The significance of the Pope's forgiveness of his "assaulter"; OR How to get a personal audience with the Pope!

In comparison to Pope John Paul II meeting with and forgiving the man who shot him, Pope Benedict’s meeting with Susan Maiolo and giving her forgiveness may seem a little odd or at least much less significant.

But something almost no-one has commented upon is the fact that by assaulting the Holy Father, this woman – a Catholic, compared to the Muslim gunman – was, by virtue of her act, under a latae sententiae excommunication according to Canon 1370 (see this rather humourous article on an atheist site):

1370: A person who uses physical force against the Roman Pontiff incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See

So his personal forgiveness was necessary for the removal of this excommunication. Perhaps physically assaulting him could be seen as one extreme but sure-fire way of getting a personal audience with the Pope! (NOT recommended, BTW! )

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16 Responses to The significance of the Pope's forgiveness of his "assaulter"; OR How to get a personal audience with the Pope!

  1. Peregrinus says:

    Actually, the Pope’s personal forgiveness wasn’t necessary to the lifting of the excommunication. Excommunication is a canonical penalty, not a moral judgment. Only the Apostolic See – the pope, or someone delegated by him – can lift the excommunication, but neither the personal forgiveness of the wronged pope nor sacramental forgiveness through reconciliation are prerequisites to this.

    The article you link to is amusing, but wrong. A Catholic who gets excommunicated does not cease to be a Catholic. He simply becomes a Catholic who is subject to the canonical penalty of excommunication. Ceasing to be a Catholic (and ceasing to be regarded by the Church as a Catholic, if that’s what you want) is much easier – and much less dramatic – than getting yourself excommunicated.

    On a more serious note, on the topic foregiving those who attack us, this blog entry offers some challenging food for thought:

  2. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    It’s getting yourself off the mailing lists that is the tough one.

    Holy crap, I’ve been a Lutheran since 1996 and still yesterday I get a calendar from SPOF! I mean yes Bishop Sheen was on the short list of most influential people in my life, but Great Judas announcing the Kalends, both he and any money from me have been gone from SPOF for years!

    I would wear an excommunication from the Roman Church, especially what is known as such now, as a badge of honour, a veritable Eisernis Kreuz, nay, a bleeding Pour le Merite!! Yet this blog opined some time ago I am but a trip to the confessional from “full communion” or whatever.

    But you never, ever get off the mailing lists! Great fund raising Judas, I even get stuff from the diocesan office of SPOF and I’ve never belonged to a parish here, and even die Abtei, or more exactly the alumni office of its university, has found me and sends me stuff Gott hilf mir seitlich!

    • Louise says:

      That must be a Yank, thing, PE. The Catholic Church here doesn’t seem to keep people on mailing lists forever.

      You need to move once or twice without leaving a forwarding address. That’ll fix it.

      • Schütz says:

        But it is true enough, Louise, that parishes do not remove “naughty members” from their list of baptised/confirmed members just because they have ceased to worship – or even if they have joined a non-Catholic denomination. There is something significant here (which PE and Christine will disagree with, as a matter of course): estranged and excommunicated members of the Church (even self-excommunicated ones) are still members of the Church. Behind this is the ecclesial self-understanding of the Catholic Church: unlike other “denominations”, she views herself as the having a “subsistial identity” (I just invented that term) with the “Sole Church of Christ”. Joining a non-Catholic “denomination” or even a non-Christian religion does not cancel out one’s membership in the Body of Christ. Of course, this is not the view that those who leave the Church would take.

  3. Christine says:

    What was it that Jesus said about the rulers of the Gentiles lording it over their people? Assaulting a pope incurs excommunication. Guess when it involves a layman, not so serious. That “baptismal dignity” must come in degrees.

