"Un Ti Morceau"

"A Little Something," mini-lessons and reflections by our pastor, Father Paul Counce

The Roles of Promoter of Justice & Defender of the Bond

Published December 18, 2016 by Fr. Paul Counce

In the last ti morceau I dealt with the role of judge in the Diocesan Tribunal. It makes sense that I and others serve in such a role, since the Tribunal is the “judicial branch” of the local Church, after all. Fathers Jamin David, Michael Moroney and Frank Uter and I fulfill this judicial function here in the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

Yet there are other roles to fulfill in Tribunal work, since other persons assist with our work. With the bishop’s approval, I make these assignments too, and some of them are quite specialized.

Father Vincent Dufresne serves in two very, very important ways: as the diocesan promoter of justice and as a defender of the bond in our Tribunal, two other roles for which a degree in canon law is needed. Father Vincent obtained his licentiate degree in canon law from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome in 1993.

The promoter of justice is basically the prosecutor in certain types of cases, representing the Church and the public good in seeking judgment before the Church’s courts. That work is pretty rare. But the other role is a demanding one: the defender of the bond is charged with doing everything reasonable to uphold the marriage bond, principally by opposing petitions for marital invalidity. The defender’s participation in our evaluative process makes it a truly contentious matter, and thus we can rightly use the term “trial” for it: one of the parties to a failed marriage always argues in favor of a declaration of its invalidity, but the defender of the bond just as certainly argues against such a finding.

Fathers Matthew Dupré, Matthew Lorrain and Jerry Martin also serve as defenders of the bond in our Tribunal. Like our non-degreed judges, they needed to obtain a special dispensation in order to assist in this work from one of the Church’s Supreme Courts in Rome, the Signatura. They actually are required to work closely with Father Vincent in fulfilling this responsibility, which greatly helps the judges to understand the truth of any particular case.

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