Catholic marriage
Overview
Catholic marriage, also called matrimony, is a "covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring. [It] has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptised." In the Roman Rite
Roman Rite
The Roman Rite is the liturgical rite used in the Diocese of Rome in the Catholic Church. It is by far the most widespread of the Latin liturgical rites used within the Western or Latin autonomous particular Church, the particular Church that itself is also called the Latin Rite, and that is one of...

, it is ordinarily celebrated in a Nuptial Mass.

The nature of the covenant requires that the two participants be one man and one woman, that they be free to marry, that they willingly and knowingly enter into a valid marriage contract, and that they validly execute the performance of the contract.

On the exact definition of each of these steps hinge all the arguments and technical points involved in annulment
Annulment
Annulment is a legal procedure for declaring a marriage null and void. Unlike divorce, it is usually retroactive, meaning that an annulled marriage is considered to be invalid from the beginning almost as if it had never taken place...

s, and annulment disputes (e.g., one of the most famous, that of Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

).
Encyclopedia
Catholic marriage, also called matrimony, is a "covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring. [It] has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptised." In the Roman Rite
Roman Rite
The Roman Rite is the liturgical rite used in the Diocese of Rome in the Catholic Church. It is by far the most widespread of the Latin liturgical rites used within the Western or Latin autonomous particular Church, the particular Church that itself is also called the Latin Rite, and that is one of...

, it is ordinarily celebrated in a Nuptial Mass.

The nature of the covenant requires that the two participants be one man and one woman, that they be free to marry, that they willingly and knowingly enter into a valid marriage contract, and that they validly execute the performance of the contract.

On the exact definition of each of these steps hinge all the arguments and technical points involved in annulment
Annulment
Annulment is a legal procedure for declaring a marriage null and void. Unlike divorce, it is usually retroactive, meaning that an annulled marriage is considered to be invalid from the beginning almost as if it had never taken place...

s, and annulment disputes (e.g., one of the most famous, that of Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

). Catholic Canon law
Canon law (Catholic Church)
The canon law of the Catholic Church, is a fully developed legal system, with all the necessary elements: courts, lawyers, judges, a fully articulated legal code and principles of legal interpretation. It lacks the necessary binding force present in most modern day legal systems. The academic...

 regulates the celebration of marriage in canons 1055–1065.

History of marriage in the Catholic Church

The history of marriage in the Catholic Church has been a continuation of the Judaic concept of marriage. Although at the time of Christ marriage was considered a necessary passage into adulthood, the Church introduced the notion into the ancient world that the celibate unmarried state was preferable and more holy. As a result of directly challenging the social norms regarding marriage and the buying and selling of women into marriage, and particularly in defending the right of women to choose to remain unmarried virgins for the sake of Christ, there were many virgin martyrs in the first few centuries of the Catholic Church. The stories associated with these virgin martyrs often make it clear that they were martyred for their refusal to marry, not necessarily simply their belief in Jesus Christ.

Although the Church was not opposed to marriage, the preference for the celibate state came from the example of Jesus, the concern about the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God
Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven is a foundational concept in the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.The term "Kingdom of God" is found in all four canonical gospels and in the Pauline epistles...

 as supported by Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 and early followers such as Saint Paul, and the exhortation by Jesus to avoid 'earthly ties'. As a consequence, the first-century Christians placed less value on the family and saw celibacy (not marrying) and freedom from family ties as a preferable state. Paul had suggested that marriage be used only as a last resort by those Christians that found it too difficult to remain chaste.

