Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What is a Convalidation?

DISCLAIMER: Please note that this is not a definitive guide to convalidations. Please get in touch with your parish priest or your local Marriage Tribunal directly if you have any further queries. 

Convalidation (meaning "with validation") refers to a simple process by which a marriage that is considered invalid is made valid by an act of new consent between both husband and wife (Can. 1157). A convalidation is simply thought of as a “blessing” given by the Church to make the marriage valid and sacramental, but it is more than this. Convalidation, as stated earlier, requires a new act of consent between the parties involved, the husband and wife. If the current union is thought to be invalid by one or both parties involved, then convalidation must be sought after in order to make the marriage both valid and sacramental. This does not mean that the husband and wife must have a new wedding ceremony - it is assumed that there were no impediments to the union in the first place and that full consent was exchanged – but the marriage must be recognised by the Church. The marriage, prior to convalidation, is assumed to be licit, but not valid in the eyes of the Church and this could be for a couple of reasons: 

- one of the parties is a Catholic but has married a non-Catholic without a dispensation (or “blessing”) from the local ordinary (e.g. the local bishop); or 
- the marriage was not performed in a Church (i.e. by a Catholic priest) and without canonical dispensation  

If a dispensation was given prior to the marriage then the marriage is both valid and sacramental. Those who marry outside of the Catholic Church can no longer receive the Sacraments. By convalidating the marriage it retroactively becomes sacramental and both husband and wife are able to participate fully in the Sacraments of the Church. 

Converts to the Catholic Church from another Christian faith tradition may be wondering if their marriage is considered valid in the eyes of the Church when they are received into communion with the Church. The answer is ‘yes’, the marriage is considered valid given that both parties were validly baptised and proper consent was exchanged; the marriage would also be considered sacramental. 

If for any reason you believe that your marriage is not valid, then you should – at your earliest convenience – contact your parish priest (or the parish office) to put you in touch with the local ordinary or marriage tribunal so that you may obtain convalidation. 

If your marriage requires convalidation then the local ordinary will give some instructions on what you will be required to do in preparation or what should be done/avoided in the meantime. These may include – if the marriage is considered invalid – for the husband and wife to live together chastely as “brother and sister” until the marriage is convalidated; abstaining from the Eucharist until having attending confession; and abstaining from the Eucharist until after the marriage is convalidated. This is so as to avoid scandalising others. The couple should of course continue participating at Mass every Sunday and every holy day of obligation. The local ordinary or parish priest will provide you with the counsel you require. 

“’So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’" – Matthew 19:6

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Basics of Annulments

DISCLAIMER: Please note that this is not a definitive guide to annulments. Please get in touch with your parish priest or your local Marriage Tribunal directly if you have any further queries.

A common misconception people tend to make about annulments is that an annulment is “Catholic divorce”. This is a misleading and highly inaccurate summation. 

An annulment (also referred to as a “declaration of nullity” or “declaration of invalidity”) is a process and statement of fact by which the legal arm of the Catholic Church, guided by canon law (N.B.: the Code of Canon Law applies only to Roman Catholics of the Latin Rite), examines a couple’s divorce or separation to determine whether the marriage union was valid or not. In this process it is determined whether certain impediments to the marriage existed, i.e. whether there were circumstances or issues that would have rendered the marriage invalid to begin with. This being the case, in simple terms, the marriage “never existed” (it was not a valid marriage) and a declaration of nullity would be declared. 

There is a moment during the marriage ceremony (the Nuptial Mass) when the celebrant will ask the couple the following question (or similar to) prior to the declaration of consent: 

“(Name) and (Name), have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?” 

It is something you may not have thought of before or considered, but this question is asked to ensure that there are no impediments to the marriage, i.e. nothing that would render the marriage invalid. It does happen, however, that consent is given to marriage and impediments to the marriage are learned of some time after the day of the wedding. If such impediments existed, the marriage was never valid to begin with. 

Some examples of impediments to marriage include: 

- Age, i.e. if the man and the woman are not of the age pre-required by the conference of bishops (Can. 1083 §1); 
- Impotence or the incapacity to consummate the marriage (Can. 1084 §1, §2, §3); - Previous marriage (Can. 1085 §1, §2); 
- Marriage between a Catholic and an unbaptised that has not been granted a dispensation (Can. 1086 §1, §2, §3); 
- If one or the other is currently received into the Sacrament of Holy Orders (Can. 1087)

If you strongly feel or suspect that there were impediments to your marriage, then – with prayer and discernment - you should take the following steps: 

1. Contact your parish priest (or the parish office) and ask them to give you the details of the local Catholic Marriage Tribunal (or simply referred to as the “Marriage Tribunal”); 
2. Book an appointment to discuss your case with the judicial vicar (typically a priest specialising in canon law); and 
3. When discussing your case, be as detailed as possible. Witnesses may be called in by the judicial vicar(s) investigating the validity of your marriage and they may be required to give testimony to the circumstances surrounding the union from its early stages to its current state. A cost will more than likely be applied in order for the investigation to take place, and the cost may vary depending on the length or the inquiry but flexible payment options are made available. Those enduring financial hardships may have their fees waved or reduced so as not discourage those that have initiated the inquiry. 

