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Sunday, 12 February 2012

One may never do evil so that good may result from it

A painful family event in these days is the marriage outside of a Catholic or a Christian service of sons and daughter of practicing Catholics. Some of my friends have absented themselves from either the so-called marriage, civil marriage of a son or daughter to another person, either baptized or un-baptized. Some parents have gone and witnessed such non-marriages. In light of Valentine's Day, I felt it necessary to help clarify the situation, which I had to deal with in RCIA several times.

Firstly, when one attends a marriage, one is a witness to that marriage, not merely a guest. Especially a parent being present is a statement of agreement and support of the bond. One cannot be in person in silence, as silence is consent.

Secondly, the Church has made some rules in Canon Law much clearer in recent times to help us, the laity, as well as the clergy, sift through these problems.

Thirdly, if one is a baptized Catholic, that person is under Canon Law from baptism until death. There are no exceptions.

Lastly, Canon Law specifies that a Catholic cannot marry an unbaptized person without permission of a Bishop, which will be examined at the end of this entry. This is called "disparity of cult" and is a huge problem.

The motu proprio of Pope Benedict XVI, Omnium in mentem clarified many points, a few which I shall outline here. The publication date was in December of 2009. I was aware of this having been involved in RCIA, which demands that the coordinator asks pertinent questions regarding the marital states of those wanting to come into the Church. Such problems which arise are then sent to the Canon Lawyers in the marriage tribunals or, if the priest in the parish is aware of the laws, to the priest.

Firstly, a person can no longer formally leave the Church, as in a formal apostasy. The ruling clears up private and public apostasy. If one is a lapsed Catholic, one is an apostate and incurs the penalties. Can. 1364 §1. Without prejudice to the prescript of  can. 194, §1, n. 2, an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication; in addition, a cleric can be punished with the penalties mentioned in  can. 1336, §1, nn. 1, 2, and 3.

One must consult a Canon Lawyer, better if he is a priest, if one has been away from the Church, as one may need the special faculties of a priest who can lift such an excommunication, specifically in the case of a woman who has undergone an abortion. Not all priests have this faculty. Confession, of course, is required. By the way, not all parish priests know the laws. The humble ones admit this and get the information. The lay person must be aware of some basic rules, all for the sake of souls. Eternity is a really long time.

Secondly, the fact that Canon Law covers a Catholic from baptism to death means that there is not a period of time when one can claim "immunity". However, the status is such that a person who has contracted a civil marriage may remarry in the Catholic Church after being reconciled. The problems occur if one has been married before in a Protestant ceremony. In most cases, an annulment is required.

Thirdly, the authority to whom one must apply for  marriages is the Bishop, or priests to whom the Bishop has given permission to grant the dispensation for a mixed marriage. "Marriage between two baptized persons, one of whom was baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it after baptism, and the other a member of a Church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the Catholic Church, cannot be celebrated without the express permission of the competent authority". 

Fourthly, it must be discussed whether all Christian marriages in other denominations are truly Christian. A reminder that not all congregations which call themselves "Christian" are. For example, Mormons are not Christian, nor are independent churches which baptize in the Name of Jesus only. The lack of a true Trinitarian Baptism, which constitutes the Sacrament, is missing in both cases. In addition, some Christian denominations now allow such practices as words or practices from Hindu or Native America wedding services to be part of the vows, which would invalidate the Christian marriage, as it is no longer Christian but something New Age. This does happen more than one would think. A parent should not witness such a New Age wedding ceremony.

Lastly, the question of disparity of cult was clarified. Here is the ruling: "A marriage between two persons, one of whom was baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it, and the other of whom is not baptized, is invalid". So, as now it is clear that a parent cannot witness a civil union or a union under disparity of cult, it remains for the individuals involved to try and discuss such matters rationally and calmly, being open to the Church's laws which are for the good of our souls.

May I add, especially in England, where this is more common, that woman are not priests. Anglican orders are not valid. One can be confused on both of these issues, but both Pope Leo XIII and Blessed John Paul II wrote documents clarifying both situations. These are found here and there.

This is more common than one would think. I admire and applaud those parents who have not attended, or rather, witnessed such invalid marriages of their baptized offspring. We cannot be complicit in sin or evil and I am afraid that the English are very bad at these types of decisions, so as not to upset family members, who are entering into sinful lifestyles. We cannot judge the degree of ignorance, but we can teach and be witnesses to the Truth, for the sake of the immortal souls of the sons, daughters and those witnessing. The CCC has an excellent section on formation of conscience. Here is the link. And, a few quotations. always proceeds by way of respect for one's neighbor and his conscience: "Thus sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience . . . you sin against Christ."57 Therefore "it is right not to . . . do anything that makes your brother stumble."58
Faced with a moral choice, conscience can make either a right judgment in accordance with reason and the divine law or, on the contrary, an erroneous judgment that departs from them.
Man is sometimes confronted by situations that make moral judgments less assured and decision difficult. But he must always seriously seek what is right and good and discern the will of God expressed in divine law.
To this purpose, man strives to interpret the data of experience and the signs of the times assisted

May I add that Catholic weddings must occur in a Church. No beach weddings, please. And, lax priests who allow this are just plain wrong.

