Papal Diplomacy and Legates at the CLSGB&I

The Most Reverend Paul Gallagher, Secretary of Relations with States, Vatican Secretary
of State offices, opened the conference of the CL Society of Great Britain and Ireland last
week. His talk was entitled, “Papal Legates 1917/1983”. Judging from comments after
the talk, it seemed like most of us either missed that lecture in CL studies or that lecture
went by so fast, we don’t remember it. The Nuncio is the legate most people are familiar
with. He is the equivalent of an ambassador in diplomatic relations. Besides talking
about this role, Bishop Gallagher talked about legates who are assigned work with  special groups or events to represent or observe for the Holy See. Sadly, he stayed away  from recollecting war stories of the Vatican famoso, but he was so full of novel info on  how that very specialized world rotates, that I wished I had paid more attention to this  in class. Unfortunately, Bishop Gallagher did not submit his talk in writing prior to the
Conference so his talk is not part of the published Proceedings available now. He had a
nice personality and might be a good person to have in your contacts.


The Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland met in Rome for its annual conference last week. The conference is usually rotated around UK and Ireland locations, but this was special. This conference celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the Society and the 100th Anniversary of the Pio-Benedictine Code of 1917. The event was held at the religious house, Casa Bonus Pastor, a ten minute walk from the back of St. Peter’s, and operated by the Archdiocese of Rome. The accommodations are good and the food is excellent. About 100 people attended in residence and out. All of the five presentation talks in the Conference were given by members of the Curia. From CDF there were The Most Rev. Charles J. Scicluna (President of the College of Recourses of the CDF and Archbishop of Malta) Rev. Robert Geisinger, S.J. and Rev. John Paul Kimes; from the Secretary of State, the Most Rev. Paul Gallagher (Secretary of Relations with States), and Sister Noelle Corscadden (Institute Leader of the Loreto Sisters). More coming about these individual talks. 

The 2017 Rotal Address, a Great One

January in Rome is pretty bleak. There is a big Post- Christmas letdown; there is no Roman Sun on your face or peeking through the Pantheon ceiling; no tourists to amuse the Romans. It’s a good time to let your mind wander to the law.   That is just what every Pope does every January for the inauguration of the Judicial Year of the Holy See. On Saturday, January 21st, Francis received in audience, the Roman Rota, the high Court of the Catholic Church.   This included the Prelate Auditors, officials, lawyers and collaborators. In the picture from L’Osservatore Romano, the men in purple robes are the Judges who get to sit up front. But, this year, Pope Francis’ address seemed not to be addressing the Rota at all. Well, except for the line half way through that said that the context of today’s culture lacking in religious values and faith, cannot but condition matrimonial consent. With lack of consent being often used as a grounds for a marriage annulment, this should have made the audience sit up and listen. So much for Canon Law.

For me, the sound byte of the address came towards the very end when Pope Francis said “it takes great courage to marry in the times in which we live.” No truer words are spoken here. In this line Pope Francis showed a profound understanding of life, that so many clerics do not have. How could they? Those getting paid by the hour, terrified about health care for themselves let alone a family, and lucky enough to really have a mortgage to pay, actually know the courage the Pope is talking about. Get this thought into your head and then read the address over again. (It’s only two and a half pages in English). Then you will see how right the Pope is when he recognizes the young married couples “so often left to their own devices”, especially after the birth of a child. The real world Catholics know how much we need the “new Catechuminate” he exhorts us to build. It is wise and refreshing for us to see someone in the hierarchy of the Church encourage us and say that this is the way to maintain marriage as a sacrament in our Church. Black and white boundaries in canon law cannot work without the “family pastoral care” and “the continuing formation” needed in the first moments of family life, based on a generous contribution of time and commitment by our adult Christians.   Pope Francis does not lay out a legal bombast of how to tie people together once they have said “I Do”, no matter how tattered the marriage becomes. He sets out a vision of community support beginning with marriage preparation.

This Rotal Address is one of the best from any Pope.   It is an Address that might have been lost on this audience, but resonates with the people in the pews.  They get it, just like Francis does.

