Who’s in Charge of the Parish When There’s No Parish Priest?

Q:  We recently lost our priest and the priest from another church was named the administrator.

Now there is internal fighting on who reports to whom and who’s in charge.

I think that the DRE [Director of Religious Education] is in charge of all the various faith committees. The Office Manager is in charge of all office business, maintenance, cleaning and secretarial staff.  I feel that the DRE and the Office Manager are supposed to work together,  but neither is each other’s boss.

I feel that both the DRE and the Office Manager report to the Administrator… I keep hearing that canon law says the DRE is in charge of the parish and everyone reports to her.

What is canon law on this? –Denise

A:  The “canon law on this” is very straightforward, so it’s not clear why there is so much apparent confusion at Denise’s parish.  Let’s first take a look at what the law says about who’s in charge of what, when a parish priest is at the head of a parish (as is the norm).  Then we can look at how things change—or don’t—when a parish loses its priest and is waiting for the bishop to appoint a new one. Continue reading

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If My Ex-Spouse Dies, Does That Make My Second Marriage Valid?

Q1: My first husband and I were married in the Church but then we divorced.  I later married again in a non-Catholic ceremony.  My first husband just passed away.  Does that mean my second marriage is now valid? –Carrie

Q2: If you divorce and remarry outside the Church, and then your first spouse dies, can you receive Communion again? –Rob

A:  Before addressing the legal issues pertaining to this very common scenario, it’s worth noting that as has been said several times before in this space, canon law follows theology. When it comes to marriage, canon law reflects the Church’s theological teaching on this sacrament.  This fact is directly relevant to these two questions, because if you understand Catholic theology on the sacrament of matrimony, the law regarding this particular situation is fairly easy to deduce.  So let’s first review the Catholic Church’s understanding of marriage, and then we’ll be able to see why the law is not so simple as our two questioners may think. Continue reading

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Can You Be Both a Catholic and a Sedevacantist?

Q: I have recently become friends with someone who follows Sedevacantism. It has provided an opportunity for me to be challenged to more fully understand church teaching. Would you consider sharing your wisdom and expertise to explain why Sedevacantism is heretical? –Sarah

A: A tiny but consistent minority of Catholics would identify themselves as sedevacantists, and it’s a phenomenon that doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.  Let’s take a look at what the term actually means, and then we’ll see how its proponents fit (or don’t) into the universal Catholic Church. Continue reading

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Granting Absolution to an Accomplice in Sin

Q:  Many young ladies have approached me with this question: they were taught that a woman who breaks the 6th commandment with a Catholic priest, if she goes to confession to the priest, that her sins will never be forgiven and that she will always face problems the rest of her life.

Then they asked, what about the priest?  If he goes to confess his sin to his fellow priests is he forgiven, or does he have to go to the bishop or the pope to forgive him that sin of the 6th commandment? –Father A.

A: This question comes to us from Africa, where Father A. is engaged in ministry.  Yet it seems a pretty safe bet that it will stump most Catholics (including many clergy) on other continents as well!  Everybody knows that priests can forgive sins in the sacrament of Penance, but what happens if a penitent confesses a sexual sin in which the priest himself was involved?  This scenario is nothing new—it has been with us for many centuries, and so it should surprise no one that canon law addresses the issue specifically.  Let’s take a look, and in the process we’ll see whether or not these young ladies have identified an inequality in the law. Continue reading

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Can Our Pastor Kick Us Out of the Parish?

Q: My husband and I have a very difficult situation with our parish priest.  He refused to allow our daughter to be baptized in 2013…. The Bishop declared that our baby should be baptized but the priest tried to delay things.  The priest announced in 2015 that my husband is not welcome (but did not say we were forbidden to attend) at Mass said by him and that he would deny my husband Holy Communion. He said that we should go to [one of the Masses celebrated for foreign immigrants by a foreign priest].

In 2016 the parish priest interrupted his own homily to tell the congregation that our family isn’t allowed to attend Masses at the parish (which isn’t true) and that we were disobeying the bishop (which isn’t true) and how we hate and despise the priest (which isn’t true).  He then finished off by describing us as crazy. And he did all this from the pulpit in the middle of Mass!

The bishop issued a statement saying the following:
None of the ministers of Communion will deny my husband Communion.
He may no longer question the pastor’s authority.
He may not spread slander about the pastor.
If my husband violates these two points and there are two witnesses who can attest to it, then he will no longer receive Communion in our diocese.

There is only one Catholic parish in our city so it has not been possible for us to switch parishes.  We feel very alone and humiliated, yet we believe that canon law is clearly on our side.  Can you please help us? –Heather Continue reading

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