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From the Desk of the Executive Coordinator: Rome Log, Days 1-9

Tuesday, March 17, 2015   (3 Comments)
Posted by: Colleen Crawford
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The following text is an on-going record of the biennial Rome visit, undertaken by the Officers of the Canon Law Society of America. Reverend Roger H. Keeler, Executive Coordinator, chronicles the week's activities in Rome below.

Jump to:   Day 1      Day 2     Day 3     Day 4     Day 5     Day 6     Day 7     Day 8     Day 9 

Day 1: Monday, the 16th of March

Not the nicest day in Rome: steady rain, a wind from the north, and temperatures that have hovered around 50F. Yet, it doesn’t seem to deter the tourists … nor the three of us from our round of meetings.

We met this morning with two friends of the CLSA at the Roman Rota: Msgr. David Maria Jaeger, OFM and Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto. Many of us will remember their addressing us at the Seventy-fifth Annual Convention in Sacramento.

We spent an hour with Msgr. Jaeger discussing with him cases before the Rota which are not marriage cases. Our free running conversation on penal matters offered good insights and suggestions for the way in which these matters might be handled in first instance. Msgr. Jaeger is, as many of us know, someone who keeps a pulse on things here in Rome. His observations are poignant.

Pictured, from left: Msgr. David-Maria Jaeger, OFM; CLSA President Michael Souckar; Vice President Manuel Viera, OFM; Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto; Executive Coordinator Roger H. Keeler.


In his meeting with us, Msgr. Pinto thanked the CLSA Task Force for its sound recommendations which he has distributed to the other eleven members of the Pontifical Commission. He is confident that the findings of the Commission will be given to the Holy Father before Easter.

Msgr. Jaeger introduced us to a small ristorante near the Rota where the pasta and gnocchi are freshly made, and served with prideful flourish. He continued to regale us stories an anecdotes from his vast storehouse of experience.

This afternoon we had the joy of meeting with Fr. Michael Carragher, OP, Dean of Canon Law, The Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, and Fr. Miroslav Konštanc Adam, OP, Rector at the Angelicum. Once again, the conversation flowed freely and was wonderfully informative. They told us about cooperation between the Pontifical universities here in Rome newly begun, and what that might look like with universities in the United States and Canada. They expressed the hope that our annual Conventions would continue to be venues of ongoing canonical formation for our membership and wondered how they might be able to assist us in this regard.

There will be another little post tomorrow evening.

Please keep Msgr. Souckar, Fr. Viera, and I, in your prayers, will you?

The entire Society was remembered at Eucharist this morning and shall be each day we gather at the Table of the Lord.

Until tomorrow ~

Day 2: Tuesday, the 17th of March

Another wet, cool day in Rome.

We began this morning with a meeting at the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts. Our talks with Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, Secretary of the Pontifical Council, Msgr. Markus Graulich, SDB, Undersecretary, and Fr. Cuong M. Pham, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, were broad and informative. The Council is focusing its energy in four key areas: 1) anticipating the findings of the Papal Commission examining the procedures for studying the validity of marriage; 2) the renewal of Curial finances; 3) the ongoing work redrafting Book VI of the Code, and 4) fielding issues from other dicasteries of the Curia, together with those presented to it from all over the world.

The CLSA Officers engage in conversation with Bishop Arrieta and Rev. Cuong Pham (far right).


Just as our meeting ended, we were joined by Cardinal Coccopalmerio, President of the Council, who was just emerging from a meeting with bishops visiting from Bosnia. Although our time with him was brief, he was very encouraging of a deepened connection between the Council and the CLSA – something we hope will bear good fruit!

We joined Fr. Yuji Sugawara, SJ, Dean of the Faculty of Canon Law, the faculty members, and the entire Jesuit community, at the Gregorian University for lunch. They updated us on the composition of the student community, the work of faculty members apart from teaching, and of their future hopes and plans. They also spoke of the cooperation between canon law faculties here in Rome and, just as in our conversation yesterday with Fr. Carragher at the Angelicum, pondered aloud about that sort of cooperation with North American faculties. Fr. Sugawara was singular in his praise for CLSA publications and encourages the Society in this regard.

Tomorrow has been set aside for a General Audience with the Holy Father.

Day 3: Wednesday, the 18th of March

When we wrote to Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who heads the Prefecture of the Papal Household, requesting tickets to today’s General Audience, we hoped we might be seated in an area that might get us reasonably close to Pope Francis. We were delighted to find ourselves seated immediately behind a small delegation of visiting bishops, immediately to the Holy Father’s left.

This audience was remarkable in so many ways! Rather than starting at the announced 10:00 a.m., Pope Frances entered the Piazza at 9:30, spending an entire half hour driving about, stopping here and there, meeting people, touching those held out to him, embracing people. His catechesis was about children and, true to form, he stopped several times to offer spontaneous comments – much to the delight of those present. After but one hour, he was up and making his way down toward a large group of people in wheelchairs assembled just below the dais. His progress through their midst was slow and deliberate, stopping with a word and blessing for each one. One could not help but be touched by his tenderness.

