Posts Tagged ‘Catholic’

Roman Catholic beliefs produce characteristic neural responses to moral dilemmas.

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Although I only have access to the abstract and the sample is small, I thought it interesting to note potential evidence of neurological differences between Atheists and Catholics in processing moral issues:

This study provides exploratory evidence about how behavioral and neural responses to standard moral dilemmas are influenced by religious belief. Eleven Catholics and thirteen Atheists (all female) judged 48 moral dilemmas. Differential neural activity between the two groups was found in precuneus and in prefrontal, frontal and temporal regions. Furthermore, a double dissociation showed that Catholics recruited different areas for deontological (precuneus; temporoparietal junction [TPJ]) and utilitarian moral judgments (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex [DLPFC]; temporal poles [TP]), whereas Atheists did not (superior parietal gyrus [SPG] for both types of judgment). Finally, we tested how both groups responded to personal and impersonal moral dilemmas: Catholics showed enhanced activity in DLPFC and posterior cingulate cortex [PCC] during utilitarian moral judgments to impersonal moral dilemmas, and enhanced responses in anterior cingulate cortex [ACC] and superior temporal sulcus [STS] during deontological moral judgments to personal moral dilemmas. Our results indicate that moral judgment can be influenced by an acquired set of norms and conventions transmitted through religious indoctrination and practice. Catholic individuals may hold enhanced awareness of the incommensurability between two unequivocal doctrines of the Catholic belief set, triggered explicitly in a moral dilemma: help and care in all circumstances – but thou shalt not kill.


Tribunal dismisses Catholic Care appeal and are prohibited from discriminating against gay couples in adoption services

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

For the last five years Catholic Care has been seeking exemption from equality laws which would force it to provide adoption services to gay couples.

Catholic Care sought exclusion from the 2007 sexual orientation regulations and began legal action to change its constitution so it could continue helping married couples only. The Charity Commission refused to give consent to this, and today we have the outcome of the fourth appeal against the Charity Commission decision.

An Upper Tribunal has upheld a ruling by a lower tribunal, which ruled against Catholic Care and in favour of the Charity Commission earlier this year.

Put simply, once again Catholic Care’s appeal against the Charity Commission has been rejected; therefore, they are prohibited from discriminating against gay couples in their adoption services.

You can access the full judgement here.

I don’t have the knowledge to know if there is any further legal recourse available for Catholic Care. It’s hard to imagine them fighting on, but I thought that before.

UPDATE: The Religion and Law blog and Digital Nun have both commented on this case.

UPDATE II: UK Human Rights blog have now posted analysis.

UPDATE III: Law and Religion UK Blog have commented – They mention the possibility of the Court of Appeal.

Thinking about the Year of Faith.

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

“…They called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith…”(Acts 14:27)

Today begins the Year of Faith,  the call from Pope Benedict XVI is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Saviour of the world” (Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei for the Indiction of the Year of Faith).

I imagine many things are planned in and around the varying parishes, from looking deeper into the Creeds, or perhaps looking a little closer at the documents of Vat II, as I plan to do.

Prayer is central to our relationship with our wonderful Triune God, and perhaps during this Year of Faith you have chosen to hone and increase prayer time and/or spiritual reading.

So as it is time for Vespers, below is the wonderful prayer for mission in life, from Blessed John Henry Newman to kick off.

Whatever you do, may we each be blessed during this coming year, as we are drawn closer and deeper in union with our Lord and Saviour.

God Bless+


God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about. +

Some Lebanese don’t like the Pope visiting so attack KFC

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Seriously, you couldn’t make it up could you.

Hundreds of protesters set alight a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Friday, witnesses said, chanting against the pope’s visit to Lebanon and shouting anti-American slogans.

Locals watching the attack said some people were shouting, “We don’t want the pope” and “No more insults (to Islam)”.

One person was killed in this incident.

Of course, the video Innocence of Muslims which sparked outrage across the Muslim world, is also cited as a reason for the violence.

Anyway, I hope the Pope will have a superb three-day visit and I read earlier that he’d declined additional security despite the risks.

