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Catholics do not have a ‘right’ to marry in the Church July 20, 2011

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, Dallas Diocese, General Catholic, North Deanery, sadness, scandals, sickness, Society.

Practicing Catholics absolutely should and must marry in the Church, but for the many cultural Catholics who reject Church Doctrine and do little or nothing to live in accord with the six precepts of the Faith, there is not a ‘right to marry,’ according to Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro-Carambula, President of Human Life International:

Living as we are in a period that exalts individual desires, especially regarding sexuality, many persons who consider themselves Catholics believe that they have a right to contract marriage in the Church in accordance with their own opinions on marriage. But really that is not the case. Baptized Catholics have the right to celebrate marriage in the Church only if they intend to contract marriage with the firm intention of fulfilling what the Church teaches about marriage. If persons request to be married, but reject or only partially accept the objective definition of marriage given by the natural law and the Church, they do not have a right to marry. Instead, what these persons are pretending to do is obtain the recognition of a non-existing right, or mint a new false right, as many persons and groups are currently doing. It is particularly important to understand that marriage is an objective reality, and that future spouses do not have a right to redefine its content. An attempt to redefine marriage will lead to its subversion, and even will open the door to polygamy, or worse, to same sex unions.

This was very clearly explained by Pope Benedict XVI in an important address that he delivered in January of this year to the Tribunal of the Roman Rota. Given the importance of the message, it has received very limited publicity. [go figure!  I covered it]

The Holy Father criticizes the fact it has been “often maintained that in admitting couples to marriage pastors must have a broad-minded approach, since people’s natural right to marry is at stake.”  But what we must understand is that this right only exists when the future spouses are committed to celebrate their marriage in accordance with the Catholic definition of marriage. [which, in modern practical terms, means accepting Church Doctrine on monogamy, chastity, and fecundity – in other words, not contracepting, not porning, not cheating, etc]

The Holy Father stated in very precise terms that it is not a subjective claim that pastors must fulfill through a merely formal recognition independent of the effective content of the union. The right to contract marriage presupposes that the person can and intends to celebrate it truly, that is, in the truth of its essence as the Church teaches it. No one can claim the right to a nuptial ceremony……. [thus, the words of the Holy Father]

Thus, if the future spouses choose something that is not in accordance with marriage, pastors should refuse to celebrate the sacrament. Obviously this opens the question on how many Catholic pastors have the courage to refuse admission to marry to couples that do not have the right intent.

The only solution to this problem is serious marriage preparation, as the Holy Father reaffirmed in Sacramentum Caritatis, pastors should give:

maximum pastoral attention to training couples preparing for marriage and to ascertaining beforehand their convictions regarding the obligations required for the validity of the sacrament of Matrimony. Serious discernment in this matter will help to avoid situations where impulsive decisions or superficial reasons lead two young people to take on responsibilities that they are then incapable of honoring.[and, there is a great onus placed on pastors to determine the ‘readiness’ of a couple for marriage.  I know our pastors/priests are busy, but this is an effort that 1)save a great deal of human misery and damage to marriage as an institution, and 2)may even save them time later, instead of having to deal with annulments]

A proper preparation for marriage should not be seen by persons planning to form a family as a limitation to their right to marriage, nor a burden. Totally to the contrary, it is their right to be assisted by the Church in the process of making this fundamental decision. [good point, and I agree, but many will complain]

This careful preparation and serious verification of the intent of the future spouses should be an effective pastoral action, as the Holy Father underlines it:

to prevent the nullity of marriage. It is necessary to make every effort to interrupt, as far as possible, the vicious circle that often exists between a predictable admission to marriage, without an adequate preparation and a serious examination of the prerequisites for its celebration, and a legal declaration sometimes equally facile but of a contrary nature, in which the marriage itself is considered null solely on the basis of the observation of its failure. [that is a commentary on the tribunal process, and not a positve one, from the Holy Father]

It is evident that the Holy Father has in mind the many couples who are admitted into the sacrament in easy or perhaps even in frivolous way that leads to invalid marriages.

I found that a quite serious and interesting discussion.  Has anyone ever heard of someone being denied marriage in the Church (for deeper reasons, than, say…..you’re two men, or…….she’s 11)?  Boy, that would not make you popular, and would take immense intestinal fortitude, but the benefits could be immense. I bet people would come back years later and say “Fr. So and So, thanks, you prevented me from making a huge mistake……”  But more people would probably just marry outside the Church.  Comments, ideas?

h/t Bishop Rene Gracida, whose blog you should read!


1. KathiBee - July 21, 2011

We did marriage prep for 10 years in IL & TX. In that time, one couple was denied marriage that we prepared. They were planning to marry in NM & the pastor said they had to be living in separate residences for 6 months before they could marry in his parish & they were living together, so no marriage in that parish. Sadly they were married by a JP. I was glad the pastor stuck to his guns. I can only imagine the number of couples who register at the parish in the neighboring town b/c they don’t have that restriction. Nowhere we did prep did they have this restriction.

We had couples who got married who were upfront about their decision not to have children. Many who were contracepting & had no intention of stopping. 85% of the 40 couples we did prep for were living together. Couples who planned on raising their children both Protestant & Catholic. Of the 40 couples over 10 years, FIVE of them, FIVE! – were two Catholics who attended Mass every Sunday.

Your comments about the pastor actually sheparding engaged couples is noteworthy – in the 3 different parishes we did prep in at the time, the couple met w/the priest once to go over the marriage ceremony, but most of the actual prep was left to the couple administering the FOCUUS prep tool. This is a tool that is not intended to specifically address Church teaching regarding marriage. And when it comes to Church teaching, we were actually told in the parish we did this most recently, that we were not allowed as non-theologians to do any teaching if the couple seemed deficient in knowledge (which sadly was most).

We were specifically told, when they found out we actually discussed the whys of the teaching on contraception, that we were not to explain that. We could share our personal experiences, but we were absolutely not to broach actually catechizing b/c that was the parish’s job — however, I know for a fact that wasn’t being done & it’s not like these were people that were enrolled in adult faith formation. Like they were going hear it from the pulpit??? (although even if they were – as mentioned above, most were not regular Mass attenders)

I told the person in charge what we told couples & that we had actually opened people’s minds to the beauty of the teaching. I asked if we could be given something to tell them, but basically it was a concern that if the couple started asking questions, we might have to “start catechizing on our own” to answer questions not addressed in whatever we had been given by the parish.

I appreciate that they didn’t want misinformation going out, but found it ridiculous that they are going to put something as important as marriage prep in the hands of people they don’t trust to disseminate correct info about Church teaching, or not make an effort to train those people so they aren’t teaching misinformation.

It is so important for the Church to take a strong position on marriage; this is a battle to important to the stability of future generations.

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