The photo attached tells the whole story of our very brief meeting with him! He smilingly chided us for sharing "the illness” – our love of canon law – and he thanked the Society for its work. Such a moment!

Pope Francis greets the CLSA Officers after Wednesday's papal audience. The audience was devoted to catechesis on the family, and specifically, the gift that children are to humanity. A summary may be found here.


Day 4: Thursday, the 19th of March: the Feast of St. Joseph

The day dawned clear and bright, with cool, fragrant air.

We left the North American College at about 6:45 to make our way to St. Peter’s to celebrate the Eucharist together.

After leaving Eucharist at St. Peter's, Msgr. Michael Souckar and Rev. Roger Keeler explore the Colonnade.


There is something singularly spectacular walking into that magnificent space at that hour of the morning, with the streaming sun pooling in circles on the marble floor, the church all but empty, and virtually silent.

We celebrated the Eucharist for the members of the Society, fondly recalling those whose time among us has ended, at the tomb of Pope St. Pius X, the one who, as we all know, initiated the process of codifying the law.

All of the Holy See is closed in honour of the feast day. No meetings were possible, so the rest of the day was spent by each of us on our own; catching up with those we know here in the Eternal City, seeing those things we want to see, finding just the right souvenirs, and exploring a city that defies yielding all its secrets to any explorer, no matter how ardent and intent that explorer may be.

We shared a meal together at a ristorante appropriately called da Francesco: the very thing for the friar in our company.

Day 5: Friday, the 20th of March

Our day began, as it always does, with the celebration of the Eucharist. Today, as in most days, we met in the Immacolata Chapel on the fifth floor of the North American College.

The one meeting scheduled for today was with Fr. Luis Navarro, Dean of the Faculty of Canon Law, and Fr. Stefan Mügkl, Professor, both of the Pontifical University of Santa Croce.


President Michael Souckar and Rev. Luis Navarro, Dean of the Faculty of Canon Law at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce, converse on the rooftop terrace of the school.


Santa Croce is large university, comprised of four faculties with a student population of over 1,600. The faculty of canon law itself has some 89 students in the licentiate program and 65 pursuing their doctorates. As with the other universities we have visited, there is an interest in exploring possibilities for collaboration. Perhaps of interest to members of our Society are the annual Congress hosted by Santa Croce (proceedings from the latest one will be available in English in the near future), the triennial intensive course in tribunal procedures, and an impressive selection of published material.

Conversation wandered into areas of mutual interest including the Consociatio Internationalis and its relationship with national Societies such as our own, together with possible topics that might be addressed by either one of them at a forthcoming CLSA Convention.

We concluded our meeting with a visit to the terrazzo atop Santa Croce with its unparalleled sweeping vistas of Rome.

A view of the Vatican from the rooftop terrace of Santa Croce.


Tomorrow, although Saturday, is a day when curial offices are typically open until mid-afternoon. Reports on those meetings will be posted on Monday.

Please keep our team in your prayers, as we have you in ours.

Day 6: Saturday, the 21st of March

Roger left us this morning, needing to make his way to San Antonio for his week of teaching. So we continue with the last of the meetings, sending him our notes and pictures so that he can prepare the material for Colleen to post on the website.

The curia works a shortened day on Saturday’s: 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., a blessing for us considering the day we "lost” due to the Feast of St. Joseph on Thursday. There were two meetings this morning: the Congregation for Clergy at 10:00 a.m., followed by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life at 11:30.

We were welcomed at Clergy by the prefect, his Eminence Beniamino Cardinal Stella, Msgr. Antonio Neri, undersecretary of the Congregation, Msgr. Richard R. Soseman, and Fr. Kevin Gillespie. We are grateful to Fr. Ed Lohse for arranging this meeting. He has been a wonderful help to us in the planning process. Although Cardinal Stella could not remain for the entire meeting, we had the sense of his personal interest in the work of the Society.

(from left) Rev. Kevin Gillespie; Rev. Msgr. Richard R. Soseman; Rev. Msgr. Michael Souckar; His Eminence Beniamino Cardinal Stella, Prefect; Rev. Manuel Viera, OFM; and Rev. Msgr. Antonio Neri, Undersecretary


The hour passed quickly with conversation about parish mergers, the issue of "letters of suitability” which are so common today, and special faculties. We also spent time exploring issues that emerge with priests from other countries coming to the U.S. in order to exercise priestly ministry. There is the hope that there will be some sort of direction in this regard in the future from the Congregation, perhaps in the form of an instruction or circular letter.

Our meeting with Fr. Sebastiano Paciolla, O.Cist. the undersecretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and Fr. Leonello Leoli, C.P., a department head within the Congregation, zeroed in on the issue of new institutes or societies. They pointed out that these must really and authentically be a new form of religious life, not merely a branch or offshoot of an existing group with its charism. This issue is not unique to the U.S., rather, it is a phenomenon seen all over the world.

