Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Juridic Protection of the Church Teaching against Contraception

(Part I)

A RECENT column of Atty. Jose Sison (A Law Each Day, The Philippine Star 8.XI.2010, p.15) caught my attention. Quoting an e-mail he received from a Jose Teodoro Sagalo, he focused on what the latter qualified as “grave error that the Loyola School of Theology has posted in the Ateneo website endorsed earlier by Fr. Nebres, Ateneo President, for reflection, and now endorsed by Roberto Rivera of the John Carroll Institute.” A quick check of the primary source verified the presence of the offensive proposals. My questions are: (1) Does the Catholic Church really teach─in an authentic, infallible, obligatory way─the instrinsic moral evil of contraception, or is this a matter of religious persuasion, therefore admitting of a variety of interpretations in a pluralistic society like the Philippines? (2) If the Church indeed officially teaches the intrinsic evil of contraception, can a Catholic institution─like the Loyola School of Theology─publicly propose otherwise, and get away with it? In other words, is there no provision in Church Law against a Catholic School of Theology teaching something contrary to Catholic Doctrine?

These questions bring to a head something which I had been wanting to address in this forum for some time: the juridic protection of the Word of God. Put another way, indeed there must be something in Church Law that guarantees─with coercive and punitive force─the doctrinal soundness of Catholic institutions. Still put another way, in much the say way that the Republic of the Philippines has the opportune departments to establish standards for what are taught in the centers of elementary, intermediate and higher education, the Church must have the necessary means to guarantee that only sound Catholic doctrine is taught in the officially Catholic institutions of education. To illustrate: if a chemistry professor at the University of the Philippines (my alma mater and my department) were to insist on teaching his students theories of alchemy that had already been long disproven, and if the university students were to allow him to continue deforming his students in that way─with dire consequences in his chemistry practice thereafter─the Republic of the Philippines would have grounds to call the university to task.

Nevertheless, in order to address these questions thoroughly, allow me to first summarize a series of articles I had written in this column regarding the Canonical Protection of the Church’s Magisterium.

1. The Magisterium of the Church

The term Magisterium comes from the Latin magister, meaning “master”, “director” or “teacher”. In Church parlance, Magisterium came to refer to the teaching authority, finally narrowing specifically to the pastoral teaching office of bishops—i.e., the teaching function of the hierarchy. In other words, it refers to the exercise of the munus docendi taken in its strict sense.
Christ, who had been sent by the Father to be a witness of the truth (cf. Jn 18,37), has left to his Church his word and the power to teach with authority. The imperativity of the word of God in itself acts in the internal forum. However, man needs─and the word likewise demands it—an authoritative voice that can bind him in a palpable manner to the truth of the word. Thus, Christ established this authority in his Apostles and in their successors the Bishops (cf. Mt 16,19; 18,18).

“The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abide in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals” (CCC, n.890).

2. Types of Magisterium

1) According to the grade of authoritativeness that the teaching office assumes in its teaching, there can be two types:
a) Authentic Magisterium: The Church Magisterium is called authentic because it proceeds from the authentic Teacher, Christ, and is exercised by those who have been given his authority (cf. LG, 25).

A religious respect of intellect and will, even if not the assent of faith, is to be paid to the teaching which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops enuntiate on faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium even if they do not intend to proclaim it with a definitive act; therefore the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid whatever is not in harmony with that teaching (c.752).
b) Infallible Authentic Magisterium: The authentic Magisterium enjoys the note of infallibility in its entirety, and also when in specific formulations the teaching office puts its authority in the highest degree and declares a doctrine with the intention of defining it as belonging to the faith. No doctrine is understood to be infallibly defined unless it is clearly established as such (c.749, §3).

2) According to the form or manner of exercising it, there can be two types:
a) Extraordinary—when it is carried out through a solemn form or manner. Example are the so-called ex cathedra teachings of the Roman Pontiff and that of the Council.
b) Ordinary—when the habitual form or means are used. This in turn can be:
1° Universal—when it is addressed to the whole Church.
2° Particular—when it is addressed to a specific segment of the Church (e.g., diocese or episcopal conference).
3) According to the content, the magisterium can refer to:
1° Dogmas of the faith, which define the truths of the faith.
2° Customs that must be followed.
3° Exhortations regarding Christian life.
4° Moral judgments on temporal questions.

3. Subjects of the Magisterium
1) The subjects of authentic magisterium are:
1° The Roman Pontiff and the College of Bishops, for the Universal Church (c.752).
2° The individual bishops, Episcopal Conferences and Particular Councils, for the faithful entrusted to them. Although they do not enjoy infallible teaching authority, the bishops in communion with the head and members of the college, whether as individuals or gathered in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the faithful entrusted to their care; the faithful must adhere to the authentic teaching of their own bishops with a sense of religious respect (c.753).

Although the canon lumps them together, these three are not on equal footing as far as the exercise of authentic magisterium is concerned. The diocesan bishops (and their equivalents) exercise a primary and direct authentic magisterium over their respective proper flocks, while the Episcopal Conferences and Particular Councils only exercise a secondary and indirect role—i.e., only to the extent that the individual bishops or the Pope empowers them.. Thus, “when the doctrinal declarations of Episcopal Conferences are approved unanimously, they may certainly be issued in the name of the Conferences themselves, and the faithful are obliged to adhere with a sense of religous respect to that authentic magisterium of their bishops. However, if this unanimity is lacking, a majority alone of the Bishops of a Conference cannot issue a declaration as authentic teaching of the Conference to which all the faithful of the territory would have to adhere, unless it obtains the recognitio of the Apostolic See, which will not give it if the majority requesting it is not substantial.

2) The subjects of infallible authentic magisterium are:
1° The Roman Pontiff—when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful, whose task is to confirm his fellow believers in the faith, he proclaims with a definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held as such (c.749, §1).
2° The College of Bishops—also possess infallible teaching authority when the bishops exercise their teaching office gathered together in an ecumenical council when, as teachers and judges of faith and morals, they declare that for the universal Church a doctrine of faith or morals must be definitively held (c.749, §2). They also exercise it scattered throughout the world but united in a bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, when together with that same Roman Pontiff in their capacity as authentic teachers of faith and morals, they agree on an opinion to be held as definitive.

Preliminary Conclusion

Just before his Ascension to Heaven, Christ commissioned the Apostles with the words: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world.” (Mt. 28,18-20; cf. Mk 16,15; Lk 24,47)).

As Vatican Council II teaches, the teaching office of the Church is not an optional contribution, but a duty stemming from an imperative mandate of Christ, such that all men may believe and be saved. In fact, the Church itself exists to fulfill this end: to evangelize (cf. Apost. Exhort. Evangelii nuntiandi, nn.5 & 14). Furthermore, this right-duty is exercised by virtue of the sacra potestas which Christ, who has received it from the Father, gave to the Apostles—i.e., the munus docendi is an exercise of the power of jurisdiction.

All this is summarized in c.747, §1: The Church, to whom Christ the Lord entrusted the deposit of faith so that, assisted by the Holy Spirit, it might reverently safeguard revealed truth, more closely examine it and faithfully proclaim and expound it, has the innate duty and right to preach the gospel to all nations, independent of any human power whatever, using the means of social communication proper to it.

At this point, therefore, it seems clear that Church Law does have sufficient means to safeguard the sound teaching of Catholic doctrine. It remains to apply this general principle to the specific case brought up. (To be concluded.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Judicial Vicar in the College of Consultors of the Diocese

I AM the Judicial Vicar in my diocese. Yesterday, I attended a meeting of the Board of Consultors of our diocese. The bishop invited me to attend the meeting, because he wanted me to shed light on some cases. After I presented my opinion, I courteously left the room for them to continue with another item in the agenda. My question is: Is the judicial vicar automatically an ex officio member of the Board of Consultors? Or is the judicial vicar only just on call, at the discretion of the Bishop? I would appreciate any enlightenment on this.

THIS question really touches on a larger issue of the Presbyteral Council (or Council of Priests) of the Diocese. Leaving this larger matter for the next issues of CBCP Monitor, we can briefly tackle the question presented to us, regarding the Board of Consultors and the Judicial Vicar’s membership in it.

The College of Consultors of the Diocese

This matter is regulated in can.502 of the Code of Canon Law in the following terms:
§1. From among the members of the council of priests, the diocesan bishop freely appoints not fewer than six and not more than twelve priests, who are for five years to constitute the college of consultors. To it belong the functions determined by law; on the expiry of the five year period, however, it continues to exercise its functions until the new college is constituted.
§2. The diocesan bishop presides over the college of consultors. If, however, the see is impeded or vacant, that person presides who in the interim takes the bishop’s place, or, if he has not yet bee appointed, then the priest in the college of consultors who is senior by ordination.
§3. The Bishops’ Conference can determine that the functions of the college of consultors be entrusted to the cathedral chapter.
§4. Unless the law provides otherwise, in a vicariate or prefecture apostolic the functions of the college of consultors belong to the council of mission mentioned in c.495, §2.

The College of Consultors can be considered as an innovation of the Code, which prescribes its constitution as a permanent college of priests, freely chosen by the bishop from among the members of the council of priests, in a number not less than six but not greater than twelve. The rationale behind it was the difficulty of convoking the council of priests in all cases, especially in the most urgent matters; a smaller group would facilitate greater agility in consultation.

It’s purpose is to assist the bishop in cases established by Law, and to appoint an administrator of the diocese during an impeded or vacant see.

