Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Who Cares About Canon Law?

Once upon a time, I had great faith in the judicial system of our country. I watched Perry Mason when I was a kid, after all, and he was always able to prove the bad guys wrong in court. The underdog always won, and justice prevailed.
I actually had that na├»ve faith well into my adult years. Then I became involved in defending the rights of a very mildly retarded woman to raise her own children. Because this woman had no money to speak of, and because I didn’t have much more, we had to find an attorney to take the case pro bono…which we did. Well, sort of.  I paid a small sum of money up front, and then became the assistant to the attorney in everything from serving subpoenas to collecting evidence to writing letters to composing questions to ask during the hearings.
The turning point in my view of the judicial system came when I was called as a witness in the case, and the prosecuting attorney began to question me. All of a sudden it became very clear to me that the questions he was asking were not honest questions aimed at uncovering the truth and seeking to do what was best for this family that was under scrutiny; they were dishonest questions with a not-so-hidden agenda of simply making me look bad, and winning the case for the County. And to top it all off, the judge appeared to be asleep through most of the proceedings (there was no jury in this case).
I’ve had a rather jaundiced view of the judicial system since then.
A similar thing is happening with my view of Canon Law. I think Canon Law is great stuff. If I were decades younger, I’d consider pursuing a degree in it. But the more I see it put into practice – or not – the more jaundiced my view is becoming.
As a case in point, let’s take Michael Voris, RealCatholicTV, and the Archdiocese of Detroit. And let’s throw Dr. Ed Peters’ analysis of that situation into the mix, too. Now let it be known that I have the utmost respect for Dr. Peters, and I have no argument with his canonical assessment of the Voris/RCTV/AoD situation. I have no argument with the fact that, as he says, it is a question of Canon Law on the use of the name “Catholic”, and not a popular vote as to the real Catholicity of Voris and RCTV. Canon Law has some clear things to say about the whole situation.
Except that the truth probably is that it’s not about Canon Law at all. It’s about saving face, or squelching orthodox Catholic teaching, or maybe punishing a guy who probably ticks off bishops on at least a weekly basis. In other words, Canon Law is not being used for honest ends. It’s being used to make Voris and RCTV look bad.
All of the above is my humble opinion, of course.
I have other reasons for starting to turn a little sour in my view of Canon Law. There’s the ongoing battle in my diocese (Diocese of Baker) over the right of the faithful to have the extraordinary form of the Mass celebrated in the manner to which we were becoming accustomed, prior to the reign of Apostolic Administrator Bishop William S. Skylstad. I have written personal letters to the powers-that-be, and the Society of St. Gregory the Great (the sponsor of a monthly EF Mass in Bend, OR) has written letters to the same offices. And the best response we’ve been able to get is this:
“Since the Diocese is still vacant, the right course of action is to wait patiently for the appointment of a new Bishop.”
This is directly from the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. Frankly, it’s not acceptable. It’s a wimpy response; it’s a “pass the buck” response – or perhaps more accurately, a “drop the ball” response.
A big part of the problem is that Bishop Skylstad does not seem to want to go away, and he seems to want to re-make the Diocese of Baker in his own image. In addition, I have it on good authority that a lot of political action is taking place behind the scenes which is making Rome reluctant to act in terms of appointing a new bishop. Our diocese is in crisis mode, and Rome knows it; they want the problems fixed before they appoint a bishop…but that’s not likely to happen, since the current administrator is the problem. And who would want to accept the appointment at this point?! It would have to be a very brave man. (I could go further with the implications of that statement, but I think I will just leave it at that.)

I’ve documented all kinds of ways Bishop Skylstad has violated Canon Law (here, here, and here), and he’s committed more violations than I’ve revealed on this blog. The point is that he has set himself above Canon Law, and no one seems to want to hold him accountable for his transgressions. And he is not the only bishop to act in this way.  I see it currently in various other dioceses, and I see it in the public record of the last several decades as I research the controversies different bishops have created.
And so, I’m about at the same point with Canon Law and the Church’s judicial system as I am with the civil judicial system.  It’s all well and good on paper. But in practice, the best of human intellect’s attempt to regulate the worst of human nature falls flat on its face.  Score one for fallen human nature…for the moment.

1 comment:

  1. Take your case to the papal nuncio . In other words take it to Rome.

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