Monday, June 20, 2011

The Canonical Imperatives of Priestly Sanctity (Part II)

AS we saw in the previous issue, the entire Year of the Priest a year ago might well be an exercise in futility were it to be left at the level of speculative thought. Hence, the importance of Canon Law, because Canon Law begins where theology ends—i.e., in the level of due if not enforceable human conduct. Whereas moral, sacramental and even pastoral theology can only indicate what is fitting and proper conduct, leaving it to each faithful to make responsible use of his freedom to act accordingly, Canon Law stipulates what is juridically binding and hence owed if not outright enforceable. In short, Canon Law adds the note of exigency to the desideratum of priestly holiness.

In the previous issue, we had tackled the first part of the first canonical imperative of priestly holiness, contained in c.276, §2, 1º: the duty of priests to faithfully and untiringly fulfill the duties of pastoral ministry. After seeing the general provisions of Canon Law in this regard, let us consider the specific content of this norm.

B. Duties towards the Administration of the Sacraments:

1) General duty to administer the Sacraments abundantly: The sacred ministers cannot refuse the sacraments to those who ask for them at appropriate times, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them (c.843, §1).

The minister—furthermore—should ask nothing for the administration of the sacraments beyond the offerings defined by the competent authority, always being careful that the needy are not deprived of the help of the sacraments because of their poverty (c.848).

2) General duty to prepare the faithful for the reception of the Sacraments: Pastors of souls and the rest of the Christian faithful, according to their ecclesial function, have the duty to see that those who seek the sacraments are prepared to receive them by the necessary evangelization and catechetical formation, taking into account the norms published by the competent authority (c.843, §2).

3) Duties of parish priests as regards the administration of Baptism and Confirmation:

a) It is the duty of the parish priest to assure that the celebration of baptism be properly prepared: (1) an adult who intends to receive baptism is to be admitted to the catechumenate and, to the extent possible, be led through the several stages to sacramental initiation, in accord with the order of initiation adapted by the conference of bishops and the special norms published by it; (2) the parents of an infant who is to be baptized and likewise those who are to undertake the office of sponsor are to be properly instructed in the meaning of the sacrament and the obligations which are attached to it (c.851).

b) The pastor of the place where the baptism is celebrated must carefully and without delay record in the baptismal book the names of those baptized, making mention of the minister, parents, sponsors, witnesses if any and the place and date of the conferred baptism, together with an indication of the date and place of birth (c.877, §1).

c) Shepherds of souls, especially pastors, are to see to it that the faithful are properly instructed to receive [Confirmation] and approach the sacrament at the appropriate time (c.890). The sacrament of Confirmation is to be conferred on the faithful at about the age of discretion, unless the conference of bishops determines another age, or there is danger of death, or in the judgment of the minister a grave cause urges otherwise (c.891).

4) Duties of parish priests as regards the administration of the Holy Eucharist:

a) It is the responsibility, in the first place, of parents and those who take their place as well as the pastor to see that children who have reached the use of reason are correctly prepared and are nourished by the divine food as early as possible, preceded by sacramental confession. It is also for the pastor to be vigilant lest any children come to the Holy Banquet who have not reached the age of reason or whom he judges are not sufficiently disposed (c.914).

b) [Holy Communion] should be administered outside Mass to those who request it for a just cause, the liturgical rites being observed (c.918).

c) Holy Viaticum for the sick is not to be delayed too long; those who have the care of souls are to be zealous and vigilant that they are nourished by Viaticum while they are fully conscious (c.922).
5) Duties of priests as regards the administration of the Sacrament of Penance:
a) Individual and integral confession and absolution constitutes the only ordinary way by which the faithful person who is aware of serious sin is reconciled with God and with the Church (c.960). Only a priest is the minister of the sacrament of penance (c.965).

b) All to whom the care of souls is committed by reason of an office are obliged to provide that the confessions of the faithful entrusted to their care be heard when they reasonably ask to be heard and that the opportunity be given to them to come to individual confession on days and hours set for their convenience (c.986, §1).
In urgent necessity any confessor is obliged to hear the confessions of the Christian faithful, and in danger of death any priest is so obliged (c.986, §2).

c) Absolution cannot be imparted in a general manner to a number of penitents at once without previous individual confession unless:

1º the danger of death is imminent and there is not time for the priest or priests to hear the confessions of the individual penitents;

2º a serious necessity exists—i.e., when in the light of the number of penitents supply of confessors is not readily available rightly to hear the confessions of individuals within a suitable time so that the penitents are forced to be deprived of sacramental grace or holy communion for a long time through no fault of theirs. (c.961, §1). It is for the diocesan bishop to judge whether such condition exists (c.961,§2).

d) The proper place to hear sacramental confessions is a church or an oratory (c.964, §1). Confessionals with a fixed grill between penitent and confessor [should be] always located in an open area so that the faithful who wish to make use of them may do so freely (§2). Confessions should not be heard outside the confessional without a just cause (§3).

e) In hearing confessions the priest should remember that he acts as a judge as well as a healer and placed by God as the minister of divine justice as well as mercy (c.978, §1). In the administration of the sacrament, the confessor, as a minister of the Church, is to adhere faithfully to the doctrine of the magisterium and the norms enacted by competent authority (c.978, §2).

6) Duties of priests as regards the Anointing of the Sick:
a) Every priest and only a priest validly administers the anointing of the sick (c.1003, §1). All priests to whom the care of souls has been committed have the duty and the right to administer the anointing of the sick to all the faithful committed to their pastoral office; for a reasonable cause any other priest can administer this sacrament with at least the presumed consent of the aforementioned priest (c.1003, §2).
b) This sacrament is to be conferred upon sick persons who requested it at least implicitly when they were in control of their faculties (c.1006).

7) Duties of parish priests as regards the celebration of Marriage — Can.1063 is quite explicit. Pastors of souls are obliged to see to it that their own ecclesial community furnishes the Christian faithful assistance so that the matrimonial state is maintained in a Christian spirit and makes progress toward perfection. This assistance is especially to be furnished through:

1º preaching, catechesis adapted to minors, youths and adults, and even the use of the media of social communications so that through these means the Christian faithful may be instructed concerning the meaning of Christian marriage and the duty of Christian spouses and parents;

2º personal preparation for entering marriage so that through such preparation the parties may be predisposed toward the holiness and duties of their new state;

3º a fruitful liturgical celebration of marriage clarifying that the spouses signify and share in that mystery of unity and of fruitful love that exists between Christ and the Church;

4º assistance furnished to those already married so that, while faithfully maintaining and protecting the conjugal covenant, they may day by day come to lead holier and fuller lives in thief families.

Before leaving this particular imperative, I want to point out the priority given to it. Indeed, if the faithful and untiring fulfillment of the duties of their pastoral ministry constitutes a primordial obligation of the priest, it also constitutes for him the principal means for struggling and expressing his priestly sanctity. Put another way, the priest who struggles to fulfill these duties is clearly on his way to holiness. (To be continued.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Canonical Imperatives of Priestly Sanctity (Part I)

Introduction

The universal theme of the Year for Priests, launched by Pope Benedict XVI on 19 June 2009 was: Faithfulness of Christ, Faithfulness of Priests. That entire year was a wonderful occasion for the whole Church to reflect on the identity and ministry of priests, which is none other than the identity and ministry of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ himself. Allow me to recall at the outset what is specific in the sacramental character received in Holy Orders: not only a participation in the priesthood of Jesus Christ (which is proper to the universal or royal priesthood of all Christ’s faithful), but rather a configuration in persona Christi capitis, which therefore constitutes the priest in a sacred minister—alter Christus, ipse Christus—in the midst of the community of believers, at the service of and in order to nourish the universal priesthood of all the faithful. As Bl.John Paul II explained in Pastores dabo vobis, n.14: “ For the sake of this universal priesthood of the new covenant Jesus gathered disciples during his earthly mission (cf. Lk. 10:1-12), and with a specific and authoritative mandate he called and appointed the Twelve ‘to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons’ (Mk. 3:14-15).”

However, that entire year’s reflection might very well be an exercise in futility, were it to be left precisely at the level of speculative thought. In effect, there is abundant literature on the life and ministry of priests—from charming biographies like those of the Curé d’Ars himself to treatises like those of Alphonsus Ligouri; from Papal Exhortations like Pastores dabo vobis to veritable Instructions like the Directory on the Life and Ministry of Priests. Despite all these, however, there continues to be glaring manifestations of lack of priestly holiness, not just in the past but even in the very year that was supposedly dedicated to foster priestly sanctity and fidelity.

Hence, the importance of Canon Law. Because Canon Law begins where theology ends—i.e., in the level of due if not enforceable human conduct. Whereas moral, sacramental and even pastoral theology can only indicate what is fitting and proper conduct, leaving it to each faithful to make responsible use of his freedom to act accordingly, Canon Law stipulates what is juridically binding and hence owed if not outright enforceable. In short, Canon Law adds the note of exigency to the desideratum of priestly holiness.

The Code of Canon Law expresses this in a general way in c.276:

Can.276, — §1. In leading their lives clerics are especially bound to pursue holiness because they are consecrated to God by a new title in the reception of orders as dispensers of God’s mysteries in the service of His people.

One observes that by itself, c.276, §1 may be doomed to go the way of many well-meaning but ineffective pastoral initiatives and guidelines. Staying within that section, one remains in the level of a desideratum, or in more juridical terms a pretension. Such pretension needs to be articulated into enforceable norms. Put another way, the pretension of priestly holiness needs to be spelled out into a set of normative conduct.