Specific Functions of the College of Consultors

The specific functions of the College of Consultors provided for by the Code are the following:
1) The diocesan administrator needs its consent to be able to proceed (after the see has been vacant a year) to the incardination or excardination of clergy to or from the diocese, and to grant permission to transfer to another diocese (c.272).
2) In the special case of c.377, §3, it can be consulted for the appointment of the diocesan bishop or the coadjutor bishop.
3) It receives the apostolic letters coadjutor upon the diocesan bishop taking of his office, and likewise in the case of the bishop when the diocesan bishop is impeded (c.382, §3 and c.44, §§1 & 3).
4) When the see is impeded, and when that which is prescribed in c.413, §1 is not possible, it is the duty of the College of Consultors to elect a priest who will govern the diocese (c.413, §2).
5) When the see is vacant and if there are no auxiliary bishops, and if the Holy See has not provided otherwise, it assumes the governance of the diocese (c.419), and it must choose a diocesan Administrator within eight days from the notice of the vacancy of the see (c.421, §1).
6) It informs the Holy See of the death of the diocesan bishop when there is no auxiliary bishop (c.422).
7) It receives the possible renunciation from office of the diocesan administrator. In this case (and in the case of the death of the administrator) it must select another, pursuant to c.421 (cf. also c.430).
8) The diocesan administrator (not the bishop) must obtain its consent for the removal of the chancellor and the notaries of the curia (c.485).
9) It must be heard for the appointment of the diocesan financial officer (c.494, §1) and for his removal (c.494, §2).
10) It receives the profession of faith of the diocesan administrator (c.833, 4º).
11) The diocesan administrator must obtain its consent to issue dimissorial letters to secular clerics who must receive Holy Orders (c.1018, §1,2º).
12) It must be heard by the bishop for financial administrative acts of a certain value. The bishop has to obtain its consent for extraordinary administrative acts, besides those specially indicated by the universal law or the founding statutes (c.1277).
13) The diocesan bishop must obtain its consent to alienate goods (whose value is between the minimum and maximum amounts as established by the Bishops’ Conference) of juridical persons not subject to their own ordinary, when the statutes do not indicate a competent authority. Its consent is also required for the alienation of the goods of the diocese (c.1292,§1; cf. c.1295)

No Ex-Officio Members of the College of Consultors

The Code of Canon Law does not provide for any ex-officio member of the college of consultors. It is not difficult to understand the reason behind this: to give the diocesan bishop maximum leeway and freedom to choose from among his presbyterium those who would constitute his own senate, to give a consultative vote on those matters he chooses to refer to them.

That having been said, it nevertheless seems prudent to assure that such a close-knit consultative body count on experts for all the areas of pastoral work and governance of the diocese. Thus, considering the importance of their respective areas of competence in the diocese, the following would be useful and effective in that body: the different vicars (for their respective areas of responsibility), the chancellor (for archival matters), the economic officer, the judicial vicar. Nevertheless, since the purpose of this body is precisely to be readily available for consultation by the diocesan bishop and to avoid possible conflicts of interests and time constraints, it would also seem wise to include in this consultative body other priests also competent on the materials corresponding to the above diocesan officers─e.g., another expert in Canon Law, other than the Judicial Vicar; and another person knowledgeable in finances, other than the Finance Officer of the diocese.

In the end, what is important is that the body is competent to give the bishop the necessary counsel for the different acts of governance he may need to consult them with.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Collaboration of Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests

(Part IV)

IN a recent Workshop of the Executive Committee of the Canon Law Society of the Philippines, a nagging question was again raised: What is the canonical status of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC)? The matter was raised by the canon lawyers from Mindanao (priests and a bishop), because of the growing frictions between the ecclesiastical organization and the so-called basic ecclesial communities. In the past, this question had always been sidelined by the lack of any clear theological notion of such communities; hence—the argument went—it was futile to attempt a canonical analysis of the problem.

This time, however, it was pointed out that even if it might be premature to attempt a definition of the canonical status of Basic Ecclesial Communities, some working guidelines might be in order, by way of delimiting the scope of pastoral action of such communities, in accordance with Church Law. In short, even if it might not be possible to categorically state what Canon Law states these communities are, it might be possible to draw from existing legislation what these communities are not. In more practical terms, perhaps we can glean from Canon Law what these communities may and may not do.

In fact, this is the task that the Canon Law Society of the Philippines proposed to tackle in its National Convention in May 2011. As a starting point for the canonical investigation, the CLSP Execom identified a little-known document of the Holy See, which was issued in 1997. To arouse interest in this topic, we are revisiting that document in a 4-part series that started three issues ago of the CBCP Monitor, which we conclude with this present issue.

Specific Practical Provisions

Article 6: Liturgical Celebrations
Two areas are covered in this article of the Instruction:
1) The Holy Mass in particular - “Abuses which are contrary to c.907 are to be eradicated” (§2) to wit:
a) “Deacons and non-ordained members of the faithful may not pronounce prayers─e.g., especially the Eucharistic Prayer with its concluding doxology─or any other parts of the liturgy reserved to the celebrant priest”. This abuse is not uncommon in the Philippines. To be sure many times it could be by the initiative of the faithful, but even so it should be the duty of the pastor to explain these matters to them, even by way of a general advertence even within the Mass itself, in the moments permitted to him by the rubrics (e.g. before the final blessing).
b) “Neither may deacons or non-ordained members of the faithful use gestures or actions that are proper to the same priest celebrant.” This is another area where abuses have proliferated in Philippine churches, many times at the instigation of the priests themselves. The rubrics of the Roman Missal and the provisions of the General Instructions for the Roman Missal (IGMR) are quite explicit and specific as regards the gestures and postures of the celebrant and the congregation during the Holy Mass, precisely because the liturgy is the public worship of the Church--i.e., its regulation cannot be left to private and individual initiative.

Thus, the Code clearly stipulates: “The liturgical books approved by the competent authority are to be faithfully observed in the celebration of the sacraments; therefore no one on personal authority may add, remove or change anything in them” (c.846, §1; emphasis added). Examples of such abuses are: the faithful extending and/or lifting their arms and/or holding hands with each other during the Our Father; the celebrant inserting words of his own composition--ad lib--into the text of the Missal, especially in-between major prayers or when he addresses the faithful, and even before the Consecration; the non-fulfillment of the stipulated postures and procedures when Holy Communion is received by the hand.
2) Use of Sacred Vestments in General - Two possible abuses are addressed: (§2)
a) “The sacred ministers are obliged to wear all of the prescribed liturgical vestments”. Again, the practice in many parishes─especially during concelebrations─of concelebrants just using a stole (without chasuble alb or sometimes even just over street clothes) during the Holy Sacrifice is a flagrant violation of this norm.
b) “The use of sacred vestments which are reserved to priests or deacons (stoles, chasubles or dalmatics) at liturgical ceremonies by non-ordained members of the faithful is clearly unlawful”.
Article 7: Sunday Celebrations without a Priest

The Instruction starts by stating that “much good derives for the local community from this useful and delicate service” in those cases when “in the absence of priests or deacons, non-ordained members of the faithful lead Sunday celebrations” (§1). However, it clarifies that this is only so when such is carried out “in accordance with the spirit and the specific norms issued by the competent ecclesiastical authority”─specifically:
1) “A special mandate of the Bishop is necessary for the non-ordained members of the faithful to lead such celebrations. This mandate should contain specific instructions with regard to the term of applicability, the place and conditions in which it is operative, as well as indicate the priest responsible for overseeing these celebrations” (§1).
2) “The practice of inserting into such celebrations elements proper to the Holy Mass─e.g., the use of the Eucharistic Prayers, even in narrative form─is prohibited” (§2).
3) “It should be emphasized (to) those participating, that such celebrations cannot substitute for the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and that the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday and holy days of obligation is satisfied only by attendance at Holy Mass” (§2).
Article 8: The Extraordinary Ministry of Holy Communion

It is in this article perhaps where the most obvious abuses can be observed. Thus, the Instruction starts by categorically stating that “the canonical discipline concerning extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion must be correctly applied so as to avoid generating confusion”. It proceeds to concretize this criterion:

Main Principle: “A non-ordained member of the faithful, in cases of true necessity, may be deputed by the diocesan Bishop (...) to act as an extraordinary minister to distribute Holy Communion outside of liturgical celebrations ad casum vel ad tempus or for a more stable period” (§1).

Thus, the so-called extraordinary ministers (or lay ministers of Holy Communion as they are commonly called) are so deputed, in principle, only for distributing Holy Communion outside liturgical celebrations (i.e., outside the Mass or Holy Week services).
1st Exception: “In exceptional cases or in unforeseen circumstances, the priest presiding at the liturgy─supposedly this includes the Mass─may authorize such ad casum” (§1). Again we have to note that this should be in exceptional or unforeseen circumstance. Obviously, if such were to happen Sunday after Sunday, it wouldn’t be exceptional or unforeseen anymore; thus, to make use of this prerogative regularly would be an abuse.
2nd Exception: “Extraordinary ministers─i.e., those deputed as such by the diocesan Bishop─may distribute Holy Communion at Eucharistic celebrations (e.g., Holy Mass) only” in any of the following situations: (§2)
1) when there are no ordained ministers present;
2) when those ordained ministers present at a liturgical celebration are truly unable to distribute Holy Communion;
3) when there are particularly large numbers of the faithful such that the liturgical celebration would be excessively prolonged because of an insufficient number of ordained ministers to distribute Holy Communion.

It is important to note that the Instruction categorically states that this exceptional function “is supplementary and extraordinary, and must be exercised in accordance with the norm of law” (§2). This norm of Law is precisely concretized by the three situation outlined above by the Instruction.

In the case of a Mass, the first situation cannot arise (since the celebrant is precisely an ordained minister); the second situation hardly arises, since the celebrant normally should be able to distribute Holy Communion himself. Thus, normally, only the third situation would be the probable cause for exercising this prerogative, and even then, the Instruction itself considers as an abuse “the habitual use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion at Mass, thus arbitrarily extending the concept of a great number of faithful” (§2 in fine).

