Josemaría Escrivá Obras

Priests are incardinated in a diocese and depend on the Ordinary. What justification can there be for them to belong to an association which is distinct from the diocese and even organised on a world-wide basis?

The justification is clear: legitimate use of the natural right of association, which the Church recognises for the clergy as well as for the rest of the faithful. There is a centuries-old tradition testified to by the example of the many praiseworthy associations which have helped the spiritual life of secular priests. It has been repeatedly reaffirmed in the teaching of the recent Popes (Pius XII, John XXIII and Paul VI), and in the solemn declarations of the Second Vatican Council (cf Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis, 8).

It is worth bearing in mind here that the competent conciliar Commission rejected, with the subsequent approval of the General Congregation, a Council father's proposal that there be no priestly associations other than those fostered or directed by the diocesan bishop. It clearly based its rejection on the natural right of association which the clergy also enjoy; the reply stated: 'What the Council has declared as befitting lay people (in that it derives from natural law and suits the dignity of human nature) cannot be denied to priests.'

By virtue of this fundamental right, priests are free to found associations or become members of those which already exist, provided the associations pursue good aims which are in keeping with the dignity and requirements of the clerical state. To understand properly the legitimacy and scope of the secular clergy's right of association and avoid all misunderstandings, reservations or danger of anarchy, one should recall the distinction which necessarily exists and which should be respected, between the cleric's ministerial function and the sphere of his personal life.

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