The canon law framework for arbitration of delictual disputes in the Roman Catholic Church of South Africa : a critical and comparative study

Muyebe, Stanslaus C. (2005-04)

Thesis (DTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2005

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In his analysis of conflict resolution in the church sector, Professor Coertzsen (1998:69) points out that disputes occur also within the churches. While some of the disputes are purely doctrinal, others fall into the category of civil disputes. Professor Rik Torfs in an article (1998:27) observes that the Catholic Church is increasingly becoming a site of civil dispute. These include delict claims. Examples of these are: financial loss as a result of unfair suspension or dismissal from a clerical position; financial loss or loss of reputation resulting from unfair dismissal from a religious congregation; damage to a child or adult arising from being sexually abused by a priest or religious or lay person. When delictual disputes occur, state courts have civil jurisdiction over them. At the same time, the South African Arbitration Act 42 of 1965 allows the parties to a delictual dispute to arbitrate their case as an alternative to civil litigation. This trend is gaining currency in the post-apartheid South Africa. In principle, therefore, church members may refer their delictual disputes for arbitration, instead of entering into civil litigation. Church members, thus, have the choice to have their case arbitrated, and church leaders need to make it clear to members that they also have the right to bring their case to the state courts. This study highlights the need for the churches to have an office of contlict resolution. The office may then advise church members who have a delictual dispute on the options available to them. The office may have a list of lawyers (Christian lawyers) who are willing and able to arbitrate on matters referred to them by other Christians. When the parties decide to have their delictual case arbitrated by lawyers, the determination as to whether a person is legally liable for damage repair requires a legal framework. Unlike the situation in civil litigation, the parties who opt for arbitration have the freedom to decide on the legal framework that the arbitrator should use in determining liability. Catholic Church members who are parties to a dispute may, for example, jointly agree that the arbitrator employ the internal law of the Catholic Church, namely the canon law framework. This study envisages a situation where the parties have jointly agreed to the employment of canon law for the arbitration of their case. When the disputants and the arbitrators engage in discussion and decide on whether to use canon law, they need to ask themselves the following questions: (I) What principles and rules of law has canon law established for the determination of the issue at dispute? (2) How do the standards of justice in canon law differ from those in secular law? What provisions invoked by the arbitrators would result in gross injustice to the claimant? (3) If the provisions of canon law would result in gross injustice to the claimant, the church members who are parties to a dispute may choose to rectify and supersede the limitation inherent in canon law. The question arises: to what provisions in secular law are the arbitrators and Church members able to resort to compensate for the limitations of canon law? (4) How do the standards of justice in canon law differ from Biblical standards? To what biblical messages might the arbitrators and the church members resort to overcome the limitations in canon law? While recognising the value of the fourth question, this study limits itself to the first three. It is hoped that future studies will address the fourth question. The present study attempts to answer the first three questions by means of a critical comparative analysis of the framework that canon law has established for determining the various possible issues at dispute. In the study it is argued that the employment by an arbitrator of some of the provisions in canon law would result in gross injustice. The disputants need to take note of these before they mandate the arbitrator to apply canon law in their case.