The “good news” of marital invalidity

Read commenter Taco’s story of how the Catholic annulment machine helped steal his family and realize that this is what our Kasperized hierarchy would regard as a successful operation, the system working as desired.  Those of us that don’t like it must just be lacking in mercy.  Both Zippy and the pope think that half of Catholic marriages are invalid.  I disagree with both of them, but there’s a big difference between the two.  Zippy recognizes it as a pastoral catastrophe; the bishops see it as good news.  It means that half of married Catholics have a “get out of jail” card that can be given to them if and when convenient (for one of them).  Perhaps with more careful analysis, it could be found that all marriages are invalid.  Now that would really be ideal!  Yes, it would mean that we’re all fornicators and our children are all bastards, but the whole point of the Kasperite heresy is that it’s subjective experience rather than reality that matters.  You didn’t really want to bind yourself to another person; you just wanted to feel like you had.

It’s a very easy thing to do, arguing that at the time of a wedding, one of the spouse’s knowledge or will didn’t encompass the entirety of the sacrament’s meaning.  In fact, we know that this is always true!  Sacraments are, to use my prior terminology, supra-rational signs.  What they signify can’t be exhaustively encoded in explicit human statements.  If the signification could be thus captured, it wouldn’t be supernatural.  If we follow this reasoning, saying that some (actually all) marriages are invalid because of the least bit of vagueness in the participants’ understanding or motives, then it follows that all baptisms are invalid, all confessions are invalid, no one has ever properly received the Eucharist, and the Church is useless as a vehicle of grace.

I suppose it could still get by as a vehicle of warm feelings, though.

39 Responses

  1. My impression was that the Church some couple hundred years ago required that Catholic marriages conform to canon law in order to be valid, which is to say that a marriage contrary to canon law was not merely sinful, but actually invalid (so that Protestants would have actual marriages, but Catholics who attempt marriage contrary to canon law would not be married).

    While this is a lawful prerogative of the Church, it became somewhat disastrous when the idea of having a non-sacramental marriage went from being a punishment to something attractive, namely after the V2 period. So today non-canonical marriages can be used as a get-out-of-jail free card, which was apparently something that’s been discussed as a potential problem since it was instituted at Trent, and has become an actual problem in more recent years. I felt that this is relevant, hope you agree. And I’ll support your campaign to become a layperson involved in the annulment process, should this ever become possible. (Source:

  2. There is a very interesting letter, written in 866 by Pope St Nicholas I (858–67), in response to a series of enquiries he had received from Boris I, Prince of Bulgaria.

    “According to the laws (leges), the consent of those whose union is arranged should be sufficient. If that alone is absent, all the other solemnities, even including coition, are in vain, as the great teacher John Chrysostom attests, who says: ‘Not intercourse but will makes marriage’” (Homilies on Matthew 32) [PL 119, no. 97, pp. 978–1016 at 980]

    St John Chrysostom (347-407) is here simply repeating the words of the great Roman jurist, Ulpian (170 – 228) “Nuptias non concubitus, sed consensus facit” – It is not sleeping together, but agreement that makes marriage. [Dig. 50.17.30 Ulpianus 36 ad sab]. On this subject, the law of the Church and of the Empire was the same.

    Now, by “consensus,” literally a “meeting of minds,” the Roman jurists make it abundantly clear that they mean the parties must mutually agree, unequivocally, seriously and deliberately and with a genuine purpose immediately to establish the relation of husband and wife.

    That being so, It is a curious fact, though true, that there must always be a considerable number of persons who could not say off-hand whether they were married or not. It is only when the question has been decided in a tribunal that their doubts can be removed. But although they do not know if they are married, and no one could tell them with certainty till the action was tried, it is nevertheless true that they must be either one or the other. There is no half-way house

  3. Kevin

    You are right. It was the Council of Trent’s decree, “Tametsi,” that made canonical form essential to validity.

