Friday, June 26, 2015

CLERICO-PENAL DISCIPLINE IN THE CHURCH




It is not a secret but neither is it a well-known fact that the Church all over the world has her own Penal Law in order to discipline the erring Members of her own Clergy – noting well that the term “Clerics” include not only Deacons and Priests but also Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals.  Said Penal Law which is basically about the imposition of disciplinary punishments, is but an explicit and official admission on the part of the Church that though gifted with holiness as a whole, the universal ecclesiastical community nevertheless has certain Clerics or members of the Clergy who for one reason or another, violate any of the Commandments of God and/or the mandates of Church Law with duly appended penal sanctions when in fact disobeyed.

It can be said that among the more known clerical errant acts, those against continence and/or contrary to celibacy are their more commonly known moral aberrations.  Among many other obligations, Clerics are bound to abstain from carnal acts (Violation of Clerical Continence), and from conjugal ventures (Violation of Clerical Celibacy).  And among the grave penalties for such serious misdeeds is Dismissal from the Clerical State of the Cleric concerned.  In short, means that the individual concerned  is punished by his mandatory expulsion from the ranks of the Clergy.  Wherefore, the same individual may no longer exercise valid and licit ministerial acts.

Recently however, Pope Francis formally made a new normative penal provision that is both relevant and impressive.  The said provision is clearly intended to emphasize more not only the ethical but also the moral imperative of having disciplined clerical authorities in the Church.  In the past, it is the standard practice that Priests who err by commission against continence and/or celibacy are penalized.  And rightly so.  But now, the Pope himself made a signal categorical option that is duly translated into an official penal provision specifically in conjunction with Bishops.

In so many words, while Bishops remain subject to penal sanctions  when they themselves  engage in immoral acts, now Pope Francis issued the new official penal provision that Bishops are now likewise subject to penal sanctions when they fail to do what is right specifically in conjunction with erring members of the Clergy under their respective territorial jurisdictions.  So it is that now, Bishops incur the pertinent ecclesiastical penalty not only for doing wrong themselves but also for not doing that which is right as far as the members of their respective clergy are concerned.

Reason:  When Bishops do not correct the erring members of their Clergy, this is a sin of omission which can  readily have the following negative effects:  First, it can scandalize  the lay faithful in their respective ecclesiastical jurisdictions  who look up to their Priests with respect and reverence.  Second, it can scandalize the other members of their own Clergy who are living their commitment according to their best.  Third, it can scandalize the Seminarians who are taught about the dignity of the Priesthood that they have to live by when ordained as Priests themselves.  Conclusion:  Mabuhay, Kiko!