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Papal document brings Code of Canon Law into line with law of Eastern Catholic churches

September 15, 2016

With a motu proprio issued on September 15, Pope Francis has amended the canon laws of the Roman Catholic Church to bring them into harmony with the canon law of the Eastern Catholic churches.

The changes in canon law, the result of 15 years of consultations, are designed to eliminate conflicts between the sacramental practices of the Latin and Eastern churches. Vatican officials explained that the changes are necessary because of the increasing number of cases in which Catholics who are members of the Eastern churches live in areas where the Latin rite predominates. The changes also reflect the close relationship between the Eastern Catholic churches and their Orthodox counterparts.

Among the changes that the Pope approved for the Code of Canon Law in the Latin Church are:

- Latin-rite deacons cannot preside at a marriage in which one partner is a member of an Eastern Church, since the Eastern churches require the blessing of a priest;

- At the time of marriage, a Latin-rite Catholic can choose to become a member of the spouse's Eastern Catholic Church-- but can return to the Latin Church when the marriage ends.

- When children are born into a marriage between Latin-rite and Eastern-rite Catholics, the couple may choose to register the children in either rite; if there is a disagreement, the father's wish prevails. The children are also free to choose their own rite on reaching maturity.

- Catholics of one rite may receive the sacraments in another Catholic Church; by doing so they do not become formal members of the other rite.

- If Eastern-rite Catholics are baptized in a Latin-rite church, their baptismal records should reflect their membership in the Eastern Church.

- Latin-rite Catholic bishops may give their priests the authority to solemnize the marriages of Orthodox couples, if the couples "spontaneously request it"-- presumably in cases in which Orthodox priests are not available.

- Latin-rite priests may baptize children of Orthodox parents-- again, when Orthodox priests are not available-- with the understanding that the baptismal records will be recorded in the Orthodox parishes to which the children would be affiliated.

 
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  • Posted by: garedawg - Sep. 16, 2016 10:59 AM ET USA

    Here's one for the Canon Law final exam! "Billy" was born to a Roman-rite mother and a baptized Protestant father. The father was then confirmed and Billy was baptized by a "Roman-rite" sedevacantist priest. The marriage later ended and was annulled, Billy was confirmed in a Byzantine church, and his mother married a Byzantine-rite Catholic when Billy was 14. His mother switched rites at that point. To what rite does Billy belong?