New judge will contribute to Metropolitan Tribunal's work

Metropolitan Tribunal staff and well-wishers gather in the offices of the tribunal to witness the swearing-in of Andrea Ponzone as a judge. Pilot photo/Christopher S. Pineo

BRAINTREE -- Judicial Vicar Father Mark O'Connell swore in a new judge to the Metropolitan Tribunal at the pastoral center in Braintree, Aug. 20, who will serve the court that functions on behalf of Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley in judicial matters.

With his parents video conferencing from his native Casale Monferrato in Piedmont, Italy and his hand on a Bible, Andrea Ponzone, 34, swore to uphold and maintain personal communion with the Catholic Church in his words and actions, to carry out the duties accorded to him with deference to the Church Universal and the local Church, and to hold fast to the faith while avoiding teachings opposed to it. He also professed loyalty to Church leaders and fealty to the Code of Canon Law.

"Andrea, on behalf of the cardinal, you are a judge." Father O'Connell said, as Ponzone officially became a judge at the tribunal, part of the backbone of the judicial system in the Church.

As a judge, his role differs greatly from what one might expect in a secular court. As opposed to a secular judge who acts as a kind of impartial buffer between prosecution and defense representatives in an "adversarial system," Ponzone will serve in an "inquisitorial system" where the court or a part of the court takes up an investigation of the facts of a case before it -- the work of the tribunal.

Through the tribunal, individuals in the Church can seek justice or vindicate their rights, while the local Church can determine legality or impose legal penalties under the judicial vicar on behalf of the cardinal. On matters of determining legality of operations or rules in the local Church, the cardinal can consult with staff of the tribunal and the judicial vicar as a kind of advisory body.

After the ceremony Father O'Connell explained that most titles of court officers coincide with their function, often named for that function. For example, he as judicial vicar on behalf of the cardinal had wielded the "vicarious" power of his office in the swearing-in ceremony.

Father O'Connell explained that the work of the tribunal can most easily be understood using the example of investigations into the validity of marriage -- the way in which laypersons most commonly experience the court.

In proceedings regarding the validity of marriage, Ponzone previously served as defender of the bond in Italy, making and clarifying reasonable arguments against a declaration of nullity. The title refers to his defense of the validity of the bond of marriage.

Now as a judge, he will sit on a panel of three judges or a "college," with a single presiding judge, who make a ruling ultimately on the case. But if it will avoid impeding the pursuit of swift justice, one judge can make a decision, and five or more judges may hear cases deemed more important. Only a priest canon lawyer can serve as a single judge.

Laypersons seeking judgment act either as a petitioner, who requests the judgment of the court, or as a respondent, who literally responds to the court once notified of a request by the petitioner. Each of these has an advocate -- a petitioner advocate or a respondent advocate, a canon lawyer who represents them to the court before the college of judges.

In tribunal courts with notaries on staff, the notaries review written testimony and documents submitted by parties to assure their legal authenticity in court.

The entire process unfolds in five stages: introduction of a case, collection of testimonies, review of testimonies and discussion among court officials, decision of the judges, and an automatic appeal process.

Even understanding the words in the title of the court can help understand the overall role. The word "tribunal" comes from the word "tribune," a raised platform which holds the seat of a judge.

"I don't want people to associate the court with this image, because it makes it look scary," Father O'Connell said, as he pointed out a photograph in the office library of judges in traditional garb sitting at a tribune.

The word "metropolitan" references the power of the archbishop in a metropolitan area like Boston. The status gives Boston standing amongst the dioceses of the ecclesiastical province.

Because the tribunal in Boston is a metropolitan tribunal, it hears appeals of decisions issued at diocesan tribunals elsewhere in the province, which includes Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and the three additional dioceses of Massachusetts. Appeals of metropolitan tribunal decisions go to the Diocese of Springfield to maintain objectivity.

While the majority of cases handled by the Metropolitan Tribunal concern marriages, other matters handled by the office include trials for priests accused of abuse of office and investigating saint's causes.

"Currently there is an Opus Dei priest, Father Joseph Muzquiz, who is being investigated for sainthood, and that is being done out of this tribunal," Father O'Connell said.

He said the current code dictates that a saint's cause be investigated in the diocese where they are buried.