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: In sy analise van kontlikoplossing in die kerk, wys professor Coertzen (1998:69) daarop dat geskilpunte ook binne kerke plaasvind. Terwyl sommige hiervan suiwer leerstellig is, ressorteer ander onder die kategorie van siviele dispute. In 'n artikel verwys Professor Rik Torfs (1998:27) daarna dat die Katolieke Kerk toenemend 'n plek van siviele dispuut word. Hieronder word onregmatige eise ingesluit . Voorbeelde hiervan sluit in: finansiele verlies as gevolg van onregverdige skorsing of afdanking van 'n geestelike pos; finansiele verlies of verlies aan reputasie wat spruit uit onregverdige ontslag van 'n godsdienstige gemeente; skade aan 'n kind of volwassene wat spruit uit seksuele mishandeling deur 'n priester, 'n godsdienstige of leke persoon. Wanneer onregmatige dispute plaasvind, het staatshowe siviele jurisdiksie daaroor. Terselfdertyd laat die Suid-Afrikaanse Arbitrasie Wet 42 van 1965 toe dat partye tot 'n onregmatige dispuut hul saak kan laat arbitreer as 'n alternatief tot siviele litigasie. In Suid- Afrika het hierdie neiging toegeneem in die postapartheid era. Ous, in prinsiep, mag kerklidmate hul onregmatige dispute verwys vir arbitrasie, in plaas daarvan om hul te wend tot siviele litigasie. Ous het kerklidmate die keuse om hul sake te laat arbitreer, en kerk leiers moet dit aan lidmate duidelik stel dat hulle ook die reg het om hul sake na die staaathowe te neern. Hierdie studie bring die noodsaaklikheid na yore die vir kerke om 'n kantoor te he vir kontlikbeslegting. Die kantoor mag dan kerklidmate wat 'n onregmatige dispuut het adviseer aangaande die alternatiewe wat vir hulle beskikbaar is. Die kantoor mag 'n lys hou van Christel ike prokureurs wat gewillig en bevoeg is om te arbitreer 001' sake wat deur ander Christene na hulle verwys word. Wanneer die partye besluit om hul onregmatige saak deur prokureurs te laat arbitreer, het die vasstelling of 'n persoon wetlik aanspreeklik is vir reparasie van skade 'n wetlike raamwerk. Anders as in die geval van siviele litigasie, het die partye wat besluit op arbitrasie die keuse om te besluit watter wetlike raamwerk die arbiter rnoet gebruik om aanspreeklikheid vas te stel. Lidmate van die Katolieke Kerk, wat partye tot 'n dispuut is, mag, by voorbeeld, gesamentlik besluit dat die arbiter die interne reg van die Katolieke Kerk gebruik, naamlik die kanonieke regsraamwerk. Hierdie studie beoog 'n situasie waar die partye gesamentlik besluit het om die kanonieke reg vir die arbitrasie van hul saak te gebruik. Wanneer die disputante en die arbiters in gesprek tree en besluit of die kanonieke reg gebruik sal word, moet hulle hulself die volgende vrae afvra: (I) Watter prinsiepe en reels van die reg het die kanonieke reg ingestel om die saak van dispuut wat ter sprake is, te bepaal? (2) Hoe verskil die standaarde van die reg in kanonieke reg van die in burgeri ike reg? Watter voorsienings ingestel deur die arbiters sou uitvloei in erge onreg aan die eiser? (3) As die voorsienings van die kanonieke reg sou lei tot erge onreg aan die eiser, mag die kerklidmate, wat partye tot die dispuut is, kies om in die kanonieke reg die beperkings reg te stel en te vervang. Die vraag ontstaan: na watter voorsienings in die kerklike reg kan die arbiters en kerklidmate verwys om te vergoed vir die beperkinge van die kanonieke reg? (4) Hoe verskil die standaarde van die reg in kanonieke reg van die bybelse standaarde? Na watter bybelse boodskappe mag die arbiters en die kerklidmate verwys om die beperkinge in die kanonieke reg te oorkom? Terwyl die waarde van die vierde vraag erken word, word hierdie studie beperk tot die eerste drie. Daar word gehoop dat toekomstige studies die vierde vraag sal aanspreek. Die huidige studie poog om die eerste drie vrae te beantwoord deur middel van 'n krities-vergelykende analise van die raamwerk wat die kanonieke reg ingestel het 0111 verskeie rnoontlike sake van dispuut vas te stel. In hierdie studie word aangevoer dat die indiensneming deur 'n arbiter van sommige van die voorsienings van kanonieke reg sou kon lei tot erge onreg. Die disputante moet kennis neem hiervan voordat hulle die arbiter die mandaat gee om die kanonieke reg in hul geval toe te pas.

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