Obituaries of the Founding Fathers and Others
Dom Peter Flood, OSB
1897-1978 Died 16 December 1978
The following tribute to Dom Peter Flood, OSB was written by the President, Monsignor Gerard Sheehy on 29 September 1978.
Dom Peter Flood, who died on 16 December 1978, was not just an “ordinary” member –of our Canon Law Society, but he was one of its founders, in large measure responsible for the drafting of its first Constitution. But he was even more than that: he was a veritable institution among us.
When at the age of almost sixty he took part in the establishment of the Society in 1957, he was already a surgeon-cum-lawyer-turned-monk: quite enough in itself to make him a singular figure. He never lost the delightful, almost childlike capacity to enjoy being singular! And he had a solid scholarship to support it.
Over the intervening years, there were very few meetings of the Society at which he was not present. But for a last-minute illness he would have been with us in Scotland in May 1977, when he was almost eighty. And, monk-like, he would have come, as to Ilkley, by train and taxi and alone.
He never failed at these meetings to make his presence felt. He was, with an inexorable courtesy, the bane of a chairman’s life, but none of our chairmen over the years could do other than recognise both the value of his traditional orthodoxy and the sincerity of his total dedication to the Church of Christ. We might not always have agreed with his trenchant expressions of opinion – he specialised in being trenchant – but none of us could ever fail to respect him and, albeit at times with the reluctance of pride, to be grateful to him.
I do not think that, though he was tolerant enough of it, Dom. Peter had really very much time for the “lack of due discretion”, either in concept or in the flesh. He was of another mould. But he had, until his strength ran out, time for people, all sorts of people. He had a lot of time and energy for the Society which he helped to found.
We remember him with respect, with gratitude, and in our abiding prayers. May he rest in peace. [His funeral took place at Ealing Abbey with representatives of the Society present
[Edited from CLSN 39, December 1978]
Monsignor Canon Desmond O’Ryan
1916-1979 Died August 1979
Panegyric Preached in the Crypt of Westminster Cathedral on 3 October 1979 by Monsignor Gerard Sheehy, President
I imagine that when the Canon Law Society was founded in 1957 few of us who were involved at or about that time gave very much thought to the fact that our years of contribution to it would, at very best, be relatively few. We were too engrossed then in the launching of a new, and exciting, human project. But the death of Desmond O’Ryan on the 11th August last touched, in a peculiar way, the very life, as it were, of our Society. For all that we had anticipated it for so long, there was, when it occurred, the poignant feeling that one of our very own had gone from us, that a member of this family of ours had been taken from us. Immediately, with a remarkable spontaneity, there was the widespread wish that we should come together to offer together the Sacrifice of the Mass for a dear colleague and friend; the first time this had ever happened in the twenty-two years of our Society’s existence. This itself is a measure of the man.
Still more his measure – and our inspiration – was the manner of his leaving us. When we had our Annual Conference in Scotland more than two years ago – in May 1977 – we received the news of Desmond’s terminal illness. You will recall our having sent him a huge card, signed by everyone at the meeting, which we all felt then to be a valedictory prayer. His answer was to turn up at the following year’s Ilkley Conference in 1978, full of bounce, and dismissive of any reason for anxiety about himself! He was fine, he said, and back on the job. That he was very much back on the job, we knew to be true: from the ample evidence of his activity in the Tribunal at Portsmouth. That he was fine in health, we knew could not be true; and so did he – but he wasn’t going to worry us about that. So last November we asked him if he would present a paper at our Ilkley Conference in May of this year. His acceptance was immediate, and in the early months of this year he prepared it with a determination which totally belied his own recognition of the fact that his health was steadily and inexorably failing. In the event, he was unable to come this year to Ilkley to deliver that paper, but he made sure it was ready, and on time. Cyril Murtagh read it to us for him. So, once again, we sent him from Ilkley last May a message to assure him of our gratitude, of our support, and of our prayers. His answer, this time was the following letter to me:
[Monsignor O’Ryan’s funeral took place at St Joseph’s Church, Copnor Bridge, Portsmouth on 17 August 1979, celebrated by Archbishop Derek Worlock, Archbishop of Liverpool]
19 June 1979
“You letter of 23 May was most welcome and generous.
I am more than grateful for your prayers and good wishes – and those of all the brethren in the C.L.S. The telegram from Ilkley gave me real pleasure. I had so much looked forward to seeing you all there and joining in the discussions and chatter. In spite of your kind words, I am only too aware that my “paper” was a dreadfully amateurish thing.
My health continues to deteriorate and the doctors have told me that it’s just a matter of time; since they were mistaken two years back, they are a bit diffident about fixing a date, but that doesn’t shake their certitude. It’s their turn to be proven right! Should then my call come before you meet again, will you express to the members my delight and pride at having been in their company. You all know well that I’ve always known that my qualifications and expertise were not up to that of most, and it’s really only as a representative of the “simple country parish priest” that I was among you. Scant law, but common sense and, alas, worldly experience! Oremus pro invicem.
Yours ever in D.no.
That, surely, is the letter of a man of faith and courage and total resignation to the will of God. I received that letter on the 2nd August, only nine days before he died, though it had been written sometime earlier. I fulfil a sacred trust today in reading it to you.
Desmond O’Ryan was not a man who easily revealed himself. For the most part it was only by his fruits that one knew him. But I remember – as the five or six of us who were there at the time certainly will never forget – one occasion when he entertained us to a detailed history of a significant period of his life. Neither at the time, nor ever since, were we to know what prompted him to be so expansive on that occasion. It was at London Colney in, I think, 1975. We were working there on what, later emerged as the Statement on Jurisprudence. He gave us an enthralling description of what had happened to him when, as a layman, at the outbreak of war, he escaped on foot from France into Spain, and thence back to England, there to join, first one of the defence forces, and then the priesthood. He didn’t say so, but it was perfectly obvious to those of us who, frankly, spellbound, listened to him that evening, that it was in the priesthood he had at last found his goal.
The manner of his life since we have known him in the Society has proved just that; above all, the manner of his death. He was a true priest. As such he faced his death with a courage which was born of humility, and of unbounded confidence in his Lord. We are the better for his having been with us. May he rest in peace.
