An Open Letter to friends – on Marriage

Dear M.,

I see on Facebook that you were married yesterday, and I want to write to share with you my best wishes for your greatest happiness.

I also want to share with you my very grave concern that you have chosen to marry outside the Church. By not waiting until your boyfriend’s prior marriage was resolved through the proper channels of the Tribunal, by being married by a nonCatholic minister, you have entered into a marriage which is both invalid and illicit.

This means that you and your new civilly recognized spouse. have removed yourselves from full Communion with Mother Church, and you cannot receive any of the sacraments until P’s prior marital bond has been resolved –

IF it’s resolved. Declarations of nullity are not a right, nor are they guaranteed. Even where indisputable grounds exist, those grounds still have to be adequately demonstrated to the Tribunal. Without such demonstration, the Tribunal cannot declare affirmatively in the case, and you’re going to be slap flat-out sunk.  Canon 1100 warns that private opinion doesn’t eliminate the possibility that nuptial consent was actually present.

You also need to consider what impact, what influence, your decision to marry outside the Church is going to have on your friends and relatives. You have received scores, at least, of congratulations from people who don’t understand the gravity of what you have done, here. Your actions make it look as if it doesn’t matter that a nonCatholic minister is not approved for Catholic Sacraments, that a nonCatholic minister’s ordination bears the same weight of authority and authenticity as a Catholic priest’s.

In other words, you’ve added scandal to the mix.

I never would have thought you would have taken such a dangerous, even irresponsible step. Too often, in our acquaintance, I’ve seen you speak affirmatively of the Church’s requirements, and labor with those who would treat those requirements carelessly. Now you’ve followed the same path, and from your announcement it appears that you feel your particular personal circumstances justify willful rejection of the very rules I’ve heard you defend repeatedly as long as I’ve known you.

Marriage is not the civil contract you have treated it to be. It is a sacrament, and as such under the rightful authority of Christ’s Church. You cannot in seriousness ask God to bless and reward such disregard, nor expect such scorn for the wisdom of the Church to be shrugged off as inconsequential.

You’re off to a very bad start, and I’m sorrier for it than I can say. I hope you will at least possess the integrity to not present yourself for Communion until your civil union can be convalidated, and I hope that the spiritual communion open to you will teach you renewed and greater respect for the Magisterial authority of the Church.


8 thoughts on “An Open Letter to friends – on Marriage

  1. I hate to get myself in all of this, but…keeping in mind that curiosity killed the cat (and that I don’t know all of the details)… I have to wonder about a minister who will perform a marriage between two people who are not members of the ministers church or faith.

    Imagine if a priest did the same.

  2. Owen, probably not. I don’t think she comes over here at all. Nor does the other friend who was married five months ago, outside the Church.

    But this is such a frequently recurring issue, I felt it worthwhile to address in the way I was thinking it at the time. We’ll see whether this actually does any good, or whether it’s just one more example of spitting straight up.

    (BTW – she may not see this, but it’s okay; I messaged her privately via Facebook.)

  3. You did write “friends” I see that now and it goes generalize this and indeed you have done the honourable thing, as mentioned in your comment above, by directly contacting her to speak your mind. God bless you for that and where it lands, well, that’s isn’t up to you. Certainly your doing that is Eph 4:15 being lived out.

  4. UPDATE:
    I bring this up only because it was shared on a public venue (Facebook):
    M. has announced that she and P. were married by a Franciscan friar. I find this claim extremely suspect. There are protocols that priests have to follow when any of the Sacraments are celebrated. Sacraments like baptisms, confirmations, First Communions, Anointing of the Sick and Matrimony are required to be reported to the diocese. Sacraments cannot be administered to anyone who hasn’t been demonstrated eligible for that Sacrament. The friar in question would have had to have received permission from both M’s and P’s pastor in order to have been able to licitly perform the marriage. The volume of paperwork involved is overwhelming. If a priest dispenses with the protocol and/or breaks the rules, his head goes on a trash can lid when his superiors get wind of it.

    Any of you who are involved in the Facebook discussion should be aware of these things. M and P’s civil marriage is still illicit, not just invalid – that means it’s forbidden by the Church.

    Be faithful.

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