In the preface to my last blog, I made a point of stating that not all questions would be answered. I also requested that my critics please allow me to complete the full explanation of all statements and terms before prematurely jumping to conclusions. Apparently, that was too much to ask. The latest accusations are that these blogs encourage the dissolution of doubtfully valid marriage contrary to the presumption of validity stated in Can. 1014, and that today marriage before a non-Catholic minister in a religious ceremony, contradicting the clear warnings of canonists, must be considered valid, when this event actually falls under the conditions outlined in Canon 2319 §1. Perhaps I should have indicated in the last blog that a further explanation would be provided later, but I have been trying to adjust what is presented here to the questions raised. While I had already intended to write further on this topic, this specific question now has presented itself and is answered below.
Meaning of “attempted” in Canon Law
While marriage is not an offense of course, for two Catholics to attempt it before a non-Catholic minister in a religious ceremony is definitely an offense, as Canon 2319 §1 and Pope Pius XII state. Those pretending attempted means the same as actually completed need to follow the rules of the Code and define attempted. Webster’s 7th Collegiate Dictionary defines it as: “1. To TRY: an unsuccessful effort.” This is simple grade school research that anyone should be capable of conducting. Lest objections be made that the meaning of this word in Canon Law differs from the accepted meaning, the definition of this term from the Code on attempted offenses is provided below.
“Whosoever institutes or omits actions which of their very nature lead to the commission of an offense but does not complete the offense either because he changes his mind or because its completion is impossible owing to the insufficiency or inadequacy of the means is guilty of an attempted offense… If the law decrees a special penalty for an attempted offense, the attempt constitutes a true offense… An attempted offense induces liability which increases in proportion as it approaches nearer to the consummation of the offense although the liability is always less than for the consummated offense” (Canon 2212, °2048 and °2049). This explains why Woywod-Smith state in Can. 2319 that: “The law of the Code has superseded the particular law of the Council of Baltimore [noted in Kinkead’s Baltimore Catechism no. 3, Q. 1040] insofar as the marriage of a Catholic with a non-Catholic before a non-Catholic minister is concerned. But the law of that council remains, we believe, with reference to the marriage or rather attempted marriage of two Catholics before a non-Catholic minister. For the Code does not punish this offense of two Catholics with a latae sententiae censure” (since Canon 2316 mentioned here is only a ferendae sententiae censure).
This is where Traditionalists also err in evaluating these laws, for one of them writes: “Presumption of Validity: Marriage is a unique sacrament because it enjoys the favor of the law. That means that regardless of the type of doubt which may occur after the attempted contracting of marriage, marriages are presumed valid until and unless they are proven invalid.” But as Woywod-Smith explain below, a doubt concerning validity arising in the case of marriage exists only to certainly contracted marriage. Attempted marriages cannot, by definition, be presumed valid; the parties never achieve the completed act, meaning the contract cannot, by Church law, be entered into. Under Can. 1014 Woywod-Smith state: “If a doubt arises as to the validity of a MARRIAGE CONTRACTED, the validity must be upheld until the contrary is proved. No contract which exercises so important a role as marriage… in the lives of Christians should be set aside unless it is absolutely necessary.” But no marriage is actually contracted in the cases being considered here, only “attempted.”
Under these same canons, Dom Charles Augustine also notes: “The external act committed exists whenever one does something which of itself would lead to the perpetration of a crime but does not consummate the crime itself, either because he gives up the criminal intent or because the means chosen are insufficient or inadequate to produce the criminal effect… If attempts at crime have a determined penalty appointed in the law, they constitute separate crimes,” and as Woywod-Smith note this includes the excommunication from the Baltimore Council in addition to Can. 2316, specifically because the offense was only attempted, but was prevented from actually happening by the laws themselves.