This is what c.276, §2 sets out to do, clearly stating: In order for them to pursue this perfection—followed by five numbers outlining a set of vital duties for clerics. In other words, what follows is not just a set of desiderata, but rather a set of norms which clerics must follow if they are to fulfill the juridical obligation to pursue holiness set by c.276, §1.

In this issue and succeeding two issues of the CBCP Monitor, I propose to tackles these five paragraphs of c.276, §2, which I refer to as the Canonical Imperatives of Priestly Sanctity.

1st Imperative

Can.276, §2 — 1º First of all, they are faithfully and untiringly to fulfill the duties of pastoral ministry.

Before going any further, I think it is important to clarify the concept of pastoral ministry. In effect, under the guise of pastoral ministry, almost every conceivable initiative has been taken up by ordained ministers—ranging from works of purely material beneficence (e.g., relief of calamity victims) to socio-political and economic initiatives (e.g., education for the upcoming elections, parish-based mechanisms for the protection of the electoral process, organization of cooperatives, education in NFP).

Properly speaking, the pastoral function consists in exercising the tria munera Christi, which can be summed up principally in delivering the salvific means entrusted by Christ to the Church—i.e., the Word of God and the Sacraments. In other words, it would imply a serious impoverishment of the person and mission of the priest, not to say of the Church herself, to reduce their spiritual mission to merely material tasks.

With this I do not in any way deny either the timeliness or utility of many works aimed at alleviating the socio-economic, political or even medical conditions of the people, carried out by ecclesiastical organizations with the help of the Hierarchy. What I want to do is to point out the danger of substituting the genuine pastoral function of the clerics with other charitable works, thereby confusing the priestly mission of the Pastors with that of the faithful in general.

The Code of Canon Law spells out this particular imperative abundantly, both in general provisions and as regards the administration of each of the Sacraments. Following is just a summary.

A. General Provisions:

1) General availability for pastoral assignments: Unless they are excused by a legitimate impediment, clerics are bound to undertake and faithfully fulfill a duty which has been entrusted to them by their Ordinary (c.274, §2). More than specifying any task, this norm binds the cleric to undertake and faithfully fulfill—i.e., carry out and faithfully execute to completion—any and all pastoral assignments entrusted to him by his bishop.

In effect, one cannot help but wonder if the aforementioned cases of wayward initiatives of individual priests could have prospered had they been totally consumed by assignments of a genuinely pastoral nature from their legitimate hierarchical superiors.

2) Duty of residence: Even if they do not have a residential office, clerics nevertheless are not to leave their diocese for a notable period of time, to be determined by particular law, without at least the presumed permission of their proper Ordinary (c.283, §1). This provision specifies further the availability of clerics for pastoral assignments by limiting their absence from the diocese.

Indeed, it would be much more difficult for clerics to fall into unhealthy activism—with initiatives that are not strictly pastoral—were their presence in their own ecclesiastical circumscriptions more strictly enforced.

3) Prohibition from assuming public office: Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power (c.285, §3). The relevance of this norm to the canonical imperative in question is quite clear: The cleric cannot give his 100% dedication to the pastoral ministry, were he to also participate in the exercise of civil government.

For the priest, the Lord’s mandate to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s takes on an absolute value: The priest simply owes 100% of his potencies to God and his Church. Aside from strictly pastoral duties, the priest simply has no other time or energy for much else.

4) Prohibition from engaging in business: Clerics are forbidden personally or through others to conduct business or trade either for their own benefit or that of others, without the permission of legitimate ecclesiastical authority (c.286). It is interesting to note that the prohibition is quite all-encompassing: neither personally nor through others, neither for their own benefit nor for other (i.e., not even for their flock).

The logic again is quite simple: a priest is ordained for pastoral tasks—the tria munera Christi—and not for other activities, unless legitimate authority permits (obviously for special reasons). (To be continued.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Towards a Canonical Status for Basic Ecclesial Communities (Part III)

I am a priest in a diocese in Mindanao, where there is a strong impetus for the establishment of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs). The work these are doing for the Christian faithful is undeniable, especially in those areas hardly reached by the inadequate number of priests. However, at times I have been at odds with such groups because of a certain tendency to supplant the parish. It has even happened that such groups in the rural areas outside the poblacion even dissuade their members from going to town to attend Mass on holy days of obligation, with the reason that they already have what they call a “dry Mass”─basically a liturgy of the Word with the administration of Holy Communion outside Mass─in their chapel. In matters of governance too, at times such BECs are at odds with our Parish priest, because they impose requirements on their members (beyond those required by the Parish) in order to be included in the roster for the reception of Confirmation and Baptism, and even for Marriage.

What does Canon Law say about this?

GIVEN the existence of BECs, the question now is can they be accommodated into the hierarchical structure of the Church? Better still, if they are to be accommodated into the hierarchical structure of the Church, how should they be configured so as to make them fit better in that structure?

A. Point of Departure: The Duty of the Bishop to Provide Pastoral Care.
Can. 516 ─ §2 Where some communities cannot be established as parishes or quasi­parishes, the diocesan Bishop is to provide for their spiritual care in some other way.

This canonical norm provides us with the point of departure for finding a legal support for the BECs. In effect, the BECs as we know them are precisely communities of faithful, which for various reasons─e.g., distance from the parish or town proper, insufficient number of people to warrant an investment of priest and material resources, or as mostly happens in Mindanao a scarcity of priests─cannot be constituted into a parish or quasi-parish.

Nevertheless, the diocesan Bishop is bound by Law to provide for the spiritual care of such a community of faithful in some other way, so that they are not marginalized as far as pastoral care is concerned.

B. Point of Arrival: The Collaboration of Non-ordained Faithful in the Pastoral Care of a Parish, under the Direction of a Priest with Powers and Faculties of a Parish Priest.

Can. 517 ─ §2 If, because of a shortage of priests, the diocesan Bishop has judged that a deacon, or some other person who is not a priest, or a community of persons, should be entrusted with a share in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish, he is to appoint some priest who, with the powers and faculties of a parish priest, will direct the pastoral care.

This canonical norm provides us with the legal nexus between the traditional ways of being Church and the so-called BECs. In effect, the canon admits the possibility of delivering the pastoral care of souls─which properly belongs (i.e., entrusted by Christ) to the bishops, but is participated in by his presbyterium─to a community which cannot be constituted into a parish or quasi-parish due to a shortage of priests, through a sharing in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish by a non-ordained person or persons. This then is the possible legal basis of the BECs: they can be the application in the Philippine context of c.517, §2.

But for this to happen correctly, an indispensable requirement must be met, as stipulated in the last part of the aforementioned canonical norm: the diocesan Bishop…is to appoint some priest who, with the powers and faculties of a parish priest, will direct the pastoral care.

Why this requirement? To understand this, we need to delve deeper into the nature of the pastoral care of souls, as carried out by the proper pastors─i.e., primordially and principally the bishops (as successors of the Apostles who directly received that mandate from Christ), and participating with them as their collaborators, their presbyterium.

C. Pastoral Care of Souls is an exercise of the Sacra Potestas.

Before Christ ascended to Heaven, he gave the Apostles a solemn mandate: 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, 19-20). We can summarize the great truths enshrined in these lines as follows:

1) The pastoral care of souls consists essentially in teaching (make disciples of all nations), sanctifying (baptizing them, and together with that administering all the other sacraments), and governing (teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, meaning to follow the path to holiness).

2) Such pastoral care was entrusted principally to the Apostles and their successors in history─i.e., the bishops (behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world).

3) Such pastoral care requires a sacred power that only Christ can give. This is the reason why the mandate by Christ is preceded by a solemn declaration: All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Only by investing them with such power of jurisdiction─to bind and loosen─can they effectively carry out such pastoral care. Hence, Christ continues: Go, therefore, and make disciples….

D. Only the Ordained Ministers are Capable of the Power of Governance in the Church.

This theological truth is expressed in canonical language in the famous c.129 of the Code of Canon Law:
Can. 129 ─ §1 Those who are in sacred orders are, in accordance with the provisions of law, capable of the power of governance, which belongs to the Church by divine institution. This power is also called the power of jurisdiction.
─ §2 Lay members of Christ's faithful can cooperate in the exercise of this same power in accordance with the law.

A little excursion to the genesis of this canon can give us the final piece in the puzzle of how to fit the BECs in the hierarchical structure of the Church. This is one of the few canons that suffered a small but Copernican change in the final revision of the present Code just months before its promulgation in 1983 by John Paul II.

In effect, the final Schema of the Code of Canon Law, c.129, §2 read: Lay members of Christ’s faithful can participate in this same power in accordance with the law. This would have implied that lay faithful could take part in the power of jurisdiction─i.e., be subjects of such power.

With the slight revision, Canon Law confirmed what ecclesiology had long accepted, that such power of governance in the Church can only be possessed by the sacred ministers (priests and bishops, not even deacons); and that the non-ordained faithful (and deacons) can only cooperate in the exercise of such power. The nuance is subtle, but it is there: Only bishops and priests (in union with them) can possess and properly-speaking exercise the power of jurisdiction and thus provide authentic pastoral care; the non-ordained can only collaborate with the bishops and priests in the delivery of such pastoral care.

Applying this to the phenomenon of BECs, the laymen involved in such communities can only collaborate in the pastoral ministry of the priests; they cannot be the source of such ministry altogether. Put another way, the laypersons in such communities must at all times act in accord with the norms laid down by the sacred ministers.

