“In the Church, besides physical persons, there are also juridic persons, that is, subjects in canon law of obligations and rights which correspond to their nature.
“Juridic persons are constituted either by the prescript of law or by special grant of competent authority given through a decree. They are aggregates of persons (universitates personarum) or of things (universitates rerum) ordered for a purpose which is in keeping with the mission of the Church and which transcends the purpose of the individuals.”
These lines are taken from the text of the Roman Catholic Church’s Canon Law, Chapter Two, dealing with the matter of “Juridic Persons.”
Little wonder that even many priests are scratching their heads in advance of a canon law trial in the matter of accuser Daniel Donohue versus the accused, Monsignor Charles Kavanagh.
The many mysteries of church law apart, it is a good thing that this case is finally being addressed. As such, it stands out in contrast to other cases that have been shamefully ignored by higher church authorities over the years.
It also stands out in contrast to the summary justice handed down to more than one priest in recent times who has not been given a chance to defend himself before his canonical peers.
It is vitally important that both accuser and accused are treated fairly in a process that varies quite dramatically from what we are used to in the courts of civil society.
With regard to the Kavanagh case, it is imperative that the process of a canon law hearing is impartial from the outset. What must not emerge is a preordained judgment designed to give the church some belated cover for past failings, most especially in the matter of the pedophile scandals.
The truth, no less than it would be in a worldly court, must be the sole arbiter at the end of the now anticipated proceeding, in Erie, Pa., one that will be based on laws that reach into a more esoteric, spiritual realm.