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The mid-air marriage gets muddier

January 19, 2018

Popes on planes aren’t supposed to be a setting from which to draw fodder for canon law essay exams, but as far back as Pope Benedict XVI, such flights have occasioned more than their fair share of papal words or actions carrying canonical implications but undertaken with little apparent advertence to canon law.

Let’s start with some fact questions in regard to the mid-air marriage recently officiated by Pope Francis. It is emerging that maybe the wedding wasn’t as spontaneous as reported, that maybe the happy couple were not “astonished” at the pope’s allegedly sudden idea, and that maybe the ‘Here?!’ and ‘It was a great surprise’ portrayals were expected.

Last month, in an interview published in, Podest and Ciuffardi, picked to serve on the cabin crew for the papal visit, talked about their civil marriage from some eight years ago (which they had been too busy to convalidate), and stated that they “both hope that in January this delayed [wedding] plan can finally take place on the plane and be officiated over by none other than Pope Francis himself. ‘We would like it. This is our place, our second home, it is where we feel secure.’” *

C’mon, someone was obviously planning something. It would be interesting to know who and what.

In any event, a slurry of canon law exam questions can be drawn from this event in light of other facts, assuming they are facts (see my D&A no. 3 to the right), as discussed here, including:

— Defend the assertion that “convalidation” in a lack of form situation differs from a “wedding” only in regard to accidentals. Be sure to discuss Canon 1160.

— Discuss whether the official minister at a Catholic wedding can serve as one of the two other “witnesses” for purposes of canonical form (Canon 1108).

— Explain how the manifestation of consent to marriage is be “asked for and received” per Canon 1108 and the Rite of Marriage.

— Discuss how attention to various norms for the liceity of weddings/marriages contribute to the Church’s pastoral responsibility teach the faithful about the importance of marriage. Include at least three examples.

— Discuss the difference between “convalidation” and “radical sanation”. Include in your answer whether witnesses are required for sanations and whether consent is renewed and accepted in sanations.

— Discuss the canonical and pastoral differences between an ecclesiastical authority figure’s disregarding of the law versus one’s dispensing from the law. Give indicators by which the two actions might be distinguished. You may assume a Canon 91 actor.

— Challenge or defend the continuation of the requirement of canonical form for marriage. If you challenge form, account for Cdl. Ratinger’s 1994 remarks on same; if you defend form, account for its being the first step in the sequence that led to the ‘mid-air marriage’ case of 2018.

You have one hour. Good luck. + + +

* Ambos esperan que en enero próximo este postergado plan pueda finalmente concretarse sobre el avión y dirigido nada menos que por el mismísimo Papa Francisco. “Nos encantaría. Es nuestro lugar, es nuestra segunda casa, es donde nos sentimos seguros”. (My trans.)

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