership
replacement!) reform itself from within, although I am almost certain that they
cannot; and I do not know whether Maciel developed an authentic charism for
clerical, religious, and lay life, but I have serious doubts that he did. But I
do know this: the L/RC must, barely a year after the death of The Founder,
extirpate everything associated with Maciel from their spirituality and mission,
or face serving as permanent reminders of how high up, how long, and how
brazenly the diabolical can work undetected in a Catholic movement.
If I am right, that makes the "reform-from-within" and the
"carry-on-the-charism" arguments offered so far quite unconvincing.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
So if Maciel was a criminal (or a sociopath), what of his charism?
Maciel's siring of a daughter, obvious to everyone but still unacknowledged by
Legion leadership, occurred after the 1983 Code took effect. If the mother of
Maciel's baby was,
as some now report, only 15 years old when the Founder impregnated her,
then, had he been caught, Maciel could (and I think would) have been expelled
from the Legion and dismissed from the clerical state.*
Consider two canons:
1983 CIC 695.1.
[of a religious institute] must be dismissed for the delicts mentioned in . . .
can. 1395, unless in [regard to] the delicts mentioned in can. 1395.2, the
superior decides that dismissal is not completely necessary and that correction
of the member, restitution of justice, and reparation of scandal can be resolved
sufficiently in another way.
1983 CIC 1395.2.
who in another way has committed an offense against the sixth commandment of the
Decalogue, if the delict was committed by force or threats or publicly or with a
minor below the age of sixteen years, is to be punished with just penalties, not
excluding dismissal from the clerical state if the case so warrants.
Some might wonder why there seems to be the slightest doubt but that clerics
impregnating children would be expelled (from consecrated life) and dismissed
(from the clerical state). There isn't any doubt, in my opinion, but that needs
a bit of explanation.
Most canons of the Code are meant to cover a wide variety of possible fact
wide a variety, but that's a different issue); in regard to "sexual misconduct",
some flexibility in the law had to be accorded the local authorities who would
need to apply these canons to real cases.
For example, although having sex with children is obviously an "offense against
the sixth commandment of the Decalogue", so is, say, passing pornography to a
co-religionist in the monastery; but the latter action, while sinful, might not
warrant expulsion from religious life, at least not on a first incident, and so
the canon can't realistically demand expulsion and dismissal upon one's
imaginable sex-related offense. Of course, clerics who have sex with minors
deserve no learning curve, and on that basis, I think Maciel would have been
expelled and dismissed for a single proven incident of child sex abuse (to say
nothing of his pattern of sexual and financial misconduct that seems to have
stretched over decades.)
Which bring us to the "charism issue": can a creep like Maciel
have bequeathed a sound charism to the Legion? The Legion implosion is making us
ask, among other things, what it means to say that the Church has "approved" a
religious charism. A couple of thoughts.
I defer to religious historians here, but it seems that a few saints who founded
(or re-founded) religious institutes eventually found
at odds with their own institutes, and were even thrown out of them. Now the
question goes, if those incidents were not enough to challenge the "charism" of
those institutes, why should Maciel's situation (assuming that he would have
been expelled from the Legion) raise questions about the integrity of his "charism"?
Well, for starters, Maciel's expulsion from his institute would have come about,
not because he wanted to live the charism more radically than did his followers,
but because he treated it and his whole religious family with perduring and
pervasive contempt. Moreover, Maciel's actions warranted not only expulsion from
religious life, but additionally, penal dismissal from the clerical state,
something unthinkable for the controversial founders of healthy institutes. And
from all I've seen, the "Legion charism" is virtually indistinguishable from the
persona". In short, the chances that Maciel (whether he was a
culpable criminal or an inveterate sociopath) could have bequeathed a genuine
religious institute seem diminished. If all this seems too speculative, think of
it this way: what can one say, with a straight face, about a religious
that must scramble to remove, forever, its Founder's pictures from the walls
hardly a year after laying him in the grave?
