Friday, June 26, 2015

It Will Never Happen

Sometimes, to my surprise, the question arises: "What will you in the Tribunal do when a 'gay' person wants to get an annulment for his 'marriage' to another man?" It will never happen. Is an explanation even needed? ... Alright, how about an analogy. Let's say a woman went through an ordination ceremony but then repents and wants the Church to declare the ordination invalid (see cc. 1708-1712). No declaration would be given--or even possible--because that ceremony didn't have the semblance of an ordination. Why not? Only a baptized man can be ordained (c. 1024). Regarding marriage cases, we know that a man can only marry a woman and a woman can only marry a man (see, for example, canons 1055, 1096). The Code states that "the spouses" are able to introduce a cause of nullity of a marriage (canon 1674). No matter what the State says about who a "spouse" is, the Church will never accept the notion that a relationship involving two men or two women results in either being a "spouse" to the other.

More on "Streamlining" the Nullity Process

In paragraph 115 of the "working document" for the upcoming Synod on the Family, there is a discussion about "obviously null" marriages and the idea of dealing with them in a "summary canonical process." Let's review the canonical processes that can now be used to resolve marriage cases.

1. Formal nullity process (discussed here). This must be used in cases involving a marriage which is alleged to be invalid due to a defect in a Party's marital consent (intention against children, forced marriage, etc.). Time: supposed to be no more than 1.5 years and can be much more rapid.
2. Documentary process (see canon 1686-1688). This is usually employed in cases involving an impediment such as a prior marital bond (c. 1085). Time: none given in law. Can be finished in a month or two but may take longer.
3. Lack of form investigation (see here, under c. 1686). This is used when a Catholic attempts marriage with no regard for the requirements of canonical form. This investigation is not determined by the procedural law of the Code and is not a true "process" as are the first two. Time: weeks.
4. Various processes for the dissolution of the bond ("Pauline privilege", "Favor of the Faith", non-consummation).

What is being addressed in the "working document" is the formal nullity process. The suggestion is to design another kind of formal nullity process that is somehow shortened or perhaps use the documentary process even for some cases involving an alleged defect in consent.

There are foundational concepts to recall: every time a couple properly manifests marital consent, the Church presumes that the resulting marriage is valid (see cc. 1057.1, 1060). In order to overturn a presumption of law, sufficient proof must be brought forward (see cc. 1526, 1584-1585, 1608). All Respondents have the right of defense and so must be informed about a nullity process and given the opportunity to participate (see canons 1507-1508, 1511, 1598, 1620, 1686).

Over the course of the centuries, the Church has wisely determined that the way to ensure the right of defense and the authenticity of proofs is to entrust marriage nullity cases to a Judge (or Judges) who is obliged to follow procedures outlined in law. In the current nullity process, there aren't any useless or pointless steps. They all exist in order to uphold the dignity and stability of marriage and protect the rights of the Parties (not just the Respondent, mind you).

In the current process there are necessary steps. First, the Tribunal would have to see if the marriage involved a proper exchange of consent (as opposed to a "lack of form" situation). Then, it will see if the Parties were impeded (as in a documentary process situation). If there was no impediment and proper form was followed, then the person has to provide initial proof that the marriage is invalid due to a defect in consent. The other Party has to be informed of the process. The "grounds" have to be determined. Further supporting evidence has to be collected. The Parties have to be given the chance to see the evidence. The Defender of the Bond has to be given the opportunity to offer observations. The Judge (or Judges) has to render a decision. If the ruling is "affirmative" the case is automatically sent to a higher Court for review.

What steps could possibly be removed from this process? It seems to me, only three: the Parties do not have to be given the chance to review the evidence. The Defender of the Bond does not have to be involved. There does not have to be a mandatory review by a higher Court. I think all should be kept. It is appropriate to allow Parties to see evidence so I support that step, and so should Petitioners. I wholeheartedly oppose the notion of removing the Defender of the Bond from marital cases and also (halfheartedly) oppose removing the mandatory review of First Instance affirmative decisions (see here for further discussion. At another time, I may give reasons for wanting to keep the mandatory review).

