(Extracts of the book Administrative Justice in the Catholic church, by Yves Alain Ducass, Paris 2018, 374 p).
One day, a lady stopped Cardinal Bertone in St. Peter’s Square and said to him:
I have learned that you will go to Cagliari, to hold a conference on justice in the Church. Well, let me tell you, there is no justice in the Church.
The developments of this book offer us a vision that is more positive than that, even if it is important to listen to statements similar to that of this lady, made by others as well:
The Church must listen, rise up, look on the pain and the expectations of people according to mercy, and it must do so without fear of purifying itself, looking assiduously for ways to improve.
Administrative justice in the Church is at work, as we have seen, and so we can rejoice. It is without a doubt still in progress, on procedural aspects mentioned in the previous chapter, but also on the following major themes:
- In the face of more serious errors, where the necessary protection of victims could sometimes make us forget the right of defense of the accused;
- In the face of private revelations and new religious movements, where the passion that generates the charisms sometimes entails judgments for or against them, even before a serious investigation is conducted;
- In internal conflicts within particular Churches and religious congregations, where the procedures of dialogue and of mediation are sometimes ineffective, and so justice is sought only at the moment of exclaustration, transfer or expulsion;
- In the recognition of associations of the faithful where the criteria of ecclesiality are applied with greater transparency;
- In informing the Catholic faithful of the existence and functions of administrative justice, largely unrecognized.
This is the credibility of the Church, as Benedict XVI observed:
Ignorance of the Church’s teachings and its legislation on given subjects is harmful to the proper running of the life of the Church itself.
The pilgrim People of God on earth will be unable to realize its identity as a community of love unless it takes into consideration the demands of justice.
We had hoped that the year of the fiftieth anniversary of the second section would have permimtted making a prudent and measured step toward informing the faithful about their rights and obligations, as well as the means to defend them. Unfortunately, most of the canonical symposia held in 2017 focused on the centenary of the abrogated Code of 1917,  without any mention of the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the Administrative Tribunal of the Church, currently in operation.
This silence does not date from today and, already in the past, the simple fact of informing the faithful of canon law was sometimes seen as a fault.
In 1850, Fr. Marie-Dominique Bouyx (S.J.), a well known canonist, published an article about the popularization of Canon Law in the daily paper L’Univers. His Bishop, Msgr. Sibour, furious, gave him twenty-four hours to leave his post of Director of the Marie-Thérèse retirement home, to which he had been appointed the previous year. […] The French Bishops are certainly not supporters of higher education in canon law, a law which risks prejudicing their authority, and which they intend to implement according to their personal views.
After the promulgation of the French law establishing freedom of higher education, on July 2, 1875, it was necessary to wait nearly five years and for several interventions of the Holy Father, so that at the beginning of the school year in 1880, the Faculty of Theology of the Catholic Institute of Paris at the time, created a faculty of canon law, with the young Abbot Gasparri as professor.
Despite a French context which remains generally unfavorable, even hostile to this « diaconia of justice » that the Holy Father and the Council of Cardinals have examined during the course of their 18th meeting, the present book could be published and many radio broadcasts relayed.
I would like to express my gratitude to the people who have taught me righteousness by their witness of life, those who have taught me canon law, welcomed me into the world of canonists and helped me in the preparation or dissemination of this book. In addition to my wife Sylvie, most of them are cited in the text, while others wished to remain anonymous. God bless you.
I also want to express my apologies for the shortcomings, imperfections and perhaps mistakes in this book, and I ask those who find them kindly to bring them to my attention, so that I can take them into account in the next edition.
Despite its imperfections, I hope that this book will be a useful instrument for the protection of the rights of the faithful and the common good of the Church, as Cardinal Pasinya indicated:
It is, therefore, an evangelizing mission to put the instruments necessary for the protection of the rights of the faithful at the disposal of the particular Churches.
