Vatican communications chief: ‘Holy Spirit,’ ‘not canon law,’ should provide a solution
VATICAN CITY, October 17, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― The prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications reported yesterday that the Amazon Synod participants had agreed not to narrow their focus to just a few themes.
Paolo Ruffini said that the participants were concerned about missing “the tree for the branches” and therefore were willing to continue to discuss all the ideas presented. They hoped in this way to make room for the Holy Spirit.
“We must give the floor to the Holy Spirit, so His Grace provides the solutions, and not canon law, but this new prophetic approach,” Ruffini said or quoted.
It was unclear what Ruffini, or the synod participants, meant by that, or how participants discern between their own ideas and the will of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Giacomo Costa, SJ, the Secretary of the Committee for Information, said that that the synod had experienced a great “leap forward,” although he was not explicit in what he meant by this. Apparently to leave room for the Holy Spirit, participants will need to leave behind the “safety” of their “arguments.”
The snide dismissal of canon law, to say nothing of rational argument, as a way of coming to an agreement on topics of great importance for the Catholic Church, both in the Amazon region and around the world, emphasized the informality and “openness” that apparently characterize the conversations in the synod hall.
Canon law, although not on the same level as divine law, is nevertheless an important organizational tool in the Church. When he introduced the new Code of Canon Law in 1983, Pope St. John Paul II said that canon law should be considered an “indispensable instrument”:
The Code, as the principal legislative document of the Church, founded on the juridical-legislative heritage of Revelation and Tradition, is to be regarded as an indispensable instrument to ensure order both in individual and social life and also in the Church's activity itself. Therefore, besides containing the fundamental elements of the hierarchical and organic structure of the Church as willed by her divine Founder, or as based upon apostolic, or in any case most ancient, tradition, and besides the fundamental principles which govern the exercise of the threefold office entrusted to the Church itself, the Code must also lay down certain rules and norms of behavior.
The instrument, which the Code is, fully corresponds to the nature of the Church, especially as it is proposed by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council in general, and in a particular way by its ecclesiological teaching. Indeed, in a certain sense, this new Code could be understood as a great effort to translate this same doctrine, that is, the conciliar ecclesiology, into canonical language. If, however, it is impossible to translate perfectly into canonical language the conciliar image of the Church, nevertheless, in this image there should always be found as far as possible its essential point of reference.
Some Catholics following the synod protested this dismissal of canon law on social media.
“This more than a bit troubling,” tweeted Fr. Paul Hartmann of the Diocese of Milwaukee.
“Canon Law is a sacred science. Canon Law is the result of bona fide magisterial acts. Canon Law gives structure and context to the outward qualities of Church,” he continued.
“The rationale given can undermine everything: ecclesiology, liturgy, magisterium!”
“When it is proposed to violate the Law that currently governs the Church as the Code of Canon Law; everything will be permissible,” said Twitter user Marco A. García of Mexico. “Like a man without God.”
American canon lawyer Ed Peters tweeted his opinion that canon law is “indirectly” related to almost everything in the Church but that this “doesn’t mean it needs to get explicitly dragged into every church conversation, like these guys do—then, just to dump on it.”