Concilium 2016-5. Canon Law at the Crossroad
Felix Wilfred, Andrés Torres Queiruga, and Enrico Galavotti
Canon law is a practical legal instrument to serve the life of the people of God. It does this by providing an order that lays down rights, duties and procedures, so that life in the community of faith could take place in communion, and in the spirit of the Gospel and according to the demands of justice. But we should not forget that the community of the faithful is a pilgrim people on the move, with a dynamic faith that seeks to deepen the understanding of the Word of God and put it into practice. The theological, pastoral and spiritual challenges thrown up by Vatican II became, obviously, a challenge to the formulation of laws for the life of the Church. The new Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983 was followed by the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches in 1990. We need to acknowledge the enormous amount of work done by the respective commissions for several years to bring out these codes which involved a lot of discussions, debates, harmonization and even compromises between opposing positions.
More than three decades have elapsed since the code of 1983 was promulgated, and during this period, confronting the actual life-experience of the people of God has also brought to light several critical questions, demanding significant revision, abrogation and amendments that would correspond more closely to the teachings of the Council and to the signs of the times. They have become necessary for a more attentive dispensation of justice and exercise of freedom. The great programme of aggiornamento set in motion by Pope John XXIII on the eve of Vatican II, applies to every field of the life of the Church, including the laws that govern its life. It is the spirit of aggiornamento and sensitivity to the needs of our changing times that prompted Concilium to prepare an issue dedicated to the question of law in the Church. The main articles of this issue are divided into three parts – the first considering history and principles; the second highlighting some areas requiring urgent reforms; and the third dealing with the issues of application.
The first contribution by Wim Decock, written from a historical perspective, acknowledges the momentous contribution canon law has made in the past to the good of the Church and highlights as well its influence on the development of civil law. The Brazilian canonist Jesus Hortal examines critically to what extent the Code of Canon Law of 1983 resonates with the ecclesiology of Vatican II. Rik Torfs on his part looks at the present code from the formal perspective of law and highlights some lacunae in the code which could compromise its function as a legal instrument. Felix Wilfred sees theology and canon law as partners accompanying the people of God in their journey which calls for continuous dialogue among these two disciplines with their distinct methodologies. He shows with examples how theology could be of assistance to canon law in reading the signs of the times and in formulating and re-formulating laws. Of fundamental importance would be a dialogue between theology and canon law on the distinction of ius divinum and ecclesiastical law, given the not so infrequent fluidity of borders between the two as evidenced by ecclesial history. In order to take forward the agenda of ecumenism, inspired by the rich heritage of Oriental Churches, George Nedungatt calls for greater clarification on the role of the bishop of Rome and his exercise of supreme power. Closer ecumenical relations would require also a critical review of priestly celibacy, and the place of women in the Church.
The second part starts with the contribution of Peter G. Kirchschläger who argues from theological and ethical points of view why human rights need to be integrated with laws in the Church, and indeed should form the point of reference for the latter. Since human rights have strong biblical and theological foundations, this integration and reference should not be difficult. If we take seriously the ecclesiology of the people of God of Vatican II, the laity cannot be excluded from the office of governance in the Church as the present code does. This is the point Sabine Demel argues in her contribution. The power of governance of the laity needs to be affirmed as it is based on the constitutional principles of the Church itself as envisaged by the Council. The author has formulated new canons on the laity, by way of proposals, which vibrate with the spirit of the ecclesiology of Vatican II. Hildegard Warnink examines the Motu Proprio “Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus” promulgated by Pope Francis in 2015. While it largely does away with a second instance in declaring nullity of marriage, and has made a shorter procedure with the diocesan bishop as principal agent, it has also many pitfalls and is not devoid of ambiguities.
