Saturday, July 08, 2006

From the Supreme Tribunal

Now, here's something interesting: this morning, it was announced that Pope Benedict XVI had named Archbishop Raymond Burke of St Louis as a member of the church's highest court.

Burke will join the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura alongside Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, the prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, and Archbishop Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona. (The members of the Signatura serve on it in addition to the primary posts they hold.)

Grocholewski served for 17 years as secretary and then prefect of the Tribunal before being named to head Catholic Ed in 1999, and Burke's a veteran of the place as well. The 58 year-old St Louis prelate was the first American to serve as its Defender of the Bond from 1990-94, when he was named bishop of his home diocese of LaCrosse. His presence was noted in Rome last week for the Peter and Paul celebrations.

From the US, Cardinal Edward Egan of New York and Bishop Thomas Doran of Rockford -- both former uditori of the Roman Rota -- also serve on the Signatura, which hears appeals of cases on a highly selective basis. Its American docket has received much more attention in recent years given high-profile appeals of parish closings and, especially since 2002, an uptick in recourses from priests who have been administratively removed on allegations of sex-abuse. At least one recourse case alleging a US bishop's violations of due process against an accused priest is pending before the Signatura for its review.

Beyond being an accolade for his legal aecumen, Burke's appointment to the high court could be seen as a vindication for the canonical strategy he employed in the case of St Louis' St Stanislaus parish. In December, following the refusal of the parish's board of directors to acknowledge the archbishop's right of governance over the Polish ethnic parish, Burke excommunicated the five members of the board, as well as the priest the laypeople had hired to serve the parish.