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Canon lawyers befuddled: Canadian and American Canon Law Society's convention.

The Canadian Canon Law Society's 45th annual convention was held in conjunction with that of the Canon Law Society of America, in Buffalo, New York, October 11-14, 2010. The theme was Renewal of Law. The Opening called 'Gathering Prayer' began as follows:

Let us greet the world in thanksgiving as if we were sharing one mind.... Today we have gathered and come from many different places. We have arrived safely at this place to share with each other our gifts from the Creator. So we bring our minds together as one in thanksgiving and greeting to one another.

We now turn our thoughts to Earth Mother She continues to care for us and has not forgotten her instructions from the beginning of time. Now we bring our thoughts together in thanksgiving for the earth.

We return thanks to the rivers and streams, which supply us with water We return thanks to all the herbs, which furnish medicines for the cure of diseases.

It went on in this vein for several more paragraphs. One African priest objected: "I will not pray to your god;' and he walked out. He was accused, later, of not respecting the "cultural heritage" of the presiding sister!


Among the speakers was Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg, MB. He spoke on the subject of Vatican II--Fifty Years Later: How Far Have We Come?

In his opening remarks, Archbishop Weisgerher stated: "Canon Law is concerned with actions, not belief," apparently forgetting Canon 1752 that concludes "keeping in mind the salvation of souls which in the Church must always be the supreme law" (emphasis mine).

The Archbishop stressed the importance of the Council, and stated that we have to return to the truths of the past. Lumen gentium (a document of Vatican II) reminded us, he said, that all the baptized are joined, all are mandated daily to leaven the world. He stressed that the laity have a right to receive the Sacraments, and a right to ask for what they need (c.212 [section] 2). The laity have an important role as advisors and participants. He himself, he said, does not mind if people speak their minds to him; he prefers to know what they are thinking, but not disputatiously.

According to Weisgerber, regarding the liturgy, "Much has already been accomplished." The new Revision which has finally arrived in the United States, will require workshops to help the people and the clergy return to a better translation of the liturgy. He insisted, however, that the new revision will be only a "small change compared to the changes introduced after Vatican II--such things as eliminating the high altar and other changes in the sanctuary along with massive changes in the liturgy itself." Because of this, today, he said, many dioceses are celebrating; but he omitted to mention that large numbers of churches have been closed or are scheduled to close--for example 65% in Halifax alone. In Montreal ten churches are being closed every year. Almost all Canadian dioceses with the exception of Toronto are seeing the large-scale amalgamation of parishes, or their outright closing.

Weisgerber cited Vatican II's Sacrosanctum concilium. All the faithful should take part in the liturgy--the laity are to preach (among other things.)

Where the laity would get the training for this was not indicated. Moreover, the instructions from the Vatican contradict these views. The Congregation of Divine Worship, for example, states clearly that preaching "is reserved to the priest or deacon" (Redemptoris sacramentum (2004), No. 161). And during a sermon at San Giovannni della Croce in Rome, March 7, 2010, Pope Benedict in a sermon stated that "the laity are not priests' collaborators" The Pope added: "There is a need to change mentalities, so as to see laypeople as co-responsible for the Church, not merely as collaborators of the clergy, but responsible 'for the being and action of the Church, promoting a mature and dedicated laity in this way.'"

According to Weisgerber. "[We need] only one priest as Pastor for two or three or more churches. International priests make up the decline." He concluded with the reminder that the Catholic Church is "a big tent ready to encompass every one." (But Pope John Paul II pointed out that we are not there yet.) At the moment the Eucharist is reserved only to those who are already in communion with the local bishop and the Supreme Pontiff in Rome, not of those who may become members of the Catholic Church some time in the future, however much this goal may be desired (Encyclical Letter, 2003, Ecclesia de Eucharistia--Church and Eucharist (Nos. 38-46: "It is not possible to celebrate together the same Eucharistic liturgy until those bonds are fully (re) established" #44. The same theme was taken up by Pope Benedict XVI in his post-synodal exhortation Sacramentum caritatis (On the Eucharist, 2007, #56).


During the question period one canonist reminded Archbishop Weisgerber that seminaries training young men to celebrate the Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite were full, and that this Mass is celebrated in many dioceses throughout America. However, when a group of Winnipeg parishioners had approached their archbishop for permission to have the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite that they had already enjoyed for several years with a priest from the Military Ordinariate, he refused them permission, saying that the Extraordinary Rite was neither wanted nor needed in his diocese. He suggested that they go to the (schismatic) Pius X church. So much for the big tent!

Father Jobe Abbass, OFM Cony., Professor of Canon Law at St. Paul University, Ottawa, reported on a congress he attended recently in Rome, sponsored by the Council for Legislative Texts, Council for Christian Unity and the Pontifical Oriental Institute to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of their Eastern Code. Because the congress immediately preceded the opening of the special Synod of Bishops for the Middle East there were over 400 participants.

The Eastern Code in some but not all cases has retained the Eastern norms which repeated the canons of the 1917 Code, thus avoiding errors of those drafting the Latin Code promulgated in 1983 who dropped whole sections of Canons from the 1917 Code, leaving lacunae and other problems. The Eastern Code now acts as a reference when there is a doubt of interpretation. We would do well to pray for those who are working on the new revision of the Latin Rite Code.

During a break one American canonist boasted that he had defended a Catholic hospital in Phoenix Arizona against a bishop who chastised it for performing an abortion. "They were just carrying out an 'early delivery'," explained the canonist. When someone pointed out that this, in fact, was an abortion, a Canadian canonist sided with the former, and averred, "There are differences of opinion." (author: Well no, there are not.)

Instead of a visit to Father Baker's shrine to Our Lady of Victory in Lackawanna, participants were offered another view of Niagara Falls. All in all a quite secular event.

Dr. Marie Jeanne Ferrari, M.D.

Dr. Marie-Jeanne Ferrari is both a medical doctor and a canonist. Today, she is occupied with defending the rights of the faithful, on request.
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Author:Ferrari, Marie Jeanne
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Conference news
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Dec 1, 2010
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