Do you really think that Bishops Farrell and Vann need us to tell them what to do?

February 23, 2009

Bishop Kevin Farrell - Bishop Kevin Vann

Bishop Kevin Farrell (DAL) - Bishop Kevin Vann (FW)

 by George Vogt

Dallas / Ft. Worth, TX (MetroCatholic) – A few days ago, I received an e-mail from a very respectable member of my parish. The e-mail was a blanket request for the recipients to sign a petition. A portion of the e-mail reads:

“Dear Friend, I recently completed a petition to Withhold Communion from prominent Catholics in public life that dissent from the Church’s teaching on a variety of serious moral issues including abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, homosexual marriage, and embryonic stem cell research to name a few. I encourage you to do the same.

The e-mail then goes on to state “Canon 212 S3 of the Catholic Church states that the Catholic faithful have ‘..the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church.’”

The e-mail goes on to encourage the recipient to visit a website and “sign” the petition.
I noticed that other respectable Catholic websites have published articles regarding this petition as well.

While I am certainly concerned that “prominent Catholics in public life” by virtue of their high visibility have the potential to confuse or even mislead some of the “faithful” who may not be properly formed in their own faith, I do not share the view that joining this effort is necessary or even helpful in the Dallas and Fort Worth Dioceses.

First of all, let’s clarify that the Canon that is quoted above goes on to state “They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ’s faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the Pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals.”

I cannot say for certain why this important portion of the Canon was left out, but when one sets out to lead others in matters of the Faith, one is more culpable for his/her actions. Certainly someone or some group who intends to accuse others of manipulating the Faith should be more diligent at best.

Next, I would like to state some concerns I have with this effort and especially as they pertain to Dallas and Fort Worth. If you are a parishioner of another Diocese, I suggest that these concerns might also be beneficial to your particular situation as well.

While the following information is correct to the best of my research and personal understanding, I am not an expert in this area. So as you read this, understand that this is my opinion and a different perspective on the matter.

While it may be assumed that the petition seeks to generate emotion over the recent high-profile issues with regards to Catholic politicians, none of those politicians are members of the Dallas or Fort Worth Dioceses.

The petition is not sent to all Bishops. It compiles the names, addresses, and Dioceses of the petitioners, and then sends those to the respective Bishop. Thus, Bishops Farrell and Vann will receive this petition from respective members of their Dioceses, and the names of Dallas and Fort Worth petitioners will not go to other Bishops, namely those who are the pastoral leaders of the aforementioned Catholic “dissenters”.

I am of the opinion that his is another area where perhaps we should spend more time examining ourselves and less time examining others and especially our Bishops. You know, removing the plank from our own eyes before removing the speck in our neighbors’. Or, how about not casting that stone unless we are without sin?

Part of the continued confusion that people have in this area is a misunderstanding of excommunication. The topic of excommunication is a difficult and complex one. I believe that most people think that excommunication only takes place with an official proclamation. Ironically, this matter has recently surfaced in the comments section of DFW Catholic as well. Some of this information has already been discussed there.

When one acts against the communion of the Church, he/she incurs excommunication latae sententiae (incurred as soon as the offence is committed and by reason of the offence itself).

In some instances, a Ferendae Sententiae is inflicted on the culprit only by a judicial sentence. That being said, such person has already incurred the latae sententiae and is now having the already existing condition brought to a higher level of awareness.

Even under this condition, the general public may not necessarily be made aware of the official imposition since it may take place in a private meeting as a means of persuading the individual to reconcile first.

Excommunication does not mean one is no longer Catholic, it means that Catholic is no longer in communion with the Church and unable to participate in the Sacraments. One may see this as a matter of semantics but it really isn’t.

Additionally, while there might be Catholics in the Dallas or Fort Worth Dioceses who fall into this category, without doing research, I am unaware of any and think the same will hold true for most of other people in the metroplex as well.

That said, bringing the matter to the forefront may not only impede Bishops Farrell and Vann from taking the matter up privately, but may actually increase the scope of any scandal (if any) which has taken place.

I would like to emphasize that Bishops Farrell and Vann have proven in a very short time that they are committed to the overall well-being and formation of those in their Dioceses.

My intention is not to speak as an authority in these matters, but to suggest that our best efforts might be prayer and seeking ways we can help our Bishops by being effective in their pastoral visions.

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