Can You Become Catholic If You’re in an Irregular Marriage?

Q: A coworker and friend needs help with a really tough question about canon law. This one has stumped some of the best canonists in our area.

My friend is an Anglican who wants to convert to Catholicism badly. He is married and was never married before.  His wife was married before… she and her previous husband are both Fundamentalist Baptists (staunch anti-Catholics).

Obviously she needs an annulment for my Anglican friend to enter the Church. However, she doesn’t want him to become Catholic…. She is familiar enough with our canon law to understand that refusing to get an annulment is enough to keep him out of the Church. So she does this to try to force him to choose between the Church and her.

My friend is heartbroken over this. He knows the Catholic Church is the only true Church, and he wants in, but he is being kept out by his wife’s refusal to cooperate with the annulment process.

Is there any hope for him in canon law? Is there any way he can bring a case before the Church against her previous marriage, without involving her in the process? –Shane Continue reading

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Can I Get an Annulment If My Ex-Spouse Refuses to Cooperate?

Q: I want to try to get an annulment, but my ex-wife has already informed me that if I do, she will not cooperate with the marriage tribunal.  She is taking this position out of spite, of course, because she wants to prevent me from remarrying in the Church.

I spoke to both my pastor and a tribunal official, and both of them said I can submit the annulment petition anyway, and they can proceed without my ex-wife’s input.  But I can’t tell if they’re just saying this to try to be nice to me.  Does my petition have any chance of approval, if they’re only getting my side of the story?  Additionally, I’m wondering if my ex-wife won’t cooperate, and I manage to get an annulment without her involvement, can she later get the decision overturned? –Craig Continue reading

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Could a Pope Ever Be Excommunicated? (“Excommunication” Defined)

Q: There are certain enumerated acts which trigger automatic, latae sententiae excommunication.  Some of these acts could conceivably be performed by a Pope; for instance, it seems a Pope could help procure an abortion.  Is it, then, theoretically possible for a Pope to be excommunicated?

When I have asked others about this in the past, the response has usually been, “God forbid that a Pope would do such a thing!” I agree with that sentiment, of course, but it dodges the question.

My guess is that, were a Pope to abuse his free will in this way, God would short-circuit the dilemma by striking him dead before the theoretical problem became a real dilemma. –Howard Continue reading

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Can a Pope Commit Heresy? (“Heresy” Defined)

Q: In theory, can a Pope commit heresy?  If so, I’m trying to figure out who could declare that he was a heretic. What would happen? –Thomas

A: This question had already been asked, before the September 24 announcement that a group of Catholic scholars from around the world had issued a “filial correction” to Pope Francis, warning him that some of his statements and writings have caused heresy to spread within the Church.  Needless to say, the news renders this discussion more timely than ever. Continue reading

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Canon Law and Simulating the Mass

Q: Last week we visited a missionary priest’s organic farm…. It was Sunday and I told the priest that we were worried that we wouldn’t get to Mass that day, since the farm is far away from the nearest parish church.

So the priest offered to say Mass for us. However he warned us that they do not have hosts or Mass wine.  He said he would use the whole wheat bread we had for breakfast and banana wine they made.

During the “Mass,” the priest did not follow the sequence provided by the Roman Missal, though the readings, Prayers of the Faithful, blessing of gifts, “consecration” and doxology were there.

I was shocked, really, by what I witnessed. But I convinced myself that the priest was aware that it was not intended to be a Mass since he warned us beforehand.

However, is the use of inappropriate species excusable?

We will be going back there…. I am planning to bring unconsecrated hosts and wine if ever we are faced with such an inconvenient situation. I am especially worried since we will bring a youth group there. –Kevin Continue reading

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