This is perhaps one of the more glaring inconsistencies between the norm and the present praxis in the many parishes, where lay ministers distribute Holy Communion on a regular basis, Sunday after Sunday, and even daily. This obviously needs to be addressed by the Bishops, according to the tenor of the present Instruction.

Other possible abuses: Aside from the previously mentioned phenomenon of the regular use of extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, the Instruction points out “certain practices to be avoided and eliminated where such have emerged in particular Churches”:
1) “Extraordinary ministers receiving Holy Communion apart from the other faithful as though concelebrants”─e.g., in the sanctuary.
2) “Association (by the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion) with the renewal of promises made by priests at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, as well as with other categories of faithful who renew religious vows or receive a mandate as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.”
In both cases, what is obviously at stake is the danger of eroding in the mind of the faithful the conviction of the essential difference between the common and the ordained priesthood, and the danger of clericalizing the laity and thereby disempowering them from fulfilling what they really─vocationally─ought to do: to proclaim Christ in the midst of temporal (secular) realities.

Article 9: The Apostolate of the Sick

The Instruction begins by affirming that “in this area, the non-ordained faithful can often provide valuable collaboration” and that “these constitute a Christian presence of the greatest importance to the sick and the suffering” (§1). In fact, this seems to be one area where the laity can really collaborate with the pastoral work of the priests, given the shortage of sacred ministers and the non-sacramental nature (at least for the most part) of this ministry. Thus the Instruction reminds the Pastors of the following (§1):
1) “The non-ordained faithful particularly assist the sick by being with them in difficult moments, encouraging them to receive─and by helping them to have the dispositions to worthily receive such─the sacraments of Penance and the Anointing of the Sick.”
2) “In using sacramentals, the non-ordained faithful should ensure that these are in no way regarded as sacraments, whose administration is proper and exclusive to the Bishop and to the priest.”
3) “In no instance may the non-ordained perform anointings either with the Oil of the Sick or any other oil”─i.e., not even by way of a para-liturgical rite.
4) “The priest (is the) only valid minister” of the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick...No other person may act as ordinary or extraordinary minister of the sacrament, since such constitutes simulation of the sacrament” (§2).
Finally, we might add that even if the Instruction does not specifically mention it, the administration of Holy Eucharist to the sick seems to be one where the extraordinary─non-ordained─ministers of the Holy Eucharist can really play an important role, given the shortage of priests.

Article 10: Assistance at Marriages
The Instruction first states “the possibility of delegating the non-ordained faithful to assist at marriages” since, on the one hand this is strictly an ecclesiastical norm (for the canonical form of marriage); and on the other hand, because such delegation “may prove necessary in special circumstances where there is a grave shortage of sacred ministers” (§1). It then proceeds to remind the Bishops of the following norms:
1) Only “the diocesan Bishop may concede this delegation” (§1). “With the exception of an extraordinary case due to the absolute absence of both priests and deacons who can assist at marriages, no ordained minister may authorize the non-ordained faithful for such assistance. Neither may an ordained minister authorize the non-ordained faithful to ask or receive matrimonial consent according to the norm of c.1108, §2” (§3).
2) The diocesan Bishop may concede this delegation “subject to the verification of three conditions” (§1; cf. c. 1112, §1):
1° “there are no priests or deacons available;”
2° “after he shall have obtained for his own Diocese a favorable votum from the Conference of Bishops” regarding this move;
3° “the necessary permission of the Holy See”.
3) “In such cases, the canonical norms concerning the validity of delegation, the suitability, capacity and attitude of the non-ordained faithful must be observed” (§2).

Article 11: Extraordinary Minister of Baptism
“Apart from cases of necessity, canonical norms permit the non-ordained faithful to be designated as extraordinary ministers of Baptism”, but the Instruction reminds the Pastors of the conditions for the licitude of this extraordinary designation:
1) “There is no ordinary minister or in cases where he is impeded, (but) care should be taken to avoid too extensive an interpretation of this provision and such a faculty should not be conceded in a habitual form.”
2) The Instruction concretizes a negative list of reasons for that deputation, which would therefore make such deputation illicit:
1° “the ordinary minister’s excessive workload”;
2° “his non-residence in the territory of the parish”;
3° “his non-availability on the day on which the parents wish the Baptism to take place.”
Article 12: Leading the Celebration at Funerals
The Instruction reminds the Pastors of the following norms as regards obsequies:
1) “It is desirable that priests and deacons, even at some sacrifice to themselves, should preside personally at funeral rites in accordance with local custom, so as to pray for the dead and be close to their family, thus availing of an opportunity for appropriate evangelization.”
2) “The non-ordained faithful may lead the ecclesial obsequies”, with the following conditions:
1° “There is a true absence of sacred ministers.” In the absence of further explication within this article of the term true absence of sacred ministers, we have to attend to the sense given to this term in the previous article as regards the sense of lack of ordinary minister for baptism, including the negative list of situations when this is not verified.
2° The deputed non-ordained extraordinary minister must “adhere to the prescribed liturgical norms”, and should therefore “be well prepared both doctrinally and liturgically”.


The Instruction ends by re-stating the two fundamental criteria in this matter:
First, the need to reinforce the identity of the ministerial priesthood, by respecting the principle of diversity in the People of God and more specifically of the proper status and mission of the laymen. “The Holy Father reminds us that the particular gift of each of the Church’s members must be wisely and carefully acknowledged, safeguarded, promoted, discerned and coordinated, without confusing roles, functions or theological and canonical status.”
Second, the shortage of ordained ministers must be addressed by fostering vocations to the priesthood, not by substituting priests with laymen. “Solutions addressing the shortage of ordained ministers cannot be other than transitory and must be linked to a series of pastoral programs which give priority to the promotion of vocations to the Sacrament of Holy Orders.”

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Collaboration of Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests

(Part III)

IN a recent Workshop of the Executive Committee of the Canon Law Society of the Philippines, a nagging question was again raised: What is the canonical status of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC)? The matter was raised by the canon lawyers from Mindanao (priests and a bishop), because of the growing frictions between the ecclesiastical organization and the so-called basic ecclesial communities. In the past, this question had always been sidelined by the lack of any clear theological notion of such communities; hence—the argument went—it was futile to attempt a canonical analysis of the problem.

This time, however, it was pointed out that even if it might be premature to attempt a definition of the canonical status of Basic Ecclesial Communities, some working guidelines might be in order, by way of delimiting the scope of pastoral action of such communities, in accordance with Church Law. In short, even if it might not be possible to categorically state what Canon Law states these communities are, it might be possible to draw from existing legislation what these communities are not. In more practical terms, perhaps we can glean from Canon Law what these communities may and may not do.

In fact, this is the task that the Canon Law Society of the Philippines proposed to tackle in its National Convention in May 2011. As a starting point for the canonical investigation, the CLSP Execom identified a little-known document of the Holy See, which was issued in 1997. To arouse interest in this topic, we are revisiting that document in a 4-part series that started in the previous two issues of the CBCP Monitor.

The Dispositive Part of the Instruction

The second part of the Instruction is entitled Practical Provisions and consists of 13 Articles: Two articles covering general provisions, and 11 articles containing specific practical provisions in as many areas where collaboration of the lay faithful is possible─and in fact exists─in the pastoral ministry of priests. Without reproducing that part of the Instruction, we can focus our attention on the strictly dispositive parts of the text, following the original numbering of the articles.

General Provisions

Article 1: Care in using the terms Ministry and Minister
John Paul II had emphasized the need to clarify and distinguish the various meanings that have accrued to the term ministry in theological and canonical language. “For some time now, it has been customary to use the word ministries not only for the officia (offices) and non-ordained munera (functions) exercised by Pastors in virtue of the sacrament of Orders, but also for those exercised by the lay faithful in virtue of baptismal priesthood” (§1). The Instruction made the following reminders:

1) “Only with constant reference to the one source, the ministry of Christ, may the term ministry be applied to a certain extent and without ambiguity to the lay faithful: that is, without it being perceived and lived as an undue aspiration to the ordained ministry or as a progressive erosion of its specific nature, (because) only in virtue of sacred ordination does the word obtain that full, univocal meaning that tradition has attributed to it” (§2).

2) “The non-ordained faithful may be generically designated extraordinary minister when deputed by competent authority to discharge, solely by way of supply, those offices mentioned in c.230, §3 and in cc.943 & 1112” (§3).

3) “Temporary deputation for liturgical purposes─mentioned in c.230, §2─does not confer any special or permanent title on the non-ordained faithful. It is unlawful for the non-ordained faithful to assume titles such as pastor, chaplain, coordinator, moderator or other such similar titles which can confuse their role and that of the Pastor, who is always a Bishop or priest” (§3).
Article 13: Necessary Selection and Adequate Formation
“Should it become necessary to provide for supplementary assistance in any of the cases mentioned─i.e., in the other articles below─the competent authority is bound” by the following criteria:

1) He should “select faithful of sound doctrine and exemplary moral life.” The importance of this criterion of selection should be obvious: conduct reflects doctrine, and the good conduct of such non-ordained faithful in the exercise of their functions would depend on their intellectual comprehension of the doctrinal foundations of such functions.

2) The following Catholics “may not be admitted to the exercise of such functions”:
1° Those “who do not live worthy lives”─i.e., worthy of the ministry they are being deputed to perform, the more stringent standards (logically) to be applied to the extraordinary ministers of the Holy Eucharist. Thus, the Pastors should make sure that such lay ministers are habitually in the state of grace─obviously only by the assiduous and frequent reception of the sacrament of Penance─because of their intimate contact with the Body of Christ.
2° Those “who do not enjoy good reputation”─and this obviously so as to avoid scandal in the rest of the faithful. Thus, it would not be enough that the Pastor himself knows that the layman in question is living a worthy life; he must also project such righteousness to the rest of the community─e.g., upright profession and professional practice.
3° those “whose family situations do not conform to the teaching of the Church”─e.g., irregular marriage situation.

