DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     September 22, 1999     vol. 10, no. 180


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      Every day we present a short point that helps bring into focus the treasures of the Roman Catholic Church that comprise the great Deposit of Faith.

      It is no secret that over the past thirty years fewer and fewer know their Faith and it shows with the declining number of vocations, parish participation and attendance at Holy Mass. We have the new Catechism of the Catholic Church but for the common man, the one brought up on sound bites and instant gratification, it is more of a text book and that in itself prompts them to shy away from such a tome. So what's a loyal Catholic to do in evangelizing to fellow Catholics and understand their Faith? Our answer: go back to basics - to the great Deposit of Faith. We have the Baltimore Catechism which, for unknown and ridiculous reasons, was shelved after Vatican II. We have the Holy Bible but there are so many newer versions that the Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Latin Vulgate in English versions, the ones used for so long as the official Scriptural text authorized by the Church, seem lost in a maze of new interpretations that water down the Word. This is further complicated by the fact there are so few Douay-Rheims editions in circulation though it is available on the net at DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE. We have so many Vatican documents available at the Vatican web site and other excellent Catholic resource sites that detail Doctrine, Dogma and Canon Law. We have the traditions, and the means of grace but how do we consolidate all these sources into one where it is succinct and easy to understand? We have the perfect vehicle. It is called "My Catholic Faith", now out of print, that was compiled by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow and published by My Mission House. This work ties in Scriptural references, the Sacraments, Dogmas, Doctrines, Traditions, Church documents, Encyclical and Papal decrees to clearly illustrate the Faith in simple, solid and concise terms that all can understand and put into practice. We will quote from this work while adding in more recent events and persons when applicable since the book was written in the late forties during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. We also quote from the Catholic Almanac published by Our Sunday Visitor for the Roman Curial offices.

    Nothing in Holy Mother Church's teaching has changed and therefore we feel confident that these daily "points of enlightenment" will help more Catholics better understand their faith, especially those who were not blessed with early formation of the faith in the home and their parish school. Regardless of where any Catholic is in his or her journey toward salvation, he or she has to recognize that the Faith they were initiated into at the Sacrament of Baptism is the most precious gift they have been given in life.


The Tribunals

        In the last three installments we covered the nine Sacred Congregations in the Roman Curia. Today we feature the three Tribunals, the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Apostolic Signatura and the Roman Rota. These Tribunals have full judicial authority and are basically the courts of the Holy See much in the same manner as the United States judicial system.

  • Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary

       This Tribunal judges all cases involving conscience, whethere sacramental or not, and all cases concerning the granting and use of indulgences, outside of the rights of the Holy Office on the subject of dogmatic doctrine. The Prefect or Major Penitentiary is Texas-born Cardinal William Wakefield Baum, the former Archbishop of Washington D.C. He is about to release a 100-page document further defining indulgences and the requirements to obtain the merits of them. He has already published a special document signed by the Holy Father which further defines indulgences for the Jubilee Year 2000.

        This Tribunal began in the 12th century and was evolved through decisions of various Popes since then, especially Pope Saint Pius V who drastically reorganized the entire Tribunal in 1569. Pope Saint Pius X realigned it during his pontificate, limiting jurisdiction to within its boundaries. On March 25, 1917 Pope Benedict XV incorporated the Office of Indulgences into this Tribunal and it has been untouched since then.

  • Apostolic Signatura

       This Tribunal can best be described as the Supreme Court of the Roman Curia with charge of all appeals, and settling all cases in respect jurisdiction of lower courts and offices. Headed by Italian Cardinal Gilberto Agustoni as Prefect, this Tribunal's responsibilities include supervision of the observance of laws and rights at the highest level and has final say in cases involving personnel and decisions of the the Roman Rota.

        The origins of this Tribunal was established by Pope Eugene IV in the mid 15th century and affected by the legislation of several Popes since then. Pope Saint Pius X reorganized this Tribunal in 1908 and established it as the Supreme Tribunal of the Church.

  • Sacred Roman Rota

       This Tribunal is the Ordinary Court of Appeal for cases appealed to the Holy See from outside the Vatican. It is mostly used for decisions involving cases when the validity of marriage is under question. It is overseen by the Dean of this Tribunal, Bishop Mario Francesco Pompedda.

        The Sacred Roman Rota began in the Apostolic Chancery and evolved through the years until 1908 when Pope Saint Pius X reorganized it along with the rest of the Tribunals and it was further revised by Pope Pius XI in 1934. In 1982 and 1987 Pope John Paul II approved new norms and responsibilities for this Tribunal.

      Tomorrow: the Roman Curia: Pontifical Offices part one

September 22, 1999       volume 10, no. 180


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