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During Mass this morning at Cincinnati’s St. Cecilia church, Fr. Jamie Weber “convalidated” the marriage of two young Catholics who had been wed previously by a justice of the peace in a civil ceremony.  Since it took place during the liturgy, it provided an opportune teaching moment; I’ll wager a lot of people don’t know such a thing is possible.  So kudos to a faithful pastor and the committed couple.  At a time when so many Catholics are marrying outside the Church, this is the sort of marital reform, i.e., one that leads people out of sin and into a legitimate sacramental life, that our leaders ought to be promoting.  Here’s Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D., in OSV Newsweekly with a convalidation primer:

A “convalidation ceremony” is a remedy for a marriage which has been impeded by some canonical defect. Most typically the ceremony takes place in private in the presence of the pastor of the parish with two witnesses. The convalidation could be one of two types: retroactive or regular.

In either case, the convalidation can remedy the defect of lack of canonical form, or validate a putative marriage where an impediment has been resolved and no longer applies.

Sometimes this is referred to as a “Blessing of a Marriage,” but in reality it is a new act of consent to be married by both spouses. They exchange wedding vows out loud. It can take place during Mass or outside of Mass.

There are cases where the Catholic spouse regrets having contracted an invalid marriage outside of the canonical form and wishes to have the marriage validated but the other spouse refuses to go through another ceremony. In that case, the Church in her mercy and wisdom can grant a retroactive validation (radical sanation) of the marriage per canon law:

“1. The radical sanation of an invalid marriage is its convalidation without the renewal of consent, which is granted by competent authority and entails the dispensation from an impediment, if there is one, and from canonical form, if it was not observed, and the retroactivity of canonical effects.

“2. Convalidation occurs at the moment of the granting of the favor. Retroactivity, however, is understood to extend to the moment of the celebration of the marriage unless other provision is expressly made.

“3. A radical sanation is not to be granted unless it is probable that the parties wish to persevere in conjugal life” (Canon 1161).

Carl E. Olson writes a clearheaded and hard-hitting piece for Ignatius Press’s Catholic World Report on the increasingly clear intention of Francis to overturn Church teaching. His touchstone is the Maltese bishops decision to grant communion to the divorced and remarried. Here’s the wrap up:

Again and again, it is clear to me that this pontificate is working to undermine and dismantle key aspects of the teaching of Saint John Paul II. As one correspondent, well-versed in the writings of John Paul II and the current situation, recently wrote to me: “It is one thing for Pope Francis to have canonized Saint John Paul II … but was this a case of ‘promote to remove’ (promoveatur ut amoveatur)? Yes, let us honor him with canonization but disregard his teachings…” And, again, it must be emphasized that what John Paul II taught on these matters is in complete accord with two thousand years of Tradition and practice.

The current papacy of sentimentality has produced confusion and conflict. As Cardinal Caffera states in a recent interview, “Only a blind man can deny that there is great confusion in the Church.” The clarity that Cardinal Müller speaks of so strongly is not just lacking, it seems to be absent altogether. There are directly competing interpretations of Amoris Laetitia: some by “conservative” prelates who refer to the perennial teachings of the Church and some are by progressive bishops who refer only to Amoris Laetitia and are published in the Vatican newspaper. The Pope’s Exhortation may not always be clear, but his intentions and goals are increasingly so.

Canon lawyer Edward Peters writes a devastating rebuttal, first on his blog and then in CruxNews, of an argument for loosening the Church’s (and Christ’s) teaching on marriage and the reception of Holy Communion based on Francis’s “controverted” document Amoris Laetitia. Here’s the … crux of it:

First mistake: Keller writes, ‘As I respond [to Irma’s request for Communion], I must follow the guidelines that Pope Francis described in Amoris Laetitia, issued after the discussions and discernment of two Synods of Bishops on family life.’

Wrong. In administering holy Communion to a member of the faithful, Roman Catholic ministers are bound not by ‘guidelines’ supposedly fashioned from a single, ambiguous, and highly controverted papal document, but instead by the plain and dispositive text of another papal document, one called the Code of Canon Law, and by the common and constant interpretation accorded such norms over many centuries.”

Fr. Raymond de Souza has written a thorough history of and “look ahead” to the controversy surrounding Francis’s deceptive and divisive exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia. In it he lays the blame for the crisis squarely where it belongs: at the feet of our worldly pope. Kudos to Fr. de Souza for writing it and to the Nat’l Catholic Register for publishing it.  Here are the closing paragraphs:

To date, the defenders of Amoris Laetitia have not offered arguments as much as undemonstrated assertions and appeals to authority. Without a convincing argument to demonstrate why Amoris Laetitia does not run afoul of Veritatis Splendor, which it prima facie does, attacking those who raise questions remains only a short-term political tactic.

The magisterium is not, over the long term, shaped by such tactics.

We live, though, in the immediate term, where such tactics have their impact.

The year after the year of Amoris Laetitia will thus be one of greater acrimony and division, with those close to the Pope questioning the integrity of those who insist that, indeed, the cross of Christ has not lost its power and, in fact, remains that which makes possible the joy of love — even in the 21st century.

It hasn’t always been easy to get local numbers and growth rates for seminarians in formation for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, as the powers that be at Mount St. Mary of the West generally release aggregate figures that include men from other dioceses who study here. Fr. David Endres, Dean of Academics at MSMW, breaks it down for us in his latest Q&A column for the Catholic Telegraph of Cincinnati:

Throughout the country, the number of men studying for the diocesan priesthood in graduate-level seminaries such as Mount St. Mary’s/The Athenaeum of Ohio is around 2,800. Before the recent increases in seminarians during the last five years, one would have to go back to 1980 to find a similar number of men studying for priesthood.

Locally, the increase in vocations has accompanied the prayer for vocations that Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr first introduced in 2011. Begging the Lord, the “harvest master,” has resulted in more laborers for the vineyard. Since beginning the diocese-wide prayer effort, the number of seminarians for the archdiocese has increased from 33 to 51.

My spiritual New Year’s resolutions are as follows:

  1. Pray more.  Daily Rosary, Daily Mass, Evening Prayer, Morning Offering, mental prayer.
  2. Read more. In Conversation with God, Lectionary, Saint of the Day, Catechism in a Year, Popes in a Year, St. Thomas’s Summa Theologica, Dante’s Divine Comedy.
  3. Do More. Volunteer more regularly and more often, e.g., at St. Margaret Hall and neighboring parishes.
  4. Drink Less.  Two per day is plenty.
  5. Write more.  Daily journal, essays and op eds, and occasional blog posts (I realize blogging is somewhat passe these days).

When I was a wee lad in Rochester, New York, I looked forward to each December when my parish released its Catholic calendar for the new year. My favorites were the ones that featured sacred artwork, but since I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, I had to content myself with my share of landscapes and cuddly pictures. St. Gertrude’s calendar for 2017 is probably the best calendar I’ve ever seen, with details for each feast, catechetical information on noteworthy saints, a list of the Sunday readings, and plenty of gorgeous artwork. Someone obviously chose this calendar with care. (Saint Gertrude of Cincinnati’s Madeira neighborhood hosts the Dominican priory for the Province of St. Joseph.)

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