Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Thursday, October 15, 2009

The NCRep's "simple fact" about marriage is simply wrong

Until the National Catholic Reporter repudiates Editor Joe "the-bishops-be-damned" Feuerherd's 2008 screed against the US bishops, nothing it says should be taken seriously. But some of what the NCRep says can be taken for chuckles.

The NCRep is attacking a draft of the proposed US bishops' Pastoral Letter on Marriage (how the editors obtained a copy is unclear). Anyway, one of the rhetorical questions posed by NCRep editors -- one meant, I suppose to embarrass the bishops by alleging their obtuseness in the face of what the NCRep assumes everyone knows -- reads as follows: "Nowhere does the [bishops'] document state the simple fact that the sacrament of marriage is conferred in a nuptial Mass. Why is this so?"

Why is this so? Gee, I dunno, is it 'cuz the bishops realize that a "simple" assertion that "the sacrament of marriage is conferred in a nuptial Mass" would be sacramentally, canonically, and historically misleading, even wrong?

Sacramentally, marriage in the Roman Church is conferred within a rite celebrated by the parties thereto, which ritualized exchange of consent, however, might or might not occur within a Mass celebrated by a priest. Furthermore, even if matrimonial consent is validly exchanged within a nuptial Mass, that exchange might or might not result in a sacrament being conferred, depending on the baptismal status of at least one party. Canonically, the requirement of "matrimonial form", which some moderns assume applies to the wedding Mass, actually impacts not the Mass, but the jurisdiction of the official witness to the exchange of consent, which witness, moreover, need not even be a priest! Finally, historically, it seems that the practice of celebrating most Catholic marriages specifically within a Mass is itself of rather recent origin. So much for NCRep claims about it being a "simple fact" that "sacramental marriage is conferred in a nuptial Mass".

Bottom line, advice from the National Catholic Reporter on how to improve pastoral letters on marriage might be read for possible amusement value, but not for anything that requires theological, canonical, and/or historical accuracy.

Instead, I'd suggest reading someone like
Carl Olson.