Linkages between Church Law and Holiness

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Linkages between Church Law and Holiness

A group of academic canonists and others who work in tribunals gathered May 13–16 at the Halcyon Cove Resort, Antigua to discuss A Call to Holiness— the theme of this year’s 15th Antilles Canon Law Society (ACLS) convention— and the link between Canon Law and holiness.

Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Harris CSSp gave the keynote address on the theme after celebrating the Opening Mass at the Holy Family Cathedral, St John’s.

Members of the Canadian Canon Law Society including Bishop Robert Bourgon of Hearst-Moosonee, Ontario also presented.

In his talk, sent to Catholic News, the Archbishop Emeritus said that most people do not see the link between law and holiness—obedience to the law is an obstacle to holiness.

“We are looking here at the call to holiness, not a call to pious behaviour, if such a call does in fact exist. Holiness is about the following of Christ. Pious behaviour is about external appearances,” he said.

Archbishop Harris said that Canon Law calls to live the new commandment of love, which is to be holy, for holiness flows out of commitment to a person and the actions that such commitment elicits.

He observed that while there are many definitions of Church, similarly there are many definitions of holiness. He referenced Philippians 2, 5–8 ‘Putting on the mind that was in Christ Jesus’ and Canon 210 ‘All the Christian faithful must direct their efforts to lead a Holy Life (Put on the mind that was in Christ Jesus) and to promote the growth of the church and its continued sanctification, according to their own condition.’

The words “according to their own condition”, Archbishop Harris said, reveals that there is more than one category of faithful and more than one expression of holiness. There are however certain basic principles and expressions of holiness which are present in all expressions of holiness.

For example, the expression of holiness of the laity is not the same as the expression of holiness of the diocesan priest or of the person consecrated to God by religious vows.

The expressions of holiness of all these categories of persons however will if they are true expressions of holiness contain the following elements:

“I put it to you that Christ died in order to gather all the scattered children of Israel. The imitation of Christ, in all levels and all categories must reflect the gathering of all who are scattered or divided be it because of ethnicity, social status, financial, political, or educational status. All who profess the name of Christian must be engaged in the reconciliation and removing of walls which separate us.”

Holiness must also reflect the self-emptying of Christ and an openness to martyrdom, a willingness to witness to the truth of the Gospel, even to the giving on one’s life.

Fr Roger Paponette (President), Fr Pierre Tevi-Benissan (Vice President), Johanna Gurran (Treasurer), Kenneth Chang On (Secretary), Bernadette Salandy and Gillian Van Sluytman (Consulters), and Fr John Persaud, ex-President of the Society, who remains a member of the executive were elected to office for a two-year term following the Annual General Meeting.

Group photo at the 15th Antilles Canon Law Society Convention.