Thursday, July 30, 2009

Japan bishops tell priests not to act as ‘lay judges’

Japan’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference has advised bishops and priests to pay a fine rather than act as lay judges on the grounds that doing so would be a violation of canon law.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan advised its 7,600 bishops, priests and members of monasteries and convents to refuse to do lay judge duty, even if it means paying a fine of as much as 100,000 yen ($1,050), Bloomberg quotes Asahi as reporting.

The organization says taking part would conflict with canon law barring clerics from public offices that exercise civil power, the report said.

The religious body is hoping clergy members will be excused under provisions that exclude people from the duty, such as mental stress, the Asahi said.

Japan, which has approximately 440,000 Catholics among its population of 127 million, according to the report, introduced the lay judge system in May, where citizens sit alongside professional judges in serious criminal cases, including rape and murder. Germany and Italy exempt Catholic clergy from jury duty, the Asahi said.

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