17 September 2016

De Concordia inter Codices

Apostolic Letter issued motu proprio
De Concordia inter Codices

On harmonizing Eastern and Latin Canon Law

On May 31, 2016, Pope Francis issued a document which sought to modify the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church in a number of ways regarding the interaction between Latin and Eastern Christians.  The Church is guided by law.  Specifically, the Church has two "books" of law, one for Catholic of the Latin Rite and one for those of the Eastern (or Oriental) Rite.  These are the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church (issued in 1983) and the Code of Canon Law for the Oriental Churches (issued in 1990).

The purpose of these new changes is to address “some discrepancies between the two Codes” in hopes of providing a solution to provide “substantial convergence”.  Note that this document does not take immediate effect.  According to the terms of the law, this change must first be promulgated, which is normally not done until it is published in Acta Aposolica Sedis.  However, the document itself indicates that the motu proprio was promulgated by being published in l'Osservatore Romano on September 15.  After promulgation, this change in the laws takes effect three months after such publication.  This means that the law does not take effect until December 15, 2016.

The Pope made these changes through an Apostolic Letter issued motu proprio (i.e., under his own authority).  That Apostolic Letter can be found on the Internet in its official Latin and in an unoffical English translation.

Below is a rather quick description of the changes made in the law, and especially how it affects pastors.  Some of my commentary and questions are included.

Changes in Law

The Code makes clear that when a child is baptized and only one of the parents is Catholic, the child is ascribed to the Church sui iuris (what we often call the "Rite") of the Catholic parent.  (Can. 111 §2) This is true regardless of the ritual involved in the baptism of the child.  For example, if a Latin Rite priest has permission to baptize the child of a Ukrainian Rite father and Protestant mother in the Latin Rite, the child would still be ascribed to the Ukrainian Church sui iuris of the father, even if the baptism were done according to the Latin rite.

The Code now clarifies that transfers to another Church sui iuris are effective only when the person transferring has made a lawful declaration of that fact. (Can. 112 §3) That declaration must be made before either (1) the local ordinary (the Bishop) of the Church sui iuris into which they wish to transfer or (2) before their proper pastor (or his delegate) and two witnesses.  Without this declaration, no transfer of rite occurs.  However, if there is a rescript from the Apostolic See, it can provide otherwise.  This needs to be noted in the baptismal registry, which every parish must keep.  So, for example, a Latin Rite Catholic woman marries an Eastern Rite Catholic man.  He decides during the course of the marriage to transfer to the Latin Church.  In order for that transfer to take effect, he must make his declaration either before the Latin Rite local ordinary (the local bishop) or before his proper pastor (or his delegate) and two witnesses.  The bishop or pastor must inform the church where he was originally baptized so that they can make a notation of the transfer in his baptismal register.

The new changes re-state that proper notation must be made in parish baptismal records (and on baptismal certificates) when members of the faithful are ascribed to other ritual Churches sui iuris.  (Can. 535 §2)  In addition to the other information required in the baptismal registry (marriage, confirmation, adoption, sacred orders, final profession, and change of rite), the baptismal registry must note “adscription to another Church sui iuris and/or any transfer”.  Thus, for example, in the case of a Latin Rite priest who baptizes the child of a Latin Rite Catholic and a Marionite Catholic, the parents can agree that the child will be ascribed to the Marionite Rite, even if the baptism is done in the Latin Rite.  In that case, the Latin Rite priest must make a notation of that fact in the parish baptismal registry and noted on the Baptismal certificate.

