In the Light of the Law:
blog on current issues
Sunday, December 16,
Hardt & O'Rourke err in minimizing the scope of the CDF Response
Dr. John Hardt and canonist
Rev. Kevin O'Rourke are trying to use canon law against a Congregation for
the Doctrine of the Faith
that upholds the basic right of patients in a "persistent vegetative state" to
nutrition and hydration. I think their arguments are flawed. Here I summarize
the events leading up to the CDF Response and then assess Hardt and O'Rourke's
attempt to minimize its impact.
20 March 2004. Pope John Paul II tells an international medical-moral
congress that ". . . the administration of water and food, even when provided by
artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a
medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary
and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory. . . ." The qualifications
included in the pope's remarks and his citations to various Church documents
show that his statement is basically an application of well-established Catholic
moral principles to more specific types of medical situations.
2. 11 July 2005. The US bishops send two follow-up questions to the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The bishops ask: (1) Is the
administration of food and water (whether by natural or artificial means) to a
patient in a "vegetative state" morally obligatory except when they cannot be
assimilated by the patient's body or cannot be administered to the patient
without causing significant physical discomfort?
and (2) When nutrition and
hydration are being supplied by artificial means to a patient in a "permanent
vegetative state", may they be discontinued when competent physicians judge with
moral certainty that the patient will never recover consciousness?
16 September 2007. To the surprise of almost no one, CDF, with appropriate
qualifications and explanations, publishes its answers to the bishops'
to the first question, meaning basically that nutrition and hydration may not be
withheld from patients who can still make use of same, and
to the second, meaning that even a very poor prognosis for recovery of
consciousness does not justify withholding nourishment and water from a patient.
Response with additional CDF commentary here.
November-December 2007. Claiming to be putting this CDF Response "in
perspective", Hardt & O'Rourke assert that it "limits the free exercise of
rights [and thus] will only apply to a restricted number of cases, specifically
to patients with a firm diagnosis of PVS" and add that the Response only applies
in the United States. They further assert that had CDF wanted to make its
response more widely applicable, it would have used "another form of
communication, for example, an Apostolic Instruction." Hardt & O'Rourke claim
their conclusions are based on Pope Boniface VIII's
Regulae Iuris (Rules of
Law), which they say are applicable in "interpreting and applying the documents
of the Holy See", and on Canons
52 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. I think these claims are wrong in several
Preliminary criticisms. Hardt & O'Rouke state that the
of Boniface VIII, wherein most of the Rules of Law are found, was published in
1300. Actually it was promulgated in 1298. An error of two years might be minor,
but imagine one's discomfort if a lecturer on American political theory claimed
that the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1778. Moreover, Hardt &
O'Rouke's suggestion that CDF could use a document known as an "apostolic
instruction" is perplexing. Amid the myriad of document styles employed
(sometimes inconsistently) by the Holy See, I have never encountered one called
an "apostolic instruction", nor is it a genre listed in Francis Morrisey,
Curial Pronouncements, 2d ed (1995) or J. Huels, "A theory of
juridical documents based on canons 29-34",
Studia Canonica 32/2
(1998) 337-370. Or again, Hardt & O'Rouke's claim that "many of the [Rules of
Law] are repeated in one way or another in the present Code of Canon Law", seems
excessively broad. See E. Roelker, "An introduction to the Rules of Law",
10 (1950) 271-303, 417-436, an article replete with narrations of the pitfalls
awaiting those who invoke the
without adequately understanding them. In short, almost every assertion by Hardt
& O'Rouke on the
is contestable or wrong.
But a much more fundamental objection lies against Hardt & O'Rouke's claim that
canon law dictates a narrow reading of the CDF Response.
Primary criticism. Canons 18 and 52 and the Rules of Law upon
which they draw are, by their plain terms, meant to inform one's interpretation
of laws and
directives. In issuing its Response on nutrition and hydration, however, CDF was
issuing a law, or an authentic interpretation of a law (1983
CIC 16), or indeed any other kind of juridic decree (administrative or
otherwise). Instead the dicastery is setting forth
criteria for personal decision-making, a point reinforced by the CDF Response
being posted among the
dicastery's doctrinal statements, not its disciplinary ones. In other words,
by subjecting CDF's enunciation of
principles to interpretive techniques that were developed for assessing
norms, Hardt & O'Rouke are basically criticizing the CDF Response for not being
something it never claimed to be.
Even at that, Hardt & O'Rouke's critique seems poorly done. For example, their
claim that the Response is applicable only in the US is easy to refute. One need
simply observe that CDF published its Response in
French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, and Latin to show how
implausible is the assertion that it was intended only for America. Likewise
their claim that the CDF Response protects only to patients in a "persistent
vegetative state", and not necessarily those suffering from such conditions
Alzheimer's, is untenable. Logic dictates that persons similarly situated should
be treated similarly and, obviously, both Alzheimer's patients and persons in a
"persistent vegetative state" need food and water to survive. I cannot imagine
the grounds upon which Hardt & O'Rouke think that CDF might discriminate between
these two groups.
The moral principles set out in the CDF Response are meant to be applied
regardless of the fact pattern that lead to an individual's plight and
regardless of where his or her suffering is taking place. I urge persons
striving to understand and apply Catholic medico-moral principles in difficult
nutrition and hydration situations to consult directly the statements on this
matter offered by the organs of the Holy See, and not to be put off that inquiry
because of the canonical objections that Hardt & O'Rouke have tried to allege
against this important statement from the CDF.
More analysis from
LifeSite, 21 December 2007.
Monday, November 12,
The choice between Abp. Burke and Bp. Paprocki
Before finding out which candidate, Abp. Raymond Burke of St. Louis or Chicago
auxiliary bishop Thomas Paprocki, has been elected to chair the
USCCB Committee on Canonical Affairs, I write to say only that both
candidates are highly qualified and widely recognized among American bishops for
credentials, competence, and orthodoxy. Each one has a doctorate in canon law
(both from the
Gregorian), and while
Burke has extensive Roman judicial experience,
Paprocki is a licensed civil lawyer. It's a happy day, folks, when the
choice is between two such excellent lawyers.
There is, though, I regret to note,
some speculation out there that the choice between Burke and Paprocki might
shed light on the USCCB attitude toward
Burke's stand on Canon 915, a stand resulting in withholding Holy Communion
from certain notoriously pro-abortion politicians. But I wonder how it could
show any such thing.
To my knowledge, Paprocki has made no statements on Canon 915 (nor need he
have), so just what is there to compare with Burke here? But, if anyone thinks
Paprocki is one to shy away from straight talk, I need only point them to his
recent Red Mass homily in Grand Rapids MI, where he says bluntly that, amid
the proper use of civil law to pursue justice for the victims of clergy sexual
abuse, the force of American law is being also used a club to punish the wrong
people (chiefly, faithful Catholics in the pew) in some of those cases.
he's been vilified in some quarters for it.
I'd be happy see either man elected, if only both because both bishops have
shown considerable savvy in agreeing to write forewords to some
recent canon law books. Abp. Burke wrote the foreword to Edward Peters,
Progressu 1983 Codicis Iuris Canoici (2005), and Bp. Paprocki did
likewise for Edward Peters,
Excommunication and the Catholic Church (2006).
What more can I say?
PS: I should say, some critics of Bp. Paprocki's homily have much more
credibility than the
Catholic World News and
Gerald Augustinus. Still, I think both have missed the bishop's main point,
but that discussion needs to wait a bit.
Update 13 November:
Bp. Paprocki was elected.
Civility, yes, but fairness and accuracy too
I have nothing against platitudes. Though simplistic, platitudes tend to be
true, and these days many people need to have simple truths reiterated. To the
extent that the
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good statement,
A Catholic Call to Observe Civility in Political Debate, simply
reiterates some obvious truths about needing to observe "civility" in public
discourse, I say fine. But there is more to the CACG statement than that.
Despite their genteel demeanor and above-the-fray tone, I suggest that the CACG
is firmly supporting one side in a crucial "partisan" debate (the wrong side, at
that) and that they are discouraging Catholics from exercising some fundamental
Consider their principle no. 2: "As lay Catholics we should not exhort the
Church to condemn our political opponents by publicly denying them Holy
Communion based on public dissent from Church teachings. An individual's fitness
to receive communion is his or her personal responsibility. And it is a bishop's
responsibility to set for his diocese the guidelines for administering
First, I wonder why the CACG aims this advice only at lay Catholics? Does the
CACG consider priests and religious not bound by the rules of civility? Or, do
they think that priests and religious have
rights than laity to express their views in this area? If so, I suggest the CACG
consult, to choose only one of about a dozen relevant norms here,
Canon 212 upholding the right of
the faithful to express their views on matters affecting the good of the Church.
Supposing, though, that the CACG does not hold with either conclusion, one
wonders why they expressed themselves so clumsily as to even raise the question.
Still, there is more wrong here than poor phrasing.
It is a common ploy of political discourse to distort another's position and
then demolish the caricature hoping that observers will conclude that, whatever
the other side held, it must have been wrong. The CACG does this when it
portrays those who support the withholding of Communion from certain politicians
as if they support the Eucharist being withheld from "political opponents"
instead of, as is really the case, from those who "obstinately persist in
manifest grave sin" (1983
CIC 915). The CACG wants readers to conclude that, because no one should
support withholding the Eucharist based only on political differences, the
practice of withholding the Eucharist from political figures must be wrong.
Indeed, the CACG describes this action as "condemning" political adversaries,
making those who support some withholding of Communion appear especially
ruthless. These are, I think, grave distortions of the real issues and, if I may
say so, they constitute very uncivil ways to portray those who disagree with the
The CACG seems completely unaware of the important distinction between public
and private responsibility in the administration and reception of Communion when
it asserts: "An individual's fitness to receive communion is his or her personal
responsibility." But, as so many writers in so many
have noted (e.g.,
here) the observance of
Canon 915 (that binds ministers in the public arena) is at issue here, not
Canon 916 (that binds individual members of the faithful in conscience). I
cannot imagine a group that claims to be making a credible contribution to this
vital discussion not even alluding to, let alone reckoning with, this key
distinction. The CACG does neither.
Finally, despite having stated (more or less accurately) that "it is a bishop's
responsibility to set for his diocese the guidelines for administering [C]ommunion",
cannot the CACG see that some bishops
concluded that certain people's activities (albeit in the political sphere)
constitute, under Canon 915, a disqualification for reception of the Eucharist
in their diocese (that is, as far as these bishops' responsibility for the
Eucharist extends)? What exactly, then, is the CACG's complaint against these
bishops, except that that the CACG (resting on shoddy argumentation) disagrees
with their decision?
There are, I'm afraid, additional problems with other CACG assertions, but the
above comments should suffice to show that one's laudable willingness to urge
the observance of civility in public debate is not necessarily a measure of
one's impartiality in that debate, or even of one's ability to discuss the
issues raised in those debates accurately.
+ + +
Catholic World News,
Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute,
Monday, October 15,
In re the Eucharist: Cdl. McCarrick vs. Abp. Burke
Recently Cardinal Theodore McCarrick expressed his opinion on an important point
of pastoral practice, namely, whether to withhold Holy Communion from
notoriously pro-abortion Catholic politicians. McCarrick specifically expressed
disagreement with Abp. Raymond Burke, who holds that the Eucharist should not be
administered to certain pro-abortion Catholic politicians. But in disagreeing
with Burke, I think that McCarrick mischaracterized the question and
Burke's compelling answer to it.
According to the
October 12 Catholic News Agency article, McCarrick seems to think there are
only two ways to deal with the scandal of pro-abortion Catholic politicians:
withhold the Eucharist from them
work to persuade them of the error of their ways. McCarrick regards Burke as
having chosen the first of these two supposedly mutually exclusive options,
whereas he, McCarrick, supports the latter. This needs sorting out.
Burke fully supports engaging politicians with the truth of Church teaching on
the humanity of the unborn child, on the responsibility of all public servants
to protect the innocent, and on the specific duties of Catholic leaders to imbue
the temporal order with the message of the Gospel (CIC
225.2). What Burke does
countenance is offering, in the meantime, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (CCC 1413) to Catholics whose public record is
one of chronic contempt for any (let alone all!) of those truths.
