Prof Giorgio Giovanelli, priest of Fano-Fossombrone-Cagli-Pergola and Invited Professor of penal law at Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University, is one of a growing number of legal experts who see the practice of Church law as one of missionary service.
“We need to invest more in the formation of canon lawyers, who alone are able to respond to the exigencies of the current – and long-standing – situation in the Church,” Prof Giovanelli told the Catholic Herald. “I’ve been thinking for some time about how – precisely as canonists – to be part of ‘the outgoing Church’ and thus to take to heart Pope Francis’s call for renewed missionary zeal in this sense.” The practical upshot of his practical thinking is a new group of expert canonists called Giuristi per la pastorale – Jurists for Pastoral Service – animated by real commitment to Pope Francis’s vision and committed to the practice of excellence in the legal profession at the service of the Church.
I’ve been thinking for some time about how – precisely as canonists – to be part of ‘the outgoing Church’ and thus to take to heart Pope Francis’s call for renewed missionary zeal in this sense.
Prof Giovanelli is quick to specify that his Jurists for Pastoral Service desires to be a real Working Group, not a mere professional association among others. “This is how the idea was born, to involve a range of colleagues – university instructors, Rotal advocates, curial officials, civil and criminal lawyers,” inter alia, “who would place themselves at the disposal of the universal Church through the local Churches – and of the local bishop in primis – bringing our knowledge and experience to bear on general needs and especially on specific situations, the legal complexity of which is often considerable.”
The general idea is to rebuild confidence in the Church’s ability to deliver justice by showing – not telling – the faithful and the broad public that her systems of justice work. That involves training and equipping local jurisdictions with legal professionals who are not only competent, but dedicated to their mission of service, with the understanding that only the tireless practice of justice according to precise and exact standards can serve as a true and lasting basis for the responsibility, accountability, and transparency to which Pope Francis himself has called the Church and begun to give a paper framework.
We need to invest more in the formation of canon lawyers, who alone are able to respond to the exigencies of the current – and long-standing – situation in the Church.
“We go out,” said Prof Giovanelli, “we place ourselves in the service of the pastor, of clerics, and also of individuals in difficult situations, who need a technical approach – which is also and at the same time a pastoral approach – and we place ourselves at their service, offering our available expertise,” not only for consultation, “but for genuine problem-solving.”
Jurists for Pastoral Service was just getting off the ground when the coronavirus emergency struck. The project is waiting for the chance to offer proof-of-concept, and Giovanelli is raring to go.
What is certain is that every society needs law. A rightly ordered society depends on the law’s reliability. This means, at least, that juridical and judicial systems must be capable of conducting the work of justice in and for the societies to which they are given. What’s more, they must be seen by those for whom they work, to do the work well: they must be transparently competent, and competently transparent.