The Canon Law Society Newsletter

A Vital Suggestion

A vital suggestion, made again by Monsignor John Humphreys, was that the Society should start a ‘Newsletter’. A Newsletter started in June 1969 and it has covered every aspect of the Society’s existence and work since that time. But, more by luck than judgement there also exists some information about the Society’s existence between 1958 and 1969. There cannot be many people who go back to the late 50s in the Society. All the Founding Fathers have died. Consequently, it is by the deep plundering of people’s memories that anything can be gleaned from those early days of the Society.

However, since the appearance of Canon Law Society Newsletter (CLSN), we have a record of all that the Society has been involved in; and there is a picture of the canonical situation in the country and elsewhere from 1969 onwards. This makes fascinating reading . The majority of the areas in which the CLS itself (and its work) has been involved is covered by the pages of this website. But there is also a broad picture of what was happening elsewhere specially in the Canon Law Societies of other countries.

In the fifties there was one English speaking Canon Law Society elsewhere, in the United States of America. Then followed the CLS in 1958; after which in the early 1960s the Canon Law Society of Canada was born; and slightly later the Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand. In recent years Canon Law Societies has also been founded in Nigeria, India, South Africa and Kenya.

One of the elements of the CLSN was the publication of Tribunal Statistics for England and Wales (to start with and then the statistics for Scotland and Ireland). For those who are interested in Statistical Studies relating to our Tribunals in these Islands, the references to these statistics are given in the section of this website titled ‘Canon Law Tribunal Statistics’.

History Of The Reconciliation Procedure

A small working party was established early in 1972 to deal with what was then called Due Process. Eventually the document was referred to as the Reconciliation Procedure. It was shortly after the establishment of the Working Party that it was discovered that the proposal was much more complicated than it had at first seemed. By coincidence, a National Conference of Priests meeting had approached the Conference of Bishops of England and Wales to establish some sort of Due Process. It was agreed that the CLS Working Party would report at the next Woodhall Meeting (May 1972). At that meeting an interim report was produced for comment and this was then introduced into a report of the Canon Law Society with the request to all the Membership for comment by the end of November 1972.

At the January CLS Wimbledon meeting in 1973 a final version of a conciliation procedure was produced. By this time the title of the document had become the Reconciliation Procedure. The final report was passed to the Conference of Bishops in March 1973. The Conference “received” the procedure; and passed it on to the National Conference of Priests at their meeting in September 1973 for discussion and reply. The National Conference of Priests was not overwhelmingly impressed by the procedure; but thanked the Bishops nonetheless. However there was a resolution of the National Conference of Priests which seemed to indicate large scale irritation at the Bishops and the Canon Law Society for not producing something better. This was not an outstanding success for the Canon Law Society. It will be recalled that the revision of the Code had included a document called The Administrative Procedure. This was a process with rules and regulations and teeth, which dealt with complaints by clergy against Bishops and Superiors. But this procedure, already widely discussed, was still part of the Code Revision; and another ten years would elapse before such a procedure could be used.

For those who are students of the history of Canon Law in this country, a copy of the provisions of the Canon Law Society’s Reconciliation Procedure of 1973 is available at CLSN 26, September 1975. Several years were expended by the CLS on this project. The Members who produced the 1973 document were: Monsignor Ralph Brown, Monsignor Gerard Sheehy, Monsignor Daniel Shanahan, Father Desmond O’Ryan, Father James McGettrick, Monsignor Michael Quinlan and Mr Robert O’Brien.

1 September 2007
Mgr. Ralph Brown

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Of A Former Editor

A revolution took place in December 1975. Compared to other upheavals on the world’s stage during that decade it was only a tiny revolution. It did not hit the headlines, but it was a revolution, nonetheless. It happened when the Society’s Newsletter took on a new format – from loose stencilled sheets to a style involving photographic reduction..
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General Account Of The Society’s Roman Interlude (1992)

Despite the initial anxieties of the Committee, holding the Annual Conference in Rome in 1992 proved to be popular and successful. Not all canonical journeys from these Islands have been a success. During a medieval dispute between the Bishop of Worcester and an Abbey, litigation moved to Rome, with Pope Innocent III himself presiding. Having listened for a while, the Pope commented: “Indeed you and your masters had drunk too much of the English beer when you were taught this”. This time, no such withering criticism was offered by Pope or Curia. Either (or both) because the Society has better taught Canonists or because there was no English beer available.

Certainly, it was a Conference full of contacts with Officials of the Roman Curia and crowned by an audience with the Pope at which he spoke to us at some length and greeted each of us individually. But that was on the last day, and much had happened before. The organisation of the proceedings was a miracle of efficiency and precision. Despite torrential rain, power cuts, Roman traffic, a faulty harmonium and other hazards, all went well at prayer, at table, in the lecture room and on the daily journeys to different dicasteries. Domus Mariae is an immense, old fashioned hotel and Conference Centre run by Azione Cattolica. We shared it with groups as various as members of Opus Dei and a meeting of animal breeders.

