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a blog by Fr. Stuart MacDonald, JCL,

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned

NB: this post has been modified slightly from its original version.

Something I read on the internet about confession kind of gave me the willies. I am quite sure that no harm was intended by the writer; however, it provides an opportune moment to remember the importance of remaining silent about particular confessions.  The point of what I was reading was to remind children to whisper in the confessional so that sins cannot be overheard.

As a priest, many people ask me what it is like to hear children’s confessions, especially first confessions.  They joke about being pelted with popcorn and how it must be so funny to hear children tell their little sins.  And yes, sometimes it brings a smile to my face.  But I am also aware that these little children are confessing their sins to God, sins about which they feel guilty.  I am aware of how delicate their consciences are more than I am amused at how they recount their sins.  Such things need to be handled delicately.  After all, the children have been taught about the seal of the confessional.  They are baring their souls to God.  Trust is important to them.

Now all of us know that the seal of the confessional is absolutely inviolable for the priest who hears the confession (c. 983).  The seal binds the confessor under threat of excommunication latae sententiae (c. 1388.1).  Not so for an interpreter present at the confession, or for someone who overhears a confession, or who comes to a knowledge of sins from a confession.  The latter are bound, under pain of sin and of penalty (c. 1388.2), to observe secrecy.  But the difference is really a technical one.  The direct divulging of the secrets of the confessional by others is punishable by a penalty not excluding excommunication because it’s a nefarious thing to do.  Even if unpunished by ecclesiastical authority for whatever reason, to divulge what someone has confessed in the sacrament remains matter for sin.  Obviously, the priest who hears, judges and absolves the penitnent has the greatest responsibility.  In practical terms, however, that secrecy also affects everyone else.

So what does all that have to do with a parent writing about a child’s first confession?  Well, for most of us nothing.  And I quickly add that it is not clear that an actual sin confessed was being described; however, it was highly suggestive in this regard  But for that child, who might hear the parent re-telling the incident, or encouraging friends to read what s/he wrote on the internet, it might be a terribly embarassing, confusing, if not scandalous, thing.  Of course those involved didn’t intend that. They were trying to make a very valid point that we can’t forget to teach people to whisper.  But to publish the content of the overheard sin, or to re-tell it to others, is to break a sacred trust enshrined in our canon law.

We need to be careful.  The confession of anyone, young or old, deserves reverence.

Pastoral Moves and Stability of Office

It’s that time of year again, at least in my diocese, when pastoral assignments are about to be announced.  Thankfully, the rumour mill has been relatively quiet in my circle of communication.  Recently, a priest (from another diocese!, in case my bishop is reading) contacted me asking what rights a pastor has when it comes to being transferred.  It got me thinking that a lot of education needs to take place among clergy in this regard.  With new situations that the Church faces these days — merging/closing parishes, priest shortages, an aging presbyterum, etc. — the law on the transfer of pastors needs to better known.

Canon 522 states, “A pastor must possess stability and therefore is to be appointed for an indefinite period of time. The diocesan bishop can appoint him only for a specific period if the conference of bishops has permitted this by a decree.”  Many conferences of bishops do permit pastors to be appointed to set periods: in both Canada and the United States, pastors may be appointed for renewable six year terms.  It is important to understand that a pastor may be appointed for a set time, but that is not the norm.  Certainly, unless the decree apointing the pastor specifically mentions the fixed-term appointment, then the appointment is indefiinite.  (We need to understand also that there were significant changes to the law on the appointment of pastors in the 1983 Code from the 1917 Code, which I am not going to get into here.)  The point is, however, that the Code envisions that a pastor is not to be changed at will or often — certainly, when term appointments are allowed, such as six years, an idefinite appointment would seem to require that a bishop have the intention of leaving a pastor in office for longer than six years.  There is a certain wisdom to the stability of a pastor.  Canon 524 suggests that a pastor is given an appointment to a particular parish, not simply because he is a priest and can celebrate the sacraments for the people but because he, with his particular qualities, is suited to the needs of the people of that specific parish: “A diocesan bishop is to entrust a vacant parish to the one whom he considers suited to fulfill its parochial care, after weighing all the circumstances and without any favoritism. To make a judgment about suitability, he is to hear the vicar forane and conduct appropriate investigations, having heard certain presbyters and lay members of the Christian faithful, if it is warranted.”

