Three conditions for a valid Catholic marriage

A leading canon lawyer explains how a valid marriage in the Catholic Church’s tradition must meet three requirements.

Rev Prof Michael Mullaney, President at Ireland’s national seminary, St Patrick’s College Maynooth and a leading Canon Lawyer said the couple party to such a marriage “must-have capacity (ie the requisite freedom and knowledge to give such matrimonial consent), be free from any impediment in canon law and marry according to canonical form.”

This latter stipulation means they must marry before “the local Ordinary (usually refers to a bishop), priest, deacon and two witnesses” or a suitably Church-appointed layperson and two witnesses.

The “necessary pre-marriage preparations and catechesis are also required although not for validity,” he said.

Impediments to valid marriage in canon law include age. Both parties must be old enough to marry and usually, this is in accord with the relevant civil law.

Another impediment would be a previous marriage, whether conducted in the Catholic Church, in another church, or by the State and not yet declared null and void.

Other impediments include where one of the parties is a priest or deacon; impotence; where there is a blood relationship between the parties, or where abduction/other crime is involved.

Fr Gary Dench, a canonist with Brentwood Cathedral in Essex, pointed out that marriages “in registry offices, hotels, non-Catholic Churches, beaches, (before) Elvis impersonators” and such, “do not require a formal annulment procedure” in the Catholic Church as such marriages involving baptised Catholics “are invalid” in the eyes of the Church.

In a Twitter thread, he said that under canon law once you are baptised Catholic you remain a Catholic and that defection from the Church was no longer recognised as possible “following ‘Omnium in Mentem’ (For the Attention of All) in 2009, promulgated by (Pope) Benedict XVI.”

On this issue, Rev Prof Mullaney said “the term ‘formal defection’ from the Catholic Church was introduced in the Code (of Canon Law) in 1983 but it was removed from the Code by the motu proprio ‘Omnium in Mentem’ (October 26th, 2009).”

This, he said was because experience “showed that this new (1983) law gave rise to numerous pastoral problems. Continue reading

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