To this effect, I dedicate this book to Canonists without Borders, which it is now appropriate to present.
Before the Second Vatican Council, the Encyclical Fidei Donum, on the renewal of the missions, was very important for the development of evangelization in Africa and in developing countries, where the Church is currently flourishing. It encouraged European priests to go to serve for a while in a mission diocese. Today this encyclical remains topical for priests, but also for the laity who are committed to a period as volunteers in Catholic missionary associations like the Foreign Missions of Paris. Therefore, why not apply it also to the canonists of developed countries, which include also a growing share of the laity?
Canonists without Borders is an international network of canonists, without any particular mandate of the hierarchy of the Church, but with the desire to promote canon law and ecclesiastical justice mainly in developing countries, and for the Catholic faithful.
Since its creation in 2015 Canonists without Borders initiated five types of services for free:
- Providing assistance to Ecclesial Institutions, specially in Africa;
- Providing useful information to canonists and Catholic faithful;
- Orienting the faithful and helping them to answer their questions;
- Contributing to solving ecclesial controversies;
- Creating a canonic on line library
For the future, we will try to structure the Canonists without Borders’ network.
As Canonists without Borders begins to be known, some institutions are calling it for different kinds of support.
Currently many Catholic entities are opening in developing countries and their work is increasing.
The Burkina-Niger Episcopal Conference has chosen pastorally to encourage the faithful to regularize their marital status, in particular to allow their children to receive baptism. The result is an unprecedented increase in the number of applications for the recognition of the nullity of marriage, which went from 10 per year on average from 2010 to 2015, to 200 applications for 2016 alone, in the Interdiocesan Tribunal of Ouagadougou. As a result of Mitis Iudex, each diocese has been invited to establish a diocesan tribunal or to choose a nearby tribunal.
Often, these courts face difficulties in their start-up, while others have difficulty in the use of information technology. To the extent that it can, Canonists without Borders strives to provide the aid mentioned below.
2.1.1. Handling Delayed Cases
In view of the implementation of the Apostolic Letter Mitis Iudex, offices are opening in various dioceses of Africa and the world. However, starting or restarting a formal office requires a lot of work that canonists sometimes have difficulty with. As an example, a newly appointed Judicial Vicar found in the archives of the Tribunal a hundred pending cases, with incomplete procedures to resume. The beginnings of assistance have already been made, with the drafting of a legal note preparing submissions by counsel and the defender of the bond in a local case. In the office of Thiès (Senegal), cases remained pending because the witnesses had moved to another country. Canonists without Borders found contact info for the offices in the countries concerned, and informed the office in view of rogatory letters.
This activity to support such offices should only continue to develop. As soon as Canonists without Borders will have enough members, it will also be able to conduct « Operation Lend a Hand, » to bring for a short period a group of European canonists onsite, to help start new offices.
Here are two testimonies:
- Father F., official in Africa: “The members of the office charge me to say thank you, and we await another visit when the opportunity will present itself to you again. We will continue to maintain contact through the wedding records you went over with us in your capacity as a canonist.” (November 18, 2016) “Thank you again for the call to others, in order to intervene in one way or another to help us to make progress. Best wishes to you and God bless you.” (30 November 2016)
- Sister M., judge in an African office: “Since I was elected Superior General, I have less time to deal with cases and I have, for example, stopped dealing with one of them, rendered complex by the fact that two of the witnesses had left the country. In February 2017, Canonists without Borders put me in contact with the offices in those countries where the witnesses now live, so that the can testify thanks to a rogatory commission.
In Burkina Faso, Mgr. Laurent Dabiré, Bishop of Dori and moderator of the ecclesiastical courts, has high regard for the initiative of Canonists without Borders. At a July 2017 meeting, a decision was made to experiment with having a defender of the bond or a lawyer at a distance. If the arrangement proves successful, a formal request will no doubt be addressed to francophone faculties of canon law for canon-law students who can work with Canonists without Borders on real cases—whose names will be concealed, to prevent potential indiscretions—and not only on theoretical cases of nullity of marriage.
