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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dr. Peters and Canon Law on Monaghan's Ministerial Exception Argument

Canon lawyer extraordinaire Dr. Ed Peters takes on Monaghan's recent legal argument that Ave Maria School of Law is immune from the legal system due to its status as "religious institution" employing "ministers." Dr. Peters comes out swinging and never lets up:
.... As part of his efforts to avoid answering legally claims made against the treatment that Ave Maria has accorded several law school faculty members, Monaghan is, if I understand him correctly, arguing that his law school is fundamentally a religious organization, that its professors are essentially ministers therein, and that consequently no civil court can examine Ave's treatment of its ministers without running afoul of various constitutional barriers.

Though representing just the tip of an argument-iceberg here, the famous interdicasterial instruction "On certain questions regarding the collaboration of the non-ordained faithful in the sacred ministry of the priest" Ecclesiae de Mysterio (15 August 1997) went to great lengths to distinguish, in theory and in practice, the Catholic concept of "ministry" as something undertaken almost exclusively by the ordained in virtue of holy orders, from "apostolates", that is, as works performed especially by lay persons in virtue of baptism. Now, as much as the Catholic Church cherishes civil law and legal education, there is virtually no way that she views law school professors as being engaged in "ministry", and certainly not in a ministry on her behalf such that the Church would assert jurisdiction over their situation as she would have to assert for any number of genuinely ministerial works .....

.... It is even more preposterous to assert that canon law considers ecclesiastical recognition of the Catholic character of a given school (assuming Ave Maria has that) as rendering the school immune from civil scrutiny in regard to the basic treatment it accords faculty (and students and staff, for that matter). That is goofiness.

I keep waiting for Ave Maria to find a bottom in how far it is willing to descend in its efforts to avoid treating certain Catholics (the sort Monaghan dismisses as "academic terrorists") with due dignity. But this month, Monaghan and Ave Maria tried to label its law school faculty as some sort of religious ministers, conveniently according their academic administrators a discretionary power over Ave Maria law faculty akin to that legitimately enjoyed by bishops over priests!

Looks like I'll just have to go on waiting.
Ouch. Now there is a good old-fashioned canon law drubbing.