The 56th Annual Conference of the Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand was successfully held on the 4th-7th September 2023. The event gathered approximately 80 canon lawyers and lay delegates from Australia, New Zealand, Oceania, Canada, Great Britain & Ireland and USA, promoting the professional development of, and foster fellowship among, the members of the Society in their service of the Catholic Church.
Bishop Michael Gielen was invited to be the main celebrant for the Society’s Conference Mass and his presence was cordially welcomed at dinner. The Society also welcomed Mr. Damian Dempsey as representative of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC) and the New Zealand delegates comprising of staff of the Tribunal of the Catholic Church in New Zealand.
Also present were notable international delegates from sister societies namely, the President of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain & Ireland - Rev. Francis Bradley and the President Elect of the Canon Law Society of America – Very Rev. Kenneth Riley. The Society was honored to have in its presence, Pr. Chad Glendinning, the Executive Member of The Canadian Canon Law Society and Dean of the Canon Law Faculty of Saint Paul University (SPU), Ottawa, Canada, along with his faculty colleague and key presenter for the Conference, Pr. Michael Andreas Nobel. New Zealand currently has two Doctoral students with SPU - Ms. Elizabeth Ong, Tribunal Judge, National Privacy Officer for the NZCBC and an Executive Committee member of the Society, and Rev. Francis Poon, Promotor of Justice for the Tribunal. Rev. Francis Poon is presently in Ottawa completing his doctoral studies and Ms. Elizabeth Ong is the first married lay woman canonist in New Zealand to study towards a doctorate in Canon Law.
This year’s conference speakers addressed topics which were current to church life today and presented papers on topics such as “Church Records and Privacy”, “Vulnerable persons, the Code and Vos Estis”, “Canon 1392: Clerics Abandoning the Sacred Ministry” and practical issues in Church Tribunal related ministry.
The Society also congratulated Msgr. Brendan Daly, Judicial Vicar for the Tribunal of the Catholic Church in New Zealand on his recent publication of his second book, Penal Law in Action, which has been received positively both locally and internationally as a most useful practical guide and text on a complexed topic.
The Conference was a memorable and joyous occasion for the Society as it has been approximately a decade since it was held in the garden city of Otautahi, Christchurch and was also the first in-person conference post-Covid since 2019.
Historically, the Canon Law Society of Australia was founded in 1967 and at the 8th Annual General Meeting in 1974, the Society changed its name to the Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand. The promotion of the role of canon law as an essential instrument of the pastoral mission of the Church and to encourage canonical education are some of the objectives of the Society. Membership of the Society embraces lay persons, clerics and religious working in the canonical field, from diverse nations and cultures especially across Oceania and South East Asia. The 57th Conference will be next held in Brisbane, Australia.