Conflict is an inevitable part of life, even life in the Church. While Jesus admonishes his followers to settle their disputes among themselves, he acknowledges that sometimes they need help from another member of the Church (Matt 18:16). Mediation is a method of dispute resolution in which a third-party neutral (a mediator) assists parties in coming to a mutually acceptable resolution to conflict. Mediation is a confidential and voluntary process that fosters cooperation among the parties in a conflict, encourages relationships and is geared towards working for the benefit of all parties by maximizing what each party contributes to the process.
The Code of Canon Law recommends mediation as a way for Christians to settle disputes. Canon 1446 §2, "Whenever the judge perceives some hope of a favorable outcome at the start of litigation or even at any other time, the judge is not to neglect to encourage and assist the parties to collaborate in seeking an equitable solution to the controversy and to indicate to them suitable means to this end, even by using reputable persons for mediation." Canon 1733 §1. "Whenever a person considers himself or herself aggrieved by a decree, it is particularly desirable that the person and the author of the decree avoid any contention and take care to seek an equitable solution by common counsel, possibly using the mediation and effort of wise persons to avoid or settle the controversy in a suitable way."
While some dioceses have established procedures or a stably instituted office for alternative dispute resolution (c. 1733 §2), others do not. Canon Law Advocacy and Mediation Services, LLC offers access to mediation services for dioceses, parishes, communities, and individuals even where alternative dispute resolution procedures have not been included in diocesan services. CLAMS is an independent provider of mediation services and so maintains the neutrality essential for effective mediation.
Mediation can serve as an alternative to the judicial or administrative processes for the protection of rights provided for in canon law as long as the rights of the parties in mediation are protected.
Mediation can be used as well as for any type of conflict within the Church and not only those for which the Code of Canon Law offers a remedy.
CLAMS also will assist in mediation as part of a consultative process for the protection of rights leading up to the issuance of a decree (canon 50).