Monday, December 14, 2020

A legal matter

Up on the roof, October 26, 2020

This week I have reason to celebrate, as last Thursday I successfully completed the last final of my first semester of canon-law studies at the Catholic University of America. If all goes well, I should have a JCL degree, licensing me to practice canon law anywhere in the world, by the end of the summer semester of 2022.

I waited until the end of the semester to mention my canon-law studies publicly in case the subject proved too challenging or otherwise unsuited to me. Thankfully I enjoyed my classes and performed well, all of which motivates me to press on. As with my doctoral studies, I am the oldest student in my class and the only laywoman.

The idea to study canon law came to me in early June. It was during the lockdown. To make ends meet since my teaching position at Holy Apostles was eliminated last year, I had been doing theological editing. Having a job that requires constant communion with a computer screen is tolerable when one's daily life includes some human contact; without such contact, it can be maddening. It occurred to me that if I became a canon lawyer, I would have the benefit of interacting with other people every day. 

Another motivation for studying law was the research I was doing at the time for my four-part critique of In Sinu Jesu for Where Peter Is. After the first installment of the critique was published, I heard from a couple of people who said they had witnessed or experienced abusive behavior at a monastery mentioned in the article.  I thought about how, if I were a licensed canon lawyer, I could assist those who were seeking to report such behavior or who were harmed by it. 

Yet another motivation was that I have long wanted to be involved in postulating causes for sainthood. My doctorate in sacred theology combined with my JCL would effectively make me a one-stop shop for people seeking someone to help with such a cause.

Over the course of the past semester, I have reflected further on what I would like to do as a canon lawyer and have come around to the realization that working on annulment cases could bring a sense of vocational satisfaction. I'm glad to have that thought, since it is highly likely that, in actual fact, more than ninety percent of my work as a canonist will be assisting one or more diocesan marriage tribunals. What appeals to me about it is that, as a woman and as a layperson, I could be present for people seeking annulments—listening to them and compassionating them—in a manner that a priest could not (granting that a priest may be compassionate in his own way). And the overwhelming majority of canonists are priests.

In other words, assisting with annulments could prove to be a way for me to exercise the spiritual motherhood that I talked about when addressing the Edith Stein Guild last year.


Please pray for me as I continue my studies. I pray for you and for everyone who reads my writings. God bless you!