In the third part which relates to application, Vincenzo Mosca tells us what inculturation of canon law means and also indicates some of the ecclesial agents, institutions and structures of today which could facilitate this process by formulating laws responding to the needs of the local Churches. Burkhard J. Berkmann in his article critically questions the double standard of expecting subsidiarity in the social teaching and the reluctance, if not refusal, to accept the same in the governance in the Church. According to him, besides its theological significance, the principle of subsidiarity could also provide an anthropological foundation to canon law. Reflecting from the perspective of application, Al. Andang L. Binwan critically questions the present canons relating to inter-religious marriage. The present provisions not only do not reflect the spirit of inter-religious dialogue, but also proves almost impossible to practice in an Islamic country like Indonesia. Robert Kamangala Kamba, on his part, examines from an African perspective the lacunae in the present code, and reflects on how a reformed code could look like when it incorporates the concerns of Africa.
These contributions seem to imply the need for a new code. The projected new code of canon law will not be simply a window-dressing and some modifications and changes here and there, but a radical one. For, the deeper question with canon law is the conception of power in the Church. As a religious institution the way the Church understands the power from God and the agents and structures connected with it need to undergo a radical transformation. At a time when a particular political theory claimed that the king derived his power directly from God (divine right of kings) to support monarchical absolutism, theologians like Francis Suarez challenged such a position by arguing that the power of God resides in the people. Are we to assume that God acts differently with God’s people making up the community of the Church? All the ministers without exception are servants ministering the people whom God has empowered and has endowed with gifts which could be channeled for common good through appropriate means and structures reflecting the spirit of the Gospel. Monarchical and feudal models of power are not what Jesus meant for his disciples, many of whom were simple fishermen of Galilee. We need to start to reflect on power from other premises than the prevailing ones in the Church. If we start from the relationship of God to God’s people in terms of power, we could hope for a radically transformed Code. Is not then canon law really at an intersection, at the crossroads, having to decide whether it wants to stick to conventional understanding of power in the Church, or see it closely in relationship to the divinely empowered community of God’s people? Here is also a common task for future, both for canon law and theology.
The Theological Forum of this issue features a brief essay by Johann Baptist Metz, one of the founders of our journal. In his essay, Metz asks us to reconsider our thinking about the relation between God and time. While the biblical narratives never intended to be timeless — they always dealt with concrete experiences in time: oppression, injustice, struggles for liberation. Metz finds mainstream theology most of the time talking about eternity, eternal values, and the eternal God. And he asks: Does this kind of theology truly grasp something of the biblical God who is, above all, God in time? Is Christian thinking, then, doing mythology rather than theology? Nobody can understand Christ theoretically, in terms of timeless categories. Christ can only be understood by following his footsteps, diving into the real struggles of the world we live in. So Metz challenges us not to pretend that we already live in the realm of eternity, but to live and think as temporal beings in a world that has its beginning and ending in God self. In doing so, Metz points to a future for theology that does not claim to “know all” about life, but to be “all solidarity” with all of humankind, i.e., to be truly Christian.
The issue ends with a tribute by Carlos Mendoza-Alvarez to Virgilio Elizondo, a highly esteemed former member of the Concilium editorial board who has made significant contribution to liberation theology into which he brought the issue of Mestizo – hybridity.
