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An Interview with Carole Gan

by Gordon Nary



Gordon: When did you attend the University of New South Wales and what degree did you earn?


Carole: I was at the University of New South Wales between 1983 and 1985, completing a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Computer Science.


Gordon: When did you attend Strathclyde Graduate School of Management, what degree did you earn, and what is one of your favorite memories when you were there?


Carole: I was enrolled with the Strathclyde Graduate Business School (SGBS), Glasgow, Scotland between 1996 and 1998. I was working in Singapore at the time in a primarily analytical role and decided to pursue the Master of Business Administration to complement my analytical skills for future roles.


A key reason I chose to attend SGBS was not only did the course content best suit my needs, Strathclyde University was also my father’s alma mater. My fondest memory is undoubtedly the sense of how I was walking in the footsteps of my father, a man I greatly admire. This memory became very visceral when I stepped foot on campus for my electives and it will remain with me forever.


Gordon: When did you attend Catholic Institute of Sydney, what degree did you earn, what was your favorite course, and why was it your favorite?


Carole: I embarked on a Master of Divinity in 2002 as the formal study component when I was in the novitiate with the Sisters of Mercy, Parramatta. Although I did not make profession, my interest in theological study did not wane and I completed my final unit, a research project in 2007. I thoroughly enjoyed my new testament biblical studies classes which I put down to our lecturer, Michele Connolly RSJ, who explained the gospel of Mark and the Pauline letters so well and with such enthusiasm.


Gordon: When and where did you earn your Licentiate in Canon Law and Master of Canon Law, and please explain to our readers what Canon Law is?


Carole: The Master of Canon Law is a civil degree, whilst the Licentiate in Canon Law (JCL) which is pursued concurrently, is governed by the apostolic constitution Veritatis Gaudium and subsequent legislation and norms of the Holy See. I undertook these between 2013 to 2017 at St Paul University, Ottawa, Canada.


Canon law is the body of law that governs the Catholic Church and can be viewed as “giving the practical effect to theology”. The 1983 Code of Canon Law which governs the Latin or Roman Catholic Church covers the governance of the Church, e.g. structure and components of a diocese, how church property is to be treated; the Church’s teaching function, i.e. rules regarding the preaching of the Word of God and Catholic education; the rights and obligations of the People of God, (i.e., rights and obligations of lay and ordained, rules regarding associations, the hierarchy, religious orders; the Sacraments, i.e. who can be admitted to a Sacrament, what constitutes a valid marriage or baptism, etc. Canon Law is a legal system complete with tribunals, courts, lawyers and judges, and the Code also covers sanctions (delicts and penalties) and the trial process.


A similar code, the 1990 Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, governs the Eastern Churches (e.g. Maronite, Melkite, Coptic, Syro-Malabar, etc.)


Gordon: When did you attend University of Sydney what diploma did you earn, what was your most challenging course, and why was it so challenging?


Carole: I embarked on the Diploma in Law, a legal qualification equivalent to a law school degree (offered by the Legal Profession Admission Board and taught through the University of Sydney) in 2020. I believe that it is a good complement to my Canon Law. Due to time constraints, I had to defer these studies in 2022 and will pick it up again at a later stage.


Gordon: What was CeeGee Enterprises?


Carole: I started CeeGee Enterprises as an IT consultancy and “one-stop-shop”. A newly minted MBA graduate at the time, I wanted to do something with my knowledge but also wanted the time to do some volunteer work (teach religious education in state/public schools, run kids’ computer classes with the Redfern Community Centre, Youth Off the Streets, etc.).


In the course of providing IT services, an increasing number of my clients started asking if I could provide bookkeeping services as well (The Goods and Services Tax had just been implemented in Australia and accounting software and the training was a large part of my IT portfolio). CeeGee Enterprises quickly transformed from a personal venture in IT advisory to a thriving IT consulting and bookkeeping enterprise .


Gordon: When did you serve as Donor Service Manager for the Salvation army and what is one of your favorite memories when you were there?


Carole: I was in the Donor Services Manager for the Salvation Army in 2004 till early 2005. My favourite memory would be a combination of the wonderful work environment at the Salvos and the opportunity to tell donors how their donations were actually put to use. Being able to see or hear the reaction from a donor when essentially personalising their gift is a very special feeling.


