Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Sacrament of Matrimony and the Contract of Marriage

There are many questions relating to marriage and how one should view it in today's world, considering the absence of legitimately Catholic clergy or jurisdiction.

Is it still possible for Catholics to be married, even though there are no known Catholic priests (i.e. priests who are free from manifest public heresy or schism)?

Yes, Catholics can still be married.  Pope Eugene IV defined that the minister (efficient cause) of matrimony is not in fact the priest, but the mutual consent of the spouses. 

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Session 8, ex cathedra: "The seventh is the sacrament of matrimony, which is a sign of the union of Christ and the church according to the words of the apostle: This sacrament is a great one, but I speak in Christ and in the church. The efficient cause of matrimony is usually mutual consent expressed in words about the present..."

Words about the present, i.e. not "I will", or "I have", but "I do".



What about people married outside the Church?  Is their marriage sacramental if they are baptized?

Just as Holy Baptism is a sacrament whether exercised in the Church or out of it, it appears (from Pope Gregory XVI, Summo Iugiter Studio, among other sources) that Matrimony among the baptized who are outside the Church is also a sacrament.  But when a man is baptized in a heretical sect, he is not able to receive the effects of the sacrament, which is sanctifying grace, because of the impediment he has erected to obstruct it (profession of and communion with heresy).  Likewise, when spouses are married outside the Church, they are unable to benefit from the increases in grace that are occasioned by the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.

Pope Gregory XVI, Summo Iugiter Studio: "After these things it is hardly necessary to add statements concerning those other, far more serious, cases of marriages contracted between Catholics and heretics in which the heretical party may have a previous partner still living from whom he separated by divorce. You know how strong by divine law the bond of marriage is. This bond cannot be broken by human authority. Therefore, a mixed marriage in such cases is not only illicit, but entirely invalid and adulterous. The only exception is when the former marriage, which the heretical party considers dissolved by divorce, was entirely invalid because of some canonical impediment. In this last case, not only must all the things which were said above be observed, but the new marriage must not be permitted until after the first marriage has been declared invalid by an ecclesiastical judgment made according to canonical standards."


Is it lawful for baptized non-Catholics to marry one another?

By Baptism, heretics and schismatics are bound to obey the Church:

Council of Trent, Session 7, Canons on Baptism, Canon 7: "If any one saith, that the baptized are, by baptism itself, made debtors but to faith alone, and not to the observance of the whole law of Christ; let him be anathema."

But Church law does not permit heretics to receive any sacraments, marriage included:

From the Rescript of Pius VI to Cardinal de Franckenberg, Archbishop of Mechlin, and to the Bishops of Belgium, July 13, 1782 (Denz. 1496): "And therefore we must not depart from the uniform opinion of our predecessors and from ecclesiastical discipline, which do not approve marriages between parties who are both heretics..."

How can such marriages become lawful and productive of grace?

They must abjure their errors, heresies and schisms, confess all of their sins (or make a perfect act of contrition, since we cannot find Catholic priests) and do penance to obtain sanctifying grace.

Ephesians 5:31-32: "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh.  This is a great sacrament; but I speak in Christ and in the Church."

Once they are both in the Church, an expedient and edifying step would be to renew their vows, however I have seen no evidence that the Church has ever required this of converted couples, so it would seem that upon profession of the right Faith and sanctification, their marriage automatically becomes productive of the increase of grace inherent to the sacrament already received and which was otherwise defective on account of heresy or schism.


Are all the non-sacramental marriages of the unbaptized sinful?

It does not seem that this can be the case.  It was not until the coming of Christ that marriage was elevated to the dignity of a Sacrament, in addition to its already being a binding contract.  Therefore the marriages of the unbaptized are still bound by the Natural Law, under which marriage exists for the purposes of procreation and education of offspring, unto the common good of society.  To say that all such marriages are sinful is hardly different than falling into the Calvinistic heresy which states that every act of a man who is not justified is sinful.

Pope St. Pius V, Ex Omnibus, #27: “Free will, without the help of God’s grace, has power only for sin.” - CONDEMNED


How can the marriage contract of the unbaptized become sacramental?

Modified excerpt from the "Catholic Encylopedia" article on Matrimony: "[E]cclesiastical teaching declares that among the baptized there can be no true marriage which is not also a sacrament. Now, immediately after the baptism of both partners, the already contracted marriage, which is not dissolved by baptism, becomes a "marriage of the baptized"; for were it not immediately a "sacrament", the above-mentioned general principle, which Pius IX proclaimed as incontestable doctrine, would be untrue.

Consequently we must say that, through the baptism itself, the existing marriage passes into a sacrament. A difficulty may arise only in the determination as to where in such a case the matter and form of the sacrament are to be sought, and what act of the minister completes the sacrament. This problem, it would seem, is most readily solved by falling back on the virtually continuing mutual consent of the parties, which has been already formally given. This virtual wish to be and to remain partners in marriage, which is not annulled by the reception of baptism, is an entity in the parties in which may be found the ministration of the sacrament."


If unbaptized people are not united in Holy Matrimony, but are only married civilly, that is contractually, can they divorce and remarry without sinning?

