Law & Religion UK is intended as a forum for what we hope is academically-rigorous exploration of the interactions between law and religion, together with the associated human rights issues. We welcome pertinent guest posts and comments on current developments that reflect the views and opinions of their respective authors and meet the General Conditions applying to the site. Those that do not meet these criteria or which are otherwise unidentifiable are unlikely to be published

Frank Cranmer and David Pocklington


© Copyright in individual posts is reserved to their authors.

Religion and law round-up – 30th August

Is seems as though there is plenty going on if you know where to look – but not much in the UK

Vatican ex-envoy dies ahead of trial

On Friday the Vatican announced: “In the early hours of this morning SE Msgr. Józef Wesołowski, former Apostolic Nuncio was found dead in his home in the Vatican. The Vatican authority immediately intervened for the initial investigations, which indicated that the death was due to natural causes. The Promoter of Justice ordered an autopsy, which will be done today and the results will be communicated as soon as possible. The Holy Father has been fully informed”.

Those querying the use of the style “His Excellency Monsignor” in the Vatican announcement were given a legalistic but otherwise unsatisfactory explanation by Vatican spokesman Fr Ciro Benedettini: that “Wesołowski had appealed his laicization and that the appeal had been denied, but that the denial ‘was not officially communicated so as not to aggravate the situation’ with the on-going trial.”

A subsequent announcement confirmed that he died late on Thursday, and stated that the autopsy carried out on 28 August “confirmed the natural cause of death, attributable to a cardiac event … the Office of the Promoter of Justice will acquire the subsequent findings of the usual laboratory tests carried out by that Commission”. On his Canon Law Facebook page Dr Ed Peters despairs of the handling of the story by the Vatican Press Office; and we agree with his assessment that the events are “tailor-made for conspiracy theories”. Following last week’s ecclesiastical funeral in Rome of alleged Mafia boss Vittorio Casamonica, the Church’s handling of the arrangements for the former nuncio will be under detailed scrutiny.

Trinity Western Law School: round three

As we have mentioned before, Trinity Western University, British Columbia, is an overtly-confessional, Christian institution which requires its students to agree to comply with a code of conduct, the “Community Covenant”, which inter alia bans all sexual intimacy outside marriage between a man and woman. TWU is in the process of establishing a law school; and though its syllabus was approved for professional purposes by the Federation of Canadian Law Societies, reaction among Provincial Law Societies has been mixed. Continue reading

Former nuncio dies at Vatican ahead of abuse trial – updated

In an  earlier post  we reported that on 11 July 2015, the first hearing at the Vatican City State Tribunal of the criminal trial of the ex-nuncio to the Dominican Republic Józef Wesołowski had been postponed due to the hospitalization of the defendant.

Today the Vatican announced

“In the early hours of this morning SE Msgr. Józef Wesołowski, former Apostolic Nuncio was found dead in his home in the Vatican. The Vatican authority immediately intervened for the initial investigations, which indicated that the death was due to natural causes. The Promoter of Justice ordered an autopsy, which will be done today and the results will be communicated as soon as possible. The Holy Father has been fully informed”.


On 29th August, this further announcement was made:

“Vatican Press Release about the autopsy on the body of Msgr. Józef Wesołowski, 08/29/2015, [B0633].

Following the sudden death of the former Apostolic Nuncio Jozef Wesołowski, which occurred late on Thursday, August 27, the Office of the Promoter of Justice Vatican, as part of the obligations of its authority, ordered the execution of a test autopsy, appointing a Commission expert of three experts, coordinated by Prof. John Arcudi, Professor of Forensic Medicine at the University of Rome “Tor Vergata”.

The investigations took place yesterday afternoon and, by the initial conclusions of the macroscopic examination, [esame macroscopico], confirmed a natural cause of death, attributable to a cardiac event.

In the coming days the Office of the Promoter of Justice will acquire the subsequent findings of the usual laboratory tests carried out by that Commission”.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Former nuncio dies at Vatican ahead of abuse trial – updated" in Law & Religion UK, 28 August 2015, http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2015/08/28/former-nuncio-dies-at-vatican-ahead-of-abuse-trial/

Consistory court judgments and CFCE Determinations – August

This month’s round-up of judgements and determinations within the Church of England

This round-up includes: summaries of the Church’s Independent Reviewer’s reports; determinations of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England, (CFCE), at its meeting on 23 July 2015; judgements of the Court of Arches and the consistory courts. Further recent consistory court judgements will be reviewed in a later post.

Reports of the Independent Reviewer

Whilst these are not judgements per se, the reports produced by the Church’s Independent Reviewer, Sir Philip Mawer, provide important guidance in relation to resolving disputes arising from the operation of the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests. As part of the settlement by which the Church of England agreed to the ordination of women as bishops in 2014, it established an ombudsman-style procedure by which those with concerns about the operation of the new arrangements could appeal to an Independent Reviewer.

