Congregation for Clergy decree on Sale priest published

 A Holy See Congregation for the Clergy decree calling for "implementation without further delay" of an earlier 2004 decree invalidating the removal by Bishop Jeremiah Coffey of controversial priest, Fr John Speekman, from his Morwell parish has now been published on a local website.

According to the "orthodox" Catholic bulletin Into the Deep, Bishop Coffey has not yet contacted Fr Speekman over the matter despite the decree's call for the priest's return to his parish "without further delay".

The 20 November decree, signed by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos is published in full in the January issue of the bulletin.

The decree states that "the petition of Rev John Speekman against the Second Decree of Removal (by Bishop Coffey) dated 14 December 2005 is upheld because, notwithstanding the substantial compliance of the Ordinary with the procedural law governing the Removal of a Parish Priest, the Second Decree of Removal violates the law in decernendo because it fails to introduce new information which would lead the Congregation to a different disposition in the case and because it relies upon causes and arguments for removal that were previously found to be insufficient by the Congregation".

Thus, "the dispositions of the [earlier] Decree of the Congregation for the Clergy issued on 8 July 2004 are to be implemented without further delay and the Congregation is to be notified of such implementation in a prompt manner," the decree concludes.

The Congregation cited both procedural and substantive grounds for its earlier decision.

Procedurally, the original removal of Fr Speekman was invalid "because the letter by the Most Reverend Ordinary to Father Speekman dated 13 May 2003 did not contain valid causes or arguments for the removal of Father Speekman, which causes and arguments are required for validity under canon 1742", the decree says.

Substantively, the decree says that "because (1) [Bishop Coffey] has not demonstrated that the ministry of the Rev John Speekman has 'become harmful or at least ineffective' as required by canon 1740, (2) the causes for the removal are deemed insufficient under canons 1741 and 1742, and (3) the rights to due process under the law (canon 221) have been denied Rev. John Speekman in the exercise of his role as Parish Priest of a parochial school subject to his authority".

On appeal, the Congregation for the Clergy found that no new grounds had been established by Bishop Coffey to justify his original decision to remove Fr Speekman and to overturn the Congregation's earlier finding.

Into the Deep (January, 2007)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Sale diocese
Sale Decree 2004

Vatican backs reinstatement of Gippsland priest (CathNews, 1/12/06)
Bishop considering options on Rome support for "bullying" priest (CathNews, 25/8/04)

9 Jan 2007

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