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Safeguarding Catholic Marriage from State Civil Court Violation

One Proposal Based on the ‘Code of Canon Law’ (1983) Canon Law Basis Canon 840. The sacraments of the New Testament were instituted by Christ the Lord and entrusted to the Church. As actions of Christ and of the Church, they are signs and means by which faith is expressed and strengthened, worship is offered to God and our sanctification is brought about. Thus they contribute in the most effective manner to establishing, strengthening and manifesting ecclesiastical communion. Accordingly, in the celebration of the sacraments both the sacred ministers and all the other members of Christ’s faithful must show great reverence and due care. The sacraments are signs of faith and belong to the Church. Canon 841. Since the sacraments are the same throughout the universal Church, and belong to the divine deposit of faith, only the supreme authority in the Church can approve or define what is needed for their validity. It belongs to the same authority, or to another competent authority in accordance with can. 838 §3 and 4, to determine what is required for their lawful celebration, administration and reception and for the order to be observed in their celebration. The Church has authority over her sacraments. Canon 1055. The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of their whole life, and which of its own very nature is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children, has, between the baptized, been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament. Catholic marriage is a sacrament. Consequently, a valid marriage contract cannot exist between baptized persons without its being by that very fact a sacrament. Canon 1056. The essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility; in Christian marriage they acquire a distinctive firmness by reason of the sacrament. Once again, Catholic marriage is a sacrament. Canon 1059. The marriage of Catholics, even if only one party is baptized, is governed not only by divine law but also by canon law, without prejudice to the competence of the civil authority in respect of the merely civil effects of the marriage. The authority of the Church governs the marriage contract while civil authority regulates the ‘civil’ effects of marriage, such as through the inheritance laws, tax codes, social security benefits, etc. Canon 1060. Marriage enjoys the favor of law. Consequently, in doubt the validity of a marriage must be upheld until the contrary is proven. Marriage, not ‘brokenness,’ is upheld. Canon 1141. A marriage which is ratified and consummated cannot be dissolved by any human power or by any cause other than death. According to Canon Law, civil authority does not have authority to dissolve Catholic marriage. Canon 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. His 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. Members of the clergy are to provide support and protection in many ways: 1. offer education, 2. prepare couples for marriage 3. ensure the solemnity of the marriage ceremony 4. provide generalized “help” to support those who are married. Canon 1064. It is the responsibility of the local Ordinary to ensure that this assistance is duly organized. If it is considered opportune, he should consult with men and women of proven experience and expertise. The Bishop or administrator is supposed to ensure that help is available and, if need be, he should consult with married couples or experienced “others” obtain their expertise. And finally, as shown by the following canons, the Church is very capable of establishing its own marriage “rules,” which could be used as a strong argument for disposing of the civil marriage license. Canon 1071. Except in a case of necessity, no one is to assist without the permission of the local Ordinary at: 1. a marriage of vagi; (vagi means ‘wanderer’ - having no fixed residence) 2. a marriage which cannot be recognized 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 canon 1105.   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. Canon 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 1083. A man cannot validly enter marriage before the completion of his sixteenth year of age, nor a woman before the completion of her fourteenth year. The Episcopal Conference may establish a higher age for the lawful celebration of marriage. Canon 1085. A person bound by the bond of a previous marriage, even if not consummated, invalidly attempts marriage. Even though the previous marriage is invalid or for any reason dissolved, it is not thereby lawful to contract another marriage before the nullity or the dissolution of the previous one has been established lawfully and with certainty.