Msgr. Robert Oliver named judicial vicar

BRAINTREE -- Msgr. Robert Oliver, BH, has been appointed as judicial vicar for the Archdiocese of Boston. He will begin in this position Sept. 1, succeeding Father Jonathan P. DeFelice, OSB.

As in civil government, there are three branches of governance in the Church and in a diocese or archdiocese: legislative, executive, and judicial. In a diocese, the "legislative" function of making laws is reserved to the "ordinary," the diocesan bishop or archbishop. Executive authority, as in the power to make day-to-day decisions for the diocese, can be delegated to a "vicar general.'' In the same way, the ordinary can give judicial authority to his "judicial vicar" to exercise all things that fall under the judicial branch of governance.

In his new role, Msgr. Oliver will assume the responsibility of running the day-to-day operations of The Metropolitan Tribunal, the archdiocese's chief court, and dealing with canonical legal cases and appeals submitted to the tribunal. Though the majority of the tribunal's work involves marriage nullity, it can also conduct canonical trials.

"I think the diocese right now is in a place where a lot of good things are happening. So, this gives me a chance to be working with the people who are doing many things," Msgr. Oliver said in an interview with The Pilot.

Born in New York in 1984, Msgr. Oliver entered the Brotherhood of Hope, a religious community headquartered in Boston that is principally dedicated to Catholic campus ministry at secular universities. He was ordained a priest for Boston in 2000. He holds a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College, a doctoral degree in ecclesiology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and a doctoral degree in canon law from the Catholic University of America.

From 2002 to 2012, Msgr. Oliver worked as a judge, promoter of justice, defense advocate, and advisor for several dioceses and religious communities. In the Archdiocese of Boston, his roles during these years included director of the Office of the Delegate, director of the Office for Investigations, and director for the Office of Canonical Affairs. He was instrumental in training diocesan officials across the U.S. to implement the bishops' reforms responding to sexual abuse committed by clergy.

Msgr. Oliver has held several positions at St. John's Seminary, including professor of theology and of canon law (1997-2010), dean of students (2004-2007), and director of the Master of Arts in Ministry Program for Laity (2005-2007). He was visiting professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America from 2010 to 2012.

In 2012, Msgr. Oliver was named promoter of justice at the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In 2014, he became secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, where he served until 2021.

Upon returning from Rome in 2021, Msgr. Oliver joined the faculty of Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary. He will continue working there while serving as judicial vicar.

Msgr. Oliver said the archdiocese has "a very fine tribunal." He previously worked with its members during his time serving in the office of canonical affairs.

"I'm looking forward to working with them again," he said.