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#282959 03/16/08 01:37 AM
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Some canon lawyers say due process limited for accused priests

By Agostino Bono
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As U.S. dioceses prepare to evaluate the cases of clerics accused of sex abuse of minors, several canon lawyers defending accused priests have complained that the procedures limit due process for their clients.

"Under church law you are innocent until proven guilty," said Oblate Father Frank Morrisey, a canon lawyer who is defending several U.S. priests.

Yet, once a cleric has been accused, he is suspended from public ministry before being able to mount a defense, he said.

Critics say that this amounts to punishment without a proof of guilt.

Father Morrisey said that the accused has to wait months for the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has overall authority in sex abuse cases, to review the diocese's preliminary investigation and tell the diocese how to proceed in the case.

Another canon lawyer, Father Nicholas Rachford, said this delay puts accused priests in a state of "suspended animation."

Father Morrisey said to expect a six- to eight-month delay after a bishop sends the case to the doctrinal congregation.

http://www.catholicnews.com/data/charter/chtr02.htm


To all the legal wonks out there,
I came across this article while googling for something else. It mentions a Byzantine rite Catholic clergyman it.

The canon lawyers are complaining about the length of time for cases of accused priests to be handled by the Doctrine of Faith at the Vatican. The article states only months are involved.

I know a Catholic couple who are contemplating marriage. They are middle aged. The gentleman was previously married in the Catholic Church, but got a divorce after he caught his wife cheating on him. He has to wait for maybe two years (this is the average time in his diocese) for his annulment to go through. The process involves hoops and jumps. Now, his future wife (a Catholic who was never married) isn't getting younger; her biological clock is ticking and she wishes to have children (in this life). But she must wait two more years.

It seems that both celibate clergyman involved in sex scandals (accused, not proven) and men who are contemplating remarriage in the Catholic church (but who must wait a longer period of time) demonstrate that the *process* is broken. Accused priests and their canon lawyers must wait for the Vatican, while men who want to marry, but must have an annulment, must wait for their bishops.

What can make these processes better?

Ed

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Look at Saints Padre Pio (Roman Catholic) and St. Nectarios (Greek Orthodox). Both were falsely accused of sexual impropriety, but bore their trials patiently without complaining. Padre Pio could not hear confessions for years and St. Nectarios was deprived of his bishopric for the rest of his life, although he remained a bishop. Incidentally, both men were attacked by freemasons from the sources I read.

In the Orthodox Church, a party who divorces his or her spouse must undergo a penance of about 3 to 5 years before they can have a second or a third marriage and the biological clock keeps on ticking. Even then, there is no guarantee that the bishop will approve the marriage.

I know several couples who were not given a blessing by the bishop to marry. Emotional immaturity and lack of repentance are factors in denying the blessing to marry.

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Originally Posted by Elizabeth Maria
In the Orthodox Church, a party who divorces his or her spouse must undergo a penance of about 3 to 5 years before they can have a second or a third marriage and the biological clock keeps on ticking. Even then, there is no guarantee that the bishop will approve the marriage.

Why must the innocent party get punished? His x-wife got re-married outside the church after the divorce, but he has to wait because of the annulment process. The x-wife could care less about their marriage or their church; the Catholic man wants to remain in the Catholic church and do things right. Again, punish the victim, enable the wrongdoer. The church sends the wrong signal. The couple are in their late thirties.

Ed

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What can make it better?

Perhaps educating our youth about the holiness of the marriage vow and how their bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and they should be mindful of God's presence. A large dose of wisdom and prudence in choosing a spouse cannot hurt either. Sometimes it is only after unwise choices that the wisdom becomes apparent, but if children are involved then a divorce would be even more painful.

Marriage is a serious matter and is not to be taken lightly, especially if three persons are involved: the husband, the wife, and God. The 1960s did not teach us much about the sanctity of marriage. I would rather listen to the Church.

Terry

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Originally Posted by EdHash
Why must the innocent party get punished? His x-wife got re-married outside the church after the divorce, but he has to wait because of the annulment process. The x-wife could care less about their marriage or their church; the Catholic man wants to remain in the Catholic church and do things right. Again, punish the victim, enable the wrongdoer. The church sends the wrong signal. The couple are in their late thirties.

Ed


In marriage, here is rarely an innocent party. We are all sinners. The prophet Hosea was told to marry a harlot and to receive her back every time she was unfaithful.