[Edited from CLSN 42, September 1979]
Monsignor Canon William Denning
1907-1980 Died 31 October 1980
The following obituary was written by Monsignor Canon John Jeremiah Curtin:
15 November 1980
Monsignor Canon William Denning, parish priest of Purley for 36 years, who died on October 31st at the age of 73, was a moral theologian and Canonist of distinction, whose death is a matter for widespread deep regret, tempered only by a clear recognition of a well-spent priestly life, and affectionate memories of his character and rugged personal mode of thought.
He trained for the priesthood at St John’s Seminary, Wonersh. After ordination to the priesthood in 1931, he continued his studies at the Gregorian University, Rome, where he obtained his doctorate in theology. A further year abroad was spent attending those lectures which had special interest for him. He was much invigorated by the teaching of two renowned Jesuit professors at that time viz: Vermeersch and Capello. With such preceptors he acquired a rare authority in the disciplines of moral theology and Canon Law, while his insights into the pastoral application of such learning were fostered and encouraged by the late Father Bernard Leeming, S.J.
Many years ago, as junior seminarians, he and I were taught by Father Louis Woodruff, a classical scholar whose interest in world affairs was reputed to end with the Peloponnesian war. Under his guidance we were introduced to one, Rhadamanthus, who earned praise in Plato’s Apology as an exceedingly learned and just Judge. William Denning was a modern Rhadamanthus who could always be relied upon for a balanced judgement. This gift came to him much in the same way as some singers, not always clerical, are born with a sense of perfect pitch. It would be hard to find one who was more courteous to plaintiff, defendant or witness, or who was quicker to grasp the point at issue. Curial officials may inspire respect, though not necessarily affection, but Denning won both. His amusing but never destructive scepticism was provocative. His unfeigned humility, tireless dedication and transparent integrity prompted the affection of both colleagues and friends. It was impossible to be the one without being the other. In brief he belonged to that group of scholars whose learning makes them more aware of their limitations than confidently assured of their superiority.
From 1947 he was Vice-Officialis of the Southwark Diocesan Marriage Tribunal, becoming Officialis in 1953, and a Canon of the Cathedral Chapter. It should be added that he was an early member of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland. He possessed a treasury of knowledge and understanding which his quiet reserve did nothing to conceal. In the solution of marriage problems the wisdom and experience of the Judge converged with the humanity and concern of the priest. Those who served with him will retain vivid memories of the care with which he studied all cases, and the clarity and precision with which he distilled their essential features for the benefit of his colleagues.
Before appointment as Rector and subsequently Parish Priest of Purley in 1944, ten years were spent on the staff of the diocesan Junior Seminary at Mark Cross. During this time he broke down prevailing fashion in clerical education, and did much to reshape the mathematical ideas of students for the priesthood by making the subject generally intelligible and periodically entertaining.
In the pastoral field at Purley for 36 years his dependability and quiet common sense, a warm-hearted approach and a sympathetic response to their problems endeared him to parishioners. His work as Parish Priest was a conspicuous example of the unspectacular faithful ministry. In 1977 to the gratification of all, he was made a Prelate of Honour by His Holiness Pope Paul VI.
For the last few years he had struggled admirably with restrictive disablement due to a stroke. Throughout this period his indomitable courage and intellectual vigour, together with a shrewd wit and generosity of fresh observation sustained him in unremitting work for the Archdiocese and for his parish right up to the end. He had always faced impending death with a calm and understanding that were the products of an unusual intelligence. May he rest in peace.
[Edited from CLSN 47, December 1980]
Monsignor Canon William Denning:
Officialis of the Southwark
Metropolitan Tribunal; and
Monsignor Canon John Humphreys
1918-1988 Died 21 May 1988
The following appreciation was written by Monsignor David Cousins: 30 July 1988.
With the death on 21st May of Monsignor John Humphreys, the Canon Law Society has lost one of its Founding Fathers. From those beginnings in 1957, John remained a keen and faithful member of the Society. His clear analytical mind cut through to the heart of any problem being discussed. His capacity for hard work enabled him to master and order material, whether it be a scheme for Regional Tribunals or draft Canons from Rome. With his chin out and his shock of hair, he was a familiar figure at Conferences. His questions and comments on papers were always pertinent. His chesty laugh made him an easy companion..
A Birmingham man, John Humphreys was born on 3rd October 1918 and grew up in the Cathedral Parish of St Chad. From an early age he took part in the great pontifical ceremonies, a love which never left him. After secondary education at St Philip’s Grammar School, Edgbaston, he was sent to St Mary’s, Oscott. At Oscott his intellectual gifts were quickly discerned by professors and fellow students. He was ordained priest on 29th June 1942. The World War then raging precluded the possibility of higher ecclesiastical studies abroad. For two years Fr Humphreys served as a Curate at Our Lady and St Peter, Stoke-on-Trent, then ruled by the formidable Canon Leo Twiney. He enjoyed these two years and often spoke of them.
In 1944, he was appointed to the teaching staff at St Mary’s, Oscott. First he lectured in sociology and elocution, later he was promoted to Moral Theology and Canon law. In those days the two disciplines of Moral Theology and Canon Law combined and constituted a major course to be followed by all the students. John proved a fine teacher, clear, lively and down to earth. His examples became legendary. A generation of clergy still recall their young professor and his vivid examples. Europe was returning to normal, in 1950, Fr. Humphreys was sent by the Archbishop of Birmingham to Rome to study for a Canon Law degree. He immediately negotiated with the Faculty of the Gregorian University to complete his Licentiate in less than two years in view of his teaching experience and to present a doctoral thesis at the end of his second year. He kept to the time-scale, first obtaining his Licentiate and at the end of his second year successfully defending his doctoral thesis on “The Juridical Status of British Military Chaplains”.