Burke knows that Catholics are obligated to examine their conscience before
approaching the Eucharist (CIC
916); but he also knows that ministers are obligated to withhold Holy
Communion from those who "obstinately persist in manifest grave sin" (CIC
915). Furthermore, he believes that the failure to observe Canon 915 has
grave repercussions for those receiving,
and for those
administering, the Eucharist. What is there to disagree with, here?
To be sure, important questions such as the point at which one's pro-abortion
voting record constitutes objective grave sin, or exactly which ministers of
Holy Communion are charged with assessing public conduct, must be addressed. But
how can such questions even be broached when the most fundamental points of
Eucharistic discipline have become so muddled?
We are living through
a terrible, perhaps unprecedented, unraveling of respect for Jesus in the
Eucharist. Such a crisis compels all of us, I think, to examine our
consciences for how our sins might have contributed to this disaster. But in the
meantime (and though he might cringe to hear such praise) let me suggest that
Abp. Raymond Burke has emerged as the most articulate defender of our
Eucharistic Lord among our bishops, and that his leadership is valued more
widely than he can possibly imagine.
Read more about this issue:
Edward Peters, "Denial of the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians",
Homiletic & Pastoral Review (Oct 1990) pp. 28-32, 48-49.
Computer woes and College rankings
1. No, I have not given up the ghost. My computer has, for the second time this
year. I am trying to assemble a servicable computer package, but times being
what they (always) are around here
. . .
well, we'll do the best we can.
Cardinal Newman Society has published a
Guide to Choosing an [American] Catholic College. As is true of so much the
CNS does, the Guide is well thought-out. With my computer access limited as it
is (see above), I pause to make only three quick points:
a) The Guide missed a very good call by
University of St. Thomas in St. Paul Minnesota. The
Catholic Studies program there is first class, and the wider university
seems to be undergoing a striking metamorphosis at the graduate and
b) The Guide should have flagged the unaccredited or only-provisionally
accredited schools. Such places can be good, of course, but they entail some
special risks for students.
c) The Guide might consider expanding its criteria to include non-Catholic
colleges that offer a warm welcome (plus a good education!) to Catholics. This
is a bit tricky, I understand, but there are several such places out there.
I wish there had been something like this available when I went to college, but
I'm glad it's here now. Thanks, CNS.
My review of "Medieval Church Law" posted by JLR
I recently had the pleasure of reading and reviewing (for Hamline University's
Journal of Law and Religion) a fine work,
Medieval Church Law and Origins of the Western Legal Tradition
(2006), edited by Drs.
Wolfgang Muller (Fordham University) and
Mary Sommar (Kuttner Institute). A collection of some two dozen articles in
four languages, this book is a festschrift in honor of the esteemed legal
Dr. Kenneth Pennington, long of Syracuse Univeristy and lately of Catholic
University in Washington DC. Practicing canonists need to set aside more time to
discoveries and insights being offered by researchers in allied disciplines,
and this handsome volume from CUA Press is a fine place to start. You can read
my review of
Medieval Church Law here.
Abp. Raymond Burke on Canon 915
Is this cool or what?
One of America's sharpest canon lawyer bishops (Abp.
Raymond Burke of St. Louis), has just published a terrific article in
perhaps the world's most prestigious canon law journal (Periodica
de re Canonica in Rome), on a topic of vital interest to the
Church in the world (the correct application of
Canon 915 on denial of Holy Communion). Best of all, it's
available on-line here.
Like I say, it's just too cool.
Back in 2004, Abp. Burke was one of handful of bishops who understood and
Canon 915 against certain pro-abortion Catholic politicians who were
attempting to receive Holy Communion despite their patent non-compliance with
Church discipline. He suffered more than his share of slings and arrows over the
months that followed, including some
from certain folks who really should have thought twice before putting their
canonical acumen up against Burke's. In any case his article, "Canon 915: The
discipline regarding the denial of Holy Communion to those obstinately
persisting in manifest grave sin"
96 (2007) 3-58, demonstrates just how much law and sound pastoral theology Burke
had, and has, behind him.
does not publish articles for beginners and Burke assumes that his audience
knows, e.g., what the
Decree of Gratian and the
Decretals of Gregory are, and why
Eastern canon law and the
Pio-Benedictine Code are important for contemporary Roman canonical
analysis. But even if you don't know these things, you can still read Burke's
article with profit; it only means taking my word for it that arguments built on
such foundations are very important and lend mighty support to the position
Burke took with regard to recalcitrant politicians. Which they do.
Some of my favorite points? Burke's obvious understanding of the importance of
legal history, his demolishing of the confusion in some minds that Canons 915
and 916 are just two ways of saying the same thing (not!), and his
underscoring the fact that the scandal of unworthy reception can be assessed
objectively, not just subjectively.
Oh, how I wish someone would give a prize for "Most Important Canonical Article
Published in a Peer-Reviewed Journal". I know what I would nominate for 2007.
NEWS FLASH: Catholic Church expects faithful to follow her rules!
Did you hear the shocking story about the man who got arrested for walking home?
Well, it happened. This guy broke out of prison, see, and there he was, walking
down the street toward his home, not bothering anybody, and the cops drive up
and arrest him.
shocking? Says who?
A spate of stories this summer (maybe the same few stories recycling themselves
on slow news days) describes folks bringing wrongful termination actions against
Catholic employers (usually schools).
Today's features a man who claims he was terminated "for not getting an
annulment." I doubt it.
I don't know who said exactly what to whom (that's what courts are there to sort
out), but I do know this: there is no canon law that requires people to "get an
annulment", so the failure to get an annulment
be the basis for a termination. My guess is, though, it wasn't.
Analogy time: There is, pretty obviously, no civil law that requires people to
go out and get nursing licenses. Rather, the law says "If
you want to work as a nurse, get a nursing license". If one works as
a nurse without a license, there will be negative consequences, but that is
the same thing as saying the law requires people to get nursing licenses. The
law does not punish the failure to get a license (else, almost every citizen
would be in violation of it!); rather the law punishes people
nurses without a license.
Similarly, there is no canon law that requires Catholics to go out and get
annulments (else, virtually every Catholic would be in violation of it). Rather,
the law punishes those attempting marriage in violation of Church teaching. One
way to run afoul of Church teaching on marriage is to violate
Canon 1085 which basically says "If you have been previously married, and
your ex-spouse is still alive, the nullity of your earlier marriage must be
proven before you attempt a marriage." If you try to get married against Canon
1085, there will be a variety of negative consequences, beginning with
Canon 915. Okay, well, what's so wrong about that?
The negative consequences relevant to employment with Catholic institutions are
typically found under "morals" or "Church teaching" clauses of employment
contracts, but they are amply reflected in a wide variety of authoritative
Church documents (e.g,
here, and even
Precept 6 here). Notice, the negative consequences would be imposed for
attempting marriage outside the Church,
for something like "not getting an annulment". Just as people don't get arrested
for walking home, they don't get terminated for not getting annulments.
When someone says "I got fired for not getting an annulment", I think what they
probably mean is, "I got fired for attempting something as publicly wrong as
marriage in violation of Church teaching, and I don't like it when the Catholic
Church expects Catholics to live by her rules."
Tuesday, August 28,
Tom Monaghan and the art of pointless provocation
In the midst of ceremonies celebrating the latest stage of his Ave Maria dreams
in Florida, Tom Monaghan made his own, or repeated without rejecting,
the hate-phrase "academic terrorists" to describe those in Michigan who,
three or four years ago, resisted his sudden dismantling of a fine Catholic
college there. Monaghan added that his Michigan opponents "did everything they
could to stop" him (which resistance he took as proof of God's approval of his
actions) and opined that his obviously incendiary remarks "dramatized" the
recent Florida festivities.
Assuming the truth of those sad days matters anymore, let me say one more time
that I did not see faculty and staff of Ave Maria College in Michigan doing
"everything they could" to stop Ave Maria in Florida: instead, I saw them doing
what little they could within the law and their meager resources
Ave Maria College in Michigan. Such a simple distinction, and so many can't or
won't see it. Anyway, it's moot now. The Michigan people lost.
Perhaps businessmen don't get to be billionaires thinking this way, but it seems
to me that in politics, sports, and so on, victors take one of two stances
toward those they defeat: either they say something vaguely complementary about
their opponents (here, something as simple as "Well, they thought they were
doing the right thing, and I can respect that, but they were wrong"), or at the
very least say nothing at all.
Not Tom Monaghan. Instead, he feels free to label those upright men and women as
"terrorists", a particularly vile thing to say or even to repeat today. But
beyond being mean, his remarks strike me as pointless. What
did he think it would to do?
As many know, I stood up for the Michigan faculty and staff who opposed the
abrupt destruction of Ave Maria College and, like others before me and others
after, I was duly shown the door by the Ave Maria empire. Maybe I should have
seen that as evidence of God's approval of my actions, but it's hard to be
poetic when one suddenly has to find a new way to meet the mortgage in the
In any case, when, not long after, the college's defenders lost their court
case, I withdrew from the fray. I removed my posted exchanges with Nick Healy
and Fr. Fessio and stopped writing to the Ave Maria boards. In the years since,
I've turned down various requests for media interviews and have not commented on
the latest Ave Maria debacles, in particular, the on-going implosion of the Ave
Maria School of Law.
Tom Monaghan, in contrast, seems to think that his
paterfamilias style of
philanthropy permits him to show continual scorn for the vanquished, those who
dared to question his judgment about various projects, projects to which they,
often as much and sometimes
than he, contributed, but in which he allowed them little or no voice.
In his latest round of self-congratulatory revels, Monaghan justifies his recent
gloating thus: "It makes the moment bigger when people know what you've been
through to get here." Gee, that's
just what Tom Monaghan
needs, another bigger moment. Really, it's beyond parody.
Still, may I suggest that what Tom Monaghan needs is not another "bigger
moment", but rather a little one: one wherein, instead of recalling what
went through to get where he is, he tries to imagine what he has
other people through getting himself there.
Friday, August 24,
Spouses should not attempt joint sacramental confession
The practice of spouses jointly celebrating the sacrament of confession recently
support from Catholic News Service veteran columnist Fr. John Deitzen.
Provided that couples "approve and consider it helpful for their marriage",
Deitzen holds that spouses may confess their sins in each other's presence and
receive absolution. He notes only that each spouse would be bound by the seal of
confession in regard to what he or she learned about the other.
I believe, however, that there are formidable canonical and practical objections
to joint sacramental confession, and I set them out for consideration.
Deitzen's basic argument runs thus: there is no express canonical or liturgical
prohibition against spouses confessing sacramentally in each other's presence,
so "couple's confession" is licit. But even if,
no norm expressly prohibits joint confession, one may still ask, So what? There
is no canon against the faithful attending Mass drunk or naked, but surely we
cannot read the law's "silence" as approval, qualified or otherwise, for such
practices. The Church could not possibly identify in advance and prohibit every
illicit practice that the faithful might think of. Inclined though I am to give
wide play in canon law to the legal maxim
praesumitur (Freedom is presumed), joint confession is an instance
where that worthy principle must yield to weightier considerations.
Indeed, I suggest that it is clearly discernible from several canonical norms
that joint confession should be avoided. Ironically, Deitzen identifies these
norms but seems to miss their obvious (to me, anyway) implications.
1. Deitzen acknowledges that
Canon 960 holds that "Individual and integral confession and absolution
constitute the only ordinary means" of celebrating the sacrament of confession,
but he fails to include the next clause of the canon: "only physical or moral
impossibility excuses from confession of this type." The phrase Deitzen omits
seems fatal for his argument: Standing alone, I think it defeats the liceity of
"couple's confession" on Deitzen's facts: one cannot plausibly suggest, let
alone prove, that it is morally impossible for one spouse to confess his or her
sins except in the presence of the other spouse.
2. Deitzen also appeals to
Canon 990 (authorizing an interpreter to assist one confessing sins) to show
that one's confession can be made in the presence of another. But again, so
what? The very existence of a canon
a penitent to use
reinforces the prior canonical expectation that sacramental confession is to be
a third party being authorized only to make someone's confession
possible in the first place! If I may be pardoned a drift toward the ridiculous,
interpreted confessions are not analogous to joint confessions for another
reason: having interpreted the confession of a penitent into the language of the
priest, the interpreter does not then confess his or her
sins in the presence of the penitent!
