I may be reading too much of the Telegraph this week (I blame John Bolch at Family Lore, who I am sure is buying two bottles of Buxton water and getting a free copy of the telegraph from a well-known newsagent).
This one is about a Supreme Court judge, Lord Wilson, giving a speech in Belfast, which included his comments that gay marriage and divorce and mixing of nuclear families post separation might not be a bad thing. In the world of the Telegraph, this sort of thing is ‘controversial’
Anyway, that’s not the bit that struck me, it was this bit
Lord Wilson also pointed out that Australia allows a woman to wed her uncle, and France permits about 20 posthumous marriages to take place a year, if the surviving member of the couple can prove they were genuinely engaged.
That was actually news to me, and on doing a bit of digging (sorry, probably poor choice of word) I find that it is true.
You really can apply in France, if you have good evidence that a person who has died did intend to marry you, for a posthumous marriage. It doesn’t change any financial matters or inheritance (so you can’t wait until Rupert Murdoch dies, and then agree to marry him for the loot)
At the ceremony, the deceased is represented by a photograph, and rather than the bride/groom saying “I do” they say “I did” – the wording also misses out, for obvious reasons the “till death us do part” bit.
It happened after a dam broke and killed a woman’s fiance and she wrote to the President to ask him to allow the marriage to happen anyway. He allowed it and the law was later changed to permit it. Lord Wilson does seem right that about 20 happen per year. [In my researches, I haven’t come across any MEN who have asked to marry their dead fiancee, only the other way around]
[Perhaps it is because I am in my own first month of marriage that I think this is rather sweet rather than freakish and morbid. ]
Anyway, that tied in to something I read about a long time ago, and have been waiting for an opportunity to crowbar in, which is the trial of Pope Formosus.
Pope Formosus was Pope for just five years, 891 to 896. His reign as Pope was quite troubled and controversial. That would explain why he was put on trial. One of his crimes was trying to escape the Vatican and escape being Pope (which is described as “Conspiring to destroy the papal See” – or if you are our last Pope, “resigning”)
What is slightly harder to explain is why his trial was two years after he died, in what is called the Cadaver Synod.
His successor, Pope Steven VI, had Formosus dug up, dressed in robes, sat on a chair and made him undergo a posthumous trial as the defendant. Steven served as prosecutor and Judge. During the trial, a Deacon (appointed by Steven) answered all of the questions on behalf of Formosus.
I suspect that these answers were more on the lines of cringing admissions rather than spirited rebuttals. Unsurprisingly, Formosus didn’t beat the rap, and as punishment, all of his papal orders were set aside, three of his fingers cut off and he was then thrown in a river. He was later fished out and buried.
There is a story, although this is disputed, that a later Pope, Sergius III was so taken with this that he also dug up poor Formosus again, put him on trial again and this time beheaded him.
Clearly in the “Big Book of Rainy Day Vatican City Games”, there was a purple bookmark on the page “digging up previous Popes and putting them on trial for a laugh”
Under Stephen VI, the successor of Boniface, Emperor Lambert and Agiltrude recovered their authority in Rome at the beginning of 897, having renounced their claims to the greater part of Upper and Central Italy. Agiltrude being determined to wreak vengeance on her opponent even after his death, Stephen VI lent himself to the revolting scene of sitting in judgment on his predecessor, Formosus. At the synod convened for that purpose, he occupied the chair; the corpse, clad in papal vestments, was withdrawn from the sarcophagus and seated on a throne; close by stood a deacon to answer in its name, all the old charges formulated against Formosus under John VIII being revived. The decision was that the deceased had been unworthy of the pontificate, which he could not have validly received since he was bishop of another see. All his measures and acts were annulled, and all the orders conferred by him were declared invalid. The papal vestments were torn from his body; the three fingers which the dead pope had used in consecrations were severed from his right hand; the corpse was cast into a grave in the cemetery for strangers, to be removed after a few days and consigned to the Tiber
Catholic Encyclopaedia Chapter 13
This also reminds me that in my recent research into trial by ordeal (don’t ask) – whilst most of the ordeals were pretty grim (carry a red hot bar of iron for twenty paces, plunge your hand into scalding water for a minute – if you don’t scar on either of those you are innocent) there’s one that was “Trial by Ingestion” just put the communion wafer [or dry bread and cheese] in your mouth and then eat it without choking. That seems to me to be the one I would have been advising clients to take.