To summarize: For the BECs to really be a way of being Church, it must form part of the pastoral care of souls emanating from the diocesan bishop, but passing through an ordained minister (a priest), who is endowed with the power and faculties of a parish priest (hence, a proper pastor of souls).

How this can be done in practice can be the object of particular legislation by the bishops, by─for example─drawing up a Guidelines for the Constitution and Conduct of Basic Ecclesial Communities. Subject to the recognitio by the Holy See, these Guidelines can constitute a common set of norms for all the dioceses.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Towards a Canonical Status for Basic Ecclesial Communities (Part II)

I am a priest in a diocese in Mindanao, where there is a strong impetus for the establishment of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs). The work these are doing for the Christian faithful is undeniable, especially in those areas hardly reached by the inadequate number of priests. However, at times I have been at odds with such groups because of a certain tendency to supplant the parish. It has even happened that such groups in the rural areas outside the poblacion even dissuade their members from going to town to attend Mass on holy days of obligation, with the reason that they already have what they call a “dry Mass”─basically a liturgy of the Word with the administration of Holy Communion outside Mass─in their chapel. In matters of governance too, at times such BECs are at odds with our Parish priest, because they impose requirements on their members (beyond those required by the Parish) in order to be included in the roster for the reception of Confirmation and Baptism, and even for Marriage.
What does Canon Law say about this?

WE resume our discussion of Basic Ecclesial Communities with a brief outline of what we shall tackle in this part.

1) There is an existing phenomenon, which in the Philippines we have given the name of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs). Like many things in the Philippines, it manifests the vibrancy of our culture in general, and of the Catholic Church in this country in particular. However, like any new thing, it also has its pains. Already, we see shadows together with the lights: frictions with the hierarchical structures (parishes), abuses in liturgical practice (proliferation of so called “dry Masses”) and even an under-valuing of the Sacramental life─all of these mostly due to a sore lack of doctrinal foundations.

2) But, for the meantime at least, the BECs are there and are even spreading─due in no mean part to the encouragement of the hierarchy itself. On the other hand, we see why the hierarchy is encouraging the BECs, especially in Mindanao: given the acute shortage of clergy, the BECs seem to be the way to address the pastoral needs of the faithful, especially in those areas of difficult access to the hierarchically constituted pastoral structures─i.e., the parish.

3) Hence, we ask ourselves: is there a way for these BECs to develop more systematically─i.e., more ecclesiologically? Are there provisions in Canon Law that can serve as guidelines of what the BECs can do, and what they should not do?

A New Way of Being Church?

It has been said that the BECs constitute the new way of being Church. This may seem like an innocuous expression, but it has very serious theological and canonical implications. In the theological─ecclesiological─sense, it might even be misunderstood to mean that the Church is evolving by the initiative of the people. In this particular case, even starting from the grassroots.

But the Church did not arise─and neither can it unfold and develop─from a people power initiative. The people of God, which is the Church─comes about from a Trinitarian initiative. By the will of God the Father, Jesus Christ instituted the Church by (1) calling together the Apostles and empowering them to teach, sanctify and govern in his name, and (2) sending the Holy Spirit on Pentecost to inhabit a community of disciples, together with the Apostles. In other words, the Church came about by a Divine design and constitution. It also develops historically by a Divine design and providence.

Thus, if we are to understand the Basic Ecclesial Communities as the new way of being Church, we need to look at them from the perspective of the Church, as Christ established it and how it has developed through the centuries under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. More specifically, if the BECs are really to be ecclesial, they must be constituted and they must operate according to the parameters set by the Supreme Authority of the Church in her reflection on what the Church is and how it is constituted.

We can arrive at this by a deductive process, starting from the concept of the Church as laid down by Vatican Council II and later expressed in juridic terms by the Code of Canon Law of 1983. Based on the essential structural elements of the Church, as established by Jesus Christ, we can encounter the canonical locus of the BECs in the hierarchical structure of the Church. In other words, through the right application of Canon Law, the BECs can indeed be a way of being Church.

The Traditional Way of Being Church

Vatican Council II─in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium─already set forth the essential structural elements of the Church of Christ as follows:

1) A community of believers, who─regenerated in the new life of children of God by the sacrament of Baptism and subsequently nourished in their different ecclesial situations by the Word of God and by the other Sacraments─march in pilgrimage towards their definitive home in union with God. Together they constitute a portio populi Dei (a portion of the People of God, which is the Church).

2) A shepherd, who─as a successor of the Apostles─has received from the Pope, the Vicar of Christ (successor of Peter, upon whom Christ promised to build his Church), the mandate to be the proper pastor of the aforementioned portio populi Dei.

3) A group of ordained ministers, who─ontologically configured with Christ as head of the mystical body, and canonically invested with a specific participation in the pastoral mission of the bishop─act in persona Christi capitis to deliver to the faithful the means of salvation─i.e., the Word and the Sacraments.

Properly speaking, it is the aforementioned interaction of the ministerial priesthood (of the Bishop helped by his clergy) at the service of the universal or common priesthood (of the rest of the faithful) which brings about the congregation of believers which is called Church. In other words, the Church─as a visible structure and organization─has come about as a result of the unfolding of the mandate of the Resurrected Christ to Peter, to “feed my lambs” and to “feed my sheep”. In order to effectively deliver the means of salvation─the Word of God (revealed by Scripture and Tradition, and authoritatively taught by the Magisterium) and the Sacraments─to all the baptized, the Church organizes itself. Traditionally, this has been through the constitution of particular Churches (under the care of bishop as its proper Pastor), which are subdivided into parishes or quasi-parishes (each under the care of a priest, under the authority of the bishop, also as its proper pastor).

The traditional canonical expressions of this reality are the particular church and the parish.

A. Particular Churches: The Diocese

Can. 368 ─ Particular Churches, in which and from which the one and only catholic Church exists, are principally dioceses. Unless the contrary is clear, the following are equivalent to a diocese: a territorial prelature, a territorial abbacy, a vicariate apostolic, a prefecture apostolic and a permanently established apostolic administration.

Can. 369 ─ A diocese is a portion of the people of God, which is entrusted to a Bishop to be nurtured by him, with the cooperation of the presbyterium, in such a way that, remaining close to its pastor and gathered by him through the Gospel and the Eucharist in the Holy Spirit, it constitutes a particular Church. In this Church, the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of Christ truly exists and functions.

Can. 372 ─ §1 As a rule, that portion of the people of God which constitutes a diocese or other particular Church is to have a defined territory, so that it comprises all the faithful who live in that territory.
─ §2 If however, in the judgement of the supreme authority in the Church, after consultation with the Episcopal Conferences concerned, it is thought to be helpful, there may be established in a given territory particular Churches distinguished by the rite of the faithful or by some other similar quality.
Can. 373 ─ It is within the competence of the supreme authority alone to establish particular Churches; once they are lawfully established, the law itself gives them juridical personality.

B. Parishes and Quasi-parishes.

Can. 515 ─ §1 A parish is a certain community of Christ's faithful stably established within a particular Church, whose pastoral care, under the authority of the diocesan Bishop, is entrusted to a parish priest as its proper pastor.

─ §2 The diocesan Bishop alone can establish, suppress or alter parishes. He is not to establish, suppress or notably alter them unless he has consulted the council of priests.

─ §3 A lawfully established parish has juridical personality by virtue of the law itself.
Can. 516 ─ §1 A quasi­parish is a certain community of Christ's faithful within a particular Church, entrusted to a priest as its proper pastor, but because of special circumstances not yet established as a parish. Unless the law provides otherwise, a quasi­parish is equivalent to a parish.

─ §2 Where some communities cannot be established as parishes or quasi­parishes, the diocesan Bishop is to provide for their spiritual care in some other way.
Can. 517 ─ §1 Where circumstances so require, the pastoral care of a parish, or of a number of parishes together, can be entrusted to several priests jointly, but with the stipulation that one of the priests is to be the moderator of the pastoral care to be exercised. This moderator is to direct the joint action and to be responsible for it to the Bishop.

─ §2 If, because of a shortage of priests, the diocesan Bishop has judged that a deacon, or some other person who is not a priest, or a community of persons, should be entrusted with a share in the exercise of the pastoral care of a parish, he is to appoint some priest who, with the powers and faculties of a parish priest, will direct the pastoral care.
Can. 518 ─ As a general rule, a parish is to be territorial, that is, it is to embrace all Christ's faithful of a given territory. Where it is useful however, personal parishes are to be established, determined by reason of the rite, language or nationality of the faithful of a certain territory, or on some other basis.

Can. 519 ─ The parish priest is the proper pastor of the parish entrusted to him. He exercises the pastoral care of the community entrusted to him under the authority of the diocesan Bishop, whose ministry of Christ he is called to share, so that for this community he may carry out the offices of teaching, sanctifying and ruling with the cooperation of other priests or deacons and with the assistance of lay members of Christ's faithful, in accordance with the law. (To be concluded.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Easter Eucharistic Precept and the Law of Annual Confession

EASTER is here again and I hear conflicting criteria regarding the so-called Easter Precept and the sacrament of Confession. Some say that the Church prescribes that the faithful go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year¾during Easter Time¾and receive the Eucharist. On the other hand, there are those who say that in this age and time of too many people and too few priests, it is not practical to bother them unless one has mortal sins, so that the once-a-year precept refers more to going to Communion rather than going to Confession.
Can you enlighten me on this?

