Sunday, December 2, 2012

Another Big Deal: The New Motu Proprio

It's Intima Ecclesiae Natura (The Church's Deepest Nature) and is captioned as "On the Service of Charity."  haven't seen too much play in the media, but this is actually a pretty gargantuan undertaking. A lot of the Holy Father's reign has been to deal with this idea that the Church really only exists to tend to man's temporal wants and needs. While that might sound fine to the average modern Jesuit or LCWR delegate, it is secondary to the Church's true mission, which is the salvation of souls. He hit on this in Deus Caritas Est and then made it the theme of a whole encyclical with Caritas in Veritate. As is typical with the Magisterium these days, it takes a while for anyone to realize that nobody is paying attention to the teaching authority, meaning that mechanisms for dealing with the problem at the ground level have to be developed. We've all heard, for example, about stuff being done by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Now, how will this kind of abomination be handled?

That's what this motu proprio is about. Most of it is hung up on setting new provisions for Canon Law, so it's not exactly dynamic reading. There are a lot of cites and cross-references to the CIC, so make sure you bring some caffeine when you read it. It's not that long, though, and worth your time to be aware of how things will go from here on out. In a nutshell, the motu proprio lays out directives for how Catholic charitable institutions are to be governed, even if it's just by laypeople, and the relationships of said institutions with the bishops.

Let me hit the high points.

It is important, however, to keep in mind that “practical activity will always be insufficient, unless it visibly expresses a love for man, a love nourished by an encounter with Christ." In carrying out their charitable activity, therefore, the various Catholic organizations should not limit themselves merely to collecting and distributing funds, but should show special concern for individuals in need and exercise a valuable educational function within the Christian community, helping people to appreciate the importance of sharing, respect and love in the spirit of the Gospel of Christ. The Church’s charitable activity at all levels must avoid the risk of becoming just another form of organized social assistance.

That noise you heard was probably the large mass of exploding heads as self-styled "progressive Catholics" read this paragraph. I'm not sure whether the average Catholic grasps the enormity of this. It's at the root of the LCWR, liberation theology, and every other movement that tries to camouflage their soul-murdering heresies with activities that could be found even in pagan societies. It's why universities like ND ultimately are failing in their outreach to the oppressed, since "fighting for justice" isn't the same thing as "fighting for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the triumph of His Church."

What does it profit a man to get a nice meal but wind up in hell because nobody bothered trying to show him the error of his ways?

Nevertheless, to the extent that such activities are promoted by the Hierarchy itself, or are explicitly supported by the authority of the Church’s Pastors, there is a need to ensure that they are managed in conformity with the demands of the Church’s teaching and the intentions of the faithful, and that they likewise respect the legitimate norms laid down by civil authorities.

Notice that the intentions of the faithful aren't the only consideration here. A lot of the faithful seem to forget that. I'm currently reading an excellent biography of Blessed Bartolo Longo, who renounced in favor of the Church his role in all the works he had founded and promoted. It was a difficult step for him to take, and he suffered much for it. Saints do that sort of thing, though. So should we, if that's what we want to become.

Now, for a few of the actual legislative bits:

The faithful have the right to join in associations and to establish agencies to carry out specific charitable services, especially on behalf of the poor and suffering. To the extent that these are linked to the charitable service of the Church’s Pastors and/or intend to use for this purpose contributions made by the faithful, they must submit their own Statutes for the approval of the competent ecclesiastical authority and comply with the following norms.

This is almost scary. The bishops will have to do their jobs. Thank goodness the episcopacy seems to be regaining their collective spine, even if just a little.

A charitable agency may use the name “Catholic” only with the written consent of the competent authority, as laid down by canon 300 CIC.


At the same time, the ecclesiastical authority must bear in mind its duty to regulate the exercise of the rights of the faithful in accordance with canons 223 § 2 CIC and 26 § 3 CCEO, and thus to avoid the proliferation of charitable initiatives to the detriment of their activity and effectiveness with regard to their stated goals.

