In Friday’s edition of the St. Louis Review, the Archbishop published a decree that may seem to be obscure or inconsequential, but which I believe is, in addition to the general application for the future, particularly relevant in the current case of the pretend women priests.
The Archbishop has, by particular legislation, reinstituted the process of allowing the publication of judicial acts by decree, according to the 1917 Code of Canon Law. From the text of the decree (I have no electronic link to this, it appeared in the print edition only):
“Pursuant to cann. 1509, s. 1, and 1720, 1, of the Code of Canon Law, I hereby decree and declare, by this particular legislation, that the traditional method of edictal citation is now, and in the future, a valid, legitimate, and lawful means for the notification of all citations, decrees, sentences and other judicial acts in any judicial or non-judicial process, however, only under the same conditions, and whenever permitted, as prescribed by can. 1720, s.1-2 of the Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law.”
Canon 1720 of the Pio-Benedictine Code (1917) states:
1/ Whenever, despite diligent inquiry, the whereabouts of the respondent remains unknown, citation by edict is in order.
2/ This shall be done by affixing to the entrance of the Curia the document of citation by the courier in a manner to be determined by the edict and a time set by the prudent decision of the judge, and it will also be inserted in some public periodical (my note: St. Louis Review); but if neither of these ways can be done, some other way suffices.
Now, because the new Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983, supersedes the old code, how is it possible for the Archbishop to do this? He cites Canon 1509.
Canon 1509 (1983 Code) states, with regard to the citation and notification of judicial acts:
“The notification of citations, decrees, citations and other judicial acts must be made through the public postal services or by some other very secure method according to the norms established in particular law.”
Therefore, though the 1983 Code states that the ordinary form of notice is by public postal services, it also provides that the Ordinary can by particular law establish some other way. Hence, the decree posted in the Review. For good measure, the Archbishop has reinstituted the offices of the cursor and the apparitor, as persons able to post necessary edictal citations.
Finally, in so acting, the Archbishop also makes specific reference to Canon 1720 (1983 Code), which states:
If the ordinary thinks the matter must proceed by way of extrajudicial decree:
1/ he is to inform the accused of the accusation and the proofs, giving an opportunity for self-defense, unless the accused neglected to appear after being properly summoned;
2/ he is to weigh carefully all the proofs and arguments with two assessors;
3/ if the delict is certainly established and a criminal action is not extinguished, he is to issue a decree according to the norm of cann. 1342-1350, (I provide the link here for reference, but in short it refers to the ability of an ordinary to issue certain penalties and remedies, and that such can be done by extrajudicial decree; if you read these canons you will see some of the reasons why the Archbishop, as reported in the secular press, at any rate, has issued certain warnings and summonses, etc.) setting forth the reasons in law and in fact at least briefly.
Now, I ask and speculate, what is the meaning of all this?
One hypothesis: let’s say that some fine ladies decide they want to pretend to be ordained priests by a simulated ordination in the territory of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis (o.k., I know this would never happen here, but work with me). Let’s say these ladies get a pretend woman bishop schismatic to do this little ceremony in some place in town– like a synagogue.
Like all good schismatics, they revel in the attention and adulation they receive in certain quarters for defying the local ordinary.
Let’s further suppose (keeping in mind canons 1342-1350, and 1720) that the ordinary warns them not to do this, and informs them of certain consequences that automatically follow, and of consequences in addition to these that will follow by edict. They go through with it anyway.
Automatic consequences occur.
Let’s further assume that the ordinary issues summonses to them to appear before him to answer certain charges and provide for whatever defense they may have. Still reveling in disobedience, the women foolishly admit to the local press that they have received this summons and intend to defy it. They reveal portions of the text.
Now, let’s further assume that in the afterglow, with the pretend bishop having already skipped town, the pretend women priests begin to be conflicted, and don’t necessarily want to appear before the ordinary as required by the summons. Let’s say they, too, want to make themselves scarce. Under this assumption, their mail might not be deliverable anymore. Why? Maybe because they don’t want to receive the required notice of penalties coming their way. Maybe they hope by this artifice to escape excommunication, or at least to provide a means of convincing others that they haven’t been excommunicated.
By the Archbishop’s decree, that door is shut.
“Though they go down even to hell, thence shall my hand bring them out: and though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down.”
Amos 9: 2