Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Vatican courts must uphold universal standards of justice, pope says

While marriage tribunals and other church courts must take into account the concrete situation of the individuals that come before them, Vatican appeals courts must uphold universal standards of justice, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The pope met Jan. 26 with members of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, a Vatican court that deals mainly with appeals in marriage annulment cases.

The court exists to service justice, he said.

"Because canonical processes regard the juridical aspects of the goods of salvation or other temporal goods that serve the mission of the church," he said, the church needs to count on uniformity "in the essential criteria for justice" and reasonable explanations for the judgments given.

Local tribunals and the Vatican appeals courts are not in opposition to one another, the pope said. The local tribunals play an indispensable role in making justice accessible to Catholics and in "investigating and resolving cases in their concreteness, which is sometimes tied to the culture and mentality" of the local population.

However, he said, "all the sentences must always be founded on common principles and norms of justice."

What is at stake, the pope said, is unity in the universal church.

"In the church, precisely because of its universality and because of the diversity of juridical cultures in which it is called to work, there always is the risk of forming ... a 'local jurisprudence' that is increasingly distant from the common interpretation of the positive laws and even the doctrine of the church on matrimony," Pope Benedict said.

The pope ended his speech by encouraging members of the Roman Rota to pray for the court each day.

"We must never forget that in the church everything is done through the strength of prayer, which transforms our existence and fills us with the hope that Jesus brings. This prayer, which is inseparable from our daily, serious and competent efforts, will bring light and strength, fidelity and authentic renewal to the life of this venerable institution," he said.

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