Canon 216: Who Are You Calling Catholic?

49 And John, answering, said: Master, we saw a certain man casting out devils in thy name, and we forbade him, because he followeth not with us.

50 And Jesus said to him: Forbid him not; for he that is not against you, is for you.

Luke 9:49-50

On December 15, 2011, the Archdiocese of Detroit stated that Real Catholic TV could not use the term “Catholic”.

In a Dec. 15, 2011 statement addressing the organization’s name, the archdiocese clarified that the Church encourages its members “to promote or sustain a variety of apostolic undertakings,” but forbids them “from claiming the name Catholic without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority.”   The archdiocese added that it has been communicating with Voris as well as his media partner at Real Catholic TV on the issue for “some time.”

Last month’s announcement also referenced Canon 216 of the Roman Catholic Church’s current Code of Canon Law, which holds that “no undertaking is to claim the name ‘Catholic’” without authorization.   According to the archdiocese, Real Catholic TV’s programming is “disseminated from the enterprise’s production facility in Ferndale, Michigan,” within the jurisdiction of Detroit’s Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron.   But Voris maintains that Archbishop Vigneron is not the “competent ecclesiastical authority” over Real Catholic TV, which is owned by Indiana resident Marc Brammer.   “I don’t have ownership over the name of the organization. It’s not my organization. The headquarters are outside of the diocese,” Voris told LifeSiteNews in a Dec. 23 article. “It’s the wrong person, and the wrong outfit asking the wrong person the wrong question.”

Go here to read the rest at LifeSiteNews.  As for Real Catholic TV, I have no great feeling one way or another.  I have watched very little of it, but what I have seen I have not found very impressive.  The heart of Mr. Voris appears to be in the right place, but his head often doesn’t seem to be fully engaged.  Having said that, considering all the faith destroying drek that I have seen promoted under the name “Catholic” in this country over the past four decades, I find it amusing, although completely unsurprising,  that it was the traditionalist Real Catholic TV that was chosen for this rare application of Canon 216.

The Canon states as follows:  “Since they participate in the mission of the Church, all the Christian faithful have the right to promote or sustain apostolic action even by their own undertakings, according to their own state and condition. Nevertheless, no undertaking is to claim the name Catholic without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.”

I  imagine that very few organizations in this country, or indeed the world, have bothered seeking such consent unless they are directly associated with the Church.  If the “competent ecclesiastical  authorities” are now going to busy themselves in enforcing Canon 216, they will be kept very busy indeed. Of course we all know that will not happen.  Real Catholic TV was singled out, and that is precisely the problem.  In law, either ecclesiastical or secular, selective enforcement always creates the impression of injustice.  If a speed limit of 55 is enforced against all motorists caught by the authorities well and good;  if the limit is enforced only against critics of the local Sheriff, then enforcement of a valid law can be unjust. 

Rorate Caeli has a brilliant post on this point:

In this, as in most cases involving serious Catholics in the past decades, what irks people, even if they somehow do not know how to express it, is precisely this: the injustice in the application of the law by dioceses or even by Higher Authority. There is nothing in law more prone to abuse than an apparently “clear” or “plain” law, precisely because it demands great care in its application, that is not supposed to be simply uniform, but must be equitably just for all. Do all remember how the “clear” and “plain” “abrogation” of the Traditional Mass was defended by most Canonists for decades, and how abuses became norms in the Pauline Mass, while the Traditional Mass was persecuted with no quarter?…

Is stating that something that “claims the title ‘Catholic’ does not have canonical authorization to do so” a regular action of the Archdiocese of Detroit? Or does the Canon apply only to one particular enterprise? How about sending a “Defend the Catholic Name Inspection team” to every parish and “institution” in the diocese: we are absolutely convinced that a team composed of orthodox Catholics would be horrified at what is being said, done, and taught under the “Catholic” name from some pulpits and in classrooms. It is not even really hidden: for a very diminute example, the Catholic & Jesuit University of Detroit Mercy has never stopped linking to Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women in their website (and this is what is available in one single webpage, one shudders to think at what may take place in “Women and Gender’s Studies” classes in the university.) Despite the appropriate behavior of the Archdiocese during the “American Catholic Council”/Call to Action conference last year (see 1, 2, 3), the canon on the prohibition of the word “Catholic” without “consent” was never invoked even then, when the actual integrity of Catholic doctrine was affected.

Let us be clear: the selective application and loud proclamation of this Canon for one case only, amidst the disastrous situation of the Church in general, looks ridiculous. It  does not make the Archdiocese look admirable and law-abiding, but petty and small. Finally, the fact that it is completely unenforceable in civil courts, since the Archdiocese does not have exclusive intellectual property rights over the name “Catholic”, makes it look weak and toothless. “Dura lex sed lex” has always been a problematic brocard; it can also be dangerous when those guided by it are not informed by a keen sense of equity and justice.

