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September 26, 2006


Jordan Potter

Thanks, I think, for making a wildly confusing (and incredibly funny) song even more wildly confusing, Jimmy. 8-P


Absolutely fantastic. That's really all I can say about this post, and the link with the diagrammed relationships.


You have got too much energy...

Tim J.

I think I first heard this song on an old 78 played on an authentic hand-crank Victrola (though it was a venerable antique by that time).

I laughed 'till I cried.

Thanks for reminding me of it.

Dave Mueller

There was a Futurama where Fry was his own grandpa, after an escapade whilst time traveling.

Susan Peterson

Years ago I picked up in a little book store on State Circle in Annapolis, Maryland, a slim book called "Marriage to Deceased Wife's Sister, Forbidden by God's Law and the Law of the Church." I didn't buy it. It wasn't until years after that that I heard the Gilbert and Sullivan song, and then wished mightily that I had.

I know one devout Catholic family in which the father of five small children married his deceased wife's sister after his wife died, and had nine more children with her. The deceased wife's sister, having raised the 14 children, was a regular at daily mass when I first became a Catholic. If this rule still applies, they must have obtained a dispensation.

Susan Peterson


Wow, that's very strange...

Anyways, Mr. Jimmy, I was reading the new edition of the Program of Priestly Formation (found at http://www.usccb.org/vocations/), and I was wondering if you had any comments on it. I was wondering what numbers 54 and 55 mean:

Here's the last part of 54:

"Concerning the
capacity to live the charism of celibacy, the applicant should give evidence
of having lived in continence for a sustained period of time, which would
be for at least two years before entering a priestly formation program."

What does "continence" actually mean? Does this include all mortal sins against 6th/9th commandment?

Also, here's number 55:

"55. Any evidence of criminal sexual activity with a minor or an inclination
toward such activity disqualifies the applicant from admission."

What exactly is "criminal sexual activity"? Wouldn't ALL forms of "sexual activity with a minor" disqualify the applicant?

Thanks so much for your time.


This is classic Jimmy. Awesome.

The Stupids is one of my favorite movies...own it on DVD and my best friend and I watched it *way* too many times back in our high school days.

"Two wheels. Four wheels. *Eight* wheels!"


Double cousins (for example, the children of two brothers marrying two sisters) would be invalid if affinity extended beyond the individuals (not to mention the possible questions if the two couples had married at the same ceremony).

By the way, I wasn't raised Catholic; does this mean that marriage to your deceased wife's sister isn't objectively wrong, but only legally so? For instance, does it mean that the ancient Israelite custom of a man marrying (or at least providing a child to; I'm not clear if marriage is incumbent as well) his brother's widow was not objectively wrong, but would be wrong under current canon law?

I mean, does canon law work the same way as the law in America? For instance, is the canon against marrying those one has affinity to kind of like the drinking age being 21: it was legally okay to drink when the age was 18, and not wrong to have done so once the age was raised?

Sorry if I'm dense!


What exactly is "criminal sexual activity"? Wouldn't ALL forms of "sexual activity with a minor" disqualify the applicant?

Would you disqualify someone for having sexual intercourse with his seventeen-year-old girlfriend when he was seventeen himself?

Ed Pie

eXtreme situations (what you might call X-Canon Law and X-Theology)

Do you think market analysis would show that canon laws and doctrines are more popular when there's an X in the title?


it took me a while to sort it all out, but it was fun. Thanks for the humor when there are so many lousy things going on in the world! much appreciated.


That post was intense.


But can you take the train to Morrow today?


Fascinating....We often sing this song at family reunions, actually....My father & his brother married 1st cousins; no further marriages have complicated matters worse on that account.
However, it did come as something of a start, recently, when I attended a reunion on the other (maternal) side of the family with a cousin & his fiancee, when said fiancee discovered that she was related to all of us (by affinity, not blood, if I understand this correctly)...We ;-) resisted the impulse to sing.

Kevin Jones

My great-grandfather married my great-grandmother after his wife, her sister died. The relatives in Ireland actually disowned her, since it was considered incestuous. I believe they were married in the Church here in the US, however, so either there was a dispensation or the law was applied differently. Things did get patched up between the relatives, fortunately.