Catholic Care Appeal: Children seeking adoption outweigh the impact of preventing gay couples using its service

Friday, September 14th, 2012

For background on the Catholic Adoption agency Catholic Care’s lengthy and ongoing battle with the Charity Commission over refusing gay couples use of their services, see here:

Lawyers for Catholic Care have told the Upper Tribunal that the charity tribunal “misdirected itself” in reaching its ruling against the charity in April last year.

The charity was appearing before Mr Justice Sales at the tribunal on Wednesday in its fourth appeal against a ruling preventing the charity from changing its objects in order to stop gay couples from using its adoption service.

Monica Carss-Frisk QC, for the charity, said that the tribunal had been wrong in deciding last year that the negative impact of preventing gay couples adopting through the charity outweighed the needs of children seeking adoption.

The Charity Commission has twice decided that the charity cannot change its objects to limit its adoption service to heterosexual couples, a decision that was upheld by the charity tribunal in April last year.

….continue (Third Sector)

Ekklesia: Scottish Catholic attack on same-sex marriage ‘may backfire’

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Ekklesia have an article up criticising the move by the Catholic Church in Scotland for upping the ante on the gay marriage stakes.

Firstly, and I only say this intuitively, I believe this may well backfire.

Secondly, in the Ekklesia article there was a quote from an ‘insider’ that really struck a chord with me:

“Trying to impose Church teaching on wider society is a mistake, just as it would be a mistake if the civil authorities tried to force the Church to comply with actions that go against its conscience. We cannot have it both ways.”

Like it or not, this makes sense to me.

What do you think?

A Brief Catechesis on Mental Illness and Violence

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

This piece was written by Jeff McLeod and originally published at Catholic Lane and is reproduced here with kind permission:

The first written catechism of the Catholic Church, known as the Didache, and dated somewhere in the first century A.D., begins with a sentence of great clarity. It should be memorized: “There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways.”

Discussions of the recent mass murders, first in Aurora, Colorado, and again in Milwaukee, Wisconsin confound us. Do these perpetrators simply not know they picked the wrong way? How could they not know? And if they knew it was the wrong way, how in the world can they will to do evil?

Our inner syllogism is a valid one. If a person a) doesn’t know that he is doing wrong, or b) knows he is doing wrong but wishes to do it anyway, then c) there is something wrong with his knowing. We expect the natural process of knowing to involve acting reasonably and willing a good outcome. Something seems to be disrupting the natural flow of things. That something must be either material, such as mental illness, or immaterial, such as demonic possession.

Committing the Error

But let’s back up. We already committed the error when we said that serious crime indicates something “broken” inside, that if not for the intrusion of a foreign thing (a demon or a chemical) this person would have remained pure, would have developed into a virtuous character. This is not true! The disturbing incidences present a good occasion for us to review basic Catholic anthropology. Who are we and why do we do the things we do?

In the Catholic faith, human nature is recognized as good. We are made in the image of God to possess, each of us, a rational intellect and a free will. Every Catholic must remember that these are immaterial powers that are separate from our brain, subsistent in the human soul. This is surprising to many of us, but it’s true. There is no “thing” inside the brain that we call intellect, just as there is no thing inside the stomach called a digestion. These respective processes are facilitated by physical systems like the cerebral cortex, or the stomach, but they are not coextensive with the physical.

To claim otherwise would be a category mistake, analogous to the teenager who after going on a tour of a university asks, “I saw a library, a registrar, a dorm, a cafeteria, and a bookstore, but where is the university?” The university is not just another “something” among the buildings. It is the integration, the organization, and the purpose of all of these buildings, the rules that bind them. Catholics know this. Some highly educated people don’t, as when they search for the gene that makes us believe in God or makes us altruistic. God is the author of the whole genome; it is thus irrational to conceptualize him as a part of the genome.

The Consequences for Mental Illness

A person can’t lack an intellect or will because these are not part of the body. They are powers of the soul and the soul is undivided. Does mental illness take away the intellect? No, it cannot. Does mental illness remove the will? No. Does demonic possession seize control of the intellect and will? No. Satan does not, and cannot possess the soul; only the material part of a person. Our intellects and our wills are sovereign gifts of God.

Aren’t handicapped children often born lacking intelligence? Be very careful here. I have focused in my career on working with people who suffer from profound intellectual and developmental disabilities. I can assure you, I have not encountered a single person in this community who lacks an intellect, or lacks a will.

