Jaeger David-M. A. ,
Antonianum, 85/4 (2010) p. 523-525
“L’Etat c’est moi!” King Louis XIV of France famously exclaimed, apparently in a rapture of wholly singular megalomania – or so it is thought.
In fact, however, the identification of the holder of the office of government with the office itself was quite traditional and wide-spread. And there is only one more short step from that to conceiving the ruler as wholly personifying the realm, in the manner of the Roi Soleil. The distinction between the office holder and the office is, on the other hand, the measure of civilization, of political maturity. “A government of laws, not of men” (John Adams) is the standard of such a polity, proclaimed in the United States of America not that very long after the reign of Louis XIV had ended, and as if in reply to that apotheosis of its opposite. Only thus, by the rule of law, is a true respublica made possible. The one entrusted with the office of governing is not indeed the dominus of the governed community, nor is the community itself, as an organized society, a mere aggregation of the res privatorum, as it was rather thought to be during the feudal period preceding the King-State absolutism of that splendiferous monarch; rather, it is precisely res publica, in which all members have a stake, and which is served, rather than dominated, by its governors.
The emergence and growth of “democracy” in Europe, later built upon (and Americans would say, perfected) by the American republic, can therefore be tracked as the increasing awareness of these twin principles, namely the distinction between governors and their office, and the need and right of all members of society to have a stake in the choice of office holders and in making the laws for them to implement and enforce, but also by which to abide themselves. The rule of law and representative government are, in civil society, intertwined and mutually necessary. The historical relationship of the Church to both is complex and many-sided, and deserves to be explored more fully elsewhere.
Indeed, when speaking of the government of the Catholic Church herself, “democracy” is not the first word that comes to mind – nor should it – given the hierarchical constitution given to the Church by her Divine Founder. Rather, it ought to be a matter of some satisfaction to Christians that their faith can take ultimate credit for the rightful growth and spread of democracy in the secular order, where it not only belongs but is owed to the citizenry. Indeed, the surest foundation for democracy is the Biblical revelation of the divinely-given dignity of the human being, which discloses the equality and liberty of all human persons. When all else is said and done, democracy arises most clearly from the realization that, in the temporal order,
no human being is “more equal” than any other, that no human person can have an inherent right to “own” or otherwise command others, bending them to his will. From such realization there is but a short way to concluding that the power to govern must reside in the entire community, the whole demos, each member having a voice in the making of decisions, through whatever mechanism that can reasonably be said to reflect this fundamental insight.
Now, in his article in this issue of Antonianum, the Dean of our own Canon Law Faculty, Fr. Priamo Etzi, ofm, widely admired for his scholarship in all that concerns the development of the structures and laws of the Franciscan Orders, ventures beyond such considerations of first principles, to explore the concrete, “exemplary,” contribution that the Order of Friars Minor could be said to have given to the models of representative government in the Middle Ages, models that were to exercise an enduring influence.
There is already an a priori probability to this type of exploration, in that the religious orders, while wholly “placed” within the Church, are not themselves part of the hierarchical constitution of the Church, and while in no way reducible to mere “associations,” do have a basic “associative” dimension, coming onto the scene as visibly “bands of brothers”- or sisters. The Order of Friars Minor distinguished itself in particular, from the beginning, by the emphasis laid on its being precisely a “brotherhood,” within which the office and the person of the office holder are consequently more clearly distinct than might have been the case anywhere else. Nothing perhaps brings this out more powerfully than the choice of the evangelically-derived title of “minister,” one who serves, for its higher superiors. At the same time too, the quality of a “brotherhood” suggests by itself the prominence of representation of the membership in its governance. Fr. Etzi’s article takes the reader through the early vicissitudes of the Order of Friars Minor in respect of its own development of representative government, as it points as well to its intersections and interactions with the temporal societies of the time, and examines carefully the available data so as not to go beyond what they actually make it possible to say.
Oh, the Priesthood! The recent “Year for Priests” proclaimed by Pope Benedict xvi, preceded, punctuated and followed by the on-going, seemingly torrential, disclosures and allegations concerning wrongdoers who had infiltrated the ranks of Catholic priests, the ever further norms emanated for dealing with those, the further published and foreseen guidelines on the formation of candidates for the priesthood…. The Priesthood has been very much at the centre of ecclesial, and not only ecclesial, discourse for some time now. Opportunely thus, the discourse is elevated beyond measure by the highly regarded biblical scholar, Fr. Nello Casalini, ofm - with long years to his credit of study, teaching and research at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem, which is now our University’s Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology. Fr. Casalini’s meticulous scholarship turns our attention to the origin, model and norm of all Catholic priesthood in the Priesthood of Christ. He does so in his article in this issue of Antonianum on the newness of the Priesthood of Christ as it is expounded in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Historical and theological scholarship are present together also in Fr. Massimo Vedova ofm conv’s fascinating “reading,” which evokes the renowned mystic Angela da Foligno, a focus of much inspiring research and reflection in our days.
Dr. Jay Feierman’s thorough review of paedophilia, and its relationship to the homosexualities and the Church, is concluded in this issue; its second part published here drawing together the various strands present in the first part of the article, in the previous issue of Antonianum. This is the occasion to renew our expression of thanks to this outstanding expert in the field for having accepted our commission to enlighten us on issues that might not otherwise have been discussed in these pages, but which unexpectedly, painfully, have claimed the close attention of the Church for several years now.
We trust that readers, whatever their own informed take on any of these matters, will have appreciated this specially commissioned two-part article.
Book reviews and “chronicles,” with the list of books received since the last issue went to press, and then the annual indices, bring to a close this final issue of Antonianum for the year. The editorial team though will hardly be taking much time out to celebrate, as we are already working on next year’s issues, with significant, informative material already waiting to be prepared for publication. Ours is a never ending task, but an endlessly satisfying one – for us and, we very much hope, for our reader too!