Images de page




A RECENT decree of the Consistorial Congregation,1 embodying the Catholic doctrine on preaching and enforcing rules for its application, is of more than ordinary interest. It will involve additional work for Bishops and Religious Superiors, and confer on them certain rights that they have never had before, or, at least, have never exercised. And on the ordinary priest it will impose restrictions that are quite new in ecclesiastical life.

Two other documents prepared the way. One was an Encyclical of the Holy Father, dated the 15th of June last, and addressed to the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops and other local Ordinaries in communion with the Holy See.' In it he recalled the maxims on the subject furnished by the New Testament and the Fathers of the Church, deplored the lower standards adopted by many preachers of our day, and called upon those whom he addressed to effect a reformation in current methods, by carefully selecting those qualified to preach, rejecting the unsuitable, and exercising their authority generally on the lines he indicated. His portrait of the 'babbling declaimer' anything but flattering :


What are they chiefly inspired by? Some by a desire for empty glory; and, in order to satisfy it, they prefer the lofty theme to the appropriate, arousing an admiration for themselves in people of weak intelligence, whose salvation they do nothing to promote. They are ashamed to talk of plain and humble doctrines, lest it might be thought they knew nothing else' and, though it was from the humble character of His audience that Jesus Christ proved He was the Messias who was expected—‘ the poor have the Gospel preached to them '-what struggles do not these men make to have glory reflected on their sermons by the celebrated cities or the first-rank churches in which they preach! And, since in God's revelation there are things that make corrupt human nature shudder, they carefully avoid all of them, and deal with matters in which, if we except the place of delivery, there is nothing whatever sacred. Often, in the very middle of a discourse on eternal truths, they lapse into politics, especially anything in that line that makes an intense appeal to the audience. Their whole ambition, indeed, would seem to be to please their

1 It is dated the 28th June, and was published four days later. The full text may be seen in our Documents' (infra, pp. 336 et seq.).

VOL. X-22

hearers and satisfy the bent of those denounced by St. Paul as 'itching ears.' Hence the gestures, neither calm nor grave, usually associated with the stage or public platform; the exaggerated softening and tragic heightening of the voice; the style of language suggestive of the daily newspaper; the multitude of views borrowed, not from the Scriptures or the Fathers, but from the writings of impious men and non-Catholics; the volubility of utterance that stuns the ear and excites the admiration of their hearers, without conveying anything profitable that they can bring home with them. It is marvellous how misguided these men are. Let them have the ignorant applause that they worked for sacrilegiously: is it really any reward for their labour, when they are faced with the contempt of the judicious and, more serious still, with the strict and terrible judgment of Christ? 1

We may say that the description applies to very few priests in this country we may conjecture, too, that Continental displays, of which we have heard details in recent times, represented the abuses aimed at in the new regulations. But all that makes little difference. General laws have now been passed to prevent the recurrence of these disedifying spectacles, and there is always the possibility that similar scenes might occur anywhere. And, as we always knew and are told again in the new Code (c. 21), 'laws passed to provide against a general danger bind, even though there be no danger in an individual case.'

The second document referred to was the section on the subject in the new Code itself (1337-48), which, though not published, was, of course, in existence at the time the decree was issued. It states in brief form the regulations given in detail in the decree, and adds a number of prescriptions about which the decree says nothing. As will be seen from the text, the decree is to be put into force by the Ordinaries at once, whereas the Code as a whole is not to operate till Pentecost Sunday, May 19, 1918.2 Strictly speaking, therefore, some of the new laws on preaching are not so urgent as others. But in practice, we may take it, the whole section will be accepted as soon as the Ordinaries have, in accordance with the Pope's injunction, applied the decree in their respective dioceses.