OK, I really do have to go to bed tonight, but as I was puttering around here, another thought struck me:
Is this the point of canon law over which Henry VIII tried to argue for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon???
I have puzzled for many years over what on earth her previous marriage to his older brother had to do with anything....Mind you, several hundred years had passed at the time, but events following being what they were, Henry clearly was no stickler for such things...or anything else, for that matter.
But it did pop into my head: if the law prior to 1215 had been in force in his day, would British (& world) history have been changed? Or do I not understand this whole business yet???

J.R. Stoodley

I thought his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was illegal under the canon law of the time, but he had recieved a dispensation from the Pope. Then when he wanted to dump her he claimed the Pope should never have granted the dispensation, so the marriage had not been valid after all. The Pope said no, you got your dispensation so now you're married, like it or not.


I guess that the gospel example that the Pharisees give Jesus when they were trying to trip him up about whose wife the widow would be in Heaven if she married the nine (or was it seven?) brothers in succession after each one of them dies, would have all been invalid? I wonder why didn't Jesus just mention this? Or did it not apply in those days?


My brother married our eighth cousin. Every time it comes up, our grandmother (by whom we are related to my brother's wife) says in hushed tones, "they ARE cousins, you know." She was very disapproving of the marriage, which my sil took way too personally. It ain't who she is, it's what she is.

Ed Peters

great, jimmy. in every way.


now I know why Jimmy pinched a nerve in his back and had to take the day off - all these genealogical gyrations and canonical calisthenics!


As strange as this situation sounds, I remember several years back when former Rolling Stones bassist, Bill Wyman married a woman many years his junior. Then Wyman's son married his father's, mother-in-law. Bill and his wife divorce, but I believe his son is still married to tha same woman, which would make for awfully tense Christmas dinners.


Whimsy, how do you keep track of eighth cousins? I scarcely know my first cousins.

Re Henry VIII: according to Antonia Fraser's ``Six Wives of Henry VIII,'' Catherine's marriage to Henry was allowed because there was serious doubt as to whether her first marriage had been consummated; she always said it had not been. It didn't bother Henry for almost twenty years; he only developed the tender conscience after he caught sight of Anne Boleyn.

BTW as long as we're on the subject, can anyone explain the workings of ``degrees of kindred''? When I was a kid (early 1960s) we were told that marriage was forbidden to people ``within the third degree of kindred,'' but we were never told what it was. I assumed it meant third cousins. Anybody know?

Kevin Jones

"When I was a kid (early 1960s) we were told that marriage was forbidden to people ``within the third degree of kindred,'' but we were never told what it was. I assumed it meant third cousins. Anybody know?"

I share your assumption that this means third cousins, but I don't remember where I picked it up.

According to Tina Nunnally's introductory essays to Kristin Lavransdatter, up to the seventh degree of kindred was considered incestuous in medieval Norway.

Eileen R

My brother married our eighth cousin.

I found out recently my grandparents are ninth cousins. They had no idea, but they were both descended from a French couple who emigrated to Quebec in the 17th century. And in fact, I discovered that most of the French Canadian population is descended from this couple, and that the Fr. Canadian genealogical records are the best in the world, so presumably most couples with Fr. Canadian heritage on both sides would be traceably distant cousins.

Eileen R

I think the third degree would be second cousins. First degree would be your siblings. Second degree your first cousins. Third degree your second cousins.

Ah yes, The Catholic Encyclopedia has a nice table at the bottom of their Consanguinity showing who is covered under what degree. Scroll to bottom.


J.R. Stoodley

What would uncles and aunts be? In that case what would first cousins be?

I would think siblings, parents, and children would be first degree, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and grandchildren second degree, first cousins, great uncles, great aunts, great grandparents, and great grandchildren third degree, etc.

A Simple Sinner


Believe it or not, I actually DO have a friend whose widowed paternal grandfather married his widowed maternal grandmother. They got married some 20+ years after his parents had been married when both of them lost their spouses (in the same year) from cancer.

He liked to claim that his parents were "brother & sister" at parties. The fact that his family hailed originally from the West Virgina/Appalcahian Ohio area only set him up for some rather bad jokes.

Not quite the same as "I'm My Own Grampa", but "Both my parents have the same parents" might make a comedy hit.

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