members of the Roman Rota on Saturday
(Photo from L'Osservatore Romano)
The fact is that Canon Law is there to protect - laity, clergy and bishops. The trouble is that when you want to call upon it you have to go all the way to Rome. Most laity don't know how, most priests wouldn't risk the wrath of their bishop. What the Law says is good but if it's being ignored at a local level it's a very arduous process to appeal to Rome. I suppose it is true that access to the law is as important as the law itself.
However, the Holy Father has some excellent things to say in his annual address to the Roman Rota: "Christian Maturity Leads One to an Ever Greater Love of the Law."
You can read it on Zenit and at Vatican News but here is a précis of some interesting bits.
In recent times some currents of thought have warned against excessive attachment to the Church's laws, regarding it as a manifestation of legalism. Consequently, there have been proposals for approaches that are more in keeping with theological and pastoral intentions, leading to juridical creativity in which the individual situation becomes the decisive factor. It is worth noting immediately that this position does not overcome the positivism that it denounces, limiting itself to replacing the one positivism with another in which the human interpretive work comes to prominence in determining what is lawful. There is a lack of a sense of an objective law to be discovered since it is subjected to considerations that pretend to be theological and pastoral, but that are, in the end, exposed to the danger of arbitrariness. Thus legal hermeneutics is rendered vacuous: it can then be adapted to any situation, even one opposed to the law's letter.
There is another route, one in which the adequate understanding of canon law opens the way to an interpretive effort that inserts itself into the pursuit of the truth about law and justice in the Church. True law is inseparable from justice.Something occurs that is similar to what I have said about the interior process of St. Augustine in biblical hermeneutics: "transcending the letter made the letter itself credible." Thus we confirm that even in legal hermeneutics the juridical truth can be loved, sought and served and provide an authentic horizon.
The dictum "sentire cum Ecclesiae" (thinking or feeling with the Church) is also relevant to disciplinary matters by reason of the doctrinal foundations that are always present and at work in the Church's legal norms. In this way, there must also be applied to canon law that hermeneutic of renewal in continuity, of which I spoke in reference to Vatican II, which is so closely connected to current canonical legislation. Christian maturity leads one to an ever greater love of the law and a desire that it be faithfully applied.