«“The New Evangelization and Canon Law” Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, D.D., J.C.D. Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura March ...»
“The New Evangelization and Canon Law”
Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, D.D., J.C.D.
Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura
March 30, 2011
Archbishop Peter L. Gerety Lecture Series
Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology
Seton Hall University
First of all, I wish to thank His Grace, Archbishop John J. Myers, for the invitation to
give one of the Gerety Lectures during the year of celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the
Foundation of Immaculate Conception Seminary of the Archdiocese of Newark. I also thank Monsignor Robert F. Coleman, Rector of the Seminary, with whom I was privileged to share some years of the study of Canon Law in the 1980s, for his assistance in making the arrangements for my presentation and for the warm hospitality of the Seminary.
While I am honored to make some modest contribution to the work of the Archbishop Gerety Fund for Ecclesiastical History, I am particularly pleased that my contribution is part of the celebration of the sesquicentennial of Immaculate Conception Seminary. The seminary is the heart of a diocese. As Our Lord Himself made clear, from the very beginning of his public ministry, by His call of the Apostles, the life of the Church depends upon the service of worthy shepherds who act in the person of Our Lord, Head and Shepherd of the flock, in every time and place. The Bishop who gives his first and best attention to the seminary will thereby give a true shepherd’s care to all the faithful entrusted to him by Our Lord. My presence with you, this evening, is meant, in a particular way, to express heartfelt congratulations to the Archdiocese of Newark, whose faithful have so steadfastly and generously supported the work of the Archdiocesan seminary, and to underline the fundamental importance of the continued support of Immaculate Conception Seminary for the life of the Church in the Archdiocese, now and in the future.
My presentation responds to the work of the Archbishop Gerety Fund for Ecclesiastical History by addressing the present situation of the Church in a totally secularized culture and the response of the Church to the culture of our time. The response is a new evangelization. After treating the question of the new evangelization, in some depth, especially in the teaching of the Venerable, soon to be Blessed, Pope John Paul II, and of the Servant of God Pope Paul VI and of Pope Benedict XVI, I will give particular attention to the state of the Church’s canonical discipline and its irreplaceable role in the work of the new evangelization. While the presentation addresses a number of particular phenomena in the recent history of the Church, it seeks to interpret those phenomena within the perspective of the organic life of the Church, handed down to us, in an unbroken line, from Our Lord’s consecration and commissioning of Saint Peter and, with him, of the College of the Apostles. While the question which I am addressing pertains to the life of the universal Church, I trust that its application to the life of the Church in the United States of America will be sufficiently evident, so that I serve faithfully the purpose of the Archbishop Gerety Fund for Ecclesiastical History.
The Call to the New Evangelization in the Magisterium of Pope John Paul II The pontificate of Pope John Paul II may be rightly described as a tireless call to recognize the Church’s challenge to be faithful to her divinely-given mission in a totally secularized society and to respond to the challenge by means of a new evangelization. A new evangelization is teaching the faith through preaching, catechesis and all forms of Catholic education; celebrating the faith in the Sacraments and in their extension through prayer and devotion, and living the faith through the practice of the virtues, all as if for the first time, that is, with the engagement and energy of the first disciples and of the first missionaries to our native place.
