Monday, July 28, 2014

THE CANONICAL CASE FOR MONSIGNOR JAMES BENAVENTE, PASTOR.


Summary

  • The cathedral is both the episcopal seat of the diocese and a parish.
  • The Archbishop is the pastor of the diocese not the parish of Agana. 
  • Msgr. James was assigned to the cathedral as its rector.
  • Canon law does not allow a rector to be assigned to a parish.
  • Therefore, Msgr. James is not the Cathedral's rector but its de facto pastor. 
  • Msgr. James has all the canonical protections of a pastor. 
  • The Archbishop's dismissal of Msgr. James, pastor, was in violation of canon law. 
  • Msgr. James is still the de facto pastor of the Cathedral parish. 
The Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral is the central church of the archdiocese and the seat of the archbishop. And, according to the 2013 Directory of the Archdiocese of Agana (pg. 4) it is also a parish. 

The directory lists Archbishop Apuron as its pastor. However Archbishop Apuron is the pastor of the archdiocese of which the Cathedral is the central church. He is not the pastor of the Agana parish. That duty is assigned to the "rector".

However, according to canonist, Fr. Stuart MacDonald, JCL, it appears that Monsignor Benavente is NOT the rector but the pastor:
"Sometimes the priest who is given charge of the Cathedral is called a rector.  It seems to be an honourary title because he is the pastor of the Cathedral parish...The cathedral church, besides being the seat of the bishop, can also be a parish church...If the cathedral is also a parish, then, properly speaking, a pastor is appointed to it.  If the cathedral church is not a parish, then, properly speaking, a rector is appointed to it."
Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral is "also a parish church". Thus it is supposed to have a pastor, not a rector. MacDonald quotes Canon 556 to clarify:
Rectors of churches are understood here as priests to whom is committed the care of some church which is neither parochial nor capitular nor connected to a house of a religious community or society of apostolic life which celebrates services in it.
The key words are "neither parochial". Parochial means "of or referring to a parish." The Agana Cathedral is not only listed as a parish in the archdiocesan directory, it also functions as a parish in every way.

Thus, Monsignor Benavente's position at the cathedral, despite the misnomer, cannot be that of a rector, but a pastor. And he, and NOT Archbishop Apuron, is the pastor of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral parish, just as Monsignor Kevin Kostelnik is the pastor of the Cathedral parish of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and not Archbishop Jose Gomez, and Monsignor John Talesfore is the pastor of the Cathedral parish of San Francisco and not Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.

Also, Monsignor Benavente is the pastor not only because of this canonical technicality, but also by virtue of his performance of parochial functions in the Agana parish for the past twenty years, functions that are otherwise not permitted to a rector by Canon 558:
Without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 262, a rector is not permitted to perform the parochial functions mentioned in ⇒ can. 530, nn. 1-6 in the church entrusted to him unless the pastor consents or, if the matter warrants it, delegates.
Here is the list of parochial functions which Can. 558 prohibits a rector from performing, functions which Monsignor Benavente regularly performs, and performs them because his in fact the pastor NOT the rector:

1/ the administration of baptism;

2/ the administration of the sacrament of confirmation to those who are in danger of death, according to the norm of ⇒ can. 883, n. 3;

3/ the administration of Viaticum and of the anointing of the sick, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 1003, §§2 and 3, and the imparting of the apostolic blessing;

4/ the assistance at marriages and the nuptial blessing;

5/ the performance of funeral rites;

6/ the blessing of the baptismal font at Easter time, the leading of processions outside the church, and solemn blessings outside the church.

There are other dioceses which seem to have made the same mistake as ours, assigning a rector instead of a pastor to their Cathedral parishes. But, it is a mistake nonetheless, a mistake which is clearly noted in the New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law:
"The church entrusted to a rector may not be a parish church. In the United States, the pastor of the cathedral is sometimes referred to as as the rector, but this is not a canonical term. In many countries the cathedral is not a parish and is entrusted to a rector in the sense of this canon. However, in the United States cathedrals are usually parish churches well as churches for the diocese. " (Beal, John P., Coriden, James A., Green, Thomas J., The Canon Law Society of America., [2000]. New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law. New York: Paulist Press. Pg. 735.)
Note: The Archbishop may argue that the Archdiocese of Agana is not part of the U.S. conference. However, this doesn't matter, because it is his own directory that lists the Agana cathedral as a parish

As pastor, Monsignor James has all the rights accorded to a pastor under Canon Law, including a right to the required canonically required proceedings for the removal of pastors as prescribed in Cann. 1740 - 1752, the same canons that Archbishop Apuron was forced to comply with in his removal of Fr. Paul.

The Archbishop will argue that he never formally installed Monsignor James as pastor and only installed him as rector. But then that would mean that Archbishop Apuron has been negligent in permitting Monsignor James to perform parochial functions which, as a rector, he would be prohibited by Can. 558 from performing. 

The fact is, of course, is that the Archbishop is not conversant with Canon Law on this matter and it is not the fault of Monsignor James that he was given the wrong title. Formally installed or not, Monsignor James IS the de facto pastor of the Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral parish.

And I stress IS because he CANNOT be removed by a mere letter of dismissal since Archbishop Apuron is required to comply with the formal proceedings for the removal of a pastor under Cann. 1740 - 1752. 

Thus, both the dismissal of Monsignor Benavente from the Agana Cathedral and the appointment of Msgr. David C. Quitugua as his replacement are both invalid and canonically illegal acts. And, Monsignor James Benavente, though he was illegally removed and replaced, is still the de facto pastor of the Agana Cathedral parish.

In order for Archbishop Apuron to justify his actions, he will have to discredit the "de facto" character of Monsignor Benavente' pastorship. This will be difficult for him to do because in addition to the admission of ignorance and negligence already noted, the Archbishop, himself, is relying on a de facto designation in his case against Fr. Paul, charging that a Santa Barbara parish volunteer was a de facto employee even two years after Fr. Paul terminated the man's actual employment.

In short, Monsignor James Benavente has the same case as Fr. Paul. And he should challenge the Archbishop as Fr. Paul has done. We hope he does. Meanwhile, many of us are are finally fed up! We are sick of this Archbishop's lawlessness. We are sick of this cruelty and terrorizing of our priests. And we are sick of Archbishop Apuron's Neo-crat masters counting on Guam Catholics to shut up, sit down, and behave. WE ARE DONE!

If you are ready to do something about this then send your name to



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