Thursday, February 19, 2009

Canonist speaks out on Pewsitter Online Petition aimed at getting Bishops attention

Fresh in from Canonist Ed Peters....

[updated at 5:22am, Feb 20th - scroll down] has published an on-line petition by which Catholics may call upon bishops to withhold holy Communion from Catholic political figures who gravely disregard Church teaching on certain fundamental life issues. The petition invokes canon law in support of some of its propositions. I know nothing about the organization behind the petition, but I feel confident in commenting on its canonical aspects.

The petition seems to me to qualify under 1983 CIC 212.3 as one way of helping the faithful to express "to sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful." I do not think the petition pretends to an expertise it cannot claim, nor does it seem to be violative of basic norms on faith, morals, and reverence toward pastors, etc. It does not impugn the fidelity of those who choose not to sign.

The petition calls for withholding of holy Communion under Canon 915 and in this regard it avoids the highly contentious, and I think erroneous, claim that certain politicians should be subject to excommunication for their actions. Moreover, the petition avoids identifying specific politicians for action under Canon 915, even though a strong case can be made for such action in the case of, say, Nancy Pelosi. Each politician's situation, as I have said, needs to be examined individually by competent experts; this is by no means an impossible task, but it is not one best conducted in the blogosphere.

continue reading at, In Light of the Law...

It's ok to sign the petition, but don't forget to put some serious time into praying for our bishops. That prayer can move them, along with the knowledge that ordinary Catholics are tired of being scandalized, and seeing their loved ones and friends scandalized.

EDIT: Ed Peters has updated the post...

I just came across Michael Sean Winters' post on Canon 915 over at the America magazine group blog. Winter's qualifications to opine on matters canonical were not immediately evident to me, but he assures readers that applying Canon 915 in the response to the scandal of pro-abortion Catholic politicians would be "a radical innovation that should be resisted", that it "requires applying the canons in ways that are novel and dubious" and that canon law "should be applied with gentleness not vengeance" (you know, as if everyone agrees on what those terms actually mean in the concrete order), and so on.

Winters bravely confronts the evil unnamed blogger who, in a series of obvious misstatements, paints a picture of Canon 915 run amok. This device allows Winters to assume the mantle of moderation and warn us against those dangerous "cranks" who would substitute a blogger's opinion for that of pastor. Nice way to dispatch opposing views, that, present an obvious caricature, then tsk-tsk it away.

Ironically, it does not seem to occur to Winters that he quite willing to substitute his opinion on how canon 915 should be applied for that of actual pastors like Abp. Raymond Burke (a prelate whose credentials in canon law dwarf mine and, I'm guessing, Winters'). Burke offers a powerful, and I suggest compelling, case for the application of Canon 915 in the face of the metastasizing scandal of the prominent pro-abortion Catholic politician. Has Winters has read it?

In any case, I echo Winters' concern about "judgmentalism" being "profoundly uncharitable". But such concern should, I think, forbid labeling those who call for the correct application of Canon 915 as "cranks". Or is "judgmentalism" a temptation to only one side of this debate?

see the entire origial post and this update at, In Light of the Law...

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!