MARRIAGE (Cann. 1055 - 1165)
- §1. The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.
- §2. For this reason, a valid matrimonial contract cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament.
Can. 1056 The essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility, which in Christian marriage obtain a special firmness by reason of the sacrament.
- §1. The consent of the parties, legitimately manifested between persons quali-fied by law, makes marriage; no human power is able to supply this consent.
- §2. Matrimonial consent is an act of the will by which a man and a woman mutually give and accept each other through an irrevocable covenant in order to establish marriage.
Can. 1058 All persons who are not prohibited by law can contract marriage.
Can. 1059 Even if only one party is Catholic, the marriage of Catholics is governed not only by divine law but also by canon law, without prejudice to the competence of civil authority concerning the merely civil effects of the same marriage.
Can. 1060 Marriage possesses the favor of law; therefore, in a case of doubt, the validity of a marriage must be upheld until the contrary is proven.
- §1. A valid marriage between the baptised is called ratum tantum if it has not been consummated; it is called ratum et consummatum if the spouses have performed between themselves in a human fashion a conjugal act which is suitable in itself for the procreation of offspring, to which marriage is ordered by its nature and by which the spouses become one flesh.
- §2. After a marriage has been celebrated, if the spouses have lived together consummation is presumed until the contrary is proven.
- §3. An invalid marriage is called putative if at least one party celebrated it in good faith, until both parties become certain of its nullity.
- §1. A promise of marriage, whether unilateral or bilateral, which is called an engagement, is governed by the particular law established by the conference of bishops, after it has considered any existing customs and civil laws.
- §2. A promise to marry does not give rise to an action to seek the celebration of marriage; an action to repair damages, however, does arise if warranted.
Can. 1124 Without express permission of the competent authority, a marriage is prohibited between two baptized persons of whom one is baptised in the Catholic Church or received into it after baptism and has not defected from it by a formal act and the other of whom is enrolled in a Church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the Catholic Church.
Can. 1125 The local ordinary can grant a permission of this kind if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions have been fulfilled:
- 1/ the Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;
- 2/ the other party is to be informed at an appropriate time about the promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party;
- 3/ both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude.
Can. 1126 It is for the conference of bishops to establish the method in which these declarations and promises, which are always required, must be made and to define the manner in which they are to be established in the external forum and the non-Catholic party informed about them.
- §1. The prescripts of ⇒ can. 1108 are to be observed for the form to be used in a mixed marriage. Nevertheless, if a Catholic party contracts marriage with a non-Catholic party of an Eastern rite, the canonical form of the celebration must be observed for liceity only; for validity, however, the presence of a sacred minister is required and the other requirements of law are to be observed.
- §2. If grave diYculties hinder the observance of canonical form, the local ordinary of the Catholic party has the right of dispensing from the form in individual cases, after having consulted the ordinary of the place in which the marriage is celebrated and with some public form of celebration for validity. It is for the conference of bishops to establish norms by which the aforementioned dispensation is to be granted in a uniform manner.
- §3. It is forbidden to have another religious celebration of the same marriage to give or renew matrimonial consent before or after the canonical celebration according to the norm of §1. Likewise, there is not to be a religious celebration in which the Catholic who is assisting and a non-Catholic minister together, using their own rites, ask for the consent of the parties.
Can. 1128 Local ordinaries and other pastors of souls are to take care that the Catholic spouse and the children born of a mixed marriage do not lack the spiritual help to fulfil their obligations and are to help spouses foster the unity of conjugal and family life.
Can. 1129 The prescripts of cann. ⇒ 1127 and ⇒ 1128 must be applied also to marriages which the impediment of disparity of cult mentioned in ⇒ can. 1086, §1 impedes
The Effects of Marriage
Can. 1134 From a valid marriage there arises between the spouses a bond which by its nature is perpetual and exclusive. Moreover, a special sacrament strengthens and, as it were, consecrates the spouses in a Christian marriage for the duties and dignity of their state.
Can. 1135 Each spouse has an equal duty and right to those things which belong to the partnership of conjugal life.
Can. 1136 Parents have the most grave duty and the primary right to take care as best they can for the physical, social, cultural, moral, and religious education of their offspring.
Can. 1137 The children conceived or born of a valid or putative marriage are legitimate.
- §1. The father is he whom a lawful marriage indicates unless clear evidence proves the contrary.
- §2. Children born at least 180 days after the day when the marriage was celebrated or within 300 days from the day of the dissolution of conjugal life are presumed to be legitimate.
Can. 1139 Illegitimate children are legitimated by the subsequent valid or putative marriage of their parents or by a rescript of the Holy See.
Can. 1140 As regards canonical effects, legitimated children are equal in all things to legitimate ones unless the law has expressly provided otherwise.
Marriage is a practice common to all cultures in all ages. It is, therefore, a natural institution, something common to all mankind. At its most basic level, marriage is a union between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation and mutual support, or love. Each spouse in a marriage gives up some rights over his or her life in exchange for rights over the life of the other spouse.
While divorce has existed throughout history, it has been rare until recent centuries, which indicates that, even in its natural form, marriage is meant to be a lifelong, union.
The Elements of a Natural Marriage
As Fr. John Hardon explains in his Pocket Catholic Dictionary, there are four elements common to natural marriage throughout history:
- It is a union of opposite sexes.
