Monday, July 10, 2006

usted es la culpable...

I probably should have sensed there was going to be a problem going into this. The Exorcist just tends naturally to give folks the benefit of the doubt, that's all.

Never did I imagine that ol' number 1127 would be my undoing.
That's 1127, article 3. Specifically.

I don't blame her, this young latino woman from the parish, for not understanding the why and where-for-all of it. But I did explain it to her to the best of my ability and told her that, regardless, I was as beholden to the rules as she was. The deceptive ease with which she acquiesced to my check-list of conditions should have given me an inkling...

It was a summer Sunday much like any other. The stifling heat of our old, unairconditioned churches turned the morning Mass stretch into a baptism by immersion. The kids were holding a car wash so they were soaked, too. I left at three for the country mansion that was to host the wedding at four. Beautiful place but, man, was it hot. Luckily seats for everyone except the officiant were strategically located in the shade of a cluster of tall oaks. So that worked out pretty well.

Anyway, I get there twenty minutes early to set up. I ask one of the girls moving the floral arrangements if she thought we'd be ready to go at four. She says, "Hopefully. But the first service was over an hour late in starting."

First service? Why, whatever do you mean?

Then I saw it. An ornate gazebo - scarlet, orange yellow and gold - with two stone elephants flanking a long red carpet strewn with flower petals.

"Yessir. That Buddhist ceremony took forever to get rolling. They just barely finished in time for lunch. But I'm hopeful they'll come out soon to get this over with. It's been a long day."



Hindu. Lahar is Hindu. Not Buddhist.

"Oh, yeah. Whatever."

I knew this was to be a wedding between a Catholic and a non-Christian. I signed and sent to the bishop the dispensation form. Maria Carmen was adamant that she wanted to receive the sacrament of marriage, within the Mass, and agreed to everything - even to getting confirmed well in advance of her wedding.

Another thing she agreed to was number 1127, 3. Of Canon Law.

§3. It is forbidden to have another religious celebration of the same marriage to give or renew matrimonial consent before or after the canonical celebration according to the norm of §1. Likewise, there is not to be a religious celebration in which the Catholic who is assisting and a non-Catholic minister together, using their own rites, ask for the consent of the parties.

This is a sticky point, often, in arranging 'mixed marriages'. I know this because Tyler knows this. It all has to do with the very particular perspective of Catholic sacramental theology and the specifically Catholic understanding of matrimony. I tried to elucidate all this to Maria Carmen. I offered her the option of forgoing the observance of canonical form and getting a dispensation for a civil ceremony. She insisted. She accepted. She appeared beautifully dressed in white at 4pm.

Benefit of the doubt, right?

I wonder what happened. Did she never really understand what I laid out for her? Did she think it was unimportant, a formality... or worse, a quirk of the nutty priest she asked to perform her marriage? Was she pressured into the Hindu ceremony by his family and opted not to say anything to me?

Now I lie awake nights with debates about validity and licitness raging in my mind's empty caverns.

Y todo por tu culpa.