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Biennial Visit to the Holy See
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Click here for a printable version of the June 2010 Newsletter
Click here for pictures from the Biennial Visit to the Holy See


The CLSA delegation, Reverend Lawrence Jurcak, Reverend Michael Joyce, C.M. and Sister Sharon Euart, R.S.M., arrived in Rome on Sunday, February 28, 2010 for its biennial meeting with the Dicasteries of the Holy See. We met shortly after arriving with Reverend Robert Geisenger, S.J. who served as our contact person in Rome and our liaison with the offices we were to visit. We are most grateful to Father Geisenger for his hospitality and his generous service in assisting us with our planning and the scheduling of activities. In preparation for the visit, the CLSA president consulted the Board of Governors for possible topics to address with the various Dicasteries. Letters were sent to the respective prefect or president listing the topics for discussion. In most cases the dicastery officials referred to the letter and the topics submitted in advance. A full and lengthy report of the meetings was presented to and discussed at the April meeting of the Board of Governors. Below are highlights from that report.

Dicastery Visits
At the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura we were warmly greeted by Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect, who expressed his regret that he was not able to stay for the meeting. We met with Bishop Frans Daneels, O. Praem., Secretary, and Monsignor Joseph Punderson, Defender of the Bond. We asked about the Holy See’s position on the possibility of establishing a third instance tribunal for the United States. Bishop Daneels noted that Pope Pius X had given a special indult for Freiberg to be a third instance tribunal for Cologne because of language difficulties. No such indults have been given since the promulgation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. He said there is the possibility of requesting a third instance tribunal in the same country ad instar. Before the Signatura would grant such an indult, it would examine prior Sentences of the tribunal to ensure a sound jurisprudence will be employed.
Bishop Daneels expressed concern about a statement made by the CLSA officers during the 2008 visit to the Apostolic Signatura that some tribunals in the United States have not accepted Dignitas connubii. He also noted that the argument that the American Procedural Norms have obtained the status of customary law is fallacious. He encouraged tribunals to follow procedural law faithfully.
In response to our question regarding the possibility of obtaining indults for non-degreed canonists, Bishop Daneels indicated that no indult will be granted for a person who has only minimal formation in canon law. If someone has been exercising an office as judge or defender of the bond for two, three, or five years, there is a possibility of a renewal of the indult. The petition needs to demonstrate that the one presented has been engaged in ongoing formation in canon law by attending institutes or workshops in canon law.
In a discussion with Monsignor Punderson regarding appeals on the merger/closing of parishes, he cautioned that canonists need to advise bishops to distinguish carefully and clearly between what he described as the "reconfiguring of the pastoral care of parishes” which results is the merger of parishes and the closing of a parish church. The canonical procedures are for each canonical action.

At the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, we met with Monsignor Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice and Monsignor Robert Deeley. The Prefect, Cardinal William Levada, was out of the country at the time. We asked if the Congregation had any suggestions that would assist canonists in the processing of cases that are forwarded to the Congregation by diocesan bishops. Monsignor Scicluna stressed the importance of using the "Graviora Delicta tabula” and the necessity of documenting each element of that tabula. The tabula or summary must include everything that is asked and the notification packet must include proper documentation of everything. Msgr. Scicluna also emphasized the importance of the votum.
A discussion of the penal process and penal trials followed. Details of the discussion with Monsignor Scicluna can be found in a separate article in this Newsletter.
The new Anglican Ordinariates were discussed only briefly. This is a new reality for the Church and Monsignor Scicluna indicated that he was not in a position to look at all the complexities at this time. When the Ordinariates are established the guidelines will be set up.

We met with Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio, President, and Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts. Both prelates expressed gratitude for the work of the Canon Law Society of America and for the opportunity to meet together.
Archbishop Coccopalmerio expressed his gratitude for the list of canon law experts that was sent to him by Father Jurcak in response to the Archbishop’s letter of October 2008 regarding the renewal or updating of the Code of Canon Law. The Archbishop indicated that the names would be most useful for obtaining advice on future drafts of possible changes in the law. He mentioned particularly procedural law, penal law, and the relationship between the Latin and Eastern codes. The process involves advisors in Rome initially drafting the changes followed by a review by canonists in other parts of the world.
We reported to Archbishop Coccopalmerio and Bishop Arrieta that we would be reprinting or revising the CLSA Code of Canon Law Latin-English Edition in the next two years. We expressed the desire to consider including other documents in the back of the code and inquired about that possibility. The Archbishop indicated that such a decision would be ours to make. Only Pastor bonus is required to be included in the vernacular editions of the code.
We exchanged publications and expressed gratitude for the gratis subscription to Communicationes. In leaving Archbishop Coccopalmerio told us to think of the Pontifical Council as the "House of the Canonists.”

