Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Canon Law Convention: Yakima, Washington

By Father Scott Joseph Garrett, J.C.L.

I have been a canon lawyer for about three years. I have a framed copy of the diploma on the wall in the rectory. What that means is that I can officially sign my name in the Catholic Church with the initials JCL at the end of my name.

To get my JCL I went to school for five summers, took a grueling comprehensive oral exam after those five summers, and wrote a thesis. In my theses, about lay women being able to perform marriages in remote Alaskan Villages, I quoted and referenced Reverend Francis G. Morrisey, OMI. He is our speaker at the Canon Law convention in Yakima I am currently attending.

The convention runs from April 12 to April 14, 2010. Having already had three talks on “Respect and Protection of Rights in the Church” Fr. Morrisey is lively, humorous, and thought provoking. He currently teaches in the canon law school at Ottawa, Canada.

From left to right, these are the three of the four women who hold the tribunal together in Alaska, Jenny Michaelson of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alethea Johnson of the Diocese of Juneau, and Barb Tolliver of the Diocese of Fairbanks. All three send me cases in the mail to work on. Sr. Joan of the Archdiocese of Anchorage was not able to attend.

From left to right, Alethea Johnson (Juneau), Jenny Michaelson (Anchorage), and Barbara Tolliver (Fairbanks).

Barbara Tolliver pays close attention as Fr. Morrisey speaks about protecting the rights of Catholics.

Fr. Ave, one of my instructors at Mount Angel seminary, helped me to understand the theology behind funerals. He suggested that at the beginning of the funeral, rather than near the end, the people should talk about the deceased person, i.e. Eulogy. His reason was that the Eulogy is about the person's past and the Catholic Mass is about the deceased person's future. After trying this I found that people were able to enter into the mass more prayerfully instead of nervously awaiting their time to talk on the deceased behalf.

Prior Paul, a Benedictine Monk, is also attending. He is not the Prior now but when I was at the Seminary at Mount Angel he was. He was my first intructor of canon law. In fact, I still have the computerized notes I took in his class.

I am currently working on my first full blown marriage case where I am the judge. I am working with Alethea in the Juneau Diocese. My normal job is defending the bond of marriage. Since I cannot be both judge and defender, Sr. Carolyn Roeber, O.P. (Dominican, order of preachers) was selected to be the Defender of the Bond on my first marriage case. Sr. Carolyn is now in the Diocese of Seattle but used to be in the Diocese of Fairbanks.

Fr. Michael Snyeider and I were classmates while we attended Canon Law school at Catholic University in Washington, DC.

Monday, April 12th, 2010 Alethea Johnson and I pose for a picture.

There are about 40 people attending this conference. Today, the four of us from Alaska ordered a pizza for lunch and talked about standardization of our canon law forms for all three dioceses and the safe transfer of date between dioceses. We made great progress.

There are 1752 Canon Laws in our church. The most important is "the last, which will be first!" Canon 1752 says that Canon Law is for the salvation of souls. It states, "In cases of transfer the prescripts of canon 1747 are to be applied, canonical equity is to be observed, and the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes."

I will be returning to Dillingham when the conference is over on Thursday.

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