Friday, August 31, 2012

The Lawless People of God and the New Evangelisation

The Lawless People of God and the New Evangelisation

Cardinal Burke in Nairobi

Knowledge and respect for Canon law is indispensable to the Church’s response to the call to a new evangelization.

So declared Cardinal Raymond Burke (64), the chief jurist of the Holy See,  at the Canon Law Conference in Nairobi yesterday organized by the Canon Law Society of Kenya. He is the highest ranking Prelate in the area of law in the Church. His official title is the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura.

The conference is being attended by 100 priests from all over Kenya, including  10 bishops. A general ignorance of canon law must be overcome. The false conflict between canon law and the pastoral nature of the Church, between truth and love, must be addressed. All forms of manipulation of the law to advance particular agenda redound to the grave harm of the faithful and of the Church as the Body of Christ. Liturgical law must enjoy the primacy among canonical norms, for it safeguards the most sacred
realities in the Church. These were some of the key ideas covered by His Eminence.

Quoting Blessed John Paul, he said “Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church.”

The remaking of “the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community,” which is necessary for the “mending of the Christian fabric of society,” will have as a fundamental element a new knowledge of and respect for the canonical discipline of the Church. he emphasized the hypocrisy of exalting charity when we do not practice justice in obedience to God’s law.

Cardinal Burke placed his reflections within the context of the
present situation of the Church in a totally secularized culture and
the response of the Church to the culture of our time. The response is
a new evangelization.

While the question pertains to the life of the universal Church he
noted that its application to the life of the Church in the Kenya is

Drawing heavily on the Magisterium of Blessed John Paul, he described
it as a tireless call to recognize the Church’s challenge to be
faithful to her divinely-given mission and to respond to the challenge
by means of a new evangelization. He referred to “On the Vocation and
the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World,”
“Pastores Dabo Vobis”, “On the Consecrated Life and Its Mission in the
Church and in the World,” and  “Novo Millennio Ineunte”.

The Cardinal then proceeded to say that for the Church to remake her
own fabric requires that she acknowledge a rupture in her life caused
by the failure to see the organic nature of her life, received from
Christ, faithfully down the centuries, the gift of the Holy Spirit for
the evangelization of the world.

He referred to some aspects of the nature of the Second Vatican
Council as being basically misunderstood. There had been a mentality
that talked of the elimination of an old constitution and creation of
a new one.

The State of Canon Law in the Church

He shared some personal experiences as a student of Canon Law in
September of 1980, he experienced how much the Church’s discipline was
disdained by her priests, in general.

“When I answered the question of a brother priest regarding my area of
study, the fairly consistently reaction was expressed in words like
these: “I thought that the Church had done away with that,” and “What
a waste of your time.”
Some elements had tried to highjack the renewal mandated by the Second
Vatican Ecumenical Council and this had a particularly devastating
effect on the Church’s discipline.

 “It is profoundly sad to note, for instance, how the failure of
knowledge and application of the canon law, which was indeed still in
force, contributed significantly to the scandal of the sexual abuse of
minors by the clergy in our some parts of the world.”

“Indeed, in the United States of America, my homeland, in which the
scandal has been great, it is often asserted that it was caused by the
absence of a proper discipline in the Church to deal justly with such
abhorrent situations. It is assumed that the Church lacked the proper
canonical discipline with which to investigate such crimes and
sanction them. The truth of the matter is that the Church had dealt
with such crimes in the past, which should come as a surprise to no
one, and that she had in place a carefully articulated process by
which to investigate accusations, with full respect for the rights of
all parties involved, including the protection of potential victims
during the time of the investigation; to reach a just decision
regarding their truth, and to apply the appropriate sanction. The
discipline in place was not followed because it was not known and, in
fact, was presumed not to exist.”

“Pope Paul VI repeatedly confronted the loss of respect for the
service of canon law in safeguarding and fostering our life in Christ
in the Church.

His repeated appeals for a new appreciation of the Church’s discipline
are an indication of the gravity of the weakened situation of canon
law, at the time.

