Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


New Judicial Vicar, Director Named For Tribunal

By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published December 1, 2005

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory has announced that Father William J. King, JCD, will serve the Archdiocese of Atlanta as the judicial vicar for the Metropolitan Tribunal. Father King has served as the judicial vicar of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., since 1990 and has a distinguished record of priestly service in pastoral, academic and leadership roles. He will oversee the Tribunal, the church’s court of law, beginning in January 2006. He succeeds Father Dung Nguyen, JCL, who has served as judicial vicar for the past few years.

Assisting Father King will be a new executive director at the Tribunal, Cathy Gilligan, JCL. She has been the director of the Tribunal for the Savannah Diocese since 1999.

Archbishop Gregory, in making the announcement, thanked Father Nguyen for his work on behalf of the archdiocese. “I want to thank the Very Reverend Dung Nguyen, JCL, for his years of service as the judicial vicar of the Marriage Tribunal of Atlanta. He served with dignity and dedication. I am grateful for Father’s willingness to assist during this period of transition.”

To his new judicial vicar and his new director of the Tribunal, Archbishop Gregory offered words of both gratitude and welcome. “I am grateful to have such exceptional canonists as Ms. Gilligan and Father King, and thank them for their willingness to work with me in ministering to God’s people within our archdiocese. I want to welcome Ms. Catherine A. Gilligan, JCL, as the director of the Marriage Tribunal of Atlanta. Cathy has been the director of the Savannah Tribunal for six years and comes to us with a wealth of practical and canonical experience. Cathy is well known for her empathy in working with people during the difficult process of applying for a declaration of nullity.”

Archbishop Gregory also welcomed his new judicial vicar, noting that “he has significant canonical experience with regard to the procedures that are to be followed for a declaration of nullity. He, too, is well known for his pastoral approach to the people of God who are undergoing the difficult process of applying for a declaration of nullity.”

The archbishop also asked for “patience and prayers during this transitional period within the Marriage Tribunal of Atlanta.” He acknowledged that “transitions are never easy. The Tribunal staff will be learning new procedures and techniques that have proven to be beneficial and successful in the Dioceses of Savannah and Harrisburg.”

As the judicial vicar, Father King will be the presiding judge of the archdiocesan Tribunal or court of law and will be assisted in case management and judicial processes by the judges, advocates, notaries and other professionals of the Court. He explained, “In ecclesiastical tribunals, we adjudicate matters in controversy related to canon law. While the majority of our cases focus on the question whether a particular marriage is valid according to canon law or not, tribunals today hear cases of many kinds. Sadly, some of these cases deal with clergy sexual abuse. Others may focus on diverse issues such as contract disputes and financial issues.”

Acknowledging that the work of a tribunal is connected with legal procedures and formal terminology, Father King asserted that “the church has learned that this is the best way to protect the rights of everyone involved in a tribunal case, but there are important values communicated in the ministry of a tribunal: a deep confidence in God’s providence, a profound awareness of the presence of God in the life of the church, a humble recognition of Christ present in each person, and the recognition of sin and grace. All of these are wound together in the ministry of a tribunal, and none can ever be separated from what a tribunal does.”

Father Paul Hachey, SM, the judicial vicar of the Court of Appeals, knows both Father King and Gilligan personally and commends the appointments.

“Archbishop Gregory has selected candidates with years of practical experience with the church’s processes for declaring a marriage null,” he said. “Not only do they have excellent canonical minds, they both possess the sensitivity and compassion needed when talking with someone petitioning for a declaration of nullity.”

Father Hachey added that they both have reputations for “setting an exceptional pastoral tone in their respective tribunals.”

Gilligan, 58, will leave her role as the director and judge of the Savannah Tribunal to move to Atlanta.

She holds several degrees including a bachelor’s degree in management from Georgetown University, a master of business administration degree in industrial relations from Seton Hall University, South Orange, N.J., and a master of education degree in community counseling from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. In addition, Gilligan holds a licentiate in canon law from The Catholic University of America and a master of divinity degree from the Washington Theological Union.

Though her resume is an impressive insight into her academic accomplishments, it is the ministry aspect of the Tribunal that compels Gilligan.

“I love working with the people of the diocese, reaching out to these people during a very, very difficult time in their lives and applying the ministrations of the church to help them through that,” she said.

Gilligan has served as the director of the Savannah Tribunal for six years and brings with her an expertise needed for reorganization and operational efficiency.

“I’m really looking forward to working in a challenging environment.”

In addition to her work at the Tribunal, she also serves as the adult education coordinator for her parish in Savannah and in the past has worked in both corporate and academic settings. For nine years she worked for Beatrice Companies, Inc. in roles such as the director of personnel services, systems analyst and internal auditor.

Father King, noting that his home of south central Pennsylvania “shares a similar mixture of people and religious traditions, as does the Atlanta area,” believes that the ministry of the Tribunal is a “means of evangelization.” Many of those served by the Tribunal are not Catholic and have not had previous formal contact with the church. He said, “In all that we do, we are Christ to those whom we serve.” He continued, “My goals are for the Metropolitan Tribunal to exhibit a culture of faith, of service, and of justice.”

His experience in tribunal work encompasses 21 years, 16 of which he served as a judicial vicar in a court that hears several hundred cases each year. His experience includes evaluating other tribunals, as well as giving workshops in tribunal practice. He was auditor of the Harrisburg Tribunal from 1984 to 1985, secretary from 1985 to 1989 and adjutant judicial vicar from 1989 to 1990.

