Leave ‘erring clergy’ to Canon Law, bishops—priest

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MANILA, Oct. 25, 2014—What can the laity do when their pastors do not live up to their duties? According to a priest, lay people, despite good intentions, are better off leaving the matter to bishops who know about Canon Law.

In cases when members of the clergy are the ones compromising the integrity of faith and morals, the head of Sampaloc, Manila’s Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro Parish, Fr. Jerome R. Secillano, offers the “canonical” remedy of having recourse to bishops who have the power to “apply the full force of Canon Law” in cases of “erring priests.”

Respect, dignity

Citing the 1983 Code of Canon Law (CIC), in his essay “Clericalizing the Laity”, Secillano says, “Christ’s faithful have the right and at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters that concern the good of the Church” (Can. 212 §3).

But in doing so, Secillano points out, they must “always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals” (Can. 212 §3).

The priest stresses that nothing in the law gives lay people the right to kick out their erring pastors, especially in a manner that disrespects their sacred office.

According to him, lay people are to “show respect and should take into account the common good and the persons’ dignity”.

In his essay “Clericalizing the Laity,” which tackles unordained people who meddle in inner-Church affairs a little too much, Fr. Jerome R. Secillano also explores the question of “erring priests”. (Photo: CBCP News)

Secillano admits this is often hard to swallow, asking, “How can someone show respect if the other is not worthy of it? For many of us, respect is earned and is not an entitlement.”

‘Struggle for power’

He shares that suspension and defrocking of priests do not often solve the issue of a “clericalized laity”, emphasizing instead the education of clerics, religious, and laity, which he deems more important.

“Clerics and religious would have to be reminded of their essential character as central figures in the church. Whether we admit it or not, they are still the ‘face’ of the church. The lay people, for their part, have to be educated on their roles and be formed as ‘evangelizers’ in the secular sphere, specifically in areas where the presence of priests are not lawfully warranted such as family, politics and business,” Secillano says.

According to Secillano this apparent division of labor in the mission of the Church should not lead to a “struggle for power” between the laity and the clergy

“On one hand, clerics and religious should not ‘fear’ the laity. Lay people, on the other hand, should not be unnecessarily aggressive. From clerics and religious, the laity receives the strength through the sacraments and the dynamic exposition of the church’s doctrines and then the encouragement to evangelize the secular order. The laity, then, takes full responsibility in the secular area,” the priest explained.

Secillano likewise decried the venturing of clerics into politics and business, saying it is a manifestation of the “failure to form a dynamic laity” whose proper mission is to evangelize precisely these spheres. (Raymond A. Sebastián)

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