| Year 1992 Canonical Studies
(Fr. Oswald Gracias)
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The ‘doctrinal conflicts’ that could and do sometime arise take place when it is felt by the Magisterium that the teaching of a particular theologian is not in keeping with the official teaching of the Church.

This study will comprise of four parts:

I describe briefly procedures in the Church as per the regulations of Canon Law. This is with the purpose of indication the principles that guide Church’s procedure and are important to it. Then I will describe the church’s procedure in dealing with doctrinal problems. This latter procedure will then be evaluated in the context of the basic principles which are to be safeguarded in any procedure. Finally, I would like to raise some questions about possible alternative procedure for these doctrinal conflicts.

The importance of this subject lies in the principle that the Magisterium and the theologians play a unique role in the responsibility for the “handing on of the faith” Paul VI said that one of the urgent issues in the Church is to clarify the relationship between “the mandate given to the ecclesiastical Magisterium to protect divine revelation and the task given to theologians to investigate and explain the doctrine of the faith”.

It is when these two are not in harmony that we have a conflict situation. This is something that should not be. Both groups have their own specific role and function in the Church. The international theological commission has stated that the dialogue between the Magisterium and the theologians “is limited only by the truth of faith which must be served and explained”.

As John Paul II has said “In their service to the truth, theologians and the Magisterium are constrained by common bonds: the word of God; the “sense of the faith” that flourished in the Church of the past and still flourishes; the documents of tradition in which the common faith of the people was proposed; and finally, pastoral and missionary care, which both (theologians and Magisterium) must attend”. In other words between the theologians and the Magisterium there is to be cooperation and collaboration.

I. To begin our study of doctrinal conflict procedures let us have a look at other Canonical procedures. The procedures do not deal directly with doctrinal conflict situations, but can be used for them. Thus when there is question of inflicting a penalty because of heresy, a penal process may be used. To remove a parish priest because of doctrinal problems, the process for removal of parish priest is to be used. If one has felt aggrieved by a decision and moves a Church tribunal, the contentious process would have to be used. Hence a study of these procedures could be useful.

1. The procedure for the declaration of nullity of a marriage is the procedure most commonly known. Church Tribunals deal almost exclusively with matrimonial cases. This is a “contentious case” procedure.

The procedure in a marriage case is this: The case may be introduced only be the parties whose marriage is being impugned. In some circumstances, where public good is involved, the promoter of justice may introduce the case. There are specific rules about the competence of the Tribunal. This Tribunal contacts the Respondent and a session is held to formulate the issue in question. A defender of the Bond is appointed. The investigative process then begins, with the Petitioner and his/her witnesses and the Respondent and his/her witnesses being heard.

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