    This was three years after the Scottish Reformation so in this country, marriage required no notice, no formality and no record of any kind.

    Unless there is some public and easily accessible record of marriages, it is impossible for anyone to know whether their spouse was free to marry or that their children are legitimate. Indeed, an individual may be genuinely in doubt as to whether the law will construe some past conduct of his or hers as amounting to a marriage or not.

    A person may go through a public ceremony, raise a family and, on their spouse’s death, someone comes forward claiming the estate on the basis of a secret marriage, entered into some 60 years earlier and relying for proof on some expressions in the one surviving side of a correspondence, which she (usually she) had carefully preserved and which expressly declare or virtually imply a marriage.

    I speak from experience as an advocate. Until 1940, in Scotland, marriage required no notice, no formality and no record of any kind. For the next 50 years, claims, such as the one I have suggested were all too common and were, in most cases, simply a form of blackmail.

  4. Bonald:

    If we follow this reasoning, saying that some (actually all) marriages are invalid because of the least bit of vagueness in the participants’ understanding or motives, then it follows that all baptisms are invalid, all confessions are invalid, no one has ever properly received the Eucharist, and the Church is useless as a vehicle of grace.

    It isn’t a matter of “the least bit of vagueness” though. That is a straw man. There are clear situations where a given sacrament is either invalid or sacrilegious — that is sacramental theology 101. At issue is just how often it is the case that someone deliberately doesn’t confess a particular mortal sin, receives Communion outside a state of grace, or commits to something or other that gets labeled “marriage” but explicitly withholds commitment to something essential to marriage.

    It is no surprise that our bishops don’t prioritize actually rectifying the problem though. It isn’t as if they have prioritized (e.g.) worthy reception of the Eucharist either, generally speaking.

    They are counting on ignorance to
    act as a kind of eighth sacrament, and
    actually trying to rectify widespread invalidity (if all these marriages really are null, the top priority clearly
    should be convalidating them) could have the terrible effect of actually reducing ignorance and indifference. We can’t have that, because if all of a sudden not everyone is invincibly ignorant we might have to start talking about unfashionable superstitious things like Hell and extra ecclesium nullus salus again.

  5. “You’re stuck with this person until one of you dies” is not that complicated.

  6. I agree that it isn’t complicated. It is also not how most modern people – including large numbers of ‘cultural’ Catholics, who are not very different from everyone else – understand “marriage”.

  7. Large numbers of ‘cultural’ Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence, but still receive the Eucharist. And who really knows how many ‘cultural’ Catholics go to confession but don’t confess (e.g.) contraception because they don’t agree with Church teaching? Probably a smaller percentage than do the same thing at the marriage altar, because lots more ‘cultural’ Catholics marry than go to confession.

    You are in denial about the facts on the ground here; which is odd because in general you seem to have a pretty good grasp of how stupid, indifferent, and willful modern people are, including large numbers of Catholics.

  8. To state it bluntly, then, most modern Catholics are not ignorant of indissolubility; they just reject it, and they rejected it at the time they made their vows. I’m sure this is true, but I refuse to believe that they should be rewarded for their duplicity. In no other contract do we consider that a secret intention at the time of signing to not observe the terms of agreement absolves either party of the obligations they have freely taken on. Suppose a health insurance company sold policies covering operation A all the while not really intending to pay for A because 1) the company doesn’t think it should have to provide it and 2) probably no one will end up needing it anyway. Now suppose one of their clients actually needs A. The company refuses to cover it on the grounds that they were lying when they promised they would and so have never really given a free consent to cover A. Would this fly in any court? Would anyone say that it’s okay to defraud a contract partner just so long as one had been scheming to do so from the beginning? A secret reservation about a contract one has freely signed and perfectly well understood can’t invalidate the thing; this would defeat the whole point of a contract. All our hypothetical insurance company has demonstrated is that it’s run by a bunch of scoundrels.