3. Deitzen misconstrues
Canons 961 and 962 (on the absolution of multiple penitents in urgent cases)
in wrongly stating that general absolution authorizes "general
and absolution" for multiple penitents (my emphasis). These canons do no such
thing; plainly, they provide for general absolution
confession of sins; individual confession is performed later.
There are additional problems with Dietzen's description of the "seal" that
might arise from joint confession, and frankly I see no way to limit this
practice, once admitted, only to married couples, but by way of conclusion, I
would add a practical point: the modern practice of individual confession is
designed to foster freedom and candor. Joint confession would undermine these
It takes no imagination to see that "couple's confession", while it might at
first seem like an intimate, bonding experience, can quickly become an occasion
to avoid revealing important details about the species and numbers of one's
grave sins (Canon
988); this in turn can deteriorate into an excuse to avoid confessing at
all, or it can spark spousal suspicions as to why going to confession together
last time, but not
time. Worst of all, "couple's confession" can result in the coercion of an
unwilling spouse, which coercion might not be apparent to the confessor at the
time. But guess who will later be blamed for having celebrated the joint
In sum, I see no legal or pastoral support for the practice of joint confession,
spousal or otherwise. The faithful should be dissuaded from attempting to
celebrate the sacrament under these circumstances, and I would strongly
discourage priests from becoming enmeshed in such an improvident practice.
additional thoughts: (1) My analysis does not address the
of joint confessions/absolutions but, as is well known, sacraments are hard to
break; they might well be celebrated illicitly, but still validly. (2) Joint
confession introduces the novel prospect of one penitent being sufficiently
disposed for absolution (Canon
980) but the other not. (3) While in common parlance the concepts of
"privately" and "individually" are distinguishable, in the pastoral practice of
confession, they have been viewed as interchangeable. This is, of course,
Deitzen's point, that perhaps they should
be so viewed and that confession need not be "private" to be "individual". But
aside from the fact that Canons 990, 961, and 962, among others, seem to assume
that "individual" confession
"private", and in light of my practical concerns above, I think Deitzen has the
burden of demonstrating
two terms that have been assumed as interchangeable for centuries should
sudddenly no longer be understood that way before passing on pastoral changes
that could have grave repercusssions for individuals seeking this sacrament.
Something stronger than "There's no rule expressly prohibiting it" seems in
order. (4) If one admits any third party, not a translator (and, okay, not a
small child who cannot be left unattended for the time it takes to make
confession) to be present at confession, why limit that concession to third
parties (of any sort) making confessions? Why not permit attendance by other
parties who in turn might have any number of motives (known to the priest or
not) for wanting to be present? This scenario offers its own host of serious
pastoral (and for that matter, civil law immunity) questions.
Update: November 3, 2007.
Fr. Deitzen, after communication with the Congregation for Divine Worship and
Sacraments, has basically withdrawn his assertion that couples may receive the
sacrament of confession together.
Friday, August 10,
A canonical response to a murderous priest
The story out of Mexico (English
Spanish version) that a priest has been sentenced to 55 years in prison for
the murder of his own son (committed to prevent detection of the priest's sexual
misconduct and his possible expulsion from the clerical state) leaves one pretty
much speechless. In the 18 months since this story broke, it appears that the
Mexican hierarchy, appalled by the discovery, cooperated with state prosecutors
pursuing the matter in secular court. That's all to the good, of course; but I
think it important that the canonical consequences for such loathsome conduct be
pursued as well.
There are arguments under the current criminal law of the Church (Book VI of the
1983 Code) whereby a priest who, in a one-time act, sires a child with a
consenting adult, could escape dismissal from the clerical state for the deed,
notwithstanding the other penalties that might be imposed on him (a careful
reading of CIC
1394-1395 demonstrates this). I don't know whether the facts in this case
would have allowed such an argument to go forward; my hunch is, the odds are
But in murdering the progeny of his misconduct, a priest renders any such
arguments moot and makes his expulsion from ordained ministry a simple matter.
1397 states that anyone who commits homicide can be punished in accord with
1336, a norm that in turn authorizes "dismissal from the clerical state" as
a penalty for certain offenses. As if that weren't sufficient basis for
dismissing a homicidal priest from the clerical state, a canonical judge is
permitted to augment penalties on those who have been "established in some
Priesthood is surely such a dignity. It should be canonically vindicated against
such dastardly conduct.
Saturday, July 14,
CDF's "Responses to Some Questions"
If you're wondering why all the shouting about CDF's "Responses
to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine of the Church"
Ad catholicam profundius), all I can say is, I'm wondering too.
I see nothing new in the document. Not that it hasn't stirred up
the usual hysterical reactions, particularly to Question Five. But so what
else is new?
Maybe "complaint" would be too strong a word, but I was hoping that the CDF
document would offer something
than any decent student of ecclesiology could have already told us. For example,
the response to Question Three (why the expression
[subsists in] was used in
Lumen gentium 8 rather than the verb
[is]) doesn't really, it seems to me, answer the question posed. Maybe I missed
it; wouldn't be the first time.
For my money, the more interesting remarks occur not in the CDF document itself,
but rather in an unsigned "Commentary"
on the Responses (oddly,
linked on the Responses pages, and
posted in Latin). For example, the commentary on
subsistit in Question
Three seems to offer two different impressions: one, that the Council Fathers
asserted no difference between
(as in, the "rivers of ink" spilt on this matter have been much ado about
nothing); and two, that "subsistence" can be seen as what "substance" --how to
On which point, though, I would defer to my friends in philosophy.
Anyway, all I'm saying is, the canonist in me sees, so far at least, nothing new
in the Responses. Lawyers should read them, and move on.
for a good set of posts and links on this matter in general, scroll through
Carl Olson's multiple posts at Insight Scoop; for some canons of the 1983
Code that quietly but clearly assume the distinction between "Churches" and
"ecclesial communities" discussed in Question Five, see 1983 CIC
364 n. 6,
Sunday, July 01,
Remarks on the Lawler-Risch US Catholic article
Michael Lawler and Gail Risch (U.S.
Catholic on-line) propose to treat certain co-habiting couples
essentially as married. This bad idea should, and will, go nowhere (Abps.
Charles Chaput and
Elden Curtiss and folks like
Carl Olson see numerous problems with it), so I won't comment much on it. I
should point out, though, that L&R's presentation of the canon law on marriage
is problematic in
I was confused, for example, by L&R's portrayal of the disputants in the
marriage debate that gripped the Church from the 9th to 12th centuries: "In the
12th century," L&R claim, "Gratian, the master of the school of law at the
Catholic University of Bologna, introduced a compromise in the debate between
the Romans and the northern Europeans over what brought about marriage." That
doesn't sound right. For starters, Gratian
Omitting Hugh of St. Victor (who constituted a third front all by himself), the
two sides in the medieval marriage debate were as follows:
from the University of Paris who championed (perhaps ironically) a maxim from
ancient Roman law that spousal consent alone makes a marriage, versus
from the University of Bologna, led by Gratian, who argued for a 'Germanic'
cultural model whereby marriage arose from a sequence of actions, one of which
was spousal consent; the actual "Romans", meanwhile, as scholars and canonists
at least, were not major players until the papacy stepped in and resolved the
favor of the Parisians, not Gratian, in the 13th century.
Gratian did advance the marriage debate by upholding
intercourse as events with juridic significance. But in the end, he
assigned greater legal consequences to intercourse than the nature of marriage
required, and he hedged in distinguishing between, of all things, "betrothal"
and "marriage". Against him, the Parisians (Peter Lombard
cleanly argued that spousal consent to be
was necessary and sufficient for marriage,
and paved the way for recognizing that sexual relations following present
matrimonial consent was indeed, as Gratian held, significant,
but not for
marriage, but rather for according to it a property canonists now recognize as
"extrinsic indissolubility" (1983
CIC 1056, 1061).
The Parisian school held that betrothed couples were canonically free to marry
others (even if they had had pre-marital sex in the meantime, which is still the
law today). But I wonder whether Gratian really had a problem with that holding?
As Theodore Mackin (What
is Marriage?, 160) put it, "One consequence of his ambiguous use of
desponsatio that Gratian almost certainly did
intend was the possibility that the act of
betrothal followed by
intercourse could create marriage equally with the
vows followed by intercourse" (my emphasis). In short, pretty much L&R's idea.
Gratian as a sort of patron saint for those shacking-up? I don't see it.
Thursday, June 28,
Fake priests (version 2007)
Though the problem seems to be more acute in Europe and the Third World, when I
was still in (American) diocesan work, I encountered a few cases of "fake
clergy", with most of these charlatans appearing to be small time con-men.
I've blogged on this problem before, and am not surprised to see it popping
In the most recent case reported here, the administration of the baptism
would have been valid (though gravely illicit, 1983 CIC 861 and 1381).
Still, let this episode serve as a warning. If you have an uneasy feeling about
whether some man is
a priest or deacon, contact your local arch/diocese. There are accurate lists of
clergy for the United States, the best-known being the
Official Catholic Directory, published annually by Kenedy & Sons.
Better safe than sorry.
Wednesday, June 27,
A suicide priest
The Pio-Benedictine Code prohibited ecclesiastical funeral rites for those who
"killed themselves by deliberate counsel." 1917 CIC 1240.1.3. Phrased to protect
those who might have killed themselves unintentionally (even if recklessly),
this canon would nevertheless have probably prevented Catholic funeral rites for
Fr. William Rosensteel, who jumped from a bridge shortly before sex abuse
allegations against him were to be investigated by civil authorities. The
Johanno-Pauline Code, however, contains no such restriction (1983
CIC 1184), so an ecclesiastical funeral can be permitted this suicide priest
- - -
notwithstanding that he has left a host of innocent people to deal with the
consequences of his actions.
Thursday, June 21,
Annulment? What annulment? Really, what annulment?
confirmed. Sheila Rauch Kennedy, in her oddly organized book,
Shattered Faith, at p.
215, quotes her letter to the Tribunal of Boston: ". . . in accordance with
canon law, I am appealing your affirmative decision to the [Roman] Rota as the
Second Instance . . ." My emphasis. Thus we must conclude that,
because he had only
two necessary affirmative decisions (as explained below), Joseph
Kennedy never received an annulment from the Catholic Church; the Roman Rota did
not overturn an American annulment in this case for the simple reason that there
no annulment to overturn.
Canon 1682 requires that every "sentence which first declare[s] the nullity
of marriage to be transmitted
to the appellate tribunal" and
Canon 1684 states that only "after the sentence which first declared the
nullity of the marriage has been confirmed at the appellate level. . .[can] the
persons whose marriage has been declared null contract a new marriage . . ."
In other words, "an annulment" (which sounds as if it's a single thing) actually
distinct, affirmative decisions. It's not like in American law, where winning at
trial is sufficient to establish one's rights. In canonical matrimonial cases, a
petitioner who proves his case for nullity at trial ("first instance") does
yet "have" an annulment: a petitioner must to receive
concurring affirmative sentences in order to have
annulment. Persons involved in the annulment process are repeatedly cautioned
about this point of canon law.
Now, as near as we can figure (oh, how
I hate relying on the secular media here), Joseph Kennedy
petitioned for, and received, at first instance a declaration of nullity
regarding his marriage to Sheila Rauch. But Rauch apparently exercised her right
1983 CIC 1417 to appeal directly to the
Roman Rota, which would mean that the Kennedy-Rauch annulment case
completed when it went to Rome. Thus the Rota sat as a tribunal of
"second instance" (JPII,
Pastor bonus, a. 128, 1) in which capacity it rejected Kennedy's
petition. This annulment, then, was not so much "reversed" by the Rota, as it
failed to win completion therein. Granted, the effect is the same, no second
marriage is permitted Kennedy (or Rauch), but it's not as if Kennedy "had" his
annulment for ten years, and then mean old Rome took away.
seems, never had his annulment in the first place. (Not that that
technicality prevented him from marrying civilly, but, hey, he had already done
before Boston reached its first instance decision!)
But all of this raises an interesting question. Personal opinions of Kennedys
aside, it seems unfair to make someone wait for 10 years to find out what his
matrimonial status in the Church really is. But canon law already recognizes
Canon 1453 urges (but does not strictly require) that "first instance" cases
be resolved in one year, and that "second instance" cases be decided within six
months. When the Roman Rota accepted Rauch's appeal, it took on the task of
sitting as a
(not as a third, but as a
instance court. Thus, why the Rota took (not six months, which would clearly be
unreasonable, but 8 or even)
to decide what was only a
instance case is, well, not clear. Were the facts alleged so difficult to
determine? Were there novel legal questions raised? I wonder.