Returning to England in 1952, John Humphreys began a 26-year association with the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal, 18 of them as Officialis. When he began there, there was a backlog of six cases. John used to steal a case out of the file of the Officialis, work on it, gathering the evidence, before returning it to the file. He would then suggest a meeting of the Tribunal to consider the case. Under his leadership the Tribunal earned an enviable reputation. His procedures and texts were copied widely. Cases were fully but speedily instructed. For many years he did all the typing himself. He was an outstanding ecclesiastical Judge. As new thinking on marriage on the Second Vatican Council began
to affect the Tribunal, the recently promoted Monsignor Humphreys was a strong influence in the formation of new jurisprudence. Much of this work was done within the ranks of the Canon Law Society and John’s interventions were clear and precise. In later years he served on the Working Parties scrutinising the draft Canons of the new Code of Canon Law. One recalls the draft on Procedures. The assembled brethren were dissatisfied and were urging a separate Procedure for Nullity of Marriage cases. John went off with two assessors, found a typewriter and by evening a new draft Procedure was ready. The brethren liked it; Rome did not. He took part in the important meeting held in Ottawa of English-speaking Bishops and Canonists which was influential in the present shape of the Chapter De Populo Dei of the new Code.
During these years Monsignor Humphreys served first as parish priest of Wootton Wawen and then as a Convent Chaplain to give him time for his increasing administrative duties. For many years he compiled the Diocesan Ordo, a duty needing a detailed knowledge of liturgy and rubrics. In the 1960s this flowered when he assisted Archbishops Grimshaw and Dwyer in their work on the Conciliar Commission for the Liturgy, and earlier the pre-Conciliar Commission for the Liturgy. For a time he acted as Secretary of the newly formed National Liturgical Commission for England and Wales.
He checked the flood of newly printed texts. He was part of the team which produced the English Breviary. In 1975 he persuaded Archbishop Dwyer to allow him to undertake again the direct care of souls in the Parish of St Mary’s, Brierley Hill. He soon became absorbed in the life of the parish and the locality, in ecumenical and educational questions. One of his greatest treasures was his election to the Old Brotherhood of the English secular Clergy in 1979.
The health of John Humphreys had never been robust. He suffered from asthma and was prone to chest infections. This never impeded an enormous workload, although in the last years it was causing concern.
In the death of Monsignor John Humphreys the people of Brierley Hill lost a loving pastor; the Diocese of Birmingham a loyal and hard-working priest who knew and loved his tradition; the Canon Law Society a fine and influential Canonist. At a panegyric preached to Brierley Hill, John was compared to the scribe in St Matthew’s gospel who brought from his storeroom things both new and old. Indeed, he was a scribe of the Kingdom of Heaven, an expert in the old ways canonical, liturgical and parochial; he also taught us the new way. May he rest in Peace. [Edited from CLSN 75, September 1988]
Bishop Charles Grant
Former Bishop of Northampton
1906-1989 Died 24 April 1989
The following obituary was written by Monsignor Graham Adams: 15 May 1989.
Charles Alexander Grant was born at Cambridge on October 25th 1906, the only child of Anglican parents. He became a Catholic as a boy and was educated at the Perse School, St Edmund’s College, Ware and Christ’s College, Cambridge where he read mathematics. He studied for the priesthood at Oscott College and was ordained a priest on 16th June 1935. He then went for further studies to the Gregorian University in Rome and gained a licentiate in Canon Law. He was then appointed as an Assistant Priest in his home parish of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge in 1938; and in 1943 was put in charge of the parish of Ely. Then in 1945, he was appointed as Parish Priest of Kettering where he remained until 1961. In 1955, he became Vicar General and Officialis of the diocese and was created a Domestic Prelate in 1960. It was no surprise when he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Northampton in 1961, with the titular see of Alinda. At that time, the diocese of Northampton was the largest in England and Wales, encompassing also the present diocese of East Anglia.
He became the second President of the Canon Law Society following Mgr. McReavy.
In 1962, he became the first Chairman of CAFOD and he was also the first president of the Commission for International Justice and Peace. During the Second Vatican Council he spoke out strongly against weapons of mass destruction. In 1967 Bishop Leo Parker, was the first Bishop in England and Wales to submit his resignation to Pope Paul VI on reaching the age of 75 years, and to his immense surprise it was accepted. No one in the diocese was surprised when his Auxiliary was appointed the eighth Bishop of Northampton a few months later on March 25th. In the following years Bishop Grant was faced with difficult decisions in regard to priests who were too progressive and found it difficult to accept “Humanae Vitae” or unable to accept the liturgical changes arising from the Vatican Council. In all such cases he acted with gentleness but firmness and endeared himself to all his clergy. He was also active on the ecumenical scene and in 1970 the first purpose-built shared Church for Anglicans and Catholics was opened at Cippenham, near Slough.
In 1976, he oversaw the division of his large diocese by the creation of a new Diocese of East Anglia and he was delighted that his own Auxiliary Bishop Alan Clark became its first Bishop. Five years later, on reaching the age of 75 years himself, Bishop Grant tendered his own resignation to the Holy Father and when the late Bishop Francis Thomas was appointed the ninth Bishop of Northampton in 1982, he retired immediately to St John’s Convent, Kiln Green, near Reading. On his own appointment as Bishop in 1967, he had had his predecessor still living at Bishop’s House for several months, which did not make his life easy, as Bishop Parker found it difficult to accept that he was not still the Bishop. He was determined that this should not happen for Bishop Thomas. During his seven years of retirement he was always delighted to be visited by his many priest friends and he remained alert to the very end, reminiscing over his long and varied life both as a priest and Bishop in the Diocese of Northampton. He was called to his own reward on April 24 1989, the day before the twenty-eighth anniversary of his Episcopal ordination. Cardinal Hume presided at his funeral Mass in Northampton Cathedral on 2nd May in the presence of many of his brothers in the episcopate and a very large gathering of priests of many dioceses. He was buried in the cemetery of the Catholic Church at Woburn Sands,
The late Cardinal John Wright once described Bishop Grant as the “Gentleman of the English Hierarchy”. He was indeed a gentleman and a gentle man and will always be remembered with love and affection by all those who were privileged to know him. May he rest in peace. [Edited from CLSN 78, June 1989]
Monsignor Lawrence McReavey, Prot.Ap.
