Saturday, July 26, 2008

Yet more Anglican Windowdressed Nothings (YAWN)

The buzz about the dreaded "Anglican Inquisition" continues. The terrible specter of a "Fifth Element" of the Communion. Fear and trembling over an body to enforce normative doctrine. Speculation that 'Berlin Walls' will be going up inside the communion.

Come on people; doesn't anyone CHECK THE FACTS around here?!

First off, what we are dealing with here is the Anglican Communion's "Legal Advisers Network". They were set up in 2002 -- before the current crisis (okay, the current phase of the ongoing decades-long crisis) -- in order
to produce a statement of the principles of canon law common to the churches, and to examine shared problems and possible solutions.
This mission is based on the notion that (as was said in 2002)
  • there are principles of canon law common to the Churches within the Anglican Communion
  • their existence can be factually established
  • each Anglican Province or Church contributes through its own legal system to the principles of canon law common within the Anglican Communion
  • these principles have a strong persuasive authority and are fundamental to the self-understanding of each of the Churches in the Communion
  • these principles have a living force, and contain in themselves the possibility for further development
  • and the existence of these principles both demonstrates unity and promotes unity within the Anglican Communion
They were charged to develop a document simply to describe these existing principles -- and now, after nearly 6 years of work, they have produced a first draft, which they have circulated at Lambeth.

And in response to the reporters' questions, which continue to be based on unresearched misconceptions, poor canon lawyer Canon Lawyer John Rees (that's the correct spelling of his name, judging from the LAN's website, which others are reporting incorrectly as "Reece") had to keep emphasizing that this draft is, in addition to being only a draft, merely descriptive:
  • These are principles of law we have deduced but you cannot just read it off if you are involved in litigation.
  • It is not, then, prescriptive or enforceable. We are not saying this is how the law should be we are saying this is how the law generally is.
  • A ‘principle of canon law’... is induced from the similarities of the legal systems of churches.
  • Q: Are the churches going to be encouraged to bring their own canon law into conformity with this book?
    : As I said in the beginning, this is not prescriptive. You are suggesting a prescriptive use. It is merely a descriptive use.
  • Q: The bishops would be asked to affirm the code of practice? Is it your mind that the provinces would make a promise to follow these principles?
    A: This is, again, a descriptive exercise.
  • what these principles are intended to do is that it is on one level an academic exercise
  • It is exploring what we can deduce about our life together as we look at the way the material presents law around the word. This is not the covenant... It will be illustrative of some of the material that will be encapsulated in other ways in the covenant but the covenant process and this one are two distinct processes.
  • Yes I speak about this having “persuasive authority” which is a legal concept. And very often you would do that when something is not written in a particular code or constitution. You must understand that the laws, the COE laws, are thick. The US TEC law is of a significant size. There are provinces where very little is written and you have bear bones. Part of this is to help provinces like that.

So can we PLEASE try to get some perspective about this DRAFT here?

This is NOT a code of canon law, but an academic exercise.
This is NOT an enforceable system of law, but just a DESCRIPTION of EXISTING law.
This has NO LEGAL FORCE, save as one possible description of a reasonable "assumption" ('persuasive authority') where the actual laws are silent or ambiguous.
This does NOT REPLACE any jurisdiction's existing law.
This description is NOT "above" any jurisdictions' laws but BELOW -- those laws are not limited or based upon it, rather it is a description based upon them. And so as they change, it will change.

And this paper apparently isn't even going to be set up as any sort of normative description, but simply used as a way to inform other committees -- like the Covenant development committees -- as they work on developing their own statements and recommendations. Maybe those subsequent committees might decide to show some teeth or spine by picking parts of this academic description to be enforced (don't hold your breath for that one though!), but that's not what we have here.

And that's not what we are supposed to have here. No one should go blaming the LAN itself for this. They're doing exactly what they were asked to do, and it sounds like a tremendous amount of work... and I can't help but sympathize with Rev. Rees' frustration with all the reporters and commentators who just don't get it... and continue not to get it. This is not supposed to be a "Code of Canon Law". Never was.

So what we have here s a "Code of Canon Law" that is neither a code nor canonical nor law.

I guess -- given that we have an "Anglican Communion" that is neither Anglican nor a Communion; a Conference designed (at significant expense) to produce a statement announcing that everyone agreed a Conference had happened; and the on-going development of a Covenant which won't be a Covenant (but just a voluntary non-binding association) -- that having a "Code of Canon Law" that isn't a code and isn't law actually makes perfect Anglican sense.

Nothing to get excited about here though, regardless of what the "INQUISITION"-hollering anti-catholics would have you believe. Move along, folks... nothing to see here... move along.