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THE CURIA

reason of the principle involved can be quietly answered in the affirma- tive through the means of grace, thus bringing comfort to a beleaguered conscience. The law must be inflexible, but the quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.

The two courts which decide conflicts in foro externo are the ancient Papal courts of the Rota and Signatura. The Sacra Romana Rota is the regular court of appeals to which one turns after the first tribunal, i. c., die bishop, has reached a legal decision. The episcopal office confers upon the incumbent a share both of the highest power to ab- solve and of ecclesiastical jurisdiction since Christ's word concerning loosening and binding was addressed to all the Apostles, The Rota can also be appealed to as the court of the first instance, but only upon the special recommendation of the Signatura, which acts as a kind of court of cassation controlling and completing the Rota, for the reason that a direct appeal to the Rota would involve a circumvention of the apostolic right of the bishop. To the Rota there are brought "all civil and criminal cases which reach the Curia and are to be disposed of by due process of canon law." In addition to clerical disputes, there figure here also the complaints brought by laymen against religious persons or associations, since these enjoy immunity from the civil courts in many countries with which Concordats have been signed. The purely lay cases brought before the court consist almost exclusively of annulment cases. The court is comprised of ten uditore, the senior member being the dean. Each case tried is laid before three uditore; and only in difficult cases does the group meet as a whole. The Rota has a rule, which is common to the Congregations, that the decision asked for must always be phrased clearly and succinctly. Thus for example such cases as these are referred to it as a court of appeal: Is the first decision to be confirmed or changed; is the nullity of the marriage contracted certain? The parties appear personally, or can so appear, only in the first session, excepting in few rare cases when they may appear a second time. All they can do is to draw up the question precisely. From that point forward the trial proceeds in writing. Short written sentences are printed, submitted, exchanged, answered. The uditort first set down their opinions in writing and then discuss them in a secret session at which neither the parties nor the counsel for the defence is present. The verdict is as succinct as the


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