The first report was published on 31 July 2015 and concerns a complaint raised by Hilary Cotton, Chair of Women and the Church (‘WATCH’) about the fact that a number of chrism masses were to be held in 2015 at which bishops of the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda would preside. However, Sir Philip concluded that the masses are not in themselves a breach of the principles set out in the House of Bishops’ Declaration.

“[r]ather they are a consequence of the underlying division and of the pastoral arrangements the Church has thought it right to make for those who hold the minority view. Provided the masses continue themselves to be conducted within the spirit of the Five Principles, with due sensitivity to the feeling of others, and with full regard to the lawful authority of the relevant diocesan bishop” [42].

Sir Philip issued his second report on 10 August 2015 following a letter from Dr Colin Podmore, Director of Forward in Faith, enclosing an expression of concern about the operation of the House of Bishops’ Declaration in respect of the Parish of All Saints, Cheltenham in the Diocese of Gloucester. As with the earlier report, Continue reading

Northern Ireland and same-sex marriage: the story continues

Though same-sex marriage is legal in England, Wales and Scotland, there is no such provision in Northern Ireland and, as we have mentioned before, moves to institute it have been blocked consistently by the  Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP has repeatedly filed Petitions of Concern in the Stormont Assembly, with the effect of preventing equal marriage legislation from any kind of progress. The result is that same-sex marriages from elsewhere in the UK are treated as civil partnerships.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that a same-sex couple in Northern Ireland who married in England in 2014 are seeking a declaration that they are validly married, arguing that the current law violates their religious freedom under Article 9 ECHR. Despite being together for some time, they chose not to have a civil partnership ceremony in Northern Ireland because it had no religious significance for them; instead, they were married in London in September after same-sex marriage was introduced in England. Continue reading

“Henry VIII powers” for the bishops?

Comments of the Ecclesiastical Law Society on proposals for reforming ecclesiastical law

The 26 July round-up included a quick-link to the response by a working party of the Ecclesiastical Law Society, (ELS), to a consultation by the Archbishops’ Council’s on proposals for reforming ecclesiastical law. These suggest the use of a scheme modelled on Part 1 of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 which contains what is popularly known as “Henry VIII clauses”; the House of Lords Select Committee on the Scrutiny of Delegated Powers defined the term in its first report of 1992-93 as “a provision in a Bill which enables primary legislation to be amended or repealed by subordinate legislation, with or without further Parliamentary scrutiny”.

The Society’s response formed the basis of an article by Ruth Gledhill in Christian Today, Senior lawyers launch devastating critique on church law reform plans, which comments:

“[they] have condemned the proposals as ‘inchoate’ and urged the Archbishops of Canterbury and York ‘not to pander to the false narrative that law is a malign force which stifles the mission of the Church’. They have also raised fears that the proposals represent an attempt ‘to move legislative authority’ away from the General Synod, the Church’s parliament, and to the Archbishops’ Council, the policy body at the heart of Church management. Some even fear that the proposals are a ‘clandestine means’ of removing legal constraints and ‘ceding untrammelled authority to the bishops and to the Archbishops’ Council,’ according to the critique.” Continue reading

Religion and law round-up – 23rd August

A very quiet week, dominated by the publication of the McLellan Commission’s report on safeguarding in the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland…

McLellan Commission

This week, the Commission chaired by the Very Revd Dr Andrew McLellan CBE, former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for Scotland from 2002 until 2009 published A Review of the Current Safeguarding Policies, Procedures and Practice within the Catholic Church in Scotland. We posted a summary here.

The Commission was established “to review all aspects of safeguarding policy, procedure and practice within the Catholic Church in Scotland and to make recommendations for improvement that will assist the church in being a safe place for all”. As one might have expected, initial reaction has varied from the welcoming to the critical.

French school lunches and religious observance

Schools in France often offer substitutes for pork to those who have religious objections to eating it; but there is no national rule about that. In 2008 Lyon became the first major city to impose an alternative meatless menu in schools and in recent months several mayors of medium-sized towns have announced their intention to do the same. Recently however, Gilles Platret, the Mayor of Chalon-sur-Saône near Dijon, decided to remove pork substitutes from school menus and his decision was upheld by the local court. He was not the first to do so: in 2014 Marcel Mortreau, Mayor of Sargé-lès-Le Mans, did the same, arguing that his decision accorded with the “principle of Republican neutrality” – laïcité. Continue reading

Prospective legislation – urban myth and fact

Examples of the uncertainties in relying upon prospective legislation

Readers will be aware of the inability of certain sections of the media to distinguish between the legal implications of various stages in the development of statutory legislation, from the portrayal of proposals within consultation documents as future legislative requirements, to the frequent misrepresentation of EU legislation and ECHR judgements. However, this can be a problem even to lawyers and this post describes two recent examples, one (legally) trivial and the other more complex, in which invalid assumptions have been made regarding the implications of prospective legislation. Continue reading