Canon 509

When Sal was in the fifth grade he was put into the cloak room for an entire afternoon by Sister Mary Michael his teacher. She accused him of heresy (whatever that hell that was) because in her lecture she told the class that we could offer God nothing. It was in her opinion a one way street. Sal foolishly raised his hand and asked “then why should we love God?”He could still see her red face as she grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, and send him sprawling into the isolation of the cloak room. He knew through so many encounters along the way there had always been that part of his personality that never bought into some of the absolutes. An example of this was that he never believed “that the Catholic religion was the one and only true church. He loved the church, but never saw it as the only and best best route to a loving God. This belief caused him some grief along the way.

An area that caused come cognitive dissonance in his psyche was the absolute requirement that in a mixed marriage the non-Catholic partner had to agree to sign a form stating that all children of the union would be raised catholic. Westbury had always been largely a Protestant community before the second world war so many of the marriages would be of mixed faiths. The bulk of the Protestant community had little exposure to a Catholic priest so Sal did all he could to make them comfortable in the pre-marriage discussions with him. This did not always go the way that he desired.

On one occasion the young woman in his office was obviously very nervous being in the presence of a priest. Her fiancée was a graduate of the Naval Academy, and though at sea would soon be home. Sal tried to break the ice by inquiring about him. “How long is your fiancée’s furlough? “She seemed stunned but replied “about seven inches”. She must have thought that the Catholic word for penis was furlough. Sal was dumbfounded, and carefully tried to work his way around that misstep.

The requirement to sign away the rights of future children was a real obstacle for Sal, and he believed that it violated the personal beliefs of the non-Catholic party. It was imperative that he find a path around the requirement because technically without it the marriage would not be valid in the eyes of the official church. There was a technical way around this boulder in the road called Canon 509. To make sure that the union would be recognized by the church as valid when the bride was coming down the aisle Sal mentally pronounced that the marriage was covered by Canon 509. This was a magic part of canon law that made it ok even if all the requirements were not met. It was based on the assumption that a mistake had been made, and this law rectified any issue that had not been properly fulfilled. The problem was that he was performing so many marriages that the records were filled with tons of canon 509’s. When the Bishop’s auditor came and saw this Sal was suspended until all the required paper work was produced. Jack took the weddings for a couple of weeks, and they decided the only hope Sal had to get back on board was to produce all the paperwork in a short period of time.

The first step was to go to the Temple and all the Churches in Town and gather their official forms so that they would have some documents that could meet the needs of all of the future ecclesiastical forgeries. For two solid weeks they spent hours together producing the required documentation. Jack was an excellent typist, and a willing collaborator in the episode. At the end of the “great forgery” Sal was reinstated and canon 509 was never to be used again.

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