Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I've been thinking about the idea of Catholic customs recently. I've had some people that have asked why we do something which we consider a custom that othera don't do. So I decided to do a little research.

The only are that I could find that even mentions custom was canon law so I turned there since it has a whole section on it.

Can. 23 Only that custom introduced by a community of the faithful and approved by the legislator according to the norm of the following canons has the force of law.

In other words, for something to be a custom, it has to approved by the person that is capable of approving it. If something is reseved to the Bishop, he is the only one who can approve it. If it can be approved locally, then the pastor can approve it as well.

Can. 24 §1. No custom which is contrary to divine law can obtain the force of law.

§2. A custom contrary to or beyond canon law (praeter ius canonicum) cannot obtain the force of law unless it is reasonable; a custom which is expressly reprobated in the law, however, is not reasonable.

So, you cannot claim that it is the custom of this area to believe that Jesus wasn't really the redeemer. That would be contrary to divine law. Also, you cannot break church law unless it is reasonable. What's reasonable? Let me give an example. In the diocese of Orlando, when a catholic marries a non catholic in a non catholic church, the diocese mandates that a priest or deacon be present to receive the vows. In the Archdiocese of Dubuque, no such mandate exists. Both believe that are faithfully interpreting canon law. There's some leeway in the interpretation of the canon and both dioceses have ways of interepreting it. It seems like they are saying that it's not reasonable to outright break a law but it is reasonable to have difference in application of the law.

Can. 25 No custom obtains the force of law unless it has been observed with the intention of introducing a law by a community capable at least of receiving law.

Can. 26 Unless the competent legislator has specifically approved it, a custom contrary to the canon law now in force or one beyond a canonical law (praeter legem canonicam) obtains the force of law only if it has been legitimately observed for thirty continuous and complete years. Only a centenary or immemorial custom, however, can prevail against a canonical law which contains a clause prohibiting future customs.

This canon is very interesting because it provides a time limit. For something to be a custom, it has to have existed for "thirty continuous and complete years." That means you cannon do something for five or ten or even 29 years and say that it's a custom. It only becomes a custom when a community has lived with it for 30 years. This sort of makes sense when you think that, in the course of 30 years, several different leaders will work with the custom. If they all believe it's worth maintaining, then it's definitely not just a fad. It's a real custom.

So, it seems to me, that when we use the term of custom in its ecclesiastical understanding, you have to ask yourself 1. who has the authority to legislate the custom (Rome, diocese, religious community, or local parish?), 2. does it contradict either divine or church law, and 3. how long has the custom existed? Once you answer those questions, then you know if you're dealing with a custom and if your custom is licit.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Humanity of Jesus

I started writing down this homily and ran out of time. The last part is more of a bullet point summary of what happened. I think you'll still be able to understand despite the lack of completion

My Dear brothers and sister in Christ

Grace and Peace to you in God our Father and the divine Lord Jesus Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity through the power of the Holy Spirit. What does it mean when we say that Jesus was fully human? Each week we profess in the creed, “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, who…For us men and for our salvation…came down from heaven by the power of the Holy Spirit … was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” This is an articulation of the Christian belief that Jesus was fully God and fully human. What does that mean?

There are some people who like to treat non-human things as though they are human. For instance, I think there are some people who treat their pets as though they are human. I know of people who will pick up their dog or cat, turn them over, and rock them like a mother rocks a baby. In some ways, I think it says more about who we are as human beings than about the animal being like us.

So, what does it mean to be human? In answering this question, I thought about some sci-fi programs with robots mimicking what it means to be human. Whether it’s Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man or Lt. Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation, I find it interesting that feelings seem to be an important part of what it means to be truly human in these depictions.

· Feelings point them toward sex but that is the definition of carnality.

· Same is true of Jesus – Dan Brown thinks Jesus couldn’t have been a real man, a real human if he didn’t have sex.

· Scriptures see it different
o Second reading: God became fully human by suffering
o First reading: Suffering is meaningful because it shows a person’s willingness to be obedient to God
o Gospel: whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

· To be truly human as Jesus was fully human doesn’t mean being a masochist. But it does mean being willing to recognize a divine motive in all things, even suffering. Only a real human could suffer the way Jesus did.

· During Preparation of gifts “May the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” Gives us hope that Jesus who willingly entered into this human condition of suffering will someday take away suffering when we share in his divinity.