BlogWatcher - US canon lawyer supports Archbishop Hart


There have been many Australian visitors this week to the blog of Detroit canon lawyer Dr Edward Peters, who has backed Melbourne’s Archbishop Denis Hart. The archbishop wrote in The Age that Melbourne canon lawyer Father Ian Waters was misrepresented by the media’s interpretation of him as highly critical of the pope’s actions in the Bishop Morris case. Peters said:

“I think Hart’s corrective regarding Waters, if I understand him, is right… My impression is that there is rather less in Waters’ remarks than meets the eye, by which I mean, supporters of Bp. Morris seem to be taking Waters to be saying considerably more (to their liking) than in fact he actually says.”

“In the end, Waters concurs with [Judge] Carter’s conclusion that ‘Bishop Morris was denied procedural fairness and natural justice.’ Notice, first, what this statement does not say: it does not say that Morris should have been left in office; it does not say that, had Morris been canonically prosecuted, he would have been vindicated; it does not say that popes have no authority to remove bishops from office except upon conviction of ecclesiastical crimes. My impression is that Morris supporters have assumed all three points to be Waters’ position.”


Australia Incognita agrees with Peters’ opinion, and she hastens to question Father Waters’ motivation.

“Dr Peters does confirm a key point that I made in response to a commenter on this blog, to the effect that Judge Carter's opinion, being that of a non-canonist, is totally irrelevant from a canonical point of view. Which raises the question of just why Fr Waters would lend it credibility by adding his own views to it and endorsing some of its conclusions!”


Indirectly related to the Bishop Morris case is an interesting point that Sentire Cum Ecclesia makes about the difference between civil and canon law. He is blogging on the pope’s address last month to the Roman Rota, which is the last court of appeal for marriage annulment cases.

“The basic idea of the speech, as I see it, is that the process of applying Canon Law is not just about applying ‘the letter of the law’ (to swipe a phrase from St Paul), which is what secular lawyers do, always looking for a ‘loophole’ that will enable the outcome the client desires, but rather an activity of faith itself… it seems that Pope Benedict is saying that things will be vastly improved if canon lawyers interpret and apply Canon Law itself according to the “lex credendi” and not just according to the “mere semantic” meaning of the letter of the law.”


At, David Timbs is highly critical of what he sees as George Weigel’s “paradigm of contempt” in Weigel's well-read analysis of the state of the Catholic Church. 

“Selective quotations from Catholic Social teaching from Leo XIII to Benedict XVI mixed in with eclectic and a-contextual biblical references are employed to construct a capitalist narrative which would find favour with dictatorial Fascist regimes in their various incarnations…

“Over the past decade or so Weigel’s identity and authority have been rooted and anchored in at times vitriolic diatribe and churlish nagging which have been directed at a large bloc of fellow believers whom he regards as heterodox dissenters. In his paradigm of contempt he has authored a kind of Restorationist lexicon, listing terms such as Cafeteria Catholicism, New Church and Catholicism Lite. This has equipped a legion of the small minded, insecure, noisy and intellectually lazy minority with the rhetoric of rage and resentment they so crave.”

Recent idle speculation about the death of Pope Benedict is perhaps what leads Timbs to predict that it might also signal the end of Weigel’s reign as the king of the Catholic commentariat. 

“There are … emerging signs that with Benedict’s death, Weigel’s pretentions might unravel, and along with them, his cosmos of certitudes… Unfortunately for him, Weigel has neither the imagination nor the analytical resources even to speculate in a sensible way about a Church after Benedict.”


The Tablet’s deputy editor Elena Curti blogs on the sexual abuse symposium held in Rome earlier this month. 

“The clear message … is that the Church must listen to victims and that a bishop who fails to act on abuse allegations is guilty of negligence… [But] the niceties of this position will be lost on those abuse victims who have suffered the trauma of having their allegations resisted by the Church, leaving their abuser free to assault more children… Victims then resort to legal redress, only to find their claims for compensation fiercely resisted in the courts.”


Father Bob has posted his first blog since his relocation from the South Melbourne parish church to the offices of the Father Bob Maguire Foundation in nearby Albert Park.

“Big change of life for me. Didn’t realise. Didn’t train for it. Done now… Small inconvenience in comparison with most other people going through accommodation, employment or health issues...

“Seems to be significant increase in number of people in real fear of loss of any of the above. Fear is a socially dangerous ingredient. Add it to a society as healthy as ours and, even then, fear tempts otherwise benevolent people to develop suspicion and hate.”

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins, founding editor of CathNews, compiles this 'Blog Watcher' column every Monday.

Disclaimer: CathBlog is an extension of CathNews story feedback. It is intended to promote discussion and debate among the subscribers to CathNews and the readers of the website. The opinions expressed in CathBlog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference or of Church Resources.

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