Every year, at the start of the judicial year, the Holy Father addresses the members of the Roman Rota, one of three Vatican tribunals or courts, and his speech is always closely watched by officials of the equivalent tribunals in the dioceses of the world.
The other Vatican tribunals are the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s equivalent of a Supreme Court. The Apostolic Penitentiary (from the Latin for penance) is responsible for issues relating to Confession, to the forgiveness of sins, and has jurisdiction only over matters in the internal forum.
The name Rota – from the Latin word for wheel – seems to refer to either the circular room or enclosure where the auditors in the early years of the tribunal were assembled or the round table at which they sat to study and judge cases.
“The Rota’s main function is that of an appellate tribunal, ordinarily reviewing decisions of lower courts if the initial court (first instance) and the first appellate court (second instance) do not agree on the outcome of a case; however, any party to an initial decision before a court of the Latin Church (and also some Eastern Churches) has the right to file a second-instance appeal directly to the Rota. Dominating its caseload are petitions seeking the issuance of a decree of nullity of a marriage, although it has jurisdiction to hear any other type of judicial and non-administrative case in any area of canon law.” (from Pastor Bonus)
The word “rotation” also comes from rota, and is defined as “the passing of a privilege or responsibility to each member of a group in a regularly recurring order.”
POPE TO ROMAN ROTA: “MARRIAGE REQUIRES GENEROUS UNITY, FAITHFUL LOVE”
By Devin Watkins (vaticannews)
Pope Francis met Tuesday with members of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota, and highlighted the importance of unity and fidelity in the Sacrament of Matrimony.
“Fidelity is possible, because it is a gift, both for spouses and for priests.”
In his address on Tuesday, Pope Francis praised the virtues of unity and fidelity, which he said members of the Roman Rota frequently experience in their service. The Roman Rota tribunal is the Catholic Church’s highest court, and primarily hears cases regarding the nullity of matrimony, though its jurisdiction extends to any type of judicial and non-administrative case related to Canon Law.
Unity and fidelity
The Holy Father said the two “marital goods” of unity and fidelity first of all pertain “to the essence of the Church of Christ.” Society, he said, frequently does not help couples live these virtues.
“The society in which we live is becoming more and more secularized, and doesn’t promote growth in faith, with the result that the Catholic faithful must struggle to witness to a way of life modelled on the Gospel.”
Pope Francis said unity and fidelity are necessary, not only in a married couple’s relationship, but also in all interpersonal and societal relations. “We are all aware of the inconveniences that arise in civil society when promises are not kept,” he said.
The Church’s ministers, said the Pope, need to help prepare couples for a life of generous unity and faithful love. This preparation should be done long before marriage and as couples near their wedding date, as well as throughout their married life.
“Pastors are the main actors in this matrimonial formation, by virtue of their office and ministry,” he said, though all layers of the Church community need to be involved in preparing couples.
Saints Aquila and Priscilla
Pope Francis then turned to the example of Saints Aquila and Priscilla, a married couple who helped St. Paul in his evangelizing mission. The Apostle to the Gentiles calls them his synergoi, or fellow workers. “We are struck and moved by Paul’s high recognition of the missionary work of these spouses, and at the same time we recognize how this synergy was a precious gift of the Spirit to the first Christian communities.”
The Pope also listed several ways in which the Church can help married couples live in unity and fidelity: nearness to the Word of God, catechesis, frequent reception of the Sacraments, spiritual direction, and charitable works towards other families and those most in need. Married couples who live generous unity and faithful love, said Pope Francis, are a special resource for the Church’s pastoral work. “They offer everyone an example of true love and become witnesses and co-workers in the fruitfulness of the Church itself.” This type of married couple, he said, “reflects the image and likeness of God.”
Promote spiritual health of couples
Pope Francis invited members of the Roman Rota tribunal to deliver justice with their juridical sentences. Their rulings, he said, help “to correctly interpret Marriage law” and promotes the spiritual health and faith of spouses.
PRIEST ACCUSED OF IMPROPER BEHAVIOR RESIGNS FROM CDF
By Vatican News
The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer, accepted the resignation of Father Hermann Geissler on Monday, 28 January.
In a press release on Tuesday, the CDF said Fr. Geissler “decided to take this step to limit the damage already done to the Congregation and to his Community.”
Fr. Geissler is a member of the Opus spiritualis Familia religious community.
Doris Wagner, a former member of the same community, has accused Fr. Geissler of improper conduct that allegedly took place in 2009.
Fr. Geissler, the communique reads, “affirms that the accusation made against him is untrue, and asks that the canonical process already initiated continue. He also reserves the right for possible civil legal action.”
A Catholic News Agency (CNA) story on the resignation gives additional background:
VATICAN CITY — An Austrian priest and theologian has resigned from his position at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), amid charges that he made sexual advances toward a woman in the confessional several years ago.
The priest maintains his innocence.
Father Hermann Geissler, 53, has been an official within the CDF since 1993, and in 2009, he became the head of the congregation’s teaching office.
A statement released Jan. 29 said that Father Geissler “affirms that the accusation made against him is untrue and asks that the canonical process already initiated continue. He also reserves the right for possible civil legal action.”
Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Holy See Press Office, confirmed to CNA that allegations against Father Geissler are being examined by the CDF, which is the Vatican office charged with reviewing allegations of this kind.
CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria accepted the priest’s resignation, which was submitted Jan. 28. The statement said Father Geissler decided to step down “to limit the damage already done to the congregation and to his community.”
Father Geissler is a prominent scholar of Blessed John Henry Newman and a member of the Familia Spiritualis Opus, informally known as “Das Werk.”
The accusations against him became public at the end of September, when a (now-former) member of Das Werk, Doris Wagner, claimed in a lengthy piece in the German newspaper Die Ziet that she had been sexually harassed in the confessional by a member of the religious community she then belonged to, identified in the article as “Hermann G.”
Wagner again spoke of the accusations last November, saying at a conference in Rome that she had received unwanted sexual advances and been “groomed” for sex by “a priest working to this day as capo ufficio at the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith,” according to La Croix International.
The solicitation of a sin against the Sixth Commandment within the context of confession is considered in Church law to be a “grave delict,” or offence, for a which a priest can be dismissed from the clerical state.