The Easter Eucharistic Precept

Due to a widespread neglect of the sacrament of the Eucharist in the Middle Ages, various Church Councils, from the 6th Century onward, enacted laws obliging the faithful to receive the Holy Eucharist, especially on the principal feasts. The IV Lateran Council (1215) established a general law for the Latin Church requiring the reception of Communion at least once a year at Easter by those who had attained the age of discretion. This law, which was confirmed by the Council of Trent, was incorporated in the 1917 Code of Canon Law. The actual Code of 1983 retains the annual precept, with some modifications:

Can. 920 ¾ §1. All the faithful, after they have been initiated into the Most Holy Eucharist, are bound by the obligation of receiving Communion at least once a year.

¾ §2. This precept must be fulfilled during the Easter season, unless it is fulfilled for a just cause at some other time during the year.

The primary subject of this precept, therefore, are all the faithful who have received First Communion, barring excusing causes such as moral or physical impossibility. This obligation to receive Holy Communion at least once a year should be fulfilled normally during Easter time, understood as the period from Palm (Passion) Sunday to Pentecost Sunday. The satisfaction of the Eucharistic precept outside this period required a just cause¾such as illness, or residence in a remote area where there is no minister to celebrate Mass or administer Holy Communion¾but it must be satisfied within the space of one year, counted from the previous Communion (cf. c.203).

In the Philippines, this precept applies as legislated in the universal law of the Church, and no special faculty is needed to comply with the Easter duty outside Easter time: each faithful, in conscience, shall decide whether he has sufficient reason to do it in the prescribed time.

Finally, it must be said that since the same Code of Canon Law, in c.914, imposes the responsibility of ensuring that children who have reached the use of reason are nourished by the divine food as early as possible on the parents and those who take their place as well as on the pastor, one can conclude that¾in the case of children¾the observance of the Eucharistic precept indirectly bears upon the parents or guardians and upon the parish priest too, who thus become the secondary subjects of this ecclesiastical law. This was actually stated in the 1917 Code (c.860), which though removed in the present Code as something not strictly proper in a book of law, nevertheless is quite morally binding.

The Law of Annual Confession

In the Philippines, fortunately, one hardly needs to be reminded of the Eucharistic precept: the Sunday Masses are noteworthy for their long queues of people coming to receive the Holy Eucharist. In this connection, it would be good to be reminded of yet another disposition of the 1983 Code of Canon Law:

Can. 989 ¾ After having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation to faithfully confess serious sins at least once a year.

Definitely, the canon does not lay down this law for any specific time of the year, nor does it lay it down for everyone. It binds only those who are aware of having committed a mortal sin and have not yet had it absolved in sacramental Confession, and he may go to Confession any time during the year. But the long queues in the confessionals of many churches during Lent and Easter season are an eloquent manifestation of the common sense of the faithful that even the just man falls seven times each day; furthermore , as John Paul II reminded the faithful: the individual and integral confession of sins with individual absolution constitutes the only ordinary way in which the faithful who are conscious of serious sin are reconciled with God and with the Church (Reconciliatio et paenitentia, 33).

Indeed, the faithful are all too aware of that warning of St. Paul to the Corinthians: Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily, will be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord…for he who eats and drinks unworthily, without distinguishing the body, eats and drinks judgment to himself (I Cor 2, 27-28).

Herein lies the nexus between the Easter Eucharistic precept and the law on yearly confession of serious sins: To receive Holy Communion worthily at Easter time, it seems logical that the best way to prepare for it is with individual sacramental Confession.

Duty of Pastors to Facilitate Confession

If the obligation exists for the faithful to go to confession at least once a year in case of serious sins, and the just man falls seven times each day, there seems to be a corresponding duty on the part of the sacred ministers to enable the faithful to fulfill the duty.

Indeed, a series of simple calculations can serve to quantify this duty of the pastor¾at least in a general way. In the Philippines, there is an average of 15,000 Catholics for every priest. Now according to the population profile of the Philippines, roughly 68% of the population falls in the 10-60 years old bracket¾which , presumably, is the age group to which (roughly) the law of annual confession applies. Assuming that the same percentage holds for the Catholics too, then there should be 10,200 Catholics of 10-60 years of age for every priest in the Philippines. Even if each of these faithful only went to the minimum once-a-year confession, this would mean that the pastors, if they are to fulfill their duty, should on the average hear about 30 confessions daily throughout the year.

There has been a lot of talk of the need for moral recovery in Philippine society and politics. Such moral recovery cannot happen in a collective way, in a mass action. The moral recovery of a society depends ultimately on the individual personal conversion of its members—a conversion that is not possible without the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Here indeed is a point of self-examination for the pastor of souls, and a possible point of redress for the parishioners.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Towards a Canonical Status for Basic Ecclesial Communities (Part I)

A Review of the Instruction Ecclesia de Mysterio

I am a priest in a diocese in Mindanao, where there is a strong impetus for the establishment of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs). The work these are doing for the Christian faithful is undeniable, especially in those areas hardly reached by the inadequate number of priests. However, at times I have been at odds with such groups because of a certain tendency to supplant the parish. At times, such groups in the rural areas outside the poblacion even dissuade their members from going to town to attend Mass on holy days of obligation, with the reason that they already have what they call a “dry Mass”─basically a liturgy of the Word with the administration of Holy Communion outside Mass─in their chapel. In matters of governance too, at times such BECs are at odds with our Parish priest, because they impose requirements on their members (beyond those required by the Parish) in order to be included in the roster for the reception of Confirmation and Baptism, and even for Marriage. What does Canon Law say about this?

The Problem with BECs

There are two basic problems with the Basic Ecclesial Communities. Firstly, although the term has been used quite extensively in the Philippines, the Magisterium has not really defined it authoritatively. Even in the Philippines, the bishops have not given a real definition. Hence, the margin for abuse of the notion is quite wide.

Secondly, if there is no theological definition, much less could there be a canonical one. The expression does not even appear in the Code of Canon Law. Perhaps it was for this reason─the lack of any clear idea of what they are in the first place─that they have not been treated seriously in the canonical forum.

Nevertheless, the phenomenon does exist and─in Mindanao and to a certain extent also in the Visayas─quite extensively, to the point that somebody had said “they are the new way of being Church.” Hence, it’s not something that can be left to develop helter-skelter, among other things because the Church is not something that develops out of human initiative, but rather follows a Divine design. Hence, if a phenomenon like the BECs is to develop─to borrow the aforementioned quotation─being Church, it cannot be allowed to develop without the proper parameters.

Here is where Canon Law can help, because even if there may not be a canonical definition of the Basic Ecclesial Communities yet, not for this does it follow that there is a normative gap as regards the phenomenon. There is a legal gap (lacuna legis) insofar as the very expression basic ecclesial community does not even appear in the Codex, but there is no normative gap (lacuna normativa), because the juridic structure of the Church is sufficiently fine so as to provide the pertinent norms to the actuation of the BECs. In other words, from the existing legal norms, it is quite possible to draw what is applicable to the constitution and conduct of basic ecclesial communities.

This, in fact, is the inspiration behind the 19th National Convention of the Canon Law Society of the Philippines, to be held this coming April 26-29 in Surigao City. In effect, what the CLSP proposes to do is to sift through existing legal norms in the Church to find what are applicable to BECs and then integrate them into a sort of a draft Guidelines for Basic Ecclesial Communities, for possible presentation to the CBCP for the latter’s adoption and if necessary Papal recognition.

Point of Departure: the Instruction Ecclesia de Mysterio of 1997
In 1997, the Holy See issued the Instruction Ecclesia de Mysterio, On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests. It was co-authored by six Vatican Congregations (for the Clergy; for the Doctrine of the Faith; for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; for Bishops; for the Evangelization of Peoples; for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life) and two Pontifical Councils (for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts; for the Laity). 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.
Surprisingly, it was met either with criticism or with indifference. After almost 15 years, the problem of the BECs compels us to revisit this document, which enjoys the specific approval of the Holy Father.

As an introduction, it may be good to summarize the basic objectives of the Instruction, which simply reaffirms the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and of the more recent post conciliar Magisterium on the positive role of the laity in the Church's mission.

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. Expose the "functionalist" and "individualist" errors. The Instruction also calls for critical discernment regarding certain modernistic trends that deeply affect people's idea of the ministry.

The first, the "functionalist" approach, holds that human actions and things in general cannot refer to anything beyond themselves. In this mentality what really counts is to achieve the goal one has set for oneself. We can understand then how, even when moved by true pastoral generosity, some eventually think that whatever does not require the sacramental power of the Bishop, priest or deacon ad validitatem can be assumed ordinarily and permanently by the laity. But in doing so, the ordained ministry begins gradually to be eroded. This is illustrated by the complaint of our priest from Mindanao that some BECs are discouraging their people from attending Mass in the town proper, since anyway they have their own service─presided by a layman─in their barrio chapel.

The "individualist" approach, on the other hand, has become more and more widespread since the 16th century and leads to thinking in terms of "personal success", "competitiveness" and "power". There is no space to tackle this issue now; neither is it too relevant to the problem we have at hand.

4. Authentic promotion of the lay apostolate. The Instruction is not a limitation of the genuine promotion of 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 then─"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."

The doctrinal principle at the root of these concerns is the twofold affirmation of the unity of the Church 's mission, in which all the baptized participate, and the essential difference of the ministry of pastors, rooted in the sacrament of Orders, with respect to the other ministries, offices and ecclesial functions that are rooted in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.

