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Friday, 23 October 2009

Personal Prelatures and the laity

In a recent post, I wrote about the "Personal Ordinariate":
"It is not the same as a Personal Prelature which canonically only concerns clerics"
Fr Paul Hayward replied in the combox:
- that might be the impression from just looking at canon 294 of the Code of Canon Law, but in view of canon 296, plus the specific provisions of the Apostolic Constitution "Ut Sit" by which the only Personal Prelature to date, Opus Dei, was established, and the Statutes of the Prelature as given by Pope John Paul II, it is quite clear that the lay members are fully incorporated into the Prelature.

Canonically, Personal Prelatures and Military Ordinariates seem to fall in the same genre: it remains to be seen whether Personal Ordinariates do also.
Here are the texts of the canons mentioned:
Can. 294 After the conferences of bishops involved have been heard, the Apostolic See can erect personal prelatures, which consist of presbyters and deacons of the secular clergy, to promote a suitable distribution of presbyters or to accomplish particular pastoral or missionary works for various regions or for different social groups.

Can. 296 Lay persons can dedicate themselves to the apostolic works of a personal prelature by agreements entered into with the prelature. The statutes, however, are to determine suitably the manner of this organic cooperation and the principal duties and rights connected to it.
The St Josemaria website has the text of the Apostolic Constitution Ut Sit. Some relevant extracts:
Since Opus Dei has grown, with the help of divine grace, to the extent that it has spread and works in a large number of dioceses throughout the world, as an apostolic organism made up of priests and laity, both men and women, which is at the same time organic and undivided -- that is to say, as an institution endowed with a unity of spirit, of aims, of government and of formation - it has become necessary to give it a juridical configuration which is suited to its specific characteristics.
"It" being Opus Dei, the apostolic organism made up of priests and laity. Then Ut Sit establishes:
Opus Dei is erected as a personal Prelature, international in ambit, with the name of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei, or, in abbreviated form, Opus Dei.
Then later, there is specific mention of the laity of Opus Dei:
The jurisdiction of the personal Prelature extends to the clergy incardinated in it, and also only in what refers to the fulfillment of the specific obligations undertaken through the juridical bond, by means of a contract with the Prelature to the laity who dedicate themselves to the apostolic activities of the Prelature: both clergy and laity are under the authority of the Prelate in carrying out the pastoral task of the Prelature [...]
(For the sake of avoiding confusion, I should mention that there is reference to the Sacerdotal Society of the Holy Cross which is is erected as a clerical Association "intrinsically united to the Prelature." The Sacerdotal Society of the Holy Cross is a society for diocesan priests who wish to be associated with Opus Dei - it is distinct from the priests who are actually members of Opus Dei.)

Since the "Personal Ordinariate" is a new thing canonically, I suppose it remains to be seen just exactly how it will differ from a Personal Prelature or a Military Ordinariate. I'm sure this will be a topic of learned discussion among canonists. I hasten to add that I am not a canonist - just trying to get things right. Comments from m'learned canonical brethren will be welcome.
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