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Now this just cries out for further explanation:

The Ethiopians celebrate [the Eucharist] only on Sundays and feasts, though there is a daily Eucharist offered in some monasteries. The only ones that receive communion with relative frequency are monks, the clergy, preadolescent children and, among the adult laity, those who are canonically married. Since canonically regular unions are rare except among the clergy; and since among the married, incontinence is simply presumed unless time shows the contrary to be true; the majority of the laity never communicate after puberty.

Robert F. Taft, S.J., “The Frequency of the Celebration of the Eucharist Throughout History,” in Between Memory and Hope: Readings on the Liturgical Year, edited by Maxwell Johnson (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2000), p. 94.

Parish Councils
The term “parish council" is certainly a familiar enough element of parochial life for most contemporary Catholics, at least in the United States. But what is the role of such councils, really? Why are there two different councils in many parishes? We will try to at least scratch the surface of these questions, focusing especially on the two councils indicated for parishes in the current Code of Canon Law: the pastoral council and the finance council.

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Almost Done

I have now entered the final month of my course of study in Canon Law. By lunchtime on December 11th, I will be on the far side of an hour of examination covering the full range of the Church’s law, and (hopefully) with the satisfied relief of a job well done.

Am I nervous? More terrified, really. Yet I am also largely calm, almost disinterested in the remainder of this long process. I know I should be frantically and systematically reviewing copious notes, commentaries, and sundry documents, cramming my head with concepts and connections that I have been content to let wash over me for most of my time as a student here. Yet more than anything these days I just want to hold my children as they fall asleep at night, to watch a television program with my wife, to sit alone and stare into the future I cannot see.

So please, pray for me, that I can find the perseverance to study well and hard these next few weeks, that I can make my family and my diocese proud, and that I can prove myself adequately prepared to serve the Church as a minister of justice and an expert in the law.

There are still a few days left to register at the lower rate of $250 (US) for this year’s Canon Law Conference at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe near La Crosse, Wisconsin. (Registration after 15 July 2012 will cost $325.) This is a full two days with some excellent canonists as speakers, and breakfast and lunch both days is included in the fee, as well as a dinner the first night. Hard to beat that with a stick.

This will be my first year attending, and I believe this is the third year for this conference, hosted by Cardinal Burke, Prefect of Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the Catholic Church’s highest court). I’m looking forward to connecting with friends, putting names to faces with some fellow canonists I only know so far from online interactions, and hopefully making some new friends as well. Hope to see you there!

An all-too-common news item in recent years: Catholic dioceses in the United States closing churches and merging parishes to save costs and try to stretch reduced prebyterates farther and farther to meet the needs of the faithful. In this case, the Diocese of Saginaw (Michigan) is looking at reducing its number of parishes by as much as half of the current total of 105.

About the only heartening news I take from this piece is that it appears that (so far, at least) the process is careful, and that the plan has a properly-informed canonical direction. While the imprecise (i.e. non-canonical) wording of this article obscures this a bit, it seems that the proposals are looking at canonically altering existing parishes through merger (canon 121), and that at least some of the church buildings which are current parish churches will remain in use as “additional worship sites” within the newly-altered parish boundaries. While I find the terminology of “additional worship sites” unlovely and seeming to come more from the language of business than from the language of the Church, I do applaud the realization (which too many diocese up to this point have seemed to miss) that the disposition of church buildings and of parishes are not identical questions, and that a parish can well have more than one active, useful church building within its bounds. I hope that more dioceses will keep this in mind in the years ahead as this long and painful process is repeated all over the country.

The Nature of Parishes (The Parish in Canon Law, part 1)

The parish is “the place where all the faithful can be gathered together for the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. The parish initiates the Christian people into the ordinary expression of the liturgical life: it gathers them together in this celebration; it teaches Christ’s saving doctrine; it practices the charity of the Lord in good works and brotherly love.”[1] It is the fundamental face of the Church for most members of the christifideles, the locus for almost every significant ecclesiastical experience throughout a Catholic’s life, from baptism to their funeral rites, and even continuing after death as the community joins their ongoing public prayer for the final repose of the souls of the departed.

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Canon Law in the Internet Age

There are many interesting aspects to taking on the full-time study of canon law, at this or any time. In my brief experience, the problems of the day are ever-present in our classroom discussions, along with what we as canonists will be facing in our professional work in just a year or so. Canon Law is a vital and vibrantly relevant element in the life of the Catholic Church, and I and my classmates are going to be the experts who will, we all hope, carry forward the saving and redemptive mission of the Church through our careful and correct application of the law in a thousand different scenarios. 

Another aspect that has made studying at this particular juncture interesting is the feeling of being at the verge of a technological revolution. Now, we are only talking revolutionary in our specific context: the technology is question is often years or even decades old. But my class seems to be at the bleeding edge, at least at this school, of wedding the ancient tradition of ecclesiastical law with the tools of the digital age.

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CIC, Lefebvre, and the Holy Spirit

“I think the Holy Spirit worked to allow the 1983 Code of Canon Law because it provided less severe penalties for the 1988 Consecrations versus what would have been the penalty under the 1917 Code that was replaced. 1983 gave the Archbishop an avenue to persue [sic] the Consecrations that wouldn’t have been available otherwise.”

