In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Papal Allocutions to the Roman Rota 1939-2011
  • Joseph G. Diermeier
Papal Allocutions to the Roman Rota 1939-2011 edited by William H. Woestman, O.M.I. Ottawa: Faculty of Canon Law, Saint Paul University, 2011.

This book represents the third in a series of papal allocutions that were presented to the Roman Rota beginning with Pius XII. In the first edition (allocutions from 1939-1994), the editor framed their significance as neither jurisprudence nor legislation. Rather, they form part of the ordinary magisterium and are directed to all of the Church's tribunals. In the second (allocutions through 2002) and now again in the third edition, the editor [End Page 315] continues to present the Roman Pontiff 's annual address to the college of rotal judges and their collaborators. The present edition concludes with the January 22, 2011 Papal Audience of Benedict XVI whose allocution addressed the need for proper pastoral preparation for couples intending to marry so as to avoid future invalidity.

The contents of the allocutions are historically conditioned (e.g., world war, Vatican II, criticisms of marriage law, human rights, code revision and promulgation). Included among the panoply of topics are the following: how the Roman Rota serves the universal Church as well as the Christian family; the origin, nature, object and purpose of judicial authority in the Church; how tribunals protect the Church's teaching regarding the sanctity of marriage; the new code vis-à-vis rotal jurisprudence; how justice is the foundation of society and the protection of the family; the pastoral nature of canon law. Included is the often-invoked 1987 allocution by John Paul II that addressed the increased use of the ground of psychic incapacity for declarations of marriage nullity and which cautioned ecclesiastical judges to discern prudently when listening to psychological experts who are not informed by Christian anthropology. Also included are his 1991 and 1996 allocutions which highlighted cultural issues in marriage and alerted judges to be attentive to the particular cultures of individuals.

Several allocutions reflect the Church's concern with regard to the fecklessness of the divorce mentality and the presumption of the validity of marriage. A recurring theme in the allocutions of Benedict XVI is the Church's pastoral love, reminding the rotal auditors that simply pleasing the parties involved does not constitute justice and that true pastoral love must correspond to the truth that saves, i.e., to the good of the parties and to the ecclesial community.

Several years (including the consecutive years 1950-1958) offer no corresponding allocution. No reason is given for their absence. Nevertheless, the contents of each allocution accentuate the distinguishing emphases of the various Roman Pontiffs. The redaction of the texts provides consistency in language, an invaluable help for the reader. The editor also provides resources to locate original texts.

The book serves as a worthwhile reference not only for tribunal personnel involved with marriage cases but also for anyone who is interested in moral theology and ecclesiology. A perusal of the allocutions demonstrates how each of the Pontiffs has viewed the mission of the Church and further [End Page 316] provides the reader with a better understanding of how communio, freedom and responsibility serve as fundamental principles governing the life and ministry of the Church.

Joseph G. Diermeier
Diocese of La Crosse
Marathon, WI


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 315-317
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.