Canon Law Civil Law in PHL Part 2

          Last week Monsignor James Lynn once again had a day in Court. This time of his
making, asking the Court to bar any retrial of him after he won his appeal. My Blog last
week sets out the issue. It comes down to one detective coming forward to testify.
Retired Detective Joe Walsh had an excellent reputation as a detective, and a human
being. I had cases involving his testimony during the seven years I concentrated my law
practice in criminal law defense. That was before I went to study canon law in Rome.
When I returned to law practice in Philadelphia, I had a short-lived cross-over
experience of civil/canon law. The first accused priest I advocated for, as a result of my
parish pastor entreating me to begin this work, had to first appear before the grand jury
investigation of sexual abuse of a minor in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I
represented him before that Grand Jury. I came across Detective Joe Walsh again,
because he was the lead detective on that investigation.

           Writing a blog gives me many licenses. Among other things, I can speak from
experience and give my opinions. So, here goes. Besides my professional case
experience involving Joe Walsh, he led an investigation into a very scary threat to my
life. In order to hurt someone who practiced law with me, another lawyer, facing death
by cancer, decided to take me and my partner to the next life with him. That is in a
serious nut shell version. Suffice it to say I am glad to still be here. In this, I got to know
Joe Walsh in a new professional way, not just through civil law cases and canon law
cases, but as a victim. I do not believe he would ever lie or be in anyway inaccurate in
relating facts in a case. He never showed me that he had an ego, that a case was ever about
him. I never saw him fly his own flag. I believe him to be a man of integrity and
honesty. I was not surprised that he came forward and that he testified. This is not
going to get him any accolades or promotions. But, I do hope it gets him some credit in
the hereafter. 

Canon Law – Civil Law Monsignor James Lynn

This week, in a Philadelphia Court Room, Monsignor James Lynn will attempt to finally end the long process of his criminal case, once and for all, without a retrial. The retrial, a possibility after Monsignor James Lynn of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, won his appeal of his criminal convictions, may not happen at all. His lawyers have a court hearing on their appeal grounds this week, and the grounds are among the most serious a lawyer can allege. That is, that the behavior of the District Attorney’s office in the trial of this case, was so egregious, that it thwarted justice at every level, so much so, that the DA should be prohibited from going ahead with its retrial plans for May 1, 2017. Monsignor Lynn served as secretary of clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004. He was originally convicted in 2012 of child endangerment, not assault or abuse. The facts alleged that Monsignor Lynn, in his job, placed a pedophile priest in proximity to a child, in violation of state law.  

Thomas A. Bergstrom, a renowned Philadelphia attorney and defense attorney to Monsignor Lynn, claimed that the Assistant DA prosecuting the case, withheld evidence that the detective investigating the case believed the accuser was not credible. When Detective Walsh told his beliefs to the prosecuting DA, she replied “You’re damaging my case.” Now retired, Detective Walsh will testify to this at the hearing this week.  

Monsignor Lynn was convicted on the testimony that included this only actual accuser. He was sentenced to three to six years in prison on the charges of child endangerment. He was the first Catholic administrator in the US to be convicted of a crime related to child sex abuse. In 2013 an Appeals Court freed Lynn after ruling that the child endangerment laws should not apply to him. The State Supreme Court disagreed and sent Monsignor Lynn back to prison in 2015. In August 2016, an appeal court freed him again ruling that certain evidence was improperly allowed at trial. They ordered a new trial. The Defense is claiming that a retrial should be barred because of its prosecutorial misconduct.


Joseph Cardinal Tobin

In case you missed it on Christmas Day, the NYTimes featured an article on Joseph Cardinal Tobin.  Sure they used it to insinuate some of their usual negative Catholic agenda, and tell us yet again what Pope Francis thinks and why he does what he does, but this is still a very good article about the man, Joe Tobin, now A Prince of the Church.  Cardinal Tobin takes his seat in the Newark, NJ Archdiocese on January 6th.  We wish him our prayers for the fulfillment of this very important role with his new flock.


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.