Leading authority on marriage canon law retires

 Mgr Ralph Brown, Judicial Vicar of Westminster since 1988, retires on 30 June at the age of 75. One of Britain's most experienced canon lawyers, he is author of the classic Marriage Annulment (first edition 1970) and co-translator into English of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Mgr Brown has worked on marriage cases in the Westminster Tribunal since January 1964, first as vice-officialis and later officialis. His career as one of the world's leading canon lawyers on marriage has spanned a period in which the "personalist" view of marriage has opened up the marriage annulment process. When he began in 1964, annulment cases in Westminster numbered around 60-70 a year, increasing to 250-300 in the 1970s, but dropping back in recent years to around 120 a year. In 1967 he began the Matrimonial Decisions of Great Britain and Ireland, and has been editor of the series since. The MDGBI records the decisions and reasoning of matrimonial judges in annulment cases, and is an invaluable reference tool for canon lawyers. Ralph Brown was born in the Hague in 1931 to a British father and Belgian mother. He went to school in Middlesex and later South Africa. Back in England he was called to national service in 1949, and was wounded and hospitalised during the Korean war. In 1953 he began training for the priesthood at Allen Hall seminary, and in 1959 was sent to Rome for further studies in canon law, earning his doctorate cum laude in 1963 following research under the renowned canonist Fr Ladislas Orsy SJ. In 1964 he was assigned to Cathedral Clergy House, where he has been based ever since. He began work in the Westminster tribunal as vice-officialis and in 1967 began the annual volumes of the MDGBI. In 1968 he started the Canon Law Society Newsletter, which he edited until 1980 and then again from 1990. In 1968-70 he wrote articles in the Jurist, Studia Canonica, Clergy Review, The Month and the Heythrop Journal, and taught canon law at Allen Hall. In 1971 he was appointed privy chamberlain to Pope Paul VI . In 1975 was made an honorary member of Canon Law Societies in Australia, America and Canada. From 1971 to 1976 he was the officialis, or leading judge, in the Westminster Tribunal, and from 1977 to 2000 was Vicar-General of Westminster diocese. In 1982 he was national co-ordinator for the papal visit to England and Wales. From 1980 to 1986 he was president of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1983 he was co-translator of the new Code of Canon Law into English. From 1998 to date he has been the Judicial Vicar of Westminster Diocese. In 1987 he was appointed Prelate of Honour, and in 1991 was appointed a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre. From 1991 to 2004 he was the spiritual leader of the Pilgrimages of the Holy Father. In 1994 he co-edited The Canon Law: Letter and Spirit. In 1999 he was appointed protonotary apostolic. Mgr Brown, who is a keen photographer, is a Perfect Member of the Select Knot of Friendly Brothers of St Patrick. Source: Archbishops' House

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