3) “Those chosen should possess that level of formation necessary for the discharge of the responsibilities entrusted to them”. More specifically:
1° “In accordance with the norms of particular law, they should perfect their knowledge particularly by attending, in so far as possible, those formation courses organized for them by the competent ecclesiastical authority in the particular Churches”.
It is interesting to note that the Instruction hurries to advert that these courses should be carried out “in environments other than that of the seminary, as this is reserved solely for those preparing for the priesthood”─thus forestalling yet another tendency to erode the line between the ordained and the non-ordained faithful.
2° “Great care must be exercised so that these courses conform absolutely to the teaching of the ecclesiastical Magisterium and they must be imbued with a true spirituality.” The use of the adverb absolutely is noteworthy: it shows the concern of the Supreme Legislator that such formation courses not be done haphazardly─just to comply with the letter of the law─, without fulfilling the spirit of the norm.
3 "Precisely to avoid a functionalistic, pragmatic and utilitarian conception of ministry in the Church─Card. Ratzinger adds─it is essential to emphasize clearly the doctrine on the nature of the ministerial priesthood and on the unity and diversity of ministerial tasks in the service building up the Body of Christ."

Specific Practical Provisions

Article 2: The Ministry of the Word: Preaching in General
This ministry refers to the pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction, among which the liturgical homily holds pride of place (§1). The Instruction emphasizes the following norms:
1) “The non-ordained faithful, according to their proper character, participate in the prophetic function of Christ. Therefore, (they) can be invited to collaborate, in lawful ways, in the exercise of the ministry of the Word” (§2).
2) “The use of the expression admitti possunt─in c.766 of the Codex which establishes the conditions under which non-ordained faithful may be invited to preach in ecclesia vel oratorio─makes clear that in no instance is this a right”. Furthermore, “the terms in which these conditions are expressed in c.766...make the exceptional nature of such cases clear” (§3).
3) It is up to the Conference of Bishops to lay down the opportune criteria─which must receive the recognitio of the Apostolic See─to help the diocesan Bishop discern the advisability of making use of this prerogative (§3).
4) “Preaching in churches or oratories by the non-ordained faithful can be permitted only as a supply for sacred ministers ... It cannot, however, be regarded as an ordinary occurrence or as an authentic promotion of the laity” (§4).

Article 3: The Homily
The homily is the “preeminent form of preaching, (in which) the mysteries of faith and the norms of Christian living are expounded from the sacred text throughout the course of the liturgical year” (§1). Thus, the Instruction makes the following reminders:
1) “The homily must be reserved to the sacred minister, priest or deacon, to the exclusion of the non-ordained faithful, even if these should have responsibilities as pastoral assistants or catechists in whatever type of community or group... All previous norms which may have admitted the non-ordained faithful to preaching the homily during the Holy Eucharist are to be considered abrogated by c.767, §1”(§1).
2) “The diocesan Bishop cannot validly dispense from (this) canonical norm, since this is not merely a disciplinary law but one which touches upon the closely connected functions of teaching and sanctifying” (§1).
3) “The practice, on some occasions, of entrusting the preaching of the homily to seminarians or theology students who are not clerics is not permitted” (§1).
4) “A form of instruction designed to promote a greater understanding of the liturgy─including personal testimonies─is lawful, if in harmony with liturgical norms, should such be considered objectively opportune as a means of explicating the regular homily preached by the celebrant priest...(and) not assume a character which could be confused with the homily” (§2).
5) “As an expositional aide, and provided it does not delegate the duty of preaching to others, the celebrant minister may make prudent use of dialogue in the homily, in accord with liturgical norms” (§3).
6) “Homilies in non-Eucharistic liturgies─e.g., blessings─may be preached by the non-ordained faithful only when expressly permitted by law and when the prescriptions for doing so are observed” (§4).
7) “In no instance may the homily be entrusted to priests or deacons who have lost the clerical state or who have abandoned the sacred ministry” (§5).

Article 4: Participation in the Pastoral Work of the Parish Priest

The Instruction deals in this section with two fundamental realities:
1) Participation of non-ordained faithful in the pastoral care of a parish - The Instruction begins this article by stating that “the non-ordained faithful may collaborate effectively in the pastoral ministry of clerics in parishes, health-care centers, charitable and educational institutions, prisons, Military Ordinariates, etc.” (italics added). Nevertheless, subsequent allusion to c.517, §2 makes it clear that it is dealing not so much with a simple collaboration, but with “a participation in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish” (c.517, §2 in medio, italics added)─i.e., a real exercise of the power of jurisdiction. Thus, the Instruction underscores the following points:
a) This is an exceptional provision, and before employing it, “other possibilities should be availed of, such as using the services of retired priests still capable of such service, or entrusting several parishes to one priest or to a group of priests”, keeping in mind “the preference that (c.517) gives to deacons” (§1).
b) “This exceptional provision (should) be used only with strict adherence to conditions contained in it” to wit:
1° it is “due to a dearth of priests and not for reasons of convenience or ambiguous advancement of the laity, etc.”
2° it is only “a participation in the exercise of the pastoral care, and not directing, coordinating, moderating or governing the parish─which are competencies of a priest alone” (§1).
c) “These forms of participation in the pastoral care of parishes cannot, in any way, replace the office of parish priest” (§1).

2) Tenure of Parish Priest - “The parish priest is the pastor proper to the parish entrusted to him and remains such until his pastoral office shall have ceased”. The following clarifications are made as regards the duration of this tenure: (§2)
a) “The presentation of resignation at the age of 75 by a parish priest does not of itself (ipso iure) terminate his pastoral office. Such takes effect only when the diocesan Bishop...shall have definitively accepted his resignation in accordance with c.538, §3.”
b) “Having reached the age of 75 does not constitute a binding reason for the diocesan Bishop to accept a parish priest’s resignation”. In fact, the Instruction points out that it may seem better to extend the tenure of an old but still able parish priest, rather than resort to the extraordinary measure of allowing non-ordained faithful to participate in the exercise of the pastoral care of the parish, as stated above.
Article 5: Structures of Collaboration at the Diocesan and Parish Levels
"These structures─the Instruction starts─have produced many positive results and have been codified in canonical legislation." While the previous article dealt with participation in the pastoral care (properly speaking) of the Parish, this article deals more specifically with the structures provided by law for the collaboration of the non-ordained faithful with the hierarchy at the parish and at the diocesan levels. Noteworthy are the following reminders:
1) Council of Priests (Presbyteral Council) - "Membership in it is reserved to priests alone. Deacons, non-ordained members of the faithful even if collaborators with the sacred ministers─i.e., as per Article 4─and those priests who have lost the clerical state or who have abandoned the sacred ministry do not have either an active or a passive voice in the Council of Priests" (§1, italics added).
2) Diocesan and Parochial Pastoral Councils and Parochial Finance Councils - These are the only two structures provided by the Code, which may have non-ordained faithful as members with the following conditions (§2):
1 They have "a consultative vote only and cannot in any way become deliberative structures."

2 "Only those faithful who possess the qualities prescribed by the canonical norms may be elected to such responsibilities."
3) The Parish priest presides at Parochial Councils - "Any deliberations entered into (or decisions taken) by a parochial council, which has not been presided over by the parish priest or which has assembled contrary to his wishes, are to be considered invalid, and hence null and void" (§3).
4) Special Study Groups - "Ordinaries may avail themselves of special study groups or of groups of experts to examine particular questions. Such groups, however, cannot be constituted as structures parallel to diocesan presbyteral or pastoral councils", nor to parochial pastoral or finance councils. "Neither may such a group deprive these structures of their lawful authority" (§5).
[To be concluded.]

Monday, September 13, 2010

Collaboration of Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests

(Part II)

IN a recent Workshop of the Executive Committee of the Canon Law Society of the Philippines, a nagging question was again raised: What is the canonical status of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC)? The matter was raised by the canon lawyers from Mindanao (priests and a bishop), because of the growing frictions between the ecclesiastical organization and the so-called basic ecclesial communities. In the past, this question had always been sidelined by the lack of any clear theological notion of such communities; hence—the argument went—it was futile to attempt a canonical analysis of the problem.

This time, however, it was pointed out that even if it might be premature to attempt a definition of the canonical status of Basic Ecclesial Communities, some working guidelines might be in order, by way of delimiting the scope of pastoral action of such communities, in accordance with Church Law. In short, even if it might not be possible to categorically state what Canon Law states these communities are, it might be possible to draw from existing legislation what these communities are not. In more practical terms, perhaps we can glean from Canon Law what these communities may and may not do.

In fact, this is the task that the Canon Law Society of the Philippines proposed to tackle in its National Convention in May 2011. As a starting point for the canonical investigation, the CLSP Execom identified a little-known document of the Holy See, which was issued in 1997. To arouse interest in this topic, we are revisiting that document in a 4-part series that started in the previous issue of the CBCP Monitor.

Observations on Content: collaboration vs. participation

In the substantive level, the most important word appears in the title itself of the document. In effect, the title speaks of the collaboration of the non-ordained faithful in the priestly ministry.

The term initially used in the preliminary discussions was participation. Thus, the title of the symposium in April 1994, which launched the serious preparation of this document, was "The Participation of the Lay Faithful in the Priestly Ministry". However, the Pope John Paul II himself, in his address to that symposium, never used the term participation in this context. In fact, he belabored the distinction between participation in Christ's priesthood by virtue of baptism and confirmation, and the eventual exercise of some tasks entrusted to them by the priests:

"The laity's every ecclesial action or function─including those for which the Pastors ask them to stand in, where possible─is rooted ontologically in their common participation in Christ's priesthood and not in an ontological participation (either temporary or partial) in the ordained ministry proper to Pastors. Therefore, it is clear that if the Pastors entrust them, in an extraordinary way, with some tasks ordinarily and properly connected with the pastoral ministry but not requiring the proper character of Orders, lay people should know that these tasks are existentially rooted in their baptismal ministry and nowhere else! It must always be remembered that the exercise of such tasks does not make pastors of the lay faithful: in fact, a person is not a minister simply by performing a task, but through sacramental ordination."