These lovely children tell jokes. They use metaphors. They interpret novel situations and navigate them successfully. These are the signatures of intellect and will. People with mental disabilities can do things which mechanical robots — built by the smartest mathematicians and engineers in the world — cannot do. The problem solving of developmentally disabled children is done in a halting, tentative fashion, to be sure, just as the running of a person with a neuromuscular disease is halting and tentative. The intellect and will are present. The body does not fully cooperate.

So we are all born in the image of God with immaterial gifts of an intellect and a will. Nonetheless, we are born into human bodies possessing natural resources, strengths and weaknesses, including mental illnesses such as major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder. Our biological resources and our learning history do indeed cause us to develop faster or slower, to have an easier or a harder time.

The artist can only work with the raw material at hand. One can build a stronger bridge with steel than with wood, but both are bridges. What one lacks in strength, the other has in beauty. One can sculpt a life with both a high IQ and a low one. The latter requires an exceeding amount hard work and lots of do-overs, but both such lives are intelligent. Consequently, a person who suffers depression must work much harder to enjoy the consolations of life, just as the lucky ones who do not suffer depression have to work harder to know how to console others.

It seems unfair that we are born with such different lots in life.

The Leveling Factor: Our Human Nature

The Judeo-Christian tradition has always recognized a powerful leveling factor that far outweighs the natural variability among us. It is an article of faith that just as all men and women are born with both an intellectual soul, similarly all men and women are born with an inclination toward vice. We are more similar to one another in our proclivity to sin than we are different in biochemistry.

So we are born into a common human nature. By the Sacrament of Baptism, original sin is remitted, but the inclination to sin remains; that inclination is called concupiscence, the inclination toward error, through which we become inordinately attached to things of this world, to our own desires, to our narrow point of view. This is no surprise to any child psychologist.

The great Jean Piaget showed us that cognitive development radiates from the body outward. A child at first knows only from their ego-centric perspective. Every child first believes that everyone else sees the world literally from his own standpoint. Speak to a child on the phone, and smile as he asks, “Do you see the rabbit outside? See it?” As the child grows, he develops the ability to conceptualize a perspective outside his own. Here he comes to recognize other people as like himself, and he comes to recognize that others might appreciate being valued, loved, and respected.

A very few individuals reach the highest stage of knowing, being able to take the formal perspective, what philosopher Thomas Nagel aptly calls “the view from nowhere.” This is the ability to conceptualize the world from the most general aspect, from a God’s-eye perspective. It is the ability to take a hypothetical stance. This is a difficult stance which recognizes that one’s own suffering, the desire to give something away, to “offer it up” though personally painful, might serve the greater good of the community.

Still, not surprisingly, most individuals as adults remain in a strongly ego-centric perspective. Our intellect and will are itching to achieve great things, but we are bogged down by a perspective we find very difficult to shed. Church teachers have said that our fallen nature disposes us to four vices that contrast with the four corresponding cardinal virtues. In our fallen state we are disposed to ignorance, anger, fear, and desire. The opposing virtues are prudence, justice, courage, and self-control.

Our default state is ignorance, our task is prudence. Our default state is anger, our task is justice. Our default state is fear, our task is courage. Our default state is desire, our task is self-control.

So What Causes a Man to Commit Mass Murder?

We are finally in a position to put some of these pieces together and ask once again: What happened during those awful mass murders? The way of death and the way of life. I hope it’s obvious by now that I would caution that we don’t go from zero to possession, or zero to mental illness quite so fast. The way of death is mundane, it is commonplace. It is to succumb to the fallen nature that drags us down. It is to surrender to ignorance, anger, fear and desire.

According to Catholic teaching, to surrender to our inclination toward evil intensifies that very evil. Psychologists can vouch for the snowball effect observed in impulse control issues such as chronic anger, drug and alcohol abuse, or fear of  certain situations. There is a recognizable spiral directed by those self-fulfilling consequences. Successfully avoiding a feared situation reinforces our desire to avoid it, causing us to avoid it again. Breaking out of this spiral is one of the most difficult things a person can do.