Rotal address of 1984, and even more strongly in his 1996 remarks, Pope John
Paul II reminded Rotal judges that annulment petitions are petitions
in justice that impact the
status of persons in the Church; as such, said the pope, the faithful
have a right to a timely answer
(whether affirmative or negative) to their questions, yes, even if those persons
are rich and famous and regard Church teaching on marriage as a bunch of
Catholic gobbledygook that no one believes anymore (Sheila Rauch Kennedy,
Faith, 10-11, quoting Joe Kennedy).
Wednesday, June 20,
What we don't know about the Kennedy-Rauch case
June 21. I'll be discussing this news with
Al Kresta today at 4 pm Eastern; and
Jimmy Akin did a good fisking of the
Time article, which was, need I say it?, laughably bad in some
Canon law is not only much older than common law, but in many respects, it
operates very differently from the legal system we Americans live in. Try to
keep this in mind (I know it's hard, but really try) as a multitude of pundits
weigh in on
the most recent development in the Kennedy-Rauch annulment case. In brief,
don't know about this case vastly outweighs what we do know, and
that should give thoughtful people pause.
We don't know, for example, what evidence was put before
the Boston tribunal by which it found for nullity in this case.
I reviewed Sheila Rauch's book
Shattered Faith back in 1997, and noted then how little hard
information about the case itself was contained therein.
I've worked on enough marriage cases to know that what outsiders, even
closely related outsiders, know about a marriage, and what tribunals know about
a marriage, can be at times stunningly disparate.
Moreover, we don't yet know what the
Roman Rota sentence even says, whether, for example, it reversed Boston on
procedural grounds that can be fairly easily corrected, or on evidentiary
grounds that can be supplemented and resubmitted, or on substantive grounds that
offer little hope of reconsideration (that last category being, for many
reasons, by far the least likely).
Now, I could stop right here and say, "Anyone who (like me) doesn't know the
answers to these questions has absolutely no business commenting on the case (so
I won't, either)", but I can raise a few more questions for the interested.
For example, will Kennedy refile in Boston (as is his right per
1983 CIC 1643
or will he appeal this decision within the Rota itself? Rota decisions are
indeed, I won't say frequently, but certainly not rarely, appealed within the
Rota, and sometimes reversed. That this can happen
should give pause to those who will cast this Rota decision as the voice of God
pronouncing judgment. Or, passing over why the sentence sat in Rome for two
years, will it be published in five or so years as is now typical of Rota cases?
And by the way, why did the case go directly to Rome in the first place, instead
of passing through normal second instance (I'm just curious about that, there's
nothing untoward in such a move, per
1983 CIC 1417, though it is unusual).
Sheila Rauch, an Episcopalian who filed for the divorce, seems like a perfectly
nice lady, while Joe Kennedy, a Catholic who remarried (civilly) before even
Boston had reached its decision, strikes me as just another shallow Kennedy
climber. But Rauch's account of this case (which now might be rushed to
re-release with a gloating banner across the cover), when not putting forth
assertions that are simply wrong, usually resorts to the same old feminist
critiques of the Church that we have heard for decades, and Kennedy, yes, even a
Kennedy, deserves a judgment based on the facts.
Maybe he just got one. But we'll
have to wait and see.
* Read a
sample Rota sentence here.
* Read my
discussion of American annulment statistics here.
* For a look at several famous Roman Rota cases, including some that were
reversed within the Rota itself, see John Noonan,
Power to Dissolve: Lawyers and Marriages in the Courts of the Roman Curia
Monday, June 18,
Possible apostasy by a cleric: why we have Canon 1364
However rarely one hopes such rules will be needed, the 1983 Code of Canon Law
makes provision for things like apostasy and schism, loss of ecclesiastical
office, and penal procedure precisely because our divinely founded Church is
inhabited by people like you and me. In any case, "canonical norms by their very
nature are meant to be applied" (John Paul II,
Sacrae disciplinae leges, 25) and there's nothing like a real
case to consider how law should illumine life.
According to a statement apparently issued by a Midwestern bishop
(you can see it here, but the names are irrelevant), a permanent deacon
notified the bishop that he had become a Mormon. The bishop in turn stated that
the deacon had, among other things, lost the clerical state. Hmmm. Just like
that? I wonder.
Granting the bishop's document is six months old (perhaps it has been
supplemented since), bears no signature (unsigned statements introduce pointless
uncertainties), and does not relate some important facts (though several
passages praise the work of the deacon), what
contained in the statement provokes questions about the application of canon law
in the Church. Here are some that occur to me.
1. Given the determination by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Mormon baptism is invalid, meaning that Mormons
Christians, a Catholic who becomes Mormon has, it seems, not simply "left the
Catholic Church" (sadly, many people do that), but arguably has
from the Christian Faith (1983 CIC
751). Now, whatever else apostasy might be, it's a crime under canon law
2. There is an automatic penalty for the crime of apostasy:
excommunication. Notwithstanding the numerous complications associated with
penalties, the facts alleged in this case might well satisfy the requirements
for such a penalty. Oddly, however, excommunication is not even mentioned in the
3. Instead, the statement indicates that the deacon has, apparently
automatically (judging by the dates therein), lost the clerical state. But has
he? What canon of the 1983 Code imposes automatic loss of the clerical state for
offense, apostasy or otherwise?
Besides excommunication, there are other automatic consequences for apostasy,
chiefly here, loss of ecclesiastical offices (1983 CIC
194). Thus, if a deacon were, say, a parochial assistant or a member of a
parish council, he would lose those offices upon apostasy; but he would
automatically be removed from the clerical state.
That penalty (obviously
appropriate, and envisioned in c. 1364) needs to be "legitimately" imposed (1983
290); however, penal dismissal from the clerical state can only be imposed
after a formal process, typically a trial (1983 CIC
In short, assuming the facts alleged were and still are accurate, and assuming
the deacon has not in the meantime either repented of his decision or petitioned
for laicization, then, it seems to me, there's an excommunicated deacon out
there who has not been informed of his status, and a diocese that still has an
incardinated cleric on its rolls whom it thought was gone. For obvious pastoral
and juridic reasons, neither situation should be allowed to drag on.
Some other thoughts: (a) the bishop's statement does, I think, effectively
remove the deacon from active ministry while his status is addressed, but that
fact would be clearer if the document had been worded differently from the
outset; (b) one must wonder how the recent,
and I think problematic, official interpretation accorded the notion of
"formal defection from the Catholic Church" should be applied to a case like
An excellent book,
When Mormons Call, written by a former Catholic priest (since
reconciled), might be of interest to this deacon.
Saturday, June 16,
Peter Meade should resign the cardinal's commission, or be removed
Boston politicos Peter & Rosanne Meade woke up one summer morning, saw the
sun shining brightly, and concluded that God must have changed his mind about
the travesty called "homosexual marriage". The Meades think that because the
world did not come to an end when Massachusetts legalized "same-sex marriage",
those ignorant Bible-thumpers were wrong about the consequences for societies
that continually invent new ways to flout, well, just about everything.
But a pretty sunrise over Boston Harbor is not, in the slightest, a sign that
God approves of what the chronically bizarre government of Massachusetts does in
regard to "homosexual marriage", or anything else for that matter. Not at all.
The Meades need to read their Bible---no, not the parts about the earth opening
up and swallowing sinners or raging floods wiping away the evil, as instructive
as those passages might be---but rather, the places where Holy Writ reminds us
that, in his wisdom, God lets the sun shine on the good and the bad alike, and
that weeds will grow up alongside the wheat until, that is, the Day of Harvest,
when the wheat will be gathered into barns, and the weeds torn out and burned.
But the Meades' opinion column, as bad as it is (consider here provisions such
as 1983 CIC
225, 227, and
747), provokes a deeper problem for the Church in Boston:
Peter Meade is co-chair of the commission advising Cdl. O'Malley about the
complex and crucial issue of parish-closings in the archdiocese.
Now, if one cannot think clearly about something as simple, and as obvious, and
as anciently and universally honored as the fact that marriage is a "covenant by
a man and a
woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of
CIC 1055), then how can he or she can be taken seriously as an advisor to
ecclesiastical leaders on
topic requiring the exercise of prudent judgment?
By their own words, the Meades have proclaimed themselves unfit to hold a
position of influence in any particular Church, let alone one as prominent as
Boston. If he won't resign, Peter Meade should be removed from the cardinal's
Friday, June 15,
Divorce mentality among Catholics: a case from the Roman Rota
The Catholic Church's highest judicial court is the Roman Rota. While not
exactly the equivalent of the United States Supreme Court (see 1983 CIC 16),
cases decided by the Rota are nevertheless of
great significance in the development of canonical jurisprudence. All Rota
sentences are published in Latin, and relatively few are later translated into
modern languages. The few that are translated are generally available only in
For the benefit of those who might like see what a Rota sentence looks like, I
recently translated one that I found interesting not only in that it provides a
look at how facts and law are discussed by Rotal judges, but because it deals
with a topic of major current interest, namely, how a "divorce mentality" can
negatively impact the attitudes of Catholics entering marriage. Click
here for my translation of the case, c. Filipiak, 23 March 1956, SRRD 48 (1956)
For some other Rotal cases translated into modern languages, see
those of the retired Irish Rotal Auditor, Msgr. Cormac Burke, on his
Wednesday, May 30,
The case for applying Canon 1398 to politicians is very weak
UPDATE: June 4.
On 31 May,
Miller revised his position, and raised some additional thoughtful
ORIGINAL POST: May 30.
Robert Miller's important essay for
First Things (30 May 2007), wherein he says that, in accord with
Canon 1398, "the Church should declare openly that [pro-abortion Catholic
politicians] have incurred the penalty of excommunication
sententiae", must be carefully read before considering my remarks.
Two weeks ago, the
Los Angeles Times (14 May 2007) wrote: "Catholics can and do
argue about whether a lawmaker who votes to legalize abortion triggers a
provision of church law that provides for the automatic excommunication of
anyone who 'procures' an abortion." I considered replying then to the effect
that, while Catholics might debate the application of Canon 1398 to politicians,
canon lawyers do not. But I held back for two reasons.
First, assuming my read of Canon 1398 is correct, the impossibility of using
that canon to excommunicate politicians is so obvious that, for me to put
forward as a discovery what, it seems, no qualified commentator doubts, struck
me as pretentious. Second, until Miller's essay, many (not all, but many) of the
calls to excommunicate pro-abortion politicians under Canon 1398 were flawed on
other grounds (e.g., excessive emotion, lack of charity, or the substitution of
righteous rhetoric for knowledge) and unworthy of substantive reply.
But in Miller's essay, we see a serious analyst applying, in charity, a fine
mind to an important issue. He gets right so many things others have fumbled:
Miller gently scolds Fr. Lombardia for his embarrassing alterations of the
pope's remarks, he prefaces canonical remarks with moral theology assumptions
about not approaching the Eucharist in grave sin (although he seems unaware that
Canon 916 does exactly the same thing), and he reminds Church leaders that
their exasperating reticence to speak out clearly (and correctly, of course) on
certain key issues can be very damaging pastorally.
But if Miller,
with everything he brings to the discussion, is wrong in asserting that
Canon 1398 can reach pro-abortion Catholic politicians, and I think he is wrong,
does that not mean that the time has come to conclude this particular debate and
focus on other ecclesiastical responses, including canonical ones, to the grave
scandal these people give?
Now, before I try to make this case (using a tact different from what others
might use), let me remind readers of two important but easy-to-overlook points:
Canon law is an
legal system; authors and opinions from around the world are routinely brought
to bear on local or national canonical issues.
Canon law is a true legal system, but one independent of, and
quite different from, the
(European) civil or (Anglo-American) common law;
one's credentials as a secular lawyer are, therefore, of minimal use (and are
sometimes positively misleading) in the interpretation of the Church's legal
Consider: If canon lawyers
canonists are not qualified to give corporate tax advice, explain the operation
of long-arm statutes, or parse the constitutionality of jury instructions (and
it is utterly obvious that they are not qualified to do any such things), is it
out of place to suggest that secular lawyers are in a weak position to advise on
the interpretation of canon laws? I think not.
