A small working party was established early in 1972 to deal with what was then called Due Process. Eventually the document was referred to as the Reconciliation Procedure. It was shortly after the establishment of the Working Party that it was discovered that the proposal was much more complicated than it had at first seemed. By coincidence, a National Conference of Priests meeting had approached the Conference of Bishops of England and Wales to establish some sort of Due Process. It was agreed that the CLS Working Party would report at the next Woodhall Meeting (May 1972). At that meeting an interim report was produced for comment and this was then introduced into a report of the Canon Law Society with the request to all the Membership for comment by the end of November 1972.
At the January CLS Wimbledon meeting in 1973 a final version of a conciliation procedure was produced. By this time the title of the document had become the Reconciliation Procedure. The final report was passed to the Conference of Bishops in March 1973. The Conference “received” the procedure; and passed it on to the National Conference of Priests at their meeting in September 1973 for discussion and reply. The National Conference of Priests was not overwhelmingly impressed by the procedure; but thanked the Bishops nonetheless. However there was a resolution of the National Conference of Priests which seemed to indicate large scale irritation at the Bishops and the Canon Law Society for not producing something better. This was not an outstanding success for the Canon Law Society. It will be recalled that the revision of the Code had included a document called The Administrative Procedure. This was a process with rules and regulations and teeth, which dealt with complaints by clergy against Bishops and Superiors. But this procedure, already widely discussed, was still part of the Code Revision; and another ten years would elapse before such a procedure could be used.
For those who are students of the history of Canon Law in this country, a copy of the provisions of the Canon Law Society’s Reconciliation Procedure of 1973 is available at CLSN 26, September 1975. Several years were expended by the CLS on this project. The Members who produced the 1973 document were: Monsignor Ralph Brown, Monsignor Gerard Sheehy, Monsignor Daniel Shanahan, Father Desmond O’Ryan, Father James McGettrick, Monsignor Michael Quinlan and Mr Robert O’Brien.
1 September 2007 Mgr. Ralph Brown