Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The end of continence confusion?

One hopes that a particularly noisy controversy is finally coming to rest, courtesy of two brief letters of resolution from the President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, (now Cardinal) Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio.
The letters are reproduced in this post and the next, with permission, from the Canon Law Society's journal, Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions, 2011 and 2012. The text of each is supplemented with the text of cited canons and other sources, indented and in a smaller font. The insertion of referenced sources in the text facilitates study of this letter. 
A subsequent post will provide comments on these developments.

The first letter:
From Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions, 2011

CANON 227 [sic. 277]

A dubium was proposed to the Pontifical Council of Legislative Texts regarding the obligation of "perfect and perpetual continence" in accord with canon 277 for a married permanent deacon. An unofficial English translation follows the original response of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

(Unofficial Translation)
Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts
(Città del Vaticano, 4 marzo 2011, N. 12959/2011)
Dear Sir,
We have received a fax of your kind letter of February 20th, 2011. In it you proposed a dubium with this reasoning: "However an issue has arisen where an aspirant to the Permanent Deaconate [sic.] who is a married man has declared he will not practice 'perfect and perpetual continence' in accordance with Canon 277. He says he has been told that men in the diocese have been given a general dispensation from this requirement."
Canon 277 §1. Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy which is a special gift of God by which sacred ministers can adhere more easily to Christ with an undivided heart and are able to dedicate themselves more freely to the service of God and humanity.
In regard to this matter I am happy to offer the following clarifications:
The obligation of celibacy applies to all clerics, including permanent deacons who are not married prior to ordination (cf. c. 1037).
Canon 1037 An unmarried candidate for the permanent diaconate and a candidate for the presbyterate are not to be admitted to the order of diaconate unless they have assumed the obligation of celibacy in the prescribed rite publicly before God and the Church or have made perpetual vows in a religious institute.
Permanent deacons who are married prior to ordination do not have the obligation of celibacy (and therefore of continence) during the marriage. They have the obligation of celibacy in case of widowhood (cf. c. 1037).
This is why canon 277 is not included in the list in canon 288.
Canon 288 The prescripts of cann. 284, 285, §§3 and 4, 286, and 287, §2 do not bind permanent deacons unless particular law establishes otherwise.
Canon 284 Clerics are to wear suitable ecclesiastical garb according to the norms issued by the conference of bishops and according to legitimate local customs.
Canon 285  §3. Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power. §4. Without the permission of their ordinary, they are not to take on the management of goods belonging to lay persons or secular offices which entail an obligation of rendering accounts.  They are prohibited from giving surety even with their own goods without consultation with their proper ordinary.  They also are to refrain from signing promissory notes, namely, those through which they assume an obligation to make payment on demand.
Canon 286 Clerics are prohibited from conducting business or trade personally or through others, for their own advantage or that of others, except with the permission of legitimate ecclesiastical authority.
Canon 287 §1. Most especially, clerics are always to foster the peace and harmony based on justice which are to be observed among people. §2. They are not to have an active part in political parties and in governing labor unions unless, in the judgment of competent ecclesiastical authority, the protection of the rights of the Church or the promotion of the common good requires it..
Finally, the dispensation from the impediment of canon 1087 does not apply to the diocesan bishop. He can, instead, given the case in question, transmit the request for a dispensation to the Holy See. The dispensation can be requested only of the Holy See by a permanent married deacon who has been widowed and will be eventually granted only if the petitioner admits one of three reasons:
the great and proven usefulness of the deacon's ministry to the diocese to which he is attached; the presence of children of a tender age requiring maternal care; the presence of elderly parents or in-laws requiring assistance (cf. Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Circular Letter of June 6th, 1997).
Canon . 1087 Those in sacred orders invalidly attempt marriage.
From Directory for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons, 1998, #44: The Circular Letter, Prot. n. 26397 of 6 June 1997, of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments envisages that one only of the following conditions be sufficient for obtaining dispensation from the impediment found in can. 1087: the great and proven usefulness of the ministry of the deacon to the diocese to which he belongs; that he has children of such a tender age as to be in need of motherly care; that he has parents or parents in law who are elderly and in need of care.
Francesco Coccopalmerio

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