It is impossible for unbaptized individuals to obtain sacramental matrimony.  However there is still a valid life long contract between an unbaptized husband and wife, which is established upon their intention to enter into a true marriage and their external and solemn expression of mutual consent.  Christ calls it adultery for a man to leave his wife and marry another for any cause or reason.  When he permits spouses to separate on account of fornication, this does not mean that they cease to belong the one to the other, but only that the offending party has forfeited the rights that are bound up with marriage.  This applies equally to baptized individuals who are in a sacramental marriage.

St. Matthew 19:8-9: "He saith to them: Because Moses by reason of the hardness of your heart permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery."

In saying "from the beginning it was not so", He makes clear that since the creation man he was, by his nature (i.e. the Natural Law), united to his spouse for life, even before Christ instituted the sacraments.

He says "except it be for fornication", but this only applies to one who puts away his wife.  He may still not marry another without committing adultery, as St. Thomas Aquinas says (Summa Theologica, Supp. Q. 62, Art. 5).  One is never exonerated from adultery if he "re"marries after separating from an unfaithful spouse to whom he was truly married.

The wife may be put away for just cause, but even then the husband cannot marry another as long as the wife is living.  But if he puts her away without just cause then he becomes guilty also of any adultery that she may happen to fall into, no longer having him as a help against concupiscence.  It is absolutely forbidden to marry another while one's lawful spouse is till alive, or to marry one who's lawful spouse is alive.

St. Luke 16:18: "Every one that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her that is put away from her husband, committeth adultery."


This is also succinctly stated by Pope Eugene IV:

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Session 8, ex cathedra: "A threefold good is attributed to matrimony. The first is the procreation and bringing up of children for the worship of God. The second is the mutual faithfulness of the spouses towards each other. The third is the indissolubility of marriage, since it signifies the indivisible union of Christ and the church. Although separation of bed is lawful on account of fornication, it is not lawful to contract another marriage, since the bond of a legitimately contracted marriage is perpetual."

And again by Pope Pius IV:

Pope Pius IV, Council of Trent, Session 24, Canon 7, ex cathedra: "If any one saith, that the Church has erred, in that she hath taught, and doth teach, in accordance with the evangelical and apostolical doctrine, that the bond of matrimony cannot be dissolved on account of the adultery of one of the married parties; and that both, or even the innocent one who gave not occasion to the adultery, cannot contract another marriage, during the life-time of the other; and, that he is guilty of adultery, who, having put away the adulteress, shall take another wife, as also she, who, having put away the adulterer, shall take another husband; let him be anathema."


Can anyone get an annulment today?

An annulment, unlike a divorce, is a statement on behalf of the Church that the marriage was never a valid marriage from the start (on account of some impediment to the sacrament, such as deceit on behalf of one of the parties who never intended to be truly married, etc.), and that for this reason both parties are free to marry another.  They are not free to "re"-marry, as they were never married, but only vaguely thought they were.  But this is a decision that requires the jurisdiction of a Catholic hierarchy.  Since there is no valid hierarchy known, we know of nobody competent to grant annulments.


What are the reasons for which spouses may separate (though they may never remarry during the lifetime of the other spouse)?

Certainly if one of the spouses is hindering the Catholic upbringing of children, is presenting a bad model of imitation, is endangering the family through abuse or other vices, then the duty of the faithful spouse is protection of the souls of self and the children.  If such entails leaving, then so be it; the Catholic Church will not ask the spouse to put marriage with a non-Catholic before the welfare and salvation of souls.

Pope Pius IV, Council of Trent, Session 24, Canon 8, ex cathedra: "If any one saith, that the Church errs, in that she declares that, for many causes, a separation may take place between husband and wife, in regard of bed, or in regard of cohabitation, for a determinate or for an indeterminate period; let him be anathema."

However, it should be noted that not only does the Church not necessarily command separation on account of such difficult circumstances, separation is not necessarily always the best answer, not always the right answer, even though it may be permissible.  Individuals in this kind of difficult situation must be very wise, very prudent, and must take account of all things, spiritual and temporal, lest they find themselves going out from the frying pan and into the fire.


Questions to ask yourself if you are in such a situation:

Would my motives for leaving be pure or would they be filled with selfishness, bitterness or malice?

Is the bad example or abuse of my spouse severe enough to justify leaving, or would the examples of those to whom I would go for help and support be worse?

Would I have to spend more time away from the home and leave my children to be cared for and educated by strangers, heretics or even worse infidels?

Would my spouse do something extreme out of revenge?

And most importantly, would the salvation of my soul and those of my children (and spouse) become more or less likely if I left or banished my spouse?

Questions like these are why we have the Novena to the Holy Ghost and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Let us ask their guidance that we may be sure to do the will of God.


Update: I received an email criticizing me for not mentioning the Pauline and Petrine Privileges in this article.  The Pauline and Petrine Privileges were dispensations from the law, and were dependent on the ruling of a bishop.  Since we have no bishops who can exercise jurisdiction (that I am aware of), it would seem unreasonable to gamble away one's salvation by "granting one's own dispensation", and risk becoming an adulterer or adulteress.



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