The following appreciation was written by Monsignor Daniel Shanahan:
15 February 1990
Lawrence McReavey was the first President of the Canon Law Society of England, chosen by acclaim and common consent not only because of his pre-eminence in England as a moral theologian (with his “Questions and Answers” in the Clergy Review) but also because he was the leading Canon Lawyer in the country.
He spent the major portion of his 87 years in Ushaw College, the ancient Seminary in the North of England. He once told us that when he was a young student he conversed with a very old Professor who himself, as a young student, had conversed with an ancient Professor from Douai.
The Professors’ Parlour, like a University College Common Room, included Professors of English and French literature, of the physical sciences, of philosophy, of Canon Law and moral theology and scripture and dogma. He himself had an M.A, degree but also had studied at Louvain under Van Hove, de Smet, de Ghellinck and the rest, for his J.C.D.
When in the post-war years Bishops found they needed Canonists to interpret the flood of decrees issuing from the Roman Curia and to deal with the rising flood of flotsam and jetsam from broken marriages, the Canonists, fresh from a Roman course, were also in need of mutual self-help.
They began to meet and to discuss their problems – and so was born the Canon Law Society. Some of the Bishops were a little wary of the young men meeting unsupervised, but what better guarantee of learning and orthodoxy than Dr McReavy, especially as he had been a professor at Ushaw, together with the then Archbishop of Westminster.
In those early days McReavy presided over the meetings with an authority, a humour and a sure touch which gave a feeling of steady progress in the affairs of the Canon Law Society. But then John XXIII announced his intention to “convoke the Second Vatican Council and to revise the Code of Canon Law”. When the Council began, Bishops were to bring their own experts and naturally McReavy, world famous for his “Questions and Answers” on moral theology and Canon Law, was chosen by the English Hierarchy to attend the Council as Peritus. There he was to meet again many of the experts from Louvain, colleagues of student days a veritable “Old Boys Club” and to be at the centre of discussions on birth control and the “pill” which were put to the Council for decision – subjects on which he had become an acknowledged expert. When the revision of the Code was underway his was a voice of calm wisdom and authority in the various coetus of the Code Commission.
When it was all over and he could return to the peace and quiet of Ushaw his tranquil life continued, still the popular professor of Canon Law, until it was time to hand over to a new young expert in the new Code of Canon Law. Maybe he was glad to hand over when it was a question of learning all those numbers of the new Canons. He continued his 50 years of Chaplain to the Legion of Mary within the College, with his “allocution” a life-giving breath of fresh air in the meetings. He remained President emeritus of the Canon Law Society but increasingly the long journey from the North to London became a burden.
He was delighted to be elected in 1978, at the age of 75 a member of the Old English Chapter of the English Secular Clergy (founded in 1623) as a representative of the Northern District. He was even more tickled to be nominated by the Pope a Protonotary Apostolic, an ancient office of the Fifth Century, but which no longer had the right to wear a mitre.
He was content to live in his Alma Mater, his house for over 60 years, still sturdy, still lively, still a marvellous conversationalist to the end. They don’t make them like him anymore and we shall surely miss his smile and his chuckle, not only in Ushaw, but in the Canon Law Society, until we all meet again. May he rest in peace.
[Edited from CLSN 81, March 1990]
Rev. Msgr. Marion Reinhardt
Canon Expert, Is Dead
10 February 1993
Msgr. Marion J. Reinhardt, an expert on Roman Catholic canon law who helped to formulate new standards for marriage annulment, died on Wednesday 10th February, 1993 at the North Shore Hospital in Manhasset, L.I. He was 77 years old and lived in Hicksville, L.I.
Heart failure was the cause of death, a spokeswoman for the Brooklyn Diocese said.
From 1961 to 1981 Monsignor Reinhardt served as the administrative judge of the Brooklyn Diocese's Tribunal, which rules on annulments. He helped to develop a code that was adopted in the United States in 1970 and helped to form the basis of a new international code issued by Pope John Paul II in 1983.
Monsignor Reinhardt was also a lawyer and law professor who taught at St. John's University from 1963 to 1990.
He was born in Hicksville, and was educated at Cathedral College in Brooklyn, Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, L.I., Catholic University of America in Washington, Almo Collegio in Rome and St. John's Law School. He was ordained in 1941.
There are no immediate survivors.
[The above is courtesy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. The Canon Law Society expresses its appreciation.]
Monsignor Daniel Shanahan
The following appreciation was written by Monsignor Gordon Read: 6 November 1995
My first encounter with Dan was just after he arrived at Leigh-on-Sea in 1972. I was a student at St Edmund’s, Ware and he invited me in for a cup of coffee. When I sat down, he gave me a copy of Noonan’s ‘Power to Dissolve’ and asked me to read it and tell him what I thought! This was entirely in character: the warmth of his hospitality, his interest in Canon Law, his sharp intellect, and the desire to provoke a response from people and draw them into conversation.
He was born in Ilford in 1922. He studied for the priesthood at Ushaw College, where he made many friends, and which he continued to visit over the years, He acquired an interest in the English Martyrs, and history in general, which he later pursued with enthusiasm through the Essex Recusant Society. While at Leigh-on-Sea, he helped Fr.Godfrey Anstruther, O.P. to bring to completion his four volume history ‘The Seminary Priests’, personally sponsoring its publication.
After ordination in 1947 he was posted briefly to Manor Park, and then Southend, before being sent to the Lateran University where he gained a doctorate in Canon Law. On his return in 1952 he was appointed Chancellor, an office he was to exercise with great distinction until 1965. He busily set about organising the Diocesan Tribunal, hitherto existing mostly on paper, consulting American Dioceses on their experience, and in due course was appointed Vice-Officialis. In March 1958 he was appointed Privy Chamberlain by Pope Pius XII. Perhaps one of the honours bestowed on him which he regarded as the most important was his election in 1978 to The Old Brotherhood of the English Secular Clergy, which like the Order of Merit only has 24 members drawn from the whole of England and Wales.
His zeal for justice, and the proper implementation of the Church’s Law led him to organise, under the authority of Bishop Beck, the Second Diocesan Synod in 1955, and he was also responsible for drafting a good deal of the legislation enacted at it. These amounted to some 160 statutes, filling a sixty page booklet. Some of its provisions were quite advanced for the time, e.g. insisting on the Presbytery being the home to all the clergy and stole fees being shared equally.
