| Year 1994 Canonical Studies, PP. 16-21
TRIBUNAL WORK AS MINISTRY
(Fr. George Kureethra )
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In September this year a meeting of a few canonists was held in Bangalore at which Fr. Aloysius D’Souza presented a paper on ‘Novus Habitus Mentis’ and quoted Fr. Ladislaus Orsy according to whom “a new habit of the mind means a permanent disposition to raise new questions whenever it is so warranted by a gap in our knowledge and to search for an answer as long as that gap remains open”. It is necessary that we raise questions about the working of Marriage Tribunals in our county and find solutions to the problems that face us.

Vatican II

After Vatican II, canon law has never been static, but dynamic. Especially in the field of tribunal practice and jurisprudence with regard to annulments there have been revolutionary changes, which some consider as scandalous.

The Council made many new discoveries. It gave us a new theology of marriage. And since Canon Law is the practical application of Theology to concrete situations, there have been great changes in the laws and procedures that affect marriage. The Council has given us very deep insights into the meaning and purpose of marriage. This, naturally, has made a great impact on canonical jurisprudence.

The Council also stressed a change from the spirit of affirmation to a spirit of enquiry. We are to take a fresh look at the mysteries of our faith from the realm of the spirit. The Council’s new insights into the theology of marriage make it imperative on our part to take a new look at tribunal work.

Changes in Attitudes

Canon Law cannot remain in isolation. Canon Law must move with the Church. A new dynamism has been injected into the Church by the Council, and Canon Law cannot remain aloof. There has been, for example, a shift from legalism to pastoral concern. The Lord’s dictum ‘sabbath was made for man, and not man for sabbath’ is read in canonical circles as ‘law is for man, not man for law’.

One of the ten fundamental principles that guided the revision of the Code was that “pastoral care should be the hallmark of the Code. The Code should be neither simply a hortatory document not on the other hand an overly perceptive one. Laws should be marked by a spirit of charity, temperance, humaneness, and moderation Norms should not be too rigid; they should have a reasonable amount of discretionary authority in the hands of the Church’s pastoral leaders.” Authority is today understood as service; rather, “we have begun to take more seriously the teaching of the Lord, “whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (MK 10, 43).

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