This could make for some interesting situations. If we're taking for granted that the stated goals of these groups must include a focus on Church teaching and such, does this mean that the bishop can shut down initiatives that are getting in the way of this? That's what the linked section of the CIC seems to say, but I'm no canonist.

I'm going to skip Pope Benedict's Article 5 here for a moment.

The agencies referred to in Article 1 § 1 are required to select their personnel from among persons who share, or at least respect, the Catholic identity of these works.

Does this mean we can exclude the Nuns on the Bus?

To ensure an evangelical witness in the service of charity, the diocesan Bishop is to take care that those who work in the Church’s charitable apostolate, along with due professional competence, give an example of Christian life and witness to a formation of heart which testifies to a faith working through charity. To this end, he is also to provide for their theological and pastoral formation, through specific curricula agreed upon by the officers of various agencies and through suitable aids to the spiritual life.

Prepare for a lot of lawsuits from people who want to flaunt their use of contraception, in vitro, abortion, etc. Not to mention getting canned for wacky ecumenical or liturgical abuses.

In particular, the diocesan Bishop is to ensure that charitable agencies dependent upon him do not receive financial support from groups or institutions that pursue ends contrary to Church’s teaching. Similarly, lest scandal be given to the faithful, the diocesan Bishop is to ensure that these charitable agencies do not accept contributions for initiatives whose ends, or the means used to pursue them, are not in conformity with the Church’s teaching.

Does this include the United States government? The Democratic Party? That last sentence seems pretty clearly meant to address stuff like the aforementioned CCHD fiascoes.

The diocesan Bishop is obliged, if necessary, to make known to the faithful the fact that the activity of a particular charitable agency is no longer being carried out in conformity with the Church’s teaching, and then to prohibit that agency from using the name “Catholic” and to take the necessary measures should personal responsibilities emerge.

We've already seen stuff like this happen, as in the case of Bishop Olmsted with the hospital in Arizona.

It is also the duty of the Bishop to ensure that the activities carried out in his Diocese are conducted in conformity with ecclesiastical discipline, either prohibiting them or adopting any measures needed in cases where that discipline is not respected.

Another hmmmm. Seems like a shot at the wayward orders, maybe.

Ok. Now, let's take a look at the article I skipped earlier.

The diocesan Bishop is to ensure that the Church enjoys the right to carry out charitable activities, and he is to take care that the faithful and the institutions under his supervision comply with the legitimate civil legislation in this area.

There are a lot of references to the civil authority scattered throughout the document. It seems to me that maybe Pope Benedict is looking to get out in front of some of the forthcoming upheaval wrought by the HHS mandate. Sure, there were plenty of reasons to issue this kind of legislation already, but I have to believe that the mandate was at least partially on his mind.

If the Supreme Court doesn't strike down the mandate as unconstitutional, then we'll see some epic legal battles, based on both secular and canon law, about what happens to all these Catholic institutions. They aren't all structured the same, so nobody can say for sure that things will work out in one particular fashion. However, this new motu proprio does stand to weigh things a little bit more on the bishops' side, especially from the standpoint of the CIC.

Stay tuned...

1 comment:

Titus said...

"The diocesan Bishop is to ensure that the Church enjoys the right to carry out charitable activities, and he is to take care that the faithful and the institutions under his supervision comply with the legitimate civil legislation in this area."

Things like the HHS mandate aren't what come to mind first when I read that. I think instead of Canon 1290, and the necessity of setting up a civil-law mechanism that allows the ecclesiastical entity to operate in a manner that complies with and garners the benefits of civil law. So, for instance, the Pontiff is reminding bishops to make sure that their local charities are properly incorporated, that their civil charters are drawn properly for both tax and canonical purposes, and that they turn in their paperwork on time. Recall the St. Stanislaus fiasco in St. Louis; those things can cause a lot of trouble if not looked to.