Summary of today’s show: The topic of canon law is rarely fun and lighthearted, but Scot Landry, Fr. Mark O’Connell and Chris Kelly make a go of it with a Jeopardy-style back-and-forth, answering questions on the sacraments that the Archdiocesan Tribunal frequently receives. From whether a parent can fire a godparent after the baptism to why you can’t have your wedding on a beach, our panel give informative answers to important questions many people encounter.
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Watch the show via live video streaming or a recording later: BostonCatholicLive.com
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell
Today’s guest(s): Chris Kelly
Today’s topics: Canon Law Quiz Show
1st segment: Scot Landry said there’s a lot going on from All Saints’ Day to All Souls Day to Election Day next week. Scot and Fr. Mark agreed they’re looking forward to the political ads ending. They said a lot rides on the election and when we vote it’s a moral act on which we act on our deepest values. He welcomed Chris Kelly to the show. Scot noted yesterday was the second anniversary of WQOM, of which Chris is the general manager. Chris thanked everyone who donated to the recent fund drive and noted that they are still short of their goal. Donations can be made at WQOM.org.
Scot said on today’s show they’re addressing the 20 or so most-frequently asked questions of the Tribunal and canon lawyers. Scot said they’re going to have a contest to see how well he and Chris Kelly guess the answer. Fr. Mark said his office has been keeping the list of frequently asked questions since 2003. Fr. Mark will ask questions of Scot and Chris.
He started with questions on baptism. Fr. Mark asked Chris the first question: Who qualifies as a sponsor at baptism? Chris said a baptized Catholic. Scot added a baptized, confirmed Catholic in good standing. Fr. Mark clarified that a non-Catholic can stand-in as a Christian witness. He said you only need one Catholic to be a godparent and the other can be a Christian witness.
The second question: Can a parent fire a godparent after the baptism? Scot said the answer is No. Chris said his answer is Yes. Fr. Mark said that Scot is right. He said you can add to record. You can’t change the record because it is history of that day.
The next question is whether you can pick a godparent who is not a Catholic? Chris noted that while it was sort of answered, the answer is Yes. Fr. Mark said the person must be a Christian to a witness.
Scot answered the question whether you can have two godparents who are of the same sex. Fr. Mark said godparent is not the technical word, but are listed as sponsors in canon law. However, the register has a space for one man and one woman. Scot got the question right.
The next question is How does an Orthodox person become a Roman Catholic? Chris answered that since the Orthodox have all the same sacraments, they won’t need to be baptized or confirmed. Fr. Mark said they received baptism, confirmation and first communion at the same and because they are sacramentally valid they don’t have to go through RCIA. Instead, they first have to become an Eastern-rite Catholic by a profession of faith in front of the pastor. They become a Greek Catholic or Russian Catholic. To become a Roman Catholic, there has to be a series of letters between the Eastern-rite bishops and the Latin rite bishop. The Church discourages switching between Catholic rites.
Fr. Mark asked Scot whether parent can be a confirmation sponsor. Scot said the answer is Yes. Fr. Mark said canon law says the sponsors are the same rule as baptism sponsors so no, since the parents can’t be baptism sponsors. The parent can stand in as a proxy and present them to the bishop if the sponsor can’t be present. The Church encourages the godparents to be the sponsor.
Fr. Mark said the next question for Chris is “Can a child who is not of Confirmation age ask to receive Confirmation early?” Fr. Mark said in the Archdiocese of Boston it’s usually 13 or 14 years old. Chris said the answer is No. Scot said Yes. Fr. Mark said Yes, but pastors don’t often realize that. The child has a right to early confirmation if they are ready for it. Scot noted that in a few dioceses where the children receive confirmation in second grade at the same time as first communion and first reconciliation.
Scot said the current score is 4 for Landry and 2 for Kelly.
Next question is whether you need to be confirmed to be married in the Catholic Church. Fr. Mark said technically you don’t although it’s highly encouraged. He said children are often told they have to stay in religious education to confirmation if they ever want to be married. This is incorrect.
This isn’t a canon law question, but Why do some Churches have the Confirmandi in robes and others do not? This one is for Chris. Chris said No and Scot said it’s because the church wants the kids to stand out from the west or to reflect a particular symbolic color. Fr. Mark said robes make it seem like a graduation and it can make it seem like they’re graduating from religion. But because confirmation is a beginning, not an ending, they discourage the practice. On the other hand, they use the robes to cover up kids who aren’t properly dressed.
Onto Penance, Scot was asked Do they still do General Absolution and where can I go to do that instead of individual Confession? Scot said Ys, under certain circumstances, but it’s very rare. You could do it on a plane about to go down. Or otherwise when it is impossible for practical purposes for everyone who wants to receive the sacrament individually can’t. Still, those individuals are encouraged to go individually. Fr. MArk said it’s 100% perfect answer, even when you have to go to individual confession later. Scot said the Church has emphasized that it should be rare for general absolution.
For Chris, Do I have to tell all my sins in Confession? Chris said Yes, however, if don’t remember them all inadvertently, all the sins are still forgiven. Fr. Mark said that was well done. cot asked the status of your relationship with God if you knowingly withhold the confession of a sin because you’re embarrassed. Fr. Mark said the actual effectiveness is up to God, not the priest. He said some people worry about looking bad in front of the priest, but he said the priest has heard everything before and wants to hear a full confession. To not give a full confession risks not receiving absolution. Fr. Mark noted that if you forget a mortal sin and remember it later, you still have to confess it.