In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, “On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World,” the Venerable Pope John Paul II
described the contemporary situation of the Church in the world with these words:
Whole countries and nations where religion and the Christian life were formerly flourishing and capable of fostering a viable and working community of faith, are now put to a hard test, and in some cases, are even undergoing a radical transformation, as a result of a constant spreading of an indifference to religion, of secularism and atheism. This particularly concerns countries and nations of the so-called First World, in which economic well-being and consumerism, even if coexistent with a tragic situation of poverty and misery, inspires and sustains a life lived “as if God did not exist”. This indifference to religion and the practice of religion devoid of true meaning in the face of life’s very serious problems, are not less worrying and upsetting when compared with declared atheism.1 “Integrae regiones nec non nationes in quibus anteacto tempore religio et vita christiana florebant, quae vivacis ac operosae fidei communitates excitabant, nunc rebus adversis premuntur ac non raro radicitus sunt transformatae, gliscentibus indifferentismo, saecularismo et atheismo. Agitur praesertim de regionibus et nationibus «Primi Mundi» qui dicitur, in quibus oeconomica prosperitas et consumendarum rerum cupiditas, To remedy the situation, the saintly Pontiff observed, “a mending of the Christian fabric of society is urgently needed in all parts of the world.”2 He hastened to add that, if the remedy is to be achieved, the Church herself must be evangelized anew. Fundamental to understanding the radical secularization of our culture is to understand also how much the secularization has entered into the life of the Church Herself. In the words of Pope John Paul II, “[b]ut for this [the mending of the Christian fabric of society] to come about what is needed is to first remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself present in these countries and nations.”3 The Roman Pontiff, therefore, called upon the lay faithful to fulfill their particular responsibility, that is, “to testify how the Christian faith constitutes the only full valid response – consciously perceived and stated by all in varying degrees – to the problems and hopes that life poses to every person and society.”4 Making more specific the call, he clarified that the fulfillment of the responsibility of the lay faithful requires that they “know how to overcome in themselves the separation of the Gospel from life, to take up again in their daily activities in family, work and society, an integrated approach to life that is fully brought about by the inspiration and strength of the Gospel.”5 Before the challenges of living the Catholic faith in our time, Pope John Paul II recalled to our minds the urgency of Christ’s mandate given to the first disciples and given, no less, to
missionaries down the Christian centuries and to us today. He declared:
Certainly the command of Jesus: “Go and preach the Gospel” always maintains its vital value and its ever-pressing obligation. Nevertheless, the present situation, not only of the world but also of many parts of the Church, absolutely demands that quamquam etiam terribilibus paupertatis et miseriae adiunctis commixtae, inhiant ac proclamant ita esse vivendum «etsi Deus non daretur». At religiosa indifferentia et practica Dei completa neglegentia ad vitae quaestiones licet graviores exsolvendas non minus affligunt animum nec minus videntur evertentes quam proclamatus atheismus; ….” Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Adhortatio Apostolica Christifideles Laici, “De vocatione et missione Laicorum in Ecclesia et in mundo,” 30 Decembris 1988, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 81 (1989), p. 454, no.
34. [Hereafter, CL]. English translation: Pope John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, 30 December 1988, “On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World,” Vatican City State: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, nd, p. 95, no. 34. [Hereafter, CLE].
“consortium humanum spiritu christiano ubique denuo imbuendum est.” CL, p. 455, no. 34. English translation: CLE, p. 96, no. 34.
“[i]d [consortium humanum spiritu christiano imbuendum] tamen possible erit, si christianus communitatum ipsarum ecclesialium contextus, quae his in regionibus et nationibus degunt, renovetur.” CL, p. 455, no. 34.
English translation: CLE, p. 96, no. 34.
“testari quomodo christiana fides responsum constituat unice plene validum, ab omnibus plus minusve conscie agnitum et invocatum, ad quaestiones et exspectationes, quas vita ipsa homini et societatibus imponit singulis.” CL, p. 455, no. 34. English translation: CLE, p. 96, no. 34.
the word of Christ receive a more ready and generous obedience. Every disciple is personally called by name; no disciple can withhold making a response: “Woe to me, if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16).6 The obedience which is fundamental and essential to the new evangelization is also a virtue acquired with great difficulty in a culture which exalts individualism and questions all authority, except the self. Yet, it is indispensable if the Gospel is to be taught and lived in our time. We must take example from the first disciples, from the first missionaries to our homeland, and from the host of saints and blesseds who gave themselves completely to Christ, calling upon the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit to purify themselves of any rebellion before God’s will and to strengthen them to do God’s will in all things.
