[“The instruction undermines its own goals: It lets bishops get away with the equivalent of intellectual canonical murder”: FrankenPope’s changes in Canon Law concerning annulments allow a bishop (whose advanced degree is usually the honorary Doctorate of Divinity that he gets for being made a bishop) to judge cases using a new “processus brevior (shorter or fast-track process)” in about 1/10 the time (a single sitting?) as the regular process; also FrankenPope is directly intervening in canonical cases appealed to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (similar to the US Supreme Court) to insure the outcome of such cases and thus “short-circuiting” the Tribunal! – AQ Tom]

by Rev. Michael X  •  •  May 5, 2018

In remarkably candid language that constitutes nothing less than a clarion call, the Vatican is announcing the “extremely urgent” need to have canonists who are “well-prepared” — not only in the areas of matrimonial canon law but also in many other sectors of ecclesial life, including “service in the administration of diocesan curias.”

On May 3, the Congregation for Catholic Education issued an instruction titled “Studies of Canon Law” in light of the reform of the process for causes of nullity of marriage. Signed by the prefect and secretary of the dicastery, all Catholic academic institutions offering degrees or diplomas in canon law will be required to implement new norms.

While the document is not a new piece of legislation, it does not bind only Catholic universities and institutes of higher education offering courses in canon law: It imposes new obligations on all diocesan bishops of the Catholic Church.

It says that “new and urgent exigencies” require the “individuation of adequate options” to ensure that students are “able to fulfill new ecclesiastical charges” (Cf. Inst., N. 3(B)(c)).

While the overall thrust of the instruction is to encourage Catholic universities and diocesan bishops to bolster the numbers and quality of those pursuing degrees or studies in canon law, the instruction, while attempting to be balanced, undermines its own goals: It lets bishops continue to get away with the equivalent of intellectual murder.

This is because for decades a glaring loophole in Church legislation has enabled bishops to skirt the requirement of providing licensed and degreed canon lawyers and judges in its diocesan tribunals: bishops have been and continue to be authorized by the Code of Canon Law merely to grant “approval” to those they assert to be “truly expert” (vere peritus in Latin) in canon law, despite the officials receiving approval not possessing any degree or license in the subject matter that they are allegedly “truly expert” in. This is equivalent in the civil forum to judges, prosecutors and attorneys being authorized to practice civil law without ever having studied in law school, obtained a J.D., or even passed the bar.

The Congregation, instead of tightening the meaning of “truly expert,” which it easily could have done by requiring that tribunal personnel obtain at least a licentiate if not doctorate in canon law in order to practice that sacred science, has lost a golden opportunity to make the Church’s tribunal system the Speculum Iustitiae, or “Mirror of Justice,” that the Church claims it to be. Instead of raising the bar, the Vatican has now lowered it even further.

Now, the standards for judges, prosecutors and attorneys required in order for them to serve justice in the civil court system are indeed much, much higher than for canonists in the ecclesiastical tribunals of the global Catholic Church.  This new instruction only worsens the situation, instead of alleviating the grave dysfunction presently endemic in the Church’s canonical court system.

The conclusion that the Vatican is continuing to “dumb down” requirements for its tribunal officials to practice canon law is only confirmed by the new instruction’s authorization of a Diploma of Matrimonial and Procedural Law, by which it seeks to bolster the credentials of diocesan officials in their practice of canon law for diocesan faithful — competence sorely lacking for many decades since the promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law in 1983.

In creating the concept of a diploma, where previously the only normal options were for a bishop to increase diocesan funding for hiring canonists in possession of a licentiate or doctorate in canon law, the emphasis is for dioceses to send candidates for minimal studies, costs and time to obtain this diploma, instead of the far more expensive and time-consuming licentiate or doctorate. That will be the practical outcome regarding the implementation of this instruction: Fewer seminarians and laity will be sent to obtain doctorates and licentiates in canon law; more, instead, will be sent to obtain the far cheaper and less time-consuming “diploma.”

Reading the instruction between the lines, it is clear the Vatican foresees the continued diminution of funding and budgetary allocations on the part of bishops for their tribunal personnel and lay canonists. If the Holy See did not, this instruction would not have reinforced a continued dumbing down of requirements for canonists to practice their sacred office for the Catholic faithful under their care.

For reasons unknown, the Vatican has failed to disclose any English translation of the Italian original, despite English being the world’s most spoken tongue. Additionally, despite Latin being the official language of the Church’s canonical system and jurisprudence, no mention is made in the instruction at all of the need for students in canon law to attain minimal expertise in that highly technical language.

The instruction becomes effective at the beginning of the 2019–20 academic year.

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  1. The Motel 6 should just make a franchise
    deal with Hamburger U for a three day seminar/certification package to pass out these worthless credentials. Tie it in with all local Mickey D outlets and neo-Kathlyk divorces can get their drive-thru “annulment” simply by ordering it with their McFries and a giant soft drink.
    The temptation to say we’ve hit bottom is a strong one but 5 years into this here pontificate, experience requires one to hold off on that assessment. Like the song said, “Buhbuhbaby, you ain’t seen nothin’, yet!” 🎸🎸🎸 🍔🍔🍔🍟🍟🍟

  2. Quote: “Additionally, despite Latin being the official language of the Church’s canonical system and jurisprudence, no mention is made in the instruction at all of the need for students in canon law to attain minimal expertise in that highly technical language.”

    This is a symptom of deeper and broader problems that date back to Land O’Lakes and when the Latin requirement was dropped in high schools and modernist seminaries after Vatican II. There is no plan for Catholic education. Instruction in ecclesiastical Latin should begin in the grade schools, preferably, at least, during the middle school years and should have a Catholic focus with Catholic texts. Catholic legal, logical, and philosophical concepts in right reason need to be taught across the board through the high school years so that Catholic students have the necessary preparation for such studies at the college and graduate level.

    The PC emasculation tendencies and feminist male bashing in Catholic education need to be brought to an end:

    Unless the USCCB develops standards and goals for educating Catholic young men properly these problems and the crisis in the Church will just continue to get worse. It is a scandal what goes on now on most Catholic campuses.

  3. The very idea that anyone could be a competent canonist without being a competent Latinist is absurd.
    Besides the obvious problem that the fullest meaning of an original can never be adequately translated into another language, consider this: The “canonist” holds a position of authoritative interpretation of legal texts — but he doesn’t even have a text to interpret unless it has been translated for him by someone who can interpret the original. The canonist is interpreting an interpretation. In other words, a few guys who actually know Latin have the power, by their translations, which can be more or less honest and accurate (but never entirely accurate) to steer the direction of the application of law.
    That’d be just great news for Modernists.

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