Table of contents
Part 1. History and Questions of Principle
Wim Decock : « Light of the World – Reclaiming the Historic(al) Role of Canon Law »
Jesus Hortal : « Do concilio ao Código de Direito Canônico de 1983. Precisamos Uma Nova Reforma? »
Rik Torfs : « Legal Relevance of Canon Law »
Felix Wilfred : « Canon Law and Theology: Journeying Together »
George Nedungatt : « Ecumenism and the Reform of Canon Law »
Part 2. Towards Reforms
Peter G. Kirchschläger : « Menschenrechte und Kirchenrecht »
Sabine Demel : « Vom untergeordneten Mithelfen zum Mitwirken auf Augenhöhe. Die laienorientierte Umgestaltung der klerikerzentrierten Kirchenstruktur »
Hildegard Warnink : « The Motu proprio Mitis iudex dominus Iesus. Opportunities, challenges and potential pitfalls »
Part 3. Applications
Vincenzo Mosca : « Per una inculturazione del diritto ecclesiale »
Burkhard J. Berkmann : « Mehr Subsidiarität im Kirchenrecht: Bischofskonferenzen und Verwaltungsgerichte »
Al. Andang L. Binawan : « Catholic Inter-Religious marriage in a Moslem Country »
Robert Kamangala Kamba : « Attentes Africaines d’une éventuelle Révision du Code de Droit Canonique de 1983 »
Johann Baptist Metz : « Gott in Zeit. Von der apokalyptischen Wurzel des Christentums »
Carlos Mendoza-Álvarez : « In Memoriam Virgilio Elizondo (1935-2016), el teólogo de la amistad »
Wim Decock : « Light of the World – Reclaiming the Historic(al) Role of Canon Law » : From a historical point of view, canon lawyers have made a fundamental contributon to the development of legal cultures around the world. Driven by a spiritual desire to build a new legal culture on the ruins of Roman precedents but imbued with Christian values, the canonists’ regulatory appetite, especially from the age of Gregorian Reform until after the Council of Trent, has left its mark on all fields of life. Their aim was to create a legal culture sufficiently flexible to account for the complexities of life, but strict enough to avoid disturbance of peace. They wanted to advance a model legal system that could become light for the world and salt of the earth. They succeeded. Three issues on which canonists had something to say to the world will be discussed in this article: mercy and justice, mediation and litigation, and the protection of human rights.
Jesus Hortal : « Do concilio ao Código de Direito Canônico de 1983. Precisamos Uma Nova Reforma? » : O desejo do Papa João XXIII de promover uma reforma do Código de Direito Canônico, que fosse como que o fruto do Concílio Vaticano II, demorou vinte anos em ser concretizado. O novo Código deveria refletir a Teologia, mais especificamente a Eclesiologia do Concílio. Foi atingida essa meta? O presente artigo analisa os acertos e as falhas de tal tentativa, tanto na sistemática do novo corpo legal, quanto no seu conteúdo. Mostra assim mesmo como seria desejável, no momento atual, uma nova revisão, não só para suprir as falhas iniciais, mas também para acolher a evolução dos mais de trinta anos de vigência do Código. A tarefa legislativa da Igreja não parou em 1983. Já são numerosos os cânones afetados pelas disposições mais recentes. Estaria na hora de procurar uma nova codificação integradora da atual vida da Igreja.
Rik Torfs : « Legal Relevance of Canon Law » : This article tries to establish that according primacy to legal texts in their implementation will put in evidence the legal relevance of canonical law as well as its credibility. The topics of debate forming the contents, while anchored in their particular reference to canon 915 0f CIC 1983, point nonetheless to both the problematic inherent in the present canonical system and to the reform of canonical laws desired to match the march of our contemporary society underpinned, as it were, by the rule of law.
Felix Wilfred : « Canon Law and Theology: Journeying Together » : This article reflects on the multiple services theology could render to canon law. It could help canon law from falling into legalism and legal positivism, by invoking the values and ideals both of them are expected to uphold. By helping canon law to read the signs of the times, theology could assist canon law to respond to the contemporary exigencies of the people of God and overcome the danger of obsolescence. Further, in the context of the plurality of local Churches, theology could assist the formulation of particular laws that best respond to their concrete situations. What is of divine right (ius divinum) and what is of ecclesiastical law requires theological clarification given the fluidity between these two realms. Continuous dialogue between theology and canon law is the need of the hour to be able to serve effectively the people of God today.
George Nedungatt : « Ecumenism and the Reform of Canon Law » : For the progress of ecumenism the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church needs to be reformed especially regarding the pope as a monarchic ruler with supreme power. There is need for an organ to exercise supreme power in the Church besides the ecumenical councils when they are not in session. And the pope as the successor of St. Peter is best entitled to do it. However, the present Catholic dogma and canon law regarding the pope are not acceptable to the other Churches and are in need of reform. Two other areas that are under discussion as in need of reform are priestly celibacy and the position of women in the Church.
