01/21/2012, 00.00
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Pope “true law is inseparable from justice" in the Church

The criteria for interpretation of canon law in the speech that Benedict XVI addressed today to the Roman Rota. The constant need to " sentire cum Ecclesia " which leads to the " search for the right solutions in everyday life of the faithful and the community."
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - In the Church, as in civil society, “true law is inseparable from justice" and in canon law this implies a constant need to "sentire cum Ecclesia" [to think with the Church - ed] which leads to the "search for the right solutions in everyday life of the faithful and the community. " The basic criteria that must guide the interpretation of canon law were the theme of Benedict XVI’s address this morning to the Prelate Auditors, officials and lawyers of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota on the occasion of the solemn inauguration of the judicial year.

"First, the hermeneutics of canon law is closely linked to the very concept of Church law. If canon law is identified with the system of the code of canon law, then knowledge of what is legal in the Church would essentially consist in understanding what the legal texts establish. At first glance this approach would seem to fully appreciate human law. However, the impoverishment resulting from such a concept is clear: with the practical oblivion of natural law and positive law divine, as well as the vital relationship of each right with the communion and mission of the Church, the work of the interpreter is deprived of a vital contact with the ecclesial reality. "

The Pope also challenged forms of interpretation which "allow a more consonant approach with the theological foundations and intent, also pastoral, of canon law, which can lead to a juridical creativity in which the single situation becomes a decisive factor in determining the authentic meaning of the legal precept in the concrete case”. Such an imposition "fails to overcome the very positivism it denounces, but simply limits itself to substituting it with another in which the work of human interpretation becomes the protagonist in determining what is legal."

"Another path exists in which a proper comprehension of canon law gives way to a process of interpretation that is part of the search for truth regarding law and justice in the Church. As I pointed out to the Federal Parliament of my country, in the Reichstag in Berlin, true law is inseparable from justice. This principle obviously also applies to canon law, in the sense that it can not be locked within a merely human system legal, but must be connected to a just order of the Church, in which there is a higher law. In this context, positive human law loses the primacy attributed to it, since law is no longer identified with it alone; in this, however, human law is valued as an expression of justice, primarily for what it declares regarding divine law, but also for what it introduces regarding self-determination as a human right. "

To respond then to the "crucial question" of what is right in each case one must "always look at the reality that is disciplined, and not only when the law is primarily declarative of divine right, but also when it introduces constitutively human rules." In such a realistic prospect, "the interpretation of canon law must take place in the Church. This is not merely an external, environmental circumstance: it is also a reference to the same humus of canon law and the realities that are regulated by it. Thinking with the Church also makes sense in this discipline, because of the doctrinal foundations that are always present and active in the legal norms of the Church. "

"These reflections take on a special significance in the context of the laws regarding the constitutive act of marriage, its consummation and the reception of Holy Orders, and those relating to the respective processes. Here the true sense of harmony with the law of the Church becomes a matter of deep and broad practical impact in people's lives and communities and requires special attention". In particular, all legally binding means that aim to ensure unity in the interpretation and application of the laws that is required by justice should be applied ": papal Magisterium specifically regarding this field, especially in the content of speeches to the Roman Rota; the jurisprudence of the Roman Rota, the standards and statements issued by other departments of the Roman Curia. "This hermeneutic unity in what is essential does not in any way diminish the functions of the local tribunals, the first called to deal with the complex real-life situations that occur in every cultural context. Each one of them, in fact, are required to proceed with a real sense of reverence towards the truth of law, trying to practice in an exemplary way, in the judicial and administrative institutions, communion in discipline, as an essential aspect of the Church's unity".

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