VATICAN CITY, JAN. 25, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The law of the Church is liberating, Benedict XVI says: It is the law that makes Catholics free to follow Christ.
The Pope affirmed this today when he received in audience participants of a congress organized by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.
He stated that “the ‘ius ecclesiae’ is not just a collection of norms produced by the ecclesial legislator for that particular group of people who form the Church of Christ. It is, primarily, the authoritative declaration by the ecclesial legislator of the duties and rights which are founded on the sacraments and which, consequently, derive from what Christ himself instituted.”
The Holy Father quoted a phrase used by Blessed Antonio Rosmini to the effect that “the human person is the essence of law.” This, he went on, is something “we must also emphasize for canon law: The essence of canon law is the Christian individual in the Church.”
The law of the Church, he added, is an aid to accomplishing its final purpose: the salvation of souls.
“The Church recognizes that her laws have the nature and […] the pastoral function of enabling her to pursue her final aim which is that of achieving ‘salus animarum.’ […] In order for canon law to perform this vital service it must, first and foremost, be well structured,” the Bishop of Rome explained. “This means, on the one hand, that it must be linked to the theological foundations that give it its reasonableness and that are an essential sign of ecclesial legitimacy and, on the other, that it must it must adhere to the changeable circumstances of the history of the people of God.”
“Moreover,” the Pontiff continued, canon law “must be clearly and unambiguously formulated in such a way as to remain in harmony with the other laws of the Church. Hence it is necessary to abrogate norms that have become outdated, modify those in need of correction, interpret — in the light of the living magisterium of the Church — those that are unclear and, finally, fill any ‘lacunae legis.'”
Benedict XVI reminded the members of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of their duty to ensure “that the activities of those structures within the Church called to dictate norms for the faithful may always reflect […] the union and communion that are characteristic of the Church.”
“The law of the Church is, first of all, ‘lex libertatis’: the law that makes us free to follow Jesus,” he concluded. “Hence it is important we know how to show the people of God, the new generations and all those called to follow canon law, the real bond [that law] has with the life of the Church.” This must be done in order “to defend the delicate interests of the things of God and to protect the rights of the weakest, […] but also in order to defend that delicate ‘good’ which each of the faithful has gratuitously received — the gift of faith, of the grace of God — which in the Church cannot remain without adequate legal protection.”