On January 28, 2002 Pope John Paul II gave a speech to mark the inauguration of the judicial year before the Prelate Auditors, Officials, Advocates, Promoters of Justice and Defenders of the Bond of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. The widely reported speech drew much comment and some mystification from lawyers, as well as sparking substantial media debate over the moral duties of Catholic lawyers in civil divorce proceedings. This brief note is intended to explain the context of the Pope’s speech and to clear away the simpler misinterpretations of his message. It will also provide background for Dr Mortensen’s accompanying piece in this issue of the Bond Law Review. A lengthy consideration of the interaction between the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage and the rules of legal professional ethics must be left for another day.