Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Omnium in Mentem Fascination

Blog comments on Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio, Omnium in Mentem as it relates to the identity and ministry of deacons range over quite a spectrum. One Anglo-Catholic thinks it's part of a conspiracy to rope more of the Anglican flock into reunion with Rome. At least two commentators (one a deacon, the other a self-identified canon lawyer!) think the changes in Canons 1008 and 1009 will make it easier to “ordain” women deacons. Other typical responses are puzzlement, if not apathy. At least one canon lawyer’s website betrays shock if not confusion. One blogger thinks that the proclamation is merely correcting an error (score one for her).

The changes in the two canons resolve a conflict among Lumen Gentium and the 1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church on one hand and the 1983 Code of Canon Law. The International Theological Commission described the conflict in 2003 (English version, 2004) -- From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles. At the heart of the conflict is the applicability of the term “in persona Christi capitis” to not only bishops and priests, but also deacons. Lumen Gentium and the 1997 Catechism limit the term to only bishops and priests while the 1983 Code includes application of the term to deacons as well. The first edition of the Catechism was consistent with the 1983 Code. One of the principal changes included in the 1997 Catechism restored consistency with Lumen Gentium; with that change the Code was the only outlier. The Motu Proprio achieves consistency among all three Magisterial documents in regard to this particular teaching.

Are there any further implications beyond consistency? Of course, there are.

Let’s dismiss the silliness first:
No, it’s not a conspiracy “against” Anglicans.
Ordain women deacons? Please! Canon 1024 (“A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.”) hasn’t been changed.
Other comments related to a fragmentation of the ministerial priesthood are inverted. Instead of an identification of priesthood and the clerical state (see canon 266), perhaps another question should be the focus. Do priests lose their diaconal identity when they receive the priesthood? Consider the first (apparently unchanged) part of Canon 1008: “By divine institution, the sacrament of orders establishes some among the Christian faithful as sacred ministers through an indelible character which marks them” (emphasis added). The faculties a deacon receives upon ordination continue into priesthood and episcopacy. The deacon himself is the matter of the sacrament; the form is the contained in the Rite of Ordination to the Diaconate.

Perhaps this is still puzzling or seemingly irrelevant. Nevertheless it is important to not only deacons, but also priests and bishops -- indeed the entire People of God.

Update - English version of Omnium in Mentem: link.

No comments:

Post a Comment