Msgr. Eugene J. Fitzsimmons, 81, a church lawyer who was pastor of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Camden in 1984-85, died of Parkinson's disease Friday, May 9, at St. Mary's Catholic Home in Cherry Hill.

Martin McKernan Jr., whose law firm represents the Camden Diocese, said, Msgr. Fitzsimmons "was a brilliant and thorough church lawyer.

"He was deeply trusted by several bishops involved in difficult and sensitive matters" across the nation, McKernan said.

"He had the implicit trust of anybody who dealt with him."

Msgr. Thomas B. Fitzsimmons said, "My brother was very devoted to canon law," and served on the Tribunal, which handles internal legal affairs for the diocese.

He said his brother "always approached canon law as an instrument to help people. . . .

"If he could use some of the finer points of the law of the church to help people, he would be delighted to do that."

Msgr. Thomas Fitzsimmons noted that diocesan tribunals are sometimes thought of "in terms of marriage and annulment. But there's much more of it than that."

Msgr. Eugene Fitzsimmons was born in Newark, N.J., graduated from Holy Spirit High School in Atlantic City in 1950, earned a bachelor's degree at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood and was ordained in 1960, his brother said.

He earned his doctorate in canon law at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

After ordination and before beginning his Rome studies, his brother said, he studied chemistry at Villanova University and taught the subject "for a few years" at Camden Catholic High School.

"He was fluent in Latin, French, and Italian," his brother said.

Among his parish responsibilities, a spokesman for the diocese said, Msgr. Fitzsimmons was administrator for St. Martin de Porres Church in Hammonton in 1975-77.

He was pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Camden from 1978 to 1984 and pastor of St. Michael's in Gibbstown from 1985 to 2000. He retired in 2009.

Besides his brother, Msgr. Fitzsimmons is survived by two sisters.

A viewing was set from 9 to 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, May 13, at St. Rose of Lima Church, Fourth Avenue and Kings Highway, Haddon Heights, before an 11 a.m. Funeral Mass there, with interment in New St. Mary's Cemetery, Bellmawr.

Condolences may be offered to the family at