Saturday, December 10, 2011

Is the Anglican Mission in the Americas a Personal Prelature?

By Robin G. Jordan

Former AMiA Primatial Vicar Chuck Murphy is claiming that the Anglican Mission in the Americas is a personal prelature established by retired Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini when he was Primate of Rwanda. For those who are unfamiliar with the term “personal prelature” a personal prelature is an institutional structure of the Roman Catholic Church. It consists of a prelate, clergy, and possibly laity who undertake specific pastoral activities. Personal prelatures, similar to dioceses and military ordinariates, are under the governance of the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops. These three types of ecclesiastical structures are composed of lay people served by their own secular clergy and prelate. Unlike dioceses which cover territories, personal prelatures—like military ordinariates— take charge of persons as regards some objectives regardless of where they live.

In the Roman Catholic Church the personal prelature was conceived during the sessions of the Second Vatican Cuncil in no. 10 of the decree Presbyterorum ordinis and was later enacted into law by Pope Paul VI n his motu proprio Ecclesiae sanctae. The institution was later reaffirmed in the 1983 Code of Canon Law.


Can. 294 After the conferences of bishops involved have been heard, the Apostolic See can erect personal prelatures, which consist of presbyters and deacons of the secular clergy, to promote a suitable distribution of presbyters or to accomplish particular pastoral or missionary works for various regions or for different social groups.

Can. 295 §1. The statutes established by the Apostolic See govern a personal prelature, and a prelate presides offer it as the proper ordinary; he has the right to erect a national or international seminary and even to incardinate students and promote them to orders under title of service to the prelature.

§2. The prelate must see to both the spiritual formation and decent support of those whom he has promoted under the above-mentioned title.

Can. 296 Lay persons can dedicate themselves to the apostolic works of a personal prelature by agreements entered into with the prelature. The statutes, however, are to determine suitably the manner of this organic cooperation and the principal duties and rights connected to it.

Can. 297 The statutes likewise are to define the relations of the personal prelature with the local ordinaries in whose particular churches the prelature itself exercises or desires to exercise its pastoral or missionary works, with the previous consent of the diocesan bishop.

The adjective personal refers to the fact that the jurisdiction of the prelate is not linked to a territory but over persons wherever they happen to be.

The AMiA, however, has a defined territory--Canada, the United States and its territories, including Puerto Rico. Bishop Murphy’s jurisdiction as Primatial Vicar of the AMiA was linked to this territory not over persons wherever they happen to be.

If Bishop Murphy is looking for a new provincial home for the AMiA as the December 8, 2011 press release claims, then his resignation and the resignation of the bishops who resigned with him was unnecessary. Under the provisions of Title I.6.2(d) of the 2008 Rwandan canons he could have worked with the Rwandan House of Bishops to arrange the transfer of the AMiA to another province.

A Missionary Jurisdiction or Society may be transferred by the House of Bishops to become a mission effort of another Anglican Province, or to become a constituent member of an autonomous Province in communion with this Province; or, with the consent of the House of Bishops, it may be erected as an extra–provincial Diocese.

A partial explanation of Bishop Murphy’s break with Anglican Church of Rwanda is that he wanted to expand his jurisdiction beyond this territory, accepting into the AMiA congregations and clergy outside Canada and the United States and its territories. Archbishop Onesphore Rwaje, when he became Primate of Rwanda, was not supportive of Murphy's expansion of the AMiA beyond Canada and the United States and its territories. Murphy began to see Archbishop Rwaje as an obstacle to his plans. This also helps to explain why Murphy is claiming that the AMiA is a personal prelature.

Under the provisions of Title I.6.10 the House of Bishops or Provincial Synod of the Province determines the manner in which the Primatial Vicar makes annual report to the Primate about the status of the jurisdiction committed to him.

The Primatial Vicar exercising his authority in the missionary jurisdiction of the Province is obliged to make a report every year to the Primate about the status of the jurisdiction committed to him, according to the manner established by the House of Bishops or Provincial Synod of the Province.

Under the provisions of Title I.6.10 the House of Bishops could require the Primatial Vicar to make this report at a meeting of the House of Bishops at which the other Rwandan bishops are present and the House of Bishops could require him to produce the financial records of the jurisdiction for the inspection of the assembled bishops and to answer the questions of the assembled bishops. Under the provisions of Title I.6.10 the Primatial Vicar himself cannot determine how he makes the report, thereby controlling or limiting the information that he provides the Primate of Rwanda.

Bishop Murphy’s reaction to the request of the Rwandan bishops for a joint meeting of the Rwandan House of Bishops and AMiA Council of Missionary Bishops to establish a method of accurate and transparent method of financial accounting, however he may spin it to the AMIA congregations and clergy and mission partners, was unwarranted. The truth is that Bishop Murphy’s precipitous action was not only unnecessary but also irresponsible. It will not help the cause of the gospel in North America and the world. It will only harm it.

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