Benedict XVI promulgates changes to the Church’s law

From VIS:

 MOTU PROPRIO: VARIATIONS TO THE CODE OF CANON LAW

VATICAN CITY, 15 DEC 2009 (VIS) – Made public today was Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio, "Omnium in mentem". The document is dated 26 October 2009 and contains two variations to the Code of Canon Law (CIC), variations which have long been the object of study by dicasteries of the Roman Curia and by national episcopal conferences.

  The document published today contains five articles modifying canons 1008, 1009, 1086, 1117 and 1124. According to an explanatory note by Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, these variations "concern two separate questions: adapting the text of the canons that define the ministerial function of deacons to the relative text in the Catechism of the Catholic church (1581), and suppressing a subordinate clause in three canons concerning marriage, which experience has shown to be inappropriate".

  The variation to the text of canon 1008 will now limit itself to affirming that "those who receive the Sacrament of Orders are destined to serve the People of God with a new and specific title", while canon 1009 "will be given an additional third paragraph in which it is specified that the minister constituted into the Order of the episcopate or the priesthood receives the mission and power to act in the person of Christ the Head, while deacons receive the faculty to serve the People of God in the diaconates of the liturgy, of the Word and of charity".

  Archbishop Coccopalmerio’s note then goes on to explain that the other changes contained in the Motu Proprio all concern the elimination of the clause "actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia Catholica" contained in canons 1086 para. 1, 1117 and 1124. This clause, "following much study, was held to be unnecessary and inappropriate", he writes.

  "From the time the Code of Canon Law came into effect in the year 1983 until the moment of the coming into effect of this Motu Proprio, Catholics who had abandoned the Catholic Church by means of a formal act were not obliged to follow the canonical form of celebration for the validity of marriage (canon 1117), nor were they bound by the impediment concerning marriage to the non-baptised (canon 1086 para. 1), nor did they suffer the prohibition on marrying non-Catholic Christians (canon 1124). The abovementioned clause contained in these three canons represented an exception … to another more general norm of ecclesiastical legislation according to which all those baptised in the Catholic Church or received into her are bound to observe ecclesiastical laws (canon 11).

  "With the coming into effect of the new Motu Proprio", Archbishop Coccopalmerio adds, "canon 11 of the Code of Canon Law reacquires its full force as concerns the contents of the canons thus modified, even in cases were there has been a formal abandonment. Hence, in order to regularise any unions that may have been made in the non-observance of these rules it will be necessary to have recourse, if possible, to the ordinary means Canon Law offers for such cases: dispensation from the impediment, sanation, etc".

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Benedict XVI promulgates changes to the Church’s law

  1. chironomo says:

    I’d be interested to hear from someone with knowledge of this topic about the significance (if any) of these changes. The change to the Canons concerning marriage seems to just close a loophole in the annulment process. Am I right about this?

  2. chironomo says:

    Why is all of the text italicized?

  3. Oneros says:

    Actually, Chironomo, it opens a new hole and makes things easier for apostate Catholics who want to return after a divorce.

    Previously, Catholics who formally defected could marry someone and it would be valid with just the same minimal conditions that apply to any non-Catholic baptized person getting married.

    Now, even if you formally defect, it still won’t be valid unless you cross all the t’s and dot the i’s of Canon Law’s conditions for validity, just like if you were still Catholic.

    So basically, it makes it easier for Catholics who left the Church, got married, got divorced, and now are coming back to the Church…to have that marriage declared invalid by Defect of Form.

    Previously they wouldnt have been bound by the canonical requirements and so would have had to go through the “long process” Annulment if they had defected.

    Now, it’s basically saying marriages of defected Catholics will be usually invalid (unless their spouse is Catholic and gets a dispensation or something like that, of course) until they return to the Church.

    So marriages outside the Church by anyone who was ever Catholic even for a minute…are invalid, basically. Which makes it easier for them to deal with them when and if they return to the Church. If they want to persist in that marriage, they can simply have it convalidated. But if it ended in divorce before that…the process will now be much easier for them to annul it by defect of form.

  4. TNCath says:

    “From the time the Code of Canon Law came into effect in the year 1983 until the moment of the coming into effect of this Motu Proprio, Catholics who had abandoned the Catholic Church by means of a formal act were not obliged to follow the canonical form of celebration for the validity of marriage (canon 1117), nor were they bound by the impediment concerning marriage to the non-baptised (canon 1086 para. 1), nor did they suffer the prohibition on marrying non-Catholic Christians (canon 1124).”

    Am I missing something here? If Catholics abandon the Catholic Church, why would they bother following canonical forms for marriage or think of themselves bound by the impediment concerning marriage in the first place?

  5. Oneros says:

    “Am I missing something here? If Catholics abandon the Catholic Church, why would they bother following canonical forms for marriage or think of themselves bound by the impediment concerning marriage in the first place?”

