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.

Update: Vatican Insider carries a report of the funeral mass of Józef Wesołowski which took place on 31st August and was celebrated by Pope’s Almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, “according to rite for the laity”.

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

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

Readers, pastoral guidance and canon law

Under a post entitled Another P.T.O. revoked…, Jeremy Timm, the new National Coordinator at Changing Attitude, announced that his Permission to Officiate (PTO) as a reader in the Howden Team Ministry would be withdrawn “with immediate effect” when in September he and his partner change the status of their relationship from that of civil partnership to marriage. This decision by the Archbishop of York was received with surprise by many since this appears to be the first occasion on which action has been taken against some outside the “three orders of Ministry” outlined in paragraph 27 of the House of Bishops Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage, (“the Guidance”), published on 14 February 2014. There was an added irony in the news that within the same week, the marriage of a same-sex couple had been blessed in the Dundee Cathedral of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

With regard to the other PTOs and licences that have been revoked or not granted, each has represented a different facet of the Church of England’s relationship with its stipendiary and non-stipendiary clergy. As such it is therefore difficult to draw any firm conclusions in some of these “grey areas”, particularly since one of these is subject to judicial proceedings. It is nevertheless possible to outline some of the legislative provisions governing the present considerations; further insights were given in the BBC Sunday programme interviews with Jeremy Timm and with the Rt Revd Robert Paterson, Bishop of Sodor and Man and Chair of the Central Readers’ Council of the Church of England. Bishop Paterson also chaired the group which advised the House of Bishops on the review of its 2005 Pastoral Statement in relation to appointment of clergy in civil partnerships to the episcopate; the HoB issued a statement on 4 January 2013. Continue reading

Religion and law round-up – 16th August

Our blog stats indicated great interest in the second report from Sir Philip Mawer, the Church of England’s Independent Reviewer. Elsewhere, however, it’s the silly season…

Beneficed clergy appointments

On 10 August 2015, the Church of England’s Independent Reviewer, Sir Philip Mawer, issued his second report on 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 his earlier report on 31 July, the grievance was not raised following the passing of an appropriate resolution by the PCC of the parish concerned, as was intention of the Regulation, but was considered to be within the vires of the Independent Reviewer as it raised issues of general application, here “not only legal issues about the authorization of assistant clergy in multi-parish benefices but potentially also an important question of principle concerning the need for clarity in relation to how such authorizations are granted.”

In addition to recommending a review of the licences of the two NSMs concerned, the report clarifies the position in relation to Resolutions A and B. It also outlines a procedure in relation to the appointment of a woman to minister otherwise than as a member of the team in a multi-parish benefice in which one or more parishes has, or is deemed to have, passed the resolution set out in paragraph 20 of the House of Bishops’ Declaration.

More on invasive autopsies

BAILII  posted the judgment of 2014 in R (Goldstein) v Her Majesty’s Coroner for Inner London District Greater London [2014] EWHC 3889 (Admin), in which Mitting J and HHJ Peter Thornton, the Chief Coroner, considered the issue of religious objections to invasive autopsies. We are still hoping to see a transcript of their recent judgment in Rotsztein v HM Senior Coroner for Inner London [2015] EWHC (Admin), in the hope of producing a comprehensive post on the issue. Failing that, however, we shall post a note on Goldstein on its own. Continue reading

Religion and law round-up – 9th August

With the domestic courts adjourned for the summer, a quiet week in the UK – so what follows is mostly news from elsewhere 

Sunday trading

On 5 August, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department of Communities and Local Government launched their Consultation on devolving Sunday trading rules. We posted about the consultation and about the initial reactions which reflect long-held views of the bodies concerned, and would therefore not be surprised if the draft of the government’s response to the Consultation had already been written.

Safeguarding and the Goddard Inquiry

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in England and Wales, chaired (after a couple of false starts) by Justice Lowell Goddard of the New Zealand High Court, is now properly under way. Maria Strauss kindly provided a guest post on the terms of reference and operation of the Inquiry and, in particular, how it is likely to impact on religious groups. And while we’re on the subject of historic sexual abuse…

… Jehovah’s Witnesses and child protection in Australia

The Australian Associated Press reports that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that they have recorded more than one child abuse allegation every month Continue reading

Non-recognition of same-sex couples breaches Article 8: Oliari & Ors v Italy

The Fourth Section ECtHR has held unanimously that the fact that under Italian law same-sex couples are unable to marry or enter into any other type of legally-recognised civil union violates Article 8 ECHR (private and family life).

In Italy same-sex couples are not allowed to contract marriage, as affirmed in the Constitutional Court judgment no. 138 of 15 April 2010, nor does domestic law provide for any alternative type of civil union, either for same-sex or for opposite-sex couples. In Oliari & Ors v Italy [2015] ECHR 716 the applicants complained that they were being discriminated against in breach both of Article 14 (discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8 and of Article 12 (right to marry), taken on its own and in conjunction with Article 14.

Continue reading

Religion and law round-up – 26th July

Parliament is in recess and cathedral choirs have begun their summer tours. Nevertheless there are plenty “quick links” as a respite from…

Laudato si’…

… which is apparently having a negative impact on the popularity ratings of Pope Francis.

Religion New Service reports that “growing conservative disaffection with Pope Francis appears to be taking a toll on his once Teflon-grade popularity in the U.S., with a new Gallup poll showing the pontiff’s favourability rating among all Americans dropping to 59 percent from a 76 percent peak early last year. Among conservatives, the drop-off has been especially sharp: Just 45 per cent view Francis favourably today, as opposed to 72 per cent a year ago. The commentator Art Swift has suggested “his decline may be attributable to the pope’s denouncing of ‘the idolatry of money’ and attributing climate change partially to human activity, along with his passionate focus on income inequality — all issues that are at odds with many conservatives’ beliefs.”

Back in the UK, the BBC’s environment analyst Roger Harrabin, the BBC’s environment analyst observes that Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has been criticised ahead of a climate speech. Whilst Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to lead the world to a climate change deal at a summit in Paris in November, Chancellor George Osborne has announced a slew of policy changes which will increase UK emissions: scrapping of subsidies for onshore wind and commercial solar — the two cheapest forms of clean energy; cutting the energy efficiency budget; ending the tax break for clean cars; abolishing rules on zero carbon housing; lowering taxes on polluting firms; and introducing a tax on clean energy.

These measures will impact on the Church of England in relation to measures for the reduction of its own carbon footprint, and also its investment decisions. More widely, critics have said that previously the UK Climate Change Act has been regarded as a world-leading climate policy but that accolade is now seriously in doubt — if a country as rich as the UK finds clean energy unaffordable, what hope is there for most of the rest of the world?

In the courts

There were three important judgments this week: Continue reading