Ah, the old Latin Mass! It continues to just bring the crazy right out in people. The above comment was on an acquaintance’s Facebook post this morning.  I hadn’t had my coffee yet, so I was not awake enough to be appalled, but it certainly juiced me up a bit and got my wheels turning. 

The Archbishop in question, of course, is the late Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the schismatic Society of Saint Pius X. In an act of flagrant disobedience, he set himself and his followers outside the pale of the Church of Rome by consecrating a number of like-minded men as bishops without papal approbation.

Such a statement as the one quoted at the outset is a graceless attempt to elevate Lefevbre to a figure of mythic destiny. If the Holy Spirit is going to “allow” the Universal Church to completely revise its body of law for the sole purpose of establishing less severe penal sanctions for the favor of one arrogant rogue archbishop, then Marcel and his band of merry men are clearly ordained by God for some most exalted purpose. Call me a cynic, but I don’t buy it for one second. 

Ask yourself: what, besides their Catholic faith, do survivors qua survivors of the Legion have in common, except that they were all deceived into affiliating with a deeply disordered institution founded by a sick and/or evil con-artist? Such shared traumas might make for some level of survivor-bonding, and they certainly leave such persons deserving of special pastoral outreach, but they are not the foundations on which lasting, healthy religious institutes are built.

Having been very impressed by – and attracted to – the Legionaries of Christ in my adolescence, it is still with great interest and not a little sadness that I follow the sad news of their demise. But I must agree with Dr. Peters on this with all my heart: there can be no question of trying to rescue the order in any form, or to somehow salvage it from the sordid legacy of their founder. Those many members of good intentions and faithful hearts should turn to the Lord and to the Church to guide them to where they can best fulfill their calling to a life of service to the Church, and the sad history of the Legion should be brought as soon as possible to a definitive close.

An interesting little motu proprio from the Holy father today, which I am sure both canon and civil law scholars will enjoy scrutinizing.

Apostolic Letter Issued Motu Proprio On the Jurisdiction of Judicial Authorities of Vatican City State in Criminal Matters

When canonists dream

What do canonists dream about, you may wonder? I can only speak for this canonist, but this morning I awoke from a tangled plot that hinged on the applicability of canon 1090 if the plotted conjugicide is not yet carried out. That is, if a conspiracy to murder one’s spouse predates the marriage, does such a malicious intent invalidate the marriage even before the spouse is murdered?

I think that canon 1090 cannot be said to apply in this particular circumstance, since the canon very specifically indicates that it is the subsequent marriage that is invalidated by the crime, that is, the marriage which the murder ostensibly freed one of the parties to enter. In light of canon 18, I think canon 1090 must be interpreted strictly, and so can in no way be extended by analogy in such a case.

That being said, I think that if such a plot were made known, and the first marriage ended in divorce before the spouse who was being plotted against was killed, a strong case for simulation of matrimonial consent, either total or against the good of the spouse, could be made. And now on to breakfast.

This just caught my eye over at Rorate Cæli (thanks to a tweet by Luke Coppen of The Catholic Herald). It seems a brand new response to a submitted dubium has emerged from the Congregation of Divine Worship and he Discipline of the Sacraments regarding that most favorite liturgical whipping boy/spectre, liturgical dance. From the brief text of the response (and the blog post has a clear scan of what would appear to be the actual letter, in English), the Congregation keeps things very simple: 

“The liturgical law of the Roman Rite does not foresee the use of dance or drama within the Sacred Liturgy, unless particular legislation has been enacted by the Bishops’ Conference and confirmed by the Holy See. Any other practice is to be considered an abuse.”

No surprise there, to this writer at least. Everyone who has ever read the liturgical instructions knows that, and always has.

But even though the response is very straightforward, there is also that nisi clause staning right in the middle of it, like a wicker man just catching fire: “unless particular legislation has been enacted…” I read that as a clear answer in the negative by the gatekeepers, while in the same breath they add, “but look, we’ve left the door wide open for any legitimate exceptions.”

The folks at Rorate Cæli, of course, desperately hope this is not the case. The post concludes with an invitation for a combox feeding-frenzy from their readership:

A firm and clear denunciation of the practice of liturgical dance, even in a non-Western country?  Or an opening for the bishops’ conferences to seek approval for this practice?

As much as I am sure the stalwart poster believes and/or wishes the answer to his question to be the former option, I cannot see how it can be read as precluding the latter. 

Proper Titles: Church and Parish

In common parlance, the words church and parish have come to be used almost completely interchangably. This imprecise habit becomes very problematic, however, when the emotionally-charged issue of altering the configuration of parishes arises in the life of a diocese. In as few words as possible: a church is a building set aside for sacred worship; a parish is a jurisdictional division of a diocese. And each have their proper names.

According to c. 1218, “Each church is to have its own title which cannot be changed after the church has been dedicated.” This can only be taken to mean the church building: the canon is placed squarely in the midst of the title of the Code dealing with sacred places, and so has nothing to do with parishes qua parishes. However, since clarity concerning this topic has come to be of increased importance in recent years, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued norms on church titles in 1999.[1]

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