The terminological shift is important. In effect, participation ("to take part") in the ministerial tasks could not strictly speaking take place without the subject ontologically taking part in the ministerial priesthood itself. This could only happen with priestly ordination. From this we see the aptness of the term collaboration ("to work with") when applied to the non-ordained faithful's cooperation with the ministerial work of priests.

With this in mind, we can point out the following doctrinal conclusions:

1. Lay collaboration in priestly ministry is not a right. The document contains several assertions that call for hermeneutic clarification. Thus, the part concerned with Theological Principles (n.4) says with respect to the tasks and functions which "are considered along the lines of collaboration with the sacred ministry" that "the non ordained faithful do not enjoy a right to such tasks and functions". Obviously, there is no wish here to deny that these faithful can legitimately exercise the tasks and functions mentioned. The document wants to state, however, that the non ordained faithful do not have the right to demand that they be assigned to the above mentioned tasks or functions.

Elsewhere the Instruction says: "the officia temporarily entrusted to them ... are exclusively the result of a deputation by the Church" (Art.1, §2). "Deputation by the Church" is a shorthand expression for "deputation by the Church's lawful Pastors". This complete formulation, used in other passages of the Instruction, avoids an identification of the Pastors with the Church herself. And §3 of the same article correctly indicates that "the temporary deputation for liturgical purposes─mentioned in c.230, §2─does not confer any special or permanent title on the non ordained faithful". The following sentence states that it is unlawful for the non ordained faithful to assume titles such as pastor, chaplain, coordinator or moderator.

2. Lay collaboration is supplementary─i.e., only in cases of necessity. By their ecclesiological nature all of these particular functions belong to the realm of the ordained ministry, in which a lay person, however, can collaborate in cases of necessity, if he has been lawfully deputed to do so. But it must be noted here: "in case of necessity"!

For example, it could never be the Church's objective to replace the Eucharistic celebration by promoting Sunday celebrations without a priest. Nevertheless, wherever there are no other possibilities, the Church is grateful to that lay person who, being well disposed and following the instructions of the Bishop who appointed him, conducts a Liturgy of the Word for and with the faithful who have no other opportunity to celebrate the Lord's Day. It is clear that the lay person here is truly a supplementary aid. Thus, for the good of the faithful─and that is what always counts─he should be glad when a priest is available to celebrate the Eucharist.

3. Responsibility for abuses. The practical provisions of the Instruction are not limited to listing possible or actual abuses, but they always seek to indicate the theological coordinates underlying the respective field of activity and thereby to draw the necessary consequences. Abuses occur when exceptional solutions become alternatives, changing an extraordinary competence into an ordinary one, or, on the other, when the limits provided for collaboration are unlawfully extended and a competence is assumed that has not been given. (To be continued.)

When a priest lives in public sin

(Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university, answers the following query:)

Q: May you please help me to answer these delicate questions? When a priest is in grave sin and publicly known to be in mortal sin (drunk often; with women, etc.) and the bishop allows him to say Mass publicly, what does canon law say about this? Or, if a priest has even impregnated a woman and then encouraged her to get an abortion (a reality for us here), shouldn't that priest have sanctions put on him rather than letting him celebrate Mass publicly? If the bishop says he is not to judge the priests, then who should?—K.G., Sudan

A: These are indeed delicate questions and sad ones to answer. I am not a canonist and so cannot answer regarding the intricacies of the canonical process. However, I can offer some moral pointers with respect to the sacraments.

A priest who falls into grave sin, just like any member of the faithful, should seek sacramental reconciliation as soon as possible. Meanwhile, he should abstain as far as possible from celebrating the sacraments.

By "as far as possible," I mean that if it is impossible for a priest to go to confession before attending to the needs of the faithful, then he should make an act of perfect contrition and celebrate the sacrament. The act of contrition implies both the intention of confessing as soon as possible and the firm resolve not to sin again. This moral principle, of course, is applicable to momentary (and usually secret) lapses.

The case mentioned by our reader would imply a graver situation in which the priest is openly living in an objectively immoral situation with no apparent signs of willingness to change. Although only God knows the heart, a public sin requires some form of public separation from the life of sin. Sacraments celebrated by an unrepentant priest are gravely sacrilegious acts. They would be valid but illicit.

A priest who induces a woman to abort is automatically excommunicated and also irregular and impeded from exercising his ministry (Canons 1398, 1041.4; 1043). He cannot celebrate any sacraments nor himself receive sacramental absolution until the excommunication is formally lifted. If he were to continue to act as a priest, not only would the celebrations be sacrilegious, but the sacrament of penance and matrimony would also be invalid.

If his excommunicated state were publicly known, then the faithful should not assist at any celebration nor request any spiritual goods from him except in the case of imminent danger of death. Even if he were the only priest available, the faithful should not go to one of his Sunday or daily Masses.

In such situations a bishop cannot "allow" a priest to continue as normal. The bishop has a grave responsibility toward assuring the holiness of the sacraments. A bishop could not give a positive permission for a sacrilegious act without himself becoming guilty of the sin of sacrilege. If he were to knowingly turn a blind eye, he would become morally responsible due to culpable negligence and would have some serious questions to answer on Judgment Day.

At the same time, the faithful should not presume that the bishop is aware of everything that goes on. If they have certain proof, and not just hearsay, of a priest's publicly immoral behavior they should present it to the bishop. If the evidence is solid, the bishop should follow the established canonical procedures, first removing the priest from ministry and then deciding how to move forward. If the bishop refuses to act, they should address the case to the apostolic nuncio or directly to the Holy See.

In the first case, and provided there was no abuse of minors involved, the bishop should see if there is any hope of an authentic conversion by the priest that would allow him to start anew in some other situation where his past weakness was unknown. I am aware of several such conversions, such as one in which God made use of a grave illness to bring a very corrupt parish priest to his senses and recover the meaning of his mission and his life. Today, many years later, he is regarded as an exemplary minister of the Gospel.

If change seems impossible, or if he abused minors, he should be removed from ministry. If he has fathered children, his parental responsibilities have priority over remaining in the priesthood.

In the case of the priest automatically excommunicated by inducing an abortion, the gravity of this sin must necessarily exclude him from the exercise of the priesthood. One hopes that he will repent and have the excommunication lifted, but he can no longer function as Christ's representative. His removal from ministry is a just and even minimal punishment for having been instrumental in taking innocent life.

Such sad and heartbreaking situations should move us all to pray for the holiness of priests and make reparation for their sins.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Collaboration of Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests

(Part I)

IN a recent Workshop of the Executive Committee of the Canon Law Society of the Philippines, a nagging question was again raised: What is the canonical status of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC)? The matter was raised by the canon lawyers from Mindanao (priests and a bishop), because of the growing frictions between the ecclesiastical organization and the so-called basic ecclesial communities. In the past, this question had always been sidelined by the lack of any clear theological notion of such communities; hence—the argument went—it was futile to attempt a canonical analysis of the problem.

This time, however, it was pointed out that even if it might be premature to attempt a definition of the canonical status of Basic Ecclesial Communities, some working guidelines might be in order, by way of delimiting the scope of pastoral action of such communities, in accordance with Church Law. In short, even if it might not be possible to categorically state what Canon Law states these communities are, it might be possible to draw from existing legislation what these communities are not. In more practical terms, perhaps we can glean from Canon Law what these communities may and may not do.

In fact, this is the task that the Canon Law Society of the Philippines proposed to tackle in its National Convention in May 2011. As a starting point for the canonical investigation, the CLSP Execom identified a little-known document of the Holy See, which was issued in 1997. To arouse interest in this topic, we shall revisit that document in this and the following issue of the CBCP Monitor.

The Instruction Ecclesia de Mysterio

On 13 November 1997, the Pro Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, presented to the Press the Instruction Ecclesia de Mysterio, On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests. The document reaffirmed the teaching of the Second Vatican Council (especially of Lumen Gentium, n.33 and Apostolicam Actuositatem, n.24). Its main purpose was to acknowledge and promote what is specific to the vocations of the lay faithful and of ordained ministers, with the goal of encouraging real communion in the Church.

In the decade prior to the document’s publication, Bishops, priests and lay people had been requesting authoritative directives on the identity of priests and lay people with regard to particular cases of pastoral activity improperly exercised by non ordained faithful. Thus, an Inter-dicasterial Commission was established for that purpose, coordinated by the Congregation for the Clergy and involving seven other dicasteries: the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for Bishops, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts.

In a series of meetings, this Commission worked out a text which was sent to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and to the individual Bishops of the dioceses where this issue was considered most urgent. About 92 percent of those questioned were in favor, but asked that ambiguous wording be avoided in the text, that the most authoritative legal form possible be used and, given the urgent need for clarification, that the document be published without delay. The Commission scrupulously followed these instructions.

On 15.V.1997 the text was discussed by the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia in the presence of the Holy Father. Special attention was paid in this last stage to critical observations until a clear convergence of views among the bishops concerned was reached. The result of this lengthy and thorough process is the Instruction we are now considering.

Preliminary hermeneutic clarifications

For a correct understanding of the document, we must first consider some of its formal aspects.

