From a reader:
My brother, a fallen away Catholic, is getting married outside the Church. He asked me to be best man.
I had the understanding that a Catholic can release himself from the obligations to get married in the Church etc. by sending a letter to his local pastor (i.e. a formal act of apostasy). That is what I ultimately communicated. It was not an easy conversation.
Now, I’m verifying what I had previously read, and it seems that may be incorrect due to the motu proprio, Omnium in mentem, which removed the statements in the Canon about formal acts of defection.
Meanwhile, other family bridges may be burning, and I will follow the Church’s law, no matter the cost. But I need to know what the law is.
Might you clarify, or refer me to someone/something that could?
Since Omnium in mentem took effect on 9 April 2010, defection from the faith no longer has any canonical effect. “Defection” does not release one from ecclesiastical law, including the observance of canonical form in marriage.
Once a Catholic, always a Catholic is not just cultural, or emotional… it is juridical. Baptism to death, friends.
From 23 November 1983 until 9 April 2010 if one formally “defected” from the faith, one was released from certain merely ecclesiastical laws, including the observance of canonical form ofr marriage.
Merely walking away or attending a non-Catholic Church does not qualify as a formal defection. That makes one a “lapsed Catholic”.
Whether you can serve as best man at this “non-wedding,” there is no canonical prohibition to do so and no penalty. But I think your participation is a sign that you agree with what he is doing. You should consult your parish priest, but I think that is a bad idea.