SUMMARY OF OUR DISCUSSIONS ON THE SEMINAR PAPER: CANON LAWYER AND THE CHURCH IN NIGERIA
SUMMARY OF OUR DISCUSSIONS ON THE SEMINAR PAPER: CANON LAWYER AND THE CHURCH IN NIGERIA by Rev. Fr. Christopher Nnubia
- We believe that Canon Law places itself at the service of the action of the Spirit in the Church, and it favours an efficacious pastoral endeavour within a right discernment of ecclesiastical situations. (New Ratio, 174).
- We acknowledge that the Church in Nigeria has done a lot to promote Canon Law in Nigeria and other parts of the world. Many of us have seen the Formulary of CBCN in universities and bookshops in Europe and America.
- Many Nigerian Canon Lawyers have published works which many institutes/dioceses/tribunals are using in Nigeria and beyond. Some privately published works of some of us are also making good sales for the publishers.
- The New Ratio no 174 states that Canon Law should be taught from setting out from a sound vision of the mystery of the Church, in the light of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council…It is appropriate, therefore, that during the time of initial formation the spirit and the study of Canon Law should be promoted, in such a way that priests may come to understand that the remedy for many difficult situations or ‘wounds’ can be found within the Law of the Church, especially concerning the pastoral care of the family. Based on this, we suggest that it would be good to start in philosophy where a rapid knowledge or idea can be acquired before the theological studies. One could develop three to four courses alone from Book Two of the Code. There is need to increase the hours of canonical studies during the years of Theology. There should be two canon lawyers teaching in each major seminary at any time and have a thorough teaching of this subject. It’s really a good foundation for the pastoral ministry to have a good grasp of the Code. Visiting Professors on Canon Law may be included by the seminary authority.
- About giving bishops and other persons in the Church good canonical advice, this forum now offers us a great opportunity to consult before giving certain personal opinions in place of canonical advice. There are issues that come up and one realises that one needs to consult other Canonists.
- We appeal to one another to be more disposed to help out in some of these areas that need a Canonist in dioceses. As noted, we have a very good number of canonists in Nigeria but sadly many have not been practising. There are two angles to look it. First, from the point of administration on the part of the bishops. A good administrator should be able to harness the resources available to him for the good of the institution he is heading. In other words, if there are canon lawyers in a diocese, the bishop should appoint them into offices where their expertise is required. We admit that, sometimes, due to shortage of personnel, this may be difficult. Even in cases like that, the Canonist can be challenged to combine parish work with some other offices that require canonical expertise. Secondly, from the point of view of the Canonist. The truth is that there are some of us who are qualified but do not love the discipline. Where there is love for canon law, the Canonist, even when not appointed into an office that requires that expertise, will take appropriate initiatives. We do not have to be in offices to make impact where we are.
- Some of us are also not enthusiastic about practising for pecuniary reasons. Unlike some of the dioceses in Europe and America where there is reasonable remuneration for canonists who work in different areas, here, it is a life of sacrifice. The canonist who does not love the discipline may not be willing to embrace such sacrifice. Some bishops in our country are making efforts in terms of remuneration. We need more of such efforts to be made in more dioceses.
- At times, it’s a pity that in a group or society like the Church or State in terms of financial issues for example, the members or citizens are concerned with the “how much”, not always whether the Diocesan bursar or State financial administrator is an accountant or economist. The principles of administration in terms of structural, functional and procedural factors are rarely addressed except when problems arise. So, we cannot pretend that a wide knowledge of Canon Law must be known theoretically, if not when we put it into practice. There is need to organize in the dioceses (on the levels of vicariate forane, parish, group, association, et cetera) some conferences or seminars on Canon Law, especially on the general aspects and particular areas of concern. There are some noticeable loopholes in the legislative ambience in the Nigerian Church on the National , diocesan and parish levels. Some of the letters of our bishops hardly come in form of a decree. Sometimes postings and appointments are made orally, installation of parish priests seems foreign, etc. The Particular Complementary Norms by CBCN needs to be updated. We suggest that Commission/Committee which will hand it should make a wider consultation.
- Canon Law stands as one of the pivots sustaining the mother Church. It is both legalistic and remedial in nature. Sadly, only the legal dimension is projected most times. And the projection is mostly negative. If this negative portrayal of the laws of the church is done by the laity, which is hardly the case, one may excuse it on the grounds of lack of the fundamental knowledge of the code of the Canon Law. But it is pathetic that this venom comes from some priests and religious who possess appreciable knowledge of the Canon Law. A forum such as ours offers us a good opportunity to reflect on this noble disciple and deepen our commitment in upholding its tenets lest we too get drowned in the flood of apathy surging towards it. Let us pledge to keep holding the fort for the mother Church in this regard while doing our best in whatever little way we can.