1. An Instruction is an administrative provision. As c.34, §1 states, instructions “clarify the prescriptions of laws and elaborate on and determine an approach to be followed in implementing them”. Thus, it does not create new law, but merely insists that the law currently in force be observed. The same c.34, §1 states that they “are given for the use of those persons whose concern it is to see that the laws are implemented and oblige such persons in the execution of the laws.” Thus, an instruction has also been characterized as an internal general disposition of the ecclesiastical organization, which is directed to the authority or titleholder of an office who is charged with the execution of the law.
2. An Instruction has immediate effectivity. The document was dated 15.VIII.1997 but was not published until 13.XI.1997. Somebody could object that it gave no indication of when it would go into force. That is basically unnecessary, since an Instruction merely reminds the recipients of an obligation already in force for some time. The months elapsed between the date of approval and the day of publication were probably needed for translating the text into the various languages.

3. Involvement of 8 Dicasteries. The fact that eight dicasteries were involved in drafting the Instruction is in itself very significant. On the one hand, it can be said that this procedure conformed with the legislative provisions of the Roman Curia, according to which, what falls within the competence of different offices should be treated by all, under the coordination of the office primarily concerned with the question. Nevertheless, it would have sufficed if the document had only been signed by the Congregation for the Clergy, while noting the preceding inter-dicasterial consultation. The fact that all the dicasteries involved signed with their respective heads and secretaries clearly expressed their co responsibility as well as the importance that the Curia attaches to this subject.

4. Very limited scope of the Instruction. The Instruction has a very limited purpose and its title should be carefully read with that in mind. The subject is not collaboration between priests and lay people, but the priestly ministry in so far as lay people can collaborate in it. The document is thus concerned with only a limited area of the laity's field of activity in the Church. It is important not to forget this fact, since the vast, ordinary field of activity for lay people in the Church and the world is intentionally not considered by the Instruction. It is only concerned with giving appropriate direction to the exercise of particular functions by particular lay people.

5. Binding force of the document. The importance of the document is also underscored by the fact that the Pope approved the Instruction in forma specifica. This mode of approbation chosen by the Pope must be considered in the light of the fact that as stated in the Conclusion—by this administrative act “all particular laws, customs and faculties which are contrary to the foregoing norms, and were conceded ad experiment by the Holy See or other ecclesiastical authorities, are hereby revoked.” Thus we are spared the possible objection that an administrative act cannot derogate from the norms (laws or customs) currently in force; the intention to ensure coherent legislation in this entire matter is also apparent. Consequently any form of appeal against it is impossible.

On the other hand, we must not forget that a preponderant majority of the Bishops whose opinions were consulted for the draft had asked precisely that the most authoritative legal form possible be used.

Objectives of the Instruction

To conclude Part I of this article, let us summarize the basic objectives of the Instruction.

1. Encourage the ordained ministers and foster the ordained ministry. It seeks to encourage ordained ministers by forcefully reintroducing the subject of vocations to the priesthood, stressing that the Church's life depends on the sacrament of Holy Orders as a free, absolutely irreplaceable gift, because the ordained ministry (Bishops, priests, deacons) is part of the Church's very structure. Thus, the Instruction concludes by stating that “the solutions addressing the shortage of ordained ministers cannot be other than transitory and must be linked to a series of pastoral programs which give priority to the promotion of vocations to the Sacrament of Holy Orders.”

2. Remind the laity of their specific role. The Instruction also reminds us how the fundamental equality of Christians—based on Baptism—is compatible with an essential difference—based on Sacred Orders—and that lay Christians, precisely because of Baptism, are called to the consecratio mundi, which differs from the task of anyone who belongs, through the sacrament, to the ministerial ranks. Thus, by avoiding every form of clericalism, lay Christians are encouraged to be more aware of their identity and to give their witness in the world and in the Church without considering the exercise of ministerial duties which they may perform from time to time as a form of advancement but only as one of substitution.

3. Authentic promotion of the lay apostolate. The Instruction does not limit lay participation in the evangelical and ecclesial apostolate. On the contrary, this is encouraged in the right direction consistent with Catholic ecclesiology. “However—as Card. Ratzinger emphasized at the time—it intends to rebut and prevent the tendency towards a clericalization of the lay faithful, and the risk of creating, in reality, an ecclesial structure of parallel service to that founded on the sacrament of Orders.”

This affirmation of the future Pope Benedict XVI is of paramount importance in our proposed study of BECs.

4. Encourage terminological precision. In Article 1 of the practical provisions—¬entitled: “Need for an Appropriate Terminology”—the Instruction insists on the need for a suitable terminology, clarifying the confused use of the word ministry, which describes both the officia and the munera exercised by Pastors in virtue of the sacrament of Orders, and those exercised by the non ordained faithful.

5. Eliminate abuses. As Card. Ratzinger also affirmed at the time: “The timeliness and urgent need of this Instruction is explained in the light of the situation occurring in specific and widespread ecclesial circles, which demands, special insistence on the faithful application of the principles and norms contained in the teachings of the Magisterium and the Church's universal legislation in the concrete life of the particular Churches.”
(To be continued)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Serious and More Serious Crimes in the Catholic Church

JUST when our readers might just have had enough of the Penal Law of the Church for the meantime─with a spate of articles in this column on Crime and Punishment in the Catholic Church (Parts I&II) and Canonical Process for Alleged Sexual Abuse of Minors by Clerics (Parts I&II))─the Holy See has recently come up with new documentation consolidating all the norms pertinent to the issues that we have recently tackled─i.e., relative to the serious crimes against the faith, and more serious crimes against the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Penance, and the sexual abuse of minors. To conclude this discussion, therefore, let us summarize the recent documentation.

Legislative Background

On 30.IV.2001, Pope John Paul II promulgated a very important document, the Motu Proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, which gave the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) responsibility to deal with and judge a series of particularly serious crimes within the ambit of Church Law. The Motu Proprio was accompanied by a series of practical and procedural Norms, known as Normae de gravioribus delictis (“Norms on more serious crimes”).

At this point it is interesting to note that the serious crimes to which the regulations referred primarily concerned vital aspects of Church life as such: crimes against the faith (heresy, apostasy and schism) and crimes against the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance. Hence the title of the Motu Proprio. Only by extension, because of the vast public echo that it attracted in recent years, was the crime of sexual abuse committed by a priest against a minor under the age of eighteen included in the list of more serious crimes, which were reserved to the CDF. Hence the title of the Norms attached to the Motu Proprio.

Nine years after the promulgation of the Motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, the CDF felt it necessary to propose certain changes to these norms, not modifying the text in its entirety, but rather only in a few areas, in an effort to improve the application of the law. After a serious and attentive study of the proposed changes, the Cardinals and Bishops Members of the CDF presented the results of their decisions to the Supreme Pontiff and, on 21 May 2010, Pope Benedict XVI gave his approval and ordered the promulgation of the revised text.

The text of the Norms on delicta graviora currently in force is the text approved by the Holy Father Benedict XVI on 21 May 2010, and published by the Vatican press office last 15 July 2010.

Serious Crimes (Art.2, §1)

The new document starts by establishing the serious crimes against the faith as heresy, apostasy and schism, as defined in c.751 and penalized with an automatic excommunication by c.1364, §1 of the Code of Canon Law. It further establishes that “it pertains to the Ordinary or Hierarch to remit, by norm of law if such be the case, the latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication and likewise to undertake a juridicial trial in the first instance or issue an extrajudicial decree, with due regard for the right of appeal to the CDF” (Art.2, §2). These cases therefore are not reserved to the CDF, at least not in the First Instance.

More Serious Crimes

The document proceeds to enumerate the more serious crimes, which are strictly reserved to the CDF. It is important to note that most of these crimes already carry an automatic (latae sententiae) censure, such that what is reserved to the CDF is not so much the imposition of the penalty, but rather its remission or possible declaration (ferendae sententiae), if that were necessary.

1. Crimes against the Holy Eucharist (Art.3)

§ 1. The more grave delicts against the sanctity of the most Holy Sacrifice and Sacrament of the Eucharist reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for judgment are:

1° the taking or retaining for a sacrilegious purpose or the throwing away of the consecrated species (with automatic excommunication according to c.1367);
2° attempting the liturgical action of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, without having been promoted to the priestly order (with automatic interdict or suspension according to c.1378, §2, 1º);
3° the simulation of the administration of Holy Eucharist (with a just penalty according to c.1379);
4° the concelebration of the Eucharistic with ministers of ecclesial communities which do not have apostolic succession and do not acknowledge the sacramental dignity of priestly ordination (with a just penalty according to cc.908 & 1365)

§ 2. Also reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the delict which consists in the consecration for a sacrilegious purpose of one matter without the other or even of both, either within or outside of the eucharistic celebration. One who has perpetrated this delict is to be punished according to the gravity of the crime, not excluding dismissal or deposition.

2. Crimes against the Sacrament of Penance (Art.4)

§ 1. The more grave delicts against the sanctity of the Sacrament of Penance reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are:

1° the absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue (with automatic excommunication according to c.1378, §1);
2° attempted sacramental absolution or the prohibited hearing of confession by a person who cannot validly give sacramental absolution (with automatic interdict or suspension according to c.1378, §2, 2°);
3° simulated sacramental absolution (with a just penalty according to c.1379);
4° the solicitation to a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue in the act, on the occasion, or under the pretext of confession (with suspension, prohibitions or deprivation, or dismissal from clerical state as mentioned in c.1387);
5° the direct and indirect violation of the sacramental seal by a confessor (with automatic excommunication according to c.1388, §1);
§ 2. Also reserved to the CDF is the more grave delict which consists in the recording, by whatever technical means, or in the malicious diffusion through communications media, of what is said in sacramental confession, whether true or false, by the confessor or the penitent. Anyone who commits such a delict is to be punished according to the gravity of the crime, not excluding, if he be a cleric, dismissal or deposition.