Against this, and setting aside questions about
what exactly the Legion's "charism" is, Legion spokesmen are invoking the
ecclesiastical approval of their charism in the same terms that one sees used to
defend the celebration of sacraments by grave sinners, that is, as if dicastery
approval of a charism worked
operato to guarantee the authenticity and spiritual fecundity of a
given charism. I ask, says who?
Notwithstanding some authors who think that Roman approval of a religious
institute enjoys the certitude of (one level or another) of infallibility, the
opinion is, I think, that ecclesiastical approval of a religious institute's
protected by any level of infallibility. See Avery Dulles,
(2007) at 78.
Which, if true, would let us explore the question of the Legion's future with a
frankness that would be harder to muster if one feared impugning a determination
made by the Church's magisterium.
The canonical analysis here also applies to acts of sexual abuse of the sort
that Maciel has long been accused of committing against
the Legion now seems to have conceded occurred in at least some cases.
Because these acts were older, the canon numbers would have changed (e.g., 1917
CIC 2359 instead of 1983 CIC 1395), but the penalties were the same.
+ + +
George Weigel, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center,
published a compelling call for immediate intervention in the Legion by a
personal delegate of the pope. Weigel's call, and
Germain Grisez's similar proposal, deserve serious and prompt consideration.
Friday, February 06, 2009
Fr. Thomas Berg, LC, has it right
Fr. Thomas Berg, LC, directs
The Westchester Institute for Ethics & the Human Person, a think-tank
specializing in exploring and responding out of the wisdom of the Church to
vexing moral, especially medical-moral, issues.
Fr. Berg has just issued a short, superb statement regarding the Maciel debacle.
carefully first, so as to better follow my observations on it.
Notice: Instead of oblique references, Berg calls Maciel by his full name and
title; Berg expressly identifies the grave offenses which he now knows Maciel to
have committed, and he makes no claims, for or against, the possibility of other
crimes which have not been disclosed to him.
Berg issues no cost-free, third-party apologies for things he (Berg) did not do,
but instead expresses his profound
sorrow for the victims of Maciel. Berg has no power to make material
reparations to the victims, but he has pledged the power of his priestly prayers
personal penances on their behalf. Berg recognizes that the Maciel
crisis is not simply some sort of internal Legion imbroglio, but a crisis for
the whole Church. Berg clearly understands what "communion of the saints"
demands of us in this life, as well as what it portends for the next.
Finally, Berg makes no rash and premature predications about the future of the
Legion, but asks for prayers toward discernment of that future, keeping Christ
and his Church first in view, and not just focusing on a small part of it.
In sum, Berg's is a moving statement from an accomplished priest and scholar; I
hope it's a break-through statement for the Legion at large, or at least for
many of Berg's brothers who doubtless feel exactly as he does.
+ + +
7 February 2009:
Fr. Richard Gill, LC, has published a statement in the same healthy vein as
that released by Fr. Berg yesterday. Inevitably, comparisons between the two
letters will be made, but in the meantime it is heartening to see that at least
two individual Legionary priests are willing to step forward, even while their
leadership dithers day after day.
One demurral seems in order, however, concerning Gill's expression of
that Legion "superiors are working closely with the appropriate dicasteries of
the Holy See to chart the best course forward for the Legion of Christ". I see
not a shred of evidence that such is happening.
To contrary, not only is the picture of Maciel's salacious conduct worsening by
the day, but more credible assertions of Legion leadership's
awareness of it are emerging, along with
new questions as to how long some dicastery officials might have known of
Maciel's guilt. Thus, what Gill's describes as 'confidence' about Legion
superiors and Roman officials, I could only call 'hope'.