Ok. Here we go.
Excommunication is a powerful and potentially effective response to certain
offensive behaviors in the Church. Nevertheless, I think that calls to
excommunicate pro-abortion politicians under Canon 1398 will fail, not because
Church leaders lack the gumption to apply the canon, but because the canon
be applied that way in the first place. But here, rather than trying to recreate
the substantive canonical arguments behind this assertion for a readership that
vastly different backgrounds to this discussion, let me, even at the
risk of coming across as making only an argument from authority this time,
propose only this much: Those wishing to invoke Canon 1398 against pro-abortion
politicians should, at the very least, be aware that there is little, and
no, support for their position among credentialed canonical scholars
around in the world.
There are now at least ten
pantextual commentaries on the 1983 Code of Canon Law: four from Spain, two
from the United States, two from Germany, and one each from Great Britain,
Italy, and France. I don't have access to the German works, but the others
CLSA New Commentary (2000, American);
Exegetical Commentary (1996, originally Spanish);
Letter & Spirit (1995, British-Irish);
Code Annotated (1992, originally Spanish);
Commentary (1985, American);
Pratique (French, 1985); and
(1983, Spanish). Each of these commentaries discusses Canon 1398, and not one of
that Catholic politicians are liable to its excommunication for procured
abortion. Indeed, the
CLSA New Comm
expressly rejects the idea (even when Canon 1329 on accomplices is invoked, but
that argumentation requires a separate explanation) and several others reject it
by clear implication.
There are, in addition to the above, at least four major monographs on modern
penal canon law: Woestman,
Ecclesiastical Sanctions (Canadian, 2003);
Diritto Penale (Italian, 1990);
Les Sanctions (French, 1990); and
De Sanctionibus (Italian, 1986). These, too, discuss Canon 1398,
and none holds that Catholic politicians are liable to its excommunication for
pro-abortion governmental activity. Or, to cite just one example of smaller,
peer-reviewed canonical studies,
Coriden's demonstration of the limited reach of Canon 1398 (1986
Opinions), has to my knowledge not even been challenged, let alone
Thus one may fairly ask, has an interpretation of canon law that seems so
obvious to those untrained in canon law
escaped the notice of virtually everyone trained in canon law? I can't say for
sure; it's not impossible, of course. But the findings outlined above should
certainly temper the enthusiasm with which some (not Miller, of course) have
clamored for the application of Canon 1398 to politicians.
The truth of an assertion is not measured by its number of adherents or the
academic degrees they posses (or don't possess, as the case may be), but "there
is wisdom in the advice of many" and Church law, in
Canon 19, directs that careful attention be paid to the "common and constant
persons." My emphasis. Whatever the learning possessed by proponents of
excommunicating pro-abortion politicians under Canon 1398, and at times it is
impressive, I suspect Canon 19 has in mind attention being paid to those whose
learning is in canon law and closely allied disciplines. And within
circles, I detect almost no support for reading Canon 1398 so broadly as to
reach the pro-abortion Catholic politician (even assuming that such status is
sufficiently identifiable for the purposes of applying the law).
I conclude by reminding readers that the above observations do not, in the
slightest, suggest that Church law is bereft of responses to scourge of pro-abortionism
among Catholics. Canon law
be effectively applied to the grave scandal of pro-abortion Catholic
politicians. With others, I have pointed to
several options worth investigating, including the wider use of particular
legislation and personal precepts (cc. 1315-1319), a
closer look at Canon 1369, and, under or in addition to Canon 1399, special
universal legislation to address the peculiarly modern problem of pro-abortion
Catholic politicians. Most immediately, though, we are finally seeing,
application of Canon 915, and I would urge greater catechesis on Canon 916.
That's a lot of options, and none of them require a tortured reading of Canon
1398 and disregard of several other important norms (including 1983 CIC 18, 221,
1323-1324, and 1425), for implementation.
Canon lawyers, like civil lawyers (indeed, any specialists), can make mistakes.
They can take positions and make arguments that, in the course of things, might
be shown as erroneous, or at least be obviated by later changes. But the
fallibility of specialists does not warrant excessive credibility to the
opinions to non-specialists. Absent a persuasive rebuttal of these observations,
I think the time has come to shelve the idea that Canon 1398 is designed to
reach pro-abortion Catholic politicians. That theory, if it could ever be said
to have been a theory, is, as far as I can see, dead at the professional level,
and continued discussion of it at the popular will only distract from other
efforts, canonical and otherwise, that offer greater potential to serve.
Tuesday, May 29,
Canon Law Consumer Alert: On-Line Confession
On-line confessions are absolutely null and utterly void. 1983 CIC 960-961, just
A website purporting to offer on-line confession was recently called to my
attention. I decline to link to it. The home page presents, interestingly
(deceptively?), links to several good Catholic websites, but it does not
identify who the "priests" are who receive the "confessions" and administer the
"penances". But it doesn't matter whether these people are in holy orders; the
confessions themselves are of
zero sacramental value. See also
1983 CIC 1378.
If someone wants, nevertheless, to disclose their offenses to strangers on-line,
I suppose nothing prevents them. But then, nothing prevents people from
disclosing their social security and bank account numbers to strangers on-line,
either. But we all know what happens to such folks, don't we.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Well, since you asked, Yes, pro-abortion Catholics are still Catholic
precisely the problem. But maybe we should back up.
The laity's rapidly growing awareness of canon law is yet another sign that
confusion in the post-conciliar Church is receding. But, as more folks without
canonical training try to apply canon law in real life, we should expect them to
make some mistakes. Nothing terrible about that, provided such mistakes are
corrected in due course. Hardly had
I blogged on the misuse of canon law by notorious abortion advocate, Frances
Kissling, than I see canon law being misconstrued by the famous pro-lifer,
Judie Brown of the
American Life League.
Pithy slogans help popularize basic truths, but brevity must not detract from
accuracy. Pro-lifers demolish abortion slogans such as "Keep your laws off my
body" and "Pro-Child, Pro-Choice" precisely because such slogans, while
rhetorically clever, are substantively flawed. Brown/ALL is currently pushing
the slogan "You
Can't be Catholic and Pro-Abortion" (original emphasis). I think
this assertion is flawed. Even so, I might have let it pass except that their
advertising claims that the slogan is "100% truth" and "backed by the full
authority of Canon Law 915" (Celebrate
Life, May-June 2007, back cover). That kind of talk gets my
Logically, the phrase "You
be Catholic and Pro-Abortion", cannot mean other than that, if one is
retain one's identity as a Catholic. But, while there are certainly ways to
cancel one's Catholic identify (e.g.,
formal acts of defection), simply "being pro-abortion", even
pro-abortion, isn't one of them.
A Catholic's involvement in pro-abortion advocacy might (depending on the usual
criteria) be gravely sinful, but since when is
any Catholic who commits a
grave sin no longer Catholic? Catholics who commit grave sin are still Catholic,
albeit Catholics in mortal sin. If Catholics die in that state, they go to Hell
Catholics, not as former Catholics.
of the scandal given by pro-abortion
lies precisely in the fact that they
Catholics. If they weren't Catholic, what would all the shouting
Ironically, invoking "the full authority of Canon 915" in support of the slogan
would, if its basic premise were correct, be pointless:
Canon 915 (restricting access to the Eucharist) applies only to Catholics!
If pro-abortion Catholics weren't Catholic anymore, Canon 915 would not apply to
them; instead, their access to the Eucharist would be regulated by Canon 844.
People are finally seeing that
Canon 915 is a viable response to the outrageous behavior of certain Catholics;
thing we should be doing is questioning whether such Catholics are still
Catholic and thus subject to the canon.
Note furthermore that, if pro-abortion advocacy could somehow lead to
excommunication, even those excommunicated Catholics would still be Catholics in
the same way that convicted felons sitting in prison are, despite the serious
loss of rights they endure, still citizens. Thus, if being subject to
excommunication under Canon 1331 does not mean that one is no longer Catholic,
how can a pro-abortion Catholic's suffering the serious
consequences of Canon 915 be invoked to show that such persons
can't be Catholic! The
answer is, it cannot.
I write, of course, as a canonist with the canonical criteria for full communion
1983 CIC 205 in mind. I am aware that
Lumen gentium 14, conciliar source for this canon and worth a
careful read here, lists, e.g., "sharing the spirit of Christ" as an element of
full communion with his Church. Who doubts but that pro-abortion advocacy is
deeply contrary to the spirit of Christ? Nevertheless, the fact that there are
baptized (often confirmed, etc.) Catholics who
pro-abortion is part of the mystery of sin; it is a testament to the staggering
patience of Christ Who lets his Church be wounded anew by its very own. But we
don't get around that painful mystery, or even a part of that mystery, by
pretending that pro-abortionism is ontologically impossible for Catholics.
I have criticized (and defended, for that matter) Brown's invocation of canon
law before (e.g,
Sept 19, 2006 and
click and scroll to 8 October 2003);
I am inclined to take people at their word, so I assume Brown/ALL said what they
meant. Besides, in the unforgiving world of slogans, one can only assess what
was actually said. Still, maybe Brown/ALL meant to say something like "You Can't
Catholic and Pro-Abortion" or maybe "No Good Catholic is Pro-Abortion." Both
those assertions are defensible;
Brown asserted in
her blog of May 9th that "Pope Benedict Confirms ALL's Canon 915 Project." I
don't like that kind of misleading headline (to wit, I seriously doubt that B16
has said anything about
ALL's campaign to get bishops to apply Canon 915), but I suppose it passes
muster under contemporary political rhetoric license standards. In any case, my
criticsm of the Brown/ALL slogan above does not necesarily apply to their
Canon 915 Campaign. I have not expressed an opinion on that effort.
FOLLOW-UP: June 4.
Matt Abbot reports (May 31) that ALL responded to my observations. I frankly
don't see how their comments respond to my points, but as this is a dispute
among allies, I'm not inclined to belabor the matter. Folks can, and will, reach
their own conclusions.
Tuesday, May 22,
Memo to Frances Kissling: Find a new canonist
Frances Kissling's life-long abortion advocacy is so well-known (and so
chronically unoriginal) that, I imagine, even fewer people pay attention to her
now than they did for the 25 years she ran her "Catholics
for a Free Choice", a
little agit-prop operation that conducted itself so egregiously that even
the inveterately diplomatic
USCCB, in 1993 and again in 2000, rebuked it by name.
her recent remarks for Salon.com, Kissling manages to get a couple of points
correct (though probably not quite for the reasons she thinks), but in general,
she makes most of the mistakes about canon law and abortion that so many others
have made. It would, perhaps, be mildly educational to fisk her whole essay, but
for lack of time, I'll focus on a claim she attributes to an unnamed canon
lawyer: "there is no way the [C]hurch could effectively police the
excommunication, [so] I could also ignore it and keep going to Mass and taking
Communion. As one canon lawyer told me, the [C]hurch has only the power we give
Yikes! Kissling needs another canon lawyer, but
One who would tell her: The Church does not derive her power or authority from
the faithful in a sort-of
"consent of the governed manner", not at all. The Church derives her power
directly from Her Founder and Spouse, Jesus Christ. That power, given by the
Lord to St. Peter and the Apostles, will be handed on to their successors until
the end of time (1983 CIC 330, 331, 375). If Kissling wants to argue that some
of the more visible
associated with ecclesiastical "power" (economic, military, cultural, and so on)
have waxed and waned over the centuries, fine. But she cannot parlay that aside
into a conclusion that "the Church has only the power we give it." Not by a long
Moreover, included in this God-given power is "binding and loosing" (Matthew 16
and 18; John 29), a power that applies to, among other things, the sacraments
(1983 CIC 841). If Kissling
ever notified of her
ineligibility to present herself for Communion under Canon 915 (in my
opinion she long ago made herself a candidate for such a measure), or if she
were to be excommunicated in accord with 1331 (something she says there are no
grounds for, but which she might want to discuss with a competent canonist who
knows how to read several canons besides 1398), I think she would find out how
much higher today is the willingness of most ministers of the Eucharist to abide
by the decisions of ecclesiastical authority in this area, at least compared to
what pro-abortion Catholics must look back on fondly as the halcyon days of the
60s, 70s, and 80s, decades when they could pretty much say what they wanted
without fear of effective rebuttal.