I suspect that some people think those under 21, or a young, pregnant woman, or an infatuated couple who wants to marry after only a month's courtship, or a drug user, inevitably enter "obviously invalid" marriages. If so, perhaps they should suggest that the Church establish new impediments which would prevent such unions from ever taking place. Impediments such as: have to be at least 21 years old to marry (currently 14 for girls, 16 for boys). Can't be under 22 and pregnant. Can't marry until courting for at least one year. Can't marry unless you pass three random drug tests.

In my opinion, the current process is more than able to handle cases of "obvious invalidity" in a sufficiently rapid manner. In my post about how long the nullity process takes, I said it can be finished in 40 weeks. If a trial involves an "obviously invalid" marriage, there would be less time dedicated to gathering evidence. Less time required for observations of the Defender/Advocate. Less time required for writing a decision. The case can be completed in 6 months. The process now used is sufficiently summarized.

I hope as much attention is paid to the issue of properly educated Tribunal personnel (mentioned in n. 117 of the "working document") as is paid to the nullity process. Like I've said before, if personnel are poorly trained and/or lacking in number, it doesn't matter what the process is--it will inevitably bog down.
UPDATE: here is the English translation of the document.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

No Votive Candles Allowed

Picking up on the idea of faith and piety becoming cold, I found a directive from the Vicar of Rome, dated sometime in 1932. (Note that this statement would have pertained only to the Diocese of Rome):
The custom in many churches of placing at the disposal of the public wax tapers known as votive candles, to be lighted before statues and sacred pictures in exchange for money offerings by the faithful, is open to serious objections. It might easily become what appears to be a superstitious usage, besides giving the impression that it is permitted for the sake of the money which it brings in. Moreover, the practice detracts from the decorum and cleanliness of sacred buildings, bespatters the floor, impregnates the hangings with smoke, and consumes good air. The practice must therefore cease. ... The reasons for this prohibition are to be explained to the faithful by the clergy, who will also remind them that a single Mass, heard with piety, and a single Communion devoutly received will bring down more heavenly blessings and favors than thousands of candles burned for days on end (Canon Law Digest, vol. 2, p. 375).
If someone wanted a candle to be burned, the directive stated that he should buy one that would be used on the altar for Mass.


I never imagined I'd see a condemnation of votive candles: pretty unobjectionable, I thought. Even so, the statement does raise reasonable concerns. If today we didn't have votive candles, though, faith and piety would seem really cold, figuratively and literally--especially at shrines and pilgrimage sites. It's probably the most common way people show devotion....for better or worse.
Also, I wonder what "the hangings" were. I thought felt banners and that sort of stuff only came along in the 70s. So, my guess is that they are altar cloths. Take that guess with a grain of salt, though, since I have absolutely no knowledge of the typical decorations of a 1930s, Roman parish.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Guess the Date

While researching a canonical topic (comparing canon 12 of the 1917 Code to canon 11 of the 1983 Code), I noticed this passage from an "Instruction on Exhorting the Faithful to Frequent and Devout Assistance at the Sacrifice of the Mass":
But we all know that, as faith and piety have cooled, this most holy practice (of assisting at Mass) has been more and more neglected, and many of the faithful, drifting away from the love of things divine, have not the devotion they should have toward the Sacrifice of the Mass, and do not as in former times fervently have it offered for their necessities and in suffrage for the faithful departed, whereas they not infrequently have recourse to other relief less salutary (Canon Law Digest, vol. 2, p. 359).
What a sentence. When do you think this was written?




Update: The author: the Sacred Congregation of the Council (which corresponds to the Congregation for the Clergy). The date: July 14, 1941. I often think of the first half of the 20th century to be years of fervent Catholic practice. Maybe I should reconsider that notion. At the same time, I guess there is "cooling" of faith and piety and then there is the freezing of faith and piety...or the reduction of faith and piety to absolute zero. That reminds me of Dante's depiction of Satan, stuck in the ice at the very bottom of hell.

