Thursday, May 07, 2015

No-one expects ....

I like the idea of Missionaries of Mercy sent as the Holy Father's specially envoys to release sinners from the direst of sins. It has a sense of 'no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition", gangs of clergy bursting into Mass and offering to reconcile even the foulest, most monstrous of sins.

It makes very good headlines but I am not sure what it really means.

In most diocese in the world the absolution of sins which at one time were reserved to the bishop, like procuring an abortion, are delegated to ordinary priests. I don't know if the South America experience is different but in an average parish there wouldn't be much for a Missionary of Mercy to do, except possibly amongst the clergy. Attempting assault on the person of the Sovereign Pontiff or interfering with a Papal Election, or revealing the secrets of the Conclave earn automatic excommunication, still but most sins that might need a Missionary of Mercy are very clerical in nature, for example:
Canon 1367 One who throws away the consecrated species or, for a sacrilegious purpose, takes them away or keeps them, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; a cleric, moreover, may be punished with some other penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state.
Canon 1370 §1 A person who uses physical force against the Roman Pontiff incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; if the offender is a cleric, another penalty, not excluding dismissal from the clerical state, may be added according to the gravity of the crime.
Canon 1378 §1 A priest who acts against the prescription of Can. 977 incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See. [absolving an accomplice in a sin regarding the 6th Commandment]
Canon 1382 Both the Bishop who, without a pontifical mandate, consecrates a person a Bishop, and the one who receives the consecration from him, incur a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.
Canon 1388 §1 A confessor who directly violates the sacramental seal, incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; he who does so only indirectly is to be punished according to the gravity of the offence. 
So unless these Missionaries are going to run in packs around the office of the Roman dicasteries I am left wondering is the Holy Father trying to advertise a gradation of sin? Does he want to bishops to take back and reserve to themselves abortion or child abuse or mismanagement of Church property and heresy or apostasy.

Post Script: Yes, I hate that two headed man logo too


Fr John Hunwicke said...

Dear Fr Ray

The Holy Father's intention is, surely, obvious. In the greatness of his merciful heart, he wants to make it easy for Bishop Williamson to get absolved from the latae sententiae excommunication he incurred for consecrating a bishop without a pontifical mandate.

Otherwise, as you point out, the whole business is practically meaningless.

I hope we soon get to having another supper together!

In Domino

John Hunwicke

Sandpiper said...

What I think the missionaries of mercy are going to do is tell the divorced and remarried and homosexuals that their sins are forgiven without abandoning their lifestyles.

Sandpiper said...

In fact, Father Blake, I predict the Missionaries of Mercy are going to lift excommunication of womyn priests, and a dictate will come from Rome to each diocese demanding that women be ordained to the priesthood and allowed to be deacons.

Sandpiper said...

That logo is nausea inducing. So ugly.

Jacobi said...


I may be wrong but I suspect we will not see much of the Missionaries of Mercy in my little remote part of the civilised world.

But then we probably don't need them. I mean no one earns a latae sententiae excommunication here, even if they wanted to.

They wouldn't have the faintest idea of what it was. Too busy nattering and joking away with their backs to the Tabernacle after Mass, before ambling out and round for coffee and a chat.

Incidently, your colleague Fr. F seems to have been well and truly "nobbled". If you are still in touch with him give my regards!

Liam Ronan said...

I suggest that the Missionaries of Mercy be charged by Francis to begin their mission in those areas of the world where 'mercy' seems most desperately needed, i.e. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Nigeria, Libya, etc.
Thereafter, when they've earned or gotten their stripes, they can move on to wherever they are directed to go by Francis.

viterbo said...

If it is a mission to confirm people in error rather than use a bit of compunction for the sake of immortal souls, we'd be better off without it.

Long-Skirts said...

Fr. Blake said:

"Yes, I hate that two headed man logo too"

Two guys with three eyes.

Liam Ronan said...

Quite frankly, the eyes are effeminate, reminiscent of the ‘big-eyed’ artwork of the American pop artist Margaret Keane who began painting saucer-eyed waifs in the 1950s. This logo is so very unmasculine and saccharine in its totality. It makes me ill.

Notwithstanding the aforementioned opinion of mine, I see the Mercy Outreach Patrol will start in London rather than Iraq (see url). I suppose one must start somewhere. No store front drop-in this.

Simon Reilly said...

I think the first stop for the Missionaries of Mercy should be Germany and the Netherlands, where even the clergy don't go to confession.

Pelerin said...

Long Skirts - I have to admit I had not noticed the three eyes but at first I thought there was a surfeit of hands!

Thomas said...

Apparently local priests will be commissioned or co-opted to be part the "missionaries" and can even volunteer, subject to vetting of their suitability (does that mean all others will be forbidden from hearing confessions or just unable to reconcile these super rare reserved sins, or will we end up with two grades of confessors and two grades of the sacrament of penance?).

One of the conditions of the vetting, according to reports, is that they won't turn the confessional experience into "a torture chamber" as Pope Francis puts it in his inimitable way. Yet again the holy father seems to have a peculiarly extreme view of what the clergy are like. South America must be a place of peculiar extremes. Personally I have never met anything but kindness and encouragement in the confessional. If anything, I wish I had been lovingly challenged to real conversion earlier in my life.

The Pope's words seems to imply that the reason for the decline in confessions is because of the supposed harshness of priests. In reality I think it is because many priest told us we didn't need to any more! Perhaps Padre Pio ought to be the patron saint of these missionaries of mercy, but I wonder whether he would have passed the vetting process ...

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

The logo is a cornucopia of confusion. Par for the course.