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Reviewed by:
  • Rotal Jurisprudence, Selected Translations
  • Joseph C. Scheib
Rotal Jurisprudence, Selected Translations edited by Victoria Vondenberger, RSM. Washington, DC: CLSA, 2011.

An introduction by Victoria Vondenberger, RSM, editor, succinctly presents the importance of Rotal jurisprudence based on the Code of Canon Law, Dignitas Connubii, Pastor Bonus, and papal teaching. With the encouragement of the dean of the Rota, Auditors were asked by the Marriage Research Committee of the Canon Law Society of America to select sentences that would be most helpful to English speaking canonists. Msgr. Hanna G. Alwan (2 cases), Msgr. Kenneth E. Boccafola (7 cases) and Msgr. Joseph Sciacca (7 cases) took part. The editor noted the difficulties in translation even for those who are experts in Latin and Canon Law. The agreed aim was to translate the meaning underlying the words as well as the words. The original law sections are given in a column parallel to the English translation. Comparison of the law sections with the translations reveals variety in the Latin style and variety in translation. However, quotations from Italian sources, [End Page 320] such as Papal Allocutions, are given in Italian. The auditors cite sources from Aristotle to Aquinas to the present. The introduction includes a brief survey of the sentences and decrees noting distinguishing elements of fact or law or evaluation of evidence.

Every one of these selections has value. Some are valuable for the clarity of the law, for example the decree finding substantial conformity in the affirmative sentences of first and second instance tribunals on different grounds. Others are valuable for the analysis of ambiguous evidence, such as proving a simulation without the confession of the simulator. The affirmative sentence on the ground of c. 1095, 3º recalls the historic emergence of this ground as distinguished from defect of discretion in that the Respondent was found not to have a defect of discretion but was found to be incapable of establishing a conjugal life—a normal sex life. Some Sentences are useful because difficulties in procedural law are addressed. For example, a Petitioner renounced a case after the first instance decision; the Respondent became the active party (pars diligentior); the Rota completed the case without the further participation of the Petitioner. One or two sentences can be considered as cautionary, that is, they reveal the difficulties when, for example, a tribunal fails to cite the parties or an Advocate intervenes without a mandate. Three sentences were in the negative. In one of these, ample consideration was given to circumstances and proofs not found or denied in the Acts that might have led to an affirmative decision. By doing so, the sentence delineates the boundaries for both a negative and affirmative resolution on this ground. One case was sent back to second instance. The remaining cases were decided in the affirmative.

This book has great value to those who work in any capacity in the Tribunal. Professors of Canon Law may find it useful as a primary text for a course in jurisprudence. Also, parts of this book could be useful in a seminary course. Although the table of contents is detailed, there is no index either of topics or of sources cited. The reader will find it worth while to make an index because this is a book with the potential to be a constant reference for judges, defenders of the bond and advocates. [End Page 321]

Joseph C. Scheib
Office for the Tribunal
Diocese of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh PA


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pp. 320-321
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