Canon Law

Read his article here.

Jimmy Akin also weighs in with his “Nine Things you should Know and Share




The article below is written by Jimmy Akin and available on his blog.

Pope Francis has just released a letter in which he made several announcements concerning the upcoming Year of Mercy.
This includes absolution for those who have procured abortion and the ability to go to priests of the Society of St. Pius X for confession.
These have raised a lot of questions, so here are 12 things to know and share . . .
1) What is the Year of Mercy?
Popes periodically dedicate a year to a particular theme. For example, Benedict XVI dedicated 2010 to priests and 2013 as a Year of Faith. Now, Pope Francis has devoted 2016 to the theme of mercy.
Designating such years are one of the ways that the popes call attention to particular themes and help people understand and live their faith more deeply.
The upcoming Year of Mercy runs from December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016.

It doesn’t coincide with the calendar year because it’s based on the Church’s liturgical year (which begins with Advent rather than January 1) and because it’s adjusted to begin and end with certain special days on the Church’s calendar (December 8 is the Immaculate Conception and, in 2016, November 20 is Christ the King).
2) What has Pope Francis said about the year and what are we supposed to do during it?
Pope Francis discussed the year at length when he announced it. You can read what he had to say here.
Pope Francis also discusses the year in a new apostolic letter, released on September 1, which you can read here.

In the new letter, Pope Francis talks about several opportunities for celebrating the Year of Mercy, including doing a pilgrimage in your diocese to gain an indulgence, performing corporal and spiritual works of mercy, praying for the departed, etc.
He also talks about priests absolving those who have procured abortion and going to priests of the Society of St. Pius X for confession.
3) What does “procuring” an abortion mean?
In ordinary speech, procuring means obtaining, but here the term is used in a somewhat special way.
In canonical terms, it is generally taken to mean cooperating in an abortion in such a way that, if you hadn’t done your part, the abortion would not have taken place.

It is generally understood that only those immediately involved can be guilty of procuring an abortion in the canonical sense.
Those more remotely involved (e.g., workers at the electrical plant that supplies the abortion clinic with power, politicians and judges who make bad abortion laws) are not involved in this way.
4) Can’t priests just absolve people who have procured abortions?
Not without something else happening. Here’s why:

Step 1: The Code of Canon Law provides an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication for those who procure abortion.
Can. 1398 A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.
Step 2: Excommunication prevents a person from receiving the sacraments.
Can. 1331 §1. An excommunicated person is forbidden:
2/ to celebrate the sacraments or sacramentals and to receive the sacraments;
Step 3: The bishop (local ordinary) is the one empowered to remit the excommunication that procuring an abortion causes.
Can. 1355

§2. If the penalty has not been reserved to the Apostolic See, an ordinary can remit a latae sententiae penalty established by law but not yet declared for his subjects and those who are present in his territory or who committed the offense there; any bishop can also do this in the act of sacramental confession.
Therefore, a person who procures an abortion incurs an automatic excommunication which prevents them from receiving the sacraments. Confession is a sacrament, therefore, they cannot be absolved in confession until the excommunication is lifted. The bishop (or a bishop) is the one who needs to get involved in order to lift the excommunication and allow the person to be sacramentally absolved.
Except . . .
5) Except what?
Three things.
First, the Code of Canon Law provides a long list of things that can stop an automatic excommunication from taking effect. See here for more on that.
Of special note are these provisions:

Can. 1324
§1. The perpetrator of a violation is not exempt from a penalty, but the penalty established by law or precept must be tempered or a penance employed in its place if the delict was committed:
4/ by a minor who has completed the age of sixteen years;
5/ by a person who was coerced by grave fear, even if only relatively grave, or due to necessity or grave inconvenience if the delict is intrinsically evil or tends to the harm of souls;
8/ by a person who thought in culpable error that one of the circumstances mentioned in ? can. 1323, nn. 4 or 5 was present;
9/ by a person who without negligence did not know that a penalty was attached to a law or precept;
§3. In the circumstances mentioned in §1, the accused is not bound by a latae sententiae penalty.

