Canonist Ed Peters on the Papal mid-air airplane nuptials

From canonist Ed Peters comes a post.  I wrote about it, HERE.   There are some striking parallels.  I wonder why?

Any way…

Thoughts on a mid-air marriage

Show of hands! Who wants to rain all over the sentimental parade lining up behind (what is being presented as) the pope’s facilitation of married love? Anyone? Anyone?

I thought not. Oh well.

Readers of this blog know that I am no fan of canonical form for marriage (cc. 1108, 1117)—a cure that has far outlived the malady (clandestine marriage) it was designed to treat—but canonical form is still law for Catholics and that law goes to the validity of Catholic marriage. Based on the reports offered here and here, I cannot tell whether the ‘wedding’ that the pope put together for an unsuspecting couple satisfies Church requirements on marriage, and several other laws impacting the liceity of marriage seem simply to have been disregarded in the event. As happened several times under earlier administrations, a representative from the Vatican Press Office assures us that “everything was valid”. Such assertions by canonically unqualified and unauthorized PR staff carry, of course, no weight. Real questions worthy of real answers are still raised by this event.

Before getting into details, however, let me say that I am sorry for Paula Podest and Carlos Ciuffardi, two perfectly pleasant flight attendants who paid a courtesy call on their celebrity guest and, next thing they know, their names, faces, and rather odd marriage history are being broadcast to the world. They did not ask for a wedding and were astonished when Pope Francis suggested it. This was not their idea.

Now, about the matter itself.

Popes have jurisdiction for the external forum anywhere on earth (cc. 134, 331, 1108), so Francis can officiate at a wedding anywhere, anytime.

But officiating at a wedding means something specific: it means asking for and receiving the consent of the contracting parties to marrying each each other (c. 1108) here and now. Per the Rite of Matrimony consent is sought from each party individually and must be oriented to marrying the other party at this time; the request is not posed as a joint question to the couple about being married, akin to, ‘do you two want to be married?’, but rather is framed ‘do you marry him/her?’ at this point in time. If consent (the heart of marriage per c. 1057) is not adequately asked for and received, it is not exchanged, and such a couple would not be married [NB] (and, No, ‘Ecclesia suppletcannot make up for a failure in what is actually sacramental—as opposed to canonical—form). The above reports mention, as far as I can see, [Alas, we don’t know what really happened.] only the pope’s broaching the topic of marriage by asking the couple whether they wanted to be married, placing their hands together, saying a few inspirational words about marriage, and pronouncing them husband and wife. But such a sequence describes, not at all, a present exchange of consent by the parties. Let us hope, then, that in the actual event considerably more was said than has been reported.

Second, canonical form demands two independent actual witnesses to the exchange of consent, meaning that five persons must be immediately present for the wedding—not folks who heard about it a few minutes later, or who saw something happening and wondered, hey, what’s going on back there?—but five persons acting together and at the same time: a bride, a groom, an officiant, and two other actual witnesses. While reports are unclear as to how many people actually witnessed this event, and while this photo shows four people in the event (plus a camera man?) and four signatures on a document, another photo shows five names on the marriage document, so one may presume (c. 1541) accordingly.

Third, several canons impacting the liceity of weddings (norms on ‘liceity’ often being regarded as wink-wink rules in Church life, especially when higher-ups model the wink-winking) were apparently ignored here, including: the requirement for [NB] serious pastoral preparation prior to a wedding [Not ever omitted by a loving and merciful pastor…] (c. 1063), administration of Confirmation before Matrimony (c. 1065), urging of Penance and holy Communion before a wedding (c. 1065), verification that no obstacles to validity or liceity are in place (c. 1066), securing evidence of the contractants’ freedom to marry (c. 1068) upon pain of acting illicitly without it (c. 1114), an expectation that Catholic weddings be celebrated in a parish church (cc. 1115, 1118), and making use of the Church’s treasury of liturgical books for celebration of the sacramental rite (c. 1119).

As this story reverberates ‘round the world, now, deacons, priests, and bishops who try to uphold Church norms fostering values such as deliberate marriage preparation, an ecclesial context for a Catholic wedding, and the use of established and reliable texts for expressing consent will, undoubtedly, have the Podest-Ciuffardi wedding tossed in their face as evidence that, if Pope Francis does not insist on such legalistic silliness and only cares about whether two people love [Luuhv.] one another, why shouldn’t they do likewise? The ministry of conscientious clergy in this regard just got harder.

As mentioned above, I would be happy to see the requirement of canonical form for marriage eliminated, this, for several reasons, one of which is that—long story omitted—we could actually make higher demands of Catholics who want to marry before our clergy than we can currently demand. But the pope’s example of a spontaneous, zero-preparation, wedding is not at all what I and like-minded others have in mind. This couple undoubtedly gave more thought and attention to what they did by civilly marrying before a magistrate back in 2010 than they could have possibly given to what the pope suggested to them, on a few seconds’ notice, while at work, high above the Andes mountains.

If I have to say it, I will: I hope Podest and Ciuffardi are married and that they live happily ever after, but I worry whenever momentous life decisions are taken on a minute’s notice and under circumstances bound to contribute to one’s being carried away by events.

The pope has opined, apparently more than once, that “half of all sacramental marriages are null”. Here’s hoping that Podest and Ciuffardi beat those odds.

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13 Responses to Canonist Ed Peters on the Papal mid-air airplane nuptials

  1. richiedel says:

    “The decision to marry should never be encouraged unless the couple has discerned deeper reasons that will ensure a genuine and stable commitment.” – Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, 209

    [Good catch.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  2. jbazchicago says:

    Clericalism is “a failure to realize that the mission belongs to the entire Church, and not to the indupividual priest or bishop” -Pope Francis

  3. jbazchicago says:

    individual

  4. Eugene says:

    Once again the supreme law keeper becomes a law breaker, anyone remember washing of womens’ feet before he changed the rule.
    Nothing matters anymore.
    So much for me as a father of a family insisting one my 4 children not to have a “destination wedding “ on a beach somewhere.
    How long o Lord how long?

  5. tamranthor says:

    I’m quite certain that the Pope ascertained that both participants were in a state of grace prior to commencing the ceremony.

    Okay, that’s just snarky, but his behavior makes light of not only matrimony, but confession and absolution as well. If they have waited 8 years to marry, and then were only married civilly, how could they possibly be in a state of grace for the reception of any sacrament, let alone marriage?

    This Pope presents more scandals to the faithful than he does to the atheists, and that is quite a boatload as it is. I’m sure God has some reason for presenting us with this Purgatory, but I am equally certain I have no idea what He expects the faithful to do in light of this development.

  6. Traductora says:

    I read just a little while ago that this was actually arranged in advance with a Francis “advisor,” Francis and the couple. I doubt that they had preparation or a resolution of their prior situation, but maybe they did. However, Francis obviously didn’t want it to look as though they had, and of course, no photo op should ever be rejected. I think this really will make things even more confused and confusing.

  7. Joy65 says:

    “As this story reverberates ‘round the world, now, deacons, priests, and bishops who try to uphold Church norms fostering values such as deliberate marriage preparation, an ecclesial context for a Catholic wedding, and the use of established and reliable texts for expressing consent will, undoubtedly, have the Podest-Ciuffardi wedding tossed in their face as evidence that, if Pope Francis does not insist on such legalistic silliness and only cares about whether two people love [Luuhv.] one another, why shouldn’t they do likewise? The ministry of conscientious clergy in this regard just got harder.”

    My thoughts exactly. Lord have mercy on us and on the whole world.

  8. Charles E Flynn says:

    In 2017, there were no fatal crashes of commercial airliners. And yet, the outstanding Smithsonian Channel program, called “Air Disasters” in the USA and narrated for the USA by Bill Ratner, must go on. I suggest that the producers broaden the meaning of “Air Disasters”. It would be a treat to hear Bill Ratner’s always serious, never-over-the-top voice quote Dr. Peters.

  9. RomualdMonk says:

    So much for having a longer marriage prep formation prior to marriage as Pope Francis pushed a few years back as necessary.

  10. AA Cunningham says:

    Pre-marriage courses are a special expression of preparation. And we see so many couples, who perhaps come to the course somewhat reluctantly: “But these priests make us take a course! But why? We already know…” and they go reluctantly. But afterwards they are happy and grateful, because they have found there the opportunity — sometimes the only one — to reflect on their experience in non-trivial terms. Yes, many couples are together a long time, perhaps also in intimacy, sometimes living together, but they don’t really know each other. It seems curious, but experience shows that it’s true. Therefore engagement needs to be re-evaluated as a time of getting to know one another and sharing a plan. The path of preparation for marriage should be implemented from this perspective, also with the benefit of the simple but intense witness of Christian spouses. And also by focusing on the essentials: the Bible, by consciously rediscovering it together; prayer, in its liturgical dimension, but also in “domestic prayer” to live out in the home, the Sacraments, the Sacramental life, Confession, … where the Lord comes to abide in the engaged couple and prepare them truly to receive one another “with the grace of Christ”; and fraternity with the poor and those in need, who lead us to live soberly and to share.

    Pope Francis
    GENERAL AUDIENCE
    Saint Peter’s Square
    Wednesday, 27 May 2015

  11. Benedict Joseph says:

    LIFESITE reported on Friday that it appears the spontaneous event was not so…spontaneous.
    https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/wedding-on-popes-airplane-not-as-spontaneous-as-it-appeared-evidence-indica

  12. PTK_70 says:

    If one pope (St. John Paul II) can famously reinstate a down-and-out priest after dinner (cf http://www.worksbyfaith.org/the-beggar-and-pope-john-paul-ii/), perhaps we can allow for another pope to exercise his Petrine ministry by witnessing the marriage of a couple on an airplane.

    [Sigh. No. This is apples and oranges. The priest was already a priest and forever a priest. Giving him faculties on the spot is nothing like this marriage situation.]

  13. Fr. Kelly says:

    It is hard not to see this a bait and switch trap for those of us who like Ed Peters, are concerned with respect for the laws of the Church. Dr. Peters’ analysis is based on what information was available at the time, and he was careful to point that out.
    At the time, this “marriage” was said to be a “spontaneous” act of mercy that arose out of the photo shoot on the Pope’s airplane. This led to questions about the preparation of the couple, both psychologically and spiritually for the reception of the Sacrament, questions about the use of canonical form (1 witness or 2), and most importantly, questions about whether the couple actually expressed their consent in this “ceremony” or just received the Pope’s blessing and pronouncement that they were now married. This last question is still unanswered in any accounts I have heard as yet.
    Now, as of the time of this writing we have Pope Francis saying it was valid and prepared ahead of time. Apparently, he visited with the husband on the previous flight and planned the marriage. LifeSite tells us that they spoke to the newspaper ahead of time about it as well.
    The Holy Father tells us that both of them went to confession which could not have happened if they did not have a purpose of amendment. Further, he tells us they had already undergone Marriage Preparation and that he decided to help them so that they would not put off the convalidation for another 8 – 10 years. Notably, he does not address the question of whether they expressed their consent at the time — the exchange of consent is the essential act in marriage and cannot be substituted or presumed. It must be expressed, or they are not married. It cannot be presumed that because they have lived together in an arrangement that is not marriage for 10 years, they of course consent here and now to take each other in true marriage.

    Yesterday, the other shoe dropped and the trap was sprung. The Holy Father preached about the evils of “Fake News” and how wrong it is to judge people on false information. If we who support Church law were the bitter minded rigorists that he seems to portray us as, we might have fallen into that trap, but as you cans see from Dr. Peters’ analysis, our concern for respect for the law is actually motivated by love and a true expression of pastoral concern.

    The generators of “Fake News” here are not those who question the validity or legitimacy of this “marriage” but rather those who worked hard to portray this “marriage” as a surprise and as a spontaneous act of mercy.
    Let us all pray for Podest and Ciuffardi — and in the words of Canonist Ed Peters:

    If I have to say it, I will: I hope Podest and Ciuffardi are married and that they live happily ever after, but I worry whenever momentous life decisions are taken on a minute’s notice and under circumstances bound to contribute to one’s being carried away by events.