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them separated brethren

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Aug 23, 2007

In amongst the National Catholic Reporter's classified ads, under the admirably elastic "vocations" heading, we're always bound to find a gateway to entertaining reading. This week we find an ad for the autocephalous American Catholic Church ("progressive, diverse, inclusive"), whereat we're linked to their ecclesiastical canons. Pour yourselves a bracer, because you're in for some high-powered legal syntax. Article I, Chapter 1, concerns the Church: Jurisdiction and Boundaries.

a) The boundaries of The American Catholic Church shall be coincident with worldwide boundaries.

OK, that seems clear enough, if somewhat optimistic.

b) In addition to the foregoing [my emphasis], the American Catholic Church boundaries shall be construed so as to include all territories, commonwealths, and possessions of the United States of American and/or Canada, including the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Trust Territories of the Pacific; together with such other areas as may be at any time governed by the United States of America and/or Canada or their respective representatives, wherever situated.

We're starting to wobble here, unless they were just kidding about Canon A. I like the qualifier "or their respective representatives, wherever situated," though. I was beginning to have doubts about the International Space Station.

c) Furthermore, all military and naval facilities and vessels of the United States of America and/or Canada, wherever situated, together with the personnel and their families assigned thereto; and all persons acting in an official capacity as representatives of the government of the United States of American and/or Canada together with their families, wherever situated, shall be construed as being within the boundaries of the American Catholic Church.

Sounds like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz reading his diploma, doesn't it?

d) The American Catholic Church shall have jurisdiction anywhere in the worldwhere it chooses to establish a mission.

Well why didn't you say so in the first place?

e) The American Catholic Church has jurisdiction everywhere within its boundaries.

That's a relief. For a minute I thought they were taking about Wilton Gregory's kind of boundary. On the main web page the ACC also provides us with a Mission Statement, a Statement of Principles, a Statement of Beliefs, and -- hold on -- a Statement Regarding Sexual Misconduct, so I guess the Gregorian boundaries made it in there after all!

The ACC also makes available an extremely handy request form for the "Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Holy Orders, Anointing of the Sick." I especially like the geniality of the "date requested" box in the matter of Holy Orders. It must simplify vocation recruitment in the Trust Territories of the Pacific, and elsewhere.

One more point. The ACC "leaves to the informed conscience of our people matters which are properly theirs to decide before God" -- and if it seems insufficiently obvious which matters count as properly ours to decide before God, they are buying ads in the NCR, are they not?

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