Canon Law and the Private Ownership of Relics (Part II)

Q1: I have a question after your article “Canon Law and the Private Ownership of Relics, Part I” was shared with me.

A few weeks ago, I was in Rome on pilgrimage. I received from a Passionist priest at a monastery there a first-class relic of St. Gemma Galgani, a saint I dearly love. It came at no cost and with an official certificate from their postulator general.

But yesterday another priest informed me that there are directives from the Holy See and canon law discouraging the private ownership of first-class relics; he said that he and others received first-class relics from the same location, but they were taken by the ordinary bishop of a neighboring diocese once the bishop broke the news regarding private ownership of relics.

I was very surprised to have heard this.  The relic was given to me by a priest of the congregation, and it seemed like a very common practice of the Passionist monastery…

As I devout Catholic, I want to do right by God and Holy Mother Church. Your article says that today it is not possible to legally obtain first-class relics from Rome on a personal basis, so I am concerned with the idea that I very innocently but illegally obtained and now possess a first-class relic. Does it seem like this monastery has the legal right to distribute such relics of saints associated with their congregation, or is it an abuse? Why does it seem like few priests are aware of these directives? What should I do? –Phil

Q2: In this article, you spoke of a parish priest petitioning Rome for the relics of a saint to be placed in the altar of a parish church.

I’m interested in knowing if there is anything in canon law regarding other custodians of relics— not the Vatican, but, for example, the religious order to which a saint belonged.  Are there any rules or laws governing how a religious order, for example, acts as custodian of the relics of a saint who belonged to their order?

In the parish where I work in [Europe], we have a number of relics…. Often we get email requests, always from other countries, for us to “send a relic” to a person by mail.  Once an American woman even sent an email telling us when she’d appear in our city and asking where, exactly, she “should go to pick up my relic” of a certain saint. She expected just to appear and walk away with a first-class relic.

Even the clergy can be clueless about “what you have to do to get a first-class relic.”  I could not imagine that a parish priest would not realize that an American vacationing in Europe cannot just walk into a local parish and “pick up a relic” like a souvenir t-shirt or coffee mug… –Cornelia Continue reading

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Is My Confession Valid, If the Priest Changes the Words of Absolution?

Q: Could you please go over the laws and minimum requirements for the valid celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation.  I fear that a lot of Catholics go to confession and hear all kinds of things in place of the standard prayer of absolution.  Could you please tell us what the minimum requirements are?  And whether it is valid if the priest says, “your sins are forgiven,” and nothing more, or “I absolve you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” and nothing more, or “Jesus absolves you of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” or, mumbles his words or silently prays them so that the penitent does not even hear them?

Must the word “absolve” be used, or can the word “forgive” be substituted?

Is the sacrament valid if it takes place in the church parking lot or another public place? For example, the priest is walking out to his car (you’re running late to confession) and you catch him in the parking lot before he leaves and ask him to hear your confession and he does, is it valid?  Are you forgiven?  If the priest hears your confession in his office?  Or a penitent sees a Catholic priest in an airport and asks him? –Mike Continue reading

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Who Decides What Constitutes a Valid Sacrament?

Q:  Canon law makes marriage illicit, not invalid.  In your article “Are SSPX Sacraments Valid,” you quoted Canon 1108.1 that if the marriage isn’t celebrated in front of the bishop, pastor, or his designee, then “the marriage is invalid.”

But Canon Law, and even the keys of Peter, has no power to determine that.

…Illicitness (sic) is fully in the power of Canon Law to determine…. But (in)validity…is in the Power of God the Holy Spirit, and so invalidity occurs purely in the Order of Grace, and Canon Law can’t touch, change, affect, or determine that in any way.

Isn’t it true that the only difference between sacramental and non-sacramental marriage is the presence (or absence) of the Holy Spirit in the 2 spouses?  Therefore… for a marriage to be invalid, there would have to be an absence of Sanctifying Grace, i.e. Mortal Sin.  So this sacrament is effected (to be) valid or invalid primarily in the Order of Grace, not in the order of Canon Law.

Marriage tribunals, operating under Canon Law can only attempt to “guess at it,” after the fact; but ultimately it is God who decides whether there’s a real marriage there.  Canon 1108.1 should’ve said (if it were to be more accurate), “the marriage is SUBJECT TO possible invalidity.” –David, Theology summa cum laude, X College Continue reading

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Becoming (Or at Least Marrying) an Eastern Catholic

Q1:  I find the topic of Eastern Catholic Churches very interesting. So I was wondering, is it possible for a Roman Catholic to become, say, Greek Catholic or Coptic Catholic, and if so, how does that work? –Angelo

Q2:  My girlfriend is Russian and converted to Catholicism last summer.  First question: while converted in a Latin Parish, she is still a Russian Catholic canonically, correct?
Second: We want to get married. Since I am Latin, can my Latin priest marry us?  Does she “automatically” switch Rites when marrying me, or does she remain Russian?  Can she and I marry in the Russian Rite even though I’m Latin? –Matthew Continue reading

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Can a Priest Refuse to Hear Your Confession if He Knows You?

Q1:  I’d like to know if a priest can hear the confession of a Catholic who is married, but not in the Catholic Church?  If not, why not? –Joseph

Q2:  I am an active parish volunteer at my local parish. We recently received a new pastor, and he is very inexperienced…. When I recently went to Confession, he must have recognized my voice, asked me a few questions to ascertain my identity, and turned me away. He said because I volunteer for the parish, he won’t hear my confession.

There are only two priests at our parish and we are in a small town without a lot of other parishes around. It is unpredictable which priest will hear confessions on any given Saturday and if he won’t hear my Confession, I may go weeks without absolution. I have been in the habit of not going more than two weeks or so.

Given Canon 986.1, is it permissible for my pastor to refuse to hear my Confession? –Lisa Continue reading

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