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32 Cath. Law. 301 (1988-1989)


When students of legal history think of church courts, they may conjure up thoughts of some odd and obsolete tribunal about which Dickens wrote, while students of popular history may think of the people who burned Joan of Arc. In contrast, when Roman Catholics think of Church courts, they may think of tribunals which do no more than grant marriage annulments, while American Protestants may think of nothing at all. Church courts encompass the whole range of institutions used by different churches, including Jewish communities, for authoritative intervention into affairs of individual church members. Institutions of this kind have had a long history and a wide variety of concerns, including decision-making in cases concerning church personnel and property, access to the sacraments or other ministrations, and the sins of individual church members and their resultant penances. My primary goal for this paper, however, is to focus on the church courts' role as a means of alternative dispute resolution. In other words, I will attempt to explore the development of the church courts' part in the settlement of cases having nonchurch authority litigants or cases involving secular affairs of a type which the civil courts also handle.


Reprinted with permission of the Catholic Lawyer.

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