At the spiritual level too, sin begets sin. There are stages of demonic influence, obsession (attacking a man’s body from without) and possession (assume control from within), but in the end, the demonic spirit can only seize control over us when preceded by a willing cooperation with evil. We welcome the personal habits that dispose us to evil. We say “yes” to them with our free will. The good news for every single person who suffers from mental illness or surrenders to spiraling vice, is that every human person has the power to say “no” to these choices too. The bad news is he can only say “no” right up to the moment of death where he is pulled into the pits of Hell.

Devolving into vice weakens the will and disposes us toward greater obsession with vice itself, disposing us to be seized by the spirit of evil itself. Thus, because very person has an intellect and a will, the person possessed by a demon has an indirect role in that possession when he fails to rise up to the life of virtue that he knows in his conscience is the life to which he is called.

Conceptualizing Mental Illness

Does mental illness make it harder to live this life of virtue? Of course it does. Does it cause mass murder? No, the person suffering from mental illness merely has a heavier load. Mental illnesses are biological and chemical disorders that impede the otherwise good and normal immaterial powers of the intellect and the will, in the same way that muscular dystrophy impedes one’s will to run fast. This is a significant conceptualization.

Conceptualizing mental illness in this way, I have long argued that Catholics must accept psychological treatment and medication as consistent with Church teaching, as humane interventions, as a corporal works mercy. Just as a prosthetic leg might help a man with a birth defect walk again, so too anti-depressants serve a prosthetic role in mitigating a barrier which causes us at times to be unable to think clearly, or to give in to despair.

What about the statistically normal among us? Do they have it easy? Consider the everyday evils, say, of texting while driving, or driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Consider the school bully who drives a child to suicide. These are normal people who failed to confront their natural proclivity toward laxness. I love the opening of the novel The Great Gatsby:

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’

The irony, of course, is that protagonist Jay Gatsby had everything a man could want, and still managed to live a life of self-absorption.

In closing on a hopeful note, be reminded that the Catholic faith teaches us to develop the natural virtues daily and habitually, to strengthen our mind and our will to dispose us toward wisdom. The Catholic faith prepares us for supernatural grace which perfects our virtues in ways we could not do by ourselves. May we all keep striving in this vale of tears; may we resolve to be more merciful to the most vulnerable among us. With God’s grace, we will prevail.

Jeff McLeod has a PhD in quantitative psychology from the University of Minnesota where he studied under some of the brightest philosophical minds from the Minnesota Center for the Philosophy of Science. He is an adjunct professor of psychology in the graduate school at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. His full time job is that of a psychometrician and research statistician in the standardized testing industry. He comes from a very large Catholic family. He and his wife of 20 years are grateful for their two extremely talented boys.

Saudi Arabia attempt to block Vatican control of new top-level domain “.catholic”

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Back in June I noted the Vatican were seeking control of the newly proposed Internet address extension “.catholic” and now it would seem that Saudi Arabia are objecting to this move, on the grounds:

This application is sensitive as the term CATHOLIC which has been applied-for as a gTLD string represents the multitude of Christians across the world.

The term has been incorporated into the name of the largest Christian communion, the Catholic Church (also called the Roman Catholic Church). However, many other Christians use the term “Catholic” to refer more broadly to the whole Christian Church regardless of denominational affiliation. Other Christian communions lay claim to the term “catholic” such as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Oriental Orthodox Church.

We do not believe that the applied-for gTLD string (.catholic) should be under the control of one church which cannot, and does not, represent every catholic communion.

Further, we believe that any and all gTLD applications for any name in relation to religion or a specific community should be presented to the whole of that community for evaluation before an application is denied or granted. If this cannot be accomplished then such names should be restricted completely from being used as gTLD’s.

Failure to do so would give the use and control of an important religious name to one group, unjustly elevating its influence above others and permit that group to solely represent a spectrum of different churches.

The current applicant cannot demonstrate that it possesses a monopoly over the term “catholic” nor can it demonstrate that its intended ownership of that term is accepted by Catholics around the world.

To allow this string to be registered may be offensive to many people and societies on religious grounds.

Therefore, we respectfully request that ICANN not award this gTLD string.

So there you go.

Does Catholic Canon law forbid the mentally ill to marry?

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

This was the question I posed on Twitter last night due to hearing that the marriage of a severely mentally ill person might not be valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

As with all of these things, the reality is far more nuanced and sophisticated than might first appear and Mark Lambert (@Sitsio on Twitter) has very kindly picked up the baton and taken the time to write a piece exploring these issues, which I found enormously informative.