In the last decade, if not longer, there seems to be a mentality that has settled into the mindset of clergy and laity alike, that pastors are supposed to be moved every six years or so.  We hear it said, “Oh, Fr. X is due for a move, he’s been there for seven years now.  Wonder who we’re going to get.”  Even priests seems to get antsy after six years in a parish.  Time for a change, they say.  My own opinion is that shuffling pastors around too often creates upset.  It takes several years for a priest to get to know his parishioners well, to discern their spiritual needs.  It takes several years to get pastoral plans up and running well.  It takes years, especially these days, for the faithful to trust their priests.  It seems to me that as soon as that good working relationship and trust begin to take hold, the pastor is often uprooted and sent to start the process all over again.  The faithful are left to say, “Well, what changes is the new pastor going to make.”  In family life we don’t see it as a virtue to pick up and move the family home every several years.  Stability of home life is cherished.  For priests themselves, there is the human fact that moving around so much is unsettling.  Have you ever wondered why priests, who, while not bound by a promise of poverty, nonetheless cart so many personal possessions, including furniture, from one parish to another? It’s because they are trying to create a home, with familiar surroundings.  (I don’t deny, either, that some of that is simply a wordliness that has crept into clerical circles.)

That being said, the reality of today’s Church has changed, even from 1983.  Even though the Code says that pastors have stability of office, the Code also recognises that the good of the Church trumps any singular situation.  Canon 1748 says, “If the good of souls or the necessity or advantage of the Church demands that a pastor be transferred from a parish which he is governing usefully to another parish or another office, the bishop is to propose the transfer to him in writing and persuade him to consent to it out of love of God and souls.” (emphasis mine)  Ultimately, a priest is called to serve the Church and its benefit. A bishop has great discretion, which we assume he won’t abuse, to move a pastor who is doing a good job, let alone, one who is not.  Financial concerns of the diocese, fallout from abuse scandal, priest shortages, among so many other things, all play a role in clergy assignments.

Times have changed.  We used to think we might not have to drive across town to attend Mass because there was a parish a few streets over.  Unfortunately that is not reality now.  Sometimes a priest must look after more than one church, you know, when parishes merge but both church buildings remain in use.  Even more, sometimes a priest must be pastor of more than one parish!  Maybe you thought that wasn’t possible, but it is!  Canon 526 states, “A pastor is to have the parochial care of only one parish; nevertheless, because of a lack of priests or other circumstances, the care of several neighboring parishes can be entrusted to the same pastor.” (emphasis mine)

I certainly don’t envy bishops their job when it comes to pastoral appointments.  I’m certainly glad that my bishop has taken the position that if a priest is happy in his assignment and it is going well, then we don’t need to move him.  That makes sense.  But we also need to be aware that the circumstances in which the Church finds herself demand flexibility and generosity on the part of priests and laity alike.

Denying Communion: not an easy matter

EWTN news has an item about a pastor in Italy who refused Holy Communion to a handicapped child.  As usual, the press didn’t quite get it right the first time, highlighting the fact that this was discrimination against the handicapped.  The bishop of the diocese in question issued a statement supporting the priest, having included many pertinent details: the family was from outside the parish, they had spoken to the priest several times, they were not attending Mass regularly, the boy had spit out an unconsecrated host when practising how to receive Communion, etc.

What really seems to be at stake in this case, is not that the child is handicapped, but that the family is non-practising.  It is a problem that is very common in this part of Canada, and, I assume, in North America: how to engage people who have been baptised Catholic, sacramentalized, as it were, but who are not practising their faith in any tangible way.  Here in Ontario, we have a publicly funded Catholic education system.  People send their children to Catholic schools, and, if truth be told, have their children baptised so that they can enrol in the Catholic system, but never come to Mass, live in irregular marriage situations, have no explicit intention of living the faith, but want, nonetheless, their children to receive the sacraments.  As a pastor, it is a question I face almost every day.  Do I just admit the baptised children to First Communion and Confirmation, knowing that they are, for all intents and purposes, uncatechised and won’t learn how to practise the faith?  Do I assume that their presence in a Catholic school system (which has its own problems with being ‘Catholic’) provides the realistic hope (spes fundata) of them being raised in the Catholic faith (c. 868) allowing me to baptise them?  It is not a matter of wanting to deny the sacraments, or of wanting only perfect Catholics to receive the sacraments; it is a matter of evangelisation, of engagement.

