Monday, April 27, 2009

Law Question

Does a bishop who has spoken clear heresy still hold the authority of his office?

This is sort of a spin-off of the sedevacantist question. How should this situation be handled, in the case of a latae sententiae excommunication?

Can. 1331 §1. An excommunicated person is forbidden:

1/ to have any ministerial participation in celebrating the sacrifice of the Eucharist or any other ceremonies of worship whatsoever;

2/ to celebrate the sacraments or sacramentals and to receive the sacraments;

3/ to exercise any ecclesiastical offices, ministries, or functions whatsoever or to place acts of governance.

Can. 1364 §1. Without prejudice to the prescript of can. 194, §1, n. 2, an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication; in addition, a cleric can be punished with the penalties mentioned in can. 1336, §1, nn. 1, 2, and 3.


Andy Bodoh said...

I am hesitant to speculate on Canon Law, as it is a disipline quite different from the American or English legal system, but here are a few thoughts.

First, you ask "Does a bishop who has spoken clear heresy still hold the authority of his office?" Can. 1331 n.3 prohibits exercising ecclesiastical offices. There may well be a distinction between holding an office and exercicing an office.

Secondly, Can. 1331 and following might be read as distinguishing between situations in which the excommunication is imposed or declared, and other situations. However, the language still seems to suggest that the penalties can function latae sententiae.

The question remains, though, who has the authority to decide that a bishop has spoken heresy, and what the obligations of the faithful are to a bishop who appears to have spoken heresy.

bakerstreetrider said...

Very interesting points. Thanks for the thoughtful response!

Any other thoughts?

Joe said...

Check out the Catholic Encyclopedia on the topic:

As the excommunicate loses all jurisdiction, it would seem impossible that he would remain in office. To hold jurisdiction over a diocese presupposes some degree of communion with the Holy See--something which excommunication dissolves.

healthily sanguine said...

That Catholic Encyclopedia article is sobering. There seem to be a lot of things one could be excommunicated for doing!

Besides the two paragraphs on heresy and apostasy, which are clear enough, several caught my eye, in particular the last two under those simply reserved to the pope:

- "Those who hold communion in criminal crime with a person whom the pope has excommunicated by name, that is, those who give him assistance or countenance."

- "Clerics who knowingly and wilfully hold communion in divinis with persons whom the pope has excommunicated by name and receive them at Divine service."

These two seem like they could definitely have applied to the clerical members of the SSPX. Of course, even gross ignorance could excuse the second case, but it seems difficult to imagine how any member of the clergy could have inculpable ignorance about the laws and penalties of his Church.

Also interesting:

-"Those who, through their own fault, neglect or omit to denounce within a month the confessors or priests by whom they have been solicited to immodest acts"--in the confessional.

-"[S]acramental confession, when a confessor may be had, is of necessity to be made before Communion by those whose conscience is burdened by mortal sin, how contrite soever they may think themselves. But if anyone shall presume to teach, preach, or obstinately to assert, or even in public disputation to defend the contrary, he shall be thereupon excommunicated."

Andy Bodoh said...

Remember, though, that the online Catholic encyclopedia is almost a century old. That may no matter for most things on it, but things like excommunication that remain within the binding and loosing powers of the Church may be repealed or abrogated by more recent Canon Law.