Thursday, March 26, 2009
Valid and Invalid, Licit vs Illicit in Canon Law
I'm working on studying for my Canon Law exam, and as a result, a friend and I had a discussion yesterday on the difference between Valid/Invalid, Licit/Illicit. She wasn't real clear on the concept, and I wasn't clear in explaining it, which lead me to believe, of course, that I also wasn't clear in my understanding! I tried to look at it through a common and timely issue; that of the SSPX.
But, alas, that scenario is too complicated and I'd rather not "reason" something through when I haven't had enough of Canon Law to do so with any REAL intelligence. And, really, there's a lot of people out there on all sides who are well-read but not authoritatively versed in Canon Law even though they are pretending to be so. Their pontificating is quite off-putting and confusing. Thus, as a disclaimer, I will NOT discuss the SSPX with regard to this topic.
I took some time to think about the terms, though, pondering it through, taking also into consideration what our professor taught us in his notes and lecture.
Validity versus Invalidity is a question of whether Jesus is actually present in that act, or especially (in my mind), a Sacrament. Something that is Valid has all the juridic effects (i.e. all the effects of the law), while an Invalid act does NOT have the juridic effects.
Licit versus Illicit doesn't leave us the question of whether Jesus is there or not; rather, the question becomes: is Jesus there and pleased, or is He MAD? An act that is licit is done according to the norm of the law (ie the GIRM, Redemptionis Sacramentum, etc.) or whether it is NOT done according to the law. Thus, an act can be illicit but still retain validity. That would be a way of saying that Jesus is present but very upset!
I was trying to think of a way to explain this in other terms, and so, the following is what I came up with this morning while I was brushing my teeth:
Let's say that you are a child and you pretty much have standing permission, within certain defined and obvious parameters, to ride your bike to the corner store every day after school and get a candy bar or bag of chips or a pop or something. And you have to take your little brother and little sister with you because they are your willing responsibility and how you make your allowance. This is routine, you're in charge of them and that's part of the understanding.
And as you ride with them down the sidewalk to the store, you wave at Harry the Barber who is reading the newspaper next to his barber pole, and you pass Mrs. Green at the vegetable stand a few more doors down, and they all know you and know that it's OK for you to be doing this. They know your Mom, you see, and because this town is kind of a big family, they're also looking out for you. And because of this, they also know that this trip to the store is a valid act, done with the Mother's blessing and permission, which, in effect, means that she is present with you on these trips.
Now, if they saw you driving Mom's car down the road with baby sister on the hood at 3 am, they would ALSO know that this is VERY invalid and they'd be calling your Mom because this is CLEARLY outside of the boundaries and there's NO WAY this would have her blessing!
Now, as far as Licit/Illicit goes, let's say that you got home from school and just before you left to take your daily trip to the store, you got a call from your Mother, who said that you should wait because she didn't want you to take your little sister that day. She wanted you to wait until she got home from work because of something to do with your little sister.
But, instead of being obedient to that command, you copped an attitude, got on your bikes, and all three went to the store as usual. Now, Harry the Barber and Mrs. Green the vegetable lady wouldn't know the difference, and would wave as they always do.
And, in fact, that ride to the store would have all the same juridic effects as that of every other day; it would in fact, be taking place. You would in fact be paying actual money for your actual snack, and your act would be witnessed by others. And so, in effect, your Mother would still be with you because this is a normal function of your day, except for one thing....the fact that you are doing it as usual on that day is in DIRECT DISOBEDIENCE to a particular law or directive laid down by your Mother, which renders that trip to the store ILLICIT.
In other words...Jesus is there but He. Is. MAD! And, my son....YOU ARE SOOOO GROUNDED!
So, we could say that the just penalty of the the betrayal of the Mother's trust is Excommunication, which you have enacted of your own accord. Because, in fact, your baby sister was supposed to be going to the doctor for an important diagnoses and because you took her away from her mother she missed her appointment and is going to become very, very sick...because of YOUR disobedience. So...firstly, listen to your Mother!
So, you're grounded (excommunicated), and certain things need to be in play in order for you to be able to act in the same capacity. You have to admit that what you have done is wrong, you have to apologize for that wrong, and that you understand the effect of your action. (there's actually more to this so don't take this paragraph to be canonical...and it's not on this test, anyway.)
DISCLAIMER: The above (hopefully fictional) scenario is NOT meant to parody ANYTHING in real life, but only explain things in entertaining terms which maybe I'll remember when I'll take the test. If my understanding is flawed, please tell me so before I take the test! And suggest changes to the scenario that would make the example proper.