So the pastor in Italy asked the family in question to come to Mass for a few weeks before Holy Communion and they aren’t willing to do that?  The handicapped, of course, have different considerations.  Perhaps they don’t have the use of reason and are in a state of grace.  The Code, however, does not deny the sacraments easily. For Confirmation the only prerequisite is baptism, unless the person has the use of reason, in which case s/he must be suitably instructed (suitable for the person in question, obviously), properly disposed and be able to renew baptismal promises (c. 889)  Moreover, the faithful are bound to be confirmed (c. 890). For Holy Communion, it is necessary, for children, to have sufficient knowledge of what the mystery of Christ means and to be able to receive with faith and devotion.  Only in danger of death is the bar lowered, so to speak, requiring only that the child can distinguish the Eucharist from ordinary food.  I’m not sure a child who is not in danger of death and who has spat out an unconsecrated host, is able to understand the mystery of Christ or to receive with devotion.  In this case, it probably was certainly justified to refuse the handicapped child Communion.  That is not a judgment on him nor a deprivation.  It is a recognition that he is unable to receive properly and remains in a state of grace with or without the Eucharist.  If he weren’t handicapped?  Hmmm.  What to do? Stricte dictu he has a right to receive Communion, all things being equal.  Canon 914 provides some guidance.  The parish priest, with the parents, has the duty to ensure that children are properly prepared, as it is his duty to ensure that those who are insufficiently disposed are not admitted to Holy Communion. Thus asking the parents to come to Mass with the child for a few weeks before Holy Communion does not seem out of line: it would demonstrate the proper disposition of the child.

But what if the child wants to come to Mass and the parents won’t take her?  These are the difficult and heavy burdens of pastors who wade through all these considerations.  Some of the pastoral practices of the last forty or fifty years just don’t work any longer. We have to address the issues with new vigour, with new insight. Obviously they are phenomena that the Code hasn’t envisaged: nominal Catholics insisting on being admitted to the sacraments.  This news item from Italy gives us a chance to reflect.

Administrative Leave: it’s more than penal law

Fr. Anonymous has sent a reply to a few blogs regarding my criticism of his analysis of the Communion controversy involving Fr. Guarnizo.

First, and foremost, let me state once again, that one of the main reasons I entered the conversation regarding the Communion controversy was to defend Fr. Guarnizo from what I view as the injustice done to him when he was placed on administrative leave.  It is fine for people to disagree wtih my opinion that Fr. Guarnizo erred in denying Ms. Johnson Communion, but it is not fine for them to think that thereby I am trying to persecute a priest.  They need to re-read my posts carefully and separate the issues (ah, yes, separating the issues so that  conversation can take place that will advance the clarity of the arguments and not just resort to digging in our heals to prove a point at all costs, often times at the cost of charity and civility — you wouldn’t believe what some people write in com-boxes! (and never see the light of day because I moderate mine.))

What Fr. Anonymous and I disagree on, and to which major point he’s still not responding, even in his latest volley, is what ‘administrative leave’ is, or isn’t.  What Fr. Anonymous doesn’t seem to acknowledge is: a) that administrative leave is operative in things other than penal law, and b) that I am against the use of the s0-called ‘administrative leave,’ in anything other than a penal process.

Fr. Anonymous, using John Beal’s 1993 article as his authority, argues that ‘administrative leave’ can only be used in a penal process. I disagree.   I have several observations.

1. ‘administrative leave,’ as we all know, does not exist, as such, in canon law: it is a term used to describe the exercise of administrative power by which an Ordinary restricts the ministry of a cleric.

2. it first came about in penal cases with reference to c. 1722 and became popular/necessary when dealing with priests accused of sexual abuse of minors

3. John Beal wrote his article at the time when ‘administrative leave’ was becoming popular

4. John Beal’s discussion is about penal law, not about ‘administrative law’ per se.  He is arguing a controverted point in penal law about at which point, in the penal process, when the penal process is being used, c.. 1722 could be enacted.  He is not arguing that ‘administrative leave can only be enacted in a penal case.’  He is arguing about a very specific set of circumstances and saying that ‘in these circumstances, administrative leave can only be enacted at this point, and not at that point,’ without referring to if and when administrative leave can be enacted in other (i.e. non-penal) circumstances.  Fr. Anonymous either does not understand this crucial distinction, or he is simply refusing to acknowledge it.

