Q. I am due to be getting married at the end of the year but the ceremony is causing some problems. My fiancée is Church of England and I am a Catholic. My partner wants us to be married in a Church of England Church and I want us to be married in a Catholic Church. What are the implications for me, if I where to ask if I could be married in a Church of England Church? Where would I stand in the eyes of the Catholic Church in the future and what would this entail if we were to have children? I would appreciate your views and advice on this matter as to the best way to move forward.
A. First, in a Catholic marriage, if one party is Catholic and the other a baptised member of another Christian denomination, they must get permission to marry in the Catholic Church, (there is usually no difficulty in getting this). The following Canons of the Church apply:
Canon 1124: ‘Without the express permission of the competent authority, marriage is prohibited between two baptised persons, one of whom was baptised in the Catholic Church or received into it after baptism and has not defected from it by a formal act, the other of whom belongs to a church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the Catholic Church.’
Canon 1125: ‘The local ordinary (bishop) can grant this permission if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions are fulfilled:
1. The Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith, and to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power in order that all the children be baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church.
2. The other party is to be informed in good time of these promises to be made by the Catholic party, so that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and of the obligation of the Catholic party.
3. Both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage, which are not to be excluded by either contractant.
Canon 1126: It is for the Episcopal Conference to prescribe the manner in which these declarations and promises, which are always required, are to be made, and to determine how they are to be established in the external forum, and how the non-catholic party is to be informed of them. (The last canon is saying the Bishop’s Conference in this country decides how the promises etc. are carried out in practice.)
Second, Canon 1118 §1 states that ‘A marriage… between a Catholic party and a baptized non-Catholic, is to be celebrated in the parish church. By permission of the local ordinary or of the parish priest, it may be celebrated in another church or oratory. So in summary, there should be no Catholic ‘legal’ problem in you getting married in a non-Catholic church, your local Catholic priest can get the required legalities sorted out. It is a normal requirement for the Catholic priest or his delegate to be in attendance as witnesses, although the non-Catholic minister will, according to his rite, ask for the consent of the parties.
As you are, no doubt, a devout practicing Catholic, you see warnings regarding children from the marriage. This is something you both are advised to discuss in depth, and why the Catholic Church makes the stipulations in Canons 1124-1126. Problems can arise, even if agreements are made now, when it comes to the times for the children to receive the sacraments, because parents and in-laws can exert strong pressures either way. Again, see your local parish priest and he will provide great instruction called pre-Cana and can do all necessary items to help you in this situation.
Q. My fiancé and I are both Catholic, and we would like to get married in a Catholic church, however, I am a divorcee. Is it still possible for us to marry in a Catholic church.
A. If your first marriage was valid, and marriage is said to ‘have the favour of law’ that is, it is assumed valid until it is legally proved otherwise, then you are not free to marry again. I quote from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church No.349: ‘The Church, since she is faithful to her Lord, cannot recognise the union of people who are civilly divorced and remarried. “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her: and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12). The Church manifests an attentive solicitude towards such people and encourages them to a life of faith, prayer, works of charity and the Christian education of their children. However, they cannot receive sacramental absolution, take Holy Communion, or exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities as long as their situation, which objectively contravenes God’s law, persists.’
Both of these situations can be remedied by the Marriage Tribuanl; all you need to do to get the ball rolling is talk to your local priest. He will instruct you in what is necessary to meet the requirements to have a validly recognized marriage to receive the Sacraments.