Saturday, May 10, 2014

I didn't think Guillaume-Le-Conquerant even had gunpowder

Dear Internets,

So, (... don't ask me why; I'm not married and I'm in no position to attempt marriage anytime soon, and there isn't even anyone who seems to... anyways)

Yes, anyways, so: I was reading Ed Peters' post, "Does Canon 1066 Amount To A Coin-Toss", and a small thing about his writing there bugs me, as a mathematician. Now, while statistics is emphatically not my thing, and while Dr. Peters' canonical analysis is beyond my competency altogether, the particular "randomization" he suggests that Kasper the Friendly Kardinal (Papa, take his hat away! You can do that!) is insinuating goes on in Marriage today... let me quote Dr. Peters:
If, therefore, as Kasper claims, half of all marriages (or even half of all Catholic marriages) are null, then the pre-wedding inquiry conducted in accord with Canon 1066 is a statistically pointless exercise that could just as well be replaced with a pastor’s toss of the coin. “Heads I marry y’all, tails I don’t.”
Well, actually, no, Dr. Peters. This is confusing the decision to attempt marriage and the validity of an attempted marriage. A coin toss (a ballanced coin... Canadian "Twoonies" not applicable) would admit the attempt of half of would-have-been-successful marriages and reject half of them; and it would accept the attempt of half of impeded marriages and reject half of them. As far as which apparant marriages were valid, an independent coin toss would not affect the ratios at all. To estimate the correlation between fitness to marry and the officiant's decision, one would have to know something also about the distribution of fitness to marry and what fraction of couples asking to marry in the church are turned down.

What Kasper is suggesting is actually much much worse: it is roughly as if those (Catholics, anyway) attempting marriage themselves toss a coin at the wedding and roughly 3/10 of the time decide they aren't really going to mean what they're asked to say.

It might be possible as an adult catechumen (Heavens Forefend!) to mentally resist at the moment of baptism, but I don't think that happens too often. There's lots of noise around desecration of the Eucharistic Body of Our Lord, but that involves a validly confected sacrament. There's also lots of noise illustrating just how robust the formula for validly confecting the Eucharist actually is: the minimal formulas are remarkably short and simple, and it is far more common for abuses to be illicit but valid. Clearly it is possible to make a bad confession; it is almost certainly just as possible to make a bad attempted marriage, but in both cases it's hard for me to see how one could do so and not know it. I'm not about to guess what fraction of confessions are invalid. But at the least it should be harder to muck up a marriage than a confession, given that marriage is part of our created natures and confession isn't.

The Canonical Differentiator


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