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June 22, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. Following up on a recent question about a divorced and remarried non-Catholic adult who converts to the Catholic Church, you said that the conversion would not change the status of the person, that he would still be married to his previous spouse and could not marry again without a decree of nullity or the death of the first spouse. Would the situation be any different if the person had been married civilly before a judge or a justice of the peace rather than in a religious ceremony? — D.M., Virginia.
A. No, because the Catholic Church presumes the validity of non-Catholic marriages, whether in a church or before a justice of the peace. “At the risk of some oversimplification,” says canon lawyer Edward N. Peters, “anything that more or less looks like a marriage among non-Catholics is going to be presumed by the Church to have been a marriage, and hence worthy of the respect due to marriage.”
He said that such couples are being held “not so much to the Church’s law on marriage, but what the Church considers to be God’s law on marriage,” which “implies permanence (lasting till death) and exclusivity (having only one spouse).”
Writing in his book 100 Answers to Your Questions on Annulments, Peters said that while baptized Catholics are bound by canonical form, i.e., they must be married before a priest and two witnesses, non-Catholics are not so bound, “although the Church generally expects some type of religious or civil wedding ceremony between non-Catholics.” Thus, marrying before a justice of the peace would seem, in Peters’ view, “to meet the very minimal requirements for a presumably valid, albeit non-Catholic, marriage.” For as long as a former spouse is alive, he said, the Church will consider a person “bound by that first marriage unless and until its nullity is proven in accord with canon law” (pp. 40-41).

Q. I respectfully suggest that your reply some time ago was wrong when you stated that “there is nothing wrong with interfaith prayer services.” There is plenty wrong with them. They confuse borderline Catholics into thinking that the Catholic Church is not the only true Church, which means that many Catholics will ignore many of the harder teachings of Christ and the Church and it will become a near occasion of so many apostasies.
Furthermore, these gatherings put a damper on convert-making activities. Many will point to the Second Vatican’s Council’s Decree on Ecumenism to support the evil practice of interfaith worship, but if one actually reads the document, one finds that the council authorized interfaith dialogue among theologians only, not interfaith worship services. As far as the Holy Spirit is concerned, He does not lead people to jibber jabber. He leads them instead into the Catholic Church. That is, if they are listening. — G.P., via e-mail.
A. In the previous reply, we were not talking about “interfaith worship” or “interfaith dialogue,” but about interfaith prayer services focusing on such issues as peace and justice, the right to life, and terrorist attacks or natural disasters. We fail to see how praying about these issues with non-Catholics will “confuse borderline Catholics into thinking that the Catholic Church is not the only true Church,” or “put a damper on convert-making activities.”
In fact, it was taking part with Catholics in pro-life activities that led former atheist and abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson, and former Protestant and Planned Parenthood staffer Abby Johnson, into the Catholic Church.
You are correct that the Decree on Ecumenism did not authorize dialogue among Christian churches and communities unless “competent experts” were involved (n. 4), and it generally ruled out common worship since it did not “signify the unity of the Church” (n. 8).
However, the document did approve “prayer services ‘for unity’” and said that “during ecumenical gatherings, it is allowable, indeed desirable, that Catholics should join in prayer with their separated brethren. Such prayers in common are certainly a very effective means of petitioning for the grace of unity, and they are a genuine expression of the ties which even now bind Catholics to their separated brethren” (n. 8).
The Decree definitely ruled out a false ecumenism that ignores or waters down fundamental truths. It said that Catholic doctrine must be “clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false conciliatory approach which harms the purity of Catholic doctrine and obscures its assured genuine meaning. At the same time, Catholic belief needs to be explained more profoundly and precisely, in ways and in terminology which our separated brethren too can readily understand” (n. 11).
This is necessary, the document stated, because “it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the all-embracing means of salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who already belong in any way to God’s people” (n. 3).
Other essential guidelines on ecumenism can be found in Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Ut Unum Sint (“That All May Be One”), the document Principles and Norms of Ecumenism, the declaration Dominus Iesus (“The Lord Jesus”), and nn. 820-822 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Q. Can you explain the biblical principle of typology? I heard a speaker mention it, but I wasn’t clear on its meaning. — M.R., via e-mail.
A. Typology is the typical sense of Scripture, whereby certain persons, things, and events in the Old Testament prefigure or foreshadow other persons, things, and events in the New Testament and beyond. For example, Adam, Melchisedech, Moses, and David are types of Jesus, as are the paschal lamb and the bronze serpent that Moses raised on a pole to cure the Israelites who were bitten by poisonous snakes. Just as in the future, those who look at Jesus raised on the cross can be cured of the poison of sin.
The Flood at the time of Noah and the crossing of the Red Sea foreshadow the washing away of sin through Baptism. The bread from Heaven known as manna that God sent to the Israelites during their 40 years in the desert prefigures the bread from Heaven that Jesus gives us in the Holy Eucharist, and Jonah’s time in the belly of the great fish foreshadows the three days that Jesus spent in the tomb.
The Church from her earliest years, says the Catechism, “has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son” (n. 128). . . . Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself” (n. 129).
The study of types makes clear what St. Augustine meant when he said that the New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is unveiled in the new.

Q. How does a Catholic respond to the marriage of a Catholic who was a nun? My first cousin and his wife want her to marry in a Catholic church, but the invitation I just received says that the wedding will be held in a state park. They live in another state, so I have little contact with the bride-to-be. I will not be attending the wedding, but should I send a gift? — A.S., Illinois.
A. If the former nun were properly dispensed from her vows, then she would be free to get married in the Catholic Church. That she has chosen not to do so makes us wonder if there isn’t some impediment to her marriage in the Church. But even if there is no impediment, as a baptized Catholic she is required to be married in a Catholic church before a priest and two witnesses for the marriage to be valid.
As for marrying in a state park, canon law (n. 1118) says that the local ordinary can for a good reason permit a marriage “in some other suitable place” outside a church, such as another church, a hall, a private home, or perhaps a state park, with a Catholic priest or deacon present. However, the choice of the place must always take into consideration that marriage is a sacred event which should not be secularized in a non-sacred setting.
Since the bride-to-be doesn’t seem interested in following Catholic protocol, we would not send a gift.

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