Monday, November 24, 2008

On RC Congressional Votes for FOCA

Ed Peters, the reliable Canonist, has a few thoughts for the Bishops--some of whom have resident Catholic politicians who will vote for FOCA.

As I see it, bishops have four options for dealing with Catholic legislators who support FOCA:

1. Canon 915. Make plain, by public announcement and/or private contact, that a legislator's support for FOCA qualifies as (probably formal, but certainly proximate material) cooperation with objective grave evil and that such conduct, in this case, would render one ineligible for reception of holy Communion under Canon 915.This option requires little or no technical groundwork to be laid, carries immediate, visible, and salutary consequences (withholding of holy Communion from the publically unworthy and protecting the faithful from classical scandal), and, because it is a sacramental disciplinary norm and not a canonical penalty, it requires no formal process for imposition; finally, it leaves open the possibility of speedy reconciliation by a suitable expression of repentance.

(That is the Arb. Burke solution.)

2. Canon 1369. Warn Catholic legislators that their support for FOCA appears to be using "a public show or speech [or] published writing . . . [to] gravely injure good morals", and that as such they would be liable to "a just penalty" under Canon 1369. The sanction need not be specified in advance, and contempt for any earlier sanctions can result in escalating penalties under 1983 CIC 1393.This option requires little or no technical groundwork to be laid (no prior warning is necessary, but it might be pastorally prudent to offer same), and it carries visible and salutary consequences (ones flexible in nature, but which could eventually include excommunication). Because Canon 1369 is a penal norm, it would require a formal process (1983 CIC 1314, 1342) for imposition of the penalty. Canon 1369 can also be enforced by penal precept (1983 CIC 49, 1319, 1339).

3. Canon 455. Enact at the episcopal conference level (though individual bishops are free to act here as well, per 1983 CIC 1315 et seq.) a "general decree" (1983 CIC 29, 455) making legislative support for FOCA a canonical offense and specifying a penalty or range of penalties.This option requires that considerable groundwork be laid and, even if Roman authorization were forthcoming for conference action (I suspect it would be), there is probably not enough time to enact specific penal legislation before FOCA becomes an issue

These actions, says Peters, are not mutually exclusive, either.

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