Sunday Homilies : Pastor's Notes for October 3, 2010

from Father Kevin Laughery, Troy St. Jerome and St. Jacob St. James Parishes, Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. Note: Comments from this page do not reach me; instead, email:

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On this weekend, when the Gospel refers to believers as servants doing their duty, I'd like to explain the major duty which takes up most of my working hours.

When I entered the seminary in 1975, I knew that, following two years of studies at our own diocesan seminary in Springfield (it closed in 1986), I would have six more years of seminary in St. Louis.  Shortly after entering the seminary, however, I saw a list of all our seminarians and discovered that two of them were studying in Rome.  I said to myself: "I think I'd like to do that, too."  At the end of college seminary, Bishop McNicholas told me: "Well, Kev (bishops can get away with calling me Kev), I'll send you to Rome, but you'll have to get a canon law degree."  So I ended up living in Rome from 1979 to 1985, and I did get my licentiate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1984.

As of the end of 1983, when a new code of canon law went into effect, it became necessary for diocesan tribunals to have judges with canon law degrees; no longer would there be a loophole by which judges at least had to be "truly expert" in the law.  I remain one of the very few priests of our diocese with a canon law degree.  Throughout my 27 years of priesthood, I have been involved in the work of our diocesan tribunal, as well as the interdiocesan Court of Appeals of the Province of Chicago.  Bishop Lucas put me in charge of the tribunal on an interim basis in 2005, and in 2006 I became judicial vicar.

Theoretically, a diocesan court or "tribunal" could litigate any matter which parties might care to bring before us.  In practice, however, our work is almost completely devoted to the petitions of persons who seek to be declared free to enter a new marriage in the Catholic Church following a divorce.  In weeks to come, I will write more about this work.

Category:general -- posted at: 10:29am CDT