29 July 2021

Vacatio Legis

Fr Hunwicke looks at the lack of a vacatio legis in Traditionis Custodes, a lack that posits a possible fit of anger on Francis's part.

From Fr Hunwicke's Mutual Enrichment

Like most of those who have read Traditionis custodes, I was vastly intrigued by the bit right at the end.

Legal enactments of any and every sort, secular and religious, tell you when the new law will come into effect. Summorum Pontificum, for example, came into effect a couple of months after it was published. But TC was to come into effect as soon as it had been published in Osservatore Romano (a journal which, by a curious coincidence, went ... that day ... behind a paywall). 

So TC was shared with the world's media on a Friday; Osservatore Romano is published daily except on Mondays.

Why such unprecedented rapidity? Was PF afraid he might die?

How ill is/was he? The days have, I think, passed when Vatican bulletins about a pope's health used mendaciously to deny that he had the malady which all the world knew he did have. But ... do they tell all the truth? Assuming that every word they contain is true, can we be sure there isn't something which the medical report fails to mention? Or is he planning abdication? But there seem to be plans for him to visit Glasgow in the autumn to dance around on the stage at the eco-thing (and Slovakia, and Hungary).

Is the reason for the lack in TC of a vacatio legis (period before a law takes effect) a pure example of Bergoglian rage? He hates* us and 'our' Mass so much that he could wait no longer? The main victims of the lack of a period for implementation are the bishops, who are charged with making arrangements. Is PF saying: "If you've got a big practical problem with this, it's your own fault, for harbouring all those rigid fellows in your diocese"? That would fit in with an earlier press report that PF was planning to give power to the bishops "but not to the conservative bishops".

I incline to the 'rage' hypothesis. But I think PF may have shot himself in the foot here*. Failing to provide a vacatio legis is so unreasonable in a legislator that bishops far beyond the numbers of those who are bergogliocritical have noticed it. And the result has been that many bishops have made 'holding' statements while promising a fuller resolution when that have had time to think and to consult. In other words, they have awarded themselves de facto the vacatio legis which PF had decided to refuse them.

It may not always be wise for a legislator to force his subjects to take the law into their own hands. 

The world, and its bishops, have also been given a clear signal that this pontificate is entering its final phase, whether it will be death or abdication that terminates it. This can also be unwise.

Once it is obvious that a boss is soon to be gone, he suffers a most serious loss of auctoritas. In academic life one is very aware of this: I would be surprised if the same were not true of merchant banks, businesses, military units ... As soon it becomes clear that the Principal, C/O, or whatever, will, in the quite foreseeable future, be no longer able to reward those who have been 'on-message', or to disadvantage those who have been 'off-message', his/her position is gravely weakened*. I recall being at a heads-of-departments meeting where such a slippage first became apparent. The Principal ... a silly man but not a stupid one ... suddenly became aware of what was happening: I vividly remember his face during those moments.

It is obvious that one has very little reason to increase ones credit-holding in the treasury of favours done to the boss, when the boss will himself soon be unable to repay any of them. I think some of the responses to TC from American archbishops are marked by a realisation of such realpolitik. So, when any society is coming close to the foreseen end of one 'reign', there will be an inevitable period of instability within the group's internal dynamics; perhaps, even, regroupings. And the fears aroused by PF's vindictive malice (every line of TC is dripping with bile, is it not?) will, correspondingly, diminish. 

Already, Vincent Nichols has issued a sensible and pastoral take on TC ("In my judgement, these concerns do not reflect the overall liturgical life of this diocese") and has 'dispensed from' the prohibition against the Old Mass being celebrated in parish churches.

Finally, two further rather different End of Pontificate thoughts, each of which has appeared on this blog before:

(1) Given the capacities of modern medicine, more popes are likely to live longer than their natural span. Sooner or later, there will be a pope with senile dementia. Should not provision be made in Canon Law for this inevitability?

(2) Some years ago, Fr Aidan Nichols, our prime Anglophone theologian, argued (in a lecture the full text of which appears still to be banned from publication) that canonical provision should be made for canonical procedings in the case of popes giving heretical teaching.

*You may feel that I am indebted here to a fine and important piece by a Dutch bishop, translated and printed by Peter Kwasniewski in yesterday's Rorate. But I drafted this last week; I like to leave things for a day or two ... frankly ... so that I can tone-them-down-a-bit before publication!

The Dutch bishop also reminds us of Holy Tradition. This is going, I think, to be the way ahead. PF has weakened the Petrine Office; he has chopped off the branch he was sitting on; in future, people will always wonder whether a future pope will just plain contradict what this one is saying ... because Bergoglio has made an industry of doing just this. Perhaps Byzantines, including Orthodox, may be able to help us. But Conciliarism, lock, stock, and barrel, has its own problems, and is not 'the' answer. 

I wrote, too, about all this on July 16.

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