  9. OK. But that isn’t what you disagreed with me about. In the OP you disagreed with me about the actual prevalence of actual sacramental nullity, not about what should or should not be done about it.

  10. Ah, yes. I haven’t been explaining myself well. My presumption is that the main problem in the state of mind of most people who get married is not believing that marriage is permanent the way the Church does, rather than lack of knowledge of what the Church teaches. (It’s true that lack of catechesis is a major problem for Catholicism today, but overemphasizing this ironically leaves too optimistic a picture, as if the Church were graced with a laity that wants to obey but just hasn’t been told how. On moral matters, they know and they reject.) In effect, they’re crossing their fingers during the “or for worse” part of the ceremony. I claim that this does not invalidate the marriage.

    Perhaps you’re saying that they don’t understand the inconsistency between their own understanding of marriage and the actual words of their vows. You see muddled thinking, and I see dishonesty.

  11. Bonald:
    But it doesn’t matter whether it is inconsistency in their own thinking (I have lots of experience with this, as both a former right-liberal and a former ‘cultural catholic’) or deliberate disregard for Church teaching, or some other psychological explanation. Either one invalidates the sacrament, because the sacrament requires actual consent to the essentials of marriage. Consent is the matter of the sacrament, as I’ve shown with quotes from the Magisterium. Attempting to confect matrimony with defective consent (defective for whatever reason) is like attempting to confect the Eucharist with rice cakes, or Baptism in the name of the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier.

    Heaven knows that I agree with you about the kind of Game-theoretic invalidity trap this creates. As with writing an ambiguous contract, it creates just the sort of “outs” people like to have, with their fingers crossed behind their backs. Pastorally then the two top priorities are to (1) put an absolute stop to that, and to treatment of ignorance (real of faux) as an eighth sacrament, by simply denying annulment unless nullity is manifest through objective, third-party observable evidence; and (2) to get all of these invalid marriages convalidated — NOW. Without the grace of the sacrament, these people are literally and figuratively and spiritually screwed. So — if we actually believe in sacramental grace, that is – convalidation is top priority.

  12. I have written more than enough about the bullshit that annulments are.

    I hope the Catholic Church is, literally, decimated and the vast majority of its clergy are jailed and/or executed. That would be a very good thing. They are monsters of the worst kind. They care nothing about our souls or anyone’s for that matter. Anyone who disagrees is a monster themselves. The sooner Catholicism is is nearly extinct, the better.


  13. From here on, hateful, fact-free, blanket condemnations of the One True Church such as the above will not be tolerated.

    You have been warned.

  14. Boland wrote, “In no other contract do we consider that a secret intention at the time of signing to not observe the terms of agreement absolves either party of the obligations they have freely taken on… A secret reservation about a contract one has freely signed and perfectly well understood can’t invalidate the thing; this would defeat the whole point of a contract”
    But that is not true. I sell property to you at an undervalue, our joint understanding being that you are a mere custodier for me, to defeat my creditors. We are conjunct and confident parties; the sale is a nullity and no property passes, even if, in the event, I can pay my debts without it. So, if two people go through a form of marriage to deceive third parties – to please parents or deceive the immigration authorities, whilst having no intention to perform the obligations of the contract, no court, ecclesiastical or civil, would consider that a marriage.
    In the famous Yelverton case, a Protestant man went through a form of marriage in Ireland that he knew to be legally invalid, “in order to quiet the lady’s conscience.” He had no intention to enter into a legally binding marriage and, in the trenchant words of Lord Deas “this had no more effect in marrying them, than the belief in witchcraft will enable an old woman to ride through the air on a broomstick.” As for the lady’s “popish” conscience, his Lordship was puzzled how “adding desecration of a sacrament to the sin and shame of fornication deliberately resolved to be persevered in could satisfy it,” but there it was. One suspects she is not alone.
    Again, in the case of unilateral error, suppose I assign an insurance policy to you for $x. I believe I am selling you the policy; you believe you are lending me the $x and that it is an assignation in security. The assignation is void and the fact that it is, in terms, absolute is neither here nor there. There is no meeting of minds here, no consensus, hence, no contract.