I repeat, if Pope Benedict XVI chooses not to direct
an intervention in the Legion crisis, an intervention conducted
independently of the
Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, then, I feel sure, no truly
ecclesiastical action will ever be taken in this case. I need hardly
say that the secular media and civil authorities await no authorization from the
Vatican to act in their respective spheres; but history suggests that they are,
if anything, even
likely to act in the face of real or perceived ecclesiastical paralysis than
they would if they saw a firm hand being taken by the competent Church
Re Maciel and the Legion: why doing the truth in charity is so hard
As the Legion continues to flounder for a coherent response to the Maciel
revelations (none of which revelations has
been specifically admitted by Legion leadership), wide-spread and long-standing
frustration is, I think, building into anger, which will next (and probably
already has in some fora) spill over into verbal violence and hatred. I had that
sequence in mind when I asked earlier that only
opinions be attributed to me, but I'm sure that others who are trying to think
and speak clearly in this mess feel as I do.
Anyway, I want to suggest two reasons why "doing the truth in charity" in regard
to the Legion crisis (even if Legion leaders were "getting it", which they
demonstrably aren't) is so difficult.
that needs to be done here
and I think it's going to get worse. It is never easy to learn of and confront a
horrible reality and, as portraits of Maciel have to be removed Legion school
lunchrooms all over the world, we have every reason to believe that more
disclosures about their Founder, some ranker than the ones already public, are
coming, and that the complicity of some or many in the Legion is going to
emerge. In short, one could scarcely imagine a
harder truth to do than
the truth about Maciel and his associates in the Legion.
My point concerning
is harder to describe: briefly, we all live in an age of pervasive
hypersensitivities. Doubtless in reaction to past times when many truly were not
sensitive enough of others' feelings, reputations, situations, etc., today, even
the slightest criticisms of another are quick to be 'personalized', and anything
like 'plain taking' about one's
is reacted to as if the ancestry of one's mother had been publicly impugned. We
can't help it; we've been steeped in "sensitivity awareness" and monitored by
"sensitivity police" for several decades now. As a result, I fear that, among
other things, many people have lost what Chesterton described as the ability to
distinguish between an (objective and frank)
and a (personal, ill-motivated)
arguments against the Legion are routinely perceived as being
quarrels with Legionaries.
To all this add that even those trying to operate within the parameters above
are inevitably going to violate those standards themselves and one sees better
just how deeply difficult it is to try to talk sense in the middle of a chaos of
In the end, other than to point out this double-obstacle confronting those who
are trying to do the truth in charity here, I'm not sure what else
do, except to go on making the arguments against the Legion's conduct and
structure that I think, for the welfare of
involved, need to be made, and to suffer suspicions in some circles that I am
really exploiting the "failings of Maciel" to quarrel with Legionaries.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Ad usum praecipuum sacerdotum Legionis
Dr. Germain Grisez has written a graceful (as in, grace-filled)
open proposal letter to the Legionaries of Christ (and
Christi, but my focus is on the Legion). I warmly endorse it. Where
a few of his concrete suggestions differ from mine, I would remind folks that
mine are only that, suggestions; Grisez's approach seems quite sound to me.
I would especially reinforce Grisez's observation about Legionary priests being
able, and perhaps even obligated, to appeal outside of the Legion structure for
Roman intervention in this unprecedented crisis. For example,
1983 CIC 212.3 states:
to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they
[i.e., the Christian faithful, which includes Legionary priests]
right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors
[up to and including the pope]
opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their
opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the
integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and
attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons."
The canon takes on added weight when its placement, near the top of a list of
the fundamental rights and duties of all the Christian faithful, is noticed.
Canons 691, 692, and especially 693, form the basic parameters of the
exclaustration / excardination process for religious clerics interested in
joining diocesan presbyterates or other institutes of religious life.
Canon 270, though taken from norms on the excardination / incardination of
secular priests, is also relevant. The text of the law, of course, is bare
bones; a canonical commentary on the canons (there
are many) will help orient the reader to the process.
Updated, 8 February 2009.
George Weigel, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has just
published a compelling call for immediate intervention in the Legion by a
personal delegate of the pope.
