Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Thursday, August 13, 2009

A canonical look at the Rick Pitino case

I don't follow college hoops, but those who do will immediately recognize the name of Rick Pitino, coach of a perennially successful men's basketball team at the University of Louisville. Reports indicate that Pitino is an active Roman Catholic and attended at least some Catholic schools.

Pitino admits to having had sex with a woman not his wife some six years ago, learning later that she was pregnant, giving her $ 3,000, and the woman promptly procuring an abortion. Most everything else about the story is disputed, however, including whether the sex was consensual or criminal and whether Pitino gave the money for an abortion or to buy insurance to provide prenatal care.

No mention is made in the reports I've seen that, one way or another, a baby was killed here. Please offer a prayer for this baby's soul, and for all those responsible for this killing . . .

Now, let me go on to ask whether there are canonical consequences arising from the abortion in this case. As I see it:

1. If Pitino gave the woman money with the intention of providing insurance coverage for prenatal care, he faces no canonical problems in that regard.

2. If Pitino gave her the money with the intention of providing insurance coverage for an abortion or with the intention of paying for the abortion, he would have, in my opinion, formally cooperated with the abortion which makes him objectively guilty of grave sin (with consequences under
1983 CIC 916); moreover, he would have provided the means with which this abortion was procured, making him, again in my opinion, an accomplice to abortion per 1983 CIC 1329.

But we may be spared having to think through the 20-plus ways of dodging excommunication latae sententiae (automatic) -- which institute, as I have said before, is disappearing from canon law and should be dropped entirely -- nor need we discuss the admittedly fewer loopholes available to defendants in excommunication ferendae sententiae (formal) cases for the simple reason that the canonical statute of limitations has already run: the abortion canon,
c. 1398, has a five-year "prescription" period per 1983 CIC 1362, meaning that a canonical investigation cannot be opened now regarding an abortion that all sides agree occurred on August 29, 2003.

If Pitino has any concerns related to his eligibility to receive holy Communion per Canon 916, those can be, and should be, dealt with in sacramental confession.