In 1957 he was the inspiration with Bishop Moverley, Fr.John Humphreys and Dr Lawrence McReavy of Ushaw in forming the Canon Law Society. Running a large parish meant that in recent years he found it difficult to attend the Annual Conference. I think his last appearance was at the Silver Jubilee Conference in 1982, when he gave a paper entitled “Legislating for the People of God – the lessons of history: a personal appraisal”. Dan was inclined to fly kites, and was tackled on his interpretation of one Canon by a German Bishop who insisted on taking him through the text word by word. Dan had met his match!
In 1962 he was appointed to Hornchurch as Parish Priest, and ten years later to Leigh-on-Sea, where he was to serve for sixteen years, before brief terms at Chadwell and Hainault. Parish life gave him a broader canvas, on which he painted a colourful and energetic picture. He was always larger than life, with a quirky sense of humour.
He applied great enthusiasm to parish life, ecumenism and the wider community. While at Hornchurch he began what was to develop into the Portal Christian rehabilitation Centre by buying a caravan to provide accommodation for the homeless.
Sadly, his own health began to decline several years ago, forcing him to retire, he was admitted to Rochford hospital on 25th October where he died shortly afterwards. His funeral took place at Leigh-on-Sea on 7th November. He was taken for burial to the grave he was to share with Mgr. John Howell at St Patrick’s Leytonstone. With characteristic foresight, his own details had been entered on the stone back in 1976, leaving only the date of death blank. May he rest in peace.
[Edited from CLSN 104, December 1995]
Bishop Gerald Moverley
1922-1996 Died 14 December 1996
The following personal memory was written by Monsignor Gerard Sheehy:
9 January 1957
In the summer of 1980 I had been invited to take part in the procession of clergy, out of doors, from the Cathedral Clergy House in Sheffield into the nearby Cathedral Church of St Marie. The occasion was the joyous one of the solemn Installation of Gerald Moverley – up to then the Auxiliary Bishop in Leeds – as the first Bishop of the newly-erected Diocese of Hallam. On a cold wintry day immediately preceding Christmas Eve of 1996, I took part in the clergy procession, along precisely the same outdoor route, this time to join in the concelebration of the solemn Funeral Mass of Bishop Gerald Moverley. The contrast was stark. It stood, and it remains, as a vivid reminder of the earthly pilgrimage of all of us.
I had first come to know Gerald Moverley in the early 1950s. I had just completed my doctorate studies in Canon Law in Rome. When we met there he – who had been ordained a couple of years before me and had served for some intervening years as Secretary to Bishop Poskitt of Leeds – was in the midst of his same Roman studies. It was for me the beginning of a friendship which was to remain a very valued one over more than forty years.
It was a friendship which was more than kindled by what in 1957 was to become the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Though I could not have known it at the time, Gerald Moverley was to become one of the “Founding Fathers” of that Society, in fact, when he died on 14 December 1996, he was the final remaining member of that originating intrepid and perceptive group of 1957. It was one of my privileges to have been elected to succeed him as President in 1974.
One of my primary recollections are surely those many visits which, at the Bishop’s invitation, I paid to his delightful home at “Quarters”, high up overlooking the city of Sheffield, and always with the kindly welcome and guidance of his devoted housekeeper, Miss Eileen Johnson. I have a very vivid memory of Bishop Moverley being the Episcopal representative of the English-Welsh Bishops’ Conference at the international gathering in Ottawa sponsored by the Canadian Bishops in 1978, concerning Book II of the then proposed new Code of Canon Law (1983): it was a week-long meeting which had a profound effect – thanks in large measure to the then Bishop McNamara of Kerry (later Archbishop of Dublin). It was the successor to the original international meeting concerning Book VII, which, under the sponsorship of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland, had been held in Dublin.
I recall Bishop Moverley staying with me, together with his brother, Cyril, on the occasion of the Holy Father’s visit to Ireland (1979), his first, apart from that to Poland, after his election as Pope. Together we attended the memorable Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park. It was precisely as we passed that spot, some few years later that Bishop Moverley had a critical heart attack in my car as we began the journey to what he had so often expressed the wish to see: Connemara, in the West of Ireland. Happily, we were able to reverse the car and go directly (traffic lights etc, notwithstanding!) to the Mater Hospital where he was looked after by the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin
As I watched his coffin being carried, shoulder-high down the aisle of St Marie’s Cathedral in Sheffield on the day before Christmas Eve 1996, I could not help thinking, with a real sorrow and yet with deep admiration: “there goes, to his earthly resting place in the crypt of his own Cathedral, the first Bishop of Hallam, one of the remaining founder members of our Canon Law Society”, the ever gentle Gerald Moverley, the man who succeeded in being the friend and the inspiration of all of us who had been his colleagues in this Society. May he rest in peace.
[Edited from CLSN 108, December 1996]
Cardinal George Basil Hume, OSB
1923-1999 Died 17 June 1999
Appreciation prepared by Monsignor Ralph Brown: 18 September 1999
Abbot George Basil Hume came to Westminster as its Archbishop at a very crucial time so far as Canon Law was concerned. He came to Westminster in February 1976 and by May of that year he had already been consecrated as a Bishop, and created Cardinal by Pope Paul VI. Those who were involved in the Revision of the Code of Canon Law will remember that the previous year the Schema De Sacramentis had been published followed not long after by the Schema De Processibus.
A very great deal of work was taking place within the Society on the revision work; and in all of this Cardinal Hume took a real interest, initially from the sidelines. He prided himself on his knowledge of Canon Law, although he was the first to admit that this knowledge was limited to the law principally concerning Religious; however, he constantly surprised me with his other vignettes on the law.
At the outset the CLS had been asked by the Bishop’ Conference of England and Wales to keep a watching brief on the Revision and its Schemata, and to report to the Conference as necessary. At that time the link person between the Conference and CLS was the late Bishop Gerald Moverley, who had not long relinquished the Presidency of the Society to Monsignor Gerard Sheehy.
