Those Who Administer Justice in the Church Must Remember the Good Shepherd

Pope Francis Address to the Apostolic Signature 2013

Vatican, November 8, 2013

By Pope Francis
Allegory of Justice, by Raphael. In the Italia...

Allegory of Justice, by Raphael. In the Italian Renaissance, Justice did not usually appear blindfolded. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


On November 8, 2013, Pope Francis received in audience the
participants in the plenary assembly of the Supreme Tribunal of the
Apostolic Signatura, the dicastery of the Curia Romana which aside from
exercising the function of supreme judicial authority, oversees the
correct administration of justice in the Church. On this occasion, the
Assembly focused on promoting an effective defense of the bond of
marriage in canonical annulment.

Your Eminences’

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This,your Plenary Session, gives me the opportunity to receive all of you
who work in the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature, expressing
to each one my gratitude for the promotion of the correct administration
of justice in the Church. I greet you cordially and I thank the
Cardinal Prefect for the words with which he introduced our meeting.

activity is geared to fostering the work of the ecclesiastical
tribunals, called to respond adequately to the faithful who turn to the
justice of the Church to obtain a correct decision. You do your utmost
so that they function well, and you support the responsibility of
bishops in forming suitable ministers of justice. Among these, the
Defender of the bond carries out an important function, especially in
the process of matrimonial nullity. It is necessary, in fact, that he be
able to fulfill his own part with efficacy, to facilitate the
attainment of truth in the definitive sentence, in favor of the pastoral
good of the parties in question.

In this regard, the Apostolic
Signature has offered significant contributions. I am thinking in
particular of the collaboration in the preparation of the Instruction Dignitas connubii, which
explains the applicable trial norms. Placed in this line also is the
present Plenary Session, which has put at the center of its works the
promotion of an effective defense of the matrimonial bond in the
canonical processes of nullity.

The attention given to the
ministry of the Defender of the bond is without a doubt opportune,
because his presence and his intervention are obligatory for the whole
development of the process (cf. Dignitas connubii, 56, 1-2;
279, 1). Foreseen in the same way is that he must propose all sorts of
proofs, exceptions, recourses and appeals that, in respect of the truth,
foster the defense of the bond.

The mentioned Instruction
describes, in particular, the role of the Defender of the bond in the
causes of nullity for psychic incapacity, which in some Tribunals
constitute the sole reason for nullity. It underlines the diligence that
he must put in assessing the questions addressed to the experts, as
well as the results of the opinions themselves (cf. 56, 4). Therefore,
the Defender of the bond who wishes to render a good service cannot
limit himself to a hasty reading of the acts, or to bureaucratic and
generic answers. In his delicate task, he is called to try to harmonize
the prescriptions of the Code of Canon Law with the concrete situations
of the Church and of society.

The faithful and complete
fulfillment of the task of the Defender of the bond does not constitute a
pretension damaging of the prerogatives of the ecclesiastical judge, to
whom corresponds solely the definition of the cause. When the Defender
of the bond exercises the duty to appeal, also to the Roman Rota,
against a decision which he holds damaging to the truth of the bond, his
task does not abuse that of the judge. In fact, the judges can find, in
the careful work of him who defends the matrimonial bond, a help to
their own activity.

The Second Ecumenical Vatican Council defined
the Church as communion. Seen in this perspective are the service of
the Defender of the bond and the consideration that is reserved to him,
in a respectful and attentive dialogue.

A final, very important
annotation as regards the workers committed in the ministry of ecclesial
justice. They act in the name of the Church; they are part of the
Church. Therefore, it is necessary to always keep alive the connection
between the action of the Church that evangelizes and the action of the
Church that administers justice. The service to justice is a commitment
of apostolic life: it requires to be exercised by keeping one’s gaze
fixed on the icon of the Good Shepherd, who bends down to the lost and
wounded sheep.

At the conclusion of this meeting, I encourage you
all to persevere in the search for a limpid and correct exercise of
justice in the Church, in response to the legitimate desires that the
faithful address to Pastors, especially when, confidently, they ask to
have their own status authoritatively clarified. May Mary Most Holy, who we invoke with the title Speculum iustitiae, help you and the whole Church to walk on the path of justice, which is the first form of charity. Thank you and good work!

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1 Comment

  1. November 14, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Reblogged this on The Iniquitous: Church Crimes.


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