Sunday, 5 January 2014

Pope Francis severely limits the use of the title "Monsignor" (Hooray!)

Well, believe it or not, I have been expecting this, and my response is, "at last!". For many years I have been of the opinion that this historical and worldly (it is not scriptural, spiritual or in any way related to the work of evangelisation) title should go. Perhaps this is the beginning of its complete demise. What does it mean? It is a worldly honour in the Church! Canons are different, since most of them have a function and are connected with the Cathedral Chapter. However, I think there should be no special dress for Canons. There is an obvious danger of pride or vanity here, and such titles are all to often seen as more than a "pat on the back" by the bishop. Lay people can fall into pride because their parish priest is a Canon or a Monsignor. Does it signal holiness? It all depends on the bishop's motive for using such titles. Clearly being a Monsignor is no guarantee of holiness. I am reminded of the example of St. John Vianney, the Cure D'Ars who was made a Canon (an honorary title in his case). He refused it but it was given anyway, against his will. This saint is the patron saint of parish priests and the universal patron of priests. Should we not pay attention to his refusal of such honours? Is there a better title than "Father" for a priest? I don't think so.

Look, the sacrament of orders consists of three orders, Deacon, Priest and Bishop. The Bishop has the fullness of the Sacrament. One can easily make a case for the title of "Canon" in relation to the governance of a Diocese (in the absence of a bishop) or the ceremonial life of a Cathedral. No problem. Monsignors are often ecclesiastical civil servants and the title is understood as saying "this man is important". The trouble is that so many of them are not but believe they are! My hope is that the title will be completely removed from the Church in the not too distant future. It has nothing to do with ministry or even Christianity!  

1 comment:

  1. Here, Here, Father.

    So much opportunity for pride.

    God Bless

    Kevin P