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Sunday, 12 February 2012

One may never do evil so that good may result from it

A painful family event in these days is the marriage outside of a Catholic or a Christian service of sons and daughter of practicing Catholics. Some of my friends have absented themselves from either the so-called marriage, civil marriage of a son or daughter to another person, either baptized or un-baptized. Some parents have gone and witnessed such non-marriages. In light of Valentine's Day, I felt it necessary to help clarify the situation, which I had to deal with in RCIA several times.

Firstly, when one attends a marriage, one is a witness to that marriage, not merely a guest. Especially a parent being present is a statement of agreement and support of the bond. One cannot be in person in silence, as silence is consent.

Secondly, the Church has made some rules in Canon Law much clearer in recent times to help us, the laity, as well as the clergy, sift through these problems.

Thirdly, if one is a baptized Catholic, that person is under Canon Law from baptism until death. There are no exceptions.

Lastly, Canon Law specifies that a Catholic cannot marry an unbaptized person without permission of a Bishop, which will be examined at the end of this entry. This is called "disparity of cult" and is a huge problem.

The motu proprio of Pope Benedict XVI, Omnium in mentem clarified many points, a few which I shall outline here. The publication date was in December of 2009. I was aware of this having been involved in RCIA, which demands that the coordinator asks pertinent questions regarding the marital states of those wanting to come into the Church. Such problems which arise are then sent to the Canon Lawyers in the marriage tribunals or, if the priest in the parish is aware of the laws, to the priest.

Firstly, a person can no longer formally leave the Church, as in a formal apostasy. The ruling clears up private and public apostasy. If one is a lapsed Catholic, one is an apostate and incurs the penalties. Can. 1364 §1. Without prejudice to the prescript of  can. 194, §1, n. 2, an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication; in addition, a cleric can be punished with the penalties mentioned in  can. 1336, §1, nn. 1, 2, and 3.

One must consult a Canon Lawyer, better if he is a priest, if one has been away from the Church, as one may need the special faculties of a priest who can lift such an excommunication, specifically in the case of a woman who has undergone an abortion. Not all priests have this faculty. Confession, of course, is required. By the way, not all parish priests know the laws. The humble ones admit this and get the information. The lay person must be aware of some basic rules, all for the sake of souls. Eternity is a really long time.

Secondly, the fact that Canon Law covers a Catholic from baptism to death means that there is not a period of time when one can claim "immunity". However, the status is such that a person who has contracted a civil marriage may remarry in the Catholic Church after being reconciled. The problems occur if one has been married before in a Protestant ceremony. In most cases, an annulment is required.

Thirdly, the authority to whom one must apply for  marriages is the Bishop, or priests to whom the Bishop has given permission to grant the dispensation for a mixed marriage. "Marriage between two baptized persons, one of whom was baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it after baptism, and the other a member of a Church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the Catholic Church, cannot be celebrated without the express permission of the competent authority". 

Fourthly, it must be discussed whether all Christian marriages in other denominations are truly Christian. A reminder that not all congregations which call themselves "Christian" are. For example, Mormons are not Christian, nor are independent churches which baptize in the Name of Jesus only. The lack of a true Trinitarian Baptism, which constitutes the Sacrament, is missing in both cases. In addition, some Christian denominations now allow such practices as words or practices from Hindu or Native America wedding services to be part of the vows, which would invalidate the Christian marriage, as it is no longer Christian but something New Age. This does happen more than one would think. A parent should not witness such a New Age wedding ceremony.

Lastly, the question of disparity of cult was clarified. Here is the ruling: "A marriage between two persons, one of whom was baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it, and the other of whom is not baptized, is invalid". So, as now it is clear that a parent cannot witness a civil union or a union under disparity of cult, it remains for the individuals involved to try and discuss such matters rationally and calmly, being open to the Church's laws which are for the good of our souls.

May I add, especially in England, where this is more common, that woman are not priests. Anglican orders are not valid. One can be confused on both of these issues, but both Pope Leo XIII and Blessed John Paul II wrote documents clarifying both situations. These are found here and there.

This is more common than one would think. I admire and applaud those parents who have not attended, or rather, witnessed such invalid marriages of their baptized offspring. We cannot be complicit in sin or evil and I am afraid that the English are very bad at these types of decisions, so as not to upset family members, who are entering into sinful lifestyles. We cannot judge the degree of ignorance, but we can teach and be witnesses to the Truth, for the sake of the immortal souls of the sons, daughters and those witnessing. The CCC has an excellent section on formation of conscience. Here is the link. And, a few quotations. always proceeds by way of respect for one's neighbor and his conscience: "Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience . . . you sin against Christ."57 Therefore "it is right not to . . . do anything that makes your brother stumble."58
Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.
Man is sometimes confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision difficult. But he must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God expressed in divine law.
To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience and the signs of the times assisted

May I add that Catholic weddings must occur in a Church. No beach weddings, please. And, lax priests who allow this are just plain wrong.

Sadly, not all priests follow the laws. I had one priest tell me he did not want to be bothered with such things. This attitude and willful ignorance impedes the laity in striving for holiness. And, as a reminder, those who have been in cohabitation, that is living in sin, must go to Confession and live chastely before the wedding. A person who is in mortal sin cannot get grace in the Sacrament of Marriage. I shall pray for all who read this.

I dedicate this to my brave two friends, who did not go to a sibling's and a son's wedding.