Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Canonist Ed Peters on Canons 915 & 916, and Abp's Burke & Wuerl

I just received a Canon Law update from Ed Peters, JD, JCD on Canons 915 and 916, and how two camps of bishops are looking at these, led by Archbishop Burke on one side and Archbishop Wuerl on the other. I have maintained two things:

    1) There is one Holy Spirit influencing the consciences of both men. In the end, what is important is what God wants and it's up to our bishops to discern that completely, through prayer and dialogue. We need to pray for them to properly discern and we will know it is done when there is unity.

    2) I choose to believe that inaction on Canon 915 by most bishops not acting on it, has everything to do with a fundamental problem with understanding, not with any kind of moral or virtuous lapse. This is a christian way to look at such disagreements.
I still think the men need to celebrate Mass together one day, then go lock themselves into a nice room with a coffee, Jameson, scotch, cigars and any other legitimate thing that might help them through some robust dialogue.

Ed's analysis is very charitably done and sheds light on something interesting. He looks at Canons 915 and Canon 916 together and suggests this is where differences abound.

I'll start you out here, then follow the link to Ed's blog - In Light of the Law - to read the rest of the post:

Abps. Wuerl (c. 916) & Burke (cc. 915-916) on admission to Communion I often tell my students, the answer to a canonical question is seldom found in a single canon.

Two prominent American prelates, Abp. Donald Wuerl of Washington DC and Abp. Raymond Burke of the Apostolic Signatura, are the lead figures in a significant disagreement over admitting certain pro-abortion Catholic politicians to holy Communion. Wuerl basically believes that, under Canon 916, Catholics, including pro-abortion politicians, should determine their own eligibility for reception of Communion. Burke argues that, beyond Canon 916, Canon 915 requires ministers of holy Communion to withhold the Eucharist from some pro-abortion politicians if they don't refrain from approaching on their own. Both sides can't be right, and I suspect that the more compelling case is made by reading the two canons together instead of reading one to the exclusion of the other.

Some preliminary thoughts toward sorting this out.

First, awareness of Church history helps contemporary Catholics sleep at night. This is not the first time that upright bishops have differed over important points of pastoral practice; for that matter, strong episcopal conflicts over (unsettled) matters of doctrine are not unknown in the Church. So, let's be confident in Holy Spirit's power to lead the Church through this issue as He has led us through others. Second, one must avoid "personalizing" the debate.

Both archbishops are distinguished thinkers and both have many decades of loyal service to the Church behind them, including some services rendered under very difficult circumstances. In short, each is an attractive figure. But, while it's tempting to rally behind one or the other, personalities are not what's at issue here.

Continue reading the analysis by Dr. Ed Peters

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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!


Stan Williams said...

Okay, I'm judgmental, but so far the Holy Spirit hasn't convicted me of being unjust, angry, polemic, or Protestant on this issue. Canon 915 and 916 are very short and very simple. Reading them together (duh!) is the hallmark of being Catholic. As Catholics we ascribe to an and/both mentality instead of an either/or. That is why Catholicism embraces ALL of Scripture and abhors Protestant proof-texting. There are probably several ways 915 and 916 can be enacted together, and Matthew 18's order of discipline (on correcting a brother) applies. To a politician who is obnoxiously pro-abortion (even if they say they're against it) is guilty of supporting a grave evil (and perhaps lying). It does not take the confessional to discern that (of public officials). That a layperson, deacon, priest, or bishop should go to this persona PRIVATELY and confront them about their sin (I've done this with my "former" priest) is appropriate. When they refuse to see the sin, take another, and when that doesn't work, bring on the Church (which I read, in the case of abortion and politicians) make it public and refuse communion. That process (Matthew 18) embraces Canon 915 and 916. It's simple, and I see no reason why a bishop (of all people) can't understand that except to avoid showing some backbone...and so far I've not read a shred of any reason why or how these bishops might NOT understand the simpleness of this. WILL SOMEONE PLEASE GIVE ME A REASON HOW THIS IS UNDERSTOOD ANYWAY BUT OBVIOUS? I maintain that the Holy Spirit uses individuals (you and me) to proclaim the gospel and confront sin. It does not happen ONLY in the heart of the sinner. That's why Matthew 18 exists. That's why Jesus told the Church not only that is has the power to loosen, but to bind, not only the power to forgive, but NOT TO FORGIVE. It's amazing how often the Church practices the former and forgotten the latter. We Catholics think we have "altar calls" when people go forward to take communion. But in the Evangelical vernacular there's another purpose of an "altar call"—to confess sin and get right with God publicly before the Church. Catholics need more altar calls.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

Dear Stan,

I hope you will join me in heading to an adoration chapel to pray that the bishops move towards unity on Canon 915 regardless of why they aren't applying it.

Their actions I can certainly judge - Canon 915 is not being applied. Their motives I refuse to judge as that is for God who is the only one capable of reading their souls.

That's where I will be.

Stan Williams said...

I go to adoration each weekday, and these issues are always fervently part of my prayers. Our bishop's motivations are irrelevant when disobedient. It is good to see some unity on Sebelius, and as Deal points out, the challenge at unity has been put on the table.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS said...

Let me state it this way. Any concerns I have over the bishops I prefer to take before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, rather than into public debate.