Faculties are now required for preaching. If a sermon is to be preached to the professed members or novices of an exempt clerical Order, or to those who, as servants, pupils, guests or patients, live in the Institution day and night, the Superior grants the faculty either to his own subjects, or, after they have been declared suitable by their Superior or Ordinary, to outsiders, Religious or secular. In all other cases, whether the preacher be Religious or secular, and whether the Church belongs to an Order or not, the competent authority is the Ordinary of the place. He must not, however, without grave reason, refuse the faculty to a Religious presented by his own Superior, nor recall it when granted, especially from a whole community: but, on the other hand, when he does grant it, the Religious preacher still requires

1 Acta Ap. Sedis, v. 9, n. 7, pp. 311-12.

2 Preface to the Code, p. 8.

the permission of his own Superior. And the prohibition against revoking faculties is to be understood as applying only to a case in which no evidence of defective qualities has arisen. If there be such evidence in connexion with any preacher, Religious or secular, the Ordinary or Superior is bound to revoke; if the case be doubtful, he must remove the doubt by securing convincing evidence in the preacher's favour; and, if he does revoke, the appeal that is allowed has no suspensive effect (Code, 1338-40).

In the Code it is stated that the Ordinary or Superior is not to grant the faculty, unless the candidate's good character is established, and his knowledge and powers of delivery tested by examination. The decree, it will be noticed, provides for exceptional cases, in which the Ordinary may dispense with an examination and rest content with evidence procured from other sources (II. 16). It also makes it clear that the faculty granted may be restricted to whatever extent the Ordinary thinks proper, whether as regards time, class of sermon, or other conditions (15). And, in particular, there is a stringent prohibition against the Ordinary's granting a preaching diploma, either for ordinary working purposes or as a token of his high esteem (17).

From the Code one would form the impression that all priests require these special faculties. The Consistorial, again, is the bearer of a milder message. Parish priests are exempt. They have got the power already in virtue of their office, in somewhat the same way as they have jurisdiction for the hearing of confessions. And the Canon Theologian shares in the privilege to some extent.

But for all others, Religious or secular, when there is question of preaching to the ordinary faithful, the special faculties are necessary. The persons on whom the obligation rests of securing these faculties are enumerated (5). The preacher himself is not called upon to act: it is the first dignitary of the Chapter, or the Regular Superior, or the parish priest, or the confraternity chaplain, or the priest in charge of the church, according to the circumstances. But the preacher is not free from all responsibility. If he accepts an invitation and preaches, knowing that these regulations have not been complied with, he becomes liable to the same penalties, even suspension if the Ordinary so decides, as may be incurred by those who issue the invitation. The petition from those mentioned must be presented to the Ordinary two months at least before the sermon is to be preached, unless the Ordinary himself arranges for a shorter period in view of certain classes of sermons or preachers. The regulation is especially strict when the preacher belongs to another diocese. The faculty must be given in writing, and only after favourable information has been received from his own Ordinary, who is bound sub gravi to give a true and accurate account of his qualifications. If the information furnished in this way is not considered satisfactory, the Ordinary of the place refuses the faculty, and is not bound to answer for his action to anyone but God (12).

In connexion with these arrangements, a slight discrepancy in terminology will be noticed. The concession by an Ordinary to an extra

diocesan is sometimes referred to as a 'faculty '1-the same word as is used of concessions to subjects-and sometimes as mere 'permission' 2 (licentia). If we take these passages in conjunction with the second and fourth chapters of the decree, the state of things would seem to be this: Any Ordinary may, granted the prescribed conditions, confer the faculty,' but a further permission ' for sermons addressed to the faithful generally is required from the Ordinary of the place where the sermon is preached. The rules about the sermon itself will be read with interest. Prayer and study form the proximate preparation. If a preacher is anxious to discuss matters that, though suited to the house of God, are not essentially sacred, he must get permission from the local Ordinary: and the permission is not to be granted except the latter, after mature consideration, decides that the policy has to be adopted. Politics are absolutely barred -as they have been in this country for many years past by the Statutes of the Synod of Maynooth. Funeral panegyrics are allowed only with the explicit consent of the Ordinary, who may insist on seeing the manuscript first. The statements of profane authors, especially of heretics, apostates and infidels, are to be employed with the greatest moderation and caution, and the words of living persons never-by which is meant, as is clear from the nature of the case and is suggested by the context, the words of living persons belonging to the classes mentioned. The custom of using newspapers or leaflets to advertise a preacher before the sermon, or to draw attention to his merits when the sermon is over, is absolutely condemned, no matter what the pretext: and the Ordinary is to see that no such custom is to come into existence for the future. Finally, several quotations from St. Jerome are employed to inculcate the lessons that we might have been prepared for after reading the Pope's denunciation of the present-day declaimers.