5. Encourage terminological precision. In Article 1 of the practical provisions─¬entitled "Need for an Appropriate Terminology"─the Instruction rightly 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.

6. Eliminate abuses. As Card. Ratzinger 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."

In view of the situation in certain ecclesial areas, specifically North Central Europe, North America and Australia, and noting the risk that abuses in the lay faithful's participation in the sacred ministry of the ordained could spread to other ecclesiastical regions, Card. Ratzinger already affirmed then that "it seemed most timely and urgent to define clearly the various forms of assistance open to the lay faithful in the exercise of the priestly ministry."

An Important Observations: collaboration vs. participation

In the substantive level, the most important word─a veritable hermeneutic key─is a term that 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, 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") in the ministerial tasks could not strictly speaking take place without the subject ontologically taking part─for that matter─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.

Preliminary Conclusions

With the aforementioned discussion, 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. What applies to temporary deputation applies with all the more reason to permanent deputation for liturgical or pastoral tasks (cf. CIC, c.230, §1, 517, §2,).

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 he will be glad when a priest is available to celebrate the Eucharist. The Instruction enables us to indicate many other analogous situations.

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 and canonical coordinates underlying the respective fields of activity and thereby to draw the necessary consequences. As a well-known Canonist, Prof. Winfried Aymans, pointed out at the time, "the problems mentioned are caused, first of all, by the fact that they are found in a border area." Abuses occur, according to Aymans, 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.

"In this regard─Aymans continues─it should be pointed out that the laity usually cannot be considered responsible for true and proper abuses. They in fact fulfill—normally with good intentions─that role which has been introduced in their particular Church and has been entrusted to them. On the other hand, it should be noted that the norms established by the Bishops' Conferences or by individual Bishops generally do not contradict the ordinances of universal law, but their clarity at times is not enough to prevent the spread of an abusive practice."

It is for this reason that the Canon Law Society of the Philippines has chosen this topic for their study and discussion in this year’s CLSP National Convention.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Re-marriage of Fallen-away Catholics: A Review of the Motu Proprio Omnium in mentem

A Catholic man, a well-known personality, became a Born-again Christian and married a Baptist woman without securing the required dispensation from the Catholic authorities. After a few years, they break up and get a civil annulment from a Philippine court. Now he wishes to remarry in the Catholic Church with a Catholic woman. Can he do it?

The Canon Law on Mixed Marriages and the so-called Disparity of Cult

There are two phenomena regulated by Canon Law which oftentimes are confused: mixed marriages and disparity of cult.

A mixed marriage is one contracted between two baptized persons, one of whom was baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it, and another who is a member of a Church or ecclesial community which is not in full communion with the Catholic Church. According to c.1124 of the Code of Canon Law, such a marriage cannot be celebrated without the express permission of the competent authority. Canon Law further stipulates that such permission can be granted by the Local Ordinary if there is a just and reasonable cause, but only if the following requirements (called cautions) are met: (1) the Catholic party declares that he/she is prepared to remove dangers of falling away from the faith and makes a sincere promise to do all in his/her power to have all the children baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church; (2) the other party is informed at an appropriate time of these promises which the Catholic party has to make, so that it is clear that the other party is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party; (3) both parties are instructed on the essential ends and properties of marriage, which are not to be excluded by either party (c.1125).

Can.1126 further establishes that the conference of bishops is to establish the way in which these declarations and promises, which are always required, are to be made, what proof of them there should be the external forum and how they are to be brought to the attention of the non-Catholic party. In practice, many dioceses in the Philippines now require the non-Catholic party to sign a simple document to this effect.

Failure to follow these norms by itself does not invalidate the canonical marriage thus contracted, but it renders it illicit─i.e., if done with full knowledge and consent, it would be gravely sinful for all involved (starting with the witnessing priest of course who should know better).

Quite a different matter is the so-called impediment of disparity of cult established by c.1086, which stipulates:

§1. Marriages between two persons, one of whom is baptized in the Catholic Church or has been received into it and the other of whom is non-baptized, is invalid.

§2. This impediment is not to be dispensed unless the conditions mentioned in cc.1125 and 1126 [i.e., the cautions for mixed marriages] are fulfilled.

In other words, whereas in the case of an unauthorized mixed marriage is only illicit but valid, the presence of the impediment of disparity of cult─unless lawfully dispensed─renders the marriage invalid from the start.

The Motu Proprio Omnium in mentem

The Apostolic Letter “Motu Proprio” Omnium in mentem, issued 26.X.2009, dealt with two unrelated matters: a clarification of the ministerial function of deacons, and the obligation of the canonical form of marriage for those faithful who have left the Church in a formal way. Saving the first matter for a future article, let us focus now on the second clarification.

The Motu Proprio dealt with the obligation of the faithful who have left the Church in a formal way─e.g., the typical fallen-away Catholic who joins the Born again movement─to follow the ecclesiastical laws regarding the canonical form of marriage, the required dispensation from the impediment of disparity of cult and the need for permission in the case of mixed marriages.

It did this by taking away from the previous redaction of cc.1086, §1 (establishing the impediment of disparity of cult), c.1117 (requiring the canonical form if at least one of the parties of marriage is a baptized Catholic) and c.1124 (requiring permission from the Local Ordinary for a mixed marriage), a phrase which limited the scope of the Catholic party to one who “was baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it and has not by a formal act defected from it.” Thus, in the new redaction of the aforementioned canons, the phrase “and has not by a formal act defected from it” has been deleted.

The crux of the matter is that many problems arise as regards the separation of the faithful from the Church. The papal document explains it:

“First, in individual cases the definition and practical configuration of such a formal act of separation from the Church has proved difficult to establish, from both a theological and a canonical standpoint. In addition, many difficulties have surfaced both in pastoral activity and the practice of tribunals. Indeed, the new law appeared, at least indirectly, to facilitate and even in some way to encourage apostasy in places where the Catholic faithful are not numerous or where unjust marriage laws discriminate between citizens on the basis of religion. The new law also made difficult the return of baptized persons who greatly desired to contract a new canonical marriage following the failure of a preceding marriage. Finally, among other things, many of these marriages in effect became, as far as the Church is concerned, clandestine marriages.”

In sum, what the motu proprio has established is that even if a Catholic separates from the Church, he/she is still under Church Law, even if he disregards it. If he/she marries a person who is not validly baptized without due dispensation (from the impediment of disparity of cult) from the Local Ordinary, that marriage would be invalid.

Conclusion

Since our Catholic personality married the Baptist woman (invalid baptism) without dispensation from the impediment of disparity of cult, that first marriage was invalid. Thus, after securing a civil annulment, he is free to marry (not re-marry) in the Catholic Church with a Catholic woman.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Denial of Holy Communion to Civilly Remarried Catholics

I am an assistant parish priest, forced to confront difficult situations on my own at times, due to the frequent absence of the parish priest for family reasons. Recently I was again placed on the spot because of the presence of a well-known personality at Sunday Mass, who was with his partner who most people know as his wife, but who I—together with quite a number of people in the parish—know he is only civilly married to, since he has an existing canonical marriage with another woman who is still very much alive and also quite present in the public eye. The problem is this person and his partner came to receive Holy Communion. Since I was placed on the spot and to avoid creating a scene, I just gave them the Holy Eucharist. Did I act correctly?

Declaration of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
On Communion for Divorced and Remarried Persons

This question had been exhaustively answered by a Declaration of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts dated 24.VI.2000. For brevity, we can reproduce the pertinent numbers of that document in the following paragraphs.

The Code of Canon Law establishes that "Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion" (c.915). In recent years some authors have sustained, using a variety of arguments, that this canon would not be applicable to faithful who are divorced and remarried. It is acknowledged that paragraph 84 of the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio, issued in 1981, had reiterated that prohibition in unequivocal terms and that it has been expressly reaffirmed many times, especially in n.1650 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1992, and in the Letter written in 1994 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Annus internationalis Familiae. That notwithstanding, the aforementioned authors offer various interpretations of the above-cited canon that exclude from its application the situation of those who are divorced and remarried.

Given this alleged contrast between the discipline of the 1983 Code and the constant teachings of the Church in this area, this Pontifical Council, in agreement with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments declares the following:

1. The prohibition found in the cited canon, by its nature, is derived from divine law and transcends the domain of positive ecclesiastical laws: the latter cannot introduce legislative changes which would oppose the doctrine of the Church. The scriptural text on which the ecclesial tradition has always relied is that of St. Paul: "This means that whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily sins against the body and blood of the Lord. A man should examine himself first only then should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. He who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks a judgment on himself."

This text concerns in the first place the individual faithful and their moral conscience, a reality that is expressed as well by the Code in c.916. But the unworthiness that comes from being in a state of sin also poses a serious juridical problem in the Church: indeed the canon of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches that is parallel to c.915 CIC of the Latin Church makes reference to the term "unworthy": "Those who are publicly unworthy are forbidden from receiving the Divine Eucharist" (c.712). In effect, the reception of the Body of Christ when one is publicly unworthy constitutes an objective harm to the ecclesial communion: it is a behavior that affects the rights of the Church and of all the faithful to live in accord with the exigencies of that communion. In the concrete case of the admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried, the scandal, understood as an action that prompts others towards wrongdoing, affects at the same time both the sacrament of the Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage. That scandal exists even if such behavior, unfortunately, no longer arouses surprise: in fact it is precisely with respect to the deformation of the conscience that it becomes more necessary for Pastors to act, with as much patience as firmness, as a protection to the sanctity of the Sacraments and a defense of Christian morality, and for the correct formation of the faithful.

