Mailbag policy

We reserve the right to edit or reject letters. Limit letters to 200 words or less. Letters addressing issues covered in the Catholic Herald will be given priority. All letters must be signed with name and city, village, or town of residence.

Send letters to:
The Catholic Herald
702 S. High Point Rd., Suite 121
Madison, WI 53719-3522
Fax: 608-709-7612
Father Doyle’s advice on marriage outside Church ignores canonical issues Print
Letters to the editor
Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

To the editor:

While I am occasionally disappointed with the responses that Fr. Ken Doyle provides in his advice column, the answer to the first question in the February 6 issue was so poor that it demands a response.

A man wrote to Father Doyle asking about the impending marriage of his 24 year old Catholic daughter who had joined a Protestant community a year ago and planned to marry outside the Catholic Church. In his response, Father Doyle not only muddles the teaching of the Church, but also is negligent in addressing the serious canonical issues present.

In the column, Father Doyle speaks of the Catholic Church as “the closest approximation to what Jesus came to establish.” This is not authentic Catholic doctrine. The Catholic Church is what Jesus Christ established;  it does not “approximate” anything. It is the Church which Christ founded, which has not only the fullness of the means of salvation, but also the fullness of truth for salvation.

The Second Vatican Council was clear in teaching that the Church of Christ “subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him” (Lumen Gentium, 8). There is no need to deviate from the language of Vatican II here.

Father Doyle is correct in stating that there are many elements of sanctification and truth found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church, but he certainly goes too far when advising this man to be “excited” about his daughter’s departure and when stating that he is “confident that she is on the path to heaven.”

On the contrary, it sounds like the daughter — though she remains a Catholic — has notoriously rejected her Catholic faith and is no longer living in full communion with the Catholic Church, having thrown off those bonds of unity which join us to Christ’s Church, namely “the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and communion” (Lumen Gentium, 14).

It is one thing to be hopeful that God will bring about a greater good from some situation, but it is another thing altogether to be excited when a loved one has left the Catholic Church. Surely Saint Monica would not have taken Father Doyle’s advice to “sleep soundly” and not worry when her own child (St. Augustine) went astray.

Secondly, Father Doyle is woefully negligent in discussing the serious issue of the daughter’s upcoming marriage outside the Catholic Church. There is a saying semel Catholicus, semper Catholicus, which means “once Catholic, always Catholic.” In other words, someone who has been baptized or received into the Catholic Church always remains a Catholic and is bound to the obligations of being a Catholic, even if he/she stops practicing the faith.

One of these obligations of all Catholics is to marry in canonical form, which requires — in addition to the presence of two witnesses — that a priest or deacon receive the vows of the couple. Unless a dispensation from canonical form has been requested by her parish priest and given by the local Ordinary (e.g., bishop or vicar general), then the daughter’s marriage will be invalid.

A similar situation occurs when a Catholic attempts marriage at the courthouse. Such unions are not recognized by the Catholic Church as marriages at all, since they lack even the semblance of marriage. However, Father Doyle does not even hint at this grave underlying canonical issue.

Yes, parts of Father Doyle’s answer were correct. However, the serious problems mentioned above give an overall message of relativism. Our diocesan newspaper is simply too good to deny readers a complete and accurate presentation of the truths of the faith, and I suggest that future submissions by Father Ken Doyle be closely examined before publication in so great a periodical.

Paul M. Matenaer, MTS, JCL, Tribunal, Diocese of Madison