Last week, I started my Thursday series (which will NOW be called "Thursday Thoughts") and began the story about how C and I weren't always Byzantine Catholic. You can read part one, here. Today, I share with you part two of our story, albeit on Saturday. Priest's Wife, if I've made any errors in explaining church law, please, jump in!!! :-D
We met Fr. G, C's parish priest, at the rectory, one sweltering evening in July or August (we'd gotten engaged in June), and the only reason I remember this so well was that there was very little air conditioning, if any at all. We sat in Fr. G's stuffy office; he knew why we were there, but C reminded him of the topic. Fr. G looked at C and smiled.
"Well, first we have to figure out if you truly are Byzantine rite."
C's face dropped. "What, what do you mean???" he sputtered.
Fr. G went on to explain that he had his suspicions about C and his family because C's last name is a very common Irish one, and knowing his parents and other family members, there was little doubt that his father was born and baptized Roman Catholic. He said, "Most people with Irish last names in our churches join via marriage. As you know, we're predominantly Slovak here at St. J's."
C nodded, taking in what Fr. G was saying.
Fr. G continued, "The reason I'm bringing all of this up is because of Canon Law, a child follows the rite of the father, regardless of where they were baptized." He paused for a second. "So technically, you are canonically Roman Catholic. Even though you were baptized in this parish, and raised here. Do you know if your dad was raised Roman or Byzantine, and if he ever switched his rite officially? I can't find anything in our records."
"No, I don't think so," C answered, still amazed. "I'll have to ask. I mean, I know he said he liked Mom's church better than the Roman rite, so I am assuming he was raised Roman, plus, he was born in Louisiana [ed. note: mostly Roman Catholic, especially back when C's dad was born]. He never had a problem going with her when they were dating and then after they got married..." He trailed off, looking rather sad.
"It's actually quite common. It happened to me," Fr. G announced.
Both C and I looked surprised. Fr. G went on to explain how both of his parents were Byzantine, or so they thought, but only his mother really was as his paternal grandfather was Roman Catholic. It was only when he was getting ready to enter the seminary did he discover this little issue. To rectify it, he had to petition the Roman Catholic diocese for a rite transfer, as well as the Byzantine eparchy. It was a matter of paperwork and keeping track of numbers; he compared it to moving to a new town and re-registering to vote.
"Of course, it's a bit more serious," he explained, "especially because it's Canon Law and you'd be dealing with the bishops in both rites. But it's not impossible. Here's what you should do: first, go home and talk with your father about this. Then you'll know one way or the other. If he didn't change rites, you're going to have to get married in the Roman rite, which solves the problem of where to get married. " He smiled. "If he did change rites, then you'll be getting married here, since the rite of the groom determines where the ceremony is to be held."
I groaned, inwardly. We left, in search of answers. C felt completely blown away.
To be continued...
Here is the Canon Law that the priest was referring to regarding children, baptism, and which rite to which they belong:
The 1990 CODE OF CANONS OF ORIENTAL CHURCHES states:
Canon 29 -
§1. By virtue of baptism, a child who has not yet completed his fourteenth year of age is enrolled in the Church sui iuris of the Catholic father; or the Church sui iuris of the mother if only the mother is Catholic or if both parents by agreement freely request it, with due regard for particular law established by the Apostolic See.
§2. If the child who has not yet completed his fourteenth year is:
1° born of an unwed mother, he is enrolled in the Church sui iuris to which the mother belongs;
2° born of unknown parents, he is to be enrolled in the Church sui iuris of those in whose care he has been legitimately committed are enrolled; if it is a case of an adoptive father and mother, 1 should be applied;
3° born of non-baptized parents, the child is to be a member of the Church sui iuris of the one who is responsible for his education in the Catholic faith.