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Ministry of Law in the Church Today

The Ministry of Law in the Church Today

Kevin E. McKenna

Many members of the Catholic Church today—clergy as well as laity—find no useful purpose for the Church’s legal structure, or canon law. They may view canon law as arbitrary, antiquated, or even a hindrance to the movement of the Spirit, especially within the context of developments following the Second Vatican Council. Kevin E. McKenna counters this attitude with an overview of the positive features of Church law and a modern analysis of the canonical tradition of the Church.

McKenna argues that the utilization of canon law in the Church today is not only desirable, but necessary and that it can be highly constructive when the law is viewed as a ministry of service. The call of the Church since Vatican II has been towards communion—with Christ, among Christians, and between local churches. The concept of communion provides a structure and a path that can clarify and encourage individual participation in developing the common good.

After a discussion of the development of Church law and the effect Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II have had on contemporary canon law, McKenna’s work underscores the role of canon law in highlighting the rights of all members of the Church. Canon law is necessary to assist in the orderly carrying out of the gospel demands and to protect the freedom of individual Church members. Practical applications of canon law include the annulment process and alternatives for resolving disputes within the Christian community.

The Ministry of Law in the Church Today provides practical guidance and rationale for the role of law in the Church for pastoral ministers who are accustomed to seeing canon law as a problem rather than a solution. This book will also appeal to laity who harbor a curiosity about the usefulness of Church law in everyday Christian life.

“In a calm and uncomplicated style, Father McKenna shows the positive role canon law has in the Church today. Moving from the vision of Paul VI and John Paul II to practical examples, he touches on human rights in the Church, the protection of rights by alternative dispute resolution, confidentiality, the healing aspects of the annulment process, and the potential of a diocesan synod. Addressed to non-specialists, his work is accurate and informing, and will be read with profit even by canon lawyers!” -Rev. James H. Provost, Professor of Canon Law, The Catholic University of America

“This work is easy to read and straightforward. It exposes questions clearly. Using three contemporary issues as a background—rights in the Church, marriage nullity procedures, diocesan synods—it opens the door to a better understanding of the values underlying canon law today. If future candidates to ministry or to other forms of pastoral service could absorb its outlook, they would then be able to express in their apostolate the deep concern of the Church for the well-being of its members. -Rev. Francis G. Morrisey, O.M.I., Faculty of Canon Law, Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Canada

“This book deserves a wide readership. The valuable insights it offers need to be heard. Those who read it will come away with a clearer, and perhaps, healthier, understanding of, and respect for, canon law and the significant role it plays in the life of the Church and of all its members." -William H. Shannon, Professor Emeritus of Nazareth College of Rochester

ISBN: 978-0-268-01442-1
112 pages
Publication Year: 1999

Kevin E. McKenna is chancellor of the Diocese of Rochester and adjunct associate professor of pastoral studies at St. Bernard’s Institute.

“McKenna offers a positive examination of modern Church law and canonical tradition, treating the law as a needed ministry of service and communion and emphasizing the rights of all members. HIstorical perspective informs his review of post-Vatican II developments on practical issues such as human rights, confidentiality of church records, annulments, collaborative pastoral planning through diocesan synods, and reconciliation via alternative dispute resolution. Recommended for Catholic collections serving pastoral needs and for laity seeking current information on the reasoning behind Church law today.”
-Library Journal

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The Ministry of Law in the Church Today

Kevin E. McKenna

The Ministry of Law in the Church Today
Paper Edition

Many members of the Catholic Church today—clergy as well as laity—find no useful purpose for the Church’s legal structure, or canon law. They may view canon law as arbitrary, antiquated, or even a hindrance to the movement of the Spirit, especially within the context of developments following the Second Vatican Council. Kevin E. McKenna counters this attitude with an overview of the positive features of Church law and a modern analysis of the canonical tradition of the Church.

McKenna argues that the utilization of canon law in the Church today is not only desirable, but necessary and that it can be highly constructive when the law is viewed as a ministry of service. The call of the Church since Vatican II has been towards communion—with Christ, among Christians, and between local churches. The concept of communion provides a structure and a path that can clarify and encourage individual participation in developing the common good.

After a discussion of the development of Church law and the effect Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II have had on contemporary canon law, McKenna’s work underscores the role of canon law in highlighting the rights of all members of the Church. Canon law is necessary to assist in the orderly carrying out of the gospel demands and to protect the freedom of individual Church members. Practical applications of canon law include the annulment process and alternatives for resolving disputes within the Christian community.

The Ministry of Law in the Church Today provides practical guidance and rationale for the role of law in the Church for pastoral ministers who are accustomed to seeing canon law as a problem rather than a solution. This book will also appeal to laity who harbor a curiosity about the usefulness of Church law in everyday Christian life.

“In a calm and uncomplicated style, Father McKenna shows the positive role canon law has in the Church today. Moving from the vision of Paul VI and John Paul II to practical examples, he touches on human rights in the Church, the protection of rights by alternative dispute resolution, confidentiality, the healing aspects of the annulment process, and the potential of a diocesan synod. Addressed to non-specialists, his work is accurate and informing, and will be read with profit even by canon lawyers!” -Rev. James H. Provost, Professor of Canon Law, The Catholic University of America

“This work is easy to read and straightforward. It exposes questions clearly. Using three contemporary issues as a background—rights in the Church, marriage nullity procedures, diocesan synods—it opens the door to a better understanding of the values underlying canon law today. If future candidates to ministry or to other forms of pastoral service could absorb its outlook, they would then be able to express in their apostolate the deep concern of the Church for the well-being of its members. -Rev. Francis G. Morrisey, O.M.I., Faculty of Canon Law, Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Canada

“This book deserves a wide readership. The valuable insights it offers need to be heard. Those who read it will come away with a clearer, and perhaps, healthier, understanding of, and respect for, canon law and the significant role it plays in the life of the Church and of all its members." -William H. Shannon, Professor Emeritus of Nazareth College of Rochester

ISBN: 978-0-268-01442-1

112 pages

“McKenna offers a positive examination of modern Church law and canonical tradition, treating the law as a needed ministry of service and communion and emphasizing the rights of all members. HIstorical perspective informs his review of post-Vatican II developments on practical issues such as human rights, confidentiality of church records, annulments, collaborative pastoral planning through diocesan synods, and reconciliation via alternative dispute resolution. Recommended for Catholic collections serving pastoral needs and for laity seeking current information on the reasoning behind Church law today.”
-Library Journal