From 1977 onwards the CLSGBI was producing textual comments on the Schemata and these were funnelled through the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. When a final comment was sought by the Code Revision Commission, the CLSGBI not only managed to produce a comment on the Schemata, and produced this for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, but also involved the Bishops’ Conferences of Ireland and of Scotland.
There had been an arrangement that these comments would be forwarded to the Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales and then sent on to Rome with very little intervention and probably no further comment from the Bishops. But one thing at least had been happening and this was only discovered in 1981. Cardinal Hume had not only been reading through all the comments, but some specific points about this or that Schema and the CLSGBI’s comments had remained in his memory.
He had been named as a member of the Cardinalatial Commission for the Revision of the Code in the late seventies and he was remarkably pleased about that. He had a great knowledge of written Latin; and it was discovered that he had a great facility for speaking Latin and was certainly able to change phrases “on the hoof” to make them more effective when giving his verbal submissions at meetings.
The Holy See called a Special Meeting of the Cardinalatial Code Commission in Rome between the 20 and 29 October 1981. The Cardinal had asked Monsignor Sheehy and me to accompany him to assist with his various canonical presentations to the meeting. There was a large number of Cardinals present at the meeting, together with a variety of Archbishops, and one Auxiliary Bishop, Bishop Joseph O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne. The English speaking Bishops had all brought along their advisors.
The agenda involved six special questions prepared by the Commission; and thirty-five other special questions prepared by the participants.
The formula adopted for the preparation of the Cardinal’s speeches was this: he alerted Monsignor Sheehy and me that he wished to make a speech on a particular topic. After briefing, this would be prepared for the Cardinal late into the night, and delivered typed under his door in the early morning. He was then taken by the Rector of the English College to the meeting at the Vatican and collected from the morning session at the Vatican at 1 pm by Monsignor Sheehy and me. In the car and at lunch following he gave an indication of what had transpired at the meeting, what had been said; and what further he wanted to say; and the text would be prepared for him according to this formula by the next morning. It was at one of these de-briefing sessions that the Cardinal told us how “tickled pink” he was at having been complimented on his Latin, both written and spoken at the meetings by no lesser a Latinist than Cardinal Pericles Felici.
The Cardinal maintained that one of his biggest triumphs was being instrumental in doing away with the necessity of the confessional grille (craticula) for hearing nuns’ confessions. The Cardinal was strongly supported in his proposal by Archbishops Bernardin and Pimenta and Bishops O’Connell and O’Neill. The voting on the proposal won the day, and not only that but the change also appeared in the New Code itself, unlike some proposals discussed at that meeting!
The Cardinal liked to feel he had a hand in the text of the New Code, and never forgot to mention this.
At the end when he announced that he was dying, Monsignor Sheehy wrote to him sending him promises of prayers as well as reflecting on many happy memories spent together. The Cardinal replied: “Dear Gerry …. It was good to hear from you. As one who was for a short time a temporary Canon Lawyer, I like to think that I belong to that highly exclusive club of which you and Ralph are luminaries. Best wishes. Yours devotedly, Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster”. He died seven weeks later.
The Society owes the Cardinal a great debt for having been interested in the Society, most of all for being a steadfast support for the law in the Church. May he rest in peace.
[Edited from CLSN 119, September 1999]
Father Bernard Nesden
1920-1999 Died 15 July 1999
This obituary was prepared by Monsignor Richard Wilson: 6 October 1999
Bernard was born in Halifax on 15 December 1920. He was educated at St Bede’s in Bradford and before studying for the priesthood worked in Local Government. In his mid-thirties he went from Brighouse where he then lived to Osterley with a view to becoming a priest. He was accepted as a student for the Diocese of Northampton and was sent to the Beda College in Rome. He was ordained a priest at St Paul’s Basilica by the Abbot of St Paul’s, Bishop Cesario D’Amato, on 30 March 1963. He served as an assistant priest at Our Lady in Luton and St Joseph’s in Aylesbury, and as parish priest of St Ives, Ipswich and Hunstanton. He was appointed as Judicial Vicar of Northampton and then subsequently after the division of the diocese, he was appointed the Judicial Vicar of East Anglia; and also a Judge of the Westminster Metropolitan Tribunal. He retired in 1995 and spent his last years in retirement in the parish of St George’s, Norwich. He died after a long illness on 15 July 1999.
I can remember well the first time I met Bernard and the last time. Though 38 years separated these two events and the latter was when Bernard was dying, each left a memory of his irrepressible wit. He never lost the ability to ridicule pomposity but I never knew him to be cruel. His performances in the Beda College shows were legendary and he was delighted that a few of the more precious of us fellow students were shocked. I can remember many of his ‘bon-mots’ – and a few of his slightly ‘mal mots’. We had a happy hour not long before he died recalling some of them. Alongside his humour, however, there lay a deep spirituality and a love of ceremonies – he was a very good MC at the Beda and helped quite a few of the elderly gentlemen of the College, who didn’t know a thurible from a combine harvester when they arrived, to master the liturgical skills. As a priest he was approachable and down to earth and many can speak of his kindness and understanding not least in the confessional. Bernard displayed a great deal of practical common sense in his work as a Judge in the Westminster Tribunal, flavoured with droll comments and pithy wit. His own Diocese of East Anglia owes him a debt for his work as our first Judicial Vicar.
Bernard, in his early years, after Ordination, became very involved with the Canon Law Society. From the early sixties he was its Treasurer. This was never a post for which people queued up for election! After this he also acted for several years as the Master of Ceremonies at the Society’s residential Conferences.
The latter years of his life were bedevilled by illness – he suffered from a condition that caused him bouts of dizziness and then he was diagnosed as having terminal cancer. This he accepted with equanimity and his humour went on unabated. I witnessed the effect he had on the hospice in which he was a patient not long before he died. Doctors, nurses and patients were all won over by his wit and wisdom.
His funeral was attended by a great number of priests and of his past parishioners before his ashes were taken to his beloved Yorkshire for burial. Those of us who knew Bernard will treasure his memory. If there is laughter in paradise Bernard will certainly be adding to it. May he rest in peace.