3. Crimes against Holy Orders (Art.5)

The more grave delict of the attempted sacred ordination of a woman is also reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: both the one who attempts to confer sacred ordination on a woman, and she who attempts to receive sacred ordination, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See (1º); If the guilty party is a cleric he may be punished by dismissal or deposition (3º)

4. Crimes against Catholic Morals (Art.6)

§1. The more grave delicts against morals which are reserved to the CDF are:

1° the delict against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue committed by a cleric with a minor below the age of eighteen years; in this case, a person who habitually lacks the use of reason is to be considered equivalent to a minor.
2° the acquisition, possession, or distribution by a cleric of pornographic images of minors under the age of fourteen, for purposes of sexual gratification, by whatever means or using whatever technology;

§2. A cleric who commits the delicts mentioned above in §1 is to be punished according to the gravity of his crime, not excluding dismissal or deposition.

Procedural Norms

The procedural norms to be followed in these cases are as follows:

• Whenever an Ordinary or Hierarch had at least probable knowledge (notitiam saltem verisimilem habeat) of the commission of one of the reserved grave delicts, after having carried out the preliminary investigation, he is to inform the CDF which, unless it calls the case to itself because of special circumstances, will indicate to the Ordinary or Hierarch how to proceed. The right of appeal against a sentence of the first instance is to be exercised only before the Supreme Tribunal of the Congregation.
• Criminal action in the cases reserved to the CDF─hitherto extinguished by a prescription of ten years after the 18th birthday of the victim─henceforth prescribes only after 20 years, subject to even a longer period if the CDF deems necessary.
• In tribunals established by Ordinaries of Hierarchs, for the cases of the more grave delicts reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative─hitherto validly performed only by priests─henceforth can be fulfilled by anyone with required knowledge of Church Law.
• Regulations concerning the secrecy of trials are maintained, in order to safeguard the dignity of all the people involved.

A Final Word on Judicial Discretion (vs. Secrecy)

A point that remains untouched, though it has often been the subject of discussion in recent times, concerns the Church’s collaboration with the civil authorities. We need to point out that the Norms under discussion form part of the Penal Law of the Church, which is autonomous and distinct from the Civil Law.
On this subject, however, it is important to take note of the Guide to Understanding Basic CDF Procedures concerning Sexual Abuse Allegations, as published on the Holy See website (cf. www.vatican.va) In that Guide, the phrase "Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed" is contained in the section dedicated to "Preliminary Procedures". This means that in the praxis suggested by the CDF, it is necessary to comply with the requirements of law in the various countries, and to do so in good time, not during or subsequent to the canonical trial.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Crime and Punishment in the Catholic Church

Part I)

THE Catholic community in Quezon City was shocked recently by the much-publicized excommunication, inflicted by the diocesan Bishop on an impostor-priest. The person had been serving in the diocese of Cubao─especially in Christ the King Parish at Green Meadows Subdivision─for a good part of a year, but who was recently discovered to have never been ordained as he claimed he was in Europe. The scandal was exacerbated by the fact that this “fake priest” displayed a lot of positive external qualities (always properly dressed, well-spun homilies and pious liturgical celebrations), and of course administered the sacraments (including celebrating the Mass daily and hearing Confession). Several questions have been asked by disturbed faithful: Is it that easy for somebody to simulate being a sacred minister and victimize the faithful? Can the bishop punish so severely? What is excommunication ferendae sententiae? To answer these questions, we shall break this article into two parts.

The Penal Law of the Church

What is the justification for the coercive power? Or equiv¬alently, what is the ultimate justification for the ius poenandi? Several theories have been proposed, but we can summarize the prevailing canonical doctrine into three reasons:

1) Defense of the Juridic Order. The ultimate justifica¬tion of penalty is the same as that of Law: The need to maintain the juridic order (which is the end of punishment), without which society (civil or ecclesial) would be impossible.
Traditionally, punishment had been justified by three purposes:

(i) Retribution of damaged juridic order. Punishment aims to redress the disorder introduced by the offense, by depriving the offender of a good of a proportionate degree to that which was suffered by the offended, or—in the ultimate analysis—by the society. Hence, the punishment must be commensurate to the gravity of the offense. In any case, retribution cannot be confused with revenge.

(ii) Reformation of the offender. Since society is for man (not vise-versa), when society inflicts punishment, it must redound to the good of individual man. Thus, punishment must contribute to the correction of the offender, giving him a chance to change for the better.

(iii) Deterrence for future offenses. Punishment must deter crime, and it does so to the extent that the severity of the punishment produces fear, which hinders one from committing a crime. Thus, a successful deterrent must be a psychologically effective threat.

The first two ends of punishment are succinctly summarized by the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the following terms: Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorders introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people’s safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party (n.2266).

2) Perfect-Society Ecclesiology. A perfect society needs a coercive power in order to protect its juridic order against those who may want to disturb or destroy it from within. Since the Church is a perfect society, it needs such power.

3) Magisterium of John Paul II. In an address to the Roman Rota (17.II.1979), the Roman Pontiff gave the ultimate justifica¬tion for the ius poenandi in the Church: “In the image of a Church which safeguards the rights of every faithful, and which—even more—fosters and protects the common good as an indispensable condition for the integral development of the human and Christian person, penal law is positive¬ly included. The penalty inflicted by the ecclesiastical authori¬ty (which in reality only acknowledges the situation in which the subject has placed himself) should be recognized as an instrument of communion, i.e., as a means to recover those deficiencies of the individual good and of the common good arising from whatever anti-ecclesial, delictive and scandalous behavior of some members of the people of God.”

Dealing with the question of the death penalty, John Paul II affirmed that “the primary purpose of the punishment which society inflicts is to redress the disorder caused by the offense”. Thus, “public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfills the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people’s safety, while at the same time offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behavior and be rehabilitated.”

Notion and Typology of Canonical Crimes

The old Code of Canon Law stated that in ecclesiastical law, the term crime (or offense) is understood as the external and morally imputable violation of a law which carries with it a canonical sanction, at least undetermined (c.2195). This gives an apparent configuration of canonical offense as a violation of a penal law.

Although the actual Codex does not define a canonical offense, c.1321,§1 gives us its constitutive elements: No one is punished unless the external viola-tion of a law or a precept committed by the person is seriously imputable to that person by reason of malice or culpability.

Here we are no longer considering the canonical offense as an abstract case, but the structure of a concrete one. From the above canon, we can glean three factors that determine whether or not a given case constitutes an canonical offense: an objective element (harm to the ecclesial society), a subjective element (grave imputability an culpability) and a legal element (typification of the delictive act as such in a penal law and the establishment of the corresponding punishment).

In principle, we can speak of as many types of ecclesiastical crimes as types of goods that are juridically protectable. Nevertheless, in the work of codification, the legislator has opted for a classifica¬tion of long tradition in classical Law, based on six categories of the more general goods, giving rise to the Titles I-VI of Part II of Book VI of the CIC:

1) Offenses against religion and the unity of the Church (cc. 1364-1369)
2) Offenses against ecclesiastical authorities and the freedom of the Church (cc. 1370-1377)
3) Usurpation of ecclesiastical functions and offenses in their exercise (cc. 1378-1389).
4) The crime of falsehood (cc. 1390-1391).
5) Offenses against particular obligations (cc. 1392-1396).
6) Offenses against human life and freedom (cc. 1397-1398).

Notion and Finality of Canonical Sanctions or Penalties
A canonical sanction or penalty is the priva¬tion of some good, imposed by the legitimate authority, for the correction of the offender and the punishment of the offense (CIC 17, c.2215).

We can analyze this canonical definition in the following terms.

1) Privation. Evidently, the sanction cannot be a gift, but rather—as Grotius affirmed—a malum passionis propter malum actionis (i.e., the offense). Being a canonical sanction, such malum must be in the ambit proper of the ecclesial society—i.e., the privation of some good which is enjoyed in the Church. Since it is the Church which deprives the offender of such good, and since nobody can deprive except of such things over which he exercises dominion, the goods which the canonical penalty can deprive of must have the following qualities:
a) Good of the juridic order—the enjoyment of which requires an external relation of Church-faithful, a rela¬tion on which are founded mutual rights and duties; these exclude moral rights, grace, etc.
b) Good of spiritual, material or mixed nature—since the relation Church-faithful applies to all three cases.
2) Finality of Canonical Sanction. This can be summarized in the formula: to defend the fundamental juridic interests of the Church:
a) Not Retribution. The ecclesial society inflicts a sanction not because such sanction is just: there is no exact correspondence between offense and sanction. Rather, a sanc¬tion is imposed in order to support and preserve the just juridic ordering.
b) Correction of the Offender. The Church tries to move the offender to contrition and amendment.
c) Other Ends of Sanction. These are not properly ends, but rather qualities of sanctions. It is said that penalty intimidates, sets an example, and gives social tranquility (by acting as a deterrent to crime).

