Light in the Darkness

SURPRISED BY CANON LAW: 150 Questions Catholics Ask About Canon Law. By Pete Vere and Michael Trueman (Servant Books, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202), ix + 126pp. PB $9.99.

This slender volume has earned the praise not only of such notables as Karl Keating and Father Peter Stravinskas but also of the Rev. Francis G. Morrisey, O.M.I. of the Canon Law Faculty of Ottawa’s St. Paul University. The 150 questions answered are divided into 14 chapters:

1) Introductory Questions and General Norms (2) The Canonical Rights and Obligations of Christ’s Faithful (3) The Canonical Rights and Obligations of the Clergy (4) Structure and the Universal Church (5) The Bishop and Diocesan Structure (6) Priests and Parish Structure (7) General Questions on the Church’s Teaching Office (8) Catholic Schools and Universities (9) Baptism (10) The Sacrament of Confirmation (11) The Celebration of the Holy Eucharis (12) Reception of Holy Communion (13) Confession and Anointing of the Sick (14) Marriage and Annulment.

Among the 150 questions, which the authors say are most commonly asked, there are some of practical concern for bishops but of speculative interest for the laity. Last year, for instance, the Archbishop of St. Louis announced that he would deny communion to the Democratic presidential candidate because the candidate publicly and stubbornly supported the crime of abortion. By contrast, the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, D.C. who acknowledged the evil of a Catholic politician advocating abortion said that he would nonetheless not deny communion to such a politician. Pete Vere and Michael Trueman explain that according to canon 915 “the Church must refuse communion to those who obstinately persist in mortal sin” and cite as an example “the politician who intentionally supports laws facilitating and promoting abortion.”

Another example regards Catholic Universities. Canon 810, paragraph 1 demands “integrity of doctrine and uprightness of life” in the qualifications of professors. If these are missing the professors are to be removed. In this connection the authors inform their readers that “Ex corde Ecclesiae, a Vatican document that was issued in 1990, maintains that all universities that use the title Catholic must have their professors recognized by the local bishop (or his equivalent). If a University does not comply, it may lose the title Catholic.”

This popularly written work, moreover, provides answers to a host of the laity’s practical problems with quotes from pertinent canons. The following are a sample of those problems: How many sponsors are needed for baptism? What are the qualifications for a sponsor? Who is responsible for preparing a child for the Eucharist? What are the difficulties of not being registered in a parish? What is an annulment and what are the grounds for obtaining one?

In these unsettling times when there is so much confusion about what the Church’s laws are, Surprised By Canon Law is a light in the darkness. Pete Vere and Michael Trueman deserve thanks for their service and, please God, will contribute further works for our enlightenment.

James Buckley, F.S.S.P.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminar,
Denton, Nebr.

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