5. Since 1993, canonists have begun using administrative leave in other, non-penal, circumstances such as occur when a priest wishes to take a ‘leave of absence’ from the ministry — another non-canonical term.  Administrative leave has become the way that superiors let clergy leave the ministry without getting into penal law, or because they have reached a gentleman’s agreement.  For example, a priest abandons the ministry because he has become involved with a woman.  Canon law would say that he is to be suspended, in order to bring about his repentance so that he could return to ministry.  Instead of declaring a suspension according to the norms of penal law, Ordinaries will often let the priest go off into the sunset on ‘administrative leave.’  Adminsitrative leave is also used in the case of ‘problem clergy,’ the ones who haven’t really committed a crime but who are a nusiance to the chancery (in their opinion).

6. Adminsitrative leave has also developed from using c. 1722 as its basis to using c. 223.  This latter use is debated, and has been criticised by Cardinal DePaolis (I’m sorry I don’t have the book with me to make the citation — although the book is a series of essays in Italian on incardination; however, the important point is not the criticism but that administrative leave is being used with something other than c. 1722 as it’s starting point.)

7. My contention is that penal law is not operative in this case because no delict/crime has been committed.  The introduction of ‘administrative leave’ does not mean we are automatically dealing with penal law.  Developments in caonicial praxis since the early 1990’s prove that.  Therefore, with all due respect to John Beal’s excellent article, it is not needed in this case.

8. No one has claimed to be using penal law, certainly not the Archdiocese.

9. Therefore, to argue against the unjust use of ‘administrative leave’ (if it ever is just). one needs to argue from some other perspective than penal law.  I have done that by stating that the only other form of ‘administrative leave’ (that is, the only other way a priest may be removed completely from ministry other than by a penalty, or the  correct penal application of c. 1722 pending a penal process (whether judicial or administrative,)) is the institute of irregularities. But there are no irregularities present in the circumstances of this case either.  Therefore, completely removing a priest from ministry in this case, unless there are facts which we don’t know, is a violation of Fr. Guarnizo’s canonical rights.

So Fr. Anonymous and I both agree that what has happened to Fr. Guarnizo is not right.  The real question we are discussing is why that is true.  I think it is incorrect to argue from penal law.  I do not believe that penal law is the only base from which to argue.  Fr. Anonymous’ amassing of citations does not respond to my argument: I still maintain they are irrelevant.  In effect, Fr. Anonymous is arguing that an injustice has occured because c. 1722 has not been invoked properly (as if to say that if it were invoked properly, then administrative leave would be okay.)

With charity, Fr. Anonymous, you still need to be careful about references.  What is the source for your quotation from Bishop (then Father) Daneels, the Secretary (then Promoter of Justice) of the Signatura?  He seems to be talking about adminstrative penal processes.  Therefore, Beal’s argument is a propos because he is discussing penal law. Citing him as an authority, however, does not advance your argument.  Can you see that we are not dealing with penal law in this instance?  or can you demonstrate  why we must argue penal law?  (Beal’s article is not an answer to that question, I hope you can see.)

What would you say if you spoke to the Ordinary and he replied, “but Fr. Anonymous I did not use penal law in placing Fr. Guarnizo on administrative leave?”  Would you have a response?  Mine would be to say that, if penal law was not the basis of the action, then the only other avenue available to the Ordinary would have been to declare an irregularity, but an irregularity is clearly not at play here.  I would then ask the Ordinary to inform me on what basis he enacted ‘administrative leave.  I argue that there is no other basis by which to remove a priest completely from ministry.

Father, it’s not enough to insist that the Ordinary must argue penal law.  You have to show why.  And in showing why, you have to do more than demonstrate that some very excellent canonists agree that administrative leave can be enacted in penal law — that doesn’t answer the question.  We all agree administrative leave can be enacted in penal cases.  You have to be able to argue from the Ordinary’s basis (even if it is erroneous.)

Development of the Law?

