Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Voris Revisited (or, do “combox jockeys” wear black hats?)

When is having "jurisdiction" like not having "jurisdiction"? When having it ... DON'T ... MEAN ... DIDDLEY! when the rubber meets the proverbial road.

If you've been following the discussion at What Does The Prayer Really Say?, you know of the news that the Archdiocese of Detroit has determined that Michael Voris and his apostolate, Real Catholic TV (which is actually owned and financed by another individual and parent entity in another diocese, possibly making it someone else's problem), has been determined as not being sanctioned for the use of the word "Catholic" in its name. Dr Edward Peters, a renowned canon lawyer, author of the blog In the Light of the Law, and father of Thomas “Not Your Average Catholic” Peters, is dedicated to explaining the complexities of ecclesiastical jurisprudence with respect to important issues facing the Church today. He has attempted to explain, with what appears to be no small amount of frustration, that the location of the owner of the apostolate does not affect jurisdiction for the Archdiocese.

... every time someone asks what “jurisdiction” the AOD has over Voris/RCTV to make the statements it made, they imply, without stating, that the AOD needs “jurisdiction” (however that is to be understood) in order to make the statements it has made. I reject that unstated assumption: the AOD does not need “jurisdiction” over Voris/RCTV in order to make the public statements it has made, most recently, that it “does not regard [Voris/RCTV] as being authorized to use the word ‘Catholic’ to identify or promote their public activities.” Indeed, as declarations of fact, the statements could have been made by anyone with adequate knowledge of the situation ...

I could be wrong, but I believe that our opening statement is what thousands of us poor unlettered "combox jockeys" (as he would have us be known) have been trying to tell the good Doctor for the past couple of weeks. There are likely three reasons why we have been doing a poor job of explaining ourselves. And so, we here at man with black hat have decided to cut the poor guy a break (to say nothing of the rest of you), and elaborate upon what we have identified as three problem areas.

1) The perceived scandal of selective enforcement. Commenters have been quick to point out that tenured-yet-heretical theologians, wild liturgical dancing nuns, and aging-hippie dissenting priests (including one old retired bishop who can't seem to stop whining about something) have been running footloose and fancy free in the Archdiocese for decades without consequence. As much of a scandal as this truly is, and with confidence that the Archbishop of Detroit will answer for each and every single instance, one at a time, when he stands before the Throne of the Almighty -- yes, dear minions, for all of that, here in this our vale of tears, it is irrelevant, as the lawgiver is empowered with the discretion to pursue any jurisprudential matters as he sees fit. Indeed, if one is to function with ANY authority at all, said lawgiver must be given the benefit of discretionary judgment, that which is commensurate with the responsibility in question.

2) The "big picture" in preserving authority. When one is faced with disobedience on all sides, of a sort that demands a response, there must be a reasonable chance, not only that a decree of correction will be met with compliance, but that, failing such compliance, any penalties imposed will actually be felt by the offender, so as to dissuade them from their malfeasance. A religious order can create havoc among their cohorts, generating discontent at both their national conferences and their secret covens in the woods, and eventually put even the appearance of undue pressure on an otherwise faithful prelate. But give a directive to Joe Blow's Catholic Crusade, and he'll fold like an accordion in a heartbeat, thus bringing order to the cosmos that spins around in a bishop's head. The late John Cardinal O'Connor himself lamented that diocesan bishops are often, to use his own term, "morally bludgeoned" by their own staffs. The path of least resistance is tempting, if only because it works. For the moment.

3) Jurisdiction is a many-splendored thing. Canon lawyers have to know Latin, and “jurisdiction” is a Latin word. Let's run with that. The word is from the Latin “juris” (law) and “dicere” (to speak). Jurisdiction, then, is the authority to make pronouncements on legal matters. It is by implication, however, that such is followed by the authority to administer justice, including the imposition of penalties, in the same area of pronouncement. We might be settled on the Archdiocese of Detroit being within its rights to make a statement that, yes, something that someone watches on the internet in the den of their house which is geographically situated within the Archdiocese, is or is not operating with the sanction of local church authority. But (here comes the proverbial drumroll!) is that authority limited to merely having an opinion, or is it empowered to enforce said decree through penalties? And in so doing, will it honor the due process over which it presides, and preserve the rights of the faithful, as opposed to their tired old status quo?

And THAT, good Doctor, is “however that is to be understood.” Capisce?

The matter of who can actually force the issue with the apostolate in question is yet to be settled, as it now appears that it has the attention of both the Archdiocese of Detroit AND the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend (in the case of the latter, at least unofficially). Time will only tell how it is played out. Mr Voris has likely said all that he can say for now, and is unlikely to elaborate without further developments.

As to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Detroit, and those matters which have brought them to the point of outrage, they will get the justice they deserve, ONLY when they decide that they will no longer tolerate the lack thereof, and are willing to act, either with their well-spent time, the withholding of their treasure, or by moving to a diocese that truly appreciates them.

Like mine.

1 comment:

Dad29 said...

The real irony here is that the Abp of Detroit is (by all accounts) a pretty good man who is a defender of the Faith.

Of course, some folks confuse "Faith" with "Bishops" or "Priests."

As anyone in Milwaukee (or Boston) can tell you, sometimes the difference is very significant, indeed.