So if the attempt to commit this crime had not been impeded by Canons 1063 and 1094, the crime itself would be complete and would be punished with the latae sententiae censure of Can. 2314. Instead it is punished with a ferendae sententiae penalty which applies only because the act of marriage was not able to be competed under the two canons mentioned. Here the canonists expect those familiar with the Code to understand the nature of an attempted offense, a concept that this author intended to better explain to readers of this blog after further research and a better understanding of this concept. The words “seemingly” and “appears” were used to acknowledge the fact that all terms had not yet been fully explained.
Two baptized Catholics cannot marry validly in a non-Catholic ceremony even under Can. 1098 when a justice of the peace is available. Woywod-Smith are saying above that an attempted offense is always punished less severely than a consummated offense and that it is impossible for two Catholics to enter into a Catholic marriage under Can. 1094 or the exceptions provided in Can. 1098, which are to be interpreted strictly. There he says that Catholics must not use a non-Catholic minister if a justice of the peace is available and if for some reason they do so must never allow him to use a religious ceremony. Those quoting our articles to critique them mention only those Catholics marrying before a non-Catholic minister, but omit the important part about the religious ceremony to try and make their fictitious “case.” Nearly all Traditionalists and Novus Ordo members, however, engage in such a ceremony. We move on now to further points to help better summarize these blogs.
Timeline for determining marital status
Some will be wondering how one can determine any kind of timeline regarding marriage validity since the advent of Vatican 2. The following is suggested as a general guideline.
— Those baptized in the Catholic Church prior to 1959 and partially raised in the NO – If married before 1963 (some believe this should be 1965) by a priest whose bishop was appointed by Pope Pius XII and had not left his diocese, is valid.
— All marriages between 1963-March 1969, even those performed by priests under bishops appointed by Pope Pius XII who had not left their diocese: doubtfully valid.
— Trads or NO who have been validly baptized, raised in either sect and marry in that sect were validly married in that sect but not in the Catholic Church.
— Those realizing the Novus Ordo or Traditionalist sects were not Catholic who then left one of these sects to pray at home but later returned to them and married in a religious ceremony before one of their ministers: validly married in that sect but not in the Catholic Church.
— Baptisms are considered valid unless proven otherwise in certain cases, although good reason often exists to suspect them following 1968 and the introduction of the new rites.
All the blogs posted on marriage are based on the fact, examined in great detail on this site, that John 23 was not validly elected and could not provide jurisdiction to anyone following the death of Pope Pius XII. The discrepancy in determining when all this began (1963 vs. 1965) enters in because some believe that the bishops should not be held culpable until the completion of Vatican 2 for failing to recognize that John 23 was a heretic, and the council was not a true ecumenical council. But already in the first session held in 1963 and even before this date, Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton was vehemently pointing out the dangerous direction in which the Church was headed, and he and a few others vehemently protested the propositions proposed at the first session of Vatican 2. Bishops are not permitted to be culpably ignorant; cooperation in heresy is punished with the same penalties as heresy itself. And with heresy comes loss of jurisdiction. Nevertheless, until this question is settled, 1965 can be used as the date in doubtful cases, at least.
Who incurs the censures of Canon 2319 §1
First, we would also like to clarify the meaning of a “sacramental” marriage, since our critics have accused us of assuming that marriage among baptized Catholics outside the Church is not sacramental. “Any two baptized persons, Catholics or not, receive this Sacrament if no diriment impediment blocks their marriage” Sacramental Theology, S.J., Vol. I, p. 378; Rev. Clarence McAuliffe, S.J., 1958). No impediments today, however, apply to us under the emergency law for China. But here we are talking about marriages VALIDLY CONTRACTED, and attempted marriages are never contracted. Even if such marriages were simply unlawful, Rev. Kinkead in his no. 3 catechism tells us that receiving the Sacrament of Marriage unlawfully is a mortal sin and deprives Catholics of the graces of the Sacrament (Q. 1006). Marriages only attempted do not confect the Sacrament, and those marrying validly but unlawfully in ceremonies they believe to be Catholic receive no graces.
