MGR DAVID HOGAN
When I attended my first Annual Conference of the Society, over thirty years ago, it was like being ushered into a different world, where one met at home men of considerable learning and experience in the field of Canon Law.
They were very welcoming and much given to discussing at length such matters as Lack of Due Discretion, which had not really seen the light of day as one who studied in Rome. So one of the first lessons I learned about the Canon Law Society was how much its members had to offer, the support of one another, and how much there was to learn.
This original assessment I for one have always found to be true, which is a sentiment which is surely shared by many. From its early days the Canon Law Society has been a learned body with a healthy independence which because of its scholarship and integrity has acquired a reputation of which we can all be proud.
Over the years our membership has, to the great benefit of the Society, broadened from being exclusively clerical and male to first including religious Sisters and now men and women from many walks of life all over the world who seek to share in the study of Canon Law in the service of the Church and its members.
Many, after the Second Vatican Council, thought that Canon Law was at the end of its earthly life; as we know they were greatly mistaken. However, any body of law needs to be informed by the realities of life and to a degree be fashioned accordingly. The lengthy consultation, which took place over many years before the present Code of Canon Law saw the light of day, was a significant recognition by the Legislator of this listening and learning from others. The Society contributed to this process and so it has continued; another cause for justifiable pride.
Over these last fifty years the shape and composition of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales has changed enormously and this is reflected both in the work of the Society and the issues which it has had to address. The extensive work over many years undertaken by Tribunals as they have handled matrimonial cases has of necessity in more recent times evolved into less familiar areas caused by grave issues of allegations of abuse and related matters. In all of this the Society has responded to the challenge in the service of justice in the life of the Church.
We look forward with confidence to the future, our membership continues to grow and the cheerful support we give to one another and the wider Church brings a lightness of touch which helps both in giving a sense of perspective and of compassion in all we do. Thank you to all who have worked so hard over the last many years in making for such a vibrant and good natured body which is the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland. May God bless our Society in the years ahead.
The Feast of St Raymund of Penafort 7 January 2008