In what I think is the biggest change in the law, the Code now allows Latin Rite priests more latitude in baptizing the children of non-Catholic Christians.  This may be done if two conditions are met: (1) at least one parent (or one who legitimately takes their place) requests it and (2) it is physically or morally impossible for the parent(s) to approach their own minister.  (Can. 868 §3)  Note that this is not limited to non-Catholic Christians of Eastern Churches (the Orthodox), but would presumably include Christians of other ecclesial communities who are separated from the Catholic Church (Protestants).  Moreover, the law normally requires that, for a child to be baptized, that there be a “well-founded hope” that the child be brought up Catholic.  That provision now explicitly explicitly references (the Latin word used is “firma”) this new provision.  That is, it would seem that with regards to the baptism of non-Catholic Christians, such a well-founded hope that they be raised Catholic does not apply.  I must admit I find this provision a bit strange, especially considering the provisions of the law that "merely ecclesiastical laws bind those who have been baptized in the Catholic Church".  (Can. 11)  Thus, the law requiring canonical form for a marriage to be valid (i.e., that it take place before an approved minister) is a "merely ecclesiastical law".  Does this mean that the children of non-Catholic Christians who are baptized under this new canon would now be subject to all the "merely ecclesiastical laws"?  It's not at all clear to me.

Another question with regards to this new canon is whether the baptism of the non-Catholic child must be recorded in the Baptismal Register of the church.  Apparently,   Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, addressed this point in a news interview.  He indicated that "the baptism would not be recorded in the Catholic parish's baptismal registry; the parents would receive a formal certificate and would register their child's baptism later at an Orthodox parish."  Of course, the response from a curial official is not legally binding, or even an authoritative interpretation of the text.  In addition, Bishop Arrieta continues to assume that the new provision applies only to the children of the Orthodox, which, of course, the language does not.  I think it is still unclear whether such a baptism would be included in the register.  With doubt falling on the side of caution, I think it would be prudent for any such baptism to be recorded in the baptismal register with a notation that the child is not Catholic and was baptized under this ecumenical provision.

Respecting the Eastern tradition, the Code clarifies that only a priest may assist at the wedding of a Latin Rite Catholic and an Eastern Christian – whether Catholic or not.  (Can. 1108 §3, 1111 §1; 1112 §1; 1127 §1)  This is necessary not just for liceity, but for validity.  Thus, a deacon or delegated lay person may not validly assist any marriages that involve Eastern Christians, whether Catholic or Orthodox.

The Code now also permits the local ordinary (bishop) to grant to any Catholic priest the faculty to bless the marriage of Catholics of an Eastern Church not in full communion with the Catholic Church (the Orthodox).  He may bless the marriage only if (1) they voluntarily request it and (2) nothing stands in the way of the licit and valid celebration of the wedding.  The priest who blesses the marriage should inform the competent authority of the non-Catholic church.  Note that this new section is in the context of those who cannot approach a competent minister without grave inconvenience and there is either (1) danger of death or (2) the inability to approach the competent minister is expected to extend beyond a month.  For example, if an Orthodox couple desires to get married and they cannot approach their own minister for more than a month (or in danger of death), the Latin local ordinary may delegate any Catholic priest to bless their marriage.

[UPDATED to include information on baptismal registries, 16 October 2016)

30 March 2016


In 1274, on his way to a general council in Lyon, after having been invited by Pope Gregory X, St. Thomas Aquinas fell ill near the city of Terracina.  He eventually accepted the hospitality of the Cistercian monks in the Abbey of Fossa Nuova (now Fossanova).  On March 7, 1274, his strength failed and he died in the Abbey.  The Cistercians were forced to leave the Abbey by Napoleon in 1810.  The Abbey and church are now under the care of Franciscan Friars from Poland.  The room in which St. Thomas died is now a small chapel.

The Cistercian Abbey church is a beautiful example of early Roman Gothic architecture.  It was completed around the year 1208 and displays the simple but grand architectural style of the Cistercians of the middle ages.  Pictures of the Abbey are below.

09 November 2015

Dominican Jubilee in Rome

Very Rev. Bruno Cadore, Master of the Order of Preachers, preaches at the Jubilee Mass in Rome.

This year, the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) celebrate the 800th year of our founding.  For a brief history of the Order, the Dominican friars of the Province of England have an excellent summary.  The Jubilee will be celebrated mostly at the local level, as a thanksgiving to God for the Order and a supplication for the grace necessary to continue our mission.  For the events in the Province of St. Joseph, you can see our Provincial Jubilee website.  For events around the world, see the Jubilee Website of the Order.

