Mary McAleese

Let’s set up a few truths first. The President of Ireland is a purely ceremonial role. The true head of government is the Taoiseach or the equivalent of Prime Minister, the leadership role in many European countries. The President of Ireland cuts ribbons and reviews troops and lights Christmas trees at shopping malls.

Mary McAleese was fortunate enough to be elected to this pleasant, light weight role in Ireland. She had no role in leadership or legislation. Now, retired, with even more time on her hands to kill, she took herself off to Rome to study Canon Law and be a dual degreed lawyer. To hear her, you would think she was groundbreaking, a big deal and some force to be reckoned with. Sadly, she cannot live up to her own PR. She wrote a book that is useless and far from being the best seller she expected. Let me tell you from experience of more than twenty-six years, that being a dual degreed Civil /Canon Lawyer in 2016 is not groundbreaking, even for a woman. Right now, there are more than one hundred of us in the US. At least half are women. If she is not groundbreaking, how about being a role model?

A recent interview of her in a Northern Ireland newspaper shows she is not that either. In her home country of Northern Ireland, she is quoted as saying that her canon law studies have “filled her head up with crap.” Classy. With all of that education, could she not come up with something a little less crass? What a lost opportunity! But this comment shows the type of person she is. After serving as President of Ireland, even a ceremonial talking head, could she not have said something worthwhile to be quoted on? She goes on to bad mouth the marriage annulment process and indicate that this type of work is beneath her. She opines that the hierarchical structure of the Church is “not serving its purpose.” And intimates that she is going to fix that. Pope Francis Look out!

I studied for my Canon Law license in Rome at the Ang. For me, that was the best way for me to truly experience the universal Church, warts and all. For twenty six years I have worked independently as a Canon Lawyer through books and advocacy, to make a difference. I have worked with Marriage Tribunals as well. McAleese must have just gone for the food and the sights. She doesn’t seem to have taken in anything deeper than that during her Roman studies. As a Canon Lawyer, a lay person and a woman, I find her to be an embarrassment.

Lost in Translation

A major problem that faces almost every canonist from an English speaking country, is the language barrier.  Latin is still the official language of the Roman Catholic Church and as time goes by, it is becoming more and more of a problem for canonists without a working knowledge or better in Latin.  Everything is first and foremost, published in Latin, but help is on the way.  The Canon Law Society of America is taking this problem on in full force.  It has named a special Task Force for the Translation of Latin and Italian documents.  This Task Force was formed this month and is chaired by Meg Romano-Hogan, who studied canon law at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Italy.  The mandate to the Task Force is that within 12 hours of the appearance of Vatican documents that do not have a simultaneous English translation, Meg as Chair, names a select group of this Task Force to a committee to produce a translation quam primum. 

This could end up being one of the most valuable resources available to all English-speaking canonists.  No more waiting around by so many in the hopes someone on the listserv will be kind enough and fast enough to get the Holy See’s documents into English.  These are not going to have the same weight as the official Vatican translation, of course, but if the document is not released with an official English version, it could be weeks or even months before the Holy See takes pity on those not proficient enough in Latin to do the work necessary as quickly as possible.  Best Wishes to Meg in this very important undertaking.

The First Friday

The best place to read the Code of Canon Law, is straight from the horse’s mouth, or in this case, the Vatican web site.
​This is the Code, plain and simple, in English. Nothing else, just the Code. There are a few Commentary Codes out there, mostly from Canon Law Societies. The Canon Law Society of America has done two. The Canadian Canon Law Society has what we call the “Red Book Code”. And “The Letter and Spirit” is the Code from the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland. The last one is considered by many to be the best one for Canonists, but it is out of print with no promise of it being updated in any way. So, it is only available used online and when you can find one, the asking price is hundreds of dollars. The Commentaries do what I intend to do here on Fridays; that is, walk you through the Code of Canon Law Canon by Canon, and give you some thoughts on what that particular Canon means or how we use it, or how we can use it. This is going to get seriously boring at times. Any system of law will do that to you, but I will try my best to make it interesting. In the meantime, put a book mark on the Vatican site for the Code in English. It’s our road map for the next three years of Canon Law 101.

Look what the Saints Dragged In!

At first I didn’t plan on inaugurating this Blog on All Saints Day but when it worked out that way, I was kind of glad. I need all the good karma with this that I can get. The plan is that I write on Mondays and we use Tuesdays and Thursdays for news and events. Wednesday is “Open Mike Night” for guest blogging on Canon Law. On Fridays I plan on taking the world through the Code of Canon Law, one Canon at a time. Since there are 1,752 canons, I have more than the next three years of Fridays covered.

I am not sure exactly what this Blog is going to be. But I know what it is not going to be. It is not going to be written for Canon Lawyers exclusively. I do enough of that in my work as a director, author, editor, and translator for Gratianus Publications. I truly love that work. But I am passionate about making Canon Law more accessible to those who are not educated in Canon Law, the people in our pews. So, if you are a Canon Lawyer, this Blog will probably make you feel like a very smart canonist and if you are not, then I hope it makes you just that little bit better as a run of the mill, sitting in the pew, working hard to send you kids to Catholic School, Catholic.  

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