Nevertheless, recognizing that only a select few would accept this teaching of a celibate state of life, which Jesus had predicted, the Church sought to elevate the understanding of the marital state to a more noble and holy enterprise. The New Testament scriptures, most dating from before the middle of the second century, record the words of Jesus and of Saint Paul regarding the sacred and divine state of marriage. Jesus forbade divorce and stated that in the state of marriage "the two become one flesh". Saint Paul wrote one of the most often quoted descriptions of the proper behavior of spouses in the ideal sacramental marriage in the New Testament book of Ephesians, Chapter 5, referencing the words of Jesus. Many theologians and early Church fathers have observed that the first recorded miracle of Jesus is at a wedding feast, thus, many believe, signifying his approval of the institution of marriage as well as his recognition of the importance of the public celebration of a wedding.

Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, believed that marriage was a sacrament
Sacrament
A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

, and wrote: "the first natural bond of human society is man and wife." Other Church Fathers were more negative about the married state. Jerome
Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

 wrote: "It is not disparaging wedlock to prefer virginity. No one can make a comparison between two things if one is good and the other evil" (Letter 22). On the extreme side, Tertullian
Tertullian
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

 argued that marriage "consists essentially in fornication" (An Exhortation to Chastity") Cyprian
Cyprian
Cyprian was bishop of Carthage and an important Early Christian writer, many of whose Latin works are extant. He was born around the beginning of the 3rd century in North Africa, perhaps at Carthage, where he received a classical education...

, Bishop of Carthage said that the first commandment given to men was to increase and multiply, but now that the earth was full there was no need to continue this process of multiplication. Augustine corrected this thinking and declared marriage good, "Therefore marriage and fornication are not two evils, whereof the second is worse: but marriage and continence are two goods, whereof the second is better."

The early Church recognized matrimony as one of the seven sacraments, but did not consider them equal in importance. The sacraments necessary for initiation into the Church or for priestly ordination (Baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

, Confirmation, Holy Orders
Holy Orders
The term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to those individuals ordained for a special role or ministry....

) were developed very early in Church history and were given a higher value and attention than some of the other sacraments because they were necessary for membership and also because they put an indelible mark on the soul.. The sacrament of Eucharist was ritualized with the Last Supper and was celebrated from the earliest Church history. The rites for the lesser sacraments of Penance, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction developed over a longer time. Matrimony, for most of Church history, was a sacrament celebrated (as in the Judaic tradition) without clergy and was done according to local customs. The first available written detailed account of a Christian wedding in the West dates from the 9th century and appears to be identical to the old nuptial service of Ancient Rome.

It was not until the sixteenth century, when the Protestant Reformation challenged the seven sacraments, including Matrimony, that the Church officially named the sacraments for the first time in Canon Law at the Council of Trent in 1547. Prior to that time the seven sacraments, including the sacrament of Matrimony were accepted as part of the apostolic oral and written tradition without controversy or debate. The Seventh Session of the Council of Trent stated that the seven sacraments were not new doctrine, but the Council saw a need to put information into the official Canon, "adhering to the doctrine of the holy Scriptures, to the apostolic traditions, and to the consent of other councils and of the Fathers."

The Church has consistently, since its beginnings, taken the position that a valid marriage is indissoluble. There is no divorce in the Catholic Church. But there are annulments, which can only be granted by Church bishops. This has led to many schisms, most notably that of Henry VIII of England, who was denied an annulment in 1527, and responded by forming the Church of England, declaring himself the head of the Church, and granting his own annulment. Pope Clement VII excommunicated him in 1533 and Paul III excommunicated him in 1538.

Conditions for a Sacramental Marriage

As understood within the Catholic Church, marriage is considered a sacrament
Sacraments of the Catholic Church
The Sacraments of the Catholic Church are, the Roman Catholic Church teaches, "efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper...

 if both the man and the woman are baptised, are able to marry, freely consent to the marriage, and meet all the other conditions that the church defines in her code of canon law as necessary for a valid sacramental marriage to exist. The Church provides classes
Pre-Cana
Pre-Cana is a course or consultation Catholic couples must undergo before they can be married in a Catholic church. The name is derived from John 2:1-12, the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee, where Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine....

 several months before marriage to help the participants inform their consent. During or before this time, the would-be spouses are confirmed
Confirmation (Catholic Church)
Confirmation is one of the seven sacraments through which Catholics pass in the process of their religious upbringing. According to Catholic doctrine, in this sacrament they receive the Holy Spirit and become adult members of the Catholic Church....