One priest explained it this way:

Whether we are TV addicts and feel the compulsion to watch all the sports games and ignore our spouse and children, or

Whether we are smokers who are addicted to nicotine and do not really care if we gradually kill our spouses through second hand smoke, or

Whether we are addicted gamblers who really do not care if we use up the family riches and reduce our spouse to poverty,

All these sinful behaviors are forms of adultery.

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As far as priests removed from public ministry, well... I have to side with the Father in the article who points out that the reason is to protect the public. It's not a reflection of guilt or innocence. It makes sense to do this, especially when the supposed impropriety involves minors. At least under church process, the priest continues to hold his status as a priest. He's got the right to fully defend himself and really, he probably needs time to participate in his own defense. Really, the church has to have an internal process that protects the accused rights and protects his flock, especially minors. Without such internal process, there would be a potential for even more devastating lawsuits the church can ill afford. Like up in Boston and elsewhere.

As far as annulments, I've heard everything from a matter of months to a couple years for them to be completed. After all, they have to include time to notify the parties, to investiage, and if a party contests annulment, to process the appeal. I know two people who had marriages annulled. Both requested it as soon as the civil divorce was final; both marriages were annulled in under a year. Both parties were able to remarry in the church years later with no encumbrance whatsoever.

I must protest sports-watching as adultery. Egads. I guess your priest hasn't met one of our priests who starts his homily off with last nights scores - lol. My dear husband knew when he married me that when it's Cup time, I will be watching hock. The secret to being happily married, as we are (for 16 years) is to appreciate each others harmless quirks with patience and love and to work on your relationship every single day. Too many marriages lack patience and love. Marriages break up for all kinds of reasons, many of them "good" reasons, but that isn't a reason to get down on marriage. It really is a great thing. But it a serious thing, too.

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Since a part of my parish ministry is helping people get through the process I am in a position to address that. The Church presumes the validity of a marriage (this is the meaning of the phrase "marriage enjoys the favor of law" found in canon law). Thus, for an annulment to be granted (and we actually talk about decrees of nullity here meaning that there never was a marriage) it must be proven that a marriage never took place, even though the appearance of marriage did occur.

This process is time consuming in that evidence and testimony must be gathered. A large part of the delay is actually due to this process taking place. Since, for the most part, this involves something that was "over" years before, it may take time to locate the respondent and the witnesses.

Another reason for the delay is the large number of cases and the paucity of judges to hear those cases. My Latin diocese has hired/trained a number of judges and reduced the time from three years to two. That may seem long, but it's much easier to gather the data in a case regarding a cleric and sex abuse than it is to gather the needed data for an annulment.

Fr. Deacon Ed

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I guess part of what I don't understand is why the assumption that he *deserves* an annulment and remarriage? Is adultery actually some kind of automatic grounds for annulment and remarriage? Is this not kind of an example of how self centered we all often are assuming others ought to just "hop to" for us? No one enabled his ex by not stopping or hindering her civil remarriage. This doesn't make sense to me. If you jump through the hoops to get married you ought to jump through the hoops to nullify that marriage and start another one.

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Adultery is not one of the grounds for annulment. The determination of whether or not to grant a decree of nullity is based upon whether or not a valid marriage ever existed. If, at the time the marriage was entered into, there were one or more elements required for marriage missing, then the marriage is not valid. If, however, the marriage was validly established then the Church cannot grant a decree of nullity. Nothing that happens after a valid marriage is established can nullify the marriage -- it's a covenant, not a contract.

Fr. Deacon Ed

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My husband went through the process and it is really a tough process. It isn't easy like many people say. He had to write pages and pages about the marriage. My husband also had the witnesses that had to do the same thing. He was willing to accept whatever the Church said. Even if that meant he couldn't marry again. The only thing he felt entitled to was a judgment from the Church. (It took 3 and half years!)

Thank you Deacon for helping folks do this. I am sure it isn't easy!

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Originally Posted by Annie_SFO
I must protest sports-watching as adultery. Egads. I guess your priest hasn't met one of our priests who starts his homily off with last nights scores - lol. My dear husband knew when he married me that when it's Cup time, I will be watching hock. The secret to being happily married, as we are (for 16 years) is to appreciate each others harmless quirks with patience and love and to work on your relationship every single day.
Early in our marriage, I was sitting in my recliner watching my football game. She came up and kissed me. When I responded in kind, she was satisfied that she could distract me from it, and just doesn't worry about it smile

hawk


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