Friday, May 02, 2008

To Love, Honour and Obey

On the front page of yesterday's Torygraph was a story that has done the rounds of seminaries and Canon Law blogs the world over. Peter Phillips' fiancee, Autumn Kelly, has just renounced her Catholic faith so that when they wed later this month he does not have to give up his place in succession to the British throne.

What a stupid thing to do! He has no Royal title because his mother (the Princess Royal) didn't want her children to bear such weight; he is 11th in line to the throne; he clearly doesn't love her as much as he claims to because his birth right is more important to him; and yet she has put herself in schism for the sake of marrying a man she will divorce in a few short years time!

The reason the Canon Law blogs have been interested in this is because in 2006 the rules from defecting from the Church changed. In order to do so the person has to write to their Bishop to inform him of their intentions, no ordinary lay Catholic will know this and so anyone who simply decides to join the Anglican Communion has not defected, as they might think, but is in a state of schism without knowing it. This means that when the Royal couple wed their marriage could be invalid.

What we Seminarians don't understand is why the Royal Advisors didn't seek advice from the Cardinal or Nuncio of either England and Wales or Canada (Miss Kelly is Canadian) considering this is such a high profile case.

Some have said this is good reason the Act of Settlement needs to be disbanded, other say it is good reason people need to take faith a little more seriously!


Augustine said...

Sadly, if they change the act of settlement, they'll be forced to include Muslims and atheists for 'modern' Britain...

Anonymous said...

Silly girl!

I say she doesn't care enough for her faith...

God bless,

CHI said...

Can anyone ever ‘defect’ from the Catholic Church? Surely a confirmed Catholic is always a Catholic no matter if they are ‘lapsed’, ‘resting’ or even attending another church - as they always have the choice to conform to Catholic practices. Or, are you only a Catholic if you adhering to all Catholic teachings and practices?

Orthfully Catholic said...


Anonymous said...

Interesting! I was once exploring the topic of "Outside the Church there is no salvation", and briefly explored this issue in a short essay here. I'd be happy to discuss/debate. :)

CHI said...

So Autumn Kelly is not committing Apostasy but may be a Heretic and definitely in schism denying herself salvation outside of the one universal Church. But if she can claim ignorance of her acts implications and continues to pursue the will of God with sincerity of heart she cannot be precluded from salvation - no wonder the Royal Advisors didn't seek advice from the Cardinal or Nuncio of England, Wales or Canada! I suppose at some point in the future she could claim to have grasped the complete knowledge and total understanding of the consequences of her actions and return to the body of Christ – as being in a state of schism is subject to the penalty of excommunication which can be lifted by going to confession. I think this mean she can still be a Catholic while taking the Anglican Communion.

Fr John Boyle said...

Hello chaps.

As I'm sure my students of Canon Law would be able to clarify, you are correct in saying that the rules for formal defection of the Church were clarified. Clarification needed to be made since those who ‘formally defect from the Catholic Church’ are not bound to the canonical form of marriage. Whether or not a formal defection from the faith has been achieved is therefore important to verify. If Ms Kelly has not actually formally defected, then she remains bound to canonical form of marriage and, unless dispensed, her marriage will be invalid in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

To formally defect the following conditions must be fulfilled:
- the internal decision to leave the Church
- the realization and external manifestation of that decision
- the reception of that decision by the competent ecclesiastical authority.

Furthermore, the formal act of defection must have more than a juridical-administrative character (the removal of one’s name from a Church membership registry) but actually be a true separation from the constitutive elements of the life of the Church, i.e. it must suppose an act of apostasy, heresy or schism.

Heresy is defined as ‘the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt … of the some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith.’
Apostasy is ‘the total repudiation of the Christian faith.’
Schism is ‘the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.’ (Canon 751)

Anyone guilty of the above acts incurs a latae sententiae excommunication. (Can. 1364 §1)

Can. 1331 §1. An excommunicated person is forbidden:
1/ to have any ministerial participation in celebrating the sacrifice of the Eucharist or any other ceremonies of worship whatsoever;
2/ to celebrate the sacraments or sacramentals and to receive the sacraments;
3/ to exercise any ecclesiastical offices, ministries, or functions whatsoever or to place acts of governance.
§2. If the excommunication has been imposed or declared, the offender:
1/ who wishes to act against the prescript of §1, n. 1 must be prevented from doing so, or the liturgical action must be stopped unless a grave cause precludes this;
2/ invalidly places acts of governance which are illicit according to the norm of §1, n. 3;
3/ is forbidden to benefit from privileges previously granted;
4/ cannot acquire validly a dignity, office, or other function in the Church;
5/ does not appropriate the benefits of a dignity, office, any function, or pension, which the offender has in the Church.

I doubt that Ms Kelly is guilty of heresy. She is certainly not guilty of apostasy. She would appear to be guilty of schism and to have incurred the latae sententiae excommunication referred to above. What should happen now is that her local Ordinary (given her connection with royalty it would perhaps be better for it to be done via the Nuncio) should inform her of the consequences of her actions, inviting her to repent and retract, failing which he should proceed to declare the penalty of excommunication. NB: excommunication does not render one outside the Church, but unable fully to participate in the life of the Church.

Has she formally defected? This depends on whether she has formally submitted her act of defection to the legitimate ecclesiastical authority and whether that authority has accepted it as a valid act of defection.