Peter G. Kirchschläger : « Menschenrechte und Kirchenrecht » : Im Zuge einer Auseinandersetzung mit dem Verhältnis zwischen den Menschenrechten und dem Kirchenrecht aus theologisch-ethischer Perspektive stellt sich erstens die Frage, warum überhaupt Menschenrechte für das Kirchenrecht von Relevanz sind. Das biblische und lehramtliche Fundament der Menschenrechte und die Erläuterung der universellen Geltung der Menschenrechte bilden die Antwort. Kirche und Theologie geben in ihrer Beschäftigung mit den Menschenrechten dem Kirchenrecht genügend Begründungen und konkrete Hinweise, wie sich das Kirchenrecht stärker der eigenen Lehre und der eigenen Theologie hinsichtlich des Umgangs mit den Menschenrechten angleichen kann. Auf dieser Basis werden zweitens die Menschenrechte als Referenzpunkt für das Kirchenrecht eingeführt. Drittens wird eine Menschenrechtshermeneutik für das Kirchenrecht entwickelt. Anschliessend wird viertens das Kirchenrecht unter Anwendung dieser Menschenrechtshermeneutik und mit Hilfe der Menschenrechte als Referenzpunkt reflektiert. Dabei werden Potentiale und Herausforderungen im Kirchenrecht erschlossen.
Sabine Demel : « Vom untergeordneten Mithelfen zum Mitwirken auf Augenhöhe. Die laienorientierte Umgestaltung der klerikerzentrierten Kirchenstruktur » : Laien sind nicht mehr der verlängerte Arm der Kleriker, sondern eigenständige Glieder der Kirche mit einer eigenen Berufung und Sendung, die als „Laienapostolat“ bezeichnet wird. Das lehrt die katholische Kirche seit dem II. Vatikanischen Konzil und das hatte der CIC/1983 in die kanonistische Sprache zu übersetzen. Doch das Ergebnis dieses Übersetzungsprozesses ist unbefriedigend. Nach wie vor sind die Knotenpunkte des kirchlichen Lebens einseitig kleriker- bzw. priesterzentriert ausgestaltet – angefangen bei der alleinigen Entscheidungskompetenz von Klerikern in kirchlichen Gremien über ihre Dominanz bei den kirchlichen Diensten und Ämtern bis hin zur ausschließlichen Zuständigkeit der Kleriker für die Besetzung zentraler Kirchenämter. Hier ist eine laienorientierte Umgestaltung dringend notwendig. Dazu sind die beiden Lehren vom gemeinsamen und besonderen Priestertum (LG 10) sowie über den Glaubenssinn aller Gläubigen (LG 12) explizit in das kirchliche Gesetzbuch aufzunehmen sowie mehr Ausübungs-, Mitsprache- und Mitbestimmungsrechte für Laien gesetzlich zu verankern.
Hildegard Warnink : « The Motu proprio Mitis iudex dominus Iesus. Opportunities, challenges and potential pitfalls » : On 15 August 2015, Pope Francis promulgated the Motu proprio Mitis iudex dominus Iesus and by doing so he “reformed” the canonical process for the declaration of nullity of marriage: (1) the new regime removes the requirement of the second instance and (2) the introduction of an abbreviated procedure under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop. This contribution engages with some aspects of The Motu proprio in order to identify some elements that are likely to require further reflection amongst practitioners. Convinced about the crucial role of canon law in the daily life of our church, three elements seem important: the need for a proper training of all people involved with procedures and the undeniable value of an academic degree in canon law; the importance of equal treatment for all Christian faithful and the need for legal stability; the inevitable distinction between pastoral care and legal decisions.