  15. That couple SHOULD be held to their vows. Doesn’t anybody but me see that if we don’t hold people to their freely-undertaken vows, the whole institution becomes MEANINGLESS?!!!

  16. Just to clarify, Zippy’s opinion, from what I remember reading on his blog, is that (a) many, perhaps even most, Catholic marriages in the West are sacramentally invalid due to defect of form, and (b) nevertheless, most marriages should not be annulled, since there is rarely concrete evidence of such defects beside the say-so of interested and motivated parties. In other words, he agrees with you, Bonald, that the couple generally should be held to their vows, even if they made them in bad faith.

  17. Maybe I’m looking at the past through rose colored glasses, but have Catholic bishops always been such a generally spineless, vaguely heretical bunch?

  18. Mr. Bonald,

    Perhaps I am misreading, but I do not think that either Mr. Zippy nor Mr. Paterson-Seymour are arguing that such persons as had some sort of secret mental reservation about their marital vows should not be held to them.

    Rather, they are arguing that the marriages such persons contract are indeed invalid, regardless of the fact that no properly functioning tribunal would issue a decree of nullity in such cases, given that these tribunals are charged to only issue decrees of nullity when there is an objective and externally observable defect in matter/form/intent. When some sort of mental reservation is claimed to create a defect of intent, its very nature precludes such a defect from being objective. Nb. I am not a learned man in the realm of theology but rather a peasant with a head for figures, so please forgive me if I have butchered the terminology.

    On a separate but related note, are there any rosary crusades going on beseeching our Lord that the coming synod be saved from propagating errors or relaxing equitable and salutary disciplines? And perhaps that our civilization as a whole might get its head screwed on straight with regards to the nature of marriage, wherein “God, from the first days of creation, made them man and woman. A man, therefore, will leave his father and mother and will cling to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. Why then, since they are no longer two, but one flesh, what God has joined, let not man put asunder.”

  19. Bonald,

    Not too long ago I, too, would have taken offense at what I wrote. So, I understand your criticism. But, I do speak from experience, which is anything but fact free, regarding marriage, divorce, remarriage, annulments and everything involved.

    I did not post, however, to harass you. Perhaps I should have been more reserved, as I realized after I read, again, what I had posted. But, it is accurate regarding what I think is necessary after decades of watching how the functionaries in the Catholic Church do nothing to restore marriage but exhaustively work to find “clever” ways to excuse marital destruction.

  20. Outward actings do not make a contract.

    Of course, there is a presumption that people mean what they say and Peasant is right that there must be some “objective” evidence of their intentions, or lack of them. In practice, the courts have no difficulty in distinguishing genuine contracts and dispositions from sham transactions, be it marriages to obtain a visa or transactions designed to avoid tax or defraud creditors

    In Akram v Akram (1979 SLT (Notes) 87) Lord Dunpark, the Lord Ordinary, said, “Scots civil law has always applied the consensual principle to the contract of marriage so that, if it be proved that, notwithstanding the trappings of a formal marriage ceremony, the parties thereto did not exchange their consent for the purpose of obtaining married status, the ceremony must be denied the legal effect which it was designed to produce.”

    In Hakeem v Hussein (2003 SLT 515) Lord Penrose, giving the judgment of the Inner House (Court of Appeal) said “formal compliance with the procedural requirements of regular marriage is not conclusive of the contraction of a valid marriage”

    In his 866 letter to the Bulgarian prince Boris I, Pope Nicholas I (858–67) describes the rituals customary in Rome, including the bestowal of a ring, the giving of dowry and dower by father and husband, and priestly blessing, he explained that he was not saying that it was sinful (peccatum esse) to omit any of these customs, especially since some people could not afford them. ‘On this account,” Nicholas concluded, “according to the laws (leges), the consent of those whose union is arranged should be sufficient. If that alone is absent, all the other solemnities, even including coition, are in vain.” [PL 119, no. 97, pp. 978–1016 at 980] This letter was cited by Gratian, C.27 q.2 c.2 §1, from where it passed into the law of Scotland.

