The new Code of Canon Law intended by Vatican II

Source: FSSPX News

Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio.

On January 25, 2013, thirty years to the day after the publication of the new Code of Canon Law, 400 canonists gathered at the Vatican for a study day entitled “The Code, A Reform Desired and Requested by the Council”.  On January 22, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, had explained the close connection that exists between the Code promulgated by John Paul II in January 1983 and the Second Vatican Council.  First of all he recalled that John XXIIIhad in mind a revision of the 1917 Code which would express the ecclesiology resulting from that worldwide, ecumenical summit.

Then the prelate declared:  “According to John Paul II, the Council’s ecclesiological structure clearly required a renewed formulation of its laws....  As [the pope] emphasized at the beginning of the Apostolic Constitution Sacrae disciplinae leges, the reason for the close relationship between Vatican Council II and the Code of Canon Law was that the 1983 Code was the culmination of Vatican II … in two ways: on the one hand, it embraces the Council, solemnly reproposing fundamental institutions and major innovations and, on the other, establishing positive norms for implementing the Council.”

Cardinal Coccopalmerio then gave several examples of conciliar innovations that can be found again in the new Code of Canon Law:  The first is the “doctrine regarding the episcopate and the relationship between the episcopate and the primate, that is, episcopal collegiality. This is not an entirely new doctrine in the deep consciousness of the Church,” he was anxious to explain, “but rather a happy rediscovery. The Code firstly, in canons 330–341, represents this clearly, and secondly, in canons 342–348, accompanies it with the positive view that constitutes the structure of the Synod of Bishops, allowing effective implementation of the structure of episcopal collegiality.”  A second example is “the “Council’s teaching on the laity and therefore on the appropriate and active mission of the lay faithful in the life of the Church. Once again, this is not absolutely new but more a rediscovery,” he strove to reassure his listeners.  “In canons 224-231, the revised Code of Canon Law reiterates this teaching through a series of regulations … regarding the diocesan pastoral council or … the parochial pastoral council, [two] structures that allow the faithful laity to effectively participate in the pastoral decisions of the bishop or the pastor.”

A third example can be seen in the concept of the parish presented by the Council and framed by the Code, as a community of the faithful and no longer simply as a territory.  “This represents an important innovation with respect to the previous point of view,” Cardinal Coccopalmerio acknowledged, citing another example of Vatican II innovation, without precedent in Tradition, a new ecumenical order based on the conciliar documents Lumen Gentium, Orientalium Ecclesiarum and Unitatis Redintegratio, which contain the doctrine of an imperfect ecclesial communion which is nonetheless present and real in the bond of the Catholic Church with the other non-Catholic Churches and ecclesial communities.  “This is also a fact of incalculable value and scope already found in the Council and then later in the Code,” which allows “the possibility of welcoming non-Catholic Christians, albeit under specific conditions, into the sacraments of the Catholic Church.”

This statement by Cardinal Coccopalmerio has the merit of being clear:  the new 1983 Code contains, among others, this conciliar innovation that authorizes “Eucharistic hospitality” which the preceding Code forbade and sanctioned as “communicatio in sacris”.  Which is now on the record. 

(Sources:  VIS/Apic/Imedia – DICI no. 269 dated February 1, 2013)