[Edited from CLSN 120, December 1999]
Father Donal Kelly
1938-2002 Died: 8 August 2002
The following appreciation was written by Monsignor Gerard Sheehy: 29 August 2002
The death of Father Donal Kelly was the occasion of a singular sadness to the very many who had known him: to his own Bishop and fellow-priests of his home Diocese of Ossory, to each of his family, to his wide circle of friends; and in a special way, to those of us who, in the Dublin Regional Marriage Tribunal, had profited by his friendship and his canonical expertise over the final 17 years of his life: he died, literally, “in harness”.
Born in 1938, Donal was ordained to the priesthood at Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth in June 1963. Thereafter, over three years he pursued post-graduate studies, firstly in Maynooth and subsequently in Rome. He became an Assistant Diocesan Secretary for two years and thereafter was a member of the staff of Saint Kieran’s Seminary for a further seven years before taking up various parochial ministries over the succeeding ten years.
In 1985 his Bishop very kindly asked if Donal might assist the Dublin Regional Marriage Tribunal, then in the early stages of its development. This turned out to be an inspired suggestion. He began his work in Dublin in 1985, and it was only in the following years, until his death that we really got to know the man who, for all his singularities, was a scholar and a priest whose friendship it was a privilege to enjoy. Part of that privilege was to share with him, in so far as was possible, the discomfort, the severe pain, the many operations to which he was subjected – all of which were the consequences of ever-invasive cancer.
In the week following his death, his home-newspaper, the “Kilkenny People”, carried the bold heading: Canon Lawyer dies suddenly in Dublin. The emphasis was correct. Donal Kelly’s knowledge of the Church’s Law was truly remarkable, both in its extent and in its accuracy. He had very few equals in this country, and I doubt if there were any superiors. One can well appreciate how essentially valuable this was to the intricacies and the judgements of a Marriage Tribunal. His expertise was also shared with the Canon Law Society’s Commentary on the Code to vast effect.
Donal had two principal leisure interests: his love of music – real music! – and his remarkable expertise in photography, especially when buttressed by his skills at the computer. He was a member of the Unity Singers in Kilkenny, and was the musical director of the choir which, for many years, he guided to competitive success. Quite apart from his academic and technical expertise, Donal Kelly’s general knowledge was phenomenal. A book could be written on this alone: it would probably run into several volumes. This, however, is not the occasion. Best, I think, is to leave the last word to Oliver Goldsmith: “And still they gazed, and still wonder grew that one small head could carry all he knew”. May he rest in peace. [Edited from CLSN 130, June 2002]
Monsignor Gerard Sheehy
1923-2003 Died 19 March 2003
The following obituary was written by Monsignor Ralph Brown: 30 March 2003
Monsignor Gerard Sheehy (known amongst his friends as Gerry, but never to his face) was born in Dublin on 16 October 1923. He was the son of a well known Professor at University College Dublin. He was one of three children. His brother, Maurice, died some years ago and his younger sister survives him.
He trained at the Holy Cross Seminary at Clonliffe and was ordained a priest on 22 May 1948 by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid. After ordination he was sent to Rome to study Canon Law at the Gregorian University and obtained his doctorate in 1951. On his return from Rome he was appointed a Chaplain to the De La Salle School in Dublin; but his principal assignment was as Professor of Canon Law at Holy Cross College, Clonliffe. He was there from 1952 until 1965. In 1958 he qualified as a Barrister-at-Law at the Supreme Court of Ireland.
However, as these things go, not only was he teaching Canon Law in the Seminary, he was also working at his Civil Law Degree, working in the Chancellery, and also working in the Tribunal as a Notary. In 1965 he was appointed Chancellor in which post he remained, in spite of his other work, until 1975. But prior to all this, one of the major events of his life was the foundation of the Canon Law Society in April 1957. The history of the establishment of that prestigious body was written up by Mgr. Sheehy himself on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the foundation of the Society. Monsignor Sheehy became the fourth President from 1974 until 1980.
In 1970 Monsignor Sheehy first met Monsignor Max Reinhardt of Brooklyn; and again in 1971. In 1972 Gerard went to visit Mgr. Reinhardt at the Brooklyn Tribunal; and visited also a number of other Tribunals in the USA; and not long after Archbishop Dermot Ryan was installed, the whole of the Dublin Tribunal was relocated and turned into really modern premises, with sound recording Tribunal offices; indeed the envy of the whole Tribunal system in these islands. He was also instrumental in reorganising all of Ireland into four Regional Tribunals; and the National Appeal Tribunal of Ireland. All of this much enhanced the Tribunal work throughout the country. Prior to this he had been made the Officialis of the Dublin Metropolitan Tribunal, as well as a Prelate of Honour, both in 1969. He also became the first Officialis of the Dublin Regional Marriage Tribunal in 1976.
From 1971 onwards he had been much involved in the work of the Revision of the Code of Canon Law. He presided over the first meeting of a small Revision Committee which considered the Schema de Poenisi in 1972 at Downside Abbey. He continued his work on the various Schemata of the Code as they emerged; and he was instrumental in organising an international meeting of English speaking Canon Law Societies at Clonliffe in 1977 on the Schema de Processibus; and a further meeting held in Canada in 1978 on the Schema of which eventually became Book II of the Code: The People of God.
The work on the revision of the Code continued until the end of the seventies and into the very early 1980s. The almost final draft of the New Code was the subject of a special meeting of Cardinals and others in October 1981. Mgr.Sheehy was asked by Cardinal Basil Hume to assist him at this meeting. Mgr.Sheehy prepared the technical Latin interventions of the Cardinal night by night, and the Latin of the Cardinal’s day by day interventions was complemented by no lesser a Latinist than Cardinal Pericles Felici.
The following year the New Code in Latin was published in the Spring and Mgr.Sheehy was one of the four (two Australians, one English and one Irish) Canonists who spent seven weeks translating the Code into English, which was published in time for the date when the Code took effect, namely the First Sunday of Advent 1983. Subsequently, he was the principal editor of the Society’s prestigious commentary: The Code of Canon Law: Letter and Spirit first published in 1995.
