Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What If We Had A Code Of Canon Love?

Is war the male version of the demand that mother's die for the sake of their fetus?

Fr Tom Doyle has written an article for the National Catholic Reporter explaining the fine points of Canon Law as they apply to the Arizona medical situation for which Bishop Thomas Olmstead publicly announced the latae sententiae excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride. It is worth reading for Tom's clear explanation of the fine points of Canon Law which directly apply to this situation. The comments section is also worth reading. A couple of conservative posters get into some very murky ground in their attempts to justify Olmstead's decision and refute Fr. Doyle's analysis.

In reading through the article I kept having this stray thought run through my head. Why does a Church which professes to follow Jesus Christ even have such a thicket of Canon Laws? Jesus basically asked us to follow two laws, both involving the primacy of love. He asked us to pursuit relationships based in love, not relationships based in law. In this context it would make more sense to have a Code of Canon Love, not law. Lest one think I'm being all felt bannered hippy sixties let me explain myself.

If we had a Code of Canon Love, the emphasis in Catholicism might be radically different. Imagine if you even can, a theory of just war in a Code of Canon Love. Since one of the major Canons would be learning to forgive one's enemies, justifying war in any circumstances would be very very difficult. One would seriously have to consider the very direct rebuke of Peter by Jesus when Peter cuts off the ear of a soldier as Jesus is captured in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus even heals the ear of the soldier. He reconciles the situation in terms of His own world view about the preeminence of love. Love does no harm no matter the provocation. Love heals, love matures, love gives witness to a higher order of organization. It does not enshrine the imbalances of the status quo.

I often forget in my frequent writing on the status of women in Church teaching that lay men have not historically had their lives valued either. Nor have they as fathers been given the respect for their relationship in their families. Certainly not when it comes to war. I thought about that yesterday watching Memorial Day ceremonies. It appears war is the sacred process for men that child birth is for women. Just as women must sacrifice their own lives for the sake of their fetus, men have been legally bound to sacrifice their own lives for the sake of war. It is a woman's duty to die in creating, it is a man's duty to die in destroying. In both cases we're told this is in the interest of the common good and that this relationship with the common good takes precedence over any other relationship. Even one's existing children. Even one's conscience. Both sexes are treated as canon fodder for the common good, and neither lay men nor lay women have a voice in determining the Canon Law which has historically relegated their primary love relationships and responsibilities a secondary status. A Code of Canon Love might actually reverse this thinking.

If the Church was really pro life and pro family it's code of Canon Law would be rewritten to suggest a father's primary responsibility was to his wife and children, not to the political and economic interests of the ruling state. In my mind the connection between demanding the sacrifice of a mother's life for the life of her child is directly tied to the demand that a father sacrifice his life for the sake of the culture. Neither demand is ultimately pro life or pro family, and both demean the importance of the marital and parental relationship.
I guess that's why we have public displays of affection for our soldiers who have died in our wars--just or not--and public humiliation for Sister McBride.


  1. The Church's Canon Law certainly is "such a thicket." I could not read the entire thicket, nor do I desire to read it.

    These thoughts that you have shared with us today, Colleen, are truly "brilliant" as P2P notes. What we do really need is a Code of Canon Love.

    "If the Church was really pro life and pro family it's code of Canon Law would be rewritten to suggest a father's primary responsibility was to his wife and children, not to the political and economic interests of the ruling state."

    Last night I was re-reading The Catholic Church, A Short History by Hans Kung and since the Council of Trent there have been so many wars and with the RCC siding for war & benefiting from the spoils, as well as the laity and priests losing their lives as well. The Church has not changed at all and so the world will not change unless the Church does, imho.

    Enough is enough! When will the Church move on into the light of Christ and bring His peace into the world?

  2. "Code of Canon Love"!I love it already, and all I've had time to read is the headline. It's certainly more in tune with the Gospels, which are all about the primacy of love over mechanical application of legal rules.

  3. Brilliant x 2!

    This reminds me of how there are two separate developmental theories for moral development. Kohlberg's and Gilligan's. A he and a she respectively. Kohlberg's theory is one in which people's degree of abstraction increases. Gilligan's has often been called "A Ethic of Care." That's what you're talking about in terms of "Canon Love" - not law.

    And there's no doubt in my mind that Jesus' teaching is more related to "love" - to "care" - than to abstract principles (at war with each other).

    Thanks millions for this post! :-)

  4. I've been commenting here all day on some pretty serious stuff. I must be tired because when I came back to this post I read TheraP's reference to Gilligan and I immediately thought of Gilligan's Island. So I started to chuckle about Gilligan as a philosopher then I misread the title as "Cannon of Love", which really cracked me up.

    And wouldn't you know it, there really is a "Love Cannon"

    See: http://www.artnet.com/Galleries/Artwork_Detail.asp?G=&gid=154461&which=&ViewArtistBy=online&aid=424972868&wid=424972819&source=artist&rta=http://www.artnet.com


    "Love Cannon is part of Walker and Bromwich’s Friendly Frontier Peace Campaign. A campaign that celebrates love through actions and environments, which lead participants towards an alternate world of love and Peace. This campaign takes place in the context of the current global political climate it seeks out love in a war torn world through bizarre and romantic acts.

    Love Cannon is a pink inflatable cannon, designed to shoot balloons into the skies in an action for peace. Each time the soft missiles are catapulted from the breach of this unlikely object the collaborative duo hope to spread a bit more joy in a world at war."



  5. Canon Law has very little to do with the Gospel, and everything to do with preserving the hegemony of the Vatican.

    It is a set of procedural documents on: "how to keep & enforce our power".

    That's about the size of it. And if you have ever actually read Canon Law - or even fractional abstracts from it - you would be horrified.

    ...at both the literal words & thei potential use/misuse.

    A good civil lawyer is a good liar. You are paying him/her to use civil law to your advantage. "Ethics' only enter the picture in as much as the OVERT misuse & manipulation be kept to a minimum. In other words; duplicity. A facade of ethical respectability is to be maintained.

    But that is neither moral nor truly ethical. It is the definitive manifestation of: Situational Ethics.

    Now.....what is the difference between a Civil & Canon Lawyer? Nothing save for a backwards collar. The degree of pretense of 'Ethics' becomes far more immoral & outrageous as you contemplate the ramifications of this.

    Anon Y. Mouse