2.1.2. Other kinds of support such as mediation or training
In 2015, the Chancellor of Conakry asked Canonists without Borders to put online the website of the Archbishop, permitting the office to inform the faithful of the diocese. This has been done successfully.
In 2016, Institutions like those in Paris publish announcements in Catholic journals, to search for contact information for the parties or witnesses summoned in matrimonial proceedings. After searching on Facebook, Linkedin and social networks, Canonists without Borders has found traces of several persons sought and has informed the offices concerned.
In 2016, Canonists without Borders shared its experience on the training of canonists during a conference-debate held in an African diocesan office. The presentation can be found on the professional part of the site www.canonistes.org in connection with online formation proposals that are free or paid for to faculties of Canon Law.
In 2017, Canonists without Borders has been called for a mediation between two parishioners of a Parisian parish, which is now on progress.
Society becomes more and more complex, and canonists, just as other professions, have a growing need for information. Organizations such as the Pontifical Gregorian University are working to identify and make available to the public the main canonical resources existing in the world. In its own way, Canonists without Borders also makes a contribution.
2.2.1. On-line collection of theses and books about canon law
Society becomes more and more complex, and canonists, just as other professions, have a growing need for information. In this field, there is a great inequality between the privileged canonists installed in Rome or in a large city university, who have easy access to a canonical library, and those who are incardinated in distant dioceses and do not have this access. Here is an example of a request received:
Father F, Chancellor and official in Africa: “I am happy to learn that you have just published a book on administrative law. I hope that you will send me a copy of this valuable work. If you don’t, I will have no chance to read it. I am particularly interested in this book because since October 2016, I have been teaching administrative law in a large seminary.
As most of them have internet-access, Canonists without Borders has begun to create and put online a digital canonical library, in which it has already identified and indexed nearly 2 500 thesisand articles on line about canon law, indexing them by canon and by key word, to facilitate their identification.
Moreover, Canonists without Borders initiated a campaign to collect and publish thesis, briefs and canonical works in connection with the Harmattan publishing house and the distributor Youscribe. Authors are encouraged by various benefits to send a digital version of their memoir or thesis, that Canonists without Borders puts online so that the canonists and more generally the public can have access too it free of charge, for Canonists without Borders, or at low prices for Youscribe.
By entering in the search bar the number of a canon or a keyword such as « history » or « philosophy, » the reader immediately sees the theses of canon law relevant to this subject and, if there is a digital version, it can access the contents of a simple click.
Thank you to the readers who wish to participate in this campaign, by sending their thesis, encouraging their canonist-friends to do so, or helping with the idexation of thousands of theses already identified.
Everywhere in the world, canonists seek Rotal jurisprudence, helping them to write the in iure sections of their decisions.
Abbot Jacques Gressier gave Canonists without Borders the French translations of rotal jurisprudence that he had collected and published in the canonical compendium of Arras. Some of this jurisprudence has been put online on the professional part of the site www.canonistes.org.
In Versailles, canonists use the compendium of case law of Msgr. Boyer to prepare their legal submissions in marriage-nullity cases. We hope that one day such work might be the subject of a book released in Africa, and that it be completed by an equivalent book for defenders of the bond, integrating the work and publications subsequent to Mitis Iudex.
Moreover, many canonists deplore the fact that the contentious-administrative jurisprudence of the Supreme Court is less accessible than the matrimonial jurisprudence of the Roman Rota. To help in remedying this deficiency, Canonists without Borders has put online a database of contentious-administrative case law on a thousand cases that can be accessed on the professional part of its website.
