- Posted by Mary's Advocates
- On July 29, 2019
by Bai Macfarlane
On 26 July 2019, I received from Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, the Secretary of the Supreme Tribunal of the Signatura, a rejection (on procedural grounds) of our appeal to the Signatura. The case centers indirectly on the controversy between me and Cardinal Coccopalmerio, whose opinion appeared to be supported by Undersecretary at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (Bishop Giacomo Morandi), the Nuncio to the USA (Archbishop Christophe Pierre), and the Cleveland Diocese Bishop from 1999 (Bishop Anthony Pilla).
It seems the Secretary of the Signatura and the group to which we appealed think a brochure I authored was judged in an administrative trial at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. However, no such trial ever occurred. All that happened was that a third-level official made a statement about the Congregation (though he has no competence to issue an administrative decree that must be issued by a vote after a lawful process).
To learn more about the background of this case, watch the 16 minute video I just made.
For over a decade, Mary’s Advocates has been publicizing my research findings that those who marry in a Catholic Ceremony are not supposed to petition for civil divorce without having one’s bishop’s permission first. The Church has exclusive jurisdiction over cases of separation of spouses and never relinquishes competence to the state. This is not a matter of man-made positive law, but a matter of divine law and to say otherwise is heresy as explained in the 24th session of the Council of Trent.
If the Church, on a case-by-case basis, allows the state to judge the obligations of parties toward each other in a case of separation of spouses, then there is supposed to be an ecclesiastic process to protect the common good, the children, and a spouse who is counting on the marriage promises to be upheld. When state judges decide obligations of spouses in no-fault divorce, a so-called-professed Catholic who reneges on her/his marriage promises forces the children to lose everyday access to the parent who keeps the marriage promises. Or, the so-called-professed Catholic who reneges on marriage promises if relieved by the government of his/her obligation to contribute his full share of support to the other spouse and children in the marital home. Worse yet, the one who keeps the marriage promises is typically forced to pay thousands of dollars to the marriage-promise-breaker to live in a separate home. If the current Pontificate is really trying to abrogate any requirement for an ecclesiastic processes prior to the civil forum getting entangled in Catholic marriages, then perhaps, we are living in a time like that of Pope Honorius (yr. 625-638) which will be straightened out in later pontificates (see Bishop Athanasius Schneider, HERE March 20, 2019).
In November of 2015, when Cardinal Coocopalmerio was the President of the Pontifical Council for the interpretation of Legislative Texts, he wrote an opinion that I found to have turned canon law upside down. Those who follow Church controversies are familiar with the scandals surrounding his tenure (homosexual cocaine fueled orgy, and Archbishop Viganò). If his letter was an authentic interpretation, it would have been issued by a vote of a session, not solely by one person (Pastor Bonus arts. 154-158, Regulations of Roman Curia art. 112-138).
Since January of 2016, Mary’s Advocates has been seeking a judgement in which I participate in an appellate procedure wherein a vote will occur at the competent offices at the Holy See after giving me a chance to defend my position with citations from magisterial writings (teachings from Popes, Bishops, canon law professors, church Councils, etc.). It is no coincidence that significant documents in this saga were written on October 13, which is the anniversary of the miracle in Fatima. The message of Fatima includes that Russia will spread her errors throughout the world and Russia introduced no-fault divorce (post-card divorce). Sr. Lucia, one of the three visionaries, wrote that Mary told her “The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family.”
Given the rejection on procedural grounds of my 13 October 2017 recourse to the Signatura, I am contemplating writing the Secretary of the Signatura and remind him of their norms that show “the Secretary provides a time limit for repeating the recourse if it suffers from defects which can be corrected” (Art. 76 §4 Legis propriaem H.S.T.) My recourse suffered from defects that can be corrected.
Any references about an October 2016 administrative decision from the CDF were erroneous. There was no lawful decision, only the opinion of the Undersecretary which is not a singular administrative act from the CDF on the administrative venue. The authority’s obligation to carry out an administrative proceeding is ongoing and not waived with the passing of time. My hope would be that the Signatura Secretary waives their 1550 Euro fee and assign a gratuitous advocate, but I’d have to persuade him that we are too poor.
We deserve our day in court. In a canonical administrative trial there will be a vote between the proofs Cardinal Coccopalmerio can put forward supporting his position and the proof I can put forward supporting mine.
