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2015 Officers Visit to Rome

Saturday, October 10, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Renae Kuettel
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The Final Report of the 2015 Officers Visit to Rome

Day 1: Monday, the 16th of March

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

We spend 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. He is of the opinion that the penal process is in need of refining in the U.S. Pointing to c. 1395, he illustrated that there is a gradual evolving of cases, after canonical precept, which ultimately leads to removal from the clerical state. Cases should not begin with the latter.

Msgr. Jaeger indicated a willingness to speak of non-marriage cases before the Rota at a forthcoming Convention, and even suggested a willingness to use the webinar platform to address Rotal jurisprudence in this regard.

Msgr. Jaeger is, as we 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. Pinto spoke of the Diocesan Bishop as the first judge in matters in his see. Possessing the Power of the Keys, he made direct reference to the thinking of Blessed Paul VI in this regard, reminding us that the experience of the first century was one wherein it was the Bishop who decided matters of structure for his own diocese, together with cases involving marriage. 

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. Efrem Jindráĉek, OP, the Vice-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 just 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.


Day 2: Tuesday, the 17th of March

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, Under-secretary 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.

With regard to the work being done on Book VI of the Code, we were informed that they are currently up to c. 1393, leaving only six canons left to be considered. The response from around the world has been strong and positive; at this point the Council is working through over eight-hundred pages of synthesized material. What the Council would envision is a balance between the diocesan Bishop and the Holy, such that, the Bishop’s role as first judge be expanded in those cases which are not graviora delicta and therefore reserved to the Holy See. One such area being addressed by the Council involves negligence in those holding ecclesiastical office.

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

Once again there was a good conversation around penal matters that do not involve graviora delicta which are not being managed well in the local Churches.

The Council is confident that they can have their draft completed before this coming summer, they were quick to point out that Pope Francis could, as did Pope St. John Paul II, strike another commission to re-examine the entire Book.

Just as our meeting ended, we were joined by Cardinal Coccopalerio, 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.


Day 3: Wednesday, the 18th of March

With the kind assistance of Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Prefecture of the Papal Household, we were seated in the reparto speciale, the section immediately behind where bishops visiting from different parts of the world are seated. As such we were within a few yards of the Holy Father during his catechesis, and were afforded the unique opportunity of bringing the greetings of the Society to him personally.

Pope Francis greets the CLSA Officers after Wednesday's papal audience.

It was indeed a privileged moment to actually greet Pope Francis and to enjoy, even if for only a fleeting moment, his warmth and sense of humor.


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

We celebrated the Eucharist at 7:00 a.m. for the members of the Society, fondly recalling those whose time among us has ended, at the tomb of Pope St. Pius X, in St. Peter’s Basilica. There was something very appropriate in our being there, recalling as we did, how Pope St. Pius was the one who initiated the process of codifying the law at the dawn of the last century.

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

All of the Holy See is closed in honor of the feast day, meaning no meetings were possible for the day.


Day 5: Friday, the 20th of March

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.

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

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. One that was proposed to us Fr. Mügkl involves the internet and use of the word “Catholic.” Who is the competent ecclesiastical authority to permit use of the word “Catholic”? Who regulates Catholic content? How is it possible to regulate someone claiming to speak for the Church from doing online presentations in a particular Church? What control does a Bishop have in this regard?

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


Day 6: Saturday, the 21st of March

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 Emminence 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

Archbishop Vasil and Msgr. Souckar

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.

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.

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!

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