Boris Johnson’s Catholic Wedding, and Current Canon Law

Okay, apparently the UK Catholic canon law rota is going back to the older theories of what happens if a Catholic marries outside the Church, without the marriage “taking place in the presence of lawful ecclesiastical authority,” and without a dispensation for marrying anywhere but in a church or chapel.

The older theory was that the marriage didn’t count for bupkis, because it was invalid. It could be convalidated at any time, if both participants asked a priest to do it, but without convalidation it was non-existent in the eyes of God. (It’s somewhat different if baptized Catholics marry baptized Catholics outside the Church, because that’s more inside baseball and concerns the powers of Catholic laypeople to Do Stuff.)

So in the UK, such marriages (unless convalidated, in which case they become right and tight) “do not require a formal annulment procedure,” because they never even claimed to be valid Catholic marriages. They just document that it was a totally invalid marriage, and go on from there. And I suspect it’s this way in the US also.

Well. On the one hand, this means a lot of people are living in sin who think they are married validly but illegitimately. Whoops. OTOH, a lot of people who were never validly married in the first place can now go forward with their lives a lot more easily.

I also suspect that a lot of “How did they get their annulment so easily and quickly!?” is actually a case like this, where Bob and Katy got married without a priest or deacon, without a Catholic place to get married, and without Catholic spouses.

Anyhoo… it hasn’t been on the news much in the US, but Boris Johnson got quietly married to a Catholic woman this week, in Westminster Cathedral, but without pomp and circumstance.

Boris was originally a Catholic, but converted to Anglicanism while at school. This didn’t affect his marriage status, because he was already a baptized Catholic and can’t really stop being one.

Boris first “married” Allegra Mostyn-Owen, who used to be a glamorous covergirl but now looks like your mom or grandma. (She has gotten over this by teaching art to Muslim ladies at a mosque, and marrying a much younger guy from Pakistan and becoming a Muslim.) She was apparently some flavor of Protestant, and she and Boris got married at her dad’s house while barefoot. She and Boris both worked as journalists, but their marriage broke up through overwork and Boris cheating on her with a childhood friend. There were no children. So, invalid marriage #1.

Boris next “married” Marina Claire Wheeler, QC. Her dad was a Royal Marine and WWII intel guy who worked for the BBC, and he wasn’t Catholic; and her mom was an Indian/Punjabi Sikh born in what is now Pakistan, whose family had to flee to India. They married after Boris’ divorce came through, when she was already with child, and they had four kids who rejoice (or don’t) in these names: Lara Lettice, Milo Arthur, Cassia Peaches, and Theodore Apollo. They separated sometime in 2017/2018, and finalized their divorce in late 2020. But she wasn’t Catholic and they apparently didn’t marry in a Catholic church at any point. Invalid marriage #2.

At some point during this time, Boris cheated on Wheeler… okay, apparently he continuously cheated on Wheeler with various media women or with models, and had at least one illegitimate child. (What an idiot. Also, obviously a lot of stupid women out there too.)

(I do question how people even have time for all these shenanigans. Most of us are kinda busy as we get older, which is why sins of omission are more a problem than sins of commission.)

But this time it was with a particular woman from the media world, Carrie Symonds, the daughter of one of the founders of the newspaper The Independent, and a lawyer working for the newspaper. Their families were political mavens and BBC newspeople. She worked as a PR person for the Conservative Party, combining the same worlds that Johnson lived in. However, Symonds was Catholic, at least by virtue of baptism. And even though she had a pretty extensive history of running around and living with guys, she had never civilly or religiously married anybody.

When Johnson became PM, he notoriously moved her into 10 Downing Street as his first lady while she was just his mistress, which was something not even the crazy 1700’s guys would have done. However, it turned out that she was pregnant with his kid, so there was some kind of security reason. Their son was born several months before the divorce came through, poor kid, but he’s alive and healthy and got baptized as a Catholic early on; so that’s good. He was named Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas, which is… um… a bit hard on the kid, but not as bad as being named Peaches.

Obviously the Church does not support people openly living in sin, or especially those being notorious public sinners. But apparently Johnson and Symonds did manage to roll around to their parish church and attend Sunday Mass regularly (if virtually) enough to count as parishioners despite COVID, which shows willingness to change. I haven’t found any information about Johnson reconciling with the Church; but her Catholic practice would be enough for him to be eligible for getting married with her in a church. Obviously it would be a good thing for him to make her an honest woman and himself an honest man. Getting married under COVID number restrictions was probably a good idea, given how torqued off people are; and getting married in the Lady Chapel is a nod to that.

And so, Boris and Carrie got married on May 29, 2021, and in the eyes of the Catholic Church it’s Boris’ first and only valid marriage. (Carrie’s too, of course.) So I hope they stick with it. If you repent and change your ways, any day can be the first day of a new life. It would be nice if they would both become faithful Catholics, or at least bad Catholics trying to set a good example for their son.

Other than that, it’s not really our business. Mercy is the scandal of Christ.


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5 responses to “Boris Johnson’s Catholic Wedding, and Current Canon Law

  1. I do question how people even have time for all these shenanigans.


    I know my gaming takes up a lot of time, but unless you’re right next door the travel time alone would utterly chew through hours.

  2. I still can’t believe that there are women who are stupid enough to cheat with a married man, and then marry him…..

    • Women are programmed to be optimistic and patient. And sometimes it works out. Presumably there is some evolutionary advantage, like not getting too depressed about babies taking so long to grow up.

      And to be fair, it’s hard for most humans to see past strong charisma.

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds

    To the observation “apparently he continuously cheated on Wheeler with various media women or with models, and had at least one illegitimate child” might be added the grievous details that Petronella Wyatt aborted their baby and Boris Johnson paid for that abortion.

    Is he among those variously “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” such that he should be denied Holy Communion under Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law ?

    • Well, clearly he _has been_ in the past. Whether he _is now_, I am in no position to know.

      Having a brush with death can change a man; and sometimes people up their wisdom score or just grow out of the energy to pull all this stuff. Shrug. He had to go through marriage classes. I’d be surprised if Lots Of Things were not said to him, and maybe he profited by them.

      And sometimes people who are too clever for their own good will actually realize it, and decide to be clever about eternal salvation instead.

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