It should not have to be said that attempting marriage in a sect that closely resembles Catholicism, but in reality is not even Catholic, is more reprehensible, even, than marrying in a religious ceremony before a Protestant. At least non-Catholics marrying each other validly contract, in the Church’s eyes, and their ceremonies do not pretend to be something they are not. Their members simply are not contracting in the Catholic Church. The following person are considered to be excommunicated according to our best information from the canonists under the Canons mentioned above.
- As a general rule, under Can. 2200, two baptized Catholics in the NO or Trad sects who intend Catholic marriage, marrying before one who is not a priest but presents as one: at least material heretics in the external forum, outside the Church and forbidden to receive the Sacraments (Can. 1063, 2260, 2319). On departing from the NO or Traditionalist sects, may later renounce the marriage as attempted only, and under Can. 104 as an act of fraud or error.
- Those professing to be Catholic with the intellect and means to have discovered that there is serious doubt regarding the liciety and validity of Traditionalist sacraments, but who either attempt marriage before their ministers or remain in their sect despite this knowledge.
- A couple, one of whom at least, for a time, professed to be a pray-at-home Catholic but later returned to the NO or Traditionalist sect and attempted marriage in that sect.
- One professing currently to be a pray-at-home Catholic who inexplicably gives way to human respect or for some other unknown reason attempts to marry before a Traditionalist minister in a religious ceremony.
As Woywod-Smith note under Can. 1098 °1120: “The Church does not dispense in cases of necessity from invalidating laws,” and resorting to a non-Catholic religious ceremony in a non-Catholic Church violates Can. 1094, an invalidating law. Canon 2203 also states: “If a person violates a law by the omission of proper diligence or care, the liability is diminished to a degree to be determined from the circumstances at the prudent discretion of the judge. If the offender foresaw the infraction of the law and nevertheless neglected to use those precautions which any prudent person would have employed, the guilt is practically equivalent to deliberate violation of the law…” Here we are forced to be our own judges based on the teachings of the Church in these matters, relying on Canon Law and Church teachings only. Violators of the law are presumed guilty and must prove their innocence as stated in Can. 2200. This could be done by swearing out an affidavit to this effect and including exculpatory documents.
All those mentioned above in the bulleted points eventually become formal heretics under Can. 2314 if they do not repent within six months. There may be some hope for those who are unable to completely understand the theology of the pray-at-home position, or who are in fear for their souls if they leave the Traditionalist movement. Yet still they are bound by the censure for heresy and schism under Can. 2200 until they are able to present a believable case that proves their innocence.
As far as renewing consent goes, this ideally should be done using Can. 1098 as soon as possible and videotaped and dated to create a permanent record. Even in doubt that consent needs to be renewed, as with all the other Sacraments, a (conditional) renewal is the safest course. For those who must leave the marriage for serious reasons or whose partners refuse to commit to the promises not to molest the faith of the one staying at home and agree that the children are to be raised outside these sects under Can. 1098, perhaps it is best to separate for three years. This would allow for the completion of the probationary period prescribed by Canon Law for those guilty of heresy and other crimes. It would also give reluctant partners time to recant and would allow for study, reflection and prayer to prepare for a reunion or possible new marriage. But if there is serious danger of impurity involved in such a lengthy time period, it would not bind one who wished to remarry before completing the probationary period.
The study of marriage and related research will continue, and any additional information, especially anything that would better explain or change what has already been presented, will be reported.
Instructions on marital purity available
Finally, a refutation of a controversy conducted online for years regarding the teachings of St. Alphonsus Liguori on lawful sexual conduct in marriage has been found in two older, most useful and circumspect volumes written by Canon Alois De Smet. See Betrothment and Marriage, p. 206, Vol. 1: Lawfulness of the Sexual Act Between Married Persons. They can be downloaded here: https://archive.org/details/betrothmentmarri01smetiala and here: https://archive.org/details/betrothmentmarri02smetiala
The foolishness of this world
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice of those men that detain the truth of God in injustice… Because that, when they knew God, they have not glorified him as God, or given thanks; but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened. For professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:18 21-22).