    They wouldnt. That’s the point.

    It concerns the issue of such marriages when and if the Catholic returns to the Church, or when their spouse becomes Catholic.

    Previously, marriages contracted during one’s apostasy…were valid unless some more fundamental psychological flaw could be found in the consent or whatever (ie, the long-process annulment investigation would be required).

    Now, marriages contracted during apostasy…are not valid, generally (unless their spouse is Catholic and gets a dispensation or something). And so if a “former” Catholic marries and divorces during their apostasy…it will be invalid anyway, and easily annulled under defect of canonical form (pretty much just a one week process) when and if they return to the faith (or, I suppose, if their ex becomes Catholic at some point).

  6. Tom Ryan says:

    What’s a sanation?

  7. Hamburglar says:

    Could this possibly come into play regarding divorced Anglicans who left the Catholic Church and are now looking to come back?

  8. And contrariwise, it also gives such Catholic people an opportunity to convalidate their outside-the-Church marriages when they return to the Church, and thus get extra blessings on their marriage? Or could you do that already?

  9. ljc says:

    I am very happy about the first part of this document, signifying changes to canons 1008 & 1009. Many, including myself, belive that since Vat II Deacons have often been improperly grouped together with Priests, as if almost no distinction lay between the two vocations. It seems Pope Benedict is now trying to show the distinctions betweeen the Diaconate on the one hand and the Priesthood & Episcopacy on the other. Until now Can. 1008 reffered to those in the Diaconate, the Priesthood and Episcopacy as “consecrated and deputed to shepherd the people of God… by fulfilling in the person of Christ the Head the functions of teaching, sanctifying and governing.”

    Now Can. 1008 will simply refer to the three orders as serving the people of God “with a new and specific title.”
    While Can. 1009 will have a new paragraph “in which it is specified that the minister constituted into the Order of the episcopate or the priesthood receives the mission and power to act in the person of Christ the Head, while deacons receive the faculty to serve the People of God in the diaconates of the liturgy, of the Word and of charity”.

    These distinctions are very important. I beleive that part of the vocations crisis experienced in the last 40 years was due to this grouping together of Priests and Deacons.

  10. canonlawyer says:

    I am director of an archdiocesan tribunal in the western United States. I commend Oneros on his very clear summation and answers–he is exactly right. This is something tribunals have been hoping for. As the motu proprio states, the exception caused many difficulties in pastoral action and tribunal practice (“Multae praeterea exsurrexerunt difficultates cum in actione pastorali tum in tribunalium praxi.”) We always had to weigh–when did one leave the Catholic Church, was it by a formal act, etc. It was a nightmare of subjectivity. And, to answer Suburbanbanshee, yes, marriages involving at least one Catholic, who married outside the Church, and now want to return to the practice of their faith, will have to marry in a Catholic ceremony (aka convalidation, a word we are now trying to avoid). That has not changed–however, getting to the point where they could marry in a Catholic ceremony has now been made much easier. Praise the Lord.

    Regarding the changes to canons on Orders–this opens the way to ordaining women to the diaconate, since deacons do not serve “in persona Christi” according to the modifaction.

  11. Fabrizio says:

    May I humbly urge everybody to wait for the (hopefully accurate) English translation of the MP, with the actual words and the actual arguments the Pope makes for these (IMHO) timely and much needed changes? As a matter of fact, these changes are in practice but a return to the theological clarity on the matters at hand of the canonical discipline in force prior to the 1983 CIC by way of adoption of a wording of canons that are now harder to equivocate. It would seem that this is no “new hole”, as those who can read Latin can verify by reading the released text.

    What did the Pope really say? 1) that a more correct ecclesiology and theology of sacraments needed to be restored to the law of the Church. As regards Priesthood, the same well-founded concerns that led John Paul II to edit the Catechism he himself had promulgated also made a theologically wise, vigilant shepherd as Benedict XVI implement a clearer formulation of the principles savaged for decades by the “people of God=class struggle in the Church” crowd.

    2) The Holy Father explains that while the wording of CIC was aimed at protecting the bond of marriage, that good intention underpinning the “relaxing” the previous discipline had led in practice to a risk of propitiating risks of apostasy, epsecially in lands of persecution or injust laws concenring marriage (and this regards also the future, I am afraid). Moreover, and critically important, the whole concept of “actus formalis defectionis” is to say the least troubling, in the light of the theology of Baptism and of sacramental character, a concept that affects also the abovementioned Priesthood.

    It is not so much a matter of canon law here but of getting rid of theological ambiguities and real “holes” in the wording of texts that have been exploited by less than well intentioned people, including those in charge of administering Sacraments and forming people to their comprehension. It is a matter of tehology and of pastoral experience. It is also a matter of looking at the way forward and what marriage issues will be in the foreseable future.