The Williamson recantation and freedom of conscience
Note of the Secretariat of State on the remission of excommunication against
four SSPX bishops, Point Three thereof is causing some concerns among the
faithful regarding liberty of thought and/or speech in the Church:
Declarations on the Shoah
. . . Bishop Williamson, in order to claim admission to episcopal functions in
the church, must distance himself in absolutely unequivocal and public fashion
from his positions regarding the Shoah, which were not known by the Holy Father
when the excommunication was lifted.
How, some are asking, can the pope order someone, even a bishop, to retract
assertions (however stupid) concerning, not Catholic faith or morals, but points
I think here's how: (1)
The pope is demanding a retraction from Williamson
as a pre-condition to full communion, but rather, as a pre-condition
function in the Church. Verifying that someone, however 'orthodox'
he might be, is not also a nut-case before allowing him to function in higher
office within the Church seems to me entirely within a pope's authority. (2)
Williamson, though a bishop, 'stole' episcopal orders in the first place and has
never been in full communion with the Church since that day; therefore, given
his track-record of canonically illegal actions, a higher level papal scrutiny
may be applied to him than might otherwise be appropriate for a bishop who has
always been in full communion with Holy Mother Church. (3)
Notwithstanding the legal anomalies surrounding hate-crime legislation,
Williamson's inane espousals seem to set him afoul of [German]* law. At the risk
of setting out on slippery slope here, the pope's special demand of Williamson
may be seen as a papal directive to "Stop breaking local civil law, if you ever
hope to exercise a legitimate role in the Church."
I leave to others to decide whether a single retractive statement by Williamson
would, in fact, demonstrate his suitability for ecclesiastical office down the
road, but such a statement would certainly seem to be a prerequisite.
PS: While we're at it, I think Williamson should also recant his fringy
statements that 9/11 was an inside American job. In short, the man needs a
* I could have the foreign law reference here wrong, as in, I'm not sure which
nation (with relevance to Williamson) regards Holocaust denial as a crime. I
claim no expertise there. A reader tells me that Williamson's comments are at
odds with German (not English) law. Thanks! But if I am wrong about civil law
concerns for Holocaust denial, it just reduces the possible defenses I suggest
pope's actions from three, to two. I think defense no. three is the
weakest of the trio, certainly.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Rome must take control of the Legion crisis
catastrophe strikes (or finally erupts within, however one prefers to see the
Legion crisis) a major institution in the Church, a thousand voices go off at
once. It can be difficult to distinguish among them. I leave it to my readers to
decide whether my opinions are conducive to responsible governance in the
Church, but I do ask that
only my views
attributed to me, even if some of my views overlap in places with
those of others with whom I would, in fact, disagree in many respects.
1. The second "official" Legion response,
this one from Fr. Paolo Scarafoni, LC, in Rome, is out, and it is almost
as worthless as yesterday's from Jim Fair. More palaver about finding
"certain aspects of [Maciel's] life that are very hard to understand" and which
"were not appropriate to the life of a priest." Amorphous 'rights of privacy'
are invoked as if their mere assertion should silence every questioner. "Facts",
though completely unspecified, are "admitted". Such comments are useless. They
sound like phrases lifted from a 1980s ecclesiastical PR handbook and they give
more evidence, I think, that Legion leadership truly has no idea how to respond
to this situation.
For the record: No one is asking for the name(s) of Maciel's child/ren, or the
name(s) of the woman or women involved; the immediate questions here are simple:
did Maciel sire one or more children with one or more women while he was running
the Legion; did Maciel take money donated to the Legion (afoul of
1983 CIC 1267 for starters) to pay off mistresses or to make child-support
payments; who in the Legion knew of or suspected Maciel's sexual liason(s); and
who in the Legion abetted such payoffs as might have been made? If the answers
to these questions in turn lead to discoveries of additional canonical or civil
misconduct by Maciel and others, and they very well might, so be it. One must
2. Based on everything I've seen so far,* I do not think Legion leadership is
able to conduct the kind of investigation that is necessary here, and at this
point the credibility of any Legion-led inquiry would be near zero. In my
opinion, the best thing for the Legion to do is to ask the pope for an
independent investigation, "a visitation", by two, at most three, prelates who
really know how to get hard answers to embarrassing questions, who can see
through financial obfuscations and moral rationalizing, and who are not afraid
to confront ingrained, systemic denial behaviors. These prelates should make use
of canonists, civil lawyers, and accounting experts, to be sure, but also, I
think, they should seek out a few carefully selected Legionaries, say, some
priests in the order long enough to know its operations, but far enough away
from leadership to allow them to be objective in advising the investigators.