    As for the mailing lists, oy, there will be no relief, Terry. The Liturgical Press has me lock, stock and barrel. As does the bishop’s annual appeal for Catholic Charities. It’s all part of being a member of the “naughty Catholic” contingent :)

    Still, it’s always fun to read the LP catalog and see what “The Spirit of Vatican II” at the Abtei is up to.

    • Schütz says:

      I think the reasoning is that assaulting the Pope is the equivalent to assaulting the Vicar of Christ. I also suspect that it came from a time when life in Rome was a lot less safe than it is now (which is still saying something!).

  4. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    Great publishing Judas, not the Liturgical Press! At one time I could have barfed out my dorm room window and damn near hit the place. Probably should have. Never bought a bloody thing from them. Went in there once, looked at the stuff in the showroom so zu sagen, and damn near barfed from that!

  5. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    PS — I do have a couple things from them, but Godfrey gave me those, so there are no records, no lists, no nuttin for them to send me stuff.

  6. Christine says:

    Aw, Terry, but by not being on the LP mailing list you are missing out on the wisdom of august writers such as Joan Chittister and Monika Hellwig (may she rest in peace).

    One of Ms. Hellwig’s memorable quotes:

    Efforts by the Vatican to discipline the U.S. church could backfire, she repeatedly warned. “The major problem the hierarchy faces may be that Catholics simply don’t believe in Hell and eternal punishment the way they used to,” she said in 1986. “The American laity, especially the college-educated, is well aware that the hierarchy doesn’t have many sanctions against them. It’s harder to frighten them.”

    Wow. What a synopsis of the joy of life in Christ.


  7. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    Now Sister Joan is a Benedictine, so she can’t be all bad you know. Monika was not — when a religious, she was Medical Mission Sisters — so we trust to a loving God. I’d have been a whole lot more impressed with the single parent thing, being one myself, if she’d have married and had kids first.

  8. Christine says:

    Point taken re Sister Joan. One must always make exceptions for the Benedictines who singled-handedly saved civilization. Oh, for another tour of the wonderful Abtei Weltenburg!

    But I digress.

    What is it with the Catholic University of America? Seems to turn out a lot of freethinkers!

    But then, Susan Sarandon graduated from the Catholic University of America. Uh oh.

    I’d have been a whole lot more impressed with the single parent thing, being one myself, if she’d have married and had kids first. Quite understandable!

    Well, at least the appeals from the Maryknollers seem to have waned in my mailbox. That’s one.


    • Schütz says:

      You two are impossible. It’s great to have you back at the commentary table, but don’t you know it’s rude to have a conversation in your own corner that doesn’t include the rest? :-)

      • Christine says:

        David, you are quite right about that.

        Last time we did that at Pastor Weedon’s blog while he was at a conference he said that we were having too much fun while he was gone :)

        Mea culpa!


  9. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    Our own corner? Is there a private chatroom feature on this blog? Is the Reply button not following each comment? The Polite Police are on a pogrom.

    Kloster Weltenburg! Held to be the oldest monastery in Bavaria, yet new in that after its re-founding after disbandment in the Napoleonic era, it began life again as a priory of Kloster Metten at roughly the same time as some of the Metten boys were setting up what would become my shop!

  10. Christine says:

    Kloster Weltenburg!

    And brewed some good beer! Monkery at its finest!


  11. Terry Maher (Past Elder) says:

    Great distilled and fermented Judas, die Weltenburger Klosterbrauerei, ja dann bei Gott! Aber Kloster Weihenstephan challenges them for the oldest brewery. Poor old Weihenstephan didn’t make it out of the Napoleonic era quite so well, even if they too were Benedictine — unlike Weltenburg which resumed as a dependent priory of Metten, Weihenstephan was made into a parish, then the old abbey church was torn down.

    However, the old ag school was the basis for the life and food sciences campus of Technische Universitaet Muenchen, among the highest ranked schools in Germany and the world, and in co-operation with which, the damn brewery is still going strong!

    Judas in a chatroom, this is not a private conversation!

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