Sadly, not all priests follow the laws. I had one priest tell me he did not want to be bothered with such things. This attitude and willful ignorance impedes the laity in striving for holiness. And, as a reminder, those who have been in cohabitation, that is living in sin, must go to Confession and live chastely before the wedding. A person who is in mortal sin cannot get grace in the Sacrament of Marriage. I shall pray for all who read this.

I dedicate this to my brave two friends, who did not go to a sibling's and a son's wedding.


jean said...

My youngest daughter has made it plain she is no longer a Catholic and does not intend to get married in a Catholic church. She and her fiance are good, adult people. They know my views but think they would be hypocrites to marry in a Church. So they won't. I shall, in Christian charity, attend their wedding because I respect their integrity and honesty. I love them. I've never said this before in my life but I don't care what the church says.

New Sister said...

I have friends who had the moral strength, by God's grace, to not attend their child's wedding outside of Christ's Holy Church. In both instances I recall, it was so painful afterward they doubted if they had done the right thing - how it pains me to see this. May God reward them for holding out, though. I had to reveal to my brother and sister in law, on what we thought was their 17th anniversary, that they weren't married. (!!) My little brother, baptized as a child and never catechized thereafter, married a non-baptized young lady, out in a Lutheran church in her hometown. 5 years later, they joined RCIA and came into the Church, but in a liberal diocese that didn't bother telling them they had to sacramentalize their marriage. My telling them at 17 years met much resistance -- the devil moved right in with his lies, "how can the Church say this? what about our wedding? Are our kids bastards now?" etc.. A priest I sent to talk to them (a good one, not of the diocese) convinced them they had to do this, and let me know that they did, but in secret. They never told me or anyone in the family and still celebrate the anniversary of their invalid bond, not the day they were actually married sacramentally, whenever that was. This is so hard for me as the lone voice in the family, who has a hard time balancing peaceful relations, my tender love for them, and my duty to witness Truth - I cannot wish them "happy anniversary" for the day of their wedding, or send a card for their 25th. From what I understand, a condition for a con-validation to be valid is understanding that, at that moment, it is the first time they are married (i.e., it doesn't retroactively make them married) - more doubt. In fact, there are many bonds out there blessed by the Church that I doubt are valid. It's a difficult way to live, and exercises my trust in God's Mercy no small amount.

Supertradmum said...

New Sister, thank you for this thoughtful comment. The real issue is true love, as opposed to sentimentality. Real love wants to save souls, and hungers after souls, as St. Catherine of Siena noted. If we care about eternity, we make different decisions than we do if we do not. God bless you and your family. Prayers for you, as well.

Supertradmum said...


I understand your dilemma. Consider this, you are encouraging mortal sin. Charity is not being nice, but being truthful. God is Love, but His Love resides in repentance, not in the acceptance of evil. You are not respect their integrity or honesty, as they are not being honest or integral, as they are acting against natural law,God's Commandments and Church Law. And, one cannot claim to no longer be a Catholic. Once a Catholic, always a Catholic-
"Once a King or Queen in Narnia, always a King or Queen in Narnia"; that is one of the characteristics of the indelible mark of the Christian from Baptism. One cannot erase what is marked by the Sacrament. See Catechism of the Catholic Church, 698.

Supertradmum said...

sorry, respecting should be the correct word. And, if you read my earlier post on the seven corporal and spiritual works of mercy, you will understand this all more.

happyhockeymom said...

I had a brother-in-law get, who was baptized and raised Catholic(sort of), that got "married" after living with his girlfriend for at least 3 years. There was no Catholic priest and no confession beforehand, no Church. I was the only one who said anything and then to my husband, who is his brother. Every one else is so happy that he is "turning his life around" that they won't say anything to him.

Besides, everyone knows that I am the pre-Vatican II religious nut who is uptight and rigid. And I am a convert who really doesn't understand the way thins used to be. :(

As the in law and with all of my kids attending per my husband's say, I felt I had no choice but to attend. The "ceremony" was appalling. As an in-law, what other choices did I have?

I did use this occassion to try to talk to my kids about what the Church teaches about marriage, but was told I was being uncharitable. Hopefully, they will remember this someday.

slave2mary said...

Our priest gave a homily once where he told a story of a grandmother who, when asked by her granddaughter whether she was coming to her (non-Catholic) wedding answered, "I would rather see you dead than see you married outside of the Catholic Church." Everyone in the family thought the grandmother so cruel and harsh but she stuck to her guns. I often wonder whether I would have as much courage...

We must not confuse "going along to get along" with Christian charity.

Anonymous said...

Is it ok to go through TWO religious ceremonies? I always thought that if I end up marrying a non-Catholic but quite practicing of his own religion, we would have to do both marriages. Of course it is very far as an option to me, but is it acceptable?Let us say that a priest marries us, and then a Rabbi marries us, because to my husband, a priest's marriage is invalid, just as to me, the Rabbi's one isn't either!

Supertradmum said...

Again, "disparity of cult" means that one person, such as a Jewish person, is not baptized. No, there cannot be two ceremonies, as the Catholic Church only recognizes Christian marriages, which would omit Mormon, Jewish, etc. marriages. One can sometimes get permission for disparity of cult from a bishop, not a priest, but this is rare. A priest cannot give permission for disparity of cult, only the local ordinand. An unbaptized person in religion,is called a "heathen". This is not the same as a "pagan",which is a person who worships many gods. One can be both, however, unbaptized and believing in many gods.