You can follow us on social media on Twitter at @Dominican_Order or on Facebook at OrdoPraedicatorum.

Here in Rome, the Jubilee began with Mass at Santa Sabina on the Feast of All Saints of the Order of Preachers (Nov 7 in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite).  Santa Sabina is the priory where, by long tradition, the Master of the Order lives.  The Basilica was originally given to St. Dominic in 1220.  Mass was celebrated by the Master of the Order, Fr. Bruno Cadore, OP.  Present were friars from all over the world, as well as Dominican sisters and nuns, and members of the Third Order.

Here is a slideshow of pictures from the Mass.

18 June 2015

Some thoughts on the new Encyclical

Below are some initial reactions to the Pope’s newEncyclical.  They’re perhaps a bit disjointed, and certainly do not cover everything.  But they are some of my initial impressions on reading the document, and a few points I took away as most important.  I do encourage everyone to read it.  It is a fairly simple style to read, and easily comprehensible.  It is also the best way to steer clear of the overly-ideological spin that the members of the media seem determined to give to it.

Climate Change

Before getting to the actual encyclical, I want to mention some of the reporting.  Reading the press accounts, many have discussed the encyclical as if it were the Climate Change Encyclical.  To just take one typical example, a New York Times’s headline puts it, somewhat predictably, this way: “Pope Francis in Sweeping Encyclical Calls for Swift Action on Climate Change”.  As is typical for the religion reporting at that newspaper, it reflects more the ideological hopes of the author and editors than it does what the Pope actually said. In fact, the notion of Climate Change makes up a rather small part of the Encyclical.  It is certainly addressed, and the Pope sees it as important, but to identify it as the main thrust of this Encyclical, as the New York Times and others do, is very misleading.

Also, the Pope is very clear that the reality of Climate Change is not something on which he speaks with magisterial authority.  He speaks in terms of  “scientific consensus”, and defers to the scientific community.  He says, quite bluntly: “I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics.”

In other words, the Encyclical is much broader than just an affirmation of the scientific consensus on climate change.  Any news outlet you read or hear that pitches it that way is being deceptive—don’t listen to them.  Rather, this Encyclical is a far-reaching reflection on creation itself, and especially man’s place within it.  Moreover, it is meant to reflect specifically on the modern world, and specifically role and place of modern technology in the life of man and with respect to the environment.

Laudato si’

As most people have commended, the title is taken from the first words of the Encyclical.  Usually this is in Latin, but this time Pope Francis chose to use the 13th century Umbrian Italian of St. Francis of Assisi.  Those Italian words are “Laudato si’, mi’ Signore” (or, in modern Italian: “Laudato sii, mio Signore”).  Most media outlets are reporting only the first two words, which are the title: “Praised be to you”.  But it is important to understand all of St. Francis’s words: “Praised be to you, my Lord.”  For St. Francis especially, everything is directed to God.  St. Francis did not talk about himself, he talked about God. 

In many ways, this is the key to understanding the whole Encyclical.  The Pope wants to reject two extremes.  On the one hand, he wants to reject a distorted anthropomorphism that exaggerates man’s role in the world.  On the other hand, he wants to reject a neo-pantheism that would worship creation and make man utterly subject to it. 

Some of those in the environmental movement have criticized the Judeo-Christian tradition as one of the sources of the problem of economic degradation.  The Biblical language asserting man’s Dominion of the world, some argue, has become the excuse by which man ravages the land for his own use.  Moreover, the extend that criticism to the medieval philosophers and the hierarchy of being, which places man at the top of the material world, and the rest of the created order—animals, plants, the earth itself—underneath him. 

