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.
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.