Structure of the Course

Structure of the Course

The structure of the Course – after the pilot of 1987/1988 – was found to be the right and most convenient arrangement. Consequently, it was adopted for subsequent Courses with only a few modifications and some fine tuning. The original venue was changed from Damascus House, Mill Hill, to St Paul’s Retreat Centre, Teddington, and then in 2007 to the Gillis Centre, Edinburgh.

One of the things that was learnt from the experience of the Courses was that the detailed daily programme itself – although taking in the required periods of public lectures, private study and meetings and seminars – was better established by the students themselves; with one of them taking charge of the “ground arrangements”; with another student in charge of the liturgy celebrated daily during the Course.

The Cost

When the initial report was written in 1989 the cost per student was something well below £500. The costs have now risen (specially with removal from Damascus House (below)) to approximately £1,200 per module, involving £2,400 for the whole Course. This has been held level for several years.

The Lecturers (who are all members of the Canon Law Society) are not paid for their lectures; and are merely reimbursed for their travelling costs and the cost of their keep on the Course.


Originally the students were asked a set of questions which dealt with the domestic and the academic elements of the Course. However, more recently, although questions were asked about the domestic arrangements, the comments sought about the actual academic side of the Course were much more searching. Hence, even the lecturers benefited from these comments.

Development of the Courses

Between 1987 and 2007 there have been 110 participants, with twenty lecturers. The participants have come from all the Tribunals in England and Wales; from all the Regional Tribunals in Ireland; and from the then National Tribunal in Scotland. They have also come from Dioceses as far apart as Wa in Ghana, Yola in Nigeria, Kinjirapally in Kerala, and from Imphal in Manipur, in India.   More than twenty Dioceses were covered; eight countries and four Regional Tribunals.

All the traditional grounds have been covered on each entire Course, total and partial simulation, force and fear, error, deceit, condition, impotence, invalid convalidation, and a thorough coverage of all the aspects of Canon 1095 nn.1-3. Text books have been provided for research; together with Rotal and local decisions; and the Conference Centre (Below: Gillis Centre, Edinburgh) has always provided photocopying facilities; and the students were encouraged to bring their own computers or laptops.

The marking of the work of the students has been broken up into a mark for each individual for the week – their participation as students, the amount of interest shown; and for the written work. These weekly marks were put together with an overall score, advised to each participant, as well as to the funding Superior or the Diocese at the end of the Course.                      

Recruitment of Participants                       

One of the principles worked upon in recruiting participants was that each participant had to be vouched for by a Diocesan Bishop; this applied to priests, deacons, female religious, lay women and lay men. Interestingly all the participants at the first course were priests. Since that time there have been fourteen Deacons, twenty religious as well as lay men and women. Half the participants are now employed at full rate salaries in Tribunals.

However, it had also been the principle of the Courses that the optimum number of participants should be twelve; and no more. It has also been determined that it is not helpful for the participants to join the last part of one Course and complete the work in the first half of the next Course. This was found to be disruptive of the community spirit which each course developed; and was therefore not good for the morale of the participants.

With these principles in view, it has already been necessary to begin canvassing Bishops, together with Judicial Vicars, as early as March for the Course which begins the following January. This recruitment of participants involves a considerable amount of work, quite apart from the vital assembling of lecturers.


Recently it has been noted that the Signatura Apostolica has indicated the value of the Course in considering dispensations for Tribunal Judges who do not have any canonical qualifications. It seems that when a participant has concluded the Canon Law Society Jurisprudential Course, the Signatura may consider a dispensation.

At the conclusion of the Course (both parts) and if the participant has reached at least 70% mark, a certificate is awarded.

In the light of all the above, the general view of the CLS Jurisprudential Course around the country has been very positive, and the whole programme has developed and improved its effectiveness for Diocesan and Regional Tribunals.    

26 March 2007                                               Monsignor Ralph Brown