August 5 Update. Mailed letters our former Apostolic Administrator, and our Bishop, Chancellor, Judicial Vicar and others. (see HERE)
August 10 Update. After the Cleveland Chancellor wrote, I responded. I asked Cleveland to provide me a letter clearing up misunderstanding cause by a previous letter the Apostolic Administrator wrote. I suggested our Bishop resolve could resolve our controversy locally after appointing marriage law expert as censor (see HERE).
October 17 Update. I submitted to the Signatura a new recourse pointing out that no peremptory deadlines are in the law when a Congregation continuously fails to undergo an administrative proceeding. Though I received a letter from an Undersecretary of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, he had no competence to issue a judgment of my appeal, and they are still obligated to issue a judgment. I’m asking the Signatura to instruct the Congregation to conduct a proceeding and ask that I be reimbursed for canon lawyer and other fees. (see recourse HERE)
On 4 July 1999, Cleveland Bishop Anthony Pilla published the “Diocese of Cleveland Chancery Procedures, Revised 1999”
It stated “Couples contemplating civil separation or divorce are to seek ecclesiastic permission from the local ordinary (c. 1153).” Furthermore, it stated, “There is no ecclesiastic penalties for failure to obtain ecclesiastic permission to separate or seek divorce or civil dissolution.” This statement from the diocese procedures is contrary to the particular law promulgated and in effect from the plenary council of the U.S. Bishops Conference, Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, art. 126. Furthermore, all grievous offenses against the moral order arguably could merit an expiatory penalty that has the primary purpose of repairing the violated public good, or censure that is intended primarily to induce the offender to repent (see Philip Gray Repairing Public Order March 19, 2019).
At a symposium, I presented a paper titled “The Current Marriage Crisis in the Light of the Original Creation and the Code of Canon Law.”
My paper, along with papers from other presenters, was given to all the bishops who participated in Pope Francis 2015 Synod on the Family.
The symposium had a welcome letter by Carinal Raymond Burke former Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Signatura.
2015, November 4
Cardinal Coccopalmerio , The President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts writes his opinion that is contrary to all my research findings and posts opinion on the Council’s website. If it was an authentic interpretation of canon law, it would have been issued by a vote of a Plenary Session or Ordinary Session of the Council, and pursuant to Pastor Bonus art. 155, it would also have been approved by the Pope and after consulting the dicasteries concerned in questions of major importance. See examples of authentic interpretations for canon 119, 1º, and canon canons 346, § 1.
2016, September 6
After petitioning my Cleveland Bishop about our brochure (can. 823, 830), a staff person working for the Judicial Vicar, Fr. Gary Yanus, E-mailed: “Father Yanus has informed me that Bishop Lennon does not intend to grant the imprimatur to the referenced flyer at this time.”
I made recourse on 17 August 2016 to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith asking for their assistance because the Bishop gave me no reason for the rejection. On 6 September 2016 from the Bishop, I received a reason (based on Cardinal Coccopalmerio’s opinion) about which I notified the CDF:
2016, October 13
The Undersecretary of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Monsignor Giacomo Morandi, wrote me his opinion “the Congregation is of the opinion that necessary revisions that Bishop Lennon sent to you with his letter of September 6, 2016 are well founded.”
The CDF, upon receipt of an administrative recourse, is obligated carry out an administrative proceeding and, by vote, decide their answer and issued their singular administrative act: an administrative decree. On appeal to a dicastery of the Roman Curia (like the CDF), I had the right to the assistance of legal advisor advocate, and an administrative proceeding must include my “right to be heard” to defend my position. No proceeding ever occurred.
The 19 March 2015 document on the website of the CDF, titled, “TO PROMOTE AND SAFEGUARD THE FAITH: From the Holy Office to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith” discusses who votes to decide issues. For example, “The ordinary session ordinarily meets on Wednesday, attended by at least five members resident in Rome, possibly other voting members (which includes the Secretary), the Undersecretary, who does not vote but records the minutes, and the Promotor of Justice when there are matters that come within his competency.”
The General Regulations of the Roman Curia forbid those who work there from misusing official headed paper, using material owned by the department for private purposes, or directly or indirectly pursuing private interests in the performance of the activity of one’s office (REGOLAMENTO GENERALE DELLA CURIA ROMANA, Art. 40). When Msgr. Morandi sent his opinion on the substance of a recourse for which he was not competent to decide, he was misusing official headed paper and gave diocesan personnel the impression that his letter was the decision of the CDF to my administrative recourse.