Doubtless such men exist.
If the Legion does not ask for such an investigation, Rome should impose one
without its consent. Quickly.
don't think that an investigation of the Legion should be carried
out by the
Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, this for at least two
reasons. First, the Congregation still needs to be able to interact with the
Legion on routine business while an unprecedented investigation into the Legion
is going on; conducting regular business with an institute while at the same
time carrying on a comprehensive investigation of it is at best awkward, perhaps
even damaging. Second, a truly independent investigation will eventually need to
inquire into the Legion's interactions with Congregation officials over the
years, and those officials need the freedom to answer frankly.
One thing is sure: Rome's handling of this crisis will
be subject to evaluation in the public arena, so it had better be effective, and
to be effective.
More as circumstances warrant and permit.
* I can now add
Fr. Alvaro's letter to Regnum Christi to the examples of how adrift Legion
leadership is. First, Legion statements, such as they are, are coming out
haphazardly. Somebody has to be named
spokesman here. I suggest that spokesman be a priest. And LC websites (which,
last I checked, still had no hint of the slightest problems), should be used as
archives of Legion responses. Currently, people must visit a number of websites,
secular and Catholic, news and opinion, to get anything like an official read on
the Legion's position.
Anyway, the great part of Alvaro's letter could have been written by any pastor
to any flock in this Valley of Tears, in other words, most of it is not
responsive to the
crisis. Worse, the very few comments about Maciel (whose name is avoided) are
either laudatory (for crying out loud!!) or are no more critical than "he was a
man". In short, more idiot-children language. Additional platitudes follow,
interwoven with pietisms which suggest that no
leadership is going to be
exercised by Legion shepherds, only quiet commiseration with the sheep.
I doubt any point would be served by parsing additional statements, if any, from
the current Legion leadership; they must all be benched,
competent people put in charge of responding to this
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
The Maciel meltdown and the future of the Legion
The disclosures (start
here) that Marcial Maciel Degollado (d. 2008), founder of the
Legionaries of Christ, fathered at least one child, possibly more, destroy a
decade of increasingly implausible denials by Legion leadership that their
Founder, contrary to LC lore, was a sexual miscreant; today's developments
inevitably increase the likelihood that other allegations, including those of
homosexual exploitation, drug abuse, and financial misconduct could be verified
It is going to take years for the full implications of Maciel's 'lifestyle' to
emerge, but among other things, the Church must now, for the first time, ask
whether a religious institute that was founded by such a self-delusional and/or
duplicitous character can really be sound. We don't even know how to analyze
that question yet, let alone what the answer will be, but this much seems clear:
Maciel and Legion leadership have handed the worst enemies of the Church a
hundred years' worth of ammunition to use against her. And that must be tearing
the hearts out of the many good Legion priests and their faithful lay
Anyway, my preliminary thoughts on the Legion's catastrophe.
The 2006 canonical process against Maciel that
ended so oddly will not be reopened. Church jurisdiction extends only to the
we can't punish the dead.
The Legion should (if it can, and I'm not sure it has the self-possession to do
this) identify every official who knew of Maciel's canonical crimes or who
suspected them, but did nothing (let alone cooperated with them!) and expel them
1983 CIC 696. Canonical crimes by a number of persons might well have been
committed here (see e.g.
