• The Catholic Church does not compromise the dignity of the sacraments for political favour or for any reason. • The earlier marriages of Mr. Boris did not exist for the simple reason that the canonical form of marriage was not observed.
By Neta Nwosu
The recent wedding of Prime Minister, Boris Johnson to his third wife, Carrie Symonds in Westminster Cathedral on May 29 has continued to raise dust. Some non-Christians and Christians including, Catholics are yet to comprehend how the Prime Minister was able to tie the knot for a third time in the Catholic Church despite his two previous divorces. According to the critics, the Catholic teachings and law does not accept divorce neither does it consent to remarriage for those whose spouses or former better halves are still alive. Prime Minister Johnson was divorced from his first and second wives, Allegra Mostyn-Owen and Marian Wheeler in 1993 and 2020 respectively. This has sparked heated debates in several circles. People, including the clergy and lay faithful have taken to the social media to give vent to their strong feelings. A few have bashed the solemnization of the wedding in the Catholic Church while others have either put up serious questions over the matter or disabused the minds of the critics on Twitter. According to Biographers, Prime Minister Johnson was baptized a Catholic and confirmed in the Church of England, mother Church of the Anglican Communion.
Fr. Mark Drew, an Assistant Priest in Warrington threw the first shot on twitter, “Can anyone explain to me how ‘Boris’ Johnson, who left the Catholic church while at Eaton [sic] and is twice divorced, can be married at Westminster Cathedral, while I have to tell practising Catholics in good faith who want a second marriage in Church that it’s not possible?” As if concurring, Fr. Paul Butler, the Church of England Rector of St. Paul’s in Deptford tweeted, “Always one Canon Law for the rich and one for the poor.” While the papal biographer Austen Ivereigh inscribed on his Twitter: “Boris’s two previous marriages (probably) lacked canonical form, that is, are not recognised in Catholic law. So he (probably) didn’t need an annulment. When the canonical form of marriage has not been observed and the marriage was not later validated in the Church, a simple administrative process is used to declare such marriages invalid in church.” Convinced of the authenticity of the controversial marriage, Fr. James Martin, Editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America, tweeted: “Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were married within the rules of the Catholic church. And I wish them well. I also wish that the same mercy and compassion that was offered to them, recognising their complex lives, could also be extended to same-sex couples who are lifelong Catholics.”
Here in Nigeria, a renowned Canon Lawyer, Very Rev. Fr. Paul Ijasan, Administrator, Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos in an exclusive chat with The Catholic Herald said “The fact that Mr. Boris received the sacrament of Confirmation from the Anglican Church (do not forget that the Catholic Church recognises the validity of the baptism and Confirmation of the Anglican Church) or has not been active in the practice of his faith as Catholic does not exempt him from the obligation of observing the canonical form. And by the way, in line with the stipulation of canon 1117, I have not heard that Mr. Boris has defected from the Catholic Church by any formal act. So put straight and simple. Mr. Boris Johnson remains a Catholic.” Responding to claims of favouritism in applying the Canon law, Fr. Ijasan said that the Catholic Church does not compromise the dignity of the sacraments for political favour or influence or for any reason whatsoever.
“ Let us be very clear on one thing, the issue at hand has nothing to do with the political status of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister wielding his power to get his “third” marriage solemnised by the Church. If you are familiar with the history of the Catholic Church and the King of England – Henry VIII, you would know that the Catholic Church does not compromise the dignity of the sacraments for political favour or influence or for any reason whatsoever. “The first and the second marriages attempted by Mr. Boris were not celebrated in the Catholic Church, nor was dispensation from the canonical given by the competent authority. Meanwhile, he was bound by the obligation to observe the canonical form of marriage as part of the obligations that his baptism places on him. By this very act he has by his own action estranged himself from the active life of the Church. Readily visible is being unable to receive the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Communion or Eucharist), for he is living in a state of sin: adultery. “As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, those two earlier marriages Mr. Boris attempted were not recognised by the Church, as a matter of fact they did not exist for the simple reason that the canonical form of marriage was not observed. With his marriage to Carrie Symonds he can now live out his faith actively. Congratulations to him, at least for recognising the need to do the right thing in spite of his political status.