THE CODE OF CANON LAW
PASTORAL CARE AND THE PREREQUISITES FOR THE CELEBRATION OF MARRIAGE
Can. 1063 Pastors of souls are obliged to ensure that their own church community provides for Christ’s faithful the assistance by which the married state is preserved in its christian character and develops in perfection. This assistance is to be given principally:
1° by preaching, by catechetical instruction adapted to children, young people and adults, indeed by the use of the means of social communication, so that Christ’s faithful are instructed in the meaning of christian marriage and in the role of christian spouses and parents;
2° by personal preparation for entering marriage, so that the spouses are disposed to the holiness and the obligations of their new state;
3° by the fruitful celebration of the marriage liturgy, so that it clearly emerges that the spouses manifest, and participate in, the mystery of the unity and fruitful love between Christ and the Church;
4° by the help given to those who have entered marriage, so that by faithfully observing and protecting their conjugal covenant, they may day by day achieve a holier and a fuller family life.
Can. 1064 It is the responsibility of the local Ordinary to ensure that this assistance is duly organised. If it is considered opportune, he should consult with men and women of proven experience and expertise.
Can. 1065 §1 Catholics who have not yet received the sacrament of confirmation are to receive it before being admitted to marriage, if this can be done without grave inconvenience.
- 2 So that the sacrament of marriage may be fruitfully received, spouses are earnestly recommended that they approach the sacraments of penance and the blessed Eucharist.
Can. 1066 Before a marriage takes place, it must be established that nothing stands in the way of its valid and lawful celebration.
Can. 1067 The Episcopal Conference is to lay down norms concerning the questions to be asked of the parties, the publication of marriage banns, and the other appropriate means of enquiry to be carried out before marriage. Only when he has carefully observed these norms may the parish priest assist at a marriage.
Can. 1068 In danger of death, if other proofs are not available, it suffices, unless there are contrary indications, to have the assertion of the parties, sworn if need be, that they are baptised and free of any impediment.
Can. 1069 Before the celebration of a marriage, all the faithful are bound to reveal to the parish priest or the local Ordinary such impediments as they may know about.
Can. 1070 If someone other than the parish priest whose function it is to assist at the marriage has made the investigations, he is by an authentic document to inform that parish priest of the outcome of these enquiries as soon as possible.
Can. 1071 §1 Except in a case of necessity, no one is to assist without the permission of the local Ordinary at:
1° a marriage of vagi;
2° a marriage which cannot be recognised by the civil law or celebrated in accordance with it;
3° a marriage of a person for whom a previous union has created natural obligations towards a third party or towards children;
4° a marriage of a person who has notoriously rejected the catholic faith;
5° a marriage of a person who is under censure;
6° a marriage of a minor whose parents are either unaware of it or are reasonably opposed to it;
7° a marriage to be entered by proxy, as mentioned in can. 1105.
- 2 The local Ordinary is not to give permission to assist at the marriage of a person who has notoriously rejected the Catholic faith unless, with the appropriate adjustments, the norms of can. 1125 have been observed.
Can. 1072 Pastors of souls are to see to it that they dissuade young people from entering marriage before the age customarily accepted in the region.
Canon 1066 (it seems out of fashion to quote canon law these days, but indulge me) states: “Before a marriage is celebrated, it must be evident that nothing stands in the way of its valid and licit celebration”. Cdl Kasper’s shocking assertion, which he claims is the pope’s view, that half of all marriages are invalid, would, if true, indicate that Canon 1066 is being disregarded on an unprecedented scale.
Canon 1066 does not mean, of course, that every officiating cleric guarantees the validity of every Catholic wedding, but it does, at a minimum, oblige officiants to make an assessment of the parties commensurate with burden they are taking on, namely, that of forming a partnership of the whole of life ordered to the good of the spouses and to the welfare of children (Canon 1055 § 1). If, therefore, as Kasper claims, half of all marriages (or even half of all Catholic marriages) are null, then the pre-wedding inquiry conducted in accord with Canon 1066 is a statistically pointless exercise that could just as well be replaced with a pastor’s toss of the coin. “Heads I marry y’all, tails I don’t.”
I worked in tribunals for ten years. I saw hundreds of null marriages—not all of them Catholic, many not even Christian, but hundreds nevertheless. I need no more proof that there are far too many null marriages (including many between Catholics who married in Catholic rites) to let us ignore the great crisis in marriage today. But to parlay “there are too many null marriages” into “half of all marriages are null” seems like hysteria to me.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Kasper (and the pope?) are right, maybe half of all marriages (or at least half of whatever kind of marriages the prelate has in mind) are null. What then?
Well, the first step (or the second, depending on whether one wishes first to know whether this dark view of marriage really is the pope’s) would be, I think, to ask for some evidence in support of such an astounding assertion. Is there a better time than now to present such evidence, if it exists? Surely those preparing for upcoming Synod on Marriage need to know whether the sacrament they are examining is being conferred invalidly as often as it is validly. But, if it turns out that there is no evidence for the claim that marriage is as often chimeric as it is real, then the immediate project shifts to one of repairing the damage done to the psyches of all those preparing for, or struggling in, marriage, damage done by telling such folks that their chances for nothing were as great as their chances for something.
Then, I trust, we can refocus on the real problems in marriage today and marriage law. Of which there are plenty.