Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Thursday, May 25, 2006

Msgr. Cormac Burke's canon law website

Msgr. Cormac Burke is an Irish priest of the prelature Opus Dei, a member of the Irish bar, professor of modern languages, and a prolific theological author. More than all of these, though, Msgr. Burke is one of the world's most influential English-speaking canon lawyers, serving 13 years on the Roman Rota as an "auditor" (essentially, a judge), retiring in 1999, only to continue his priestly service by teaching in Kenya.

Msgr. Burke is that unusual kind of man who has maintained extensive scholarly output while performing Church work at the highest levels; in him, we have the chance to see how a canonical judge (one with a common law formation at that) adjudicates actual cases, and how the same man reflects on those issues as an academic. Thus, his decision to launch a personal website, featuring many of his books, articles, and judicial sentences, is very exciting news. His materials (often entire works) are now available in several languages.

Note that in earlier centuries, retired Rotal judges would often publish collections of their sentences for the edification of those to follow. Ius novissimum canonists such as Cavalerius, Herrera, and Otthobono come to mind here. But with the codification of canon law in the early twentieth-century, this practice seems to have fallen off. It's been 50 years since Charles Holbock, a Rotal advocate, published his personal guide to Rotal jurisprudence, the Tractatus de Jurisprudentia Sacrae Romanae Rotae. So, by making his Rotal sentences available electronically, Msgr. Burke revives an invaluable practice, and helps bring the wisdom of canon law to bear more effectively on the issues of our time.

Related interest: Click here for Dr. Peters' reading notes on papal addresses to the Roman Rota; click here for Dr. Peters' 1990 review of Burke's Authority and Freedom in the Church (1988).