PENANG – A group of ten canonists from the dioceses of Penang, Singapore, Kuching, Keningau, Melaka- Johor and Kuala Lumpur gathered at the Stella Maris Retreat Centre on 23-26 April 2018 for their annual get-together to meet and update themselves on canonical matters. The invited facilitator was Father I Made Markus Suma from Indonesia. Fr Made is currently doing his doctorate in Canon Law at the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, Manila.
This year’s gathering was hosted by the Diocese of Penang. At the start of the three-day gathering, Father Dominic Santhiyagu read out Bishop Sebastian Francis’ welome address to those present.
Fr Made Markus presented three sessions on the first day beginning with “Disparity of Cult-Ad Normam, Canon 1086 and its Canonical Effects,” followed by “Canonical Elements of Mixed Marriage in Aggiornamento of Vatican II” and, lastly, “Acts of Ordinary and Extraordinary Administration of Temporal Goods of the Church: Canonical Assessment of the Authority of the Diocesan Bishop.”
After each session, there were lively discussions and deliberations among the canonists on questions asked by the different dioceses. The priests shared difficult situations they encountered with their parishioners. One very interesting question was, “What happens when the guy does not want to marry in church but his mother insists on him doing so?” Another one was: what happens if he/ she has not received the Sacrament of Confirmation but now wishes to marry in the church? Does the priest have the right to reject their marriage? The question is: what does canon law say about this and what can canonists do about these situations.
On the second day, Fr Santhiyagu, who has just returned from Manila with a Licentiate Degree in Canon Law and who has been appointed as Tribunal Director in Penang, presented a session on “To Grant or not to Grant Funeral Mass?” This was another interesting topic and got the priests into a lively debate with a good sharing of local issues. One priest commented that the beauty of such a gathering is that they are provided with an avenue to exercise their canonical minds!
Father Jestus Pereira ended the sessions with his topic “a Priest and unCatholic Preaching.” Canon law provides that “a person who teaches doctrine condemned by the Roman Pontiff or an ecumenical council or who obstinately rejects the doctrine mentioned in can 750, & 2 or in Can 752 and who does not retract after having been admonished by the Apostolic See or an ordinary, is to be punished with a just penalty— Can 1371. However, the pastoral approach should be tried before resorting to canonical action.
Of course, any visit to Penang would not be complete without a tour of the city and a taste of Penang’s delicacies! The priests visited the Chew Jetty which is now a heritage site. On the way, they stopped at the newly renovated Church of the Assumption on Farquhar Street, another heritage building. Monsignor Michael Cheah took them on a guided tour of the Penang Diocesan Museum. They had earlier visited the College General, Jalan Cengai where some of the canonists had been trained .
The Canonists’ gathering for 2019 will be in Miri, Sarawak. – Herald Malaysia