I’m a little late getting to the news of the declaration by the CDF regarding the excommunication of four Greek-Catholic Ukrainian priests.  I’m not quite sure what the actual circumstances are: at one point the declaration speaks of them as self-proclaimed bishops and later speaks about not recognising the validity of their episcopal ordinations.  So I am not sure if they were, in fact, ordained as bishops, or did they ordain each other, did they just declare themselves bishops, etc.  It all, of course, makes a world of canonical difference. Reading the decree what stuck out for me was the line in which the Congregation formally declares, that it does not recognise the validity of their episcopal ordinations, or of any and all ordinations that have derived, or will derive therefrom.`

That line immediately brought to mind a declaration by the Secretary of State regarding the dismissal from the clerical state of Emmanuel Milingo, former bishop, who ran into all sorts of trouble with the Unification Church (the Moonies). That declaration said that:

Essa non riconosce e non intende riconoscere nel futuro tali ordinazioni e tutte le ordinazioni da esse derivate e pertanto lo stato canonico dei presunti vescovi resta quello in cui si trovavano prima dell’ordinazione conferita dal su menzionato Signor Milingo. (It, i.e. the Church, does not recognise and does not intend to recognise in the future these ordinations, i.e. the episcopal ordinations performed by then-bishop Milingo which led to his excommunication, and all ordinations derived from it and therefore the canonical status of the presumed bishops remains that in which they found themselves before the ordination conferred by the abovementioned Mr. Milingo. — my tranlsation)

Did you catch the difference?  The Milingo declaration states that it does not recognise the ordinations, without explicitly mentioning their validity or not.  The recent CDF declaration states that it does not recognise the validity of the ordinations. That is different still from the episcopal ordinations performed by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (nota bene: I will not allow comments on this last issue, so don’t even bother trying: we are all praying fervently that the situation of the Society of St. Pius X will be resolved soon, bringing it into full unity with the Church.)  The validity of those ordinations was never called into question.  (Remember to keep in mind the distinction between validity and liceity: something can be valid but illegal.)

Now, presumably, the episcopal ordinations performed by Milingo were valid, but the Church, who is the supreme earthly judge of the sacraments, chooses not to recognise them.  That does not mean that it declares them to be illegal.  That would be a statement of the obvious — those ordinations, done without Papal mandate, were illegal. So what could it mean to ‘recognise’ an ordination?  It certainly seems to be a new distinction.

A clue, I think, is found in the next part of the decree, namely, that those men, illegally ordained by Milingo, remain as priests — the state in which they were in before the ‘ordination’.  I don’t believe that the Church is saying that the men are invalidly ordained, but I could be wrong.  I think the Church is saying that even though these men might be sacramentally/ontologically bishops, the Church does not recognise, and never will recognise, their status as bishops.  Which is to say that, should these men be reconciled with the Church, they will reconciled as priests, not as bishops.  That is different, of course, from the four bishops of the Society of St. Pius X whose excommunications were lifted a few years back.  The Church recognises the validity of their ordinations, and recognises their status as bishops (even if they remain irregular.)

That idea of recognition seems to be a new canonical nuance.  Canonists always speak about validity and liceity but never, until now, about ‘recognisability’.

So what do we make of the latest excommunication?  It states that it does not ‘recognise the validity of their episcopal ordinations’ [dichiara di non riconoscere la validità delle loro ordinazioni episcopali ].

Hmmm, a new twist or simply the imperfection of language?  Is it declaring the invalidity of ordination, which could have been done by stating: “we declare these ordinations to be invalid”?  Or is stating that it does not ‘recognise’ the validity (of something which is ontologically valid).  So is this a case of “Milingo”? or of “Society of St. Pius X” in reverse?  Is it saying that it does not give any legal status to an otherwise valid ordination? or is it saying that, because of some sort of defect, the ordinations are invalid.  Without the concrete details of how these men became ‘bishops’, I can’t tell.

Because validity of the sacraments is so important, a declaration of invalidity is a very strong statement.  I suspect that this is what the decree is establishing.  These ‘ordinations’ are invalid. period. Has anyone found a press report with more details about how these men ‘became’ so-called bishops?

Apart from these canonical distinctions, the important thing is that the unity of the Church has been wounded.  We need to pray for their reconciliation.

Not every canonist is a good canonist

A few people have written asking me to comment on a post which appeared on pewsitter as well as on rorate-caeli I am going to respond, but only briefly because this is now beyond flogging a dead horse.  I respond for two reasons

First, and foremost, the writer has made a fatal error in his argument, hence demonstrating that he does not understand well the laws about which he is writing. That explains why his argument fails to consider the nuances of Dr. Peter’s and my arguments. I do not fault him for that. We all make errors. And one of the best ways to learn is to be bold enough to make a mistake. I don’t profess to be an authority on all things canonical, and no canonist is an expert on the whole code. But when a serious error has been made, in charity, someone must point it out and correct it.

Second, I respond because those who wrote to me (as well as others, I assume) seem to be swayed by its arguments, and might not be able to see where the argumentation fails.

