I just completed this work, one of the newer books published by the Paulist Press, The Rights of Catholics in the Church.
The work, by Rev. James Cordien, is obviously the work of a scholar of canon law. While very factual, the presentation is dry. At the end of the discussion in each section, Cordien adds needed flavor through a case study.
While the presentation is dry, the work is a comprehensive look at the rights of Catholics in Church (true to the name!) while admitting that these rights are not always respected. The sense from the author is that as the Church adapts more the notion of “rights of the faithful”, some of the difficulty is presented by the Church, through her priests or bishops or through the institutions of appeal or lack thereof.
In many sectors of the Church, the faithful are sadly believe that “Father is always right”, no matter the situation. This work brings to light many of the rights that I personally was not fully versed on, such as the right to educate children or for religious formation. Some rights, like the right to form assemblies of the faithful, are more well-known through their fruits, the many lay association movements that now exist in the Church. Other rights, such as the right to receive the sacraments should be explored in greater depth–many pastors prohibit individuals from marrying because of parish “registration”, something not foreseen by the Church.
The work is divided into three broad sections: “An Overview of Rights in the Church”, a section that looks at the historical development of rights and freedoms in the Church, from the apostles to the revised 1983 Code of Canon Law. The meat of the book is found in the second section, “The Rights of Catholics in the Church”. This 100-page section speaks of twenty-eight rights identified from the Code of Canon Law by the author broken into relatively easy to understand sections that follow a logical order. Many of these discussions overlap since many of the rights are rooted in common themes, especially the active participation of the faithful in the life and ministry of the Chuch. The final section, “Limitations On and Defense of Rights in the Church”, after acknowledging the rights, explores the limitations and nature of appealing when a person’s rights are denied.
All in all, I give this book three stars for “I liked it”. I probably won’t read it cover-to-cover again, but it’ll stay in my reference collection and add to my understanding of canon law. I do hope the author completes a second volume discussing the obligations, the flip side of the rights coin, of Catholics in the Church.