Here is the piece, reproduced here in full, with kind permision:

Valid & Invalid Consent in Marriage

Stuart James at eChurch blog (@eChurchBlog on Twitter) has asked a question: “does Canon Law forbid the mentally ill to marry?”

The answer is no, but this post is an attempt to address that question in a little more detail, however in order to understand the answer, we need to layer a bit of information first; we need to understand what the Church considers marriage and what it deems valid and invalid consent to marriage, as well as a little about what canon law is for.

Marriage is a natural right and it includes the right to contract marriage and the right to choose a partner freely. As marriage is a state of life sanctified by a special sacrament it is obviously of great importance (cf. LG 35). By choosing to marry according to the teaching and precepts of the Catholic Church, and holding to the rights and responsibilities such a covenantal relationship conveys the married couple are free to adhere fully to Jesus. For example, Joseph Ratzinger, in his book Daughter of Zion (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1983), speaks of marriage as the form of the mutual relationship between husband and wife that results from the covenant, the fundamental human relationship upon which all human history is based. (p. 23).  When these principles form the foundations which constitute a marriage, the resultant example and witness such a Christian family demonstrates to society, accuses the world of sin by its ontological reality, it’s profound beauty also enlightens and informs those who are seeking truth. (cf. LG 35).

Freedom then, can be seen as a vital constitutive element in human relationships. We need to be free to adhere, to consent to bestow and accept each other, and it is this which constitutes the indispensable element that makes marriage: concensus facit matrimonium (cf. GS 48, Canon 1057 § 1). It is in this context that one can begin to understand the importance and relevance of Canon Law in regard to marriage. When we consider Canon Law in the light of the Church as communio (Gk: koinonia), one may understand how the will of Christ, ut omnes unum sint, (“that they may all be one, even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us” Jn 17:21) is the origin of the Church’s juridical elements. (cf. Ferme, B., Gabiola, J., The Code of Canon Law (Birmingham: Maryvale, 1998), p. 3. Keeping in mind that marriage is far richer, for both civil society and Church, than its juridical component alone may suggest, I want to try in this post, to investigate the rationale behind the provisions in the code of Canon Law that deal with matrimonial consent. I will thus describe the conditions required for valid consent and the circumstances that may render consent invalid.

Canon Law has long considered the moment in a marriage when the two parties become husband and wife.  When considering the body of knowledge incorporated into the Church’s understanding of canonical marriage, it is worth considering the deep and extensive understanding it benefits from through centuries of careful development, which have lent the process great juridical coherence.

The relevance of conjugal intercourse within the contractual process was debated for centuries by canon lawyers. The elements of marriage as a sacrament needed to be balanced in this debate, thus by the middle of the 13th century, the efficient cause of marriage had been identified as the mutual consent expressed in words. Marriage is brought into being by the lawfully manifested consent of juridically capable parties according to the code of 1983 (Canon 1057). This means that there is no essential difference between a consummated or yet to be consummated marriage as it is the matrimonial consent that fully brings about the juridical marriage bond. This constitutes a revision of the 1917 code which took the object of marital consent to be ius in corporis, expanding the concept beyond the merely biological function to incorporate the giving and receiving of the whole person in order to establish marriage (cf. Beal, J. P., Corridem, J.A., Green, T. J., (Editors), New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law (New York: Paulist Press, 2000), p. 1252). This totality of mutual giving was expressed by Vatican II as

“rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. Hence by that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other a relationship arises which by divine will and in the eyes of society too is a lasting one.” —GS 48

This “external manifestation of internal consent” prescribed by canon 1104 also must be received by the Church’s authority (Canon 1108) by taking place before the local Ordinary or parish priest or the priest or deacon delegated by either of them. The commitment being made must be understood. Canon 1057 explains matrimonial consent as an act of the will by which a man and a woman mutually give and receive each other in an irrevocable covenant in order to establish a marriage. As expressed in the quote from Gaudiem et Spes above, this mutual bestowing or self-donation, refers specifically to the conjugal aspect of the human person. Thus it is a self-donation of sexual capacity which involve a union of life and love open to children and subject to unity and indissolubility.