Rev. Manuel Viera, O.F.M., joins P. Sebastiano Paciolla, O.Cist, Soto Secretario (center) and P. Leonello Leoli, C.P, Capo Officio (right) at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.


With regard to the formation and ordination of candidates in new institutes or societies, it was pointed out that these men simply cannot be incardinated in the association, but rather the diocese of the ordaining bishop or, with dimissorial letters, in another diocese.

They reminded us that associations of the lay faithful do not fall within the purview of their Congregation, but is rather a matter for the Pontifical Council for the Laity, even if those associations behave and act as if they were religious.

Tomorrow is Sunday: a day without meetings – a day to rest; perhaps a day to explore Rome.

Day 7: Sunday, the 22nd of March

 Day 8: Monday, the 23rd of March



Clockwise, from left: Door of St. Peter's Basilica; a skyline view featuring the Basilica of St. Agnes; a bridge over the Tiber River, overlooking St. Peter's.

Day 9: Tuesday, the 24th of March

Today has turned out to be one of the fullest on our schedule … and one of the richest!

We began in a 10:00 a.m. meeting with His Eminence Dominique Francois Joseph Cardinal Mamberti – prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Archbishop Frans Daneels, O.Praem., and Msgr. Joseph Punderson.


(from left) Rev. Manuel Viera, O.F.M., Rev. Msgr. Michael Souckar; His Eminence Dominique Francois Joseph Cardinal Mamberti, Prefect; His Excellency Archbishop Frans Daneels, O.Praem


Our conversation was far reaching and encompassing of a variety of issues ranging from the relationship between First and Second Instance tribunals; the use pre-printed-fill-in-the-blank forms; prorogation of competence; case instruction, and indults.

They were quick to point out that they have noticed a marked improvement in the way our tribunals are functioning and encouraged us to stay the course. They suggested training advocates that could help the parties in making their presentations to the Tribunal and who could present briefs on behalf of their clients. Efforts in this regard in various places in the country were praised.

We touched briefly upon penal cases and administrative procedures, noting that the rights of the accused is always to be protected.

Our meeting with Archbishop Cyril Vasil, S.J., secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, began at noon.

We shared with him the focus of the 2014 Convention in St. Louis, "the Unity of the Church: Challenges and Prospects,” and gave him, as we have done in every visit, a copies of both Proceedings and Roman Replies and Advisory Opinions.


Archbishop Vasil and Msgr. Souckar


Archbishop Vasil expressed concern about the movement of Eastern Catholics to the United States and other parts of the world, especially as a result of the present conflicts in the Middle East.  He used the image of a large block of ice. For as long as it is kept in one single piece, it takes a long time before it melts away. But if it shattered into smaller pieces, the melting is sped up. So it is with those who find themselves in the largely Latin west: without care and attention, they soon melt away and they are lost.

The final meeting of the day – and of this biennial itself – was with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Fr. Bob Geisinger, SJ, our contact in Rome who was instrumental in establishing the schedule for the entire visit, met us, together with Fr. Steven J. Lopes, Fr. Stephen Doktorezyk and Fr. John Paul Kimes.


(from left) Rev. Msgr. Michael Souckar; Fr. Bob Geisinger, SJ, Promoter of Justice; Rev. Stephen Doktorezyk; Rev. John Paul Kimes; Rev. Manuel Viera, O.F.M.   


They noted that our last Convention had two presentations dealing with the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The first part of the meeting was dedicated to that, with new insights offered and encouragement made.

The question of a National Penal Tribunal was discussed at some length and several issues raised in this regard.

Finally, we explored delicta graviora cases, the current praxis, and how we, as a Society, might assist in this regard.

This meeting, as was the case with each and every other meeting we attended, yielded a wealth of new insights, opened new avenues for us to explore together as a Society, and did much to dispel the mystery of what goes on in far-off Rome.

We are grateful to all of those who generously opened their doors to us engaging us in an open, honest and frank exchange of experience, ideas, and direction.

The three of us would like to extend a special note of thanks to Fr. Robert Geisinger, SJ. This is not the first time he has helped the Society with its biennial visit, nor, we hope, will it be his last. He has a knack for knowing whom to call and when, for putting forth sound suggestions, and for troubleshooting well before problems arise. We are indebted to him for his gracious professionalism and generosity!



John R. Vaughan says...
Posted Saturday, March 21, 2015
Thanks for the updates. Enjoy la bella cita' ! John Vaughan, Owensboro
Frederick C. Easton says...
Posted Thursday, March 19, 2015
I love the idea of the blog for the visit of the Officers in Rome. Pictures are great as is the account of what has been happening. Prayers for all of you. Msgr. Fred Easton Indianapolis
Eileen C. Jaramillo JCL DMin says...
Posted Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Thank you for keeping us posted about the trip. Know of my prayers for the three of you, the people you meet with, safe traveling and insightful meeting times. Dr. Eileen Jaramillo Lansing, Michigan

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