Thursday, May 5, 2011

When Easterners live in Western Territories - Part 2 of 3

Here is Part 2 of 3 from Fr. George Gallaro's discussion of canonical integration of Eastern faithful in Latin dioceses.

Duty of the Faithful to Observe Their Own Rite

The Vatican II decree On the Bishop’s Pastoral Office in the Church, Christus Dominus, states: “...Where there are faithful of a different rite, the diocesan bishop should provide for their spiritual needs either through priests or parishes of that rite or through an episcopal vicar endowed with the necessary faculties. Wherever it is fitting, the latter should also have episcopal rank …” This passage is confirmed by both current codes: CIC cc. 372 § 2, 383 § 2 & 518; CCEO cc. 193 & 280 § 1.

I would like to raise here two questions: Do Eastern faithful in the so-called diaspora have the right to this pastoral care or are they persons which arouse the generous solicitude of the Council Fathers? Furthermore, does not the implementation of this norm upset the internal equilibrium of the diocese and endanger the unity of the diocesan community?

The Latin Code answers to the first questions. In dealing with the obligations and rights of all the Christian faithful, its can. 214 states, “The Christian faithful have the right to worship God according to the prescripts of their own rite approved by the legitimate pastors of the Church and to follow their own form of spiritual life so long as it is consonant with the doctrine of the Church.” Although the first part of the canon seems to simply refer to the external ritual aspect of liturgical prayer, the second part, with its reference “to follow their form of spiritual life of the faithful,” opens new horizons.

The Latin Code uses here the term “rite” (ritus) as in Christus Dominus (CD 23,3) and Orientalium Ecclesiarum (passim), that is, as the synonym of a particular Church. The Latin Code thus underlines the inner element of rite, considered in its wider and fuller meaning, as indicatory of the face of each Church.

The Eastern Code, instead, stresses the extrinsic element of the individuality of the Eastern Churches by the supreme authority (there can be in fact several different Churches having in common the same liturgical tradition and spirituality). By using more precise terms, canon 17 of the Eastern Code eliminates every ambiguity: “The Christian faithful have the right to worship God according to the prescriptions of their own autonomous Church and to follow their own form of spiritual life in accord with the teachings of the Church.” This twofold right is so important - dealing with the spiritual life of the faithful - as to be part of the category “of the proper original elements of the ecclesiological and spiritual fabric of Vatican II,” or still as “an articulation of divine law.” In order to attain this specific right, the faithful enjoy another right, that of addressing their needs to their shepherds who in turn have the obligation to assist them.

Plurality of “Rites” in a Latin Diocese
The other question derives from the difficulty of some Latin bishops to meet the needs of their Eastern faithful for fear of throwing out of balance the unity of their diocese. To justify that, they call on can. 225 of the Latin Code which deals with the “general obligation and the right of individuals to work so that the divine message of salvation is made known” under the guidance of the ecclesiastical authority.

One cannot exclude that the carrying out of the right of the faithful to observe their own rite may sometimes encounter serious difficulties, as, for example, the small number of faithful of a particular rite scattered throughout a vast territory. On the whole, the fact that within a diocese there are ritual differences should not create any problem, as for the presence of different languages. On the contrary, the ritual differences enrich a local Church as a witness of the universality of the Christian message and the wealth of the Catholic Church. However, the Fathers of Vatican II clearly affirmed that the “variety of rites within the Church in no way harms her unity, but rather manifests it.” This text regards not only the Universal Church but also the Particular (Ritual) Churches.

The diocesan bishop, in his ministerial service, has to take care of all the faithful entrusted to him, including those who find themselves in singular circumstances. Vatican II and the two Codes, the Latin and the Eastern, clearly underline the bishop’s obligation towards the faithful of different ritual traditions, for whom he must, among other things, guarantee the right of fidelity to their ritual tradition.

The Eastern Code, more sensitive to this issue, dedicates one full canon (c. 193) to the bishop’s obligation towards the faithful of other autonomous Churches. In the first paragraph, “the eparchial bishop is bound by the serious obligation of providing everything so that these Christian faithful retain the rite of their respective Church ... and to ensure that they foster relations with the superior authority of their Church.” The next paragraph corresponds to the Council’s text and the mentioned Latin Code’s canon, while the third paragraph imposes to the eparchial bishop “to draw up a plan in consultation with the respective patriarchs (or major archbishops) for the care of these faithful.”

Tune in tomorrow to read part 3 where Fr. George explains what remedies and solutions are available to those issues raised by easterners in western territories...

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