2017, March 28
Bishop Daniel Thomas, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Cleveland (Dec. 2016 – Sept. 2017)
I continued to correspond with my diocese and submitted a reworked version of the trifold brochure and provided documentation supporting my position (PDF pg. 19-60 & 78-96). From Bishop Daniel Thomas, I received a rejection dated 28 March 2017 and those familiar with diocesan infrastructure can speculate whether the letter was drafted by Bishop Thomas, Cleveland’s Fr. Gary Yanus, or other personnel. The rejection stated the following:
“The Congregation informed you that ‘the necessary revisions that Bishop Lennon sent you with his letter of September 6, 2016 are well founded.’” […] “If you submit a revised version of this flyer or any other publication regarding the separation of spouses, you must note the fact that in the United States, it is not a moral or canonical obligation to seek the bishop’s permission to approach the civil authorities for separation or divorce.”
Of note is whether The Congregation (of the Doctrine of the Faith) actually informed me of anything. If an Undersecretary at the Ohio Supreme Court wrote on their letterhead, “The Ohio Supreme Court has decided that your position lost,” but no one ever carried out an appellate procedure in which I was allowed to be heard, then there would actually be no Court decision. The Undersecretary at the CDF, is not even a voting member of the ordinary sessions of the CDF.
Thereafter, I wrote to a different dicastery at the Roman Curia (The Congregation for Education) and they forward my recourse to the CDF. From the CDF there was no response. I raised a complaint to the Signatura on 27 August 2017.
2017, August 31
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Papal Nuncio to the USA, prejudged the grievance I was trying to send to the Supreme Tribunal of the Signatura. He would not forward my envelope and said “Mrs. Macfarlane, as you know, this issue has already been addressed at the highest levels of the Church. The Cardinal President of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts has written that, within the context of the U.S. and similarly situated countries, “the local bishop’s permission would not be an obligation – whether juridical or moral,” […] “Though I regret that you disagree with the Cardinal President, his interpretation of the relevant canons is authoritative within the legal structure of the Church.” […] “it is not opportune to forward your recourse via the diplomatic pouch of this Nunciature”
Thereafter, I spent the extra money to send my appeal to Rome, rather than to the Papal Nuncio in Washington D.C. It is irregular that the Papal Nuncio would pre-judge an administrative recourse destined for the Supreme Tribunal of the Signatura. The Nuncio seems to conclude that an opinion signed only by President of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative texts is an authoritative interpretation, but it is not.
After trying to get resolved the problem with the Nuncio pre-judging my recourse and refusing to send it, on 13 October 2017, I sent directly to the Vatican my recourse to the Signatura.
2018, March 22
Secretary of the Supreme Tribunal of the Signatura, Bishop Josephus (Giuseppe) Sciacca, has the role of sort-of gatekeeper. He explained, basically, that I don’t have the right to appeal to the Signatura because the controversy was already decided by the CDF earlier, and an aggrieved party forfeits his right to appeal if he misses peremptory deadlines. Furthermore, one cannot repeatedly ask the lower authority for a do-over, if the appellate level authority already ruled against you.
Bishop Sciacca wrote, “As noted by Bishop Daniel Thomas in his letter to you of 28 March 2017, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has already given you a response regarding the same issue.”
While I did already receive a response from a 3rd level staffer at the CDF (Undersecretary Msgr. Morandi, 28 March 2016), that response was not a decision from the CDF answering an issue (i.e. by conducting an administrative proceeding with both parties having legal counsel, concluding with a vote, and issuing a singular administrative act). Against this rejection by the Signatura’s gatekeeper Secretary, one has the option of making recourse to a group named the Congresso. Mary’s Advocates paid the required 1550 Euro deposit to the Signatura and hired a canon lawyer because no one is allowed to have an appeal processed at the Signatura without a canon lawyer and documents are submitted in Latin.
When I first learned of the rejection by the gatekeeper Secretary, I was not aware of all the norms applicable to dicasteries and tribunals at the Holy See that I’ve read in the last months. Had I known then what I know now, I would have emphasized that the CDF never issued any singular administrative act in 2016.
2019, July 9
On 26 July, I received in the mail from the Secretary of the Supreme Tribunal of the Signatura, Bishop Josephus (Giuseppe) Sciacca, the 3-page Latin decree from the Congresso of the Signatura. The advocate that Mary’s Advocate hired gave me a summary translation. Throughout the Decree they refer to the decisionis/decisionem “decision” of the CDF from 2016, as if they believe a legitimate decision making process occurred following the norms required by the Roman Curia and the CDF.