1983 CIC 1389); these
should be pursued.
Everyone, within the Legion and without, who has publicly attacked the motives
and/or character of Maciel's accusers and of Legion critics should, just as
publicly, apologize.* While not every accusation was accurate and not every
critic was temperate (an impossible standard even for those who have
been physically or psychologically abused), the denials and even recriminations
that met their complaints were, in my opinion, unconscionable.
The Legion could survive, of course. How, I don't know yet. How do priests live
the 'charism' of Maciel? How can a religious institute disavow (as the Legion
must eventually) its founder but at the same time carry on his work? It's too
bizarre to think about.
But another thing could happen here:
could dissolve itself. Hear me out.
The Legion will never outlive the ignominy of having been founded and entirely
shaped by Maciel, and the Nixonesque mentality of Legion leadership saps any
credibility the organization
organization might enjoy. So, what is there to build on?
As I see it, the only, or at least the main, strength the Legion retains is its
many good priests (admittedly, lessened by a number of other good men who knew
that something was deeply wrong with the Legion but, being unable to do anything
about it, left in frustration over the years). These rank-and-file priests have
been lied to, exploited, and used (as have an even greater number of lay
cooperators, of course) and they will need time 'to process' that betrayal.
In any case, (and setting aside those Legionary priests who will want to
excardinate to diocesan presbyterates or other institutes of consecrated life,
and who should be welcomed as the treasures they are, with no obstacles to their
transfers being raised by the Legion), the other LC priests who might wish to
remain together could dissolve the Legion, and reconstitute themselves as a new
institute under a
new form of governance (not simply with the correction of some strange points in
the Legion rule
as occurred under Benedict XVI) and with a
But everything that came from Maciel must be chucked. Absolutely
Starting fresh means starting from scratch. If that sounds like an 'impossible'
solution, well, I can only say, I find it 'impossible' that the Legion has
landed itself in such a massive and unprecedented debacle as this one in the
must not happen:
Any more language whatsoever from Legion leadership that tries to spin this
pathetic first response must not be repeated.
I have some other thoughts, but the above suffices for now. + + +
Tom Hoopes, a layman who edits the Legion's
Catholic Register was the first,
and so far
the only, Legion official to
offer any apology for the LC's treament of it's critics.
Memo to the Legion: We are NOT idiot children
Along with the rest of the Catholic cyber community, I have been following
the unfolding allegations and possible confirmation that Marcial Maciel
Degollado (d. 2008), founder of the Legionaries of Christ, fathered at least one
child, possibly more.
for any official comment from the Legion, and refraining from comment until the
Legion said something for the record, I was
American spokesman Jim Fair finally said only that the Legion has "learned
some things about our founder's life that are surprising and difficult to
understand," adding that some of Maciel's behaviors "weren't appropriate for a
Catholic priest." I am aghast at the vacuity of such a response.
how the Legion of Christ,
is going to act when confronted with grave questions of Maciel's whole life? Is
Legion leadership really going to continue talking to the Catholic world as if
it were inhabited by idiot children? If so, and notwithstanding my deep sadness
for the fine Legionaries I know, there really is no hope for the institute.
I will have additional comments. (They
are posted now.)
Friday, January 30, 2009
Avoiding a rush to judgment on 'embryo adoption'
outlining the responsibilities of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the
Faith, the apostolic constitution
Pastor Bonus (1988) states "Fulfilling its duty of promoting
the Congregation fosters studies
so that the understanding of the faith may grow and a response in the light of
the faith may be given
questions arising from the progress of the sciences or human
49, my emphasis).
An instruction from CDF itself,
Donum veritatis (1990), in discussing the mutual enrichment that
occurs between theological scholarship and the Church doctrine, affirms that
"Theology and the Magisterium are of diverse natures and missions and cannot be
two vital roles in the Church which must interpenetrate and enrich each other
for the service of the People of God." (DV
40, my emphasis).
Finally, the statutes of the
International Theological Commission (m.p.