Father King, who has served the Canon Law Society of America (CLSA) in various capacities including chair of the committee on the protection of rights from 1993-1995, member of the committee of informal advocacy from 1995-1997, and treasurer of the board of governors from 2003-2005, is familiar with the Atlanta Tribunal.

“For many decades, the Metropolitan Tribunal has enjoyed a reputation nationwide as a well-administered court of justice,” he said. “There have been some challenges within the past few years, to be sure. The larger church places some expectations on a tribunal: to be a source of justice, a place of service, a ministry in which Christ may be found and through which faith in God can be strengthened. I have strong expectations of a tribunal to follow the procedural law of the church and to stay true to the mind of the church in judging any case. In doing that, patient and faith-filled service to others is the hallmark of any tribunal’s work.”

The “single word to capture my leadership style is ‘teamwork,’” said Father King. He believes that in the ministry of the Metropolitan Tribunal, building “strong teams” is essential and also believes in the value of developing the competencies of those teams through “education and coaching.”

Addressing his vision and goals for the Tribunal, Father King added, “A high degree of professionalism is important to me as well. Finding a solution to a problem and implementing it is only a beginning for me: I have the expectation of continuous innovation and improvement, even if that means making some mistakes and learning from them. The staff in the Harrisburg Tribunal groans when I start a sentence by saying, ‘I’ve been thinking…’ Those who approach a tribunal, no matter where that tribunal is located, share the same hopes for the tribunal: an efficient, affordable, and understandable process, a fair hearing and just decision, and friendly and prompt service by the staff. Those are my goals as well.”

The Harrisburg Tribunal, under Father King’s leadership, engaged in a formal examination of its processes using the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9000 certification process. ISO 9000 deals primarily with quality management and business processes and is used worldwide by companies to continuously improve performance in order to fulfill customer requirements and improve customer satisfaction. Father King said, “Our Tribunal in Harrisburg is probably the only tribunal in the country to go through the ISO-9000 certification process … ISO certification recognizes that a business operates according to rigorous standards of efficiency and quality. We did not intend to be certified, since the high cost would not benefit a tribunal as it would a business, but through the process of review and analysis we learned many valuable lessons about efficiency, reducing errors, developing and achieving measurable goals and applying methods for continuous quality improvement.”

He believes that the lessons learned through this certification process in Harrisburg can be “quickly translated” to the Metropolitan Tribunal.

With Archbishop Gregory’s approval, Father King’s plans include “a state-of-the-art computerized case management system, custom designed for tribunals,” which will be installed early in the new year. He said, “This will allow us to see more readily where log jams or delays occur in our court processes and help us to make adjustments in response. It will also help us to implement workflow automation among court staff, and provide fast and accurate answers to a priest or client who calls in about a case. The Tribunal in Harrisburg has slightly fewer cases presented each year than in Atlanta, but the legal procedures are the same.”

Father King believes that the clergy and the people of the Atlanta Archdiocese hold a high level of expectation for the Tribunal, and he hopes to “build on that solid platform.” He also hopes to “hear from many of the priests their current perceptions of the Tribunal and the needs of the people whom they serve. I am always open to ideas and suggestions, as well as critique. I hope in return that the priests will be patient and encouraging as the Tribunal staff works to respond.”

Father King will leave an active ministry in Pennsylvania. In addition to his work as judicial vicar, he is secretary for canonical services, a member of the executive committee and administrative board and the finance committee for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, director of the diocesan youth protection program, director of the office of mediation services and part-time chaplain of the Holy Spirit Hospital and Health System, Camp Hill, Pa. He also teaches at the School of Canon Law of The Catholic University of America, as well as the school’s Matrimonial Tribunal Institute. He has published a number of articles on tribunal practice.

Prior to his ordination to the priesthood in 1983, Father King attended Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia, in 1979. He went on to earn a master’s degree in divinity from the same school in 1983. He earned his licentiate in canon law from The Catholic University of America in 1989 and practiced canon law for 10 years before beginning his doctoral program at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, from which he earned his doctorate in canon law with highest honors in 2002. His doctoral work “involved a comparative study of American corporation law and its counterpart in canon law, known as the ‘juridic person.’”

Father King is currently continuing his study of the law by pursuing a degree in civil law from the Widener University School of Law in Harrisburg. He will be taking a leave of absence from his studies while in Atlanta.

In addition to his work with the Tribunal, he served as assistant pastor at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, Lancaster, Pa., from 1983-85 and as pastor of St. Lawrence Church, Harrisburg, from 1994-95. His pastoral work includes being chaplain of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard (193rd Special Operations Wing) from 1992-99.

Father King’s other ministries involve teaching at St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pa., in 1994, serving as chair of the diocesan commission on Catholic higher education from 1990-2005, and serving as a member of the human growth and development commission and the liturgical commission from 1986-89.

The law is not Father King’s only interest—in fact, he has many diverse hobbies. He has performed recitals as a concert organist in the past, when he had practice time available. And in earning his Eagle Scout award in his teens, he developed a love of the outdoors and “still enjoys throwing a backpack into his car” for a few days of camping. He said, “Over the years, I have hiked almost all of the Appalachian Trail (in pieces), and now I’m looking forward to walking its southern terminus in Georgia.”

Father King said, “I look forward … to working with a team that’s ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Despite the challenge of fine-tuning the Metropolitan Tribunal … I have every confidence that God’s grace will provide. Prayer will be an important part of the work day for the Tribunal staff.”


Also contributing to this story was Erika Anderson.