12 May 2016
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Here I limit myself to three remarks on Magistro’s essay.
Magister rightly names the Jesuit priest Christian Cochini and Alfons Cdl. Stickler as among major scholars refuting the received history that clerical celibacy/continence was optional for many centuries in Church life, that the West only gradually imposed these weighty obligations on its clergy, and that the East maintained the original institution of married clerics exercising their conjugal rights. There are other scholars pursuing these lines, of course, including the priests Stefan Heid, Donald Keefe, and Thomas McGovern, and some recent doctoral students.
I thought it a bit odd that Magister cited Eastern canon law on married clerics, but not Roman canon law, despite the fact that Western law (c. 277) expressly preserves the value of clerical continence (although, of course, that value has not been inculcated in formation programs for married clergy).
As for whether there are quite as few scholars pursuing the continence issue as Magister suggests, I grant that relatively few scholars are weighing in either way on this matter (most preferring, perhaps, to let only the most serious researchers wade into such deep and turbulent waters), but would add that at least some of those trying to have their views in behalf of clerical continence aired have run into problems over the years getting their works into print. In any case, that is changing in recent times and awareness that these serious questions are afoot is widespread now.
Finally, a reminder that, while reform in the Church is constant, it happens slowly.
Dr. Edward N. Peters
By the practice of penance every Catholic identifies with Christ in his death on the cross. We do so in prayer, through uniting the sufferings and sacrifices in our lives with those of Christ’s passion; in fasting, by dying to self in order to be close to Christ; in almsgiving, by demonstrating our solidarity with the sufferings of Christ in those in need. All three forms of penance form a vital part of Christian living. When this is visible in the public arena, then it is also an important act of witness.
Every Friday is set aside by the Church as a special day of penance, for it is the day of the death of our Lord. The law of the Church requires Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays, or some other form of food, or to observe some other form of penance laid down by the Bishops’ Conference.
The Bishops wish to re-establish the practice of Friday penance in the lives of the faithful as a clear and distinctive mark of their own Catholic identity. They recognise that the best habits are those which are acquired as part of a common resolve and common witness. It is important that all the faithful be united in a common celebration of Friday penance.
Respectful of this, and in accordance with the mind of the whole Church, the Bishops’ Conference wishes to remind all Catholics in England and Wales of the obligation of Friday Penance. The Bishops have decided to re-establish the practice that this should be fulfilled by abstaining from meat. Those who cannot or choose not to eat meat as part of their normal diet should abstain from some other food of which they regularly partake. This is to come into effect from Friday 16 September 2011 when we will mark the anniversary of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom.
Many may wish to go beyond this simple act of common witness and mark each Friday with a time of prayer and further self-sacrifice. In all these ways we unite our sacrifices to the sacrifice of Christ, who gave up his very life for our salvation.
What has now happened has been gathering momentum ever since the pope’s visit to Britain. It will be recalled that during the papal afterglow some very surprising people started to recommend the restoration of the Friday fast. Bishop Kieran Conry, for instance, argued that abstaining from meat on Friday “…. was one of the most obvious signs of Catholic identity, apart from going to Mass. It determined the diet in places like prison and hospital, and was something that Catholics were instinctively conscious of: we knew that we couldn’t have meat like everybody else that day, and it was a source of a sort of pride – it marked us out as different”.
RUSSIA: Father Ciszek Towards Beatification
The cause of beatification of the Servant of God Father Walter Ciszek (1904-1984) is almost completed. The Jesuit, who wrote books such as “With God in Russia” (or: “He leads me”), spent 23 years of his life in the Soviet Union, five of them in Lubjanka prison in Moscow, and 10 in labor camps in Norilsk and Abakan, Siberia. In prison, in labor camps, but also as a free man, he devoted himself to listening to people, giving spiritual exercises and administering the sacraments. The Jesuits of the Russian Region are working together with the postulator in Rome to collect testimonies about his life during that time. Fr. Michael Desjardins will be the promoter of Fr. Ciszek’s cause in Russia. Among the documents seized recently a very important one is that delivered to Krasnoyarsk by Claretian priest Antoni Badura, who had a file of documents with all personal data of Fr. Ciszek. This file was handed over to him by KGB in 1990 as a souvenir! The photo taken from KGB archives shows prisoner n. 1908 with a pseudonym. As a precaution, Fr. Ciszek’s books have not been published in Russia yet, but now, after almost 50 years, they are ready for publication.