Confronting a general opinion that somehow the Second Vatican
Ecumenical Council had repudiated the service of Canon Law, he
declared: On the contrary the Council not only does not repudiate
canon law, the norm that spells out the duties and defends the rights
of the members of the Church, but wishes and desires it as a
consequence of the power bequeathed by Christ to his Church, as a
necessity of its social and visible nature, its communitarian and
hierarchical nature, as the guide of religious life and of Christian
perfection, and as the juridical safeguard of liberty itself.”

Canon law is not opposed to freedom but serves “what is needed to
safeguard the common good – including the basic good of exercising
freedom – which only a well-ordered social order can adequately

Cardinal Burke referred to the fact that years of a lack of knowledge
of the Church’s discipline and even of a presumption that such
discipline was no longer fitting to the nature of the Church reaped
gravely harmful fruits in the Church.

For example, the pervasive violation of the liturgical law of the
Church, the revolution in catechesis which often rendered the teaching
of the faith vacuous and confused, if not erroneous;  the breakdown of
the discipline of priestly formation and priestly life,  the
abandonment of the essential elements of religious life and the
devastating loss of fundamental direction in many congregations of
religious sisters, brothers and priests;  the loss of the identity of
charitable, educational and healthcare institutions bearing the name
of Catholic; and the failure of respect for the nature of marriage and
the time-proven process for judging claims of nullity of marriage in
ecclesiastical tribunals.

A frequent manifestation of the confusion and error regarding the
irreplaceable role of canon law in the life of the Church has been the
claim that the Church’s discipline is, somehow, in opposition to her
pastoral care of the faithful. Blessed John Paul confronted this false
opposition between Church discipline and her pastoral care on many
occasions. Pope Benedict XVI recently recalled his words “The judge…
must always guard against the risk of misplaced compassion, which
could degenerate into sentimentality, itself pastoral only in
In marriage cases, he said, one must avoid pseudo-pastoral claims that
would situate questions on a purely horizontal plane.
The supreme good of readmission to Eucharistic Communion after
sacramental Reconciliation demands, instead, that due consideration be
given to the authentic good of the individuals, inseparable from the
truth of their canonical situation

Canon Law in the Magisterium of Blessed Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II pursued with vigor the revision of the 1917 Code of
Canon Law.
There was no question in his mind, as a Father of the Second Vatican
Ecumenical Council, about the Council’s desire that the perennial
discipline of the Church be addressed to the present time.

Clearly, the Council’s desire regarding Church discipline did not
intend the abandonment of her discipline but a new appreciation of it
in the context of contemporary challenges.

The renewal of Christian living was the intention of the new code.
These words point to the essential service of canon law in the work of
the new evangelization, that is, the living of our life in Christ with
the engagement and energy of the first disciples. Canonical discipline
is directed to the pursuit, at all times, of holiness of life.
The discipline of the law which opens the way to freedom in loving God
and our neighbor.

Far from hindering the living of our life in Christ, canonical
discipline safeguards and fosters our Christian life.

By their very nature canonical laws are to be observed.

The theme of the Conference is “Canon Law at the service of justice
and freedom in the Church as the People of God”.

Bishop Sulameti, Patron of the Kenya Canon Law Society, and Bishop
Dominic Kimengich, President of the Society, in their welcoming
addresses said it is an honour for the Church in Kenya to be visited
by such an expert. It will give encouragement to the recently set up
diocesan tribunals, one of the fruits of previous conferences.

Fr Aphonse Diaz, organiser of the conference for the past 10 years,
has spoken of the increasing interest and attention to canon law in
this country. This he said is expressed by the regular one hundred or
so priests from every diocese who attend the conference each year.
Students from CUEA (Catholic University of East Africa), including
some nuns, also attend as well as participants from Uganda and

Msgr Cormac Burke (85), retired judge of the Roman Rota or high court
of the Church, who lives in Nairobi, former colleague of Cardinal
Burke, a namesake but not a relative, has said that Cardinal Burke
made global news recently with his unequivocal support for the US
bishops in their ongoing debate with President Obama over Obamacare,
which wants to force Catholic health care institutions to prescribe
contraceptives and perform abortions, this has threatened these top
notch services.

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