25 July 2016

Mr Toad's Wild Ride

 [[Dear Sister Laurel, I think "joyful hermit" is challenging what you have written about Catholic Hermits in her recent post on becoming a Catholic hermit. But she has the following in her post and I am left confused by it: [[I have written about this process previously, but the basics may be found in The Catechism of the Catholic Church and in the Institutes of the Church.  I am posting the requirements which are also, for those in the United States, on the website of the United States Council of Bishops.]] What are the Institutes of the Church? For that matter, what is the United States Council of Bishops? My biggest questions, however are why doesn't joyful hermit mention Canon Law and why does she call canon 603 a "recent proviso"?]] (cf: catholic hermit/how-to-become-catholic-hermit)

Well, Ms McClure is free to challenge what I have written. I have a public blog and that means folks may disagree. At the same time she will recognize that her similarly public challenge  may raise questions and require a response. Personally the way she has argued, and continued to argue over the years makes me think of Mr Toad's attempts to drive a car: untutored, undisciplined and intransigent, more than a little hair-raising, and ultimately disastrous for herself, for the solitary consecrated eremitical vocation, and for any who pin their vocational hopes on her position.

So, regarding your questions --- and let me make it clear that a number of people have raised the same significant questions with regard to this poster over the past 8-9 years, some of them badly misled and disappointed in the process of following what she has written about becoming a Catholic Hermit ---  first of all, there is no such thing as the Institutes of the [Catholic] Church if by this one means a set of norms or guidelines called "institutes". They do not exist. As I understand it, once upon a time joyful hermit (the author of the blog you referenced) misread canon 603 and instead of citing it properly as [[Besides institutes of consecrated life the Church recognizes the eremitical or anchoritic life (Praeter vitae consecratae instituta)]] --- which means, "besides societies (Orders, Congregations, or communities) of consecrated life the Church recognizes [and does so in this canon!] solitary eremitical or anchoritic life" --- Ms McClure wrote instead, [[ In addition to THE institutes of consecrated life. . .]] and from there decided this referred to a set of norms besides (and apparently equal to and older than) those of canon law (or at least canon 603). 

Pretty much it has all been downhill from there and joyful has built an entire theory of how things work with regard to the Church's theology of consecrated life based on this misquote and a couple of other misinterpretations of paragraphs 920-921 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In some ways this misquote drove the other misunderstandings.  In others it was a central piece of an ever-deepening and misleading feedback loop. Amazing what havoc the mistaken addition of a definite article can wreak!

Image result for pictures, mr toad's wild rideSecondly, as for the supposed "US Council of Bishops" whose website we should check and whose information we should rely on for vocational information, I hope that every Catholic recognizes the initials are not USCB but USCCB and that these represent the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, not the US Council of Bishops. Despite your question, this might be a trivial thing and unworthy of mention were it not part of a pattern of careless reading, incomplete information, and inaccurate or distorted usage on Ms McClure's part.

Meanwhile, the implications of Ms McClure's first error (the misquote) is the truth that while the rest of the Church recognizes the Code of Canon Law as the Church's universal law, Ms McClure (joyful hermit) apparently truly believes there is another code or set of norms which is equal to or has priority over canon law and which is called the "Institutes of the [Catholic] Church". This is the reason joyful can call canon 603 a "recent proviso" (or a conditional reality attached to something else) rather than regarding it as the law of the Church with regard to solitary consecrated Catholic Hermits. She gives priority to the putative (supposed but unreal) "Institutes" and treats the 1983 canon 603 as an alternative or conditional reality added to these --- by which she apparently means the later (1994) Catechism of the Catholic Church. She writes:

[[Canon Law 603, while more recent, is a viable, additional provision to the institutes of the Church per consecrated, eremitic life, for the Catholic man or woman discerning and/or called by God to the consecrated life of the Church as an eremitic.  For some bishops and hermits, it may be a preferred provision for various reasons, not mentioned here.]]  (Emboldening added)

But in this Ms McClure is ignoring or otherwise disregarding both the entire history of canon 603 and its significance and uniqueness. Namely, there is NO OTHER Canon on eremitical life in the Church's universal law. There was none in the 1917 Code. Hermits were not mentioned. C 603 is entirely new and came from the work of Church Fathers who at Vatican II decried the lack of such legislation regarding the eremitical vocation. Consecrated vocations to solitary eremitical life MUST be consecrated according to canon 603; there is NO OTHER option in the Roman Catholic Church. If Ms McClure or other readers take(s) nothing else from this post she or they need to remember the CCC was written and published 11 years AFTER THE Revised Code of Canon Law; it CANNOT be "The Institutes" c 603 was supposedly written "in addition to" nor is the 1983 c 603 a "more recent" "additional proviso" to the 1994 Catechism paragraphs on the consecrated life.

Because Ms McClure reads the CCC in the way she does and believes it is some other normative source of law, she can and does disregard Canon Law and treats canon 603 as something some Bishops may simply prefer to something else. (Except for preferring that people make entirely private commitments in the lay state, for instance, and refusing to consecrate solitary hermits under c 603 at all, there is no option here. Bishops can't prefer some other way of consecrating solitary hermits because there isn't any other way; for Pope, Bishops, and everyone else in the Church c 603 is simply the law with regard to consecrated solitary eremitical life in the Roman Catholic church).

Too, because her entire position is built on the quicksand of her original misquote ("THE Institutes") and on a reading of paragraphs 920-921 of the CCC which wrests them from their essential literary, historical, ecclesial, and theological contexts Ms McClure's arguments lack cogency and her positions are groundless distortions of the truth; they cut the heart out of the vocation as ecclesial and in its place substitute an extreme  individualism --- the very antithesis of what the Church calls eremitical solitude. To then treat the CCC as though it has the legislative force of  the Code of Canon Law or is part of an entirely fictional "Institutes of the [Catholic] Church" which pre-date the revised Code is to have gone off the rails altogether --- just as Mr Toad did. My real concern is that she will lead others into the same individualistic ditch she has driven herself. When that happens the pain associated with being taken in in this way and then disabused of their delusion by pastors, chancery personnel, and even other parishioners would be likely to be significant no matter how tactfully done.


Ms McClure's posts on c 603 raise the following questions which, unless they can be adequately answered, point to the incoherence of her position.

1) Why does she translate c 603.1 as "In addition to THE institutes of consecrated life" rather than as "Besides institutes of consecrated life" (meaning besides societies of consecrated life) as given in the official English translation and in the original Latin?

2) If she continues to insist on the definite article in her translation I wonder why that is. Also what are these other "institutes" she refers to if not societies of consecrated life?

3) Does she mean these "institutes" are the CCC paragraphs 914-933 on consecrated life? I ask because this is the only other source she cites and she seems to give priority to it.

4) But if this is so then how can she speak of a 1983 canon which pre-dates these 1994 paragraphs as a "more recent" or "additional proviso"? Canon 603 is 11 years older than the paragraphs of the CCC on consecrated life or par 920-921 on consecrated eremitical life and has historical as well as legislative or normative priority.

5) Since the 1917 Code of Canon Law was abrogated with the promulgation of the 1983 Revised Code and since it did not refer to eremitical life in any case Ms McClure cannot mean this earlier Code represents these "institutes" can she?