But suppose, finally, that Kissling
find someone to give her Communion in contravention of a directive under Canons
915 or 1331? Just what does she think such a stunt would accomplish? Whom, and I
does she think she would be fooling?
Friday, May 18, 2007
Tony Blair and the Catholic Church
What I know about British politics (well, since Churchill stood down) would fit
into a post smaller than this one, so I shan't discuss Tony Blair's leadership
of the Labour Party or that fascinating nation. But there is much talk about
Blair's possible conversion to Catholicism, and much of that talk is quite
sloppy, so I thought I'd offer a few canonical clarifications.
Blair's conversion would not be "a feather in the cap of the Church" or a "jewel
in the crown of Catholicism", or the fulfillment of any other sloganesque
phrase. The Church is not interested in feathers or jewels, She is interested in
souls (1983 CIC 1752), and Tony Blair has one.
Tony Blair's obvious friendliness toward the Church does not count as a "baptism
of desire" for at least two reasons. First, Bair is already baptized, so there's
no baptism for him to desire (1983 CIC 845). Second, his way into the Church
would essentially be by
of faith. Thus,
to profess the faith, even for decades, doesn't accomplish anything if one
the profession necessary to join the Church.
Tony Blair's conversion would not make his marriage a sacrament. A valid
marriage between two
parties is already a sacrament (1983 CIC 1055); Blair's wife, Cherie, is a
he is already in a sacramental marriage.
Those are the three misunderstandings I've encountered so far. If I come across
any others, I'll try to address them here. Cheery bye, what what. . .
Oh, while I have you, one last thing: If Tony Blair converts to Catholicism, I
really hope that the phrase "crossing the Tiber" (or, "swimming the Tiber", or
"jumping in the Tiber", or anything else having to do with the Tiber) will not
be used to denote it.
The phrase "crossing the Tiber" has
in theological, historical, or literary circles. The phrase "crossing the
Rubicon" means something, as does "crossing the Delaware". Both denote making
some kind of dramatic choice because, when the phrases came into being, the
circumstances on one side of these fabled rivers clearly differed from
circumstances on the other. But there's
different about one side of the Tiber compared to the other. Rome (literally and
figuratively) lies on
sides of the Tiber! The only thing that people who cross the Tiber get is wet.
But ever since
Steve Ray used the phrase as a catchy title for his engrossing conversion story,
everybody and his brother uses "crossing the Tiber" as a euphemism for
"conversion". But it can't possibly mean that, for there isn't a euro's worth of
difference between one side of the Tiber and the other.
Now, this the last time I'm going to complain about this ersatz term. If I hear
it once more, I'm gonna cross the Huron, and y'all know what
PS: A priest friend reminds me of Wiltgen's 1967 book,
Flows into the Tiber. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a brilliant
title that actually meant something then and still means something today, as
those of you who read Wiltgen already know.
Update, 22 December 2007.
Tony Blair came into full communion yesterday.
Wednesday, May 16,
Toward clarity on abortion, excommunication, and the Eucharist
UPDATE: May 17.
The Catholic News Agency is reporting that Honduran
Cdl. Rodriguez Maradiaga has revised his earlier comments on the impact that
pro-abortion activity can have on one's right to receive the Eucharist. His
second statement seems to be a great improvement over his first.
As I read it, His Eminence leaves no doubt now but that
be invoked, given the requisite circumstances, to prevent reception
of the Eucharist by those whose pro-abortion activities warrant that
disciplinary response. True, the canonist in me would like to see, consistently,
a sharper distinction between "being excommunicated" and "being prevented from
communicating" (to adapt a phrase), but the lingering confusion we see on this
point might be the result of the etymological similarities between these two
notions in Romance languages. We can (and will) deal with
issue in other ways.
For now, let's welcome this solid statement on an important social and moral
issue by one of Latin America's leading prelates. (See a few
follow-up notes on my webpage).
ORIGINAL POST: May 16.
Prescinding for a moment from who said it,
a recent interview with a conscientious priest on the subject of abortion,
excommunication, and denial of the Eucharist, illustrates well just how
widespread is the confusion in this area. In my opinion, these fundamental
must be sorted out, once and for all, so that those who must apply
the norms to real cases can do so responsibly. I make
some suggestions toward that goal here (the analysis chart
is easier to read on my website).
And be sure to see Phil Lawler's broader comments in his recent CWN Forum post,
please, on excommunication".
Friday, May 11, 2007
A primer for those who prefer knowing to opining
In the vortex swirling around the pope's comments on the canonical consequences
for supporting pro-abortion legislation (including what the pope said, or meant
to say, or should have said), it might be good to set out calmly and simply some
canons that directly impact on this situation. Strictly speaking, there are only
two, but in light of comments I've heard or read, we apparently need to
explicitate a third canon even though it only repeats sound personal moral
theology and does not direct
ecclesiastical responses to this kind of behavior.
Here's the Shorter
Version: First, Canon 916. There are
of mortal sins out there; if you commit any one of them, you're not supposed to
go to Communion. It's
obligation to stay away. Next, Canon 915. Some mortal sins are committed under
circumstances that, if the Church finds out about them, not only are you
supposed to the stay away from Communion, but the Church is supposed to turn you
away if you try to receive. Finally, Canon 1331. A few mortal sins are serious
under canon law; if you commit one of
you can suffer the penalty of excommunication, and
one of the consequences of
excommunication is, you can't go to Communion.
That seems pretty straight-forward, no? Still, if you want more, read the
Canon 916: "A person who is conscious of [having committed]
grave sin is not to . . . receive the Body of the Lord without previous
sacramental confession. . ."
This canon only expresses what is already required by moral theology: anyone who
is aware of having committed a grave sin of any sort and who has not repented of
and confessed the sin must not go to Communion. This canon does not lend itself
to enforcement by ecclesiastical authority for many reasons, including the
impossibility of Church officials knowing just who committed what grave sin. Of
this canon, it may be said "One who commits grave sin makes himself ineligible
to receive Communion."
Canon 915: "Those who have been excommunicated or
interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others
obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy
Prescinding from the inartful
presentationis of the Code, this canon builds on what Canon 916 will
have established as a personal obligation, but here goes on to require
ecclesiastical officials, under specific circumstances, to withhold the
Eucharist from some persons whose grave sins meet the additional criteria set
out in Canon 915. It is self-evident from the terms of this canon that some
nevertheless prohibited from receiving the Eucharist and that this
prohibition is meant to be enforced. Of this canon it may be said, "One who
commits grave sin under certain circumstances makes himself liable, upon
verification of the facts, to the actual withholding of the Eucharist by
Canon 1331: "An excommunicated person is forbidden: (1) to
have any ministerial participation in celebrating the sacrifice of the Eucharist
or any other ceremonies of worship whatsoever; (2) to celebrate the sacraments
or sacramentals and to receive the sacraments; (3) to exercise any
ecclesiastical offices, ministries, or functions whatsoever or to place acts of
governance . . ."
This canon sets out that denial of Holy Communion is one (perhaps the most
notable, but nevertheless just one) of the
of being excommunicated. Other canons establish that excommunication can
be incurred for certain kinds of grave offenses, all of which offenses are
indeed gravely sinful actions, but sins that have additionally been
under canon law.
The virtually unanimous opinion among canon lawyers is that no canon, not even
Canon 1398 on abortion, makes pro-abortion legislative activity an
excommunicable offense. Therefore, the many complications arising from the fact
that some excommunications are
sententiae (automatic) while others are not,
do not impact
this discussion. Of this canon it may nevertheless be said, "Anyone
who, as a result of his actions, has been excommunicated, suffers a variety of
canonical consequences, including but not limited to being barred from receiving
Keeping these three points clear is a prerequisite for responsible discussion of
this vital matter.
point, my opinions:
(1) Depending on the facts of the specific case, support for even one
pro-abortion legislative proposal can be grave matter sufficient, in accord with
the usual criteria (especially knowledge and consent), to make one ineligible to
approach Holy Communion under Canon 916. Individual Catholics have to make that
decision in accord with the principles of a sound conscience, and they are
accountable to God for what they decide.
(2) Depending on the character (i.e., degree, duration, etc.) of one's support
for pro-abortion legislative initiatives, such activity can be sufficient basis
for ecclesiastical officials to prohibit a specific person from approaching Holy
Communion under Canon 915. Church officials have to make this determination in
accord with the principles of canon law and are accountable, ultimately to God,
for what they decide.
(3) Under the current Code, no one can be
excommunicated (automatically or otherwise) for pro-abortion
legislative activity. Such activity is nevertheless potentially punishable under
other canons (e.g.,
Canon 1369) albeit not with excommunication. Moreover, particular
legislation, personal precept, or contempt for lesser penalties, might make
pro-abortion legislators liable to excommunication in the future. To my
knowledge, though, none of these options is being pursued.
Wednesday, May 09,
Legislating in mid-air? First thoughts: possible, but not likely.
USA Today is now reporting "Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi,
later issued a statement approved by the pope clarifying the [pope's and his
own] remarks. The statement said the pope did not intend to excommunicate
anyone. Politicians who vote in favor of abortion should not receive the
sacrament of Holy Communion, Lombardi said." Read on, and you'll also see that
the Mexican bishops have not excommunicated anyone, and that what this event
boils down to is but the CORRECT application of Canon 915, which is all some of
us have been urging for a long, long time.
Am I glad the interpretation I set out below was correct? Sure, what lawyer
wouldn't be? But I am
pleased that a sound and pastorally effective reading of canon law is being
promoted. Make no mistake: denial of the Eucharist is grave consequence to
seriously sinful behavior; moreover, the pope's comments leave open the
possibility of escalating the canonical response to pro-abortion agitation by
Catholic politicians, even to the penal level of excommunication. But we see
clearly here that all of this must happen in accord with the requirements of
law, the same law that seeks above all, "the salvation of souls" (1983 CIC
Responding to a reporter's question during his flight to Brazil,
Pope Benedict XVI said that he supported the Mexican bishops' threat to take
canonical action against the politicians who were involved in the effort to
legalize abortion. The English version of his comment reads: "Yes, this
excommunication was not an arbitrary one but is allowed by canon law which says
that the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion,
which is receiving the body of Christ."
very first thing to notice about this quotation is that,
as reported, it is
susceptible to the chronic confusion that wearies discussions of the
ecclesiastical consequences for involvement in abortion: "excommunication" and
"denial of the Eucharist" are not,
the same thing and understanding the difference between the related but quite
distinct institutes of "excommunication" and "withholding the Eucharist" is a
prerequisite for any productive commentary on the pope's remarks.
Excommunication is a canonical
imposed for certain specific crimes, one
of which penalty is the denial of the right to receive the Eucharist. 1983 CIC
1331. As a penalty, excommunication can only be imposed, enforced, and lifted,
in accord with a canonical process at a fairly high level of Church authority.
Denial of the Eucharist is a sacramental
norm, invoked in response to personal sins that meet certain criteria. 1983 CIC
915. As a sacramental norm, denial of the Eucharist can be invoked by ministers
of the Eucharist down to at least the parish priest level, who need follow no
specific process but must nevertheless verify that conditions for withholding
the Eucharist have been met.
Briefly I see two things that could account for the pope's remarks.
1. Politicians who support the legalization of abortion generally meet the
conditions for denial of the Eucharist under Canon 915. Such a comment would be
interesting (though to me, not surprising) in that it lends support to the
I and some other canonists and bishops have promoted for many years. Such
political behavior is objectively gravely wrong and, if engaged in obstinately,
merits, in my view, withholding of the Eucharist.
2. The Mexican bishops, using particular law or precepts (1983 CIC 1315-1319),
have made support for the legalization of abortion an excommunicable offense in
Mexico, and the pope supports their actions. I don't have access to the original
documents, so I can't verify whether that has happened, but if it has happened,
that too would not surprise me. I have already reminded people of the
ability of canon law to respond to new crises over time, and the scandal of
pro-abortion Catholic politicians surely merits a strong response by the Church.
Note that interpretations 1 and 2 are not incompatible; they both could be
But to be complete, there are, admittedly, two other things that
explain what is being reported today:
First, the pope's remarks might have been misunderstood and/or misreported (gee,
can that really happen today?) We know, for example, that there are reportorial
ellipses in exactly the places that canonists would most want to see the pope's
exact words, as in,
"Reuters reports the Pope added, 'They did nothing new, surprising or arbitrary.
