Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Thursday, March 15, 2007

Since when is Rudy Giuliani excommunicated?

I can think of many good reasons to oppose a Rudy Giuliani run for president, but that he is "excommunicated" isn't among them. 'Cuz he ain't.

In an article for the NYDaily News on-line, Ken Wolfe of The Remnant outlines Giuliani's marriage saga and rightly states that, because Giuliani is currently in an unrecognized union with Judith Nathan, he is barred from receiving Holy Communion. (See 1983 CIC 915 and CCC 1650.) Unfortunately, though, Wolfe twice describes this barring from Communion as an "excommunication" as if Giuliani labored under the penalty described in 1983 CIC 1331.

As I have explained many times, barring one from Communion is not a canonical penalty, it is a sacramental disciplinary norm; excommunication, on the other hand, is a canonical penalty entailing, among other things, barring one from Communion. But the broader penalty of excommunication can arise only for specific behaviors expressly listed in canon law, and Giuliani has not committed any of them (well, that I know of, anyway). He just hasn't.

It's bad, very bad, to be barred from Communion; but it's worse to be excommunicated. Let's hope Giuliani resolves his unhappy status without making it worse.

Read more about these topics: Edward Peters, Annulments and the Catholic Church (Ascension Press, 2004); Edward Peters, Excommunication and the Catholic Church (Ascension Press 2006); and Edward Peters' on-line Excommunication Blotter.


Observations on Wolfe's article for specialists

1. Giuliani's call for tax-payer funded abortions is arguably a violation of 1983 CIC 1369, but not of 1398; no latae sententiae excommunication penalty could be declared for his actions to date.

2. The canons on consanguinity read differently now than they did under Pio-Benedictine law (See 1983 CIC 1091, olim 1917 CIC 1076). Ironically, Giuliani could probably not have proven the nullity of his first marriage on consanguinity grounds had he married under the 1983 Code.

3. The "blessing" of a Catholic priest is not necessary for the validity of marriage. See 1983 CIC 1057 and 1108.

4. Wolfe's characterizations of current annulment requirements ("a reason, testimony and, in many places, payment to the diocese") are misleading and cavilistic.

5. A second annulment is canonically no "easier" or "harder" to obtain than a first; each petition must be weighed on its merits. The number of children, if any, is completely irrelevant to adjudicating the status of a marriage.

6. The excommunication for civil remarriage after divorce that older American Catholics might remember was abrogated with Roman approval back in 1977. The 1983 Code does not reinstate it.

UPDATE: 24 may 2007. The incoherence of Giuliani's abortion position was recognized even by the Washington Post. Whodathunkit?