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2008 Role of Law Award

Tuesday, October 21, 2008  
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Reverend John P. Beal received the 2008 Role of Law Award at the Convention in Kansas City, MO last week. Click here for Fr. Beal's Acceptance Speech.

John Beal

Role of Law Introduction - given by Rev. Paul Counce

The nominee for the annual Role of Law award is usually introduced only gradually, beginning with early glimpses in infancy and childhood, when none of us - including the awardee - knew that a canonical future was waiting to blossom. The hints then thrown out are crafted to keep the ultimate revelation of the honoree's identity a mystery until the last moment.

I am going to do this in similar manner, yet still a bit differently. It seems to me that we can begin instead with the honoree's mysterious present, and work backwards. At the present time, this year's recipient of the Role of Law award proudly represents an institution of higher learning in this country as the official Faculty Representative to the NCAA - the National Collegiate Athletic Association. This has helped our honoree to be the unofficial "mascot" of the field hockey and women's basketball teams. I think you'd agree with me that this is unusual for a canonist!

Also unusual is the recipient's lifestyle: in a dormitory with almost three score undergraduates, as a faculty resident there. This seems a far cry from the quiet, placid environment one normally associates with canonical research among the dusty stacks of the library, doesn't it?

Yet our honoree this evening is scholar in the best sense of the word. The recipient of our award has done more than a lion's share of research while authoring over 50 major canonical articles and commentaries. The university setting has seen this professor supervise numerous dissertations and theses, too, as well as do editing work for journals and commentaries with which we are all familiar. Of course, the core of any professorial job is teaching, and some two undergraduate and fourteen graduate courses in canon law taught have marked our awardee's academic career over the better part of the past two decades.

In these critical times as a result of the clergy sex abuse scandals, particular mention must be made of the four-weekend training courses our nominee offered to bishops already in 1995 - with others - on how to make use of the heretofore underused penal law of the Church in addressing situations of clerical misconduct and so remove those unsuitable from ministry. One of the university courses taught by our recipient was entitles Special Issues in Clergy Law, and dealt with dealing with and prosecuting abuse cases. These teaching moments have been supplemented by personal involvement in many a canonical process. In fact we can hardly call it an occasional sidelight, given the honoree's work in this area, and the voluminous advice affered to bishops, major superiors, diocesan officials, canonical colleagues, and accused clerics over the years.

As we continue to work backwards, we see that other involvement with the Church also has been a hallmark of our recipient's canonical service as well. A familiar face and voice at national CLSA and regional canonoical meetings, our honoree served in Tribunal ministry and as assistant chancellor. In fact, in 1983, the advent of the revised Code of Canon Law had found our recipient already hard at work studying for the licentiate and then the doctorate in canon law at The Catholic University of America. Before embarking on a canonical career path, our honoree served as high school assistant principal and before that as a high school teacher.

Even earlier, this year's awardee returned to this country from graduate theological studies at The Catholic University of Louvain in Leuven, Belgium, to be ordained a priest for his home diocese in 1974. It's a safe conclusion to make that his college, high school, elementary school, and even kindergarten years prepared him well for all that was to come.

At the end of this reverse biography, then, we meet at birth the bouncing baby, destined one day to stand in our midst and to know of our esteem as one of our most distinguished colleagues in the craft of canon law. And he proudly has more hair today than he did at the beginning!

My friends, it is my pleasure and privilege to announce that the 2008 Role of Law award of the Canon Law Society of America is given to a priest of the Diocese of Erie and professor of canon law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC: the Reverend John P. Beal, III.

Rev. Paul D. Counce


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