Pope John Paul II issued the same call to a new evangelization to the faithful in the other states of life in the Church. In the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, “On the Formation of Priests in the Circumstances of the Present Day,” writing about the spiritual
gift of the priest for “the universal mission of salvation to the end of the earth,” he observed:
Today in particular, the pressing pastoral task of the new evangelization calls for the involvement of the entire People of God, and requires a new fervour, new methods and a new expression for the announcing and witnessing of the Gospel.
This task demands priests who are deeply and fully immersed in the mystery of Christ and capable of embodying a new style of pastoral life, marked by a profound communion with the Pope, the Bishops and other priests, and a fruitful cooperation with the lay faithful, always respecting and fostering the different roles, charisms and ministries present within the ecclesial community.7 “hiatum inter Evangelium et vitam in seipsis superare valeant, in quotidianis familiae navitatibus, in labore et in societate unitatem vitae componentes, quae in Evangelio lucem et vim pro sua plena invenit adimpletione.” CL, p. 455, no. 34. English translation: CLE, p. 96, no. 34.
“Equidem mandatum Iesu: «Euntes praedicate evangelium» sua vi perpetuo viget ac inoccidue urget:
verumtamen praesens rerum conditio, non solummodo in mundo sed in pluribus quoque Ecclesiae partibus, omnino requirit ut Chrisi verbo promptius ac magis dilatato corde obtemperetur; quivis discipulus ita in sua ipsius persona interpellatur, ut nullus se in proprio responso eliciendo retrahere possit: «Vae enim mihi est, si non evangelizavero!» (1 Cor 9, 16). CL, p. 454, no. 33. English translation: CLE, p. 94, no. 33.
“Hodie praesertim urgentius illud munus pastorale novae evangelizationis, quod universum Dei Populum sollicitat novamque alacritatem, novas methodos, novam denique linguam pro Evangelio nuntiando postulat, sacerdotes requirit qui radicitus atque integre in Christi mysterium immersi sint, capaces novum pastoralis viate stilum in actum ponendi; qui et profunda communione cum Summo Pontifice, cum Episcopis, apud semetipsos emineant, et per fecundam cum christifidelibus laicis collaborationem signentur, reverentes niholiminus et provehentes quae, intro ecclesialem communitatem, diversa sunt vel munera, vel charismata, vel ministeria.” Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Adhortatio Apostolica Postsynodalis Pastores Dabo Vobis, “De Sacerdotum formatione in aetatis nostrae rerum condicione,” 25 Maii 1992, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 84 (1992), p. 685, no. 18. English translation: Pope John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, “On the Formation of According to the teaching of Pope John Paul II, the seminarian preparing to present himself for ordination to the priesthood and the exercise of the priestly office, today, must be equipped for and engaged in the remaking of “the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community,”8 in fidelity to the Church’s apostolic nature, sustained in organic unity, down the Christian centuries from the Resurrection, Ascension and Descent of the Holy Spirit. Before the forces of secularization which dominate society and culture, the faithful need the spiritual ministration of priests who recognize the gravity of the situation and are prepared to address it steadfastly with apostolic zeal, with fervent prayer, especially before the Blessed Sacrament; with sound teaching, and with obedience to the Holy Father and the Bishops in communion with him.
We who are seminarians and priests should not be naïve about the influence of secularism and its by-product, consumerism, in our own lives. According to an ancient axiom of the Church’s discipline, “corruptio optimi pessima est,” “the corruption of the best is the worst thing.” Satan and the forces of evil, who do not sleep, understand well that any influence which they can have upon the shepherds of the Church will redound to their influence in the whole flock. They know the wisdom expressed in the Prophet Zechariah, “Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered.”9 The formation of future priests and the ongoing formation of priests, therefore, must be centered upon the essential elements of our life in Christ and, in particular, the irreplaceable office of the ordained priest in the Mystical Body of Christ.
In a similar fashion, in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, “On the Consecrated Life and Its Mission in the Church and in the World,” Pope John Paul II emphasized the new evangelization as the particular form, in our time, of the universal charity
which is the characteristic mark of the state of life of consecrated persons. He declared: