On the citizen judge system – to all the Catholic faithful in Japan The Catholic Bishops’ Confere […]
On the citizen judge system – to
all the Catholic faithful in Japan
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan recognizes that there are various opinions concerning the already inaugurated citizen judge system including its propriety, while it has certain significance. We have heard that some faithful have been already elected as candidates for citizen judges, and they have different views on it. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference does not think that the faithful must correspond to this system in particular way as Catholics when they are elected as candidates for citizen judges. Rather, we think that each faithful must respond in accordance with their conscience. Some may undertake it positively as Christian while some may participate in it with anxiety. Some may have desire to reject it conscientiously because they might take part in the death sentence. We respect the view of such conscientious objectors.
June 17, 2009
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan
Please refer to the following official documents for the conscientious judgment and response.
1. The Code of Canon Law prescribes that: “Lay Christian faithful have the right to have recognized that freedom in the affairs of the earthly city which belongs to all citizens; when they exercise such freedom, however, they are to take care that their actions are imbued with the spirit of the gospel and take into account the doctrine set forth by the magisterium of the Church” (CIC, can. 227). And, as the second Vatican Council showed, the Church exhorts Christians to strive to discharge their earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit. It is generally the function of laymen’s well-formed Christian conscience to see that the divine law is inscribed in the life of the earthly city. Enlightened by Christian wisdom and giving close attention to the teaching authority of the Church, let the layman take on his own distinctive role (cf. Gaudium et spes, 43).
However, if the faithful have anxiety or hesitancy in participating in the citizen judge system, they can consult with the pastors, as is said in the Code of Canon Law, can. 212, §2: “The Christian faithful are free to make known their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires to the pastors of the Church”. Though the citizen judges have the duty of confidentiality concerning the trial for which they are elected as citizen judges, they are not prohibited to talk to their family and friends in the ordinary life that they are elected as citizen judges or candidates.
2. Concerning the capital punishment, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2267), quoting the encyclical Evangelium vitae (no. 56) by the Pope John Paul II, says: “If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, given the means at the State’s disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender ‘today … are very rare, if not practically non-existent’”. Also the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan says in its message Reverence for Life (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, Feb. 27, 2001): “We believe that a nation truly matures when society forgives the criminal and accompanies him on the road to repentance” (no. 70) and supports incisively the orientation towards the abolition of the capital punishment.
Besides, to the clergy, religious and members of the apostolic institutes, according to the prescription of the Code of Canon Law, can. 285, §3: “Clerics are forbidden to assume public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power” (concerning the religious, see can. 672; concerning the members of the apostolic institutes, see can. 739) , we indicated that:
1. If the clergy, religious and members of the apostolic institutes are informed that they are elected as candidates of the citizen judges, we recommend them to write expressly their will of resignation in the inquiry form and send it.
2. If the clergy, religious and members of the apostolic institutes are elected as citizen judges in spite of their resignation of becoming the candidates of the citizen judges, we recommend them not to participate in the trial paying the fine.