This was one of the key points made in a recent presentation of a new Italian-language commentary on the Code of Canon Law.
The book, "Il Codice di diritto canonico," published by the Italian publishing house EDB, is the third edition of the juridical-pastoral commentary. It was presented Jan. 17 in the Paul VI Hall of the Pontifical Lateran University.
The two previous editions were authored by the late Monsignor Luigi Chiappetta. This new edition was prepared by a group of experts on canon law: Professors Francesco Catozzella, Arianna Catta, Claudia Izzi and Luigi Sabbarese.
Uniting the pastoral and juridical dimensions is needed in order to avoid relativistic procedures and a merely subjective interpretation of canonical norms, according to the presentation.
The rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, Monsignor Enrico Dal Covolo, said that "in a manner consistent with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, the Code of Canon Law, promulgated by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1983, showed the naturally juridical nature of every human experience, and of the relationships that are constituted in the ecclesial community."
"There is no place in the Church for a relativistic mentality and procedure, with the inevitable consequence of a distorted view of law and of a merely subjective interpretation of the canonical norms. In a cultural context marked by relativism and juridical positivism, the Church's pastoral ministry, guided by the pope and the bishops, is the correct dimension to lead the human person to law and justice," he added.
The rector of the Lateran University quoted a 1990 speech of Blessed John Paul II: "It's not true that to be more pastoral law must be less juridical […] The juridical and pastoral dimension are inseparably united in the Church, pilgrim on this earth. Above all, there is a harmony that stems from their common end: the salvation of souls."
Moreover, Monsignor Dal Covolo insisted on the risk of identifying the law of the Church solely with judicial activity. "Between the two aspects, the juridical and the pastoral, there is no opposition, but, rather, complementarity."
Law and a pastoral approach, hence, constitute an "unbreakable binomial" for the good of the Church and for the salus animarum, just as the Holy Father Benedict XVI affirmed almost a year ago in an address to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, he explained.
On Saturday, the Holy Father touched on similar themes in this year's address to that tribunal.