21. The crisis of competence
21. The crisis of competence

21. The crisis of competence

Flowing from the discussions on ignorance of obligations and rights, there is another reality, namely, the crisis of competence. Simply put, a crisis of competence occurs when one says I am not responsible; the other says I am not also responsible. Who is then responsible? Nobody 🤷🏾‍♂️.

However, unlike a conflict of competence [a situation where two or more tribunals are competent to judge a particular case or where one or more tribunals declare themselves incompetent to judge a particular case. (cf. Can. 1416)], the crisis of competence is induced because of the ignorance of an officeholder or the lack or insufficient definition of duties by the office provider.

Regarding the ignorance of the officeholder, I wrote in the past weeks that ecclesiastical offices are stable and for each office, there are obligations and rights attached to it. One reason the law requires the competent authority to put the provision of ecclesiastical offices in writing is to identify the obligations of the appointee (cf. Can. 156). Such letters always refer to the description of the duties according to the code of canon law. It also adds extra duties—territory-specific—that the competent authority wishes to add.

Ignorance results from two facts. First, the absence of the letter of appointment. When this happens, the officeholder assumes obligations based on his perception of the duties of an office or of the duties expressly stated in the code of canon law. If the predecessor was ignorant of certain duties required by law, the new officeholder continues in that ignorance and would likely omit an obligation required by law.

Ignorance is also a sign of irresponsibility of the officeholder. The three categories of ignorance become handy here (cf. Can. 1325). Crass ignorance means “gross ignorance about what a reasonable person should know”. Supine ignorance is “a careless indifference to knowing what other persons regard as necessary knowledge”. Affected ignorance is one “deliberately cultivated to excuse a legal violation”.

There could also be a crisis of competence if the competent authority does not properly delineate the duties attached to an office. This could happen when he does not provide a letter on appointing someone to an office. It could also happen if he provides a letter that lacks the full details of what he expects the appointee to do, perhaps due to his ignorance or for ulterior purposes. When either of these happens, the officeholder is afraid of engaging in acts which he considers beyond his competence (but they are even within his competence) so as not to offend the authority.

Crisis of competence affects the administration of the ecclesiastical institution, including the sacraments, and ultimately, the salvation of souls. Indeed, ecclesiastical offices are set up to avoid this crisis. Minors are not appointed to offices (cf. Can. 98). Consequently, suitability for an office entails that the person is an adult and therefore, mature. Hence, it is expedient that we read the provisions of the law on the office we occupy and ask questions where necessary. We perform better when we do so, and Jesus is happier.

When the lawyer asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus asked him:

“‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’

And Jesus said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live’” (Luke 10:25-28).

Ka Chineke mezie okwu 🙏🏾


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  1. Pingback: 31. Collaboration with the laity – The Catholic Church in the contemporary society

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