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Tracking just one tangent (mostly for fun) and then making a wider point

January 10, 2012

From among the cornucopia of tangents down which so many have dashed in the AOD – Voris/RCTV matter, let me track just one, namely, that I did not disclose (which I did) that I work for the AOD (which I don’t). Yes, I found the point confusing, too.

At the upper right of my blog it states:

        Dr. Peters received his degree in (American common) law from the University of Missouri at Columbia in 1982 and his doctoral degree in Roman Catholic canon law from the Catholic University of America in 1991. Since 2005 he has held the Edmund Cdl. Szoka Chair at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit MI . . .

The first paragraph on my website reads:

        This is the homepage and resource center of Dr. Edward Peters, an American lay canon lawyer. Dr. Peters teaches, writes, speaks, and provides consultation and advocacy on a wide variety of canonical issues impacting the Church in the United States and around the world. Since 2005 he has held the Edmund Cdl. Szoka Chair at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, MI . . .

If someone does not know that I work for the Detroit archdiocesan seminary, it is because he or she has zero curiosity about me (which is fine!) and/or has never heard of Google. But for their convenience, every post on my blog should be made to look like a step-ladder plastered with disclaimers and warning labels and drawings of stick-people getting electrocuted by low-hanging wires? That’s too funny.

Sacred Heart Major Seminary directly serves the mission of the Archdiocese of Detroit, of course, and through it the wider Church, but SHMS is canonically (c. 238) and civilly distinct from the AOD (c. 373). My employment contract is with the seminary, not the archdiocese, a point I nevertheless would have thought hardly worth mentioning, except that it is being roundly mis-construed and then mis-proclaimed against my canonical commentary as if t’were masking some shocking deception. As I say, rank silliness, and doubly so, since, as I routinely state, my canonical analysis of this or another matter stands or falls on its own merits. Folks can, I need hardly say, reach their own conclusions about canon law by, I suppose, whatever divines they think best. I wish them well.

Speaking more generally, now, I often explain and defend in my blog legitimate exercises of ecclesiastical authority. I do this because we live in an age that distrusts exercises of authority in general and ecclesiastical authority in particular. Even within the Church, exercises of ecclesiastical authority are often suspect, nay guilty, till proven otherwise. Part of me understands that suspicion, at least when it arises from ‘the right’: I grew up with happy-clappy catechesis, suffered through clown Masses, watched the devastation wrought on religious life, mourned the closing of one Catholic school after another, etc, etc, etc. In short, I grew up waiting for somebody to do something besides, as Fr. Z so wonderfully put it, blowing more happy gas. And I was often disappointed.

But, by the grace of God, I never let my disappointment ossify into distrust. As a result, I do not cling to my opinions about how things should be done in the Church (however sound my views might be) in the face of legitimate ecclesiastical determinations otherwise. I know all about Canon 212 § 3. It’s Canon 223 I’m concerned with now.

Widespread, knee-jerk distrust of ecclesiastical authority is perhaps the most crippling legacy left to the John Paul II generation of Church leaders by the past. This distrust is, of course, unfair to that new generation—who have done nothing to deserve it—but it is also increasingly incongruous to them. They didn’t grow up with the wackiness that many of us remember, and so they don’t understand the animus that is often directed by some otherwise orthodox Catholics against Church leaders just because they happen to be, well, leaders in the Church. Occasionally, when I see a solid young priest or seminarian suffer such prejudice, I call him aside and explain what things were like back in the day, and why patience is called for in this case or that. He listens, nods his head, and says, “Yes, I see what you mean, it must have been terrible. Well, time to get over it.” These guys are great.

Anyway, here’s hoping my blogging on the Voris/RCTV matter—regardless of whether I sort-of-do-but-really-don’t, or not, work for the AOD—helps at least some others to Get over their it.

Updated, 12 jan 2012: This kindness was much appreciated.


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