Throughout all this time he was also running a very busy Tribunal. He had been made a Canon of the Dublin Metropolitan Chapter in 1972; he was made the Archdeacon of Dublin in 1990; and the Chancellor of the Chapter in 1997. He became an occasional lecturer at the Gregorian University at the special Doctoral Courses in Jurisprudence between 1978 and 1986. He was appointed by the Pope as a Consultor of the Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts in 1989. During this time he was made an Honorary Member of the Canon Law Society of America; of the Canadian Canon Law Society and of the Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand. He also received the prestigious Jean Thorn Award of Merit from the Canadian Canon Law Society in October 2000.
From his time as Seminary Professor right through to the end of his professional life, he was a witness to a very remarkable period of the Church’s history. From graduation as a Canon Lawyer to his death he always saw Canon Law as the Church’s declaration of Justice to its members. He was frequently saddened in latter years to see justice sometimes reduced to mere practicality. His service to justice will long be remembered in the English speaking world.
He was indeed an outstanding Canon Lawyer. But first of all he was a priest and he let no one forget it. Even more he was a person you had to like. He had charm and distinction. He was an extraordinarily engaging person. He spoke to you; he was interested in you. He was never heavy, always courteous, ever sympathetic. He was a person you were glad to have met. He will be greatly missed by us all. He died after a short period in hospital on 19 March 2003. May he rest in peace. [Edited from CLSN 133, March 2003]
Monsignor John Barry
1917-2003 Died 19 July 2003
The following obituary was written by Father Gerard Tartaglia: 31 July 2005
Although in recent months John Barry’s health was failing, his death at Eddington Cottage Hospital on 19 July 2003 was still something of a shock to all who knew him. John was having a period of illness and spent time in Edinburgh hospitals but returned to the parish of Our Lady Star of the Sea, North Berwick, where he was Parish Priest and had been since 1989.
John Barry was born on 26 September 1917. When he was nine years of age he went to the Abbey School at Fort Augustus where he remained until 1935. He was then admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge, intending to enter the diplomatic service but by 1937 had decided to seek admission to the seminary. He graduated as a candidate for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh and was sent to Fribourg, Switzerland, to begin his seminary and academic training. This, however, was interrupted by the outbreak of the second world war, when all Scottish students at overseas seminaries were called home. John continued his studies at Oscott College, Sutton Coldfield, and was ordained in 1944. After ordination until 1946 he was an assistant priest at St Patrick’s Kilsyth.
The war was now over, and he was sent to Rome for further studies and resided at the Pontifical Scots College. John was one of the band of priests and students who had the task of recovering and reopening the college which had been vacated during the war and used by various groups ranging from orphans to the military. He remained there until 1949, graduating with a Doctorate in Canon Law from the Gregorian University.
He returned to Edinburgh where, for a year he was assistant priest at St Cuthbert’s and then spent three years at St Anthony’s, Polmont. During this time the Archbishop of St Andrew’s & Edinburgh was in the process of establishing a seminary at Drygrange in the Borders. John was a natural choice as a member of staff where he taught philosophy, then moral theology and Canon Law.
In 1957 John was a founder member of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland and was the originator and first editor of Canon Law Abstracts, a publication that has been and is of great importance to the Society and to scholars and students alike. In a sense, a little of John’s influence on Canon Law Abstracts continues today as when the first editions required to be printed, John took the proofs to the little Border town of Galashiels, near Drygrange, the place where Abstracts were originally to be printed.
In 1960 John was appointed Rector of the Seminary at Drygrange continuing in that post until 1977. He was a canonical expert to the Archbishop of St Andrews & Edinburgh at the Second Vatican Council and was involved as a Consultor to the Pontifical Commission for the Revision of the Code of Canon Law, particularly contributing to the work on the Canons on Processes.
For all his erudition, Fr Barry enjoyed telling jokes against himself. He chuckled as he recalled that he had once been described “like Morecambe Bay on a sunny day; bright but shallow”. His boyish sense of humour masked the fact that he was an incisive thinker and always a challenging speaker, especially from the pulpit. He was a man of wide-ranging interests who revelled in debate and discussion. It was fitting, therefore, that he was chosen to take part in the examination of the cause of the beatification of the Edinburgh-born trade unionist and Poor Clare Nun Margaret Sinclair.
Following his retirement as Rector of the Seminary he was appointed as Parish Priest of St Mary’s, Oxgangs, Edinburgh, where he worked until 1989 when he transferred to North Berwick.
John served the Church faithfully and was an important and influential figure in his own diocese and beyond. He committed himself wholeheartedly, whether to the training of priests, to the study of Canon Law, to the needs of parishioners, or indeed, to the many hundreds of individuals who sought his help in marital difficulties or in the presentation of petitions for nullity of marriage. May he rest in peace.
[Edited from CLSN 135, September 2003]
Canon Roger Daly (23.5.16)
Canon Roger Daley died on Monday 23rd May, 2016, aged 85 years, in the 55th year of his priesthood.
He was ordained priest in Rome on 29th October 1961, having been educated at Notre Dame and St Francis Xavier’s, Liverpool, the University of Liverpool (Law Degree), Campion House, Osterley, Venerable English College, Rome.
On completion of his canonical studies (licentiate in Canon Law at the Gregorian University) he returned to the archdiocese in 1966 to take up an appointment as assistant priest at St Alban’s, Liverpool, during which time he was also appointed as a Diocesan Notary. The following year he was appointed assistant priest at St Nicholas, Liverpool, until 1973. From 1968 he combined his parish duties with the post of Diocesan Advocate in the Metropolitan Tribunal. From 1973 until 1982 he ministered in All Saints’ parish, Liverpool, again combining parochial and tribunal work. In February 1977 he succeeded Fr Kevin O’Connor as Vice-Officialis.
He became a parish priest for the first time in March 1982, with his appointment to St Hugh of Lincoln, Liverpool. It was during his tenure there that he succeeded Canon Brian Mullan as Officialis in 1984. He was appointed an Honorary Canon of the Metropolitan Cathedral Chapter in November 1989. For more than twenty years he continued to lead the Marriage Tribunal. He retired in February 2006.
Roger, requiescat in pace.