On Saturday, 4th November, the Catholic Church in England and Wales officially launched its National Tribunal Service (NTS) at a Mass in Westminster Cathedral presided by Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
The purpose of this National Tribunal is to enhance impartiality, transparency and consistency in the application of canon law across its jurisdiction in penal cases. It will be involved in many aspects of penal law affecting clergy, religious and lay people.
In his homily, the Cardinal called the NTS ‘a focus of practical love and service’, adding that by setting up the Tribunal, ‘the Church in England and Wales is recommitting itself to this pursuit of justice for all those who find themselves involved in the Church’s penal system.'
Praying for the work of the Tribunal, he enjoined: ‘Those who will work in it and take responsibility for its good functioning must always see the work they do through this prism of the service of justice and mercy, the upholding of dignity and of love.’
The Tribunal was proposed by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales at their November 2022 Plenary Assembly following the recommendations of the Elliott Review into Safeguarding Structures and Practice in the Church. The Apostolic Signatura, the Holy See’s Supreme Tribunal that ensures that justice in the Church is correctly administered, granted approval for this National Penal Tribunal on 4th May 2023.
In a letter to the President of the Bishops’ Conference Cardinal Nichols, the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura Cardinal Dominique Mamberti, described this news of the formal launch of the Tribunal’s work as a ‘momentous occasion in the life of the local Church’ and assured everyone involved of his prayers: ‘May the ministry of justice undertaken by the newly instituted Tribunal faithfully reflect the Face of Christ, Justus Judex, as so exemplified by that immaculate Speculum Justitiae, the Virgin Mary.’
Father John Poland JCD, a priest of the Archdiocese of Liverpool who has been instrumental in the creation of the Tribunal said: ‘Fairness and justice lie at the heart of our Christian life. The establishment of the NTS demonstrates the commitment of the Church in England and Wales to promote and encourage consistent and fair practice in the determination of penal cases in accordance with the law of the Church, and so to foster confidence in a just outcome for all those involved.’