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Cdl. Mahony’s confirmations are certainly valid and probably licit

May 13, 2013

But for one line*, a Los Angeles Times article on LA’s retired cardinal-archbishop Roger Mahony doing Confirmations looks sound to me.

1. There is no question but that Mahony’s confirmations, insofar as he is a bishop, are valid. Exeg Comm III/1: 528. Canon law would recognize the validity of, say, an Eastern Orthodox bishop’s confirmations, so it would certainly recognize the validity of those administered by a retired Roman bishop.

2. There is little reason to question the liceity of Mahony’s confirmations. Canon 886 § 1 is broadly understood to make lawful the administration of Confirmation, even by retired bishops, in the territory to which a bishop is attached unless competent ecclesiastical authority expressly prohibits it. CLSA New Comm 1084. Now, frankly, I took Gomez’s letter of January 2013, despite its arguably over-broad language, to have basically accomplished that kind of sacramental prohibition, but the almost-immediate ‘clarifications’ from the archdiocese upholding Mahony’s right to celebrate sacraments made it hard to argue thereafter that Mahony was prohibited at all and certainly derailed arguments that any sacramental prohibition was express.

In short, while I am less confident than canonist Cafardi appears to be that what Mahony does he necessarily does with his superior’s approval, I don’t see yet evidence—let alone proof—that Mahony is acting against canon law or Gomez’s directives in administering Confirmation.

* The assertion that Mahony as a cardinal “outranks” Gomez as an archbishop misapplies military terminology to canonical; in every area relevant to their report, Gomez ‘outranks’ Mahony. Indeed, that’s what makes Cafardi’s speculation on this matter plausible. + + +


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