Tuesday, August 13, 2013


There are some who believe that any challenge to a decision of the Archbishop is an act of disobedience. First, it must be established that there is a difference between a bishop speaking "authoritatively" in union with the Church on matters of faith and morals (such as condemning abortion), and administratively, as in the removal of a pastor.  

Church law authorizes recourse against administrative decrees, be those decrees be issued by a bishop, priest, or anyone else in an authoritative position: RECOURSE AGAINST ADMINISTRATIVE DECREES (Cann. 1732 - 1739). 

This is an important learning moment for all of us. More often than not, when we Catholics are offended by a pastor, we tend to lash back in destructive ways including leaving the Church. We do this because we feel we have no recourse, that we are simply stomped on and have no say. 

Too often people leave the Church over a dispute that could be resolved if they knew how to resolve it. Sure, we can say those people don't have faith and shrug them off, but is that the right way to handle an aggrieved and hurting person? Our Church thinks not, which is why she protects every Catholic by granting a right and a path to recourse against administrative decisions we believe to be unjust.

Let's take a look at this section of the Code of Canon Law:

Can.  1733 §1. Whenever a person considers himself or herself aggrieved by a decree, it is particularly desirable that the person and the author of the decree avoid any contention and take care to seek an equitable solution by common counsel, possibly using the mediation and effort of wise persons to avoid or settle the controversy in a suitable way.

Relative to the Fr. Gofigan case, the first question is whether or not the Archbishop, the "author of the decree" attempted to "avoid any contention" and took "care to seek an equitable solution by common counsel, etc...."

Fr. Gofigan thinks not. According to him, there was no opportunity to "seek an equitable solution by common counsel," and no "effort of wise persons to avoid or settle the controversy in a suitable way." 

According to Fr. Gofigan, he was called in on July 16 and the letter laying out the charges and demanding his resignation was read and then handed to him. He was then told to respond. 

This account was verified by a press release from the chancery on July 22 which stated that the Archbishop spoke to Fr. Gofigan on the same day he was handed the letter demanding his resignation which - according to Fr. Gofigan and his defenders - hardly allows for "the mediation and effort of wise persons to avoid or settle the controversy in a suitable way."

We'll study this section more in the days to come since it affects us all. Meanwhile, if you'd like to read it for yourself, you can find it here

As for what happens next: Fr. Gofigan, through his attorney, is to submit his motion of consideration to the Archbishop asking that the decision be repealed, that he be restored to his office as pastor, that his name be cleared, and the damage done to his reputation repaired.

If Fr. Gofigan is not satisfied with the response and action of the Archbishop, the next step will be an appeal to the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome who has jurisdiction over the matter.

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