Proceedings began on the Monday with a welcoming address from Cardinal Castillo Lara, who was determined to come despite poor health. (He died in 2007) Moreover he came again the next morning to preside and preach at Mass. He was a friend indeed. He had been present at the Society’s meeting in 1986 when David Cousins was elected President. There followed a reception where various guests mingled with us. Old teachers met former students, news was exchanged. After Mass on Tuesday we set off either to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or the Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.

Cardinal Castillo Lara

Such is the goodwill and respect that the Society has in Rome that not one of the persons invited to speak or preach turned us down. On Tuesday afternoon, Archbishop Tauran from the Secretariate of State spoke to us on the place of the Holy See in International relations. He was measured and elegant, as befits his position in a body that was the first to set up a school for diplomats. For him, Talleyrand was a great diplomat but a poor Bishop. Clearly today the emphasis is on the ecclesiastical character of diplomacy.

Cardinal Cassidy preached at the Mass on Wednesday and we then went either to the frescoed splendours of the Palazzo of the Roman Rota or to the Congregation for Catholic Education. At the Rota, various familiar names acquired faces and distinct personalities: Pompedda, Doran, Burke et al. There was no mistaking the differences of opinion amongst the Auditors. Monsignor Doran recommended that when all else fails we should look to the words of the Code! He illustrated this, and our members did not fail to catch its relevance for our Tribunals, from Canon 1095. In the afternoon, Monsignor Serrano, from the Rota, spoke on psychological considerations in marriage cases. He combined great expertise with an obvious human warmth; no wonder he spoke of the importance of empathy. He gave us a brief preview of a recent decision by him on partial incapacity. The AGM concluded the day.

On Thursday, Bishop Eid of the Maronite rite graciously presided at the Mass, linking Eucharist, love and obedience. We then set off to visit the Signatura, the Congregation for Consecrated Life or that for the Sacraments.

We had two lecturers who were Flemish, Father Daneels, Promotor of Justice at the Signatura, spoke on the right of defence in judicial proceedings. This is clearly something both the Pope and the Curia are becoming more insistent upon, despite the difficulties in applying it in some areas. This lecture provoked much lively debate. The second Flemish speaker was from Archbishop Schotte who began with an hilarious account of his career to date. He stressed that as Secretary of the Synod of Bishops he was not a member of the Curia – “in case they shoot the wrong man”. His absolute dedication to the Synod was evident, as was his fidelity to the priestly vocation.

At the Friday Mass, Archbishop Justin Rigalli, from the Congregation for Bishops, preached; and afterwards the Conference was concluded with a Papal Audience. Bishop Moverley spoke on behalf of the Society as proceedings closed. Just as he had as they opened. He was the only “Founding Father” present. My main recollections are of a hugely successful venture, a gamble that paid off, and of that unique Roman experience which combines a focus on the person of the Pope with the universality of membership of the Roman Curia.

[CLSN 9 June 1992]                                                 Robert Ombres, O.P.

Papal Audience following 1992 Conference in Rome

Canon Law Society Tribunal Statistics

Source - Click Here

1969 MDEW                          CLSN 4, March 1970                         With List of Cases

1970 MDEW                          CLSN 8, March 1971                         With List of Cases

1971 MDEW                          CLSN 14, September 1972                 With List of Cases

1972 MDEW                          CLSN 17, June 1973                         With List of Cases

1973 MDEW                          CLSN 22, September 1974                 With List of Cases

1974 MDEW                          CLSN 24, March 1975                       With List of Cases

1975 MDEW                          CLSN 35, December 1977                 With List of Cases

1976 Annuario Statistico (=AS)         CLSN 42, September 1979     World Statistics

1978 AS National Statistics                CLSN 40, December 1979

1979 AS National Statistics                CLSN 48, March 1981

1979 Divorce Statistics                       CLSN 49, June 1981              England and Wales

1980 AS National Statistics                CLSN 51, December 1981

1982 AS National Statistics                CLSN 59, December 1983

1983 AS National Statistics                CLSN 62, September 1984

1984 AS National Statistics                CLSN 73, March 1985

1985 & 1986 AS National Statistics               CLSN 73, March 1988

1987 AS National Statistics                            CLSN 76, December 1988

1988 AS National Statistics                            CLSN 80, December 1989

1989 AS National Statistics                            CLSN 84, December 1990

1990 AS National Statistics                            CLSN 86, June 1991

1991 AS National Statistics                            CLSN 92, December 1992

1992 &1993 AS National Statistics                CLSN 98, June 1995

1991 &1992 Comments on World Statistics  CLSN 102, June 1995

1994 AS National Statistics                                        CLSN 103, September 1995

1994 Statistic Information from USA                                    CLSN 106, June 1994

1995 AS National Statistics                                        CLSN 109, March 1997

1997, 1998 & 1999 AS National Statistics                 CLSN 125, March 2001

1999 AS World Statistics                                           CLSN 129, March 2002

2000 AS National Statistics                                        CLSN 126, June 2001

2002 AS National Statistics                                        CLSN 138, June 2004

2003 AS National Statistics                                        CLSN 139, September 2004

2004 Historical Paper: Marriage                                 CLSN 143, September 2005

Divorce and Annulment 1851-2001

2003 World Statistics                                                 CLSN 144, December 2005

20004 AS World Statistics                                         CLSN 149, March 2007-11-25