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." – John 8:32

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What if I'm Catholic and Divorced?

The sacrament of marriage is highly regarded in Catholic Church. 

“Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family - a domestic church.” – Blessed Pope John Paul II 

The Church affirms that separation and marriage failure can be the cause of much heartache and anger for everyone involved. Catholics can be assured, however, that the Church ensures and seeks to uphold the moral and spiritual welfare of all involved. The dignity of the person and the protection of the sacrament of marriage is paramount. 

If you are a Catholic and are currently divorced or have been divorced before, there are some very important things you should know. 

When Christ was asked by the Pharisees if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause (Matthew 19:3), Christ replied this way: 

“He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female’, and said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’" – Matthew 19:4-6 

It is for this reason that Christ’s church, the Catholic Church, is fervently opposed to divorce and maintains the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage. 

“The Lord Jesus insisted on the original intention of the Creator who willed that marriage be indissoluble. He abrogates the accommodations that had slipped into the old Law. Between the baptized, ‘a ratified and consummated marriage cannot be dissolved by any human power or for any reason other than death.’” – CCC, par. 2382 

“Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society.” – CCC, par. 2385 

God Himself created marriage. By the sacred union of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, it is clear that from the beginning man and woman are made for each other. In becoming “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) the two are no longer two but one and inseparable, freely and willingly giving of each other’s whole selves reflecting the unitive covenant love the Heavenly Father has for us. 

“The married couple forms ‘the intimate partnership of life and love established by the Creator and governed by his laws; it is rooted in the conjugal covenant, that is, in their irrevocable personal consent.’ Both give themselves definitively and totally to one another. They are no longer two; from now on they form one flesh. The covenant they freely contracted imposes on the spouses the obligation to preserve it as unique and indissoluble. ‘What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’” – CCC, par. 2364 

Christ’s own teaching on the indissolubility of marriage is echoed in the writings of St. Paul in his letters to the Romans. St. Paul, stemming from Christ’s teachings, explicitly states that the marriage covenant is ended only by the death of the spouse (hence why we declare in our wedding vows “til death do us part”) and that “remarriage” or pursuing a relationship with another while the spouse is still alive is considered adultery, a mortal sin. This applies to both men and women. 

“Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies she is discharged from the law concerning the husband. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.” – Romans 7:2-3 

“Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery: 

If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery, and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another's husband to herself.” – CCC, par. 2384 

While this truth may be difficult to accept, if you are a Catholic and divorced, you needn’t despair nor feel despondent. It should be noted that a separation between the husband and wife while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law (CCC, par. 2383). 

“It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law; this spouse therefore has not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage.” – CCC, par. 2386 

The Church, through her wisdom - guided by the Holy Spirit – as Christ redeems the human race from sin by His death and resurrection making each of us a new creation in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17), so too the Church works to free God’s children from the burden of divorce.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

My Catholic IQ

I'm going to give the following website a bit of a plug while at the same time sharing how I went with the test. At CatholicIQTest you can - as the title implies - test your knowledge of all facets of the Catholic faith. Topics covered range from Scripture, Prayer, Dogma, Mass, Sacraments, Miscellaneous, etc. I took a screenshot of my score:

Look at that; not bad for a layperson, hey? A lot of room for improvement, I must admit. Questions about the Old Testament left me guessing and obviously I need to get to know the Mass a bit better.

The test results will tell you how well you did in each section.

Are you keen to take the test yourself? If so, let me know how you go.

God bless.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Science vs. Religion: Turning Swords into Plowshares

I taught a lesson very recently where I was discussing the Big Bang theory with my senior students. About halfway into my spiel a student of mine sitting at the back of the classroom put his hand up and blurted out sounding frustrated, “You’re a Christian, and a man of religion … I thought that you didn’t believe in science.” What an unfortunate and disappointing presumption. Nonetheless, it got me thinking: “Why is there an apparent dichotomy between religion and science? Why can’t one be religious and be a proponent for science and vice versa?”

Rather than replying to that student with, “Just because …” or “It’s my choice, yadda, yadda, yadda …” I decided to ask this student this question, “Do you happen to know who first conceived the idea of the big bang theory?”
“I dunno … some scientist?”
“Yes, he was a scientist. His name was Fr. Georges Lemaître.” 

Yes, the “father” of the big bang theory was a Catholic priest. Not only that, Fr. Lemaître applied Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity to cosmology, which helped Einstein perfect his calculations on the gradual expanse of the universe.

What’s the lesson here? Religion is not allergic to science and science is not allergic to religion. The work between Lemaître and Einstein is just one example of how investigation through the human senses can work harmoniously with faith for the betterment of ourselves.

"Faith and science: 'Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.' 'Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.'" - Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 159

“Basic scientific research, as well as applied research, is a significant expression of man’s dominion over creation. Science and technology are precious resources when placed at the service of man and promote his integral development for the benefit of all. By themselves however they cannot disclose the meaning of existence and of human progress. Science and technology are ordered to man, from whom they take their origin and development; hence they find in the person and in his moral values both evidence of their purpose and awareness of their limits.” – ibid., par. 2293

Besides, don’t all scientific pursuits begin with a leap of faith?