Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Sunday, March 27, 2011

A remarkable essay by the Eagle of Fargo

Ironic. One of the most important essays by a bishop on Canon 392 (the norm setting forth a bishop’s fundamental duty to supervise the enforcement of ecclesiastical discipline in his diocese) never mentions Canon 392; one of the most important essays by a bishop on Canon 915 (requiring ministers to withhold holy Communion from certain public sinners) never mentions Canon 915; and in fact, one of the most important essays on canon law generally by a bishop since the 1983 Code came out, was not written by a canonist bishop and scarcely even mentions the Code.

Fargo ND Bp. Samuel Aquila’s remarkable essay “Good Shepherd: Living Christ’s Own Pastoral Authority” shows how a bishop who thinks with the Church can’t help getting the canonical big picture right at the same time. This should surprise no one, for canon law, in its turn, is all about getting the pastoral picture right.

Any bishop who thinks with the Church, who understands that lessons in ecclesiastical leadership are woven throughout the Scriptures, and who believes, in short, that “p. c.” stands for genuine “pastoral care”, and not for “politically correct”, is going to find solid guidance for his pastoral decision-making in canon law and objective defenses of his pastoral actions under the Code. Even if he doesn’t use canonical jargon.

I loved the way Bp. Aquila, for example, drawing on the model for graduated confrontation of wrong-doing in the Church cited in Matthew 18, didn’t mention that
Canon 1341, among others, sets out the same approach in canonical language. Or again, he asks, and not rhetorically, how many votes against basic Church values, performed over how many years, does it take to convince the minister of holy Communion that this Catholic politician or that is obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin, without ever using Canon 915's precise language?

The Eagle of Fargo delivered his remarks to seminarians, but they are well worth reading by priests and, need I say it?, by bishops who know that, someday, they will have to render an accounting of their office to Someone in a considerably more demanding setting than that of a pope during a quinquennial visit. + + +