I am not concerned about what readers think of my credentials (or lack thereof) or their opinion of me as an individual. Why? Because I don’t rely on either of these things to substantiate what I write. This blog is not about me. As a general rule, I don’t present my own opinions here — and when I do I say so, even though this only invites jeers from my opponents. I present what the popes, the councils, the canonists and approved authors have written themselves, not what I think about what they have written. They can speak quite well for themselves, thank you. We are to believe what they say and obey, not question what was written or taught by the popes and councils or the individuals they designated to expound what they taught. This is not a high school debate club, and Catholic teaching is not up for debate. Why would anyone think that? Well those who have not had the benefit of a Catholic education would believe, as is now popular in the Novus Ordo and Traditionalist circuses, that all theological questions are open to debate. All this tells us is that their education was decidedly secular and/or Novus Ordo and their thinking poisoned by a modern educational system that was even being condemned as anti-Catholic and dangerous in the 1930s. (Search for Crucifying Christ in Our Colleges, by Dan Gilbert, 1935).
The Church’s general attitude towards public schools and universities need hardly be mentioned here. Catholics were always forbidden to attend these schools whenever it was possible to attend a Catholic school; the Code treats of this in canons 1372-1383. I thank God for my Catholic parents who made many sacrifices to send their five children to Catholic elementary school. I also frequently thank Him for the great grace of being able to learn all three levels of the Baltimore Catechism from the Sisters of St. Joseph into eighth grade, and this before the changes of Vatican 2 wracked the Catholic school system. (So no, I already graduated with “A’s” from that level of education so scarcely need to be “re-educated” by rank amateurs.) I pity those who were not able to enjoy this privilege, but as I have said before, Catholics are expected to move on as adults as best they can in these times and obey Pope Pius XII’s command to carry on in the absence of the hierarchy.
(Note: The Kinkead Baltimore Catechism is only a starting point because it does not offer a complete assay of all the Church taught up to the death of Pope Pius XII. Taking on the duties of the hierarchy as Pope Pius XII commands requires much greater study and research. According to this manifestation of his will as a lawgiver, we are obligated to make certain everything is done to obey and uphold “the laws of the Church and ecclesiastical discipline,” as he instructed when commissioning the faithful to supply for the hierarchy. This is why there must be insistence on obeying Canon Law and everything taught by the popes. The Kinkead Baltimore Catechism, which we consider the most reliable, was written prior to the Code and many of the Church’s laws and teachings are therefore not included in the scope of this work, although later editions were updated to some extent. It is our opinion, however, that while approved, some of these later editions are liberal in nature.)
Those touting degrees received from secular or Novus Ordo institutions as evidence of their credentials and superior knowledge are only demonstrating their ignorance of Catholic teaching on this subject. And the higher the level of education even in the best of these cesspools, the worse the effects of the indoctrination received. All PhD means today is excrement piled higher and deeper. Unless re-educated in Catholic institutions truly grounded only in Catholic philosophy, such persons would not be allowed to act as Catholic teachers. Truly Catholic universities were struggling even in the 1940s and 1950s. They died in the 1960’s. Anything after that was nothing but pure heresy, apostasy and licentiousness. Leading Traditional “clergy” received degrees from these secular institutions in addition to their training in so-called seminaries operating outside the laws of the Church. They and their students are the supposed “experts” in law and theology today. And like the elite we see ruling in the political sphere, they rule absolutely. But where does their so-called knowledge issue from? The polluted founts of modernism, rationalism, naturalism, pragmatism, traditionalism and all the many isms that foul these secular institutions, and without the Church they are ALL secular institutions. Even non-Catholic conservatives today are horrified by what is taught in these “hallowed halls” of education.
Christ chose 12 uneducated men to serve as his apostles. Great Roman and Jewish schools of learning existed then, but the apostles had not attended these. Christ Himself comments on this in Matt. 11: 25: “I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones.” And from Acts 4:13: “Now seeing the constancy of Peter and of John, understanding that they were illiterate and ignorant men, they wondered and they knew them, that they had been with Jesus.” Many of the saints had only a basic education; some could not even read or write. If we are to come to Jesus as little children and learn from His lips only, and the lips of His Vicars, we cannot carry with us the hateful philosophies of this world.