, if they have not previously received confirmation and it can be done without grave inconvenience (Canon 1065).

The Catholic Church has further requirements for the form of vows, called the "canonical form". The canonical form of marriage must be followed (unless dispensed). The requirement for a canonical form of marriage began due to the reforms of the Council of Trent. With the decree Tametsi
Tametsi
Tametsi is the legislation of the Catholic Church which was in force until Easter 1908 concerning clandestine marriage. It was named, as is customary in Latin Rite ecclesiastical documents, for the first word of the document that contained it, Chapter 1, Session 24 of the Council of Trent.This...

 of 11 November 1563. Ne Temere
Ne Temere
Ne Temere was a decree of the Roman Catholic Congregation of the Council regulating the canon law of the Church about marriage for practising Roman Catholics....

 promulgated by Pius X, August 2, 1907 added (and continues to enforce) further specifications.

Freedom to marry

The participants in a marriage contract must be free to marry, and to marry each other. That is, they must be an unmarried man and woman, with no impediments as set out by Canon law
Canon law (Catholic Church)
The canon law of the Catholic Church, is a fully developed legal system, with all the necessary elements: courts, lawyers, judges, a fully articulated legal code and principles of legal interpretation. It lacks the necessary binding force present in most modern day legal systems. The academic...

.

In addition to being free to marry, the participants must intend marriage. In the Catholic Church, it is consent that creates marriage. Consent consists in a human act by which the partners mutually give themselves to each other. Consent must be a free act of the will of the consenting parties, free of coercion or grave external error. If freedom is lacking, the consent is invalid.

Impediments

A Catholic marriage cannot be formed if one or more of the following impediment
Canonical impediment
In the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, a canonical impediment is a legal obstacle that prevents a sacrament from being performed validly and/or licitly. The term is used most frequently in relationship to the sacraments of Marriage and Holy Orders...

s are given, though of some of these a dispensation
Dispensation (Catholic Church)
In the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church, a dispensation is the suspension by competent authority of general rules of law in particular cases...

 can be given.
  • Antecedent and perpetual impotence
  • Consanguinity
    Consanguinity
    Consanguinity refers to the property of being from the same kinship as another person. In that respect, consanguinity is the quality of being descended from the same ancestor as another person...

     to the fourth collateral line (1st cousin), including legal adoption to the second collateral line
  • Affinity
    Affinity (law)
    In law and in cultural anthropology, affinity, as distinguished from consanguinity, is kinship by marriage. It is the relation which each party to a marriage bears to the kindred of the other. In English, affinity is usually signified by adding "-in-law" to the degree of kinship...

     (relationship by marriage, e.g. a brother-in-law) in the direct line
  • Prior bond
  • Holy Orders
    Holy Orders
    The term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to those individuals ordained for a special role or ministry....

  • Perpetual vows of chastity in a religious institute
  • Disparity of cult
    Disparity of Worship
    Disparity of worship or disparity of cult is a diriment impediment in Roman Catholic canon law: a reason why a marriage can not be validly contracted without a dispensation, stemming from one person being certainly baptized, and the other certainly not baptized.The reasons for this impediment is...

     (one party not being baptised)
  • Crimen
    Impediment of Crime
    The Impediment of Crime or crimen is, in the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church, a diriment impediment to marriage arising from certain circumstance involving homicide and adultery — an impediment such that it prevents the marriage bond from being formed.Under the Decretals of Pope Gregory IX,...

     (one party previously conspiring to marry (upon condition of death of spouse) while still married); also called "conjugicide"
  • Underage (at least 16 for males, 14 for females)
  • Abduction

Latin rite

The husband and wife must validly execute the marriage contract. In the Roman Catholic tradition, it is the spouses who are understood to confer marriage on each other. The spouses, as ministers of grace, naturally confer upon each other the sacrament of matrimony, expressing their consent before the church.

