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Church Reform Wishlist: Precedence and Papal Honors

Of Precedence and Papal Honors (Or, “Monsignors, medals, and more!”)

Full disclosure: i helped get some acquaintances a papal knightood for their commendable service to the Church, i know some others. I know several monsignori, most quite deserving of recognition. If we have these things, we should use them, but first ask whether we should have them at all.

  • The presbyterate and diaconate are equal in ‘rank and dignity’. We really should not even be talking about ‘rank’ with regard to the life of the Church anyway. Are not all equal in Christ?
  • I am not sure we should, but as long as we do  still care about an order of  precedence, patriarchs precede cardinals, and major archbishops ought to be considered equal to cardinal-bishops. .
  • On one hand I think we should eliminate the vestiges of the renaissance court – the three grades of monsignori, the five grades of papal knights, the two medals, and perhaps even the college of cardinals, honorary canons, etc.
  • On the other hand, I believe that if we do have these things – and there are reasons to have the means of recognizing good and faithful service to the church – they ought to be exercised more equitably and transparently, to whit:
    • Clear qualifications or requirements for each honor should be widely available, clearly understandable, and published on the Vatican website.
    • There should be universal consistency, too. A parish organist of fifty years and a Swiss Guard of two can both receive the Benemerenti medal. Likewise some dioceses do not have monsignori at all, some award it after a set number of years of service, and if you work in the curia, it was, until quite recently, all but guaranteed after five years (one term) of service.
    • Nominations should have an open process that allows at least initial proposals to come from all corners of the Church. There are many deserving people who will never be recognized simply because nobody knows how to get it done.
    • Generous donors should either not be so awarded, or only granted the lowest category of  particular order. The higher levels reserved for those who have given of their time and talent.
    • We should make broader use of the awards as appropriate for ecumenical, interreligious, and even non-believing leaders who have contributed in someway to the Church and to the world.
      • e.g., the diplomats accredited to the Holy See are frequently made Knights of the Order of Pope Pius IX. Maybe it would be appropriate to make the outgoing Representative of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Holy See an honorary canon of St. Peter’s, or of St. Paul’s without the Walls? Or at least a Pian Knight, too!
    • If the papal knighthoods are for the laity, and the monsignori for the clergy, then deacons should be able to be awarded with all the levels of monsignor. Alternatively, restrict the highest (protonotary apostolic) to the diaconate (which is the historic origin of this role anyway), the middle (honorary prelate) to the presbyterate, and the lowest (chaplain of his holiness) to lay ecclesial ministers, or to both presbyters and deacons.
    • Publish a report each year, and a sum total of all awards given, which includes clarification of who was awarded, for what reason, and where they are. I would be happy to help with the research!
    • Gentlemen of His Holiness are, basically, finely dressed ushers. Is it really an honorific? Why not just have the ushers do this job? If it is an honorific, let it become more systematic like the rest.

Pontifice-Cross-Honorees.jp

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