Some 360 Church leaders who can confidently not just pronounce a slew of thorough Latin-titled documents, but cite them left and right, converged in Phoenix Oct. 8-11.
There were laity, sisters, priests — also monsignors, bishops and archbishops — among them. All have a hand in Church law. They hailed from a good 45 U.S. states plus its law-making city, five countries and, of course, Vatican City, to reflect on and further embrace the convention theme of “Canonical Equity: In Practice with a Vision for the Future.”
The convention marked the 80th annual gathering of Canon Law Society of America members. The professional association is open to those who want to collaborate in the Church’s pastoral ministry as it pertains to its legal and canonical structures.
Members might spend their days overseeing marriage cases, considering a response to Church scandal, applying RCIA norms, discerning sacramental ministry for those with disabilities and more. The Church has also seen new institutes of consecrated life emerge in recent decades. Canon law experts in each diocese are familiar with the Code of Canon Law that provides norms about them, particularly regarding their foundation.
The nation’s canon experts even heard from those in the Diocese of Phoenix Tribunal. Representatives spoke formally and as a panel during one of 15 breakout seminars. They shared insights from their experience in serving Spanish-speaking people in matters pertaining to marriage nullity. About 60 people were expected to attend the seminar.
Fr. Ernesto Reynoso made it his goal as adjutant judicial vicar to “explain the challenges that cultural tribunals might have in ministering to Spanish-speaking persons.” Fr. Reynoso and others on the panel also spoke about the opportunities that come with having a fully functional and Spanish-friendly tribunal.
“We hope we have something to offer. We hope we can learn from them too,” Nicole Delaney, director of the tribunal, said a day before the seminar. Many U.S. dioceses “are and soon will engage with” the Spanish-speaking population with greater frequency, according to convention material.
Early into the convention, Delaney found the other seminars and keynote speakers “extremely relevant and timely.” One keynote talk examined canon law in relation to equity, economy and reasonableness. Another addressed employing equity, or standing in the breach, and a third looked at equity from the minister’s and community’s perspective.
Upwards of 90 people attended a seminar that examined the idea of a bishop as legislator.
“For many priests canon law is a delayed love affair,” Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, began. His extensive bio includes a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and appointments in the Ivory Coast, Central America and Puerto Rico. Archbishop Broglio has tended to legal stuff as a bishop since his November 2007 appointment with the AMS, in addition to roles as chairman of a canonical affairs task force and special assembly and as a member of the Committee on Canon Law and Church Governance.
“Lumen Gentium” refers to the authority of a bishop as “vicar and ambassador of Christ. It’s proper and immediate,” Archbishop Broglio said.
He explained that bishops and archbishops have some leeway when it comes to transferring mid-week holy days of obligation to the weekend when more faithful might be able to observe, to set the age for confirmation — as long as it’s past the age of reason — the order of the sacraments of initiation, marriage preparation requirements and more.
“The governance of a diocese is also an expression of a father’s love … in most families, there are rules to ensure a healthy family life … for children to realize their purpose and mission,” Archbishop Broglio said.
Church law should exhibit prudent consultation, heeding the voice of God which resounds in the conscience, he said.
“That seems obvious, but the obvious sometimes needs to be stated.”