Vincenzo Mosca : « Per una inculturazione del diritto ecclesiale » : L’articolo affronta due questioni. Da un lato quella della inculturazione del diritto ecclesiale e dall’altro le modalità concrete attraverso cui realizzare tale inculturazione mediante il diritto particolare. L’esperienza ultratrentennale di applicazione del CIC del 1983 evidenzia che alcuni organismi, uffici, istituzioni, possono e devono incrementare il loro ruolo di creatività nel produrre norme particolari più adatte alle culture, ai luoghi, alle situazioni e ai gruppi di persone. Questi sono le Conferenze episcopali, i Vescovi diocesani e gli altri Ordinari dei luoghi, le diverse forme aggregative come gli Istituti di vita consacrata, le Associazioni e i Movimenti che vivono nella comunione ecclesiale sulla base di una giusta autonomia di vita e di governo. Il futuro del diritto ecclesiale e della riforma delle sue istituzioni, è nel dare più spazio e attenzione al diritto particolare, cioè alla sua inculturazione.
Burkhard J. Berkmann : « Mehr Subsidiarität im Kirchenrecht: Bischofskonferenzen und Verwaltungsgerichte » : Das Subsidiaritätsprinzip ist ein Exporterfolg der katholischen Soziallehre. Die Kirche verlangt seine Einhaltung von den Staaten und Internationalen Organisation, aber hält sie sich auch selbst daran? Es war eines der Leitprinzipien bei der Reform des Kirchenrechts nach dem Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzil, doch später wurde seine innerkirchliche Anwendbarkeit zunehmend in Frage gestellt. Wenn man aber die Bedeutung der Gerechtigkeitsdimension im Kirchenrecht anerkennt, dann lässt sich das Subsidiaritätsprinzip leicht als Maßstab für die gerechte Verteilung von Kompetenzen verstehen. Die Dezentralisierungsbestrebungen unter Papst Franziskus verhelfen ihm nun zu neuem Aufschwung. Dennoch wurde es in der jüngeren Gesetzgebung nicht immer berücksichtigt. Ein Reformvorschlag liegt darin, den Bischofskonferenzen mehr Kompetenzen zu verleihen und den rechtlichen Status ihrer kontinentalen Verbände zu präzisieren. Damit würden die mittleren Ebenen zwischen dem Apostolischen Stuhl und den Diözesen aufgewertet. Ein anderer Reformvorschlag betrifft die Einrichtung dezentraler Verwaltungsgerichte zum Schutz der Rechte der einzelnen Gläubigen.
Al. Andang L. Binawan : « Catholic Inter-Religious marriage in a Moslem Country » : There is a general impression that the 1983 Code of Canon Law successfully translated the Conciliar spirit and teachings into canonical language. However, if we observe closely what is happening on the ground at the micro level, we begin to note many discrepancies and inadequacies of the present code. This article, by way of example, goes into the issue of inter-religious marriage between Catholics and Moslems , which shows the weakness of the code. To what extent do these canons reflect the spirit of Dignitatis Humanae and of Nostra Aetate? That is a real question which calls for a re-examination and re-formulation of the canons relative to the issue of inter-religious marriage e in the spirit of Vatican II.
Robert Kamangala Kamba : « Attentes Africaines d’une éventuelle Révision du Code de Droit Canonique de 1983 » : Le Code de droit canonique se veut un ensemble de normes de conduite de l’Eglise catholique, assorties, au besoin, de sanctions, destinées à protéger et à promouvoir le bien commun, à savoir: à court terme, les moyens de salut que sont principalement la Parole de Dieu et les sacrements, ainsi que l’ordre ecclésial juste et la coexistence pacifique des fidèles; et, à long terme, le salut des âmes. Il est fait de normes de droit divin qui ne changent pas, et de normes de droit humain qui, elles, sont sujettes au changement, compte tenu des exigences de temps et de lieux. C’est sur ce registre que les Eglises africaines ont aussi des attentes pressantes, en guise de principes de base ou de normes actualisées, en vue d’un droit canonique attentif à leur vie chrétienne et liturgique, à leur organisation structurelle, comme à leur apostolat.