2. Any interpretation of c.915 that would set itself against the canon's substantial content, as declared uninterruptedly by the Magisterium and by the discipline of the Church throughout the centuries, is clearly misleading. The phrase "and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin" is clear and must be understood in a manner that does not distort its sense so as to render the norm inapplicable.

The three required conditions are:

a) grave sin, understood objectively, being that the minister of Communion would not be able to judge from subjective immutability;

b) obstinate persistence, which means the existence of an objective situation of sin that endures in time and which the will of the individual member of the faithful does not bring to an end, no other requirements (attitude of defiance, prior warning, etc.) being necessary to establish the fundamental gravity of the situation in the Church.

c) the manifest character of the situation of grave habitual sin. Not to be considered to be within the situation of serious habitual sin are those faithful who are divorced and remarried, who would not be able, for serious motives -such as, for example, the upbringing of the children- "to satisfy the obligation of separation, assuming the task of living in full continence, that is, abstaining from the acts proper to spouses" (Familiaris consortio, n.84), and who on the basis of that intention have received the sacrament of Penance. Given that the fact that these faithful are not living more uxorio (i.e., unchastely) is per se occult, while their condition as persons who are divorced and remarried is per se manifest, they will be able to receive Eucharistic Communion only remoto scandalo (i.e., avoiding scandal).

3. Naturally, pastoral prudence would strongly suggest the avoidance of instances of public denial of Holy Communion. Pastors must strive to explain to the concerned faithful the true ecclesial sense of the norm, in such a way that they would be able to understand it or at least respect it. In those situations, however, in which these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible, the minister of Communion must refuse to distribute it to those who are publicly unworthy. They are to do this with extreme charity, and are to look for the opportune moment to explain the reasons that required the refusal. They must, however, do this with firmness, conscious of the value that such signs of strength have for the good of the Church and of souls.

The discernment of cases in which the faithful who find themselves in the described condition are to be excluded from Eucharistic Communion is the responsibility of the Priest who is responsible for the community. They are to give precise instructions to the deacon or to any extraordinary minister regarding the mode of acting in concrete situations.

4. Bearing in mind the nature of the above-cited norm (cfr. n.1), no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it.

Applying the Norms to the Specific Case

A distinction will have to be made on whether or not the persons concerned, who are civilly married but not canonically married, are in fact living in habitual sin. As the Declaration itself pointed out (ref. n.2-c), it could happen that the couple concerned may find it difficult to separate (e.g., because they are raising up children), but are in fact not living as husband and wife and are therefore not sinning against chastity.

However, since the fact of their observing chastity is a private matter known only to them, and the fact that they are not married canonically is a matter known to many in the community, the canonical norm is that they must be refused Holy Communion in that community.

Nevertheless, the Declaration also carefully notes that this must be done with utmost charity, avoiding a public refusal as much as possible. In this particular case, what could be done is for the priest to explain the matter to the couple and request them to attend Mass somewhere else where they are less known, such that their reception of Holy Communion could virtually pass unnoticed, thus making the possibility of scandal as remote as possible.

Finally, since our poor assistant parish priest was placed on the spot, and since he could not have been in a position to judge the subjective conditions of the couple concerned right there and then, he did well in giving them Holy Communion. However, he is duty-bound to follow up and talk with the couple as mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Denial of Holy Communion to Public Supporters of the RH Bill.

An Application of Canon 915: Obligation to Deny Holy Communion to
Those in Obstinate and Manifest Grave Sin.

Recently, the national broadsheets carried an emotional story─that ran for several days─of a tug-of-war regarding the threat of excommunication to the proponents of the Reproductive Health Bill. In the end, the issue died down with the CBCP clarifying that there was no such threat. I remember that in the course of the U.S. electoral campaign of 2004, a similar crisis arose with the case of Catholic politicians who publicly, after admonition, continued to support legislation favouring procured abortion and other measures contrary to natural moral law─e.g., harvesting stem cells by the destruction of cloned human embryo, redefining marriage to include a relationship between persons of the same sex. The application of c.915 of the Code of Canon Law─to deny Holy Communion to those persons obstinate in manifest grave sin─generated quite a bit of discussion. Can that norm be applied to the case of the proponents of the RH Bill?

CARDINAL Raymond L. Burke, presently the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Signatura Apostolica─like the Supreme Court of the Catholic Church─wrote a lengthy article about this issue, from which we can quote heavily. In effect, the discussion among the Bishops uncovered a fair amount of serious confusion regarding the norm of c.915. Specifically─Burke pointed out─the denial of Holy Communion was repeatedly characterized as the imposition of a canonical penalty, which of course shouldn’t be done in such summary fashion by the sacred minister, without a due process─whether judicial or administrative.

In fact─he continued to pointed out─c.915 “only articulates the responsibility of the minister of Holy Communion─ whether ordinary or extraordinary─to deny Holy Communion to those who obstinately persevere in manifest grave sin.”

In effect, the denial of Holy Communion can be the result of the imposition or declaration of the canonical penalties of Excommunication and Interdict (cf. cc.1331, §1, 2º; and 1332). However, there are other cases in which Holy Communion must be denied: (1) to respect the holiness of the Sacrament, (2) to safeguard the salvation of the soul of the party presenting himself to receive Holy Communion, and (3) to avoid scandal.

THE DOCTRINE OF 1 COR 11,27-29 AND ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA

The canonical discipline in question has its source in Sacred Scripture. St.Paul admonished the Christians of Corinth to examine their consciences before approaching to receive Holy Communion: Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself (1Cor 11,27-29).

“The emphasis is on self-examination, in order to discover preparedness to receive the Sacrament or not. If one is not prepared, for example, because of serious sin which is unremitted, then he simply is not to approach to receive Holy Communion. However, if the lack of right disposition is serious and public, and the person, nevertheless, approaches to receive the Sacrament, then he is to be admonished and denied Holy Communion. In other words, the Church cannot remain silent and indifferent to a public offense against the Body and Blood of Christ.”

This doctrine is summarized by Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical Letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, "On the Eucharist in Its Relationship to the Church," issued on Holy Thursday, 17.IV. 2003. In Chapter Four of the Encyclical Letter, "The Eucharist and Ecclesial Communion," Pope John Paul declared, among other things:

(1) The celebration of the Eucharist cannot be the starting point for communion; it presupposes that communion already exists, a communion which it seeks to consolidate and bring to perfection.

(2) John Paul II reminded us of the requirement that we be in the state of grace in order to receive Holy Communion. Making reference to 1Cor 11,28, he declared that whoever desires to participate in Holy Communion must be about the daily work of growing in holiness of life, that is, in the practice of the virtues of faith, hope and love. Noting the teaching in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n.1385) and following the rule of the Council of Trent, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed that, in order to receive Holy Communion worthily, one must have confessed and been absolved of any mortal sin of which he is guilty.

(3) The judgment of one's state of grace obviously belongs only to the person involved, since it is a question of examining one's conscience. However, in cases of outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm, the Church, in her pastoral concern for the good order of the community and out of respect for the sacrament, cannot fail to feel directly involved. With the words, “cannot fail to feel directly involved”, the Roman Pontiff clarified the obligation, on the part of the Church, to take action, when a person who remains in grievous and public sin approaches to receive Holy Communion.

THE NORM OF C. 915 OF THE 1983 CODE OF CANON LAW

The canon reads: Those who are excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.
As Card. Burke points out, “the text makes it clear that the Church has the responsibility to deny Holy Communion to those who are known to be under the imposed or declared penalties of excommunication and interdict, and to those who are known to persist obstinately in manifest grave sin. Although the text does not state so explicitly, it is clear that the Church's responsibility is carried out by the minister of Holy Communion.”

It stands to reason that it would be necessary to know that indeed the persons concerned obstinately persist in manifest grave sin─i.e., that his pastor has informed him about the grave and public sinfulness of what he is doing and has cautioned him to refrain from approaching Holy Communion.
THE DECLARATION OF THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR LEGISLATIVE TEXTS

On June 24, 2000, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, “in agreement with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments”, issued a declaration making it clear that c.915 applies to the faithful who are divorced and remarried. Referring to the text of 1Cor 11,27, 29, the Declaration expresses the theological and canonical reasons of c.915:

“In effect, the reception of the Body of Christ when one is publicly unworthy constitutes an objective harm to the ecclesial communion: it is a behavior that affects the rights of the Church and of all the faithful to live in accord with the exigencies of that communion. In the concrete case of the admission to Holy Communion of faithful who are divorced and remarried, the scandal, understood as an action that prompts others towards wrongdoing, affects at the same time both the sacrament of the Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage.

The long-standing discipline of the Church requires that the minister of Holy Communion exercise discretion regarding the distribution of Holy Communion to those who persist in manifest and grievous sin. The exercise of such discretion is not a judgment on the subjective state of the soul of the person approaching to receive Holy Communion, but a judgment regarding the objective condition of serious sin in a person who, after due admonition from his pastor, persists in cooperating formally with intrinsically evil acts like procured abortion.”
CONCLUSIONS

Card. Raymond Burke draws the following conclusions from the aforementioned review of the history of the canonical discipline of denying Holy Communion to those who obstinately persist in public grave sin?

(1) The consistent canonical discipline permits the administering of the Sacrament of Holy Communion only to those who are properly disposed externally, and forbids it to those who are not so disposed, prescinding from the question of their internal disposition, which cannot be known with certainty.

