Sunday, October 3, 2010

When will it* go away?

A couple of years ago a letter to Homiletic and Pastoral Review (reproduced here -- first letter in post) exposed an apparent discrepancy in the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Roman Catholic Church. Part of the letter reads as follows:
Thank you for publishing the article by Rex H. Pilger, Jr., “The Ministry of the Deacon” (Homiletic and Pastoral Review, (November 2006) on the restored permanent diaconate. However, the author seems unaware of the current lively discussion of 1983 CIC 277 and the formal requirement of continence for all men in Major Orders.
Several persons responded to the initial letter, and the author who initiated the discussion in HPR eventually doubled down on his argument in another letter (also included in the same post).

I responded with my own letter to HPR (also included -- the last letter --- in the same post referenced above), which offered several arguments that married deacons are excluded from Canon 277 and, therefore, permitted married chastity with their wives: 1) There are no "Major Orders" in the Roman Rite post Vatican Council II. 2) Formal logical analysis of Canon 277 excludes married clergy from the requirement of perpetual continence. 3) A preliminary schema which explicitly exempted married deacons and was removed from the promulgated 1983 Code wasn't necessary because the Code recognizes the existence of marital rights in the Sacrament of Matrimony. 4) The diaconal ordination rite does not include a promise of continence for married candidates, while it includes a promise of celibacy for unmarried candidates. 5) The liturgical office of the deacons is not united with the offering as the diaconate, while clerical, is not a degree of the ministerial priesthood (based on Lumen Gentium and the Catechism). 6) The Spirit continues to inspire the post-Conciliar Church just as He did the early Church.

A seventh argument can be added: the Directory for the Ministry and Life of the Permanent Deacon,* promulgated by the Congregation for the Clergy, implicitly acknowledges that intimate relations are part of the life of the married deacon:
The Sacrament of Matrimony sanctifies conjugal love and constitutes it a sign of the love with which Christ gives himself to the Church (cf. Eph. 5:25). It is a gift from God and should be a source of nourishment for the spiritual life of those deacons who are married. (No. 61)
The issuance of Omnium in Mentem, which harmonizes Canons 1008 and 1009 with Lumen Gentium and the Code of Canon Law, strengthens argument number 5.

As the rights of married deacons and their wives to live marital chastity are still being questioned (see, e.g., the latest comments at this link), especially by those both inside and outside of the Church who first raised the issue, each of the arguments advanced above, and elaborated elsewhere might be worth addressing.

Perhaps the most significant point I've advanced is the formal logical argument (no. 2 above). To quote myself:
... consider the logical content of part of Canon, 277: The obligation of continence implies the obligation of celibacy. An equivalent, complementary, form of this statement is: the non-obligation of celibacy implies the non-obligation of continence. Married persons, then, are not obligated to continence within the state. (Of course, all persons have the obligation of continence outside of marriage, as rooted in natural and divine law.)
No one has satisfactorily responded to this line of argument. One attempt was initially incoherent, while the subsequent attempt fell back on appeal to authority (the author's). The same source also cast doubt on one suggestion of mine -- that the incompatibility of Lumen Gentium and the Catechism with Canons 1008 and 1009 would probably lead to a change in the Code -- by questioning my personhood (who was I?); well, the Code was indeed changed, not because of me (!), but because of an inconsistency which a number of people previously observed. Curiously, Omnium in Mentem came as a surprise to many, even going so far as to undermine their understanding of the sacramental theology of the diaconate in relation to the priesthood, as it should. Deacons are clerics but they are not priests; priests are clergy; clergy are not necessarily priests.

Should the teaching authority of the Church proclaim anything different from that which I have inferred, I will humbly submit to that teaching.
* The new clericalism.
** Authority of the Vatican Directory.
[Corrections to the text have been made since its first posting.]

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