    The times are hard enough as they are for the Church, can we presume that the Pope knows what he is doing when he does his job, on matters of his strict competence? Not saying that there can’t possibly be legitimate concerns about these changes, but jumping to conclusions when the MP has been barely been out for hours, and a translation is not even available? Italian excepted?

  12. MichaelJ says:

    canonlawyer,
    I ask this out of genuine curiosity rather than any sort of challenge, but what’s wrong with “convalidation”? Has this word taken on a negative connotation that I (obviously) an unaware of, or does it have a specific meaning that does not reflect the true nature of the ceremony?

  13. Mr Flapatap says:

    Why did this have to come out two days before my Sacramental Theology final!!?!?!?!!??!

    :-)

  14. Hidden One says:

    Stupid question:

    Does this apply to marriages that begin now or after now, or does it go back? Because it seems to me that if it goes back, a bunch of formerly valid marriages would now be invalid. Am I reading this correctly?

  15. Jordanes says:

    canonlawyer said: Regarding the changes to canons on Orders—this opens the way to ordaining women to the diaconate, since deacons do not serve “in persona Christi” according to the modifaction.

    No, it doesn’t. It might, if that canon were the only thing the Church had to say about Holy Orders. The priesthood and episcopate is restricted to males not because there is a canon that says they serve “in persona Christi.” Rather, that canon says what it does partly because the priesthood and episcopate are restricted to males by the will of the Savior — and that same will, as confirmed by the unvarying tradition of the Church and her Magisterium, restricts the diaconal ordination to males. The Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 1577 explicitly says the Sacrament of Holy Orders can only validly be received by males, that ordination of women is impossible. If changing the wording of this canon opens the door to women’s diaconal ordination, then why is it just the canon that has been changed and not the Catechism and all the other Church’s documents?

  16. JohnMa says:

    Sure, the change regarding marriage might make things easier on the local tribunal but I really think that this is going down a slippery slope. This change will allow person A who was never a practicing Catholic in their adult like, but was baptized in the Church, to get a “rubber stamp” annulment while person B who was never a practicing Catholic in their adult life but was never a member of the Church has to go through the long annulment process. I am quite surprised that our Holy Father wanted this changed.

  17. joecct77 says:

    OK, but what if you’ve never left the Catholic Church, but have a marriage that was not blessed by the Church and is still going?

  18. Tim Ferguson says:

    I’m surprised at those who think this is something designed to make it “easier” for people to get a “rubber stamp” annulment. What this is is a recognition of the reality that baptism into the Catholic Church gives people certain obligations – one of those obligations being to observe the Church’s marriage laws. If Catholics attempt to marry without observing the fundamentals of those marriage laws, they marry invalidly. That is to say, they do not marry at all. A declaration of Lack of Form is not an “easy” annulment, or some sort of “get out of marriage free” card – it’s a statement of obvious fact. In simply syllogistic form: John, a baptized Catholic, is bound by law to observe the canonical form of marriage or get a dispensation from the same. John attempted marriage without observing canonical form or getting a dispensation. John is not married.

    This isn’t some sort of reward for being a bad Catholic (too many people look at annulments as some sort of treat that the Church holds out for certain people and withholds from others. We do not grant annulments. We sometimes find, after an investigation, that a putative marriage was null from the beginning). This is returning the Church to traditional teaching – semel Catholicus, semper Catholicus – once a Catholic, always a Catholic. You can’t undo baptism or incorporation into the Body of Christ, nor can you slough off the obligations that flow from that. This traditional teaching was modified in 1983 to release Catholics who had attempted to leave the Church from some of those obligations. Now Benedict is restoring the traditional teaching.

    joecct77 – if you’re Catholic and have a marriage that was not recognized by the Church (either by being celebrated according to canonical form, getting a dispensation from canonical form, or having the marriage sanated), then you’re not really in a marriage. As a Catholic, you have an obligation to speak to your pastor and seek ways to rectify your situation.

  19. paladin says:

    Hidden One wrote:

    Stupid question: Does this apply to marriages that begin now or after now, or does it go back? Because it seems to me that if it goes back, a bunch of formerly valid marriages would now be invalid. Am I reading this correctly?

    Actually, I have the same question! My brother formally left the Church in those years (between 1983 and now) and married a Protestant in a Protestant ceremony, so I was wondering the same thing: is this change retroactive, or does it apply only from 2009, onward?

  20. Tim Ferguson says:

    the general principle is that law looks to the future, not the past (canon 9), so they can’t be retroactive. This is a change in the Church’s law, not just a clarification. Therefore, paladin and Hidden One, the presumption of the law would be that those weddings celebrated between 1983 and three months from the date this motu proprio is published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (which is when these new laws will become effective) are indeed valid.