Canon Law holds to the assumption that the internal commitment of a party conforms to the words or external signs used (Canon 1101). This is reflected in most legal systems, which presume this as a point of common sense, indeed, whether you are religious or not, it is demonstrable that what you outwardly say in a marriage ceremony necessarily has an internal effect: you become legally married. The “favour of the law” is enjoyed by marriage so that the law dictates for the validity of the marriage till the contrary is proven. Canon Law could possibly be accused of focussing or emphasising on the external elements of consent, perhaps seeming over legalistic, were it not for the earnest primacy placed on internal consent. The best way to demonstrate the emphasis placed on this is by consideration of anomalies of consent.

Defective Consent

Defective consent is related to the volitional, cognitive or critical faculties. The concern of the law is that the essential information about marriage is understood. It is a consortium between a man and a woman, a heterosexual partnership requiring mutual support, cooperation and companionship. That this partnership is permanent; that it is a stable relationship that perdures. This relationship must be “ordered towards the procreation of children by some form of sexual cooperation” (Canon 1096). This means that if one party or another did not know about the necessity of sexual intercourse in order to have children the consent would be substantially vitiated. For this reason, the canon expressly states that such ignorance is not presumed after puberty. In 1988 and 1989, Pope John Paul II removed any ambiguity attached to canon 1095 with respect to defects affecting the exercise of the intellect. He asserted that the canon referred to the power to reason—the faculty to judge, and the power to discern. This clarified that canon 1095 refers to defects of the faculty or power to pass discretionary judgements due to a lack of capacity to truly commit. Ignorance, in this context, means a lack of knowledge concerning the substance of a thing, whilst error means defective knowledge about an element of that particular thing. Ignorance thus prevents choice because it makes it impossible to illicit judgement whilst error leads to a false choice as it leads to a false judgement concerning a known object. However, canon 1099 does not state that error regarding the unity, the indissolubility or the sacramentality of marriage is sufficient to vitiate matrimonial consent, unless this error is what determines the will. This is a common contemporary problem, so many marriages end in divorce in today’s society, the media coverage and secular social opinion could possibly mean that a person could be under the erroneous understanding that marriages break up and that the marriage they are entering into may well end in divorce, which would dissolve the marriage, dependent on the arbitrary will of either party. It can be stated with some confidence that contemporary society frequently misunderstands the sacramental reality of marriage, choosing to see it purely on human terms. The sacramental element is perceived as a formality, or an irrelevance and not taken seriously. The question is does this error about indissolubility prevent a person from eliciting at consent an intention to be faithful for life? Love inclines people to wish everlasting permanence for their marriage and to take the decision that they will be faithful to the other party in spite of whatever obstacles may have to be overcome, even if the other party were not to be faithful.

It is clear that this would mean that the person’s will would not be affected by the error, even though they might be aware of the possibility of divorce and consider that this would dissolve the marriage bond, the intention at the point of consent was to make a lifelong commitment. The decision to marry has not been mitigated and their remains a over-riding desire for a permanent, procreative union, thus this error does not vitiate consent. This is known, in Canon Law, as simple error.

An alternative scenario could be that a person was convinced to marry because they could dissolve the marriage and try a new marriage with someone else. In this instance, it could be that it is the error that has provided the vital impetus to marry, like a safety net or a get out clause. At the moment of consent, the decision for marriage was made with under the influence of error. This “stubborn error” (error pervicax) does not remain speculative; it becomes practical and affects the decision to the point of “determining” it.  Thus the consent is insufficient for marriage, the stubborn error influences the will vitiating the marriage bond.

Another type of error that invalidates a marriage would be in respect to the person. Canon 1097 warns of the risk of finding oneself married to a different person than was intended. Although this may seem very unlikely in contemporary society, although it is possible where the betrothed couple have restricted access to each other (Jacobs marriage to Leah for example would be invalid for just this reason). This canon also addresses error regarding a certain perceived trait or characteristic of an intended marriage partner. So where one anticipates one is marrying because the prospective spouse is perceived as having a certain social standing, or perhaps as being particularly devout, rich, or similar, and this does not turn out to be true, one might be shocked and unhappy. The discovery of this error may lead one to be unhappy about the marriage, however the marriage with that individual has not been truly rejected, thus the consent is valid. There is, however, an exception to this rule where the perceived quality takes precedence over the person, in other words, where the quality is the principal reason for the marriage. An example of this could be virginity, especially in a cultural context where virginity was considered vital in order that a marriage be considered valid. In this instance, it could be asserted that the virginity of the bride was “directly and principally intended.” (Canon 1097)