Episcopal conferences such as that of Taiwan sometimes contact the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts in order to determine the extent to which they are canonically permitted to use digital technologies, such as publishing baptismal registers in a digital version on the cloud. In addition to expertise in this field brought to various Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, Canonists without Borders has experimented with technologies such as Skype, Viber and WhatSapp, in order to assist petitioners at a distance, and electronic signatures for the secure exchange of documents. In addition to experimentation, Canonists without Borders has begun to establish and share a bibliography of experiences in the use of digital means for canon law.
Many dioceses provide precise information on the rights and obligations of the faithful within the Church, and on the means to enforce them in making use of the ecclesial structures provided for this purpose. Other dioceses are silent as to the mailing-address of the office which handles marriage-nullity trials, and so the faithful do not always know whom to contact when they encounter legal difficulties in their lives as Christians. Without in any way replacing the competent bodies of the Church, Canonists without Borders provides basic canonical information on its website www.canonistes.org, and responds to individual questions from the Catholic faithful, aiming to orient them toward good structures within the Church.
2.3.1. Discerning the Possible Invalidity of a Marriage
More and more frequently, couples in difficulty seek to discern the possible invalidity of their marriage before making a decision to separate. Canonists without Borders encourages them to identify and to meet in their diocese with persons from « the structure of information, advice and mediation » laid down by the Subsidium for the application of the Apostolic Letter Mitis Iudex, « for the investigation preliminary to the matrimonial trial. »
Once their civil divorce has been obtained, the laity look for information about how to engage in a canonical trial to recognize the nullity of their marriage. Canonists without Borders informs them of the procedures in force, and the competent offices which handle their situation.
2.3.2. Recalling the law currently in force
Approximately once a month, Canonists without Borders receives requests from Catholic faithful wishing to know what church law recommends. Canonists without Borders strives to research the law in force, and to respond to them free of charge. In ecumenical matters, inquirers have been informed of the main canons and of the Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism.
The warm thanks received from inquirers allow us to think that we should persevere on this track.
2.3.3. Helping to resolve conflicts
Besides its interventions at the request of a parish priest or official, Canonists without Borders regularly receives requests from priests, religious or laity to resolve administrative conflicts with ecclesiastical authority. It is involved in these types of cases:
- Faithful faced with defamation and slander by administrative authority;
- Situations of tension and even harassment in a religious community or in a diocese, leading a priest to request excardination, or a religious to request exclaustration;
- Faithful employed in the Church, from whom a new administrator withdraws their employment without clear reason;
- Priests, religious or laity who left their assignment, who are left without means to start over in life;
- Laity confronted with a plan for the sale of their church by the mayor of their village;
- Faithful in difficulties with the civil authorities of their country, for example the intransigent secularism in France or Shariah in Islamic countries.
Canonists without Borders provides information on their rights and obligations and, when the situation warrants, helps them to follow the procedures for ex gratia, hierarchical or contentious-administrative recourse, allowing them to obtain excardination andincardination consistent with their skills and the needs of the Church.Here are a few examples of testimony received:
- In Senegal, a bishop expelled a priest from his diocese based on testimony from his parishioners. Thirty years later, other parishioners gathered evidence and intervened with the bishop who had expelled the parish priest, and he recognized that the charges received had been slanderous;
- Father F: “Bravo for your work! Imagine that I am for months under the blow of a slanderous denunciation, which would have meant nothing if it had not been made by [a Catholic university]. Do you know a canonist (preferably a priest, who would have more weight) who could help me to clarify matters? […] In the end, I accept all this and other tests as a salutary Cross […] fraternally, Abbot M.” (17 January 2017)
- Father E: “May the Lord continue to bless your work for the good of the Church. All our congratulations for your work and the expansion of your site! You do good to our Church. Continue this year and the following. We remember with gratitude your listening and your answers concerning our rather unique situation. Since our meeting, I sent my recourse to Rome concerning my departure from religious life. I was expelled.” (3 February 2017)
A growing number of religious seek assistance in restoring constructive dialogue with their superiors. Canonists without Borders gives them moral support, clarifies their rights and obligations, and guides them to the appropriate bodies such as the French Welcome Mediation Service for Religious Life and Community (SAM) or the International Council of Canonists. In case of failure, it helps them to initiate the procedures of ex gratia, hierarchical or contentious-administrative recourse, to restore justice. Here are three examples of testimony received:
- Sister JM, African religious: Thank you very much Uncle Yves, God bless you […] you are really an angel and I thank you with all my heart. (31 January 2017)
- Brother JM, Trappist religious: Thank you very much for the closeness and interest that you showed me. This comforts me. Once again thank you for your welcome and for carefully listening. United in prayer. (7 February 2017)
- Brother MJ I have surfed your book which has helped me in my difficult situation. I have recommended it to others and some have already obtained a copy.