Pope Francis wisely corrects this false view.  It is true that the Christian understanding of creation posits in man a greater dignity, for human beings are the only ones in the material world created in God’s image and likeness.  And God’s words to Adam after he’s been expelled from the Garden are to till the land – but he also tells him to “keep it”, in the sense of protect and preserve it.  It is true that man is given governance over creation, but even that remains subject to the Providence of God.  Man’s governance of creation is itself subject to God’s plan, in which all things find their end in God.  So, far from man having absolute dominion over the earth, the Christian tradition sees man as its caretaker, its steward.  This sums it up well: “Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God. Otherwise, it would be nothing more than romantic individualism dressed up in ecological garb, locking us into a stifling immanence.” (LS 119)  And this notion of stewardship means especially recognizing that we protect the world for future generations.  In what will likely become one of the more quoted lines of the Encyclical: “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” (LS 160)

At the same time, we must avoid the temptation to equate the value of man and the rest of the created order.  Pope Francis is very clear on this.  He says: “There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then ‘our overall sense of responsibility wanes’.” (LS 118)  He emphasizes this hierarchy especially in an example about water.  As the Pope explains, access to fresh water is a vital natural resource because it is an absolute necessity for human life.  So, when assessing the environmental effects of given projects, we need to take into account the effects on access to water: “For example, we know that water is a scarce and indispensable resource and a fundamental right which conditions the exercise of other human rights. This indisputable fact overrides any other assessment of environmental impact on a region.” (LS 185)  This means not only the manufacturer whose product despoils the water table, but the subspecies of fish who that may have to be sacrificed to permit access to water in a drought.  The environment is not to be preserved in some sort of permanent stasis, like a scene in a snow globe.  It is not some idol of the present, to be worshipped in itself. 

An Integral Ecology

The primary focus of the Pope’s Encyclical is to prompt a change in attitude regarding man’s place in the environment.  He deliberately speaks in terms of an “ecological conversion” (LS 5) rather than a merely environmental one.  The reason for this is to emphasize the interdependence of the created world.  An ecology is more than just a few plants and some animals thrown together.  An ecology is a system – a system of interdependence between the various elements of the environment, which sustains them and allows them to continue.  So, too, man is not cut off from the environment around him.  Rather, he must be aware that he is a part of the ecological system – a system he needs and that he in turn effect.  Moreover, there is an ecology to human society as well – that the social dimensions of human life are related to the way in which we approach creation around us.  Therefore, Pope Francis prompts us to an “integral ecology” which recognizes the “interrelation between ecosystems and between the various spheres of social interaction”.  (LS 141)  In other words, we need to broaden our view to better recognize how our life, in all its dimensions, is part of our natural environment. 

Conversion of Life

More than anything, the Pope calls us to a conversion of life.  Man lives in a world marred by sin, and this disorder within us effects our relationship with creation, too.  “The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole was disrupted by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations.”  Man’s selfishness looks to his own gratification first, regardless of the consequences.  The Pope calls us to live a simpler life, casting aside the modern temptations of consumerism and individualism, to live in a more harmonious relationship with God’s creation.  This is more than international agreements, political campaigns, or green technology.  It is first and foremost a recognition that our encounter with Jesus Christ must also be manifest in our relationship with the world around us.  As the Pope emphasizes: “a healthy relationship with creation is one dimension of overall personal conversion, which entails the recognition of our errors, sins, faults and failures, and leads to heartfelt repentance and desire to change.”  This call to conversion is addressed to all levels of society – the individual family, neighborhoods and communities, local and national governments, leaders of business and industry, and multinational organizations. 

One Critique

As much good as there is in this Encyclical, there are some problems. The biggest problem, to put it quite bluntly, is the Pope’s insufficient understanding of economics.  The Pope constantly sees economic growth in merely static terms.  For him, it seems, the economic life is like a big pie, and if one person takes a piece, then he is denying it to someone else.  But the reality of market-based systems is that they can grow the pie.  When resources are given to those who use them most efficiently for the greatest good, everyone benefits.  And it is precisely the mechanism of price that allows those goods to transfer most efficiently.  Is a market-based system perfect?  Of course not, society needs political mechanisms to provide for justice – something markets do not do very well.  But it is undeniable that private property and free and open markets are the two greatest forces for eliminating material poverty that the world has ever known.