This does not eliminate the need for church involvement in the marriage; under normal circumstances, canon law requires the attendance of a priest or deacon and at least two witnesses for validity (see canons 1108–1116).

Eastern Catholic rites

In Eastern Catholic churches, which follow the Byzantine liturgical tradition (shared with the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches), a priest (never a deacon) is the minister of the sacrament of marriage (see Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1623, 1992 edition) through the act of "crowning" the couple with a pair of crowns while proclaiming them received into the Kingdom of Heaven. The vows are exchanged well beforehand in the Byzantine ritual and are not binding. They are a remnant of the Liturgy of Betrothal which had used to be done in a separate Liturgy. Thus it is known in the East as the Mystery (read: Sacrament) of Crowning as often as it is called matrimony.

Validity

Catholic
Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

 theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 teaches that a validly-contracted marriage is accompanied by divine ratification, creating a virtually indissoluble union until the couple consummate
Consummate
Consummation or consummation of a marriage, in many traditions and statutes of civil or religious law, is the first act of sexual intercourse between two individuals, following their marriage to each other...

, after which the marriage is completely indissoluble. An unconsummated marriage can be dissolved by the Pope, as Vicar of Christ. Once the marriage is consummated, only a separation is possible; the marriage bond cannot be dissolved. Therefore, the term "divorce" has no meaning in the context of Catholic marriage.

A marriage may be somewhat defective and yet still be valid; such a marriage is illicit. A marriage which was sufficiently defective as not to meet the required criteria is invalid, and the participants are considered not to have actually married. However, Canon 1137 states that children born to a "putative" marriage (defined in Canon 1061, sec. 3 as one that is not valid but was entered into in good faith by at least one spouse) are legitimate; therefore, the declaration that a marriage is null does not render the children of that marriage illegitimate.

Declaration of nullity

An annulment
Annulment
Annulment is a legal procedure for declaring a marriage null and void. Unlike divorce, it is usually retroactive, meaning that an annulled marriage is considered to be invalid from the beginning almost as if it had never taken place...

is a declaration that the marriage was invalid (or null) at the time the vows were exchanged. In cases of two baptised people, this also means that no sacrament ever took place.
Thus, an annulment is declared only when an ecclesial tribunal finds a lack of validity in the marriage at the time of the marital contract. Behaviour subsequent to the contract is not directly relevant, except as post facto evidence of the validity or invalidity of the contract. That is, behaviour subsequent to the contract cannot actually change the validity of the contract. For example, a marriage would be invalid if one of the parties, at the time of marriage, did not intend to honour the vow of fidelity. If the spouse did intend to be faithful at the time of the marriage but later committed adultery this does not invalidate the marriage.

Annulment and divorce, therefore, differ both in rationale and effect; an annulment is a finding that sacramental marriage never existed, whereas a divorce is a dissolution of marriage.

See also

  • Pauline privilege
    Pauline privilege
    The Pauline Privilege is a Christian concept drawn from the apostle Paul's instructions in theFirst Epistle to the Corinthians.-Origin:In Paul's epistle it states:...

  • Christian views of marriage
  • Christian views on divorce
  • Annulment (Catholic Church)
    Annulment (Catholic Church)
    In the Roman Catholic Church an annulment is the procedure, governed by the Church's Canon Law and the Catechism, whereby an ecclesial tribunal determines the sacrament of marriage was invalidly entered into. An annulment determines the Catholic marriage to be void at its inception...

  • Vetitum
    Vetitum
    A vetitum is a prohibition against a particular behavior or action that is affixed to a party who has received a declaration of nullity from the matrimonial tribunal of the Roman Catholic Church . This prohibition/directive may involve one or both of the parties...


External links

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