They simply announced publicly what is contained in the law of the Church . . .
which expresses our appreciation for life and that human individuality, human
personality is present from the first moment'."
Or, maybe, the pope is legislating in mid-air, issuing what canonists must take
as an "authentic interpretation" (1983 CIC 16) of the scope of Canon 1398 on
abortion, one that dramatically extends the reach of the canon beyond what (I
and virtually all other canonists suggest) is the long-accepted interpretation
of this penal law (pace
Canons 18, 1323, 1324, among others), and at the same time reminding the world
that even papal comments to reporters' carry the force of law in the Church
whenever, that is, they are
to carry the force of law.
My guess: Pope Benedict XVI takes his law-making authority more seriously than
PS: About Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi later telling reporters that
the politicians who voted for abortion had automatically excommunicated
themselves by their actions, well (assuming
report is accurate), it must be simply stated that Vatican press secretaries
have no authority to issue binding interpretations of canon law. None. 1983 CIC
Pastor Bonus 154-158.
PPS: For more information on this important area, see my new book
Excommunication and the Catholic Church,
and this recent
Ignatius Insight Scoop interview.
Thursday, April 26,
Abp Raymond Burke and Cardinal Glennon Hospital
While it's not exactly a canon law story, I want to comment on a decision by a
justly-renowned canonist in my beloved home town of St. Louis, Missouri, a
decision that is going to upset a lot of people. I refer to
Abp. Raymond Burke's resignation from the chairmanship of a major
fund-raising event for
Cardinal Glennon Hospital for Children.
St. Louisans know how blessed they are to have a famous institution like
Cardinal Glennon in their city. St. Louis Catholics in particular have long
taken a special pride in the work done there, largely with their support, over
What astounds me is that the directors of a fund-raiser for a venerable
could have been so clueless as to invite
Sheryl Crow, a notorious
abortion advocate, to headline their event; worse, the directors
were so willful as to reject what were obviously many private entreaties by
their chairman Abp. Burke to drop the mad idea before it all blew up in their
So now, it's blown. How sad. All the sadder for having been so easily avoidable.
But you know, I've seen this happen before: Catholic movers and shakers, flush
with their own funds or with easy access to others', too often measure success
in philanthropic undertakings in terms of media splash, dollars donated, and the
chatting around banquet tables, while they completely forget the fundamental
religious, and even the
values that make their efforts worthwhile in the first place. This time, even
the clear words of a very thoughtful archbishop could not pierce the commotion
which the organizers of this event confused for progress.
Abp. Burke extended a special word of solicitude for the staff and supporters of
Cardinal Glennon Hospital, so many of whom were doubtless appalled at the
"headliner" being thrust upon them. I'm sure many people join the archbishop in
But I do think it's high time for some folks who want, probably sincerely, to
help the Church and her numerous apostolates, to stop assuming that they always
know best how to do that.
More commentary from another St. Louisan,
Mark Brumley of Ignatius Press.
Friday, April 13,
Cenlamor & Miras, A Basic Course in Canon Law
I am reviewing a book for
Studia Canonica (St. Paul University, Ottawa) but I am so
pleased with it that I want to comment on it even before my more formal review
comes out, presumably some months from now.
Available in the original Spanish,
El Derecho de
la Iglesia: Curso basico de Derecho canonico, 2d ed (Eunsa, 2005)
573 pages, or in Italian,
della Chiesa: Corso di Diritto Canonico (Santa Croce, 2005), 528
pages, this is as splendid an overview of the place of law in the life of the
Church as I have seen since the revised Code appeared in 1983.
other excellent studies of modern Church law, this work, drafted by two
canonists from the
University of Navarra in Spain, is written not only for students of canon
law, but also for the general student of ecclesiastical life, particularly
theology students who, truth to tell, typically know
too little about the legal system of the great organization within which they
Daniel Cenlamor and
Jorge Miras write from a thoroughly modern vantage point (for example, they
frequently highlight the relationship between the
1983 Code and the Second Vatican Council) but they do it in such a way that
anyone familiar with the pre-conciliar tradition can immediately see how the
strengths of that tradition have been preserved in modern law.
For now, let me say only: this book
to come into English, the sooner the better!
Monday, April 09,
Denial of Communion to a lesbian couple
recent story by Kathleen Miller on the denial of Communion to a lesbian
couple in Wyoming is a nice contrast to the shoddy religion reporting typical of
the secular press. I have no independent sources on Miller's story, but what she
reported sure seems to allow competent observers to figure out what happened.
Briefly, a lesbian couple went public at least twice with their lifestyle,
Cheyenne's bishop, David Ricken (a canonist by training), notified them of
their ineligibity to receive Holy Communion in what was obviously an application
of Canon 915: "Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the
imposition or declaration of the penalty and
obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy
What more can I say? Miller's is an able report on Ricken's proper application
of Church law.
By the way, Prof. Raschke's comment that "It's no more surprising that the
Catholic Church would deny Communion to an openly gay couple than a Muslim
mosque would deny access to somebody who ate pork." is fine as far as it goes,
but Catholics need to be clear that withholding the Eucharist has to be, and in
this case clearly is, grounded on something more substantial than just breaking
some Church rule. Eating pork is not immoral
but advocating a homosexual lifestyle is; hence the grave consequence of denial
of Communion is appropriate in this case.
Monday, April 02,
Canon Law Blog News
Hardly seven months after I had installed a Maxtor Diamond Max Plus 120G
hard-drive in my home computer, it
crashed. Sparing readers the depressing details, I post only to say that among
the data that was lost was my "Canon Law Blog Update" emailing list. As a
result, anyone wishing to receive personal email notice of Canon Law Blog
updates will need to send a request to "Receive
email notice of blog updates" even if you had done so before.
This hardware failure did not affect the RSS syndicated feed, nor the
"Uberblogger Update List" because it was backed-up elsewhere.
Tuesday, March 27,
Congratulations, Cardinal Stickler
I'm not into birthdays, but anniversaries of the accomplishments in one's life
are something else. Today,
Alfons Maria Cdl. Stickler marks 70 years of priestly life.
that's something to celebrate. But, with due regard for
Pope Benedict's admiration of Cdl. Stickler's unsung labors in the Vatican
Archives, it is Cdl. Stickler the canonist whom I congratulate today.
Some 57 years ago, Cdl. Stickler published the first of three projected volumes
on the history of canon law,
iuris canonici Latini (Pontificia Studiorum Universitas Salesiana,
1950). Although the other two volumes were put on indefinite hold as the Holy
See called him to task after task, the first work remains
a standard introduction to canonical history. Among his many other writings,
I would call attention to
The Case for Clerical Celibacy: Its Historical Development and Theological
Foundations (Ignatius, 1995) which is in my opinion the best
overview of this important area now available. It was, by the way, translated
from German into English by
Msgr. Brian Ferme, now dean of the School of Canon Law at Catholic
University of America; Msgr Ferme was,
the last canonical doctoral student directed by Cdl. Stickler. Finally,
canonists know of other documents that Cdl. Stickler drafted on behalf of the
Holy See over the decades, but I won't "betray" His Eminence's reticence to
accept the credit for them! God will reward him in His own good time.
On behalf of my canon law blog readers, then, may I offer Cdl. Stickler these
small congratulations, and ask in return only the favor of being remembered in
his powerful prayers. (Photo
Salvador Miranda, The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church).
Update, 12 Dec 2007.
Stickler died today.
Friday, March 23,
Prof. Bainbridge's call for Cdl. Mahony's resignation
I know nothing about
UCLA law professor Stephen Bainbridge beyond what I saw on a very impressive
(for a civil lawyer)
posted on his website, but
his recent post on the chronic problems in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in
which he specifically calls for Cdl. Mahony's resignation
is getting attention. Knowing, moreover, nothing about the underlying facts
of the case except what has appeared in some secular media (a circumlocution for
"I know virtually nothing about the underlying facts of this case"), I note that
Prof. Bainbridge attempts to use canon law in his resignation argument, and
canon law is something I do know a bit about.
1. In my opinion, Prof. Bainbridge's post falls within the bounds of 1983 CIC
212, 3. Perhaps I read Canon 212 too broadly, but I'm an American lawyer, and
American lawyers don't mind a good dust-up.
2. Contrary to Prof. Bainbridge's language, it is not "curious" that there is no
express provision in canon law for removal of a diocesan bishop for,
as several commentators have already noted on his site, there are
ecclesiologically sound ways to address that situation. I won't repeat their
3. I am uncomfortable, though, when non-canonists like Prof. Bainbridge,
grappling with complex canonical issues, make unguarded statements such as
"despite the absence of a clear answer in canon law", when what they should say
is something like, "despite
my not being
able to find a clear answer in canon law" etc., etc. Prof.
Bainbridge thinks that he can only muster the authority of "most observers" for
his contention that surely the pope must be able to remove a bishop for the
alleged grave violation of canon law. Here, though, he not only underestimates
his position but, more importantly, the Church's ability to enforce her own
There is, in fact,
canonical doubt that Pope Benedict XVI has the authority to remove for
malfeasance, if he so determines, a cardinal from pastoral office. One need only
look to 1983 CIC 1401, n. 2 (reserving to the Church the proper right to
adjudicate alleged violations of ecclesiastical law), and 1983 CIC 1405, 1, n. 2
(reserving solely to the Roman Pontiff the right to judge all c. 1401 cases
involving cardinals). Additional canons support this conclusion, but given the
weight of these two, there is little need to invoke them.
More than this, Pope John Paul II's
1995 removal of Msgr. Jacques Gaillot as bishop of Evreux (France) proves
that the Holy See
take this kind of action against a sitting bishop if it beleives it to be
For the rest, my prayers go out to all those who, sooner or later, might find
themselves having to weigh this grave question on behalf of our Church.
Thursday, March 15,
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"
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
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,
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
more about these topics:
Annulments and the Catholic Church (Ascension Press, 2004);
Excommunication and the Catholic Church (Ascension Press 2006);
and Edward Peters' on-line
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
sententiae excommunication penalty could be declared for his actions
2. The canons on consanguinity read differently now than they did under
Pio-Benedictine law (See 1983 CIC 1091,
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
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?
Tuesday, March 13,
Mormon-bashing at The Nation
If I were Mormon, I'd be furious at
Nation just posted
an unsigned editorial gloating over the sacking of Kyle Sampson, the former
chief of staff for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, in response to
Prosecutor-gate. What angers me is not so much
hit-a-man-once-he's-down style (hey, this is national politics) but rather, its
gratuitous sneer at Sampson's religious beliefs. Sampson is a Mormon.
Nation wrote "It fell to Kyle Sampson to get rid of the federal
prosecutors without bothering [Gonzales]. Kyle was the right person to do it.
He's a Mormon, a Brigham Young University graduate. You can depend on them."
Can you believe what you just read? I'm not even Mormon, but I am appalled that
a journal that pretends to have something to say about American public order can
broadcast such obvious bigotry. Suppose
had written "Kyle was the right person to do it. He's a Jew, a Yeshiva
University graduate. You can depend on them." Would such persiflage have even
been considered, let alone pass unchallenged?
How does Sampson's religious affiliation affect the assessment of his public
conduct? What on earth does his attending BYU have to do with this case? Sampson
also attended the prestigious University of Chicago School of Law, but notice,
Nation did not try to attack him there. Maybe it was afraid those
Chicago lawyers would hit back. Hard. Not like those Donnie & Marie Mormons.
Nation owes Kyle Sampson and Mormons an
apology for attacking them on the basis of their religious identity. Moreover,
it owes all Americans a promise never again to attack any man or woman on the
basis of religion. Let's see whether "America's oldest and most widely read
weekly journal of progressive political and cultural news, opinion and analysis"
PS: The mean-spirited streak so evident in
Mormon-bashing is reflected here in other ways. Consider their ridicule of
Howard Hughes: "Howard Hughes had a bunch of bright guys like Kyle working for
him. They made sure the late billionaire had fresh Kleenex boxes for his feet so
he could walk around in his Las Vegas penthouse and be OK."