At the Tribunal of the Roman Rota we met with Monsignor Kenneth Boccafola, Vice-Dean of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, and Monsignor Robert Sable, a judge of the Rota. The Dean, Most Reverend Antoni Stankiewicz, was unable to attend due to a budget meeting.
The officials identified concerns about cases submitted to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota with problems such as unedited transcriptions of testimony which can be lengthy, without substance and confusing to the auditors. Msgr. Boccafola suggested that tribunals in the United States follow the practice of Roman law in which the judge takes the testimony of the witness and then summarizes it. The summary is then shared with the witness who attests that it is a faithful rendition of what was given in the testimony.
Another difficulty that the Tribunal of the Roman Rota experiences with United States cases is the submission of handwritten materials. The materials should be transcribed; the written material does not need to accompany it, nor should it. The certification of the notary that it is an authentic copy suffices.
Witnesses should be identified by their relationship to the principals, the length and the depth of the relationship. Such identification helps determine the reliability of their testimony.
Monsignor Boccafola noted that once two conforming decisions have been rendered, there is no further recourse. An appeal in such a situation may be introduced for the same marriage if new evidence is produced. Otherwise, there is no appeal of the decisions. The principals have no right of appeal to the Rota unless they had not been notified initially of their right to appeal to the Rota at the publication of the Sentence at first instance.
The Roman Rota will only proceed in second instance if a party asks it to proceed. When the Rota contacts the parties to notify them that it has received the cause, it asks them if they want the Rota to proceed with the cause. If the parties do not respond in the affirmative, the Rota does not accept the cause. Thus tribunals in the United States should inform parties of this practice if a cause is presented to the Rota. This practice is described in Article 58 of the Normae Romanae Rotae Tribunalis. In light of this discussion a brief commentary on Article 58 has been developed in conjunction with Rota officials and can be found elsewhere in this Newsletter.

At the Congregation for the Oriental Churches the CLSA officers met with Archbishop Cyril Vasil, S.J., Secretary of the Congregation. The Prefect, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, was not able to attend the meeting. The discussion focused on advice the Congregation could offer as to how the CLSA might offer canonical support of new immigrants of Eastern background.
Archbishop Vasil expressed gratitude to the CLSA for the publication of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches and the English edition of Inter-Ecclesial Relations Between Eastern and Latin Catholics, a Canonical-Pastoral Handbook translated by George D. Gallaro. He encouraged the CLSA to be of service to bishops of Latin dioceses where their territory overlaps that of Eastern eparchies in order to facilitate a proper understanding with regard to the government and discipline of the sui iuris Churches.
Archbishop Vasil suggested two ways that the CLSA could be of service to Eastern Catholic bishops: 1) Inform them of the availability of canonists with expertise in Eastern Canon Law who might assist in the preparation and review of Particular Laws for the Eparchy, Statutes and other church documents; 2) Maintain informal contacts with Eastern Catholic bishops in order to assure them of availability of canonists for consultation as necessary.

On the final day of our Rome meetings we visited the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and met with Reverend Sabastiano Paciolla, O.Cist., Undersecretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Reverend Henry Lemoncelli, O.M.I., and Sister Mary Wright, IBVM. Cardinal Franc Rodé, C.M., Prefect of the Congregation, met briefly with the group and extended greetings on behalf of the Congregation.
Regarding the apostolic visitation and the possibility of there being a public report at the conclusion of the visitation, Father Paciolla indicated that there would not be a public report; however, he said that decisions arising from the visitation would be made public. Generally apostolic visitations are not as publicly known as the current one. He said decisions will be made after completion of the visitation based on information coming from the actual visitations.
In a discussion regarding vagi priests of a religious institute, Father Paciolla reiterated the provision of canon 701 that a priest dismissed from his religious institute cannot exercise priestly ministry until he finds a bishop who recognizes him according to canon 693 or permits him to exercise sacred orders. In cases where a priest has been away for some time and does not return to the community, Father Paciolla suggested advising the superior general to dismiss the cleric if he is away illegitimately for six months. If the religious institute does not want him back, the competent superior could impose exclaustration.
Cardinal Franc Rodé joined the meeting during the discussion of canonical and civil provision for assets of religious institutes with dwindling membership. The Cardinal described the serious problem, especially in Spain where there are numerous monasteries, of bishops erroneously thinking the assets of the congregations belong to the dioceses.
Father Paciolla said the CICLSAL is aware of many religious institutes with diminishing numbers and high median ages. Their constitutions provide for the distribution of goods, usually to the next highest authority (juridic person). Much of the concern, he continued, is associated with the experience of the fusion or merger of religious institutes. CICLSAL encourages merger in which there is a "natural redefinition” of the religious institute as the preferred option since it includes the merging of goods as well.
Cases involving small institutes and diocesan bishops (as has been reported by the media in some dioceses of the United States) are handled on a case by case basis. CICLSAL often serves as a mediator in such cases in order to preserve the goods of the institute and the wishes of donors. Father Paciolla noted that it is important to be conscious of the civil law of the various jurisdictions.
Cardinal Rodé also indicated that the CICLSAL sees many problems resulting from not following carefully the procedures for alienation.
Sister Mary discussed the procedures for alienation of property. She noted that in the case of property with debts, some institutes were subtracting the debt from the value of the property and if it was lower than the threshold maximum or equaled zero, the superiors were not requesting permission. This, she said, is not accurate. The value of the property as assessed by experts is the basis for the permission. The debt may be the reason for requesting alienation but it does not eliminate the requirement to obtain permission. She also noted that the fear about the length of time it requires for a response from the CICLSAL is unfounded since a request for permission to alienate can be handled in a matter of a few days. She also said it is permissible for a superior to request permission for the alienation before the final offer is made on the property once the evaluation/assessment has been obtained. The CICLSAL requests a copy of the official evaluations; normally two independent evaluations are required. Finally, Sister Mary indicated that consultation with the diocesan bishop is part of the praxis of the CICLSAL; it reflects the bishop’s overall responsibility for the coordination of the apostolate in his diocese. Father Paciolla stated that the position of the CICLSAL is that "the temporal good of the religious institute belong to the religious institute, not to the diocesan bishop.”

