Thursday, July 28, 2011

Confirmation by a Parish Priest in connection with Marriage (Part 11)

By Msgr. Rey Manuel S. Monsanto, JCD III. The Case of c.884, par.1: After talking about those other cases of delegating a priest, it will now be clear that in c.884, par.1, specifically the second phrase we will dealing with a special and different case. The case of c.884, par.1, second phrase, is also obviously another case of granting faculty by special grant to some priests in a diocese to be done by the diocesan Bishop. We treat it, however, differently from the others because this object of our special study is different from the other cases with its specific questions, like whether a diocesan, on his own authority, can grant this faculty to his priests, whether he can use this power to grant the faculty to all his parish priests, and the like. In other words, we mentioned the others first in order to show that this case is different from them. This part of par.1 states: “If necessity so requires, he (the diocesan Bishop) may grant to one or several priests the faculty to administer this sacrament.” The canon says that the diocesan Bishop, apart from the cases mentioned in c.883, no.2 and c.884, par.2, may also delegate a priest or even several specified priests in his diocese to administer confirmation. Since the canon does not specify any situation or limitation, the diocesan Bishop may, therefore, grant this faculty either permanently or for a specified limit of time, and either for specific cases or situations or even in a general manner to any priest/s. The only required parameters needed on the part of the action of the diocesan Bishop are the following: there is a “necessity” to grant it, like the vastness of the diocese, or the health of the Bishop, or the diocesan is often outside his diocese. The canon does not say that the necessity must be a grave one. he is only “one” or “several” of his priests, and not to delegate all the priests. The priest/s must be “specified”. Although the canon does not specify the office or pastoral work of the priest/s, it would seem logical that if he does delegate he should first delegate either his Vicar general or Vicars general, if he has more than one (cfr. c.475, par.2); and, in addition, he can also delegate some or all of the Vicars forane, or even a few more priests in strategic places. We can add a fourth requirement: if he delegates priest only for specific cases, like for marriage, or for certain times, the diocesan Bishop should specify these, as this is a case of special grant and according to c.882 will be for the validity of the action of the priest. The particular questions related to this canon: We will now go into the questions related to this canon and which have prompted this particular study. Does the diocesan bishop need a special “indult” from the Holy See to grant the faculty to one or several priests? In the Code of 1917: The 1917 Code stipulated in c.782, par.2 that the priest who can be the “extraordinary minister” of confirmation may be given the faculty either by common law or by special indult granted to him by the Apostolic See. In the Code of 1983: The 1983 Code, however, in c.884, par.1 does not in any way mention such an indult. It simply says that the diocesan Bishop can grant it, the only conditions being those we have already mentioned above. Does the diocesan bishop need a law from the Bishops’ Conference to grant the faculty? The Code would normally specifically indicate if a certain canon would need to be specified or particularized by the Bishops’ Conference. The Code, however, does not say so in this case. It simply grants the power to the diocesan Bishop without the need to wait for a law from the Conference. However, there is also no stipulation either that prevents the Bishops from agreeing among themselves to issue some guidelines (not laws) for some kind of uniformity throughout the country. They can decide to issue suggestions as to who can be given the faculty, for what circumstances, etc. Any diocesan Bishop, however, can always invoke his right given by this canon to choose the priest/s he wishes and for circumstances peculiar to his place. Should the diocesan bishop grant all his parish priests the faculty to confirm in view of an impending marriage? The Code (in stating that the diocesan Bishop himself or should ask some other Bishop if he cannot do it; when it emphasizes that only “one or several specified priests” may be given the faculty; and when it insists that for a dying person only the chrism consecrated by a Bishop is to be used) does not seem to favor giving all the parish priests the faculty to confirm. This is to emphasize that this task of administering confirmation is to be strictly understood as belonging to a Bishop being a successor of an apostle. However, it is to be noted that the above considerations are strictly connected with granting a priest or priests “general faculty” to confirm in the diocese. Confirmation specifically in connection with marriage is a special particular circumstance. And granting faculty to confirm in connection with marriage is a favor for a specific circumstance. Hence, due to the distance of the parishes and the inconvenience of traveling to places where confirmation is available that may even force them to leave their work and lose their important day’s salary, and most especially so that the faithful will readily see the value of the sacrament of confirmation as needed for the fullness of the sacraments of initiation especially for persons who will soon become parents and so that they will not just take it for granted for their own children, and since granting such faculty will facilitate their reception of the sacrament and eliminate the grave inconvenience, it seems reasonable for a diocesan Bishop to grant it to all parish priests in view of an impending marriage. But, this, we say once again, will be the prerogative decision of each individual Bishop, and he does not need the nod of the Conference nor an indult from the Holy See to do it. If a diocesan Bishop decides to grant “specified priests” or even all parish priests to confirm in this circumstance, he should clearly state when the parish priest is to administer confirmation: during the marriage ceremony itself, or days before in view of an impending marriage. And if he chooses the latter, he should also state how long or how many days before the marriage it can be done (because he/she might still be able to attend a regular confirmation in a diocese before the marriage). These are very important conditions for the administration of confirmation by a priest because he confirms only by delegation and these conditions are for validity. Thus, for example, in a case of confirmation connected with adult baptism, it is to be done in one continuous ceremony otherwise the confirmation will be invalid (see c.866). For the meantime: Can “ecclesia supplet” be used by the parish priests for this case? In the meantime that the diocesan Bishops do not clarify this particular question which is connected with the statement in the “Canon Law Digest” of whether the parish priests are already granted the faculty to confirm in connection with marriage, I believe that parish priests can VALIDLY CONFIRM IN CONNECION WITH MARRIAGE by virtue of c.144: the Church supplies (“ecclesia supplet”) the power of jurisdiction in case of “positive and probable doubt of law”. However, this problem is so easy and can be given immediate solution and the diocesan Bishop does not have to wait for a Conference resolution. For each individual diocesan Bishop by virtue of c.884, par.1 can either immediately tell his parish priests they that they have such faculty or that they do not have such faculty in his diocese, and he can immediately designate specified priests to confirm. And the “doubt of law” is solved.