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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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Rite of Investiture of Papal Knighthood

Celebration of the Eucharist
Thursday of the First Week of Advent
25th Anniversary of the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas

Investiture of Papal Orders of Knighthood

At the conclusion of the homily

Archbishop Joseph Tobin, CSsR, and Master of Ceremonies A.J. Boyd stand at the chair

MC Boyd invites Nancy Lindsay, Chair of the Lay Centre Board of Directors, to the podium

Servers bring a table with the Papal Briefs and the insignia of the orders and place in front-center.


Presentation of the Nomination: Nancy Lindsay

Your Excellency,

For twenty-five years, the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas has contributed to the Church of Rome, and to the entire Catholic Church, through its commitment to community and ecclesial formation of students, to hospitality and dialogue, fidelity to the Church, and outreach to the broader community.

The co-founders of the Lay Centre, Professor Donna Orsuto and Signora Henrica van Velzen have lived in Rome for more than thirty years each, and have lead the growth of the Lay Centre from its modest beginnings within Foyer Unitas in 1986. Their service to the Church has had an impact beyond all expectations. As Fr. Francois-Xavier Dumortier, SJ, Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, said during his visit to the Lay Centre in March, “this community has had a significant impact in Rome – on one hand, yes, it is a small community, but it is in fact a big thing!”

It is for their decades of dedicated service to the Church, both individually and in particular for the creation, development and growth of the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas and its notable contribution to the life of the Church in Rome and the world – and with considerable gratitude to Bishop Brian Farrell, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, for their support and sponsorship of this nomination – that we propose Professoressa Donna Orsuto for recognition with the Order of St. Gregory the Great, and Signora Henrica van Velzen with the Order of Pope St. Sylvester.

 

Introduction of the Orders: Archbishop Tobin

The Pontifical Order of St. Gregory the Great was founded in 1831 by Pope Gregory XVI. It is conferred as a reward for services to the Holy See and the Church on gentlemen and ladies who “by reason of their nobility, the renown of their deeds, or the degree of their munificence are deemed worthy to be honored by a public expression of esteem on the part of the Holy See.”

The Pontifical Order of Pope St. Sylvester was founded a decade later, in 1841, also by Pope Gregory XVI. It is conferred as an honor for “the laity who are active in the apostolate, in particular in the exercise of their professional duties and masters of the different arts.”

Becoming a Papal Dame does not merely mean receiving a title of honor – even though it is well deserved – but fighting evil, promoting good and defending the weak and oppressed against injustice.

Archbishop Tobin or MC Boyd invites the candidates to present themselves before the altar.

Archbishop Tobin, with mitre and crozier,
and MC Boyd, process to the front of the altar.

MC Boyd holds the order of investiture for Archbishop Tobin

 

Reading of the Papal Decree: Archbishop Tobin

Addressed to Donna and Riekie:

The Papal Brief which creates you, Donna Orsuto, a Dame of St. Gregory the Great reads as follows:

Benedict XVI, Supreme Pontiff, gladly acceding to a request made to Us from which we have gathered that you are most deserving for what you have done for the Holy Catholic Church and its affairs, and in order that We might give a clear sign of Our pleasure and appreciation, We choose, make and declare you, Donna Lynn Orsuto, of the diocese of Rome, a Dame of the Order of St. Gregory the Great. We bestow on you the right to use and enjoy all the privileges which go with this high dignity.

Given at St. Peter’s in Rome on 7 October 2011,
Signed and sealed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State.

Likewise, the Papal Brief which creates you, Henrica van Velzen, a Dame of Pope St. Sylvester, reads as follows:

Benedict XVI, Supreme Pontiff, gladly acceding to a request made to Us from which we have gathered that you are most deserving for what you have done for the Holy Catholic Church and its affairs, and in order that We might give a clear sign of Our pleasure and appreciation, We choose, make and declare you, Henrica Filomena Apollonia van Velzen, of the diocese of Rome, a Dame of the Order of Pope St. Sylvester. We bestow on you the right to use and enjoy all the privileges which go with this high dignity.

Given at St. Peter’s in Rome on 7 October 2011,
Signed and sealed by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State.

 

Oath and Blessing of insignia: Archbishop Tobin

I have been delegated by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to invest you with the insignia of the Orders to which he has appointed you.

Before performing this solemn task, I must ask you: Do you promise faithfully to maintain unswerving fidelity to God, the Supreme Pontiff, the Holy See and the Holy Church and exercise the office of a Pontifical Dame in accordance with the high ideals and standards expected of you?

Donna and Riekie: I do.

Archbishop Tobin blesses the Brief and Insignia saying:

Almighty and Eternal God,
bless these symbols approved by your Servant, Pope Benedict XVI.
We invoke your omnipotent power to confound all evil spirits
and protect your servants Donna Orsuto and Henrica van Velzen,
who, from this day forward, wear them.
Protect your Dames from all harm
and may they be ever faithful to you all the days of their life.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.


Investiture of insignia

 

 Archbishop Tobin to Donna Orsuto:

In the name of the Holy Father I herewith invest you with the insignia of a Dame of St. Gregory the Great and I present to you the Papal Brief.

Archbishop Tobin to Riekie van Velzen:

In the name of the Holy Father I herewith invest you with the insignia of a Dame of Pope St. Sylvester and I present to you the Papal Brief.

MC Boyd or Archbishop Tobin presents the newly invested Dames to the Assembly, before all retire to their respective places.

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