Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Two signs in an inner city churchyard

Two signs in an inner city churchyard in Dublin this morning (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

I know what a reserved sin is. I know what a reserved judgment is. I even know what reserved seating is, and I know what it is to say that someone is reserved.

But what is a reserved vicar?

And who would like to be described as a reserved curate?

In Roman Catholic penitential theology, “reserved sins” are those sins which cannot be absolved by every priest-confessor, because absolution in those cases is reserved to himself by the confessor-priest’s superior, usually his bishop.

This thinking, for example, allows the pope to exercise this authority throughout the Roman Catholic Church, a bishop to do the same in his diocese, and so on. The reserved sin is regarded as “mortal, external, and consummated.”

For example, according to Canon 1367 of the Code of Canon Law, “a person who throws away the consecrated species or who takes them or retains them for a sacrilegious purpose incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See ...” So if someone takes the consecrated host with sacrilegious intention they are excommunicated. The absolution cannot be given unless the Apostolic See (the Papal office) lifts the excommunication. The administration of this is through the local bishop.

A priest or anyone else who witnesses or overhears any part of confession and who breaks the confidentiality of the seal of confession incurs latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication reserved to the Holy See (Code of Canon Law, 1388 §1).

Perjury, at one time, was reserved to the bishops in Irish dioceses because it involved a false oath. Or in the US, in another example, abortion once incurred an automatic excommunication that was reserved for the local bishop, although in most dioceses bishops authorised their priests to lift that excommunication.

A “reserved judgment” is usually, but not always, a written judgment, which is given a few days or even weeks after a hearing. Because a reserved judgment is a considered judgment, it usually carries more weight than one deliveredex tempore or “off the cuff” at the conclusion of counsels’ arguments. The law reports signify a reserved judgment by the words cuna advisari volt (“the court wishes to consider the matter”), often abbreviated to cun. adv. Volt or CAE.

As for “reserved seating” ... well, this is simply another way for Ryanair making more money out of the travelling public, and the option to reserve a seat is available on all Ryanair flights. A reserved seat in row 2 and (emergency exit) rows 1, 16 and 17 can be purchased in advance online or at a call centre/airport for £10 or €10 for each one way flight.

Nifty one that.

A “reserved personality” is not the same as a shy personality. It is a polite way of describing someone who is not shy but socially aloof to the point of being rude or being a snob.

But what is a “Reserved Vicar”?

And what is a “Reserved Curate”?

I saw these signs in a car park in an inner church close to the Law Courts in Dublin, and I wondered does a “Reserved Vicar” have certain sins reserved to him that the curate is prohibited from hearing in confession? Allowing raffle tickets to be sold at the parish fete? Having an extra slice of lemon in my gin and tonic? Submitting parish notes to the diocesan magazine after deadline has passed? Phone the bishop quick, please.

Do judges who have reserved judgments in cases they are hearing require the pastoral care of reserved clergy until judgment is given?

Is the Ryanair truck of charging for reserved seating something we should consider in all our churches? For example, if we charged more for seats in the back pews, might that tempt people to move up a little closer on Sunday mornings? That sounds like an answer to many a priest’s prayers.

Or are these signs talking about personality traits? I could never imagine a snob among the inner city clergy, not an aloof priest anywhere in the Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough.

Or perhaps the letter “P” is missing. After all, this sign is right beside a church famous for the mummified corpses preserved in the crypt. How about “Preserved Vicar” or “Preserved Curate”?

And why does the Reserved Curate need that bar?

For Limbo Dancing?
Of course, believing in Limbo is a reserved sin in the Church of Ireland. But is Limbo not some sort of Reserved Judgment?

And you could have a “reserved charge” for using the pole for limbo dancing.

But you certainly would not engage in limbo dancing if you were a reserved vicar ... or a preserved curate ... or a judge, I suppose.