Regularly, faithful find themselves in difficulty after being removed from an office in the Church, a diocese, a school or a religious congregation. On several occasions, members of Canonists without Borders have helped them to start afresh in life, as it is required to do by canon 222 § 2:
They [the faithful] are also bound by the obligation to promote social justice and again, remembering the commandment of the Lord, to aid the poor with their personal income.
The other religions, and in particular evangelicals and Muslims, very numerous in Africa, are faced with problems that are internal to their communities comparable to those that we encounter in the Catholic Church. When the opportunity presents itself, Canonists without Borders endeavors to develop dialogue between jurists of religions, so that they may help each other, in mutual respect, with a view to a better efficiency of their respective justice.
Here is an example:
In August 2017, an African bishop of a non-Catholic Christian church expressed his difficulties with some clergy of his diocese, because they would not follow episcopal instructions, or because they impose unjustified financial contributions on their parishioners. He asked for clarification of the proper Catholic canonical procedures on these matters, to better manage his relations with his clergy.
Conversely, we have seen that the mediation practices in force in certain Reformed Churches could prove helpful to Catholic bishops, in the face of controversy between different persons in their dioceses.
As of 2017, Canonists without Borders is a private association of the faithful, without recognition or particular mandate of the Church.
It is sometimes perceived as a danger by the hierarchy of the Church, which may fear that Canonists without Borders and its members may take positions or act in ways that are likely to hamper them. This is not surprising, because it is in fact normal that an institution, of what type may be (secular or religious, public or private…) seeks to protect itself against actors working on the periphery, over whom it does not have control.
By letting them act, the Church takes the same risk that its Master, God the Father, Who created man with the free will to love, God the Son Who has redeemed man after his sin, and God the Holy Spirit Who inspires man to choose love, not sin.
In this spirit of love of the Church, Canonists without Borders submits to the ecclesiastical hierarchy in regularly submitting its activity reports, and taking account of the comments received. For the future, Canonists without Borders wants to develop its activity, with the assistance of volunteer canonists, and acquire a permanent legal structure, under the watchful eye of the Supreme Tribunal. As long as this condition is not met, Canonists without Borders and its members do not accept any gifts or payments, but continue their work of popularizing the law and canonical justice, in communion as closely as possible with the Church.
We are encouraged to persevere, by faithful who thank us for the aid received, by an African Catholic bishop, President of the Commission for Justice of his Episcopal Conference, who gave his imprimatur, or by a Cardinal Prefect of a Congregation, who wrote:
…I have received your very interesting book, Administrative Justice of the Catholic Church, that you had the kindness to send me, and I thank you. I take this opportunity to thank you for your initiative concerning Canonists without Borders, which saw the light
Another encouraging sign lies in the fact that canonists enroll without interruption in the professional part of the site www.canonistes.org, and/or ask to receive its quarterly newsletter. We hope that some of them will choose to devote their time (we do not accept money) and help us to reach more quickly our four objectives:
- Promote canon law and justice in the Church;
- Create a digital library of canon law;
- Assist ecclesial structures of canon law;
- Assist the hierarchy and the faithful to enforce their rights and obligations
How does one say with simple words that the faithful must retain administrative justice of the Church?