1982) affirm the responsibility of that august body "to study doctrinal problems
of great importance,
especially those presenting a new
issue, and in this way [help] the Magisterium of the Church,
particularly the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to which it
is attached." (TA,
norm 1, my translation and emphasis).
These sources highlight the deliberation with which the Church in general, and
the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in particular, approach new and
complex questions. One can only imagine, then, the study that preceded CDF's
Dignitas personae (2008). Within that important instruction one
finds, I think, several points of 'first impression', that is, official
responses that are just beginning to participate in the Magisterium of the
But it is very important to recall not only that some of the points made in
are new and therefore enjoy level of doctrinal authority quite below that
accorded settled teaching, but also that some of them are, upon closer reading,
offered with a nuance that admits the need for further study by scientific and
theological communities in service to the Magisterium. One obvious invitation to
such further study is, I think, found within the Congregation's circumspect
remarks on "embryo adoption" (DP
"The proposal that [frozen] embryos could be put at the disposal of infertile
couples as a treatment for infertility is not ethically acceptable for the same
reasons which make artificial heterologous procreation illicit as well as any
form of surrogate motherhood; this practice would also lead to other problems of
a medical, psychological and legal nature.
has also been proposed, solely in order to allow human beings to be born who are
otherwise condemned to destruction, that there could be a form of 'prenatal
adoption'. This proposal, praiseworthy with regard to the intention of
respecting and defending human life, presents however various problems not
dissimilar to those mentioned above."
I understand why some responsible scholars oppose "embryo adoption" and why they
make the argument that the CDF has rejected, or has all but rejected, the
process. Nevertheless, I think a fair reading of
leaves open the possibility that the adoption of embryonic humans, properly
understood and rightly motivated,
pass moral muster and, if this is so, why it might actually be an exercise in
heroic charity on the part of adopting parents, however disordered was the
process by which these tiny human beings first came into existence.
In short, I hope that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith resists
calls for a rush to judgment on this novel and complex question, and I encourage
scholars, particularly scientists, theologians, and others with expertise in
this area, to help the Magisterium, and the couples directly facing this
question in their lives, to reach a correct decision.
The rest of us should support them with our prayers.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Why the original SSPX excommunications were valid
Romano article that is to offer an account of how Pope Benedict XVI
arrived at the decision to lift the excommunication imposed on the four priests
who received episcopal orders illicitly (c. 1382) from Abp. Marcel Lefebvre in
materials now coming from the Society of St. Pius X continue, in my opinion,
to add to the burden such an article must carry if the remission is to make
sense to otherwise well-disposed outside observers.
In the meantime, for the benefit of those who would like to see some responses
to the canonical arguments by which the SSPX claims that the 1988
excommunications were never incurred in first place, let me very briefly note
1. A person who violates a law out of necessity is not subject to a penalty
but in asserting what amounts to an affirmative defense, the burden is on the
SSPX to prove that it
objectively necessary for them to ordain four bishops in violation of universal
canon law and the specific prohibitions of the Holy See. Of course, most people
who break the law think they are justified in breaking it. But it's not the
offender's opinion of "necessity" that counts, it's lawful authority's
determination of "necessity" that matters. And Rome is the lawful authority
here, not the SSPX.
2. Even if no state of necessity existed, if one inculpably thought there was,
he would not incur the penalty (Canon 1323.7).
Correct, but the burden is, as above, on the SSPX to prove that they were
"without fault" in
that it was necessary for them to ordain four bishops against universal canon
law and the specific prohibitions of the Holy See. Now, if the SSPX bishops
show that, by late June of 1988, after all that had transpired to that point,
they were "without fault" in
thinking it was necessary for them to violate canon law and papal prohibitions,
then I don't know who could
show themselves to be "without fault" for breaking just about any law and
disregarding just about any papal directive.
3. If one culpably thought there was [necessity], he would still incur no
automatic penalties (Canon 1324.3; [other citations garbled]).
