Canon Law Aside – A Rough Week for Catholics

 In the past week, a legitimately ordained Bishop in China disappeared without a trace; a priest in Edinburgh, Scotland was found dead on a beach with no clue as to how he got there; a Mexican priest was stabbed in the Cathedral in Mexico City and is now upgraded to critical condition. Let’s not even talk about the terrorist desecration of the Holy Eucharist and a Catholic Church in the Philippines. For now, I am going to put aside the issue that very few in the US even know about any of these tragic events. Let’s just skip to the chase in light of all this, that we in the US are so very fortunate. Happy Birthday USA!

Should Lay People Help Select Bishops?

Part Two:  Pesky Priests

I studied canon law in Rome. One of the other students in my class level was a
priest from somewhere South of Rome. He was short and chubby and balding. That is
pretty much all I know about him. He acted as though the other 29 people in the class
were beneath him and never spoke to any of us. He seldom came to class and when he

did, it was always late. He would stroll in as if he owned the class, plop himself down in

the nearest front row seat, and proceed to read the newspaper. I never understood why
the professors acted as though nothing odd was going on, that he did not deserve to be

in that class. Soon we too all seemed to ignore him when he came in. That is, until one
day when he came early and grabbed everyone he could to loudly complain. It seems
the Italian Government had been paying a salary to priests and now they weren’t going
to. He was crying in desperation that he would now have to rely on his parishioners in

Podunk Italy, to pay him. Now, tell me there is no justice in this world!

 Could there be a lesson in here by mandating that Lay People be involved in the
process of selecting Bishops? Would accountability to Lay People soon follow? Be still

my heart! Now, the ambitious ones, and there are a few of those, would have to be more
attentive, shall we say, to the needs of the Lay People. Would indiscretions, meanness
and ego come into play? Would pastoral practice, openness and humility make a
difference? I repeat, be still my Heart! 

Should Lay People Help Select Bishops? 

Part one:  Pesky Warnings

The first time I got a letter from the Papal Nuncio I thought I was being
excommunicated. But right before I finished making a call to Fr. Frank Morissey to be
my advocate, I got the first envelope open. Inside was another envelope with a line
down the middle. On one side, was a warning in Latin and on the other, the translation
of that warning in English. The warning was about as serious as a heart attack, telling
the recipient that if they ever, ever disclose the contents of the second envelope, they are
automatically excommunicated. It is all Pontifical Secret and open your mouth at the
risk of your Church membership. I digress here to say that in light of this, the rest of my
blog entry here is purely hypothetical.

 Oswald Cardinal Garcias of Mumbai, India, a member of Pope Francis’ Council
of Cardinals, has reported that the Council is considering recommending to Pope
Francis that consultation with Laity be mandated as part of the process of selecting
Bishops. This is not as monumental as it sounds, although it may be to anyone who hasnot gotten one of “those Nuncio Letters”. Until now it has been up to a country’s nuncio
to involve laity in the process. But no one would know that because of those pesky
warnings that go out to lay people et al. But hypothetically I would say with some
amazing certainty that lay people have been asked and have been extremely honored,
surprised and industrious at getting the Nuncio’s request to answer the questionnaire on
a particular priest under consideration. Hypothetically, I would say that the first time
you get one of these requests, it might take you over four hours to honestly and  completely answer the questions, and if the priest you have been consulted about is
ordained a Bishop, you might follow his work as a Bishop and pray for him, because you  helped put him in that incredibly difficult and often thankless job. Who would mind  having some lay people praying for you?  

So, lay people have been consulted in this process, and the Church survives. It is
tragic that it has been kept under wraps. It should be hollered from hill tops and
tweeted ad nauseum. It is pathetic that involvement of the laity in so many aspects of
Church administration is not marked but actively hidden. The Council should make a
recommendation to mandate consultation of the laity in this process, even limited as
they have discussed, for members of diocesan financial and pastoral councils. It’s a
modest start, but it would be out in the light and thank God for that.  

GET Those Proceedings!

All of the papers for the Annual Conference of the CL Society of Great Britain and Ireland are submitted in advance.  So, they are already bound as Proceedings and can be purchased now, from the CLSGB&I through its web site at:          

The supply is limited for non-attendees, so act fast if you want to get the Proceedings.    Direct your inquiries to Kate.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

The BEST Presentation at CLSGB&I

Without any doubt the best presentation of this CL Society of GB&I conference was given by The Very Rev. Charles J. Scicluna, Archbishop of Malta and President of the College of Recourses for the CDF.   Before he became a Bishop in Malta, Bishop Scicluna spent many years as the Promoter of Justice in the CDF.  His talk is entitled “The CDF College for Recourses in Cases of Reserved Delicts: Procedure and Jurisprudence”.  Bishop Scicluna does not only explain the nature and breath of his work and that of the Collegio, but points to law and gives Commentary on what he deems important enough to include.  His outline and explanations are well-organized and clear.  He gives insights to the workings of the Collegio, who is on it, and in what order of seniority.  He discusses when the members meet and for what work.  This makes for not only solid, important information   but interesting information as well.  This entire presentation is in the Proceedings and should not be missed by any Canonist who works in Penal Law. 

CDF’s More Questions than Answers

In his presentation of “Open Questions and Points of Discussion in the Praxis and Jurisprudence of the CDF in Cases Concerning Possible Commission of ‘Graviora Delicta’” Rev. Robert Geisinger, S. J. left more questions than answers.  This was valuable to hear from the Promoter of Justice for the CDF.  A native of Chicago, Geisinger was explicit in what he had answers for, and what he did not.  If he did not, that topic is still under discussion at the CDF.   For lawyers in a controversy, both are extremely important to be aware of.  It’s always a challenge to try to make new law where only questions exist, even if it is the Church.  He went over what is a delict?  What intent is needed?  What is habitually imperfect?  What is in and out of the extrajudicial forum?  Father Geisinger is known as one of the most approachable officials anywhere in the Vatican, and he is a popular speaker internationally. He will give a major address at the CLSA conference in October in Indianapolis.   In these Proceedings, his talk is outlined in 35 comprehensive Power Point panels.  In the CLSA October Proceedings, his talk will be published in full.