Gordon: When did you serve as Columban Centre for Christian Muslim Relations and what were some of the challenges that you had to address?


Carole: I was a team member at the Columban Centre for Christian Muslim Relations in 2005-2006 having been offered the position by my Missiology lecturers at the time. I was familiar with the basics of Islam having spent my formative years in Malaysia, but what was interesting was the differing ideologies between different groups, akin to our different Christian denominations and schools of thought.


The challenges I had to address were somewhat different to what I had expected. As those coming to the table were parties with a genuinely open mind and interested in learning about other faiths, disruptions were generally rare. What I felt were the greatest challenges though was the implementation of some of the initiatives we arrived at. The sense of how difficult it would be for a small group of like-minded people to change the hearts and minds of a population so set in their ways.


Gordon: When and where did you serve as Diocesan Pastoral Planner and what were you primary responsibilities


Carole: I was the Diocesan Pastoral Planner in the Diocese of Rockhampton in Central Queensland, Australia from mid-2006 to early 2009. My role was primarily to work with the Bishop, Vicar General, Diocesan Pastoral Council and parishes in planning and implementing the Bishop’s initiatives and diocesan events. I also developed diocesan policies, guidelines and pastoral programs and assisted pastors and parishes in forming Parish Pastoral Councils and developing their Parish Pastoral Plans.


Gordon: When and where did you serve as Assistant Director Parish Support Unit and what was most rewarding about your work?


Carole: I was employed as the Assistant Director, Parish Support Unit at the Diocese of Broken Bay in 2009 but was offered the role of Director a year later.


Having been involved in various parish ministries over the years, I had first-hand experience of some of the difficulties that parish staff and volunteers face. What I found most rewarding was being able to use that experience to resource and provide relevant assistance to other staff and volunteers in parish ministry.


Gordon: You are currently an independent Canon Lawyer. What are some of the challenges that you have had to address?


Carole: A significant challenge is that even most Catholics do not view canon law a something relevant to their lives and practice of their faith. “Why do I need to care about canon law? No one can force me to pay a fine or send me to jail if I break a rule” is something I often hear.


This is evident in the common challenge I face where people seek validation from canon law for their actions but revert to ignoring the law when it conflicts with their intentions or belief systems. e.g. Canon law’s position on receiving communion when one is in a second marriage but before the first has been annulled is clear though ignored by the questioner as it conflicted with what he/she wants to do.


Gordon: What do you do at Australian Catholic University?


Carole: As a sessional academic, I get invited to teach, tutor and/or grade assignments/exam papers on an ad hoc basis. I have taught “What Christians Believe” and “Canon Law of the Church” (undergraduate courses) and tutored the post-graduate “Canon Law for Educators”.


Gordon: What do you do at National Church Life Survey Research?


Carole: As a researcher at National Church Life Survey Research (NCLS Research), I am part of a team which studying churches and their communities. Whilst I am usually working on multiple small research projects concurrently, NCLS Research runs a national survey which focuses on Church attenders habits and views, church leadership and church practices across various denominations. A profile of their attenders is then produced for participating churches. I am currently working on similar projects for churches in the Netherlands and South Africa.


Gordon: What happens when Canon Law conflicts with Civil Law?


Carole: In short, the law of the land generally has precedence over canon law. One common area of potential conflict is temporal goods, its ownership and alienation. One way that dioceses avoid conflict is to organise its civil legal structure in such a way that allows it to operate within the civil sphere in a manner that canon law intends. An example are dioceses in Australia where the college of consultors are trustees of the legal entity as per the Roman Catholic Church Trust Property Act 1936.


Gordon: What is the process for Changes in Canon Law?


Carole: The Pope is the supreme legislator and is the only person who can change Canon Law (although he generally does not do this without consultation). If the Pope believes a change is needed, a group of consultants consisting of canonists, possibly the Council of Cardinals or members of one or more dicasteries, and other experts in the subject is formed. Changes are drafted (it may take several amendments and months, if not years before the final draft is ready) and presented to the Pope. Assuming that the Pope is happy with what is presented to him, the law is established when it is promulgated generally by publication in the official commentary, Acta Apostolicae Sedis.


Gordon: Thank you for a great interview.

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