From a reader…
I know that the priests of the Institute of Christ the King nowadays take the title “Canon” and that Monsignors Wach and Schmitz are, well, Monsignors.
Recently I have heard a few people independently doubt this, saying that they shouldn’t be called Canons and that the Monsignors aren’t real Monsignors. Neither explained to me why. As far as I have been able to research, they seem to have a right to these titles.
I would be very surprised if the ICRSP would allow a flaw like that, since they are so precise in everything they do. I’m not sure why these people thought like this.
Would you be able to shed any light on this?
There are Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, the Canons Regular of the Holy Cross (associated with Opus Angelorum), Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem… to name a few of the more modern iterations of these ecclesiastical critters. There are lots of others, older ones, as well.
A “canon” is a type of ecclesiastical person, a member of a chapter (such as a cathedral chapter or one of the basilicas in Rome) or body of clerics who live according to rule (regula) and who are presided over by one of their number. Historically canons gave assistance to a bishop and they were especially involved in the liturgical life of the place, particularly in the singing of the hours of the Office. Canons would dress like normal priests, although sometimes the Holy See granted the privilege of wearing other gear by a particular indult. In such cases, canons were not to wear any of their special gear outside the diocese to which they were attached or the place where they were based.
In any event, a body of Canons must be set up officially either by the Holy See or by a diocesan bishop.
I have looked through the website of the Institute and they do not use the word “canon” to describe their members. At least that I found. If they use the term “Canon” among themselves, I suppose this is an internal decision they have made, but it seems that the bishops who gave them their canonical status (D. Mouila and later Archd. Florence) didn’t set them up as Canons Regular. In 2008 they were recognized by the Holy See as a Society of Apostolic Life. They seem to be members, clerical and lay, in an Institute which technically isn’t precisely a group of canons regular. Also, I note that they call their lay members “clerical oblates”. An oblate is generally a lay person who is formally attached to an order or institute who gives support and service according to necessity. However, since Canon Law states that the clerical state begins with diaconate, and since the oblates of the Institute are not at least deacons, the term “clerical oblate” seems to overstate their situation a bit. If they have made an internal decision to call their oblates “clerical” because they have received the traditional minor orders, then, hey!, Quis sum ego ut iudicem?
As far as the two men you mention, we must consult a recent copy of the official book of the Holy See, the Annuario Pontificio. If a priest has been made a Monsignor, his name appears in the index along with an indication of his diocese, the kind of Monsignor he is, and the date that level was conferred. Msgr. Michael Rudolf Schmitz is in the index. He belongs to the Archdiocese of Cologne, Germany, and was made a Monsignor, a Chaplain of His Holiness, in 1998, I believe during his service in the Holy See’s diplomatic corps. Giles Wach’s name does not appear in the index of the most recent Annuario to which I have access, which is the 2014. It’s possible that, subsequently, his status changed, but I don’t have the most recent Annuario. It should be mentioned, however, that Wach had once been Vicar General of an African diocese in Gabon, where the Institute still has ties. It was the practice that vicars general were, for the time they held office, given the use of “Monsignor” even if they were not monsignors so named by the Holy See. Thus, in the Annuario even today you will see under the listing for a diocese that “Mons.” is by the name of a vicar general even if he is a simple priest. This is an old rule of churchy etiquette that doesn’t confer the lasting, official status.
In any event, what Institutes and Orders and Congregations and the like do within their own communities is hardly our business. They have their own rules and manner of life to which they commit themselves. They are known by their fruits. The Institute seems to be doing good work where they are planted and the number of their locations seems to be growing.
Finally, since I am merely an outside observer of the Institute and don’t have much contact with them (not so much by my choice, mind you), if this doesn’t satisfy, you really should direct your questions to them. I can only offer here what is public knowledge.