What (I mean,
the fact that dead men can't defend themselves) makes
editors think that they can drag Howard Hughes into their essay and
make jokes about him? In his day, Hughes patented more inventions, set more
technological records, and employed countless more Americans than a busload of
East-coast magazine editors, all the while suffering from a debilitating
psychological disorder. For that,
mocks him. What next? Giggling at films of FDR doing his fake-walk? Exchanging
smug glances when a recording of Churchill betrays his stutter? I thought
saw itself as
an inspiration for student publications, not as an imitator of high-school
In short, if
wants to go after a politician for
in high office, fine by me; but not for what a politician believes about God,
let alone for physical or mental disabilities over which no one has control.
Wednesday, March 07,
Alzheimer's, the Eucharist, and The God Squad
I don't have the time or expertise to monitor every religious Q&A column in
America, and so I tend to comment on them only when they raise interesting
questions (such as
Fr. Hoffman's on
Ecclesia supplet) or when they convey disturbing answers, such
one recently posted by a group called "The God Squad". The child of an
elderly Alzheimer's parent wrote for advice about responding to the refusal of a
Eucharistic minister to give his mother (a life-long practicing Catholic) Holy
Communion because "receipt of communion depends on a cognitive understanding of
what is being received". Based
on what was posed in the question, and looking
at what was said in reply, I think there are serious problems with The God
Squad's answer. For efficiency's sake, I will place parts of their answers in
italics, and my own reactions in regular font.
Eucharistic minister is right. Communion is not a blessing. I don't
know what it means to say "Communion is not a blessing"; obviously Communion is
a great blessing, so The God Squad must have some other notion in mind. But this
is a question calling for precise answers, so let's use precise terminology.
is an act of religious mystery and meaning that requires understanding.
No, it does not require "understanding" (whatever exactly that means here);
sure, reception (like most human acts) might be enhanced by the actor's level of
"understanding", but that doesn't make "understanding" a requirement for
reception of the Eucharist. Once admitted to Communion, a Catholic may not be
denied the sacrament except for canonical cause. See
1983 CIC 18, 213-214, 843, and 912. (Don't just glance at those numbers,
read the canons.)
mother's disease has robbed her of that necessary understanding that alone makes
communion the supreme gift it is for believing Catholics. Alone?
I doubt The God Squad meant it this way, but the statement they made is rank
heresy. What makes Communion the supreme gift is
the "understanding" we accord it, but the fact that it
the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ.
reality is not in the slightest dependent on anyone's "understanding" of so
great a mystery.
reason, communion is not given to children under 7. Sure it is, in
the Eastern Churches all the time. Besides, we're not talking about a child
here, but an adult. Once Roman Catholics are admitted to the Eucharist, they
enjoy certain fundamental rights in regard to its reception, as outlined above.
To withhold the Eucharist for reasons other than those given in law is to
deprive the faithful of a fundamental right.
cannot be expected to understand what he or she is receiving. So?
Besides the Eastern practice for Communion, an infant does not understand
baptism; an unconscious person does not understand anointing. We don't withhold
sacraments because of apparent deficient understanding.
communion meaning for your mother before her illness was that she understood
what she was doing and what she was receiving. This just rephrases
what was so dangerously asserted earlier; so again, what gives meaning to the
reception of Communion is the fact that it is the Body, Blood, Soul, and
Divinity of Christ.
apparently does not, and so it's really not fair to accuse the Church of
abandoning your mother. I agree, it is not fair to blame the Church
for the action of ill-informed Eucharistic minister, or for that matter, the
answers of a Q&A group posting on the internet.
they can say the Lord's prayer with her. Sure, but I wonder, if the
woman can still say the Our Father, how can she possibly be considered too
mentally disabled to receive Holy Communion?
rituals are not a right, they are a blessing and that blessing must be
appropriately given. There is much confusion here: (1) religious
rituals (here, sacraments) are most certainly a right of the faithful; (2)
again, just how is the word "blessing" being used by The God Squad?; and (3) how
is it "inappropriate" to give Communion to an elderly woman for reasons others
than "The God Squad doesn't think it's appropriate"? Simply repeating an
assertion doesn't make it correct.
for your mother . . . May God heal [her] with a healing that is understood, if
not by the mind, then perhaps by the soul. I don't think a
discussion of the relationship between the mind and the soul is helpful, or
In lieu of that, let's just accord an elderly Catholic woman her rights under
canon law. If and when she fails to satisfy the requirements of ecclesiastical
in the facts presented suggests she has failed to meet those requirements) ,
then we can and must withhold the Eucharist. And not otherwise.
We need to be careful with the notion of "Ecclesia supplet"
Like every good canon lawyer, Fr. Francis Hoffman knows there is much more to
the Catholic Church than canon law. Thus, in answering people's questions for
Our Sunday Visitor's
The Catholic Answer, Fr. Hoffman draws with equal facility on
Sacred Scriptures, the
the Catholic Church, the
Code of Canon
Law, and a generally rich storehouse of ecclesiastical wisdom. I
never fail to learn something by reading his column.
One of the things I like most is Fr. Hoffman's lawyer-like, straight-talk
approach. He answers the question posed, and then sometimes elaborates,
qualifies, or goes beyond the surface to comment on other things. A recent
example (TCA, March/April 2007, p. 22) was Fr. Hoffman's correct response to a
reader who wondered whether the absolution he received was valid, given that the
confessor changed the words of absolution from "I absolve you from your sins" to
"May God . . . absolve you from your sins." Fr. Hoffman told the reader that
such an absolution was invalid. Now, who wants to tell people that their
submission to the authority of the Church was invalid though no fault of their
own? No one. But Fr. Hoffman had to give the correct answer, and he did.
My concern is not with Fr. Hoffman's answer but with an additional comment he
offered at the end: "Nevertheless, the penitent's sins are forgiven because it
was no fault of his own the priest used an invalid formula." Hmmm. Careful here.
Continuing: "In this case, as sacramental theologians point out,
supplet, that is, the Church provides, out of her treasury of grace,
the proper remedy for the defect of the minister's actions." Maybe this is a
quibble between canonists, but I'm not so sure.
I understand the concept of
CIC 144.1) to describe the Church's power to supply, under limited
for an act. But there is no question in this case about whether the confessor
had jurisdiction; rather, what was missing were sacramental words, that is, some
of the words which the Church holds to be necessary for validity of the
sacrament. Since what was defective was sacramental
form, I don't see how the
Church's ability to supply
helps our penitent. To adapt a phrase,
supplet quod Ecclesia non habet; the Church cannot supply what the
Church does not have, and the Church does not have the ability to supply
to a minister's deficient utterance. Many historical examples of invalid
baptisms, confirmations, or ordinations would seem to bear this out.
supplet does not remedy those cases wherein innocent persons bore
the consequences of ministers making invalidating changes in sacramental form,
and I don't think it does so for confession, either.
So where does that leave our penitent?
Well, even though
supplet seems of no avail here, nevertheless, we may hold that, in
God provides, or
foresees. If tragedy were to befall a hapless penitent, I think, like Fr.
Hoffman, that one's efforts to seek absolution for sins in this life would
somehow be rewarded by God in the next.
But short of that, God provides in other ways, too, right here and right now. He
provides by giving us priests like Fr. Hoffman who will tell it like it is and
alert penitents that such absolutions are invalid; He provides by telling these
penitents that, while He knows these mistakes were not their fault, He still
expects them to act on their knowledge of the invalidity of such absolutions and
return to confession (assuming we're talking about grave sins, etc.); and I even
think He provides by giving the faithful the confidence to contact their
confessors, and if necessary their bishops, to inform them of serious violations
of the gift that is sacramental confession.
Meanwhile, the rest of us need to be wary lest we assume too quickly that
supplet will remedy serious mistakes in ministry just because they
were not the fault of the faithful.
Monday, February 05,
Austrian "excommunication" reports are a-muddle
News reports that Salzburg (Austria) auxiliary bishop Andreas Laun has
excommunicated one Richard Lugner for allowing an abortion clinic to open in one
of his shopping malls, are a mess. No wonder Vienna's
Christoph Cdl. Schoenborn is keeping his distance.
First, the canon under which Bp. Laun is said to have acted is 1983 CIC 1041, n.
1. Although related to abortion and homicide, this is
an excommunciation canon, but rather, an "irregularity for ordination"
provision. Somebody (the bishop or the press) is way, way off in citing it.
Second, auxiliary bishops are not usually the lead players in major sanctions
cases, and there is some ambiguity as to whether an auxiliary bishop can even
take this kind of step under 1983 CIC 1341; presumably, diocesan bishops are the
Finally, as I've said many times,
canon law imposes excommunication only for a very narrow range of actions;
renting space to an abortion clinic isn't among them. Maybe it ought to be, and
maybe there's some other way to visit penal consequences on what is obviously an
objectively gravely immoral action; but as of now, even if the right diocesan
officers were citing the most relevant canons, there is no excommunication in
canon law for the act described.
Tuesday, January 16,
Denial of Communion is not Excommunication
Reports are circulating that Nigerian bishop Francis Okobo (Diocese of
Nsukka) told his people that voting is their sacred duty and that those who fail
to register to vote will be denied reception of Holy Communion. One headline put
it: "Excommunication for non-voters: Nigerian bishop decrees".
What to say about this?
(1) Don't assume the reports are accurate; this information was doubtless
subject to many permutations before reaching the West. (2) I would need
considerable convincing that specific political activities are ever "a sacred
duty", let alone ones whose neglect renders one liable to denial of the
Eucharist under 1983 CIC 915. And (3), withholding the Eucharist is
(repeat, NOT) the same thing as
excommunication (1983 CIC 1331); and note, I have not seen the bishop claim
that it is.
Nigeria is a hugely important African nation, both for the Church and the world,
but let's wait for more data before forming any conclusions about this
particular Church-State encounter.
Friday, January 05,
Ashley's Treatment was a Travesty
Stories of depravity anger me, but when depravity is portrayed as compassion, I
go numb for a while.
It took me some time to grasp the reality that (in 2004, though
the story is "breaking" only now) parents in Seattle directed a team of
doctors to cut out the breast-buds of their nine-year-old, severally disabled
daughter, remove her womb, and pump her full of growth-retarding hormones so
that she stays little. You can read the
parental rationales here. The genuine frustration these parents felt over
the years is obvious; unfortunately, it only serves as the mortar that binds
brick to brick in the wall of fallacious reasoning that Ashely's parents have
erected to defend their decision.
Worse (if that's possible), the parents have published their "Ashley Treatment"
story so that other parents of children facing long-term care needs might
consider their solution. God have mercy on us all.
In my opinion, whatever their motives might have been, the inescapable fact is
that Ashley's parents inflicted a host of serious mutilations on their innocent
child. None of the procedures they ordered (hysterectomy, breast-bud removal, or
anti-growth hormones) could qualify as "therapeutic" under Catholic moral or
canonical analysis, for none were intended as treatment for damaged or diseased
organs or processes. Because grave mutilation without therapeutic character is
gravely immoral and canonically criminal (see
the Catholic Church 2297 and 1983 CIC 1397), the Ashley Travesty may
not be used by those entrusted with responsibility for the care of God's most
Monday, January 01,
To move forward better, try looking back. Way back.
Say, to 1746, when Lucius Ferraris, an Italian Franciscan, published the world's
first Catholic encyclopedia, the
Bibliotheca canonica, juridica, moralis, theologia, nec non ascetica, polemica,
rubricistica, historica, in 7 hefty volumes. I first became
interested in the
as a resource for late decretal canon law, but one can open up to almost any of
its nearly 700 article-length entries and find something interesting. Besides
canon law, liturgy and sacraments figure prominently in the
Prompta, as do systematics,
morals, and legal philosophy.
There are plenty of copies of
Prompta Bibliotheca in libraries around the world, but their
yellowing pages and densely printed, double-columned Latin text discourage many
would-be researchers from even asking whether topics of interest to them might
have been treated by Ferraris. For
unfortunality, I now offer a simple solution.
As part of my
project to bring decretal law to a wider audience, I have just posted all of
title entries in Ferraris'
Prompta Bibliotheca edition of 1844. Additionally, the several
score topical headings that referred readers to various
entries are also included. In short, one now need only search a single webpage
to determine whether a given topic was treated in Ferraris' gift to the
Oh, Happy New Year, folks.
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& Sacraments || Catholic
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