I will not comment on each particular piece of the post because it is so long.  You can go re-read the post after considering my comments.  But I have three observations.

First observation:

It seems to me that part of what has caused such a commotion over this incident is the fact that it involves a lesbian coupled with the complicating issue that not all the facts are known in great detail.  But let’s remember that this is a commentary on the facts as they are reported.  It’s an outsider looking in and trying to add some commentary and analysis.  So don’t fault the commentators for not having access to the sacristy that morning.  The commentary is based on the ‘hypothetical’ situation created in the news.  When the facts change, perhaps the commentary does as well.  But the commentary stands on the facts as they are known.  So preface everything by, “IF” this is what happened, and “IF” Fr. Guarnizo did this, “THEN” this is the canonical commentary.

Secondly, remove homosexuality from the argument and substitute some other objectively grave matter – like habitual non-attendance and Mass or a baptised Catholic professing to be a Buddhist.  I find it hard to believe that Fr. Anonymous, and many others, would be making the same conclusions about denying Communion.  Should we deny Communion to all the high school students, at a school Mass, because we know the vast majority of them don’t go to Mass (at least that is true here in southern Ontario)?  Objectively that’s a mortal sin.  All the other students know they don’t go to Mass.  It’s obstinate and manifest.  What about the lady who comes into the sacristy before her mother’s funeral Mass and admits in conversation that she doesn’t go to Mass anymore, even though she was baptised in that very same church, because she is now a Buddhist?  She may indeed be labouring under a latae sententiae excommunication.  But all those official documents that everyone is quoting, say that only a declared excommunicate is to be refused Communion.

I am not going to re-visit Dr. Peters’ already well-reasoned arguments about the interpretation of c. 915.  Others need to do their homework and study it carefully.  Perhaps other great canonists will disagree.  Who knows, maybe even the eminent Cardinal Burke might disagree.  But it doesn’t matter.  That’s why there is the academic discipline of canon law, so that issues can be studied, deepened and explained.  People are free to have differing opinions, but they must be able to argue them well.  Few in the blogosphere, if any, have argued as well as Dr. Peters.  That brings me to the next observation.

Second observation

Fr. Anonymous does not reference his argument well.  It is one thing to use Cardinal Burke as an authority, [Cardinal Burke states that Canon 915 exists primarily to prevent sacrilege while at the same time preventing our Greatest Good from being violated.] but be careful that you are not taking him out of context.  Am I supposed to take Father’s word that he has read and understood the Cardinal’s essay? That his summary is correct?  Do not cite a document of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, with the parenthetical observation that it is,”the department of the Vatican whose job it is to interpret authentically both universal and particular laws in the Church,” when the document you are citing is not an authentic interpretation.  (If Father doesn’t know why it’s not an authentic interpretation, then he needs to look up the canons on decrees and authentic interpretations.) If Father is not trying to claim that his citation is an authentic interpretation, then his syntax certainly leads the novice reader to that conclusion, and that’s not a good thing. Dr. Huels is certainly an excellent canonist.  But are we really going to rely on an argument he made for a commentary published in 1985 (merely two years after the promulgation of the Code, and before so many other magisterial teachings like Familiaris consortio etc.)?  Has he said anything else since?  It’s fine to cite another excellent canonist, Fr. Woestman, “the public reception of Communion by a public sinner implies that the Church and her ministers somehow condone the public serious sin,” But how does that quotation contribute to the argument which is precisely about what constitutes a “public” sinner.  I agree with Fr. Woestman’s statement, but not with Fr. Anonymous’ conclusions.  It’s also fine to cite papal documents etc. but we need to understand that those very documents are dealing with cases of de iure objective sin: the divorced and remarried, the voting records of politicians.  By public declaration of law, those situations become manifest and obstinate.  The question we are dealing with is how to apply those arguments to the similar case of objective sin which is not de iure public.  Fr. Anonymous has missed that main point.  He can’t argue from the authority of those documents, because they don’t apply stricte dictu to the facts of this case.  Finally, and most egregiously, Fr. Anonymous fails to cite the source of his summary of Prof. Beal’s argument, “John Beal, a well-known canonist at Catholic University, argues that “administrative leave” can only take place after a formal judicial penal process has been initiated, and not during the information-collecting preliminary investigation.”  It’s that little word ‘only’ that Fr. Anonymous has inserted in his summary.  I would be willing to bet a lot of money that Prof. Beal would not argue that ‘administrative leave’ can only take place after a judicial process has been initiated.  That is one time it may be used, but there are others (and Beal would know, as Fr. Anonymous should know, that what he stated has been modified  motu proprio by the Supreme Legislator for some situations.)  I would be willing to bet, but I can’t check because the source is not cited, that Prof. Beal is commenting on penal law and not on ‘administrative law’ as a concept.  It is one thing to say, “when we are in the midst of a penal process, ‘administrative leave’ can only take place once the preliminary investigation has been initiated, and not, for example, upon hearing the credible accusation.”  It is another thing completely to say, “ ‘Administrative leave’ is a concept which canonists use, even though it is not in the Code and it can only be enacted in a penal situation.”  Those are two very different arguments.  Professor Beal is a very smart man. I doubt he would hold to the latter of those two scenarios, but that is what Fr. Anonymous is making Beal say in his post.  There is no way for us to know, because Fr. Anonymous has not been rigourous in his argumentation.

