Defying Canon Law, Capuchins Elect Lay Leader

Defying Canon Law, Capuchins Elect Lay Leader June 19, 2019

This is a big deal: 

Capuchins aren’t generally known for being on the Church’s avant-garde, but the friars of the Mid-America Province just did something which, technically, they’re not supposed to do according to canon law. And, frankly, they’re pretty proud of it.

They elected Brother Mark Shenk, a lay friar, as their provincial minister.

The problem lies with Canon 129 Sect.1, which prohibits a lay person from holding jurisdiction over ordained men. This rule clashes with the Capuchins’ understanding of their constitution, which, in its latest form ratified by the Vatican in 2013, reads, “By reason of the same vocation, brothers are equal.” It goes on to say that “all of us are called brothers without distinction,” and all offices in the order are open to all brothers.

St. Francis, from whom the Capuchins trace their origins following one of the notorious fractures in the Franciscan family, was not a priest. Whether or not he was a deacon is a subject of some controversy, but what is undisputed is that his successor was not ordained. Brotherhood is the Franciscan tradition, and it’s something they continue to fight for in terms of who leads their provinces.

Capuchin-Franciscan Father Blaine Burkey says the distinction between brothers and fathers is irrelevant, because their “gift to the world is brotherhood.”

Read more. 


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