Friday, May 15, 2015

My First Act as Pope

This is not a canonical topic but I'll make it one. Looking at the readings for the Ascension (in the "new" Lectionary), I noticed that Ephesians 4: 1-13 is an option. Excellent choice:
I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit
through the bond of peace:
one body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.

But grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
Therefore, it says:
He ascended on high and took prisoners captive;
he gave gifts to men.

What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended
into the lower regions of the earth?
The one who descended is also the one who ascended
far above all the heavens,
that he might fill all things.

And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets,
others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,
to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,
for building up the body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of faith
and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature to manhood,
to the extent of the full stature of Christ.
As is sometimes the case in this Lectionary, it is possible to omit a portion of the reading. I never like these options, by the way, since it implicitly devalues the part of the reading that can be left out. Anyway, in this case, the passage that can be omitted is this:
Therefore, it says:
He ascended on high and took prisoners captive;
he gave gifts to men.
What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended
into the lower regions of the earth?
The one who descended is also the one who ascended
far above all the heavens,
that he might fill all things.

As the youngsters say these days, "FAIL." This makes the reading pertinent to the Ascension. Who would ever think that it makes sense to even allow this part of the reading to be omitted? My first act as Pope would be to abolish this optional omission. Actually, I'd get rid of all optional omissions in the Lectionary.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

More Catholic than the Pope

Sometimes, if you are a person who wishes to maintain traditional Catholic practices and devotions, like to hear Latin at Mass, or crack open the Catechism of the Council of Trent, more "progressive" people might accuse you of trying to "be more Catholic than the pope." Well, here we have a person who actually takes that accusation in stride and runs with it, before a worldwide audience.
The prior of the monastery, Thomas Aquinas, explained the split simply: "The Pope is less Catholic than us."
The background is that a "traditionalist" priest was recently ordained a bishop by an ex-SSPX bishop. That new bishop has now said he will ordain other bishops. This schismatic movement seems to be based at a monastery in Brazil and "Thomas Aquinas" is the leader of the monastery.

It's a sad situation. At least the article contains a bit of progress in regard to the notion of women priests:
By contrast, women supposedly made priests by dissident Catholic bishops are not validly ordained because Catholic law reserves the priesthood only for men.
Secular news usually accepts "women priests" as being ordained, without qualification. So, the use of "supposedly" is a step in the right direction. A point of clarification: while "Catholic law" certainly "reserves the priesthood only for men" (see canon 1024), that restriction does not originate in canon law. Since the restriction "pertains to the Church's divine constitution itself" (Ordinatio sacerdotalis, n. 4), it's origin is our Blessed Lord.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Once a Cardinal, Not Always a Cardinal

It is quite unusual for a Cardinal to become not-a-Cardinal. That seems to have happened today, however:
The Holy Father has accepted the resignation of the rights and privileges of a Cardinal, expressed in canons 349, 353 and 356 of the Code of Canon Law, presented by His Eminence Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien, Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, after a long period of prayer. With this provision, His Holiness would like to manifest his pastoral solicitude to all the faithful of the Church in Scotland and to encourage them to continue with hope the path of renewal and reconciliation. Link
In addition to "resigning" the "rights and privileges of a Cardinal", one can certainly be deprived of these rights and privileges and even the office and title itself (see c. 1336.1.2). As for O'Brien, I think it is correct to conclude that he is no longer a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church even though the communique does not say this explicitly. If a Cardinal no longer has the rights and privileges of a Cardinal, what's left of the essence of being a Cardinal? Nothing, it seems to me: it doesn't make sense to have a CINO (Cardinal in name only).

Since this is such a rare occurrence and I know so little about it, I could be mistaken.


Update: Catholic News Agency has an article on this event, with the title "Pope accepts disgraced Scottish prelate's resignation from cardinal status."
Update II: Other news outlets are reporting that "the Vatican" has said that O'Brien "will retain the title" (here, for example). "Title" can refer to the rank of "cardinal" as well as to his titular church (Ss. Gioacchino ed Anna al Tuscolano). I would be interested to hear what the people of that parish think if their titular Cardinal is now a "CINO" due to grievous, moral failures.