Go here to read the rest.  Courthouses around the country have been replaced with so-called law and justice centers.  In November of this year I will have been an attorney for three decades and, based on that, I find this title  of law and justice highly amusing.  People who have anything to do with courts will receive lots of law;  justice on the other hand is more of a hit or miss proposition.  Apparently that is also the case with the application of canon law.

22 Responses to Canon 216: Who Are You Calling Catholic?

  • My comment is here:

    http://commentarius-ioannis.blogspot.com/2012/01/real-catholic-tv-responds-to.html

    I don’t agree with everything Voris says. But why doesn’t AoD ask why TAC gets to use the name “Catholic” in its title? Now I think that “The American Catholic” is a perfectly fine title for this blog. But do entries at this blog have an Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat (not that they need them)? Indeed, the question remains: why single out Voris? I think that it is because he has with his usual caustic personality (I have one of those, so I recognize it well) pointed out the hypocrisy rampant among the US Bishopry and some (er, almost all) liberals really don’t like that.

  • Sounds like trademark infringement.

    Matthew 7:21: “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

    The operative clause is, “competent ecclesiastical authority.”

  • Now if only the Archdiocese of Kansas City will take away the “Catholic” from the National Catholic Reporter.

  • On the other hand, were Real Catholic TV to submit and cease to use the Catholic moniker, it could provide coverage for bishops to do the same with other actual abusers of the Catholic identity and serve as a good witness.

  • @Phillip, so true!

    Can this apply to people? Can we have Nancy Pelosi stop calling herself Catholic?

  • Yeah, to say that I’ve never been impressed by Real Catholic TV is to put it mildly — but this kind of thing seems to show up a nasty passive aggressive streak in the hierarchy: “Oh, you keep pestering us to be more strict in enforcing standards within the Church? Well, if you like that so much, we’ll be strict with you but with no one else.”

  • I’m just finishing a book about Saint Dominic. The author puts a lot of stress on the apostolate of teaching and how certain levels of teaching authority have to fall under the authority of the Church. There really are two separate questions: who is speaking on behalf of the Church and are they properly representing the Church in their statements. One is a question of ecclesiology, the other of theology. A bad sermon is a theological problem; an independent organization implicitly claiming teaching authority is a matter of ecclesiastical discipline. Rorate Coeli is wrong to blur the two.

    But definitely, groups like Catholics for a Free Choice and the National Catholic Reporter should fall under the same scrutiny. And it’s not simply a matter of intellectual property rights. That’s like saying that simony is outside Church prosecution because an exchange of sacraments for money is a legal transaction. The Church may not have the muscle to prevent the unauthorized use of the name “Catholic”, but it has the responsibility to speak against those who falsely claim to be representing Catholicism.

  • So Pinky, should TAC then remain “The American Catholic”?

    Should Steve Ray’s blog remain “Defenders of the Catholic Faith”?

    Should Mark Shea’s blog remain “Catholic and Enjoying It”?

    I have no objection to all three retaining the name “Catholic” just as I have no objection to the same for RCTV.

    But to single out RCTV is unequitable and unfair. BTW, what about the Old Catholic Church in the US that believes in contraception and women in the priesthood?

  • Guys,

    I’ve been thinking again (a dangerous thing for a nuclear trained person, to be sure!). Remember the scandal over Fr. Corapi (whose web site is apparently pulled down now)? Remember how he really irritated a lot of people, and now he is essentially no more. I am not arguing over whether or not he really did something wrong, but rather this: what if a scandal like that is brewing for RCTV? No, I am NOT saying anybody has done anything wrong, but these kinds of things generally start with “You don’t speak for the Church” and then they escalate until all the dirty laundry is waving in the breeze. And again, no, I am not saying that there is any such dirty laundry, but things have a way of turning very ugly even in the best of circumstances (and this isn’t one of them).

    We should for both Voris and Vigneron (interesting that both names begin with “V”). We don’t need another scandal.

  • Darn my fat fingers – we should PRAY for Voris and Vigneron. Arrrrgggggghhhhhhh!

  • Paul, those are fair questions. I think that if anyone misunderstands “The American Catholic” or “Defenders of the Catholic Faith” to imply official status then, yes, the names should be changed. It’s something I’ve never thought about before, but it makes sense. I don’t think that anyone would hear the name “Catholic and Enjoying It” and assume that it speaks for the Church.

    I’m unfamiliar with the Fr. Corapi story, but to my knowledge, things rarely start with “you don’t speak for the Church”. But I can believe that one of the unintended consequences of the Council’s implementation is a confusion about who does speak for the Church. Again, I’m not saying that the clergy or official Church outlets are flawless, but lay teaching has risks, and clarity of status isn’t a bad thing.