Many who procure abortions are under sixteen, very fearful, and do not know that there is an automatic excommunication for procuring an abortion, this canon provides multiple grounds on which many who commit the act do not incur the penalty attached to it.
In such circumstances, they can be absolved in confession without the involvement of the bishop.
Second, I am informed that—due to how widespread abortion is in America—most American bishops have given their priests ability to remit the abortion excommunication in confession, without having to consult the bishop first.
Third, see comments by canonist Dr. Edward Peters here.
6) What should a person who thinks they may have incurred an excommunication by procuring an abortion do?
If they did incur the penalty (which includes knowing that the penalty existed and procuring the abortion anyway) then they should go to confession.
If the priest needs to consult with the bishop, he will let you know. Otherwise, he will be able to absolve you immediately upon determining that you have repented of procuring the abortion.
Or, because of what Pope Francis has done, go to any priest during the Year of Mercy.
7) What has Pope Francis done?
In his apostolic letter, Pope Francis states:
I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfill this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.

By his apostolic authority, Pope Francis has thus granted ordinary priests the ability to deal with this situation in confession, without having to involve the bishop, during the Year of Mercy—as a special sign of God’s mercy and as an encouragement of those who have procured an abortion to repent and return to the practice of their faith.
For the rest of the article addressing the SSPX group, click here.


March 9, 2015 By Dr. Ed Peters, Canon Lawyer   (see also The Stream’s: “Should Catholics Oppose the Death Penalty?“)

“Dr. Steven Long beat me to it. His rejoinder to the “Capital punishment must end” editorial of America, National Catholic RegisterNational Catholic Reporter, andOur Sunday Visitor is essential reading even if, in some places, Long’s essay, “Four Catholic Journals Indulge in Doctrinal Solipsism”, needs to be translated into readable English.*

Worse, though, than the four journals editorial itself—which for the most part only repackages and recycles prudential arguments against the death penalty as if they were arguments in principle—have been some of  the “pile-ons” published in its wake, with Pathos administering an especially condescending tongue-lashing to Catholics who, tsk-tsk, can’t understand that opposition to the death penalty is demanded “for the simplest of reasons” and then walks Catholic troglodyte death-penalty enthusiasts through four reasons why they are (supposedly) so utterly and embarrassingly wrong, beginning each reason with “We are Catholic”.

Like, you know, I’m not.

As a Catholic squarely in line with the Catholic tradition that, as Long accurately if turgidly sets out, supports the just administration of the death penalty for capital crimes, I have grown used to having my motives for such support reduced to: my thirst for vengeance, my disdain for mercy, my obliviousness to Christ’s salvific will, my despair about conversion, and my contempt for compassion. I apparently do not understand that the death penalty does not bring murder victims back to life (gee, whodathunkit?) but that’s not to worry, because my support for the death penalty can be excused (and then dismissed) on purely demographic grounds (I am, after all, white, male, middle-aged, and usually vote conservative, so who cares what a heartless jerk like me thinks about anything?)

But, besides venting, there are two substantive points I would like to add to this discussion, the first, concerning how some seem to read the much-vaunted language added to the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the death penalty.

For the whole article, with which I agree completely, CLICK HERE.


What is the Earliest a Mass can Start on the Preceding Day to Fulfill the Obligation for a Sunday or Holy Day Obligation?

December 10, 2014

A question on Mass-start times that warrants attention by Dr. Edward Peters Recalling, in the wake of a some recent discussions of Mass obligations, that I had promised some time ago to set out some materials for use in reasoning through another Mass attendance question, I offer some of that now. This question concerns, What is the [...]

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Heretic for Desiring Women’s Ordination?

October 31, 2014

Since, you asked, Walter, no, you are not a heretic, but… by Dr. Edward Peters Walter Sandell. … “I wonder if I’m a heretic for believing in, and supporting, the ordination of women. I would be a hypocrite if I kept silent about this issue …” I don’t know (and it doesn’t matter) who “Walter [...]