Our final meeting was with officials of the Congregation for Clergy. We met with Monsignor J. Anthony McDaid, capo ufficio, and Monsignor Richard R. Soseman of the Congregation. The Prefect, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, OFM was not able to meet with us.
We first discussed the Special Faculties and Procedure for laicizing some priests granted to the Congregation on January 30, 2009. The officials emphasized the fact that this is to be seen as a penalty and not a dispensation or a grace. Some cases have been presented to the Congregation; however, none has been dealt with since the procedures for handling such cases have not yet been published. [The letter and procedural guidelines were mailed to diocesan bishops in the U.S. on March 30, 2010 and are currently posted on the CLSA website.]
Monsignor McDaid explained that it would be necessary for the Ordinary who is submitting a case to prove to the satisfaction of the Congregation that the penal procedure in the code has been followed and that ordinary measures have not worked. Monsignor McDaid expressed a willingness to be of assistance to CLSA in the development of a training session for canonists who would be involved with the use of the Special Faculties. [A workshop conducted by Monsignor McDade is being considered for canonists involved in the application of the Special Faculties in early 2011; dates have yet to be set.]

Universities and Canon Law Students
We had an opportunity to meet with the deans of canon law of the pontifical universities* and with canon law students from the United States. At the Angelicum, Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, we met with Rev. Adam Miroslav Konštanc, OP. Dean of the Faculty of Canon Law and Rev. Michael Carragher, OP, Vice-Dean. During the meeting, both Dominicans emphasized the importance of the CLSA publications for the students attending the Angelicum. They spoke about the need for English resources for many of their students. The Dean emphasized the desire to incorporate the more practical aspects of canon law into the program. While the students learn the theory of canon law, many have little or no experience of the application of the law. This is particularly true of the lay students studying in the program.
Similarly at our meeting with Reverend Luis Navarro, Dean of the School of Canon Law at Santa Croce, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, the Dean commented on the value of the CLSA publications as well as the need for a greater emphasis on the practical application of canon law in the curriculum. He informed us of the September 2010 course on Matrimonial Law and Canonical Processes September 20-24, 2010. We offered to provide a link on the CLSA website as information for our membership.
A special aspect of this visit was meeting one of the CLSA scholarship recipients, Geoffrey Strickland, who is in his first year at Santa Croce. Father Navarro was most pleased that a Santa Croce student was a recipient. We took photos of Geoffrey with the CLSA officers and the Dean and Vice Dean of the School of Canon Law. [A picture appeared in the March issue of the CLSA Newsletter.]
We were invited to join Reverend Primo Etza, OFM, Dean of the Faculty of Canon Law and Reverend David-Maria Jaeger, OFM, Vice-Dean, for pranzo at a restaurant near the Antonianum, Pontifical University of St. Anthony. Joining us also were the former Dean, Reverend Klaus, OFM, Reverend Nikolaus Schőch, O.F.M., from the Signatura, and Reverend Robert Geisenger, S.J.
We inquired about the use of the $25,000 from the International Scholarship Fund that the CLSA sent to the Antonianum upon suppression of the International Scholarship Fund. Father Etzi expressed the University’s gratitude for the CLSA contribution. [See a separate article elsewhere in this Newsletter.]
We met with a group of priests from the United States who are studying canon law in Rome and reside at the Casa Santa Maria, Residence for United States Students. As students they were focused primarily on their studies and what resources might facilitate their studies.
They spoke of their difficulties in accessing English language canon law materials and offered suggestions for consideration by the CLSA. The students were enthusiastic about their study of canon law and quite interested in the CLSA. Some anticipate joining as student members of the Society.

Papal Audience
The highlight of our visit was the opportunity to attend the Papal Audience on Wednesday, March 3, 2010. The audience was held in the Paul VI Hall. Not knowing where our assigned seats from Archbishop James Harvey, Prefect of the Papal Household, were located, we were directed to the front of the Hall and assigned three seats in the front row. Delighted with our seats, we did not know exactly what being in the front row meant. Following the Holy Father’s catechesis in the various languages and the conclusion of the audience, we were escorted to a line to greet the Holy Father and to have pictures taken. It was an extraordinary honor for us to be able to bring the Holy Father greetings from the Canon Law Society of America. He understood us well and expressed his gratitude for the greeting.
*Rev. Michael Hilbert, S.J. had to cancel our meeting at the Gregorian University due to illness.
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