  • “Paul, those are fair questions. I think that if anyone misunderstands “The American Catholic” or “Defenders of the Catholic Faith” to imply official status”

    The only thing “official” about this blog is our “official” mascot:

  • Michael Voris is awesome, refreshing, truthful, no-nonsense. I suppose the effeminate types and other liberals who work in these diocese offices would be turned off by him.

  • I get Voris’ daily e-mail which contains “The Vortex”, and their news segment.
    There has been a bit of an argument here at our http://www.beingfrank.co.nz blog.

    I think Voris gives a direct and unflinching propounding of the Catholic Faith. Sure, he can be critical of many things and people in the Church – he tends to brush over ….”in all things, charity.” Having said that, I have never heard anything that Voris says that is not orthodox Catholic teaching – he gives his presentations in a clear and unambiguous manner, and I think it is this that ruffles many feathers, particlularly the liberal/ progressive element in the Church, and he calls out liberal bishops for their failure to lead the Church firmly, thus giving cause to the multitude of problems that the Church now faces.

    I would be interested to hear directly from Bp. Vigneron. It is the chancery – the Director of Communications that is after Voris’ blood, and he has been employed by the AoD for 20 years when the infamous Bp.(Stumblebum) Gumbleton was at the helm, and he (Gumbleton) allegedly allowed or turned a blind eye to such things as Clown masses, promotion of women priests, and homosexual clergy involved in the abuse scandal.

    Also, the canon lawyer from the Indiana Diocese of Frt Wayne-South Bend considers that there is no issue with RealCatholicTV.com

    Interesting when the dust settles.

  • Donald, why did you post the video of Senator John Warner?

  • Isn’t this the issue that came up for Mother Angelica? If I remember correctly from her biography, she admittedly said something very unwise about a bishop, and the fallout eventually was an apostolic visitation for the television station. After the apostolic visitation, she was told that she should not have started her TV station without proper approval. She asked if approval was likely to have been granted. “No,” was the answer. Imagine….. we would have “Catholics” in government destroying our religious freedom with abandon, but no EWTN to teach the faith. Such a sad thought!

  • Tell me, good people, why would any Organization calling itself “Catholic”, coming from another country, refuse to present themselves to the “Local Ordinary” to be officially recognized as a Catholic Organization in their new domicile??? That is the question, Donald. The Canon Law quoted is unambiguously clear and it applies to all. The onus is not on the Ordinary to chase those opening in His See to present themselves to him for official recognition. It is on the Organization coming into a new See to present themselves. May you all be blessed this New Year 2012

  • So Mary, should Steve Ray’s “Defenders of the Catholic Faith” (which by its very title makes itself out to be some sort of authority on or for the Catholic faith) present itself to the local ordinary and get imprimaturs and nihil obstat for all the information on its web site? (BTW, I love Steve Ray’s apologetics and routinely plagiarize his works, though I cite attribution, buty that’s not the point.)

    Should the “National Catholic Reporter” – that liberal bastion of godless dissent – present itself to the local ordinary also?

    You yourself said that the Canon Law cited is unambiguous and applies to all of us. Does it? Really? And is it being so applied? The answer to the last is clearly “no.” Uber orthodox Michael Voris is being singled out. :-(

    Now no, I do not agree with everything Voris says, and sometimes his mannerism is as caustic as my own. But his heart is in the right place and the liberal elements in AoD hate that.

  • Hey, guys, I can’t find Lionel Andrades comment that I received in my e-mail. I did want to respond to it by pointing what St. Paul wrote in Romans 11, namely, that God has not rejected His people Israel or the Jews, and that as Christians we are simply branches of a wild Olive shoot grafted into the Tree that is Christ. It always upsets me to read or hear criticism of the people through whom God chose to give us His Son. I do, however, agree that the Church is in a sense the “New Israel”, and that Jews and Gentiles alike are called to conversion and repentance, but St. Paul uses that very point in his Epistle to the Romans to caution us as Gentile Christians against arrogance, lest we find ourselves as wild branches cut off from the graft.

  • Paul, when Jesus taught us that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, did everybody accept Him? NO. Did that mean that His Divine Identity and Salvation Message was false? NO. It follows therefore, that the Teachings of the Catholic Church and its Magisterium Authority are binding to all those who wish to remain Faithful to Christ’s Church. But God gave us Free Will – to accept His Divine Truth and Salvation Mystery subsisting in the Divinely Constituted Catholic Church by Christ Himself and led by “The Rock” and His Successors or reject that Truth and Salvation Mystery. God created us without our permission, but He shall never save anyone without their co-operation.

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