Third observation

Fr. Anonymous makes a fatal error when he speaks about penal canons with regard to Fr. Guarnizo’s ‘administrative leave’.  This is not a penal case (Dr. Peters and I argued tangentially about that.)  Therefore, nothing that Fr. Anonymous says in the second part of his argument is relevant.  Go back and re-read my posts.  I argue that administrative leave occurs only in penal matters or in irregularities. Therefore, Fr. Guarnizo’s so-called administrative leave is unjust because this situation is neither penal, nor an irregularity.  That’s far different from saying that Fr. Guarnizo has been unjustly treated because the promoter of justice is not involved, because the preliminary investigation had not been started before he was handed his letter.  Completely irrelevant.  No need to quote the penal canons: they don’t apply and no one said they did.

Therefore, while Fr. Anonymous is brave, and certainly competent to some extent, he has made serious, serious errors in his post. Anyone who wants to study this ‘hypothetical’ case and argue it has to have a better grasp of the issues involved.  It’s not enough to express moral outrage.  There should be moral outrage, but why?  Remove the hot issue of homosexuality and study this case a little more calmly and rationally.  And good minds might, in the end, disagree.  But let’s make sure that the reasoning is good. (And once again, I have been anything but brief.)

The horse is dead!  I, for one, am going to bury it.  It’s been a busy several days for me, haven’t been able to troll the web.  Any good canonical issues in the news that I missed?

Resurrecting the flogged horse: Fr. Guarnizo’s administrative leave

Okay, I really thought I had flogged the horse completely dead, but then I woke up at 2 a.m. with what I think is a brilliant insight.  Of course, it could show how stupid I am.  In all the discussion I have been having about administrative leave being uncanonical, I, me, myself, (can’t say for others) have never twigged to the fact Fr. Guarnizo is NOT on administrative leave in any other diocese in the world, other than Washington D.C. (and I’ll grant, just for argument in this post, that he is on admin leave in DC).  The law itself grants Fr. G the faculty to preach unless it has been removed by an Ordinary (c. 764).  So Fr. G has had his faculty to preach in DC removed by one of the Ordinaries of DC. Since Fr. G is incardinated in Moscow, he receives his faculties to hear confessions from the Archbishop of Moscow. Those faculties can be exercised anywhere unless a particular local Ordinary/bishop removes them specifically from Fr. G (which is what has happened in DC) (cc. 967.2 and 975) (now we canonists get technical so I have to add the caveat that it is possible that Fr. G had his faculties for confession granted by the Archbishop of DC and not by the Archbishop of Moscow — but that would be very unusual — and therefore, he cannot hear confessions anywhere in the world until a new local  Ordinary grants them, or he receives an office, like pastor, which grants them by the law itself). So, the point is that Fr. G can certainly celebrate Mass, preach, (probably hear confessions — we don’t know the exact details to make that determination) and all that other priestly stuff, immediately once he steps outside the territory of the Archdiocese of Washington.  If it had been his Bishop in Moscow who placed him on admin leave, he wouldn’t be able to do that. As it is, the Archbishop of Washington can only affect Fr. G’s ministry within the territory of the Archdiocese of DC.  Why is that important, apart from the fact, that I never thought of it until I was asleep? Well, because it makes the whole affair of administrative leave a very slippery slope, a very messy affair.  I still maintain that it doesn’t exist as most canonists envision it, or that it is a good way of covering a gap which some canonists perceive to exist.  salvo meliore iudicio.


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