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Cohabitation, Canonical Form and Marriage

September 12, 2014

Cohabitation and canonical form by Dr. Edward Peters The latest tizzy is over Pope Francis’ plans to preside at the weddings of several Roman couples, including some couples who have been cohabiting for lengthy periods. There are two perspectives from which to look at this news, one canonical, one pastoral. Canonically, this is a non-issue. No [...]

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Divorce and Remarriage: Platitudes, Principles, Mercy and Canon Law

March 14, 2014

  When faced with practical problems, rely on principles not platitudes by Dr. Edward Peters The line between principles and platitudes is a narrow one. Both sorts of assertions are true and both can put into a few words concepts that otherwise require many paragraphs to explain. But principles and platitudes are not the same thing; [...]

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Canon Lawyer Ed Peters: “The Legion of Christ Disaster Drags Inexplicably On”

December 13, 2013

New post on In the Light of the Law. Dr. Edward Peters, advisor to the Vatican. My comments are below. Dr. Peters writes, I have long held that nothing can rehabilitate the institution known as the Legion of Christ nor any of its affiliated works, and I’ve seen nothing in the last three years that [...]

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Before Mass: 1 or 3 Hour Fast?

August 29, 2013

Interview note from my friend Dr. Edward Peters (his opinions are not necessarily mine; I post this for information and discussion only) This afternoon at 5:15 Eastern, Drew Mariani (Relevant Radio) and I [Ed Peters] will be talking about my suggestion that the fast required for holy Communion be re-extended to three hours (up from [...]

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“Please Pray for Tom Peters” from his Dad, Canon Lawyer Ed Peters

July 18, 2013

Please consider invoking Felix Cappello, SJ, for Thomas Peters by Dr. Edward Peters I tell my kids what my mom told me: to pray for the sick and the poor every day if only because any of us can find ourselves being either or both at any time.

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In Light of the Zimmerman Acquittal – Self-Defense?

July 14, 2013

There will be many opinions and the discussion and wrangling will go on for quite a while, I suppose. Unhappily, this promises to further divide our country, especially along racial lines. However, I am not getting into that discussion here. Rather, it is important to understand the teaching of the Church on the matter of [...]

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Gays, Boy Scouts and Catholics

May 26, 2013

Thoughts for Catholics impacted by the Boy Scouts of America membership policies, by Dr. Edward Peters Steve Ray’s Comments Below. Two groups of Catholics are directly impacted by the decision of the Boy Scouts of America to formally admit as scouts youth who profess a same-sex orientation, namely, Catholic sponsoring organizations and Catholic scouts and [...]

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Suicide in Notre Dame Cathedral; Violation of Sacred Space; Protest Against Gay Marriage?

May 21, 2013

Suicide in Notre Dame Cathedral by Dr. Edward Peters 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 [...]

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Gay Marriage and Communion

April 25, 2013

Post-script on the Detroit debate over Catholics and holy Communion by Dr. Edward Peters A few days ago I gave written interview to Lauren Abdel-Razzaq of the Detroit News on the question of Catholic supporters of “gay marriage” approaching for holy Communion. Abdel-Razzaq quoted me accurately if not quite as precisely as I wrote and I’ve [...]

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Canon Lawyer Ed Peters Comments on Vatican Press Offices Unfortunate Comments about Disregard for Liturgical Law with Foot-washing

April 1, 2013

UPDATE 4/6/13 Ed Peters Responds to a critic Ed Peters Discusses Disregard for Liturgical Law in Washing Women’s Feet and Unhelpful Response from the Vatican Press Office. The background to this controversy is the antinomianism that prevails today. The Church is passing through a period in which the relationship between ecclesiastical law and the [...]

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So, the Pope Washed Female & Muslim Feet on Holy Thursday (updated Friday 9:00 AM EST)

March 28, 2013

Ed Peters Discusses Disregard for Law in Washing Women’s Feet USA Today Catholic World Report UK Telegraph, included kissing foot of a young Muslim woman Full Content of Pope’s Holy Thursday Foot-washing Mass New: Vatican’s Comments on Pope Francis Washing Women’s Feet Jimmy Akin’s Comments here. Fr. Longnecker’s comments Fr. Z’s comments AP’s Pope’s Foot-washing [...]

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