Home Catechetical Corner Father Kenneth Doyle answers questions about status of married converts and bowing...

Father Kenneth Doyle answers questions about status of married converts and bowing at Jesus’ name

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Q. A friend and his wife, along with their daughter, were recently confirmed into the Catholic Church after being Methodists their entire life, including getting married within the Methodist Church. They were told by some parish officials (laymen) that their marriage is not recognized by the Catholic Church and that they must be “remarried” within the Catholic Church.

That does not sound right to me, but I can’t find any specific ruling or teaching on this. (The same lay leaders also claimed that their Methodist baptism was not acceptable by the Catholic Church, but I have found letters from bishops stating specifically that baptisms in the United Methodist Church are recognized by the Catholic Church.) (Iloilo City, Philippines)

A. Your instincts are right on target. A marriage between two Protestants, in a Protestant ceremony, is normally recognized by the Catholic Church as a valid marriage, and many Catholic dioceses state this explicitly in their written guidelines. The Diocese of Venice in Florida, for example, says this on its website:

“The Catholic Church recognizes and upholds the validity of marriages of a non-Catholic man and a non-Catholic woman who marry with no impediments, such as the bond of a previous marriage … and who enter marriage through a form accepted by their church or ecclesial community and the civil government.”

So your friend and his wife would certainly not have to be “remarried” upon their entrance into the Catholic Church. (You are correct, too, about baptism. The vast majority of Protestant baptisms, including those done in the Methodist religion, are recognized as valid by the Catholic Church, and that sacrament does not have to be repeated when a Protestant chooses to become a Catholic.)

Q. I don’t understand why, over the last couple of years, I don’t see folks bowing at the name of Jesus. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they are parishioners, priests or nuns. Is there some new rule on this, or am I just too old-school Catholic? (Lacey, Washington)

A. The custom of bowing at the name of Jesus is a worthy one, and it has a long tradition in the church. It takes its origin from St. Paul, who wrote in his Letter to the Philippians (2:9-10): “God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

The practice was reinforced at the Second Council of Lyons, convened in 1274 by Pope Gregory X, which highlighted the special honor due the sacred name and noted that “whenever that glorious name is recalled, especially during the sacred mysteries of the Mass, everyone should bow the knees of his heart, which he can do even by a bow of his head.”

Pope Gregory followed up with a letter to the Dominican Order, which became the foremost promoters of devotion to the Holy Name. In that letter, Pope Gregory said, “We wish that at the pronouncing of that name, chiefly at the holy sacrifice (of Mass), everyone would bow his head in token that interiorly he bends the knee of his heart.”

I agree with our letter-writer that, over the past several decades, this practice is followed less widely. I also agree that more people should observe it; it serves as an important reminder of the reverence we owe the divine and reflects an interior desire to honor Jesus, who died on the cross to redeem us.

Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.