- It is a lifelong union, ending only with the death of one spouse.
- It excludes a union with any other person so long as the marriage exists.
- Its lifelong nature and exclusiveness are guaranteed by contract.
So, even at a natural level, divorce, adultery, and “homosexual marriage” are not compatible with marriage, and a lack of commitment means that no marriage has taken place.
A Supernatural Institution
In the Catholic Church, however, marriage is more than a natural institution; it was elevated by Christ Himself, in His participation in the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11), to be one of the seven sacraments. A marriage between two Christians, therefore, has a supernatural element as well as a natural one. While few Christians outside of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches regard marriage as a sacrament, the Catholic Church insists that marriage between any two baptized Christians, as long as it is entered into with the intention to contract a true marriage, is a sacrament.
Question: Can I Get Married in the Catholic Church?
Marriage is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. As such, it is a supernatural institution, as well as a natural one. The Church, therefore, restricts sacramental marriage to men and women who meet certain requirements.
Answer: In order to get married in the Catholic Church, you must be:
- A Baptised Christian
Both partners do not have to be a Catholic in order to be sacramentally married in the Catholic Church, but both must be baptised Christians (and at least one must be a Catholic). Non-Christians cannot receive the sacraments. For a Catholic to marry a non-Catholic Christian, express permission is required from his or her bishop. A Catholic can marry an unbaptised person, but such marriages are natural marriages only; they are not sacramental marriages. The Church, therefore, discourages them and requires a Catholic who wishes to marry an unbaptised person to receive a special dispensation from his or her bishop. Still, if the dispensation is granted, a non-sacramental marriage is valid and can take place inside of a Catholic church.
- Not Too Closely Related
Legal prohibitions on marriage between cousins (and other close blood relationships, such as uncle and niece) stem from the Church’s ban on such marriages. Before 1983, marriages between second cousins were prohibited—indeed, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani received an annulment of his first marriage after determining that his wife was his second cousin. Today, second-cousin marriages are allowed, and, under some circumstances, a dispensation can be obtained to allow a first-cousin marriage.The Church still discourages such marriages, however.
- Free to Marry
If one of the partners, Catholic or non-Catholic Christian, has been married before, he or she is free to marry only if his or her spouse has died or he or she has obtained a declaration of nullity from the Church. The mere fact of a divorce is not sufficient to prove the nullity of a marriage. During marriage preparation, you must inform the priest if you have been married before, even in a civil ceremony.
- Of the Opposite Sex as Your Partner
Marriage, by definition, is a lifelong union between one man and one woman. The Catholic Church does not recognise, even as a civil marriage, a contracted relationship between two men or two women.
- In Good Standing With the Church
It’s an old joke that some Catholics only see the inside of a church when they are “carried [at Baptism], married, and buried.” But marriage is a sacrament, and, for the sacrament to be properly received, the Catholic partner(s) in a marriage must be in good standing with the Church. This not only means normal Church attendance but also avoidance of scandal. So, for instance, a couple who are living together may not be allowed to get married in the Church until they have spent sufficient time living apart. (There are exceptions—for instance, if the priest is convinced that the couple is not engaged in immoral behavior but is living together out of economic necessity.) Likewise, a Catholic politician who supports policies condemned by the Church (such as the legalization of abortion) may be denied a sacramental marriage.
- When In Doubt . . .
If you’re not sure whether you are free to contract a valid marriage, or whether your potential marriage would be sacramental or non-sacramental, the first place to check is, as always, with your parish priest. In fact, if your potential spouse is not Catholic, or if either of you has been married before, you should discuss your situation with your priest even before you get engaged (if possible). And even if both of you are Catholic and free to marry, you should make an appointment with your priest as soon as possible after your engagement. Any marriage that is contracted in opposition to the regulations of the Catholic Church is not only non-sacramental but invalid.
Because of the sacramental nature of Christian marriage, and the serious nature of even non-sacramental (natural) marriage, it is not something to be entered into lightly. Your parish priest will help you ensure that your marriage will be valid–and, if contracted between two baptised Christians, sacramental.
The Ministers of the Sacrament
How can a marriage between two non-Catholic but baptised Christians be a sacrament, if a Catholic priest does not perform the marriage? Most people, including most Roman Catholics, do not realise that the ministers of the sacrament are the spouses themselves. While the Church strongly encourages Catholics to marry in the presence of a priest (and to have a wedding Mass, if both prospective spouses are Catholic), strictly speaking, a priest is not needed.
The Mark and Effect of the Sacrament
The spouses are the ministers of the sacrament of marriage because the mark—the external sign—of the sacrament is not the wedding Mass or anything the priest might do but the marriage contract itself. This does not mean the wedding license that the couple receives from the state, but the vows that each spouse makes to the other. As long as each spouse intends to contract a true marriage, the sacrament is performed.
The effect of the sacrament is an increase in sanctifying grace for the spouses, a participation in the divine life of God Himself.
The Union of Christ and His Church
This sanctifying grace helps each spouse to help the other advance in holiness, and it helps them together to cooperate in God’s plan of redemption by raising up children in the Faith.
In this way, sacramental marriage is more than a union of a man and a woman; it is, in fact, a type and symbol of the divine union between Christ, the Bridegroom, and His Church, the Bride. As married Christians, open to the creation of new life and committed to our mutual salvation, we participate not only in God’s creative act but in the redemptive act of Christ.