(2) The discipline is required by the invisible bond of communion which unites us to God and to one another. The person who obstinately remains in public and grievous sin is appropriately presumed by the Church to lack the interior bond of communion, the state of grace, required to approach worthily the reception of the Holy Eucharist.

(3) The discipline is not penal but has to do with the safeguarding of the objective and supreme sanctity of the Holy Eucharist and with caring for the faithful who would sin gravely against the Body and Blood of Christ, and for the faithful who would be led into error by such sinful reception of Holy Communion.

(4) The discipline applies to any public conduct which is gravely sinful, that is, which violates the law of God in a serious matter. Certainly, the public support of policies and laws which, in the teaching of the Magisterium, are in grave violation of the natural moral law falls under the discipline.

(5) The discipline requires the minister of Holy Communion to forbid the Sacrament to those who are publicly unworthy. Such action must not be precipitous. The person who sins gravely and publicly must, first, be cautioned not to approach to receive Holy Communion. This, in fact, is done effectively in a pastoral conversation with the person, so that the person knows that he is not to approach to receive Holy Communion and, therefore, the distribution of Holy Communion does not become an occasion of conflict. It must also be recalled that “no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it”.

(6) Finally, the discipline must be applied in order to avoid serious scandal, for example, the erroneous acceptance of procured abortion against the constant teaching of the moral law. No matter how often a Bishop or priest repeats the teaching of the Church regarding procured abortion, if he stands by and does nothing to discipline a Catholic who publicly supports legislation permitting the gravest of injustices and, at the same time, presents himself to receive Holy Communion, then his teaching rings hollow. To remain silent is to permit serious confusion regarding a fundamental truth of the moral law. Confusion, of course, is one of the most insidious fruits of scandalous behavior.

It would be interesting to study the possibility of applying this norm to the case of those who persist in publicly promoting the RH Bill in its present form, which the Bishops have collectively classified as contrary to the natural moral law.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Obligation to wear Ecclesiastical Garb

Introduction

I have always been edified by priests who dress properly─either with a clergyman barong or at least a barong with a distinctive cross insignia, and even more so with an old-fashioned cassock or sotana. Considering that the tropical climate must surely make such attire a bit uncomfortable, I am awed by the spirit of sacrifice of such men of the cloth who thereby present a credible witness of the presence of Christ and his Church in the midst of our too often secularized communities. On the other hand, I also notice that many more of our Filipino clergy go around dressed casually like everyone else, to the point that quite often it is impossible to identify them as clerics. I consider this a setback for us ordinary faithful for several reasons: (1) we cannot have easy access to them when we are in dire need of them, since we cannot identify them easily; (2) when we do identify them, it is not easy to give them the reverence due them because─as a diocesan priest blurted once─he thought the priest was the driver; (3) it is quite disconcerting to see denims with a really casual T-shirt peeking from under the flowing liturgical garb of a priest during Mass; worse if he is wearing rubber shoes or sandals. What does Church Law say about this matter?

THIS is not the first time that a layman has expressed this sentiment to me; laywomen, on their part, are even more expressive and disconcerted. Of course, the more comic opposite is what happened to me once when I visited the former bishop of Sorsogon, whom I had never met at that time. Upon arrival at the bishop’s residence late in the afternoon, I and my companion─a well-known professional who was going to deliver another lecture with me─were met by a man in his 50s, in T-shirt, casual pants and slippers. My companion, a layman with great respect for the clergy, immediately took the hand of the middle-aged man and kissed it, saying “Good evening bishop” or something to that effect; my clerical sense made me hesitate. At that moment, the good bishop appeared, dressed in clergyman, welcoming us with great affability. It turned out the other fellow was his driver!

The Purpose of the Ecclesiastical Garb

On 1.I.1994, John Paul II approved and authorized the publication of a very important document emanating from the Congregation for the Clergy, signed by its Prefect then, Filipino Cardinal Jose T. Sanchez. Entitled Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, it came as the juridic expression of the rich teachings of John Paul II’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores dabo vobis of 25.III.1992, which in turn gathered the results of the Synod of Bisops of 1990 dedicated to the topic of the identity, life and ministry of priests. In order to outline the content of that Directory, the suggestions of the entire world episcopate─consulted for that purpose─as well as the considerations of many theologians, canonists and experts on the matter from diverse geographical areas and involved in current pastoral work were taken into account. Thus, that Directory can veritably be considered as a manual on the life and ministry of priests, and is the final word when it comes any question of practical nature as the issue at hand.

The Directory deals with the matter of ecclesiastical garb under the rubric of Obedience, first stating the reason for such garb:

“In a secularized and materialistic society, where the external signs of sacred and supernatural realities tend to disappear, it is particularly important that the community be able to recognize the priest, man of God and dispenser of his mysteries, by his attire as well, which is an unequivocal sign of his dedication and his identity as a public minister. The priest should be identifiable primarily through his conduct, but also by his manner of dressing, which makes visible to all the faithful, indeed to al men, his identity and his belonging to God and the Church” (n.66).

Hence, it is not a question of blending in, as some would propose in a misguided pastoral desire to make the priest more present in secular environments. For as St Josemaría Escriva used to say, such attempts would result not in a priestly presence, but rather in a priestly absence─in the sense that it would make the priest’s presence unrecognizable because of the absence of any outward sign of the priest’s identity.

The Proper Priestly Attire

The Directory continues: “For this reason, the clergy should wear suitable ecclesiastical dress, in accordance with the norms established by the Episcopal Conference and the legitimate local custom. This means that the attire, when it is not the cassock, must be different from the manner in which the laity dress, and conform to the dignity and sacredness of his ministry. The style and color should be established by the Episcopal Conference, always in agreement with the dispositions of the universal law” (n.66).

The Code of Canon Law─the universal law referred to by the Directory─precisely stipulates that “Clerics are to wear suitable ecclesiastical garb in accord with the norms issued by the conference of bishops and in accord with legitimate local custom” (c.284).

For its part, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines─the Episcopal Conference referred to by the Directory─has laid down the following:
“The proper clerical attire…are as follows:

1) Cassock or religious habit;
2) Clergyman suit;
3) Trousers of dark one-tone color or white, and shirt of one-tone color, with the clerical collar. The shirt may also be either polo-barong or barong tagalog, with a distinctive cross.”

An attentive reading of the above dispositions shows that the following are the options for proper priestly attire, in decreasing order of preference:

1st: Cassock or religious habit. In this regard, it is worthwhile remembering that the Philippine clergy enjoys a long-standing privilege from the Holy See to use white cassock, in view of the tropical climate.

2nd: Clergyman suit. Given the tropical climate and local custom, it would seem that this option is suitable for more formal occasions of a non-liturgical nature (e.g., conferences, formal banquets and the like) where airconditioning would make the attire comfortable.

3rd: Dark one-tone colored trousers (or white) and one-tone colored shirt with clerical collar. Otherwise known as the Roman collar, this is a distinctive collar equipped with a white plastic (or stiffened cloth) strip running through the front.

4th: Dark one-tone colored trousers (or white) and polo-barong (or barong tagalog) with a Roman collar.

5th: Dark one-tone colored trousers (or white) and polo-barong (or barong tagalog) with a distinctive cross (in lieu of the Roman collar).

With the foregoing, it is very clear that casual T-shirts and polo shirts (of whatever color), whether with or without collar, do not constitute proper priestly attire. Neither do shorts, of whatever color or style. The impropriety of such attire is even more pronounced during liturgical ceremonies, especially since the common use of the chasuble-alb makes what is worn under it to be more obvious and incongruous. It stands to reason that all these norms do not apply when the priest is in a private recreational activity─e.g., doing sports, going on outdoor excursions, and the like. Nevertheless, common sense and sensitivity might dictate that the priest limits his movements in these latter conditions, being sufficiently discrete as not to be too public when he is not in ecclesiastical garb.

There is nothing mentioned about footwear, leaving it to the common sense and sensitivity of each priest to choose whatever is fitting to the occasion and circumstances.

The Binding Force of the Directory as regards Ecclesiastical Garb

On 22.X.1994, the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts─the competent dicastery of the Holy See charged with the official interpretation of all norms of Canon Law─issued a Clarification regarding the Binding Force of Art.66 of the Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests, i.e., the provisions regarding ecclesiastical garb that we are considering. In that Explanatory Note, the Holy See pointed out that although the aforementioned Directory is imbued with a deep pastoral sense, this “does not detract from the prescriptive force of many of its norms, which do not only have an exhortative value but are juridically binding” (n.1).

“With regard specifically to Art.66 of the Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests─the Note continues─it contains a general norm complimentary to c.284 of the CIC, with the characteristic proper to general executory decrees (cf. c.31). It is therefore a norm which clearly enjoys juridic enforceability, as can be deduced even from the tenor itself of the text and the place where it is included: under the rubric “Obedience” (n.4).

Furthermore, the Note urges, with a categorical declaration, the right observance of the discipline regarding ecclesiastical garb, stating that “for their inconsistency with the spirit of this discipline, contrary practices cannot be considered as legitimate customs and should be removed by the competent authority” (n.5, c).

On the other hand, the Note specifies the subjects of the aforementioned norms of Art.66 of the Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests as “all those who are obliged by the universal norm of c.288, namely the Bishops and priests, but not the permanent deacons (cf. c.288)” (n.7). This is worth underlining, because─as can be easily observed─the aforementioned norms on ecclesiastical garb are being violated not only by priests (rampantly in the Philippines), but unfortunately on occasion even by Bishops.

