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