Tribunal personnel examine policies, procedures


CHARLESTON — Tribunal personnel from the four dioceses that make up the Province of Atlanta; Charleston, Charlotte, Raleigh and Savannah, and the Archdiocese of Atlanta, met in Charleston April 27-29 to discuss theoretical and practical issues for judges, defenders, advocates and court personnel.

Over the years, the gatherings have been used to discuss various issues regarding the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

Topics for the meeting surface within the province during the year and are brought to the Court of Appeals in Atlanta as possible agenda items. Personnel from each of the courts in the province present the different topics, with each presentation followed by a group discussion so attendees can share canonical expertise on the particular topic.

Among agenda topics this year were presentations on traditional canonical grounds of exclusion, such as the good of spouses, fidelity and sacramentality; an investigation into the concept of mental disabilities in the 1983 Code of Canon Law; information on both the Archives and Competence programs; a report on the second para-legal session and any plans to extend this program.

There was also a talk on Future Condition; a presentation on Defective Convalidation; an explanation of how First Instance Courts in the province handle the Documentary Process; a report by members of the Savannah Tribunal regarding what they learned from their recent trip to Rome; and what Pope John Paul II said in his annual address to the Roman Rota regarding plans to establish a Vatican interdepartmental commission to draft an instruction on the conduct of trials concerning marriage cases.

During the second day of the gathering, Bishop David B. Thompson celebrated noon Mass for the group. In his homily, Bishop Thompson thanked the Tribunal personnel from the three states, telling them that their work “was appreciated very much.”

The bishop then alluded to the example of Moses the lawgiver and the 10 Commandments, which is the symbol of the Canon Law Society of America.

He urged attendees to “think of Moses. You have manna. You have God’s bread, the bread of life. Give this bread as ministers in the Tribunal. Give that bread generously. Also, give that bread carefully.”

The bishop continued: “The more concerned we are, the better we are going to be. The greatest difficulty is not in administering the law, but how we do it,” referring to manners and attitude.

“Physicians attempt to cause the least amount of pain. As messengers of love, grace and salvation, we dare not be less than generous in giving, in trying to help these people,” Bishop Thompson emphasized.

In closing, he congratulated the Tribunal personnel from the Province of Atlanta for being one of only two provinces in the country that hold annual meetings to discuss canonical issues.

“We are fortunate to be in a province that has a very good working relationship between the Tribunals and its Court of Appeals,” said Mary McKenzie Smircic, director of the Tribunal for the Diocese of Charleston.