In matters of criminal law the tribunal calls upon the promoter of justice to investigate canon-law offenses and present the case of the archdiocese -- similar to the function of a district attorney in secular court -- against the accused.

"Every society has law, the Church has law, has had it from the beginning. Canon Law is based originally on Roman Law, Jewish Law, and the sayings and acts of Jesus," Father O'Connell said.

Though the Code of Canon Law reached its current form in 1983, it was formally codified comprehensively for the first time in 1917 after a 15-year process. However, the history of the universal law goes back more than 1,000 years in the Church.

Before the law finally became codified in 1917 under Pope Benedict XV, it was established and enforced over the centuries by popes and councils. The 1917 iteration received an update when Vatican Council II called for a new code.

In 1983, when Pope John Paul II updated the code to allow laypeople to serve in positions like the one taken up by Ponzone, a new career option opened up for laypeople in the Church.

For the tribunal in Boston, the expertise required and the length of time the career option has existed for laypeople limited the field of candidates for the job and stimulated the need for an international search to fill the position.

"It is not easy to find a canon lawyer," he said.

World
Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Nation
Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Nation
Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Nation
Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Nation
Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Nation
Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

World
Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

World
Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

World
Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Nation
Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

World
Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Nation
Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

World
Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

World
What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

World
Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...

Nation
Addicts and their loved ones talk about life with opioid addiction

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- It was a Saturday night, and Billy was eating pizza and watching a sporting event in the basement bedroom of his residence, a ...

Nation
Signers of letter hope Vatican meeting will bring needed steps on crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Signers of an open letter from Catholic women to Pope Francis urging "truth" and "transparency" on the growing sex abuse crisis expressed ...

Local
Community 'overwhelmed and shell-shocked' after gas explosions, says pastor

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

World
Down to earth: Vatican brings together world's meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the ...

World
Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, ...

Nation
'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a ...

Local
Restoring and reimagining: Transformation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

BOSTON -- Considered by many to be the heart of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest Catholic church in New England, ...

Local
Archdiocese says Cardinal O'Malley will personally review all abuse letters

BRAINTREE (CAN) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan P. ...

Local
CM receives $2.5M grant from Yawkey Foundations

West Roxbury -- Catholic Memorial, a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 to 12, announced Sept. 5 that they have received a $2.5 million grant ...

Local
Father Christian Ohazulume removed from ministry

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese announced on Sept. 11 that it had removed a priest from ministry after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

This week I am in transit to Rome in anticipation of the next meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals. So, I have asked Vivian Soper to share some reflections ...

Nation
Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy -- What did he say?

Washington D.C. (CNA) -- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs" during ...

Nation
Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Jefferson City, Mo. (CNA) -- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics ...

Nation
Book tells about behind-the-scenes search for St. Peter's bones

HOUSTON (CNS) -- Two Houston men shared a journey through centuries of history and a decades-long archaeological dig under the Vatican to unveil a story ...

World
Update way priests are chosen, accompanied, pope tells new bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The best way to help the Catholic Church, Pope Francis told new bishops, is not by pointing fingers and creating scapegoats, but ...

World
Vatican confirms ongoing Sistine Chapel Choir finance inquiry

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican confirmed an ongoing investigation into financial irregularities involving the directors of the Sistine Chapel Choir. ...

World
After meeting pope, cardinal says he's hopeful about addressing crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston struck a determinedly hopeful tone after his long-awaited meeting with Pope Francis ...

Nation
DA clears Indiana bishop of misconduct, says claim has harmed prelate

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend welcomed findings by a Pennsylvania district attorney that cleared Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ...

World
Cardinal DiNardo calls meeting with pope lengthy, fruitful

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo has called a Sept. 13 meeting between Pope Francis and leaders from the Church in United ...

Nation
What do Church abuse policies mean by 'vulnerable adult?'

Denver, Colo., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- A Vatican summit this February will gather the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world. While ...

World
'Elitist, clericalist' church allows abuse to thrive, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sexual and physical abuse by priests and religious and the scandal of its cover-up by church authorities thrive in countries where ...

World
Cardinal Wuerl to ask pope to accept his resignation

Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- An archdiocesan spokesman has confirmed that Cardinal Donald Wuerl will soon ask Pope Francis to accept his resignation ...

Nation
Pope accepts resignation of West Virginia bishop as inquiry into abuse claims launched

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Pope Francis Thursday accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield from the pastoral government ...