05 May 2015

The Feast of St. Catherine of Siena in Siena

The Italian friars at the Catherinian Basilica of St. Dominic in Siena kindly invited another friar and me for the feast of St. Catherine.  The feast usually celebrated by the city on the weekend near her feast day, with several events spread through the weekend.  This year, the Pope's representative was Beniamino Cardinal Stella, the Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, who celebrated the solemn Mass.  The Archbishop of Siena, the aptly named Antonino Buoncristiani (which would translate as Tony Goodchristians), also attended all of the events.

It is interesting, especially as an American, to see the mixture of civil and religious in events like this.  For the Italians, the civic, the cultural, and the religious are mixed (and assumed) in a way that we simply do not normally do in the U.S.  St. Catherine is both a figure of religious holiness and of civic pride for the Sienese, and remains a very important figure.

The first event we attended was the laying of flowers at the statute of St. Catherine near the Basilica.  This generally involved groups of women--religious, lay groups, and civil organizations--who came with bouquets of flowers to be set at the statue.  In attendance were also the mayor of Siena and other civil officials.  As at most of the events, the local neighborhoods (contrade) had representatives in period costume with flags and drums.

That same evening was a concert in honor of St. Catherine at the Duomo (Cathedral), with the Archbishop in attendance.  Siena has a well-regarded school of music, the Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali "Rinaldo Franci" da Siena.  They chose a selection of music from Gustav Faure, and especially music from his Requiem Mass.  I find the Pie Jesu from Faure's Requiem Mass to be one of the most beautiful pieces of music.  (Here's a YouTube version of the Pie Jesu sung by the great Kathleen Battle.)

The next day began with another religious/civic event at the house of St. Catherine.  With the Cardinal, the Archbishop of Siena, the Mayor of Siena, and various military figures in attendance, gifts were offered to the sanctuary there, including candles and oil for the lamps.

Following that was the solemn Mass presided by Cardinal Stella at the Basilica San Domenico.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, was the procession with the relic of St. Catherine.  The relic was solemnly carried from San Domenico, accompanied by the local neighborhood (contrada) where the Basilica is located (the contrado Drago (dragon)), with flags and drums.  We then came to the Church of St. Christopher near the town center, where we were joined by the sisters from the shrine of St. Catherine, as well as representatives from the other neighborhoods (contrade) in period costume.  The drums escorted us to the campo, where there is a permanent outdoor shrine and altar, where the relic rested as various speeches were made by civil officials.  The event ended with a prayer of blessing from the Archbishop of Siena.

Here is a slideshow with more pictures:

And here is some video from Siena:

29 April 2015

Even the Pope gets Canon Law wrong sometimes!

Once in a while I post something on canon law, usually to correct some major error I see.  It is odd now to write a post to correct a rather major error from the Holy See on Canon Law, and even from the Pope himself.

So what is the mistake.  A bit back, Pope Francis announced an extraordinary jubilee to begin this year.  He has called this a Year of Mercy.  As is typical, he has issued a Bull of Indiction, Misericordiae Vultus (the Face of Mercy), listing the spiritual benefits to accrue to the faithful in this Jubilee Year.  In that document he makes the following statement in paragraph 18:

During Lent of this Holy Year, I intend to send out Missionaries of Mercy. They will be a sign of the Church’s maternal solicitude for the People of God, enabling them to enter the profound richness of this mystery so fundamental to the faith. There will be priests to whom I will grant the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See, so that the breadth of their mandate as confessors will be even clearer. 

A bit of background here.  Most Catholics are under the impression that any priest may hear a confession at any time.  This is not true.  While the sacrament of Order (i.e., just being a priest) gives the priest sacramental power. that is not sufficient for him to absolve sins during confession.  He also needs something called jurisdictional power, or the executive power of governance.  The Code usually calls this faculties.  Basically, he needs to be given permission by his local Bishop to hear confessions.  (Although pastors of parishes and some others have the power by the law itself.)  Without that granting of authority, he has no power to absolve sins.