A further type of error is detailed in canon 1098, where a person might deliberately conceal the presence (or indeed, absence) of certain qualities about themselves in order to obtain consent. The canon itself states it:

…a person contracts invalidly who enters marriage deceived by malice (deceptus dolo), perpetrated to obtain consent, concerning some quality of the other party, which by its very nature can gravely disturb the partnership of conjugal life. (Canon 1098)

This means concealing a condition such as sterility, mental illness, some genetic abnormality, a bi-sexual orientation, alcoholism, a criminal record or a serious life-threatening condition such as AIDS (cf. Canon 1098). Of course, the spouse may forgive such deception, it is only in a circumstance where the discovery of the fraud causes the marriage to irrevocably breakdown that consent is considered defective and the marriage thus invalid. Consent is not an exchange of abstract rights but the emotional and psychological union of two persons, an exchange of these persons themselves. However a marriage needs to be built on mutual trust and it may conceivably be altered significantly by a deception such as this so as to be rendered completely non-existent.

With regards to the will, defects concern simulation, condition, fear or force. Faith is one of the fundamental realities of human social contact, exercised as much in our relationships with each other as in respect of the unseen heavenly reality of the Triune God. If a person says something, it is presumed to be true. In the same way, canon law anticipates that any outward expression of consent reflects the internal consent of the will. This is expressed in canon 1101, §1. Simulated consent, then, is explained in §2 of the same canon as a perversion of the internal intention, that is that the positive movement of the will of one or both parties contradicts what they purport to commit to, i.e. marriage itself. If one party states “yes I do” but actually makes an internal rejection of the form of marriage, marriage is excluded by an act of the will. A deep-seated error which influences the will can be the basis for a denial not only of the right to indissolubility but also of the rights to marital fidelity and potentially procreative intercourse.

Consent is similarly vitiated if one or other party wishes to contract a marriage with “special features”; bigamy or a marriage ad experimentum. Here the person involved is actually rejecting marriage and choosing instead some other pseudo-institution. This is called partial simulation.

Condition may invalidate marriage in an situation where the outcome is beyond the control of either party. “I will marry you if you bear me a son” for example, is invalid (canon 1102 §1). Such a condition is incompatible with the totality of self-giving of the spouses as well as threatening the principle of indissolubility integral to marital consent. Canon law has dealt with this by pre-empting such action, and partners may have beforehand knowledge of what they are doing. Canon 1102 emphasises the invalidity of a marriage where conditions about future events are included in the consent. The code does mitigate that conditions that ensure a spouse is a virgin, or does not have a hereditary disease are only conditions is a partial way, thus this canon also states that, when the consent includes a conditioning concerning the past or the present, the marriage is valid or not according to whether the basis of condition exists or not. Either way it is clear in the code that the placing of conditions is imprudent and so it states these “cannot be placed licitly without the written permission of the local ordinary.” (Canon 1102 §3).

The last defect of will is force; “grave fear or force imposed from outside causes the nullity of the marriage” (Canon 1103). The freedom to choose a spouse and whether one enters into the married state or not are fundamental human rights. Force or grave fear must necessarily be inflicted from outside the person, natural or intrinsic causes (illness or remorse for example) are not included here,  but where it does, even if imposed unintentionally, but which results in the person being compelled to choose marriage in order to be free from coercion or fear of violence causes the nullity of such a marriage (Canon 1103). Marriage is built on a mutual free exchange of love and trust of the spouses, forced consent due to external pressure—be it physical threats of actual bodily harm, or some form of psychological coercion—contradicts the nature of marriage and is thus unjust. Grave and persistent indignation of a father or superior may induce a reverential fear that vitiates in practice a free consent to marriage.