Kinds of Canonical Sanctions

Can. 1312,§1 states: The following penal sanctions exist in the Church: 1° medicinal penalties or censures enumerated in cc. 1331-1333; 2° expiatory penalties enumerated in c.1336.

a. Medicinal Penalties: Censures
The censure is a penalty by which the baptized and contumacious offender is deprived of certain spirit¬ual or related goods until he ceases in his contumacy and is absolved (CIC 17, c.2241). Analyzing this definition, we see the following elements of the ecclesiastical censure:
a) Objective Element: It is a true penalty (not just a penance). The spiritual or related goods which a censure can deprive the offender of are only those under the control and administration of the Church.
b) Subjective Element: The destinatary of the penalty is the person who has been baptized—or received—in the Catholic Church (c.11), and who has completed 16 years of age (c.1323, 1°).
c) Formal Element: Contumacy. A special requisite of the censure is contumacy—i.e., the persistent will in the of¬fender to violate the ecclesiastical law. It is the juridical counterpart of the Pauline (and biblical) notion of the hardness of heart.
It is worthwhile noting that contumacy is not conceptually identifiable with the reincidence in the offense (even if the latter can be a manifestation of the former). Thus, c.1326,§1, 1° employs the term pertinacia for the case of reincidence. This is due to the fact that the notion of contumacy is derived not from the relation of offender-offense (i.e., to his persistence in the delictive act per se), but rather from the relation offender-authority: the rebellion against Church au¬thority.
This doctrine is very much in keeping with the notion of the censure as a medicinal penalty: as a medicine, a censure should only be inflicted after all the extra-penal (e.g., warn¬ings) or semi-penal (e.g., penances) means for making the of¬fender submit to ecclesiastical discipline have been exhausted. Obviously, such measures can only be effective if the presumed offender submits himself to the ecclesiastical authority, who determines the manner in which he can express contrition, satis¬faction, etc. The minute such person rejects such means, he breaks off from the Hierarchy, who then have to impose a censure to break the contumacy.

b. Expiatory Penalties
Expiatory penalties are those whose direct finality is the expiation of the offense, such that their remis¬sion does not depend on the cessation of the contumacy of the offender (cf. CIC 17, c.2286 under the term vindictive penalties). Due to the possible pejorative sense and allusion to retri¬bution of the term vindictive, the new Code has opted for the expression expiatory penalty, taken from St. Augustine (De ci¬vitate Dei, 21.13); but the notion is the same, in its nature as well as its effects. From the above definition, the following essential elements can be deduced, which differentiate the expiatory penalties from censures:

a) Principal and Direct Pretension of expiatory penal¬ties is the expiation of the offense, i.e., the reparation of the social order objectively damaged by the offense.
b) Verification of contumacy is not relevant to the infliction of expiatory penalties; neither is the cessation of contumacy relevant for their remission.
c) Duration: Expiatory penalties can be inflicted per¬petually, for a fixed time, or ad nutum of the Superior.
c. Penal Remedies and Canonical Penances

Can. 1312, §3 further states: Penal remedies and penances are likewise employed; the former especially in order to prevent offenses, the latter to substitute for or to increase a penalty.
1) Penal Remedy: A moderate, canonical, para-penal means of a preventive nature.
It cannot be considered as a punishment in the strict sense, since it is established precisely to prevent the commis¬sion of offense (which is necessary for a punishment). Thus we call it para-penal.
2) Canonical Penance: A juridic semi-penal action by which the legitimate authority imposes the carrying out of an external act of piety to the repentant offender, in lieu of the due penalty, or to substitute for an inflicted penalty which has been remitted either by absolution or by dispensation.
(To be continued)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Crime and Punishment in the Catholic Church

Part II)

THE Catholic community in Quezon City was shocked recently by the much-publicized excommunication, inflicted by the diocesan Bishop on an impostor-priest. The person had been serving in the diocese of Cubao─especially in Christ the King Parish at Green Meadows Subdivision─for a good part of a year, but was recently discovered to have never been ordained as he claimed he was in Europe. The scandal was exacerbated by the fact that this “fake priest” displayed a lot of positive external qualities (always properly dressed, well-spun homilies and pious liturgical celebrations), and of course administered the sacraments (including celebrating the Mass daily and hearing Confession). Several questions have been asked by disturbed faithful: Is it that easy for somebody to simulate being a sacred minister and victimize the faithful? Can the bishop punish so severely? What is excommunication ferendae sententiae? To answer these questions thoroughly, we started our discussion with a backgrounder on the Penal Law of the Church in the previous issue of CBCP Monitor.

We now pick up the thread of that discussion to conclude this article.

Types of Each Kind of Canonical Penalties

As we saw in Part I of this article, there are two kinds of canonical penalties: censures and expiatory penalties.
a. Types of Censures

The Code of Canon Law speaks of the excommunication, the interdict, and the suspension (cc.1331-1333).
1) Excommunication was defined in the CIC 17 defined as a censure by which a person is excluded from the communion of the faithful, with the inseparable effects enumerated in the canons. These inseparable effects were summarized in the old c.1331.
2) Interdict is a censure by which the faithful, without losing communion with the Church, are prohibited some goods (i.e., those expressly enumerated in c.1332). The new Code only recognizes the figure of the personal interdict, which is configured analogously to the old minor excommunication, so called because it did not directly affect the communio but only some of its effects (i.e., those explicitly enumerated).
3) Suspension is a censure exclusive to the clerical state, by which the exercise of the power of Orders, the power of gover¬nance, or of an office—as well as the right to receive specific goods—is prohibited partially or totally.

b. Types of Expiatory Penalties

The prolific enumeration of such penalties in the CIC 17 is now reduced to what is established by c.1336 and the specifica¬tions of cc.1337-1338 as follows:
1) Specific expiatory penalties: restriction of freedom of residence (cc.1336, §1, 1° and 1337), penal transfer to another office (c.1336, §1, 4°) and dismissal from the clerical state (c.1336, §1, 5°; cf. cc.290-291).
2) Generic expiatory penalties: Privation of or specific prohibitions against the exercise of the power of governance, office, tasks, rights, privileges, faculties, graces, titles or decorations (c.1336, §1, 2°-3°).
3) Others to be established by Law.


Excommunication is the archetype of ecclesiastical penalty, for its direct relation to a concept which is fundamen¬tal to the whole ecclesial penal system: the communio. Communio is the vital habitat of the faithful as such. His participation in that communio has an ontological root (baptism), which obviously cannot be lost; but it has a two-fold projection: a) A mystical dimension, which supposes sanctifying grace and charity: the faithful communicates with and in the Church as Mystical Body. b) A juridic dimension, by which the faithful is united to the Church as a visible society, and which is expressed in a series of juridic relations (rights and duties of the faith¬ful as such).

The Juridic Dimension of the communio is what can be affected by the privation which constitutes the canonical penal¬ty: a privation which presupposes a constitutive act by the legitimate authority and which affects the enjoyment of certain rights.

Though the infliction of excommunication does not judge regarding the mystical dimension of communio (i.e., on the sin¬fulness of the act), it is only inflicted in the most serious offenses, which ad extra presupposes the existence of a certain rupture of the mystical communio (mortal sin). The direct effect of excommunication is the loss of communio in its juridic dimension. As a consequence, the effects in the sanctioned faithful are the follow¬ing:

1) For non-declared latae sententiae penalties, this pecu¬liar manner of sanction has implications in the good name of the excommunicated person. Since the fact that gave rise to the excommunication may not be publicly known—in which case the danger of scandal is substantially reduced—, the Law only urges its observance to the extent that such does not imply self-incrimination or auto-denunciation by the offender. Hence, the peculiar regimen of this type of sanction as regards its effects:
a) The excommunicated cannot actively participate in the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, or in any other ceremony of worship.
b) Neither can he celebrate the sacraments or sacra¬mentals, nor receive the sacraments.
c) Neither can he exercise any ecclesiastical office, ministry or function; nor legitimately carry out acts of govern¬ment.

2) For ferendae sententiae or declared latae sententiae penalties, the above effects are aggravated in the following terms:
a) The offender who tries to actively participate in the celebration of the Holy Mass or in any other ceremony of worship should be rejected, or the liturgical ceremony interrupt¬ed, unless a serious reason warrants otherwise.
b) Any act of governance (cf. c.135) by the offender is invalid. In the case of a parish priest, his assistance in a canonical wedding, though not strictly an act of governance, is also invalid (cf. c.1109).
c) The enjoyment of privileges previously acquired is prohibited.
d) The offender cannot validly obtain any honors, office or other function in the Church; nor posses the fruits of such honors, office, function or pension.

Zeroing in on the Green Meadows Affair

1) Is it that easy for somebody to simulate being a sacred minister and victimize the faithful?
Can.903 stipulates: A priest is to be permitted to celebrate [the Holy Mass] even if he is unknown to the rector of the church, provided he presents a letter of recommendation issued by his ordinary or superior within the year, or provided it can be prudently judged that the priest is not prevented from celebrating. In practice, every priest has a little document (like the old LTC Driver’s Lincence) which is called a celebret, which attests that he is of good standing and can therefore be allowed to celebrte the Eucharist.

In the case of the Sacrament of Penance, it is further required that a priest has the faculties to hear confession in a given circumscription. The local ordinary alone is competent to confer upon any presbyters whatsoever the faculty to hear confessions of any of the faithful (c.969, §1), and such faculty to hear confessions is not to be granted to presbyters unless they are found to be qualified by means of an examination or their qualifications are evident from another source (c.970). Furthermore, the Code stipulates that the local ordinary is not to grant the faculty to hear confessions habitually to a presbyter, even one who has a domicile or quasi-domicile in his jurisdiction, without first consulting with his [the presbyter’s] ordinary, if possible (c.971).

In principle, therefore, it should not be easy for anyone to pose as a priest and administer the sacraments─especially to celebrate Mass and to hear confession─if all the cautions stipulated by Canon Law were followed.

2) Can the bishop punish so severely─as happened in the Green Meadows Affair?

Can.1378, §2 is very clear: The following incur an automatic (latae sententiae) penalty of interdict: 1º one who has not been promoted to the priestly order and who attempts to enact the liturgical action of the Eucharistic Sacrifice; 2º a person who attempts to impart sacramental absolution or a person who hears sacramental confession when one cannot validly give sacramental absolution [e.g., because of lack of valid ordination].

Can.1378, §2 therefore clearly establishes an automatic interdict, but not an excommunication, for the offender in the Green Meadow’s affair. However, the same c.1378, in its §3 also establishes: In the case mentioned in §2, other penalties including excommunication can be added in accord with the seriousness of the offense.

Clearly, the local ordinary in this case─in the exercise of his solemn office as pastor of the flock─had judged the offense of special seriousness to warrant the infliction of the heaviest canonical penalty of excommunication, ferendae sententiae (by decree).