Chris asked whether a priest can ever reveal what’s said in confession. Fr. Mark said absolutely no. Scot added that the priest can’t even reveal to the individual that they remember the sin. Fr. Mark said every priest has had a weird conversation with someone who later brings something up from the confessional and he’s supposed to just not respond.
Scot answered Do I have to go to Confession facing a priest? Scot said of course not. You can still use the confessional box or sitting side by side. Fr. Mark said a person can ask for an opportunity for anonymous confession because they have that right.
For Chris, Can I receive Communion if I haven’t gone to Confession lately? He said that we’re required to go to confession once per year at least and if they are in a state of mortal sin, not to receive communion. They are still required to go to Mass.
Onto the marriage topic, Scot is asked whether s non-Catholic marrying a Catholic have to promise to raise the children Catholic? Scot guessed No. Rick Heil disagreed with Scot that if you’re having a Catholic wedding, then you must. Chris agreed with Rick. Fr. Mark said the non-Catholic does not make any process, but the Catholic has to promise to remain a Catholic and to do in his power to raise the children as Catholic. It’s not an absolute promise. The non-Catholic has to witness the promise. Scot gets the point.
Fr. Mark asked Chris: How come my Church won’t give me a real Baptism certificate? Chris said the baptism certificate has to stay in the church’s records. Fr. Mark said the long form of the certificate has to only be given from one priest to another. The long form establishes the freedom to marry and has never been married or has been annulled. These are the Church’s private records. The parish can give a short form.
For Scot: Can a priest marry a couple that has no intention of having children? Scot said it’s a loaded question. People beyond the age of childbirth can be married can be married. On the other hand, if a couple said they absolutely aren’t open to life or open to having children then the answer is No. Fr. Mark said he’s right. They would ask the couple to re-consider. It also doesn’t mean that the couple can’t decide to delay children. He said you have to give the right to your spouse to have children in the union.
For Chris: Why can’t I have my wedding on the beach? Chris said the sacraments aren’t personal or private. We don’t divide the sacrament from the Church. Having the sacrament in the Church unites it to the community. Fr. Mark said a baptized Catholic marrying a non-baptized person is a non-sacramental marriage, so what about those. They are natural and valid marriage, but not a sacrament. Scot guesses No. Fr. Mark said it’s up to the province of bishops to say what’s a suitable place and in our province even for non-sacramental marriages between a Catholic and non-Catholic they must be indoors in a public place and sacramental marriages must be in a church. They then discussed that you can get permission to have a Mass on the beach, but not a wedding. Fr. Mark said people often are angered by the rule.
For Chris: Can I have two ceremonies for my Marriage; one Catholic and the other of my spouse’s faith? Chris said he’s stymied. Scot said in countries where Catholic marriages aren’t recognized by the government, they go to the courthouse to get civilly married first and then go to the church for a sacramental wedding. But if this was about different faiths, then he says No. Fr. Mark said this question is most often asked by people marrying Hindus. A Catholic gets married in one church and then in a Catholic church, did they really fully commit to the Catholic sacrament. The preferred solution is to have the other ceremony with a dispensation and not have one in the Catholic church.
For Scot: Should a priest or deacon celebrate a Marriage if the woman is pregnant? Scot’s answer is Yes. Fr. Mark said a couple preparing for marriage, maybe in late twenties and go to Mass every week, and they move up the wedding, that’s okay. On the other hand, a young woman of 18 gets pregnant and thinks she needs to, he would say wait. That wouldn’t necessarily be full and free consent.
Last question for Chris: How do I get my Marriage which was not in a Church “blessed” by the Church? Chris said they have to go through the parish priest. Fr. Mark said another good answer is to call the Tribunal. He said someone married outside the Church is not validly married and not able to go to Communion and the Church assumes you’re having sex outside marriage, which you can’t confess because you won’t have a firm commitment to avoid that again. So you would have to validate the marriage, by going through an actual wedding ceremony. He said he’s had people come in to have their marriage validated with five kids in tow and it was a wonderful celebration.
Scot asked for a tiebreaker: Does an annulment of my marriage make my children illegitimate? Scot said the answer is NO!!!!!! Chris seconds that. The answer is No. Another tiebreaker: Why does my non-Catholic fiancé need a Catholic annulment? Chris said the Church has to ensure that the natural marriage did not exist in the first place. Fr. Mark said because a Catholic is participating and we recognize that all marriages can be valid. Fr. Mark said if two Jews are married by an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas for two weeks and divorced 10 years later. If one of them wants to marry a Catholic, do they need an annulment? The answer is Yes.
2nd segment: Now as we do every week at this time, we will consider the Mass readings for this Sunday, specifically the Gospel reading.
- Gospel for the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 4, 2012 (Mark 12:28b-34)
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
‘He is One and there is no other than he.’
And ‘to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself’
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Scot said what jumps out to him was the firmness by which he answered the question. God wants us to love our neighbors intensely, but to love God first, putting him first. Chris said he was struck by the emphasis on “you” as in “you must”. There is a personal call to each one of us individually. Fr. Mark said some people don’t love and respect themselves enough and that’s the standard by which we’re supposed to love. He added that St. Therese tells a story about helping a grumpy elder sister every day and was loved by her because she gave her her nicest smile every day. Scot asked whether you can love God if you don’t love your neighbor and can you truly love your neighbor if you don’t love God. You love the neighbor truly when you love them as God does.