Finally, the code makes provision for people who have a lack of capacity for consent and these are listed in canon 1095 of the 1983 Code as being incapable of contracting marriage. Since valid consent results from the harmonious interaction of a person’s mental faculties, these being the cognitive, the critical and the volitional, one must be capable of a conscious, responsible and free act of will in order to consent to marriage. Because of this, canon 1095 states that those “who lack sufficient use of reason”, or “suffer from grave lack of discretion of judgement”, or are unable to assume “the essential obligations of marriage due to causes of a psychic nature” are incapable of contracting marriage. Lack of sufficient use of reason includes children under the age of seven or those who, at the moment of consent suffer a psychic disturbance on account of hypnosis, alcohol, intoxication, effects of drugs, etc. This amounts to a person’s ability to reason, to know right from wrong. If at the time of the wedding, one person or other is incapable of knowing right from wrong, valid consent is impossible.

Additionally, discretion of judgement is important as it concerns the emotional and psychological immaturity of a person. Being of canonical age, has this person grasped the full extent of the degree of the commitment they are about to make? One might advise you are a long time married, thus it is essential that one understands “the essential matrimonial rights and duties mutually to be handed over and accepted” (Canon 1095 §2 and 1055). Another scenario might include persons who, unlike the last category mentioned above, would not take their marriage vows lightly, have been thoroughly and carefully prepared to receive the sacrament and indeed could be perfectly aware of the seriousness of marriage obligations, and yet, because of some deep rooted psychological flaw, consistently fail to fulfil their essential marriage duties. Whilst this canon deals with the obvious examples of homosexuality, alcoholism or nymphomania, it also takes into account psychic anomalies or personality disorders such as O.C.D. (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). This was clarified by Pope John Paul II in 1987, who stated that this must mean incapacity and not just difficulty with regard to manifesting consent. (cf. John Paul II, aloc, Feb 5th, 1987 AAS 79 (1987), 1457 as cited in Beal, J. P., et al, op. Cit., p. 1303).

Incapacity for Marriage through lack of sufficient Reason (Canon 1095 § 1).

This canon refers to those who lack sufficient reason for marriage. It concerns those whose mental disability is so severe that they are incapable of performing a human act (in theological speak). As consent is an act of the will (cf. canon 1057 § 2), it has to be a human act, knowingly and willingly performed, and not just an act of man. There has to be a minimum of knowledge and freedom; otherwise it would not be a deliberate or a voluntary act, it would not be an act of the will. Someone so mentally disabled as not to know where he or she is or what they are doing or to know it only in a seriously distorted manner, could not marry validly. § 2 of this canon deals with grave lack of due discretion for marriage and is still dealing with those ‘incapable of contracting marriage’, as is all canon 1095. It notes that it is not intellectual ability as such which is at issue, although, canonically both intellect and will are required for consent (an act of the will—canon 1057 § 2), but the assessment, evaluation and choice which are implied in consent. people who suffer from a lower than basic intellect can and do know what they are doing, they can will to get married and indeed, do so. This is the normal state of things. On the other hand, it can be that a great intellectual does not grasp in anything like an adequate manner what is implied in marriage. No generalisations are to be made on the basis of intellectual ability or lack of it. Nor is it the case that an exhaustive knowledge of the theology of canon law of marriage is needed; people should not be ignorant of the fact that marriage implies sexual relationships (canon 1096), but extensive theoretical knowledge is not required for people to be able to marry validly.

What is at stake her is more of an evaluative or critical knowledge, an awareness of the importance of what is being undertaken, an appreciation of the significance of what is being done in getting married, at least to a minimal extent. When even that minimum is lacking, judgement or discretion is seriously defective, matrimonial consent is not exchanged. People are not expected to be able to foretell the future or to plan it in rigorous detail; it is marriage as such which is at stake.

To conclude, the law upholds the essential nature of marriage as an intimate partnership of married life and love, established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent (GS 48). Marriage requires the free, mutual and full consent of the betrothed in order to work, it must be rooted in this unhindered desire to give oneself and to receive another completely. It is this giving that echoes God’s complete pouring out of Himself for us on the Cross, and within this environment that we become fruitful and bring forth new life.

A reader comments.

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Some of the following comment by “Greg” has been redacted as it named certain individuals for opprobrium:

Absolutely delighted that you will not be converting to Catholicism. Anyone who holds your views should stay well away. You are arrogant, patronising, devisive, cruel and thoughtless . Not even a convert and you readily lectured the Catholic world on how we should live our lives and conduct ourselves in the faith.

You stay where you belong in the Cof E, more Pharisee’s we don’t need.

Feel the love….

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