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6-VALERIE-ST-JO'S

Scotland’s first lay woman canon lawyer leads the way

The Catholic Church in Scotland has welcomed its only female lay canon lawyer, who is encouraging other women and laymen to follow in her footsteps —By Amanda Connelly

Valerie Fleming, a parishioner of St Joseph’s Church in Blantyre, recently passed the necessary qualifications after three years of intense study, making her one of only 12-15 canon lawyers in Scotland, one of only three lay canon lawyers and the only one who is a lay woman.

 

The impressive feat saw Ms Fleming, who is a professor of women’s health, make the step to train as a canon lawyer three years ago, while undertaking a five-year degree in theology at the Maryvale Institute.

Having converted to Catholicism eight years ago, Ms Fleming wished to learn more about the Faith, and so undertook a theology degree, where she was introduced to canon law.

 

Studying at KU Leuven, the Leuven-based University in Belgium as part of a distance-learning course, Ms Fleming travelled each semester to Belgium to spend two weeks there, while juggling full-time employment.

“I studied full-time alongside working full-time,” Ms Fleming said. She noted it was ‘hard-going’ but stressed that such success is possible.

She also praised the ongoing support of her parish priest Fr Brian Lamb, who supported her throughout her studies.

“He has been a great help and support,” she said

Ms Fleming will continue to work full-time, and is currently working at John Moores University in Liverpool, carrying out her canon law work on a voluntary basis.

Canon lawyers mostly work within marriage tribunals as well as doing some advocacy work.

The majority of canon lawyers are priests—something that Ms Fleming said was very important and necessary.

However she also encouraged others to study the ‘fascinating’ field of law.

“Of course I’d encourage any other women to do it,” she said. “It would be great to see more women do it, or lay men.”

Ms Fleming hopes that she will be able to use her new qualification for good and to help others that need it.

 

The parish of St Joseph’s extended their praise and well wishes to Ms Fleming on their social media pages, giving ‘thanks to God for guiding her through her exams and studies.’

They prayed that God would ‘bless her in her future as a canon lawyer and strengthen her so that she may show justice to those who seek her help.’

 

 

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