6 September 2022


This is probably even more ignorant than most of what I write, because I have no competence in Canon Law ... 

It is sparked off by the Quo primum tempore of S Pius V. Readers will recall what the Holy Pontiff lays down. Where a local rite is at least a couple of centuries old, nobody is allowed to intoduce the new, S Pius V, editions of liturgical books, unless there is agreement to this by the Bishop and the entire body of Canons.

Contemporary legislation reflects these modalities.

"When the Chapter of the Cathedral of Paris, in 1583. refused to its Bishop Peter de Gondy, the reception of the Breviary of Pius V--'Maxime quod recepta dudum tam illustris Ecclesiae consuetudo non facile suum immutari officium pateretur'--it was in accordance with the the conservative views expressed by the Holy See." [Batiffol]. The 1584 Paris Breviary was 'restitutum ac emendatum' by the 'authoritate' of the Bishop "ac eiusdem Ecclesiae Capituli consensu editum".

I want to float a suggestion that what we have here is the very ancient idea that the Chapter represents, and safeguards, the continuities and traditions of the Church. And that, in the small Mediterranean dioceses which preceded the gigantic 'tribal' dioceses of the North [in England, the Diocese of Lincoln stretched from the North Sea down to the Thames], the cathedral church was the church ... in which, for example, all babies born in the city would receive Baptism. And, probably, Confirmation/Chrismation at the same time.

The current Code of Canon Law strips all this back to a few ritual relics ... and even these, I am told, may not survive in the Americas. In their place, there are structures such as Colleges of Consultors. It is not my purpose to denigrate these rearrangements, which very probably suit modern conditions. I simply find myself wondering if we have lost something.

The older ways had financial implications. Canonries (and Prebends) had sources of income attached to them, which sustained the work and ministry of the holders of such 'beneficia'. Temptation might strike a canonicus to pay a vicarius to discharge his liturgical obligations in the Cathedral, and reforming bishops, such a Grandisson of Exeter, might respond to this problem by requiring canons to spend specified periods of time 'in Residence'.

Such 'unreformed medievalisms' (Dix) survived in the Church of England until the Victorian period. Anglican readers, especially in Barsetshire, will recall the ministry ... mainly to Italian butterflies ... of the Reverend Canon Dr Vesey Stanhope. Anglicanism has probably lost even more of the realities of 'canonries' than has the English Catholic Church. But I want to try to identify the theological points of the old system, however imperfectly these were expressed.

The Medieval set-up preserved a sense of corporate ministry. It sustained the continuities of structures. It prevented the structures of Church Life from being merely managerial, because, counterbalancing the bishop, there were bodies of men who had a canonical status setting them above the whimsies of the Bishop.

Just as the Pope would find it difficult to conduct himself tyrannically towards his Venerabilies Fratres, so a Bishop would himself be denied an entirely free hand within his jurisdiction by the concurrent authority of his Chapter.

This, in my view, is healthy.

I wonder if any light could be shed from Byzantine quarters.


Albrecht von Brandenburg said...

Chapters should wear the distinct dress of canons: the almuice over a (laceless) rochet. The rochet should not be much shorter than an alb. Actually, bishops should wear the same rochet, and in Anglo-phone countrues, the mozzetta should be dispensed with, and replaced by a fur tippet. Cardinals, of course, would wear their red Roman choir dress.


frjustin said...

"Unless there is agreement to this by the Bishop and the entire body of Canons." There is an analogous norm in the 1992 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches. Canon 102 #1 states: "ALL and solely ordained bishops of the patriarchal Church wherever they are constituted...must be called to the synod of bishops of the patriarchal Church".

Canon 106 #1: The synod of bishops of the patriarchal Church must be convoked whenever...the patriarch WITH THE CONSENT OF THE PERMANENT SYNOD judges it necessary".

Canon 144 #1: "With due regard for the right of any Christian faithful to pose questions to his hierarch, only the patriarch or the synod of bishops of the patriarchal Church are to determine the matters to be discussed in the patriarchal assembly".

B flat said...

Father, you put your finger on the bulls eye of the body of difference betwen the traditional approach and the modernist one, with one word. "Managerial" betrays it all.
Much more could be said about the ancient balances to limit the damage possible from the fallen nature of all, including the highest in authority. The change now is from religion as a structured outgrowth of Faith in God, to a profession undertaken sporadically on Sundays and Feasts under terms of a contract of employment enforced under secular rules.
To my mind, the death blow came with compulsory retirement, and the loss of tenure in a benefice or cure of souls to which the holder was formally inducted.
No longer is priesthood a way of life which forms and defines a man. It is a mere job.

My Byzantine perspective is certainly more undeveloped than your expertise in canon law. All I can offer are observations from personal experience of events.
Orthodoxy has no consensus on papal theology and so the watchword is that all bishops are equal. Alexandria is exceptional. The Council of Nicea (325) recognised that the bishop of Alexandria has authority over the bishops in Egypt. This operates correspondingly in other Patriarchates in the Orthodox Church in different ways. The result is that only a council of bishops or their leader can apply counterwight to a diocesan bishop, and even remove him.
This is particularly illustrated by the life of St Nektarios of Pentapolis(d.1920) who suffered persecution and exile all his life. A very good film was producedrecently: "Man of God" which is being shown only this week in Gaumont cinemas in certain British cities.
The unexpected and swift fall of metropolitan Hilarion (late of Volokolamsk now in Budapest) or of Archbishop Methodios of Thyateira(d.2006), or the less puzzling dismissal of Archbishop Elisey of Sourozh from London, shows that there is no securiity for important persons in Orthodox Church politics.
Those at a lower level have no protection except from God, and certainly no security of tenure in their post.
Parish priests and monasteries have no protection at all from episcopal whim or predation beyond the moral law and fear of public opinion. The canons follow St Paul, and forbid recourse to secular justice under pain of excommunication.

Jhayes said...

Canons in almutiae: