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Some observations one month into the AOD – Voris/RCTV matter

January 19, 2012

Just over a month has passed since the AOD – Voris/RCTV matter unleashed a flash flood of cyber-commentary. Much of that commentary struck me as thinly reasoned and off-point (and occasionally, ad hominem), but amid it all some reasonable questions surfaced, too. While debates attempted without agreed-upon rules or recognized referees (i.e., internet debates!), can never be ‘won’ or ‘lost’, good can nevertheless come from assisting others to think through certain issues rather than watching them simply react to them. To that end, my personal observations on this matter, now that things have calmed down a bit, follow.

Canon 216 states that “no undertaking is to claim the name Catholic without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority.” Now, among the many reacting to the AOD statements on Voris/RCTV and Canon 216, no one, it seems, seriously questions that canon law prohibits any undertaking from assuming the name “Catholic” without prior ecclesiastical authorization, and no one, it seems, suggests that Voris/RCTV have such permission from the AOD or, apparently, from anyone else.

So what, exactly, has the flurry of commentary been about?

As far as I can tell, it’s been about nearly everything except what canon law requires of the Christian faithful before claiming the name “Catholic” for their undertakings: ecclesiastical permission. Against the AOD statements have been arrayed protestations of Voris/RCTV’s orthodoxy, counters that heterodox groups use the name “Catholic” with impunity, complaints that dissident groups known to be Catholic are not being corrected, objections that the AOD had no ‘jurisdiction’ to issue its statements about Voris/RCTV, consternation that many small Catholic initiatives will have to change their names, insinuations that a cabal of curial hold-outs from the 1970s have it in for Voris personally, that the AOD is bankrupt, that some critics of Voris/RCTV are tools of the Evil One, and so on. As I said, everything seems relevant, except what canon law actually says about this situation, namely, that no undertaking is to assume the name Catholic without the prior consent of ecclesiastical authority.

So, again, even though I think the clarity of Canon 216 puts everything else in shadow, as noted above, it might be instructive for some if we look at these reactions more closely.

The rest of my remarks are available here.

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