With the local news flurry lurching predictably forward in the advance of the purported ordination of two local women this Sunday (“Burke seeks to crush the spirits of two kindly grandmothers” and such rot), I have been trying to analyze the possible canonical penalties for such an outrage due to these women and those who actively assist them.
While such a topic may be a little technical, it is interesting to note the Archbishop’s approach. It differs somewhat from the infamous Danube Seven case in 2002, when Cardinal Ratzinger imposed ferendae setentiae excommunication. Such an excommunication is imposed by an appropriate authority after a warning, called a Monitum, has been issued pursuant to Canon 1347:
Can. 1347 §1. A censure cannot be imposed validly unless the offender has been warned at least once beforehand to withdraw from contumacy and has been given a suitable time for repentance.
§2. An offender who has truly repented of the delict and has also made suitable reparation for damages and scandal or at least has seriously promised to do so must be considered to have withdrawn from contumacy.
This is precisely what happened in 2002. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a Monitum, which was not heeded. Pretend ordinations took place (in the traditional venue of a barge on the Danube river). Excommunication ferendae sententiae imposed. A key concept here is the term “imposed”.
But also noteworthy in the Monitum and the decree of excommunication was a reference to the pretend ordinations as a schismatic act– “a grave offense to the Divine Constitution of the Church”.
In the current situation, His Grace, Raymond L. Burke, Archbishop of Saint Louis, has issued a warning to these ladies that they will incur automatic excommunication, latae sententiae, if they proceed with the pretend ordination. This is because of the canonical delict, or offense, of schism.
The phrase “latae sententiae” means a judgment or sentence which has already been brought, in other words, a sentence or judgment which does not need a future additional judgment from someone in authority; it refers to a type of excommunication which is automatic. Such a sentence of excommunication is incurred “by the very commission of the offense,” (CCC 2272) and does not require the future particular judgment of a case by competent authority.
So, what is schism, exactly? St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae, 2nd, 2nd, Question 39, states as follows:
Accordingly schismatics properly so called are those who, wilfully and intentionally separate themselves from the unity of the Church; for this is the chief unity, and the particular unity of several individuals among themselves is subordinate to the unity of the Church, even as the mutual adaptation of each member of a natural body is subordinate to the unity of the whole body. Now the unity of the Church consists in two things; namely, in the mutual connection or communion of the members of the Church, and again in the subordination of all the members of the Church to the one head…Now this Head is Christ Himself, Whose viceregent in the Church is the Sovereign Pontiff. Wherefore schismatics are those who refuse to submit to the Sovereign Pontiff, and to hold communion with those members of the Church who acknowledge his supremacy.
Canon 751 states in relevant part: “…schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”
By refusing to submit to the Supreme Pontiff and the Archbishop, and by displaying contempt for the magisterium that has definitively decreed that women’s ordination is not possible, the pretend ordinands and the pretend Bishop who pretends to ordain them are guilty of schism.
The penalty for schism is contained in Canon 1364 §1: “an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.”
That this consequence necessarily follows is bolstered by Canon 1379, which states in relevant part: “… a person who simulates the administration of a sacrament is to be punished with a just penalty.”
A just penalty for mere simulation of a sacrament could be an interdict, but in the case of a simulation of a sacrament that is a grave offense to the Divine Constitution of the Church, the just penalty is excommunication latae sententiae.
This is the situation facing these women. They are choosing it, if they proceed, of their own free wills. As canon law shows, they are risking more than the embarrassment of changing their minds or losing the esteem of the womenpriest crowd– they are risking something far weightier than that.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled headlines:
“Burke Threatens Kindly Grandmas with Weapons Purchased with St. Stan’s Millions.”