This is doubly unfortunate because, as the Note adds, “The Diocesan Bishops are the competent authority for demanding obedience to the aforementioned norms and for removing eventual contrary practices as regards ecclesiastical garb (cf. c.392, §2).” For its part, the Note concludes “The Episcopal Conference should help the individual diocesan Bishops in the fulfillment of this duty” (n.7).

Since we are demanding more compliance with the law on the part of our politicians and civil servants, this simple matter of the norms regarding ecclesiastical garb give food for thought for priests and Bishops alike.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Juridic Enforcement of Catholic Doctrine

The Apostolic Letter motu proprio Ad Tuendam Fidem

Introduction
On 9 January 1989, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published new formulas for the Professio Fidei et Iusiurandum fidelitatis in suscipiendo officio nomine Ecclesiae exercendo (AAS 81[1989], 104 106), to replace the previous formula of 1967. These formulas were approved by the Roman Pontiff in a special Rescript dated, 19 septembris 1989 (in AAS 81 [1989], 1169). However, the new Code of Canon Law (CIC), promulgated on 25 January 1983, did not contain the new formula of the Professio Fidei, which, in addition to the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed, enunciates three categories of truths. Thus, the Code of Canon Law, and later the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEO), lacked the juridical, disciplinary and penal provisions for the second category of truths.
Given the compelling need to forestall and refute the theological opinions being raised against this second category of truths, the Holy Father decided to promulgate the Apostolic Letter Ad tuendam fidem last May 28, by which precise norms are established in canon law regarding the second category of truths indicated in the second paragraph of the concluding formula of the Professio Fidei, through modifications to canons 750 and 1371 n.1 of the CIC and to canons 598 and 1436 of the CCEO.

Three Categories of Truths
What was the reason for the confusion—and accompanying abuse—which the present motu proprio came to forestall? An attentive reading of the pertinent paragraphs of the Profession Fidei shows that the three categories of truths enunciated are as follows:
1st Category: “[E]verything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed." These are truths found immediately in Revelation, which the Church vouches for as contained in Revelation. This are supposed to be held “with firm faith”, because their certainty has a twofold basis: the authority of God Revealing (fides divina) and the infallible teaching authority of the Church (fides catholica).
These are commonly referred to in Dogmatic Theology as De fide Divina et Catholica or simply dogmas.
2nd Category: “[E]verything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.” These constitute what Dogmatic Theology has always referred to as Catholic truths or Church doctrines, which are to be accepted with a faith based on the sole authority of the Church (fides ecclesiastica). Even if the Profession fidei did not expressly state it, these are as infallibly certain as dogmas proper.
3rd Category: “[T]he teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act." These are the teachings for which the CIC stipulates “A religious respect of intellect and will, even if not the assent of faith” (c.752).

Source of Confusion
As previously stated, while the 1st and 3rd Categories had their corresponding provisions in the Code of Canon Law, there was no expressed provision for the 2nd Category. Thus, cc.750 & 752 described the 1st and 3rd Categories respectively, and c.1371 provided for the penal sanction for their violation. This has given rise to not a few cases of open dissent, perhaps emboldened by a seeming lacuna in Canon Law, especially as regards the penal provisions.
A more attentive reading of the Profession fidei, however, coupled with a solid grounding in Dogmatic Theology, shows that there was really no lacuna. As Ott would affirm, the 2nd Category are “as infallibly certain as dogmas proper”—i.e., the norm for the 1st Category should hole also for the 2nd. Hence, when the CIC expressly provided for the 1st and 3rd Categories, it tacitly provided also for the 2nd Category of truths.
Nevertheless, since abuses have arisen, and such may be legally defended against sanction with the principle of “nulla poena sine lege”, the Supreme Church Authority has come up with this new legislation to fill up that seeming lacuna.

Infallibility of Ordinary and Universal Magisterium
It is fitting to note also that almost all infallible teachings in the field of morality are contained not in solemn definitions (so called definitive acts or definitively proposed in the language of the Profession fidei and in the CIC), but precisely in the teachings of the ordinary and universal Magisterium. This has led some to think that there are no infallible teachings in the field of morality, inasmuch as, in fact, there are no texts in which such infallibility is explicitly claimed. This assertion fails to recognize, however, that the ordinary and universal Magisterium, which by nature does not adopt such solemn expressions, is precisely the normal way in which the infallibility of the Church is exercised.
As Pope John Paul II affirms, “The Magisterium (...) includes the charism of infallibility, which is present not only in the solemn definitions of the Roman Pontiff and the Ecumenical Councils, but also in the ordinary and universal Magisterium, which can be considered the usual expression of the infallibility of the Church.”
Practically all concrete and absolute moral norms that are under debate today (e.g., abortion, contraception, homosexual acts, premarital relations, euthanasia, divorce, masturbation), have been taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium and are hence infallible.

Reach of “religious respect (obsequium) of intellect and will”
This religious submission means more than the usual obedience required for the legitimate command of the hierarchical authority of the Church. Specifically, it means:
a. The ordinary response will be a sincere adherence not only of the will but also of the intelligence. In an exceptional case, a teaching might not be intellectually convincing. Then the first duty is to doubt oneself, giving credibility to the Magisterium. This does not mean that one must stop working on research and presenting the authorities—in a private way—one’s own reasons and the possible formulations that one might suggest as being better suited for expressing the truth.
b. In any case, religious submission implies the obligation to avoid every dissent; the only thing admissible is to suspend or withhold assent. If dissent is made publicly and obstinately, opportune sanctions would be in order (c.1371).

Conclusion
From the foregoing, and the preceding three issues of this column, I think it is quite clear that the Bishops are quite empowered to call the attention of all the erring theology professors, in Catholic institutions or otherwise, and in the case of obstinacy, apply canonical sanctions.
[Following is an abridged version of the Apostolic Letter, excluding what is pertinent to the CCEO, and retaining the original numbering for easy reference.]
To protect the faith of the Catholic Church against errors arising from certain members of the Christian faithful, especially from among those dedicated to the various disciplines of sacred theology, we, whose principal duty is to confirm the brethren in the faith, consider it absolutely necessary to add to the existing texts of the Code of Canon Law (CIC) and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches (CCEC) new norms which expressly impose the obligation of upholding truths proposed in a definitive way by the Magisterium of the Church, and which also establish related canonical sanctions.
1. From the first centuries to the present day the Church has professed the truths of her faith in Christ and the mystery of his redemption. These truths were subsequently gathered into the Symbols of the faith, today known and proclaimed in common by the faithful in the Solemn and festive celebration of Mass as the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed. This same Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed is contained in the Profession of Faith developed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which must be made by specific members of the faithful when they receive an office that is directly or indirectly related to deeper investigation into the truths of faith and morals, or is united to a particular power in the governance of the Church.
The Profession of Faith, which appropriately begins with the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed, contains three propositions or paragraphs, intended to describe the truths of the Catholic faith, which the Church, in the course of time and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit "who will teach the whole truth" (Jn 16,13), has ever more deeply explored and will continue to explore.
The first paragraph states: "With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed." This paragraph appropriately confirms and is provided for in the Church's legislation in c.750 of the Code of Canon Law and c.598 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. [Referred to in Dogmatic Theology as De fide Divina et Catholica.]
The third paragraph states: "Moreover I adhere with submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act." This paragraph has its corresponding legislative expression in c.752 of the Code of Canon Law and c.599 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. [Referred to in Dogmatic Theology as De fide Catholica.]
3. The second paragraph, however, which states: "I also firmly accept and hold each and everything definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals" has no corresponding canon in the Codes of the Catholic Church. This second paragraph of the Profession of Faith is of utmost importance since it refers to truths that are necessarily connected to divine revelation. These truths, in the investigation of Catholic doctrine, illustrate the Divine Spirit's particular inspiration for the Church's deeper understanding of a truth concerning faith and morals, with which they are connected either for historical reasons or by a logical relationship.
4. Moved therefore by this need, and after careful deliberation, we have decided to overcome this lacuna in the universal law in the following way: c.750 of the Code of Canon Law will now consist of two paragraphs; the first will present the text of the existing canon; the second will contain a new text. Thus c.750, in its complete form, will read:
Canon 750 ─ §1. Those things are to be believed by divine and catholic faith which are contained in the word of God as it has been written or handed down by tradition, that is, in the single deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and which are at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn Magisterium of the Church, or by its ordinary and universal Magisterium, which in fact is manifested by the common adherence of Christ's faithful under the guidance of the sacred Magisterium. All are therefore bound to avoid any contrary doctrines.
§2. Furthermore, each and everything set forth definitively by the Magisterium of the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals must be firmly accepted and held, namely those things required for the holy keeping and faithful exposition of the deposit of faith; therefore, anyone who rejects propositions which are to be held definitively sets himself against the teaching of the Catholic Church.
Canon 1371, n.1 of the Code of Canon Law, consequently, will receive an appropriate reference to c.750, §2, so that it will now read:
Canon 1371 ─ The following are to be punished with a just penalty:
1° a person who, apart from the case mentioned in c.1364, §1, teaches a doctrine condemned by the Roman Pontiff, or by an Ecumenical Council, or obstinately rejects the teachings mentioned in c.750, §2 or in c.752 and, when warned by the Apostolic See or by the Ordinary, does not retract;
2° a person who in any other way does not obey the lawful command or prohibition of the Apostolic See or the Ordinary or Superior and, after being warned, persists in disobedience.