There are those who will use the age-old tactic of divide and conquer to try and convince the unwary that only the enlightened ones who have imbibed the teaching of devils blessed by a degree can properly instruct them in spiritual or secular things; thus did the Gnostics deceive many Christians in the early ages. But these tactics will succeed only as far as God allows. We are in His hands and must pray we ever remain there.
“Those already praying at home who now are seeking release from marital situations or suffering from anxiety about the validity of their marriages will be surprised to learn that they are not considered validly married under Canon Law if they were married by a Traditional or Novus Ordo minister whom they believed to be a true priest, but who in fact could not validly witness the marriage.” This is the second paragraph of the first article written on marriage. It is clear from this paragraph that in this series I was addressing ONLY those praying at home or considering the pray-at-home position. Given the consistent stand on this site that Traditionalist and Novus Ordo believers are not Catholic it would be ludicrous to think I was addressing anyone else here as “Catholic.” Any true Catholic who knows about these laws would have an obligation to notify pray-at-home individuals that such laws exist and apply to them. Not to do so would be a grave sin and would definitely not be in keeping with the safer course in all things involving the Sacraments which has always been advocated on this site.
Catholics must have absolute certainty regarding the validity of the Sacraments. A doubtful law has no force only when it involves the lawfulness of an act, not its validity. It is the unanimous opinion of theologians based on the teaching of Bd. Pope Innocent XI that the safer course must always be taken when a doubt concerns the validity of a Sacrament, and it is a mortal sin to do otherwise. Canon 1094 treats of validity, not lawfulness. Unless one renews vows under Can. 1098 after leaving any non-Catholic sect, the contract they made in that sect is not considered valid in the Catholic Church; only when vows are renewed does their marriage become sacramental having been previously invalid. Marriage in non-Catholic sects between two baptized non-Catholics is sacramental in the sense that two validly baptized persons receive the sacrament, but not the full complement of graces necessary to their state; it is sacramental only in a wide sense. For they are not members of Christ’s Mystical Body, which alone assures them of the fullness of those graces. Deny that and you are outside the Church. This will be better explained in a future article.
Those “reeling” at the damage to marriages they claim will follow from making these laws of the Church known must not be very confident in the faith and good will of those praying at home. The “damage” they predict will apply to relatively few; a good number of those praying at home have already renewed their vows. What they seem to be envisioning is the damage that might result if those in the Traditionalist sect start questioning the validity of their marriages. And this would be a bad thing? And is this even a valid concern? As stated before, it is highly unlikely that those in the Novus Ordo or Traditionalist sects will ever leave those sects in large numbers to pray at home. A few here and there perhaps, but that is all. So what are those opposing the release of this information really objecting to and why? Could it be:
- The laws of the Church, based primarily on papal and conciliar law
- The fact that we are bound to observe those laws unchanged during an interregnum to remain Catholic
- That many of these laws and their true import have been suppressed and obscured for decades and are now coming to light
- That perhaps this might create additional fissures in the already shaky foundations of certain Traditionalist organizations
Honest answers to these questions might help explain their true motives for objecting to these blogs.
Thank you. These days of apostasy are difficult in more ways than we can imagine. We must remember foremost, “O Mary, our hope, have pity on us” JMJ
To those who are thinking it is too hard to obey God’s laws–every single iota of the law–, do not be afraid or discouraged by anyone who says you can’t do it. Simply start studying and learning. It takes time. There are books approved by the true Church that will help you immensely (see Teresa’s site for a list of these). Trad “clerics” repeat often that only the “hierarchy” can understand such “intellectual” things, and they say it is their place to teach the flock. Maybe back in the old days when people were not so educated, and we had valid and faithful priests and bishops to guide us. If you die in the act of trying, you will die in a manner most pleasing to God. Offer to Him this endeavor of learning and all the hardships it may entail so that you can finally do what is right in every circumstance of your spiritual life.
God be with us,