Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Three recent and important "short-reads" related to canon law

A number of pressing projects reduce the time I have available for blogging, but I wanted at least to call attention to three very different, but very interesting, short essays that I came across over the last few days.

The first offers
the recent remarks of Bp. Robert Vasa (Baker, OR) on episcopal conferences in general and on the role of diocesan bishops vis-à-vis the USCCB in particular. Vasa, a canon lawyer, manages to make about a half-dozen excellent points in hardly that many pages. His talk deserves, I think, an especially careful reading by two groups: Catholics concerned that the USCCB is usurping the leadership role of local bishops (Vasa argues that it’s really some bishops who are ducking behind conference statements as if those statements absolved them of having to make their own decisions); and, secular journalists who routinely exaggerate the authority of the episcopal conference because they prefer the kind of “low-confrontation” language that committee documents tend to use, as opposed to reporting on the straight talk coming from many diocesan bishops today. I’m adding Vasa’s text to my required reading list for applied ecclesiology students.

The second comes from Dr. Marie Hilliard, an ethicist (and canon lawyer) at the National Catholic Bio-Ethics Center in Philadelphia. Writing in the
September 2010 Ethics & Medics newsletter, Hilliard points out that a new drug, ulipristal, is headed for FDA approval as an emergency “contraceptive”, despite the overwhelming evidence that it works as an abortifacient. Worse, Hilliard reports that the Catholic Health Association has missed not one, but two, opportunities to weigh in against this drug, or at least to argue for a conscience exemption for health care professionals (Catholic or otherwise) who do not want to offer a death-dealing drug to women. I join many in wondering just what purpose is being served by the CHA anymore.

The third is a short report by Charles Wilson, Director of the St. Joseph’s Foundation (in TX), on the recent Canon Law Conference for Canonists and Civil Attorneys. Wilson focuses on the fine pair of talks given thereat by the
Franciscan iurisconsult Fr. John Coughlin, but he also manages to convey a sense of how blessed the wider meeting was, leaving us all hoping that it becomes an annual event. Wilson's article will eventually go on-line, but why wait? Sign up for the printed newsletter here (donations welcome, but not required).

Happy reading, folks.