Bishops disciplining “visitors” from other dioceses


I am reposting this after having deleted ALL the comments.


We have heard from time to time that the ordinary of one diocese will not discipline (e.g., deny Holy Communion) to publicly prominent pro-abortion Catholics if they are there in that diocese as visitors.

Canonist Ed Peters has an interesting entry at his excellent blog In The Light Of The Law.  Here are excerpt with my emphasesRead the whole entry there.

A response to Abp. Wuerl’s claims that canon law supports his inaction in regard to Nancy Pelosi

Abp. Donald Wuerl of Washington DC continues to defend his refusal to withhold holy Communion from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in a number of ways, but his recent claims that canon law supports his inaction attract my attention. I think the prelate’s canonical claims are wrong.

First, Wuerl claims that "there’s a question about whether [Canon 915] was ever intended to be used to bring politicians to heel . . . I stand with the great majority of American bishops and bishops around the world in saying this canon was never intended to be used this way.”

Are Catholic politicians not bound by, say, the canons on the Sunday obligation (cc. 1246-1248) or the laws of fast and abstinence (c. 1252)? Are they exempt from the canons on marriage (c. 1108) or from the duty to educate their children in the Catholic faith (cc. 1136, 1366)? Do Catholic politicians (of all people!) not have the responsibility "to imbue and perfect the order of temporal affairs with the spirit of the Gospel and thus give witness to Christ" (c. 225)?

If, as I feel sure, Wuerl would not regard Catholic politicians as exempt from any of these canonical requirements, where does he find an exemption for them (or for anyone else) from Canon 915? The answer is, he cannot: there simply is no "politician" exemption from Canon 915.

If Wuerl wants to argue that Pelosi has not acted in a way as to make herself liable to consequences under Canon 915, he’s free to make his case. (I think he’d lose that argument, but he’s free to make it.) But he cannot gratuitously assert that Canon 915 was never "intended" to apply to the Pelosis of this world and leave the matter thus. Canon 915 unquestionably applies to all Roman Catholics regardless of their civil status or secular profession.

Second, [… and this is something I have wondered about…] Wuerl asserts, "Pelosi, as a San Franciscan, isn’t part of my flock!"

Wuerl is the chief shepherd over the territory assigned to him (cc. 369, 372, 381) and chief presider over the Eucharist celebrated therein (c. 835 and Catechism of the Catholic Church 1142, 1369, 1561). Canons on sacramental discipline are universally applicable to Roman Catholics (cc. 12, 915). None of these norms is thwarted by the fact that a specific member of the faithful might have a "foreign" domicile, quasi-domicile, or residence if that individual is acting within the territory of the arch/bishop.

Consider moreover, by way of analogy, that if Pelosi’s actions in Washington were canonically criminal (that is not my claim here), Canon 1412 would authorize Wuerl to take penal action against her regardless of her "foreign" status. Now, if Wuerl is authorized to take the harsher route of penal action against someone based only on the fact that his or her actions occurred within his territory, it is difficult to see how he is suddenly forbidden from taking merely disciplinary action against anyone who is acting contrary to sacramental law in his territory.

There is, I conclude, simply no question but that an arch/bishop is authorized by canon law to take the steps necessary to protect the sacraments (especially the Eucharist, cc. 897-898) from unworthy administration in his territory and his people from the danger of scandal that might be given by such reception.

The only question I see here is whether, and if so when, Wuerl will take that action. +++

A final note: The ultimate solution to this problem is, of course, for Nancy Pelosi to give up her unrelenting campaign against unborn babies, or, in default of that, at least to refrain from approaching holy Communion (c. 916). Unless she takes either step, however, I see no choice for Abp. Wuerl but to order enforcement of Canon 915 against her. In the meantime, however, I must say, nothing gives the forces of darkness greater pleasure than to see those committed following Christ at serious odds with one another. Such disputes must, in a fallen world, arise, but we should strive to resolve them correctly as quickly as possible and, once settled, to go on more united than ever toward the next struggle. There is no place for brooding over one another’s failures, or for gloating over one another’s corrections.

I always enjoy reading Prof. Peter’s comments.

I have a question for him and other canonists…. I am not talking about the peanut-gallery, but real, working canonists.

If a person spends the majority of his time in a place, at what point does he become a subject of the local bishop?

There are different levels of domicile. A congressman/woman spends a large number of the days of the year in Washington DC or living in a nearby diocese such as Arlington.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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One Comment

  1. I deleted ALL the comments under this entry and locked a few people out.

    What I would like is for people with degrees in canon law to post.

    I will close the combox. Canonists can send me notes by e-mail.

Comments are closed.