Correct, but this argument avoids the crucial point that the excommunications
which were lifted last week were
excommunications, they were imposed excommunications (see c. 1331), that is,
ones formally declared, by the Holy See no less. Whatever was the canonical
status of the SSPX bishops on June 30, 1988, by July 1 they labored under
excommunications, not automatic ones.
4. No penalty is ever incurred without committing a subjective mortal sin
(Canons 1321.1, 1323.7).
Canon law does
attempt to read the souls of Catholics and does not require proof of them having
committed "subjective mortal sin" before visiting penalties on offenders among
them. Canon law does require that the underlying act be one that is
gravely sinful, but who doubts that ordaining Catholic priests to the episcopate
against the norm of canon law and the express prohibition of the pope
objectively sinful? The "culpa"
mentioned in these two norms refers to
responsibility in the external forum, not to
responsibility in the internal forum. The Holy See reasonably
concluded that the external, observable actions of the SSPX bishops were in
violation of canon law. That's all that was necessary.
while I think that
Canon 124 suffices to put the burden on the SSPX bishops to prove the
alleged invalidity of the excommunciaitons they incurred in 1988, to the degree
they think that their arguments above accomplish that goal, I disagree. I would
only add that, if anyone
wants to claim that the SSPX excommunications were invalid, please read
John Paul II's m. p.
Ecclesia Dei adflicta (2 July 1988), esp. para. 1-3, and show us
where the pope missed the point. PS: Good luck.
+ + +
Some other quick points, if only for the record:
The SSPX censures were incurred in the context of Canon 1382 (illicit episcopal
ordinations). What various SSPXers said before and since about the Church,
Vatican II, "Modernist Rome", the Holocaust, and so on, might well be offensive,
but it must be distinguished from assessment of the canonical crimes they
committed in June of 1988. The pope's action last week, however it will be
explained, is focused, I expect, only on their illicit ordinations.
The age-old question "Are popes above canon law?" admits of no easy answer, but
this much should be said: first, don't confuse actions which are only
(outside, or beyond the law) with actions that might seem to be
(against the law); second, it is easier for popes to act
than it is for others to so act (c. 331).
I, in company with many others, hold that
sentenitae penalties have outlived their usefulness in canon law and
are today simply a source of neuralgic and distracting debates. They should be
I, in company with many others, hold the Book VI of the 1983 Code needs to be
revised to make it clearer how ecclesiastical leadership has the canonical
authority to impose sanctions on offenders in accord with law (c. 221) but
without becoming embroiled in an at-times hopeless tangle of affirmative
defenses and "pastorally-inspired" mitigations and exceptions.
More good commentary from: Fr. John Zuhlsdorf,
25 ian. 2009, and
26 ian. 2009, and
27 ian. 2009; George Weigel,
26 ian. 2009; Amy Welborn,
26 ian. 2009; Damian Thompson,
24 ian. 2009; Jeffrey Mirus,
26 ian. 2009;
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Lifting the excommunications of June 1988
the news stories about the lifting of the excommunications imposed on the
four surviving bishops illicitly ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988.
Based on what is public so far (in what are obviously only quick translations),
it seems that Pope Benedict sees something like the "withdrawal from contumacy"
1983 CIC 1358 for the lifting of censures (Light
of the Law, 3 feb. 2006). That would be cause for rejoicing, to
be sure, healing another wound on the mystical Body of Christ. Having said that,
however, I confess that I'm having a hard time seeing in Bp. Bernard Fellay's
January 24th letter to the faithful, at least, any withdrawal from contumacy for
the actual canonical crimes he and the others committed (receiving episcopal
orders without pontifical mandate,
1983 CIC 1382), or for that matter, much of a retreat from anything else he
has said for the last 20+ years.
A fuller explanation of the reasons for withdrawing the excommunications is
apparently coming in
Romano so, until we all get a chance to read those remarks, it's
probably better to refrain from further comment.
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