Archbishop Herranz on Why the Church Needs Canon Law

Interview With President of Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 20, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The president of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts believes that his appointment as cardinal is an acknowledgment of the pastoral importance of canon law.



Spanish-born Archbishop Julián Herranz Casado, 73, will be among the new cardinals elevated by John Paul II in the consistory on Tuesday.

Archbishop Herranz will be the second cardinal who is a member of the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei. The first is Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, archbishop of Lima, Peru.

Q: What has this call to the College of Cardinals meant for you?

Archbishop Herranz: For me, this choice of the Holy Father means more than an acknowledgment of my personal qualities, which are few, but, a triple manifestation of appreciation. In the first place, I would say of canon law, of the laws of the Church, as the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, which I preside over, is concerned with this very important pastoral function of the Church.

In the second place, I think it has been an expression of thoughtfulness toward Spain, which John Paul II loves very much, because of the evangelizing work of the Spanish in so many nations of America and the world, because of the spiritual richness of its mystics, and because of the vigor and intellectual creativity of so many theologians and canon lawyers of world renown.

In the third place, I think this appointment is yet another expression of appreciation of the Opus Dei, the institution to which I belong.

Q: What line do you think the Pope hopes to follow with this new consistory?

Archbishop Herranz: I think the same as that of previous consistories: the criterion of catholicity or universality, which is the same thing.

As can be seen, the continents and nations are increasingly represented. The College of Cardinals, as it is articulated at present, seems to me to be the most representative in history. In this connection, it can be said that it is the most catholic, in the universal sense.

Q: What do you think of the reports that have appeared about the date of the consistory having been brought forward due to the Holy Father's precarious health?

Archbishop Herranz: From the personal information I have, I am convinced that the Pope's health has not influenced the date of the consistory.

It is true that the three-year period since the previous consistory would expire in February of 2004, but it isn't a rigid rule. John Paul II has changed it at least two or three times, anticipating the convocation.

I think this time the reason is very clear: the Pope's desire to take advantage of the presence in Rome of all the members of the College of Cardinals in this month of October to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his pontificate, and so not have them return in a month or a few months' time.

Q: In recent days there has been much speculation about the Pope's health. You, who have the opportunity to see him up close, how do you find him?

Archbishop Herranz: Suffice it to watch television to realize that his limitations of movement have increased and his difficulty of expression and pronunciation. This is something that is obvious.

But I must say that as for the rest -- intellectual gifts, capacity for decision-making in governance, will power, etc. -- he is very well. I can assert this from personal experience.

One notices, of course, as is noticeable in all of us, the passing of the years. But he maintains quite a capacity for work. Just think of the audiences he grants every day, the handling of government matters, the bishops' "ad limina" visits, at times numerous, such as those of the bishops of the Philippines or India, which are currently taking place.

Q: Do you think that in recent years interest in legislative texts and canon law has waned in the Church for the benefit of mere pastoral action?

Archbishop Herranz: No, no, just the opposite. I think there has been a recovery of the awareness that the pastoral "munus," pastoral action, is like a tripod. It rests on three different functions which are, nevertheless, inseparable: the teaching function, which we call "munus docendi"; the liturgical and sacramental function, "munus santificandi"; and the governing function, "munus regendi" which consists above all in having the laws of the Church applied.

I recently reminded the Holy Father: "Neither in theory nor in practice can we do without the exercise of the 'munus regendi,' as a means to declare, determine, guarantee and promote intra-ecclesial justice."

They are three absolutely necessary functions. If one is not applied, the tripod collapses. Pastoral action would be incomplete, immature; more than that, it would seem to give up, to be comfortable and even harmful, if there was no government.

Of course, sometimes it is easier than others to have the laws of the Church respected and applied. It might be that the other two are easier, but the latter is necessary.

Q: Is there not in some sectors a clash between charism and law, charity and law?

Archbishop Herranz: In the very recent past, there was much demagogy made of these false comparisons, which in reality are inappropriate for three principal reasons.

In the first place, because Jesus Christ founded the Church, not only as a community of faith, hope and charity, but as a hierarchically organized society. And every society needs law. Therefore, the existence of law in the Church is a foundational will of Christ.

The second reason is that the whole mission of the Church, the whole evangelical message, is concretized -- as Jesus summarized it at the Last Supper -- in the "new commandment" of charity. But it must not be forgotten that the first step … of charity is justice.

And then, in the third place, one must keep in mind that law in the Church is not -- as some think -- a mere instrument of power in the hands of the hierarchy.

It is the totality of rights and duties that help all the faithful of the Church, from the Pope to the last baptized person, to participate actively and in an orderly manner in the unique and common mission of taking Christ to the world, each one according to his own vocation and canonical standing.

Q: Lastly, what is your assessment of the Pope's 25-year pontificate?

Archbishop Herranz: A difficult question. I would say that it is the evaluation of the enormous evangelizing efficacy of a contemplative, of a mystic. This is how I see it.

The Church seeks to take Christ to the world and this is John Paul II's constant commitment, from the beginning until today.

The famous phrase that is so quoted -- "Open the doors to Christ; do not be afraid" -- I think it is completed with the one he repeats now, in the new evangelization of the third millennium: what will save the world "is not a formula," it is not a method, "it is a Person," it is Christ, as he says in the apostolic letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte."

He loves Christ passionately, and love is diffusing. It is like those who are in love, who don't stop talking about the love that fills and illuminates their intelligence, their memory, their hearts, their hope, their time, their all. ... And he is passionately in love with Christ.

John Paul II has broken a record that you journalists speak little about. You talk about the times he has gone around the world, about the millions of people he has received in audience, about the dozens of doctrinal and disciplinary documents he has published.

But you forget another record. For me, he is the Pope who has spent the most hours praying before the tabernacle. And he is the man who has spent the most hours entering Gospel scenes to relate to Christ's humanity with the intimacy that John of the Cross and St. Teresa did.

We are seeing it with great evidence now, when his vigor and bodily health have diminished. He is a mystic, and he has the strength and courage of the mystics.

If he had not been what he is, a man profoundly in love with Christ, he would not have been able to do what he has done, and what he is doing. I would say that this is the most beautiful evaluation of a life totally configured to Christ, made a perfect gift by the strength of love.