03 June 2021, The Tablet

The code of canon law is online which means we can all set ourselves up as experts

The code of canon law is online which means we can all set ourselves up as experts

It’s been quite some time since canon lawyers have been in such demand for their views on Catholic marriage. Boris Johnson’s marriage to Carrie Symonds in Westminster Cathedral was the occasion for any amount of interested observations about how a twice-divorced man contrived to have a Catholic wedding, to which the only possible answer was that as far as the Church is concerned those prior marriages weren’t valid and so weren’t an impediment. Francis Davis, normally a thoughtful person, made the silly observation that “Cardinal Nichols just told the Johnson children their mums and dad were never married and their mums didn’t matter”. Really?

Well, Cardinal Nichols didn’t say anything, but for what it’s worth, the PM didn’t have children with his first wife, Allegra Mostyn-Owen, just with his second, Marina Wheeler, whom he married in a register office when she was already pregnant. But his other child – at least, I think it’s the only other one – was the result of an extra-marital relationship. No one disputes that both marriages were legal or suggests the “mums”, married or not, and their children don’t matter. Fr Daniel Humphreys, who officiated, was acting perfectly correctly. As Westminster Cathedral observed, “The bride and groom are both parishioners of the Westminster Cathedral parish and baptised Catholics. All necessary steps were taken in both Church and civil law, and all formalities completed before the wedding. We wish them every happiness.” Good for Westminster.

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User Comments (1)

Comment by: R Walshe
Posted: 03/06/2021 18:15:20
I think Melanie McDonagh has missed the point and reading her 'defence' brought to mind the "pompous brigadier", in Clifford Longley's article, which I read next, who demanded Royal Navy widows and orphans to stand for Thatcher but who refused. "Good for Westminster" you said- but is it really? And while it's helpful to understand that some who find themselves in this situation can have a sacramental blessing because 'technically' their previous marriages are not recognised as an impediment, it feels hollow because so many others are left out in the cold by our Church. It feels like hypocrisy! And instead of defending it and making the Church sound even more like the ivory tower it is, your article could have sensitively addressed why a lot of people (with eyes to see) might just think there's something not quite right here.
And by telling us that you think Boris has more of a right to a Catholic wedding than your husband who wasn't baptised tells us everything we need to know- you are focussing on the rules and not the Gospel message. The Church is meant to be there FOR it's people and not to isolate them further in their pain (be that divorce or being rejected because they are gay and dare to not want to stay celebate).
My C of E colleague brought the whole debacle to my attention and he was basically laughing-rightly- at the double standard- which you can defend in canon law but not morally.