Canon Law

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.

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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 earliest a Mass on the ‘evening of the preceding day’ (c. 1248 § 1) can start and still satisfy one’s Sunday or holy day Mass attendance obligation? This question is not another aspect of the ‘two-for-one’ Mass idea or what texts and readings need to be used for Mass to satisfy an attendance obligation. It is simply, What is earliest Mass may start on the day previous to an attendance-obligation day and still count toward one’s obligation for that next day?

Now, it is very common, at least in English-speaking North America, to answer that question with “Four PM”, meaning that, only a Mass beginning after 4 PM on the day preceding that for which one is obligated to attend satisfies one’s Mass attendance obligation. The reason for this near ‘universal’ response is “Dr. John Huels says so.” And indeed he does: “‘Evening’ should be understood as anytime from 4:00 pm onward. The legislator uses the word ‘evening’ (vesper) not ‘afternoon’ (post meridiem); in keeping with the proper meaning of the word (cf. c. 17) an afternoon Mass before 4:00 pm is not an evening Mass and does not satisfy the [attendance] obligation.” CLSA New Comm (2001) 1445.

When Huels talks liturgy, people listen. And they should. But what qualifies as a ‘universal’ response in canon law goes considerably beyond what English-speaking North America might hold (even if it is held for very good reasons). Consider these overseas canonical commentaries, three of which hold for a noon start-time and one of which holds for a 2:00 pm start time (my emphasis in each).

From Spain: [A]s far as the [understanding of the previous] day is concerned [c. 1248 § 1] expands the schedule to twelve on the eve of the feast day.” Exegetical Comm III/2 (2004): 1901.

From Great Britain and Ireland: What is the ‘evening of the previous day’? Despite the view of some commentators that this [phrase] should be interpreted beginning only at 1400 hours (2 pm) on that day, it is the firm view of this commentary that the evening of the previous day begins at midday (12 noon) on that day itself. GB&I Comm (1985) 702.

From Spain: En cuanto a la expressión ‘el día anterior por la tarde’, oficialmente se aclaró: ‘Expresamente se utiliza una fórmula general para evitar casuismos y ansiedades. Con todo certeza se cumple el precepto mediante la participación en cualquier Misa del sábado por la tarde’. Código edición comentada (1985) 594.

From Italy: La celebrazione, però, della domenica e delle solennità inizia dai vespri del giorno precedente … ossia, secondo una fondata interpretazione, ab hora secunda post meridiem.  Chiappetta II (2011): 522.

Plainly, these scholarly authorities hold for a start-time much earlier than is argued for by Huels. But, even if these overseas authors are not correct (and Huels has some good arguments besides Canon 17 on his side, though, frankly, so do the others), they constitute, I think, a large enough school of thought to allow for doubt of law considerations to enter this discussion in support Catholics who hold any Mass attended beginning at 12:00 noon of the day previous as satisfying their next-day attendance obligation.

Bottom line, this very practical question question (unlike the two mentioned above, over which there is no serious dispute among experts) needs to be investigated more fully, and settled authoritatively.

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Heretic for Desiring Women’s Ordination?

by Steve Ray on 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 Sandell” is, but his pointed-yet-polite question (posted in a combox following Mary Ann Walsh’s recent unfocused essay in America) deserves a pointed-yet-polite (and of course, accurate) answer, so here it is: No, Walter, you are not a heretic for “believing in, and supporting, the ordination of women” but you do seem opposed to the teaching of the Church. That’s bad, to be sure, but it’s a different kind of bad.

In order to be a “heretic” one must, among other things, obstinately deny or doubt “some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith” (c. 751). Such truths are understood as being “contained in the word of God”, and as “divinely revealed”, and as pertaining “to the one deposit of faith” (c. 750 § 1). The point to grasp, though, is that heresy and the consequences of heresy (chiefly excommunication per c. 1364) arise only in the context of matters proposed for belief.

But the Church’s refusal to extend priestly ordination to women is not, at least not according to the flagship document dealing with this question, John Paul II ap. lit. Ordinatio sacerdotalis (1994), proposed as requiring that Catholics accord belief (credenda) to the assertion that “the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women”, but rather, as requiring that Catholics definitively hold (tenenda) that the Church has no such authority. The difference is important.

That the Church can impose for definitive adherence by the faithful some assertions that do not demand belief does not imply that some truths are “less true” than others, but rather, that some truths, though not revealed by God, are nevertheless so important for the support of revealed truths that they, too, must be able to be known and proclaimed with certainty. This notion of a “hierarchy of truths” is reflected in Canon 750—a norm that is just the tip of a magisterial iceberg—but, fascinating as exploring that might be, to answer Walter’s specific question about whether he is a heretic, one need only realize that the assertion in Ordinatio does not require belief and so its rejection cannot be “heresy”.

That said, though Walter would ‘walk’ on a heresy charge, he seems to reject a proposition that is “to be held definitively” and therefore he seems “opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.” Thus, assuming satisfaction of some other canonical elements of the crime, Walter seems at risk of committing a delict punishable under Canon 1371, 1° not with excommunication, I grant, but still by a “just penalty”. Even in age in which one cannot imagine ecclesiastical authority taking action against him for having published his opposition to Church teaching in this area, Walter should reconsider his opposition to that teaching, and, at the very least, refrain from proclaiming it publicly.

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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. http://wp.me/p25nov-AP 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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A Canon Law Primer on Church Teaching Regarding “Same-sex Marriage”

March 27, 2013

A primer on Church teaching regarding ‘same-sex marriage’ by Dr. Edward Peters (Steve Ray’s note: With the Supreme Court of the United States hearing the California case now, this is very much in the top of the news and could be a decision that has profound and lasting effects – like Row v. Wade. No matter [...]

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Annual Lenten Foot-fight: Women’s Feet Washed on Holy Thursday

March 26, 2013

The Annual Lenten Foot-fight by Dr. Edward Peters “The annual Lenten foot-fight is almost upon us. Again. “May I suggest that discussion of this matter begin with what canon and liturgical law actually say (and don’t say) about the Mandatum rite, and that serious attention be given, if not this year then next, to eliminating [...]

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