The point in question here is about the "authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See".  That refers to sins that the Pope has reserved to himself (or one of the Apostolic Penitentiaries) alone to absolve -- no other priest or bishop would have the power to absolve those sins.

So what's the problem?  In the Latin Church, the law has eliminated all of these reserved sins since 1983 -- more than 30 years.  In other words, there are no sins reserved to the Holy See in the Latin Church.  So, it's not clear at all what these "Missionaries of Mercy" will be doing.

The law does reserve the removal of certain penalties to the Holy See.  There are certain penalties that priests can lift in the confessonial, For example, in the Latin Church, a Catholic who procures an abortion automatically (latae sententiae) receives an undeclared penalty of excommunication.  Under certain circumstances (see can. 1357), a priest can lift that penalty of excommunication.  But there are penalties for certain offense (the canonical word is "delicts") that only the Holy See can lift.  These include penalties for, e.g., using physical force on the Pope, violating the seal of confession, attempting to ordain a woman, desecrating the eucharist, and clerical sexual abuse.  Perhaps the Pope means to assign these "Missionaries of Mercy" to these reserved penalties.  If so, it does not seem to me that there are all that many of these, or why the usual process through the Holy See would not suffice.

I should note that this is not true of the Eastern Catholic Churches (e.g., Byzantine Catholics, Maronite Catholics, etc.).  There are "reserved sins" in those Churches.  So, I suppose this could mean that these "Missionaries of Mercy" will only be sent to the Eastern Churches.  Although, if that were the case, you'd think it would be specified that way.

Either way, it shows that even the Pope can get canon law wrong, and why he always needs some good canonists to give him counsel.

4/29/15 UPDATE:  I added a sentence to clarify a canonical term.

12/6/15 UPDATE:  The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, who have the duty to authentically interpret the law, have weighed in on the issue.  You can see the letter (in Italian) from the President of the Council here.  The letter references a Sept. 1st letter from Pope Francis to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization to grant during the Jubilee Year to all priests (tutti i sacerdoti) the faculty to absolve from the sin of abortion (assolvere dal peccato di aborto).  Since all priests with the faculty to hear confession generally already have this faculty, some explanation was needed.  The letter indicates that without doubt (indubbio, non c'รจ alcun dubbio), despite the words used, what was intended was to grant the faculty to lift the censure of a non declared latae sententiae excommunication for those who have procured an abortion.  This seems to be limited only to the latae sententiae penalty for procuring abortion.  Therefore, the Missionaries of Mercy will still have a broader faculty, as it seems they will have the authority to lift any undeclared latae sententiae excommunication.

07 March 2015

La Galleria Borghese

La Galleria Borghese

The Borghese Gallery is one of the best art museums in Rome.  It began originally as the art collection of Cardinal Cardinal Scipione, who was the son of Hortensia Borghese and the nephew of Pope Paul V.  As the Borghese Gallery website explains:

Cardinal Scipion was drawn to any works of ancient, Renaissance and contemporary art which might re-evoke a new golden age. He was not particularly interested in medieval art, but passionately sought to acquire antique sculpture. But Cardinal Scipione was so ambitious that he promoted the creation of new sculptures and especially marble groups to rival antique works. Cardinal Scipione's collection of paintings was remarkable and was poetically described as early as 1613 by Scipione Francucci.
The museum houses one of the best collections of statutes by the famed sculptor Bernini.  It also houses several paintings by Caravaggio.  The Gallery is situated in the beautiful Borghese park on a hill at the northern end of Rome.  You can go through the museum in under 2 hours.  If you ever go, I strongly recommend going with a written guide or buying an audio guide.  The works of art are not well marked or described.

Here are some pictures of some of the art that can be found in La Galleria Borghese: