Ed Peters on the suicide at Notre-Dame de Paris

Over at the blog of the gentlemanly though trouble-making canonist Ed Peters (aka The Canonical Defender) there is a post about the ramifications of the suicide at Notre-Dame in Paris.

 Suicide—whatever mental/emotional problems induce some to commit it and which might even mitigate its culpability—is objectively a gravely evil action (CCC 2280-2283) and may never be licitly chosen. When committed in a sacred place such as a church or shrine, suicide effects the “violation” of that space and divine worship (as opposed to personal prayers) may not be offered there until the place is rehabilitated in accord with canon and liturgical law (1983 CIC 1211, olim 1917 CIC 1172; see also 1983 CIC 1376).

When Dominique Venner killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head inside Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral (indeed, it seems, within the sanctuary itself) he desecrated that great church. If it turns out that Venner killed himself in protest over France’s new “gay marriage” law, then, besides condemning the classical scandal his deed produced, one may further observe that all he really accomplished was to make opponents of “gay marriage” look like kooks, and to deprive, for a time, the faithful of France of a particularly powerful place of worship from which to ask God’s help in preserving the natural and holy institution of marriage in their nation.

Only the Evil One would take pleasure in that.

First, there are certain rites that have to be performed in the church because it was desecrated.

Also, Peters is right about how certain parties will use this against true marriage.

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  1. Thomas S says:

    What other acts committed in a church would constitute a desecration that would require “rehabilitation”? Any mortal sin? Suppose some lunatic committed a lewd sexual act in a church. I can easily see that becoming common as the sodomite movement gets more aggressive in protesting the Church. What about someone shouting blasphemies? Where is the line drawn? When must “rehabilitation” of the church take place before public worship can resume?

  2. StWinefride says:

    Dr Edward Peters says: “and to deprive, for a time, the faithful of France of a particularly powerful place of worship from which to ask God’s help in preserving the natural and holy institution of marriage in their nation“.

    Thankfully, Our Lady’s Parisian pied-à-terre (as the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal is affectionately known) is not too far away – about 20 minutes walk or a few stops on the Metro!

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  4. Thomas S says:

    Thank you, Charles.

    It seems to leave a lot of room for interpretation with regards application to specific acts.

  5. Conchur says:

    Venner was a crypto-fascist and a neo-pagan. He chose Notre Dame in which to commit suicide as it is built on an ancient Gaulish druidic site where human sacrifices were made.

  6. Desertfalcon says:

    I don’t know why he did it, but no reason can justify, not only the act, but the location.

  7. JuliaSaysPax says:

    I had no idea that something needed to be done after such acts in a church. Now I’m trying to recall what was done in my home parish, where someone committed suicide about 8 years ago. I remember that they closed the parochial school for the day, but I think that was about it.

  8. Basher says:

    Poor Notre Dame –

    from Wikipedia: The official nationwide Fête de la Raison, supervised by Hébert and Momoro on 20 Brumaire, Year II (10 November 1793) came to epitomize the new republican way of religion. In ceremonies devised and organised by Chaumette, churches across France were transformed into modern Temples of Reason. At Notre Dame in Paris was the largest ceremony of them all. The Christian altar was dismantled and an altar to Liberty was installed; the inscription “To Philosophy” was carved in stone over the cathedral’s doors. The proceedings took several hours and concluded with the appearance of a Goddess of Reason who, to avoid idolatry, was portrayed by a living woman.[7] The overarching theme of the ceremony was aptly summarized by Anacharsis Clootz who claimed that henceforward there would be “one God only, Le Peuple.”[8]

    Many contemporary accounts reported the Festival of Reason as a “lurid”, “licentious” affair of scandalous “depravities”,[9] although some scholars have disputed their veracity.[10] These accounts, real or embellished, galvanized anti-revolutionary forces and even caused many dedicated Jacobins like Maximilien Robespierre to publicly separate themselves from the radical faction.[11]

  9. Geoffrey says:

    I think I recall seeing some sort of ritual for such a reason in the Rituale Romanum for the Extraordinary Form. I am not sure if the Book of Blessings (Fr Z’s all-time favourite liturgical book!) has a corresponding rite.

  10. Will D. says:

    Some years ago, the police shot and killed a man at St. Mary’s Cathedral here in Colorado Springs. The bishop determined that since the man was killed in a restroom outside of the nave/sanctuary proper, the cathedral had not been desecrated.

  11. jhayes says:

    Venner was a crypto-fascist and a neo-pagan.

    “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”

    Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/05/22/pope_at_mass:_culture_of_encounter_is_the_foundation_of_peace/en1-694445
    of the Vatican Radio website

    It’s worth reading the rest of the homily.

  12. Thomas S says: What other acts committed in a church would constitute a desecration that would require “rehabilitation”? Any mortal sin? Suppose some lunatic committed a lewd sexual act in a church.

    This actually happened at St. Patrick’s Cathedral a few years back, when a man and a woman committed lewd acts in the Cathedral during Mass as part of a morning radio show stunt. Whether the canonical remedy for desecration was applied I don’t know.

    Are the rites to be performed after a desecration public, or do they have to be performed privately?

  13. acardnal says:

    “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! . . . Even the atheists. “

    Yes. Christ has redeemed everyone. . . even atheists. Every human being past, present and future was redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ through his suffering, death and resurrection. BUT, being redeemed does not mean saved. Not everyone is going to be with the Holy Trinity for all eternity in heaven. In fact, Mt. 7:13-14 indicates otherwise.

  14. cathgrl says:

    A guy walked into a church during Mass and killed a guy in the pew in a parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit 10 years ago. This is what they did afterward: http://www.archdioceseofdetroit.org/AODonline-SQLimages/PressReleaseStatements/AOD/030403StPaulAlbanianStationsandMass.pdf

  15. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    I very much hope this poor soul, who committed the horrific offenses of suicide and sacrilege in the very home of Our Lady, was granted through the intercession of this most gracious and august Queen, the grace of final repentance.

    May God have mercy on his soul.

  16. Jack Phinn says:

    Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
    we understand that Thy sixth commandment,
    “Thou shalt do no murder,”
    includes self murder.
    But in thy divine mercy,
    we beg Thy forgiveness, especially for Thy servant Dominique Venner,
    who was so confounded by the sorrows and trials of this world
    that he felt there was no other way to express his despair
    than to discard the gift of life You gave him so freely
    at Your holy altar.
    Grant, we beseech thee,
    that he be forgiven his terrible sin
    and accepted into Thy divine providence,
    and that he may come to understand Thy ways and Thy nature.
    We ask this in the healing name of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

  17. Thank you, cathgrl, that answers my question.

  18. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    A.J. Schulte’s 1907 “Altar (in Liturgy” article in the Catholic Encyclopedia includes, “Although there was only one altar in each church, minor altars were erected in side chapels, which were distinct buildings (as is the custom in the Greek, and some Oriental Churches even at the present day) in which Mass was celebrated only once on the same day in each church”.

    Would only “the main altar” of Notre Dame require rehabilitation? Would chapels and “minor altars” still be available for divine worship?

  19. jhayes says:

    The suicide at Notre Dame was regularized quickly. Between the 4 pm suicide and a Vigil for Life scheduled for 8:30 pm, an auxiliary bishop said a Mass of Reparation.

    Here’s the note from the Cathedral Bulletin (French only, sorry)

    Le mardi 21 mai aux alentours de 16h, un homme s’est suicidé par arme à feu à l’intérieur de la cathédrale.

    Le personnel de la cathédrale a tenté de réanimer la personne avant l’intervention rapide des secours.

    La cathédrale, fort fréquentée à cette heure de la journée, a été évacuée pour faciliter l’intervention des pompiers et des policiers.

    Comme il est d’usage en tels cas, une messe de réparation a été célébrée par Monseigneur Jérôme Beau, évêque auxiliaire de Paris, en présence de Monseigneur Patrick Jacquin, recteur-archiprêtre, de prêtres de la cathédrale et de quelques fidèles dont des membres du personnel.

    La veillée pour la Vie, prévue ce jour à 20h30, est maintenue.


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