First of all that the Church is holy but composed of sinners, and that conflicts are inevitable, including with the ecclesiastical hierarchy. When such conflicts occur, it is important not to be offended, but to forgive in accord with the example of Christ, Who suffered injustice and instructs us to forgive not seven times, but until seventy-seven times seven.
Always in accord with the example of Christ, Who spoke harshly to the Pharisees and drove out the money-changes in the temple, Christians must arm themselves with courage in the face of injustices inside the Church, so that they do not become an occasion of scandal for the weak.
In such cases, we recommend that the faithful appeal to the law and justice of the Church, following the following six steps:
- Pray, asking for the peace for oneself and for one’s opponent, and to discern the situation in the light of the Gospel;
- Talk to the author of the alleged injustice, to try to understand his point of view and explain to him one’s own;
- In the event of persistent disagreement, to appeal to a wise person to better discern the situation and, if necessary to intervene as a mediator, while taking the precaution of writing within ten days so as not to lose the right of appeal;
- If the injustice persists, make one or several hierarchical recourses, within the prescribed time limits, until obtaining a decision by the Roman Curia;
- If the injustice persists in violation of a law of the Church, to appeal to a canon lawyer and make administrative recourse.
- Whatever the decision, let us remember that a sentence in favor of a party will not be synonymous with victory, but a means to preserve communion, in favor of the reestablishment of the Truth.
 Bertone (Card. Tarcisio), « La Chiesa e l’impegno per la gustizia, » Studii Giuridici XLV, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano 1997, p. 8
 Turkson (Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah), Corrosione, Combattere la corruzione nella chiesa e nella societa, preface par le Pope Francis, Rome 2017, Rizzoli
Mboma (Georges usus) Le droit canon face aux réalités africaines, L’Harmattan, 2013, p. 13/96 Preface by Matangila (Léon Musadila).
 Benedict XVI (Pope), Speech to the participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican, 4 February 2011.
Discussions at Santa Croce on March 13 in Rome, during the Consociatio of 4-7 October, and of ICP/SIDC 7-8 November in Paris.
Imbert (Jean), La faculté de droit canonique (1895-1975), in L’année canonique, tome 38, 1995-1996, p. 286.
Ovejero (Paloma García), vice-director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Zenit, 15 February 2017.
23 and 25 February 2017 at Radio espérance and radio RCM in Dakar, 1 April at Radio Maria at Lomé (Togo), 4 April 2017 at Radio immacolata at Allada (Bénin), 6 October 2017 at Radio Vatican (Rome), 9 November 2017 at Radio courtoisie (Paris), 20 and 21 January 2018 at Radio ATM (90.5. Abidjan Port Bouet), and Radio Espoir (Ivory Coast).
 Pasinya (Card. Monsengwo), archibishop of Kinshasa, in the preface of Kitambala, (Hilaire Iwaka), L’office de chancelier dans le Code de droit canonique de 1983, l’Harmattan, Paris 2017, p. 10 / 245.
 Pie XII, fidei donum, Rome, 21 April 1957.
 Unhappily, we collected only more generally title of thesis from varoous universities and not integral content. We thanks the Gregorian University and CSLA for their providing valuable information on-line.
 La loi des hommes et la loi de Dieu : free online canon-law course proposed by the Institut catholique de Paris starting in January 2017.
 The current idea is to create a two-part structure, with an Executive Board composed of canonists acting voluntarily within the framework of Canonists without Borders, and a Supervisory Board composed of church leaders with the right to view the activity of the Executive Board, but without operational responsibility.
 In 2017, parish priests asked Canonists without Borders to conduct a mediation between parishionners.
 Bilali Banazebi (Hidulphe) : Défense des droits subjectifs des fidèles. Equité et légalité au canon 221 CIC 83, Paris, Harmattan 2015, p. 258/340.