Baseball & The Code of Canon Law: They Really Have Thought of Everything
I do that all the time. But I also do it with the Bible itself, the Catechism, and even (sigh) the Code of Canon Law.
I was reading something somewhere on the subject of female alter servers, someone said something or other about the Code of Canon Law on the subject, and I was off to take a look at Canon 230. And a semi-random walk through the Code ensued. Lay ministries led quickly enough to priestly functions which led in turn to the sacraments. I made a short stop at the provisions that make it practically impossible (unless there's a war or natural disaster) to provide "general confessions" and absolution to a group of people (instead of the norm, particular and individual confession and absolution), a practice that is apparently nevertheless alarmingly common.
But somehow, I arrived at Canon 977.
The Rules of Baseball take up many, many pages. Because baseball has been being played for perhaps 140 years, many of the rules were obviously added after something happened in a game and pretty much everyone agreed, "well, it ain't against the Rules, but it should be!" And so a rule was added. Somewhere, sometime, there was a runner on first base who ran toward second and then on toward third when a batter hit a fly ball. The ball was caught, and the runner had to scramble back to first base before a fielder with the ball tagged first, putting the runner out. So the guy (now between second and third) ran straight across the diamond and back to first base. There was no rule against it, but it just didn't seem right. Thus, the rule that in returning to first, a runner must touch each base in reverse order.
The Code of Canon Law is like that. If you decided to invent your own Church, you might very well decide also that a list of rules governing it would be a good idea. You would try your best to make the rules comprehensive, but there's simply no way you'd be able to think of everything. As time passed, things would happen not explicitly covered by the existing rules, and the rules would be amended: "it ain't against the Rules, but it should be!"
Which brings us to Canon 977: "Absolutio complicis in peccato contra sextum Decalogi praeceptum invalida est, praeterquam in periculo mortis." ("The absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue is invalid except in danger of death.") Canon 1378 provides that "A priest who acts against the prescript of Can. 977 incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See." That is, automatic excommunication, reversible only by Rome itself.
They really have thought of everything.