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Foto Jaeger David -Maria A. , Recensione: Romeo Astorri, Gli Statuti delle Conferenze Episcopali. I: Europa , in Antonianum, 64/2-3 (1989) p. 680-682 .

Episcopal Conferences have an important and highly visible role to play in the life of the Church today, even quite apart from the continuing debate on the specific theological foundation (if any) of the function they fill, as distinct from the positive ecclesiastical law determinations regar­ding their constitution and (carefully delimited) powers. Concerning their constitution and procedures the Code of Canon Law lays down a fra­mework, which must be further concretised by the Statutes of each Conference. These are Statutes of a juridical person (cf. can. 449 § 2), which in the nature of things is a public one. They are made by the Conference itself subject to review, or recognitio, by the Holy See (cf. can. 451). Given the considerable influence that the Conference exercises in one way or another in the life of the Church — influence which often extends in various ways even beyond the confines of its own territory, and given that the activity of the Conference is determined to a fairly large extent by its Statutes, it is evidently of interest to Christ's faithful in general, and to ecclesiastics and canonists in particular, to have ready access to those Statutes. For the purposes of study and evaluation, a comparative edition of such collections of Statutes is obviously very useful indeed.

The book reproduces the Statutes of 20 Conferences, as well as those of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences and the Com­mission of the Episcopates of the European Community, the latter being entities of a different nature (cf. can. 459). Of the twenty conferences, all except three cover territories that correspond to those of States. The three that follow a different pattern are the Scandinavian Conference, which covers territory corresponding to that of several States, and the Conferences of England and Wales and of Scotland, covering territories corresponding respectively to different constituent parts of Great Britain. The latter are qualified by Astorri as «infranazionali». This is a delicate point. Some Scots are sure to object to the implication that they are not a nation, and some Welshmen might rather characterise their joint Con­ference with England as «internazionale ». When discussing this (cf. p. 53) Astorri does not point out the peculiarity of the Irish Conference, which, though «national», extends beyond the boundaries of the Irish Republic as now constituted and into the territory of the United Kingdom. These are surely minor points, but they are illustrative of the difficulties that may arise elsewhere too in terms of the relationship between ecclesiastical and civil boundaries.

The texts of the Statutes are preceded by a notice, or avvertenza, contributed by G. Feliciani (himself an established expert on the subject of Episcopal Conferences), on pp. vii-ix; a preface by M. Costalunga, on pp. xi-xiii, and a comprehensive introduction to the institution of the Episcopal Conference by Astorri himself, on pp. 1-55, which amounts to a comparative analysis of the collections of Statutes to follow. The Statutes themselves are laudably reproduced in the original languages, which means either in Latin or in one of the principal European languages admitted at the Holy See. Each collection of Statutes is preceded by an historical note, and in a number of cases helpful bibliographical indi­cations are added.

As the study of Episcopal Conferences suggested by the 1985 Extraor­dinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops proceeds, a careful analysis of the data presented in this volume should prove indispensable to those engaged in it on the academic side. Astorri's own analysis already identifies problem areas requiring special attention, such as the need to ensure that the permanent councils of the larger conferences do not usurp  the  prerogatives   of   the   plenary   assembly,   and   to   define   the functions of the various standing commissions and committees with precision and in a manner consistent with the nature of the Conference.

All in all, there is every reason to be grateful to Astorri for this significant contribution to the field, and to Feliciani for having com­missioned it for his series on the codification of the canon law. The appearance of further volumes reproducing the Statutes of the Confe­rences existing on the other continents should be eagerly awaited.

By way of a post scriptum, this reviewer would like to point out that the time has come for the Statutes of all public juridical persons in the Church to be made easily accessible to all, so as to make possible simi­larly comparative treatment of other categories of public law institutions in the Church, such as institutes of consecrated life and public associations of various kinds. It is being submitted that public law institutions of whatever kind may not treat their Statutes (in the meaning of the Code; cf. can. 94) as somehow a private or merely internal matter. Indeed where the approval of the Holy See is required and has been granted, as in the case of the constitutions of institutes of consecrated life of pontifical law (cf. can. 587 § 2), would it not a suggestion be justified that they be published in (some sort of pars tertia of) AAS?

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