Canonical Procedure to be Followed
When an Allegation is Made
The following canonical principles should always be present with regard to any allegation that is made.
- The allegation should always be made in writing by the plaintiff and signed by the plaintiff in the presence of a Notary Public.
- If the bishop deems that the allegation has merit, he should proceed according to the norms of canons 1717-1715 which outlines the requirements of .a prior investigation. If he decides to proceed further with the case; the accused is to be given a copy of
the allegation and the proofs. (Canon. 1720:1)
- The good reputation of the people involved should be protected and also their right to privacy and confidentiality. (Canon 220) The good reputation of a person is always presumed unless the contrary is proven.
- The right to vindicate one’s rights: this presupposes that they are known. The right to defend them, in accordance with the law, either by trial or by forms of administrative recourse. The right to be judged equitable according to the provisions of law. When penalties are imposed, the right not to be punished with canonical penalties, except in accord with the norm of law. (Canon 221)
- People have a right to advocacy. (Canon 1481:1) The accused in a penal trial must always have an advocate, (Canon 1482:2)
- Code of Canon Law says that an advocate should have reached the age of-majority; may be either a man or a woman, cleric or layperson; enjoy a good reputation; be Catholic unless otherwise provided= have a doctorate in Canon Law or be otherwise qualified.
A Rotal decision, c. Burke, November 15, 1990 refers to this qualification. Canon 1483, when compared to c. 1657 of the old Code, shows a certain liberalization regarding the qualifications for an advocate. It is more readily allowed that he [or she] be a non-Catholic; and while he is required to be “peritus” or properly competent, it is no longer absolutely stated that this must be in canon. law.
The advocate should have sufficient knowledge of canonical procedure and substance so as to be able to represent his client fairly and properly before an ecclesiastical tribunal; provided the lawyer is “otherwise expert” as it is presumably true in the case of a competent civil lawyer. He cannot be rejected on the simple grounds that he has no formal canonical qualification.
- During the process the priest should continue to receive his salary and sustenance. (Canon 281)
- There should be available to the priests of the Diocese a list of competent canonists and civil attorneys. The Diocese should also pay the legal fees and expenses incurred in these cases.