What Vatican City's new law could mean for laypeople

Ed. Condon from The Pillar muses on Pope Francis’ new changes to Fundamental Law.

Pope Francis on Saturday issued a revised Fundamental Law for the Vatican City State, a kind of constitutional law for the tiny territory surrounding St. Peter’s Basilica.

The new constitution made a number of interesting reforms. But a key change in the text’s language raises deep questions about the legal thinking around Pope Francis — and it could point to an important undercurrent in the pope’s wide-ranging project of institutional reform for Church structures.

Most interesting, the new law allows for lay members to serve on the city state’s governing commission but removes all reference to the commission exercising the “power” of governance.

The significance of that change extends beyond a mere tonal emphasis of the pope’s immediate governing power over Vatican City, and suggests an important development in the debate over exercise of the power of governance by lay people.

But while the significance of the change is clear, its meaning has some canonists vexed.

Changes in the Vatican City State’s legal language could represent either a rollback on attempts to broaden lay governing power, or they could mean the opposite — a new legal formulation to allow lay people to assume a new range of governing offices.

Read on…

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