A remonstrance from the Bishop will be sufficient punishment for the first or second violation of the rules mentioned in the last paragraph, provided the violation be slight and not likely to be repeated. If the latter conditions are not fulfilled, the Bishop must, 1°, withdraw the faculty, temporarily or permanently, from his own subject or from a Religious on whom he has conferred it; 2°, withdraw permission for preaching in his diocese from an extra-diocesan or a Religious who got his faculty from some one else; and at the same time inform the preacher's own Ordinary, the person who granted the faculty, and, in the more serious cases, the Holy See itself. He may also, and in some cases ought to, interrupt the sermon, when the violation of the regulations is serious. He may withdraw the faculty, at least for a definite time and place, from anyone who, whether through his own fault or not, has lost his public reputation. And, in order to keep himself informed on matters essential to the due fulfilment of these obligations, he will appoint a Vigilance Committee, and, in certain cases, will insist on information from the Vicars-Forane and the parish priests.

The regulations on the training of students are, so far as we have

1 Decree, i. 9.

2 Code, 1341, § 1.

any experience or information, fully complied with already in our Irish colleges. The special capacities of each student are to be studied and reported upon to the Ordinary: and the course of training is to continue in after-life. On the mission, the young priests are to be employed first in the lower and less difficult departments, and a yearly examination, oral and written, may be prescribed if the Ordinary so decides.

Finally, from the Code we gather a few extra points. Preaching faculties are, as a rule, to be granted only to priests and deacons : to other clerics, however, when the Ordinary allows it on reasonable grounds: to the laity never (1342). The Ordinary may preach in any church in his diocese, exempt or not. Except in large cities, the Bishop may prohibit sermons in the local churches while he is preaching to the people himself, or having, for some special cause of public interest, a sermon preached in his presence (1343). A parish priest cannot fulfil his obligation by permanent deputy, except for reasonable cause approved by the Ordinary; but, on these same conditions, the sermon may be omitted on some of the more solemn feasts (1344). A wish is expressed that, at all Masses attended by the faithful on feasts of precept in public churches and oratories, there should be a short discourse on the Gospel or on some portion of Christian doctrine: if the Ordinary sanctions this wish by a law of his own, all priests, secular and Religious, are bound by the regulation (1345). And the faithful are to be earnestly exhorted to attend sermons frequently (1348).


It will be seen (I. 2) that no one can validly or lawfully select or invite any preacher even for his own church,' except in conformity with the regulations prescribed-which means, we take it, that not only is it wrong to issue such an invitation, but that the invitation, when issued, has no more effect, in the way of furnishing a basis for a contract, than if it came from some one who has no authority whatever.


REV. DEAR SIR,-May I trespass on your indulgence to answer a moral question for me? Suppose a priest gets 100 Masses to be said, according to the law, within six months, and that, through inability to say them, or through friendship, he decides to give them to others, say to ten-and allows them, each, four or five months, aye, even longer, to say them, provided that the 100 Masses are said within the six months -is he justified in so acting? Some are of opinion that he is quite justified, as the Masses will be all said within the time prescribed, whilst others stoutly maintain the contrary, and for the following reasons:

1o. According to the new legislation, ten at least of these Masses should be said within a month; though a priest can transfer Masses, he must do so according to the wish of the donor; and, when he does so, he must make sure that no detriment accrues to the spiritual or temporal interests of the donor; which would seem to be the case if the Masses are all put back for four or five months, or longer.

2o. In every case, the intention of the donor should be sought out and complied with-either the implicit or the explicit. Now though in

« PrécédentContinuer »