Lay Canon Lawyers


#1

I am 26 years old, hold a Bachelor of Arts (History, Classics), and have been teaching English in Rome and Seoul for the past three years. Since my confirmation, I have felt a distinct call to service in the church, considered the priesthood to be a very likely path for me, and have had positive correspondence with several orders, including the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

My life has, however, taken a different turn since meeting my fiance one year ago. I now strongly feel that I am called to the sacrament of marriage, and to raise a family. I don't however, feel that this precludes a role for me in the building up of the church. After much prayer and thought, I concluded that the church was most in need of competent people who can disseminate, interpret, and apply the venerable body of tradition that makes up the church's internal law. Temporal authority within the church is a subject about which I am passionately interested, but I have doubts about the usefulness of a lay person in such a position.

My question is fairly straightforward. Do you feel that lay people have any business practicing canon law? With the general shortage of priests, it seems natural that lay people ought to help shoulder the burden by assuming more administrative duties that do not require ordination. However, I am very wary of the effect that increased laicization might have on the church. Is there a place for lay canon lawyers in the church that does not encroach upon the traditional role of ordained clergy?


#2

My husband is going to school right now with becoming a Canon Lawyer as his final goal (his BA is in history and he’s going to finish his MA in theology next year). It’s the subject that he feels drawn to and he’s been encouraged by a lot of priests! The priests at his college have told him that there’s a high demand. Right now he’s been emailing back and forth with the Angelicum, which is his #1 choice of a school.

One priest that I talked to stressed how interested he was in the liturgy and how much he would dislike it if he had to study canon law. He indicated that he would be happy to have a lay canon lawyer around. I don’t think lay people getting canon law degrees undermines the priest’s position in any way.


#3

Does a lay Canon Lawyer work full time as a Canon Lawyer or are they usually secular lawyers who also handle Canon Law? Would a lay person get a JCL/JCD to be a lay Canon Lawyer?


#4

Congratulations to him! And, no you will not undermind the priest, at all!


#5

If I was in your position, I would seek both a J.D. and a J.C.L.(a J.D. might serve as a pre-requisite to studying for the licentiate), so as to have a clear understand of both Catholic and secular(in this case, common) law (and to have less likelihood of ever being unemployed). If you desire to be an academic canonist, earning a J.C.D. might help (and having both doctorates would seem to automatically make one a U.C.D.- “Doctor of Both Laws”). Since you said that you had been interested in the priesthood yet really wish to marry, you may be called to the permanent diaconate(which one cannot become until the age of 35). If you are very committed, maybe joining a secular order or becoming a lay oblate would be a wise idea, too. Good luck.


#6

…To reiterate: Since law is one of the traditional professions, I would recommend a degree in civil or common(if one is in the Anglosphere) law in addition to the J.C.L./J.C.D if one wishes to a canon lawyer, not forgetting the possibility of ordination as a deacon. Also, I wanted to mention for any Byzantine Rite Catholics who may be reading this that the Orientale in Rome offers degrees in Eastern canon law.


#7

Or Opus Dei as a supernumerary; just a suggestion.


#8

Correction: I meant J.U.D.


#9

Thank you to everyone who commented. I am feeling much more confident about exploring this career path. Is it necessary to have a masters degree in theology, or are other disciplines (like history, for example) acceptable?

Also, RedSoxWife, can I ask where your husband is currently studying?


#10

The requirements for studying canon law are identified in the 2002 Decree of the Congregation for Catholic Education revising the order of studies in the faculties and departments of canon law:

vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_20021114_decree-canon-law_en.html


#11

yes all lay people are called to play a role in building up the Church. And yes you are quite right administration is one of those gifts. Sometime we play that role as lay volunteers, or even paid employees, or lay missionaries, catechists and so forth. Generally married people build up the Church in the most obvious way, raising families and living the Christian life and witness in the world.

But yes, there are many lay canon lawyers, the tribunal should be headed by a priest but there is a lot of work that cannot be handled only by priests, any more than catechizing the youth, meeting the needs of the poor and other tasks. If your bent is law that is a way to consider, but don’t look for the big bucks (as in, get your student loans paid off). I do know of two lawyers who have their own private practice but who have also taken the additional certification in canon law and also work for dioceses.


#12

Anyone know how much lay canon lawyers generally earn in diocese (or private practice)? Can people do both diocesan work and private practice?


#13

[quote="loquitor, post:1, topic:198568"]
However, I am very wary of the effect that increased laicization might have on the church. Is there a place for lay canon lawyers in the church that does not encroach upon the traditional role of ordained clergy?

[/quote]

If it freed priests to take Holy Communion to the sick, visit parishoners in their homes, and instruct catechumens, then lay people taking a greater administrative rôle (eg in Canon Law) would surely be a good thing for the 'laicisation' issue.


#14

[quote="Vincent1984, post:12, topic:198568"]
Anyone know how much lay canon lawyers generally earn in diocese (or private practice)? Can people do both diocesan work and private practice?

[/quote]

I am not an expert upon this subject, but I doubt that there is such a thing as a canon lawyer in private practice. I would think that one would have to work either directly for the Church or within academia.


#15

He’s at the University of San Francisco right now for his Masters, but we’ve come to realize that that was probably a mistake. He’d been accepted into MA programs at the University of Dallas and St. Thomas in Houston, but I’d just had our first baby when we were making the decision and really wanted to be close to my family. That combined with the scholarships that USF offered heavily influenced the decision…

… Unfortunately USF isn’t very friendly to traditional students and he’s definitely dealt with that in his classes. One professor asked him “why the hell are you going to school HERE?” and another wrote personal insults on his final paper. On the upside I think it’s made him better at defending what he believes. But it’s also definitely made us more wary about where he’s going next!


#16

[quote="Young_Thinker, post:14, topic:198568"]
I am not an expert upon this subject, but I doubt that there is such a thing as a canon lawyer in private practice. I would think that one would have to work either directly for the Church or within academia.

[/quote]

Check out the St Joesph Foundation.


#17

[quote="ByzCath, post:16, topic:198568"]
Check out the St Joesph Foundation.

[/quote]

That is an interesting organization.


#18

[quote="Vincent1984, post:12, topic:198568"]
Anyone know how much lay canon lawyers generally earn in diocese (or private practice)? Can people do both diocesan work and private practice?

[/quote]

Hi Vincent,

I can't make any generalizations regarding pay. As far as I'm concerned, I get paid enough. I work for the Church so certainly it is not as would be the case for a comparable secular job.

Yes, a person can do both diocesan work and "private practice."

Dan


#19

Just a little update…

I’ve been looking at different options in terms of universities. The Angelicum is, as another reader noted, the clear choice for Canon Law students. Tuition fees are, as expected, fairly astronomical. I’m assuming that students ordinarily (a) are priests/deacons, or at least in formation, and (b) have considerable (full?) financial support from either a diocese or religious order. Can one even gain admission to such an institution without sponsorship from one of the above?

I have spent some time in Rome, and I know that the part-time work prospects for non-EU passport holders like myself are fairly dismal. So, the issue of financing this would be a challenge.

In addition, can anybody speak to whether a degree in Theology is essential to be admitted to Canon law programs, or whether other degrees (History, etc.) might be acceptable? I know that many students at my university study history as a spingboard into law.

Essentially, I’m not sure what my next move should be. I’m still processing the wonderful information that I’ve already been given - and thank you again to everyone who relied for being so generous with your knowledge.


#20

See the link in post #10 for all requirements.

A proper theology degree with the right philosophy classes might mean you get to skip cycle I.


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