Saturday, July 11, 2009

Review: Surprised by Canon Law

Do we still have to abstain from meat on Friday? My pastor is awful; is there any way to get rid of him? The bishop is closing my parish; what happens to our stuff? Why is the Church still supporting that $%($ child molesting priest? The answers to those questions and more are in my latest read for The Catholic Company. Surprised by Canon Law, Volume 2, is presented in the form of 100 questions, with answers. Each answer cites the Canon (or section) of Canon Law that applies and explains the answer. The book includes chapters on Sacred Times and Places, Holy Orders, Institutes of Consecrated Life, Parish Life, Church Goods, Conferences of Bishops, Officers of the Roman Curia, The Canonization of Saints, The Election of a Pope, Penal Law, Safeguarding the Sanctity of the Sacraments, The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches and Ecumenism.

So, what are the answers to my teaser questions?
  • Do we have to abstain from meat on Friday? Canon 1251 states that abstinence from meat or some other food is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a major feast falls on that day. The book goes on to explain why we abstain, and states that Canon 1251 envisions that there may be a food other than meat from which it is more appropriate to abstain (I guess that there isn't much penance involved in substituting lobster for bologna). It further says that the faithful may substitute in whole or in part, other forms of penance, charity or piety. In the US the faithful may substitute abstinence on all Fridays except the Fridays of Lent and Ash Wednesday.

  • My pastor is awful, can we get rid of him? Canon 1740 states that when a pastor's ministry becomes harmful or at least ineffective, the bishop can remove him from his role. Canon 1741 expands on what would constitute harmful or ineffective ministry. Those things are summarized as: acting in a way that harms or disturbs ecclesiastical communion; an illness of mind or body that causes the pastor to be unable to fulfill his duties; a loss of reputation among upright and serious-minded parishioners or and aversion to the pastor that is expected to continue; grave neglect of or violation of duties which persists after a warning or persistently bad administration of temporal goods, with grave harm to the Church. The book goes on to point out that parishioners cannot remove a priest; it is the sole prerogative of the bishop to do so.

  • What happens to our stuff if the parish closes? Canons 121 and 122 address this. Basically, the assets and debts go to the new parishes.

  • Why is the Church still supporting priests removed for molesting kids? Because the Church has an obligation to care for its clerics; further equity requires that a man who has spent a large part of his adult life in service to the Church rather than gathering retirement assets should not be left without support in his old age.
The answers given in the book are clear and concise. The questions are in bold-faced type so it is easy to skim the book for answers to particular questions. It doesn't deal with doctrine, but rather with the way things are done. If you are REALLY interested in Canon Law, you can find the whole code online. If you are more normal, I'd suggest this book, as well as the first volume in the series. Both can be purchased from the Catholic Company or your local Catholic bookstore.

1 comment:

  1. Surprised by Canon Law? Is that a little like Surprised By Root Canal, only more useful? ;-)

    Seriously, though, looks like a cool little factoid book.


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