  21. For a case on the other side, consider Walker v McAdam ((1813) 5 Pat. 675). Mr. M’Adam, after walking out before breakfast, came in and told Elizabeth Walker that he wished to declare their marriage immediately, without waiting for Mr. Smith’s (the parish minister’s) arrival. She expressed her willingness, and accordingly, between 10 and II in the morning, Mr. M’Adam summoned three of his men-servants into the dining room. He then asked Elizabeth Walker to stand up, and, holding her hand, said, “I take you three to witness that this is my lawful married wife, and the children by her are my lawful children.” Elizabeth said nothing, but curtsied in sign of assent. Mr. M’Adam afterwards walked out and called on his factor. He told him of his marriage and asked him to dine with him that day. The same afternoon Mr. M’Adam shot himself.
    Held a valid marriage. The House of Lords found there was nothing, on the facts, to rebut the presumption of consent.

  22. Proph:
    Your restatement of my position is mostly right, although the kind of defect I’ve been discussing is in matter (in the sacrament of matrimony the matter of the sacrament is mutual consent to marriage) not form. Defect of form cases are more straightforward: a Catholic attempts to marry with no priest witness, with self-written vows, to a non-Catholic spouse, etc without a dispensation from the bishop. Defect of form cases aren’t even argued in front of the tribunal, because invalidity is manifest: e.g. baptized Catholic + no priest + no dispensation on file = no marriage, or baptized Catholic + Protestant spouse + no dispensation on file = no marriage. File a few papers and that is that.

  23. Zippy
    Mutual consent is, indeed, the matter of the sacrament. After all, force, fraud or error have always been recognised as impediments to marriage and these are only so many ways of proving want of mutual consent.
    They are not the only ways. “In all inquiries of this sort,” said Lord O’Hagan, “I apprehend the true rule is not to regard singly and apart the one transaction on which reliance is placed as constituting the marriage. It is necessary to exercise “a large discourse of reason looking both before and after,” and from all the antecedents and all the consequents to ascertain the true mind and purpose of the parties whose intention determines the character of their act.” Robertson v Stewart 1875 2 RHL 80 at p 108

  24. Michael Paterson-Seymour:

    Theories about making juridical decisions (e.g. annulment) are distinct from objective sacramental validity. And while civil law may be analogous to canon law, there are good pastoral reasons why they might involve different approaches.

    For example it is mostly impossible to juridically determine whether a particular instance of the Sacrament of Confession was or was not valid. But if there is doubt on the part of a penitent the solution is easy: go make a good Confession and be sure to articulate those doubts and the reasons for them.

    Similarly here, if there is doubt about the sacramental validity of a marriage, the solution is simple: go get the marriage convalidated. Unless the objective evidence of invalidity is clear and public (say a bride bragging about plans to continue sleeping with an ex the day before the wedding, with several witnesses), it seems to me that the right pastoral approach is to present convalidation as the way forward. And if both spouses aren’t willing, well, a celibate life is not fatal and is far preferable to what many people face from other personal trials that they are expected to endure without doing evil.

  25. What marriage would be safe from Lord O’Hagan’s inquiries? Who could ever know their own mind–much less their spouse’s–well enough to know that they are actually married?

    By “consent” I just want to know whether someone was holding a gun to somebody’s head. (And I admit some regret that Christianity cannot accommodate the wholesome tradition of the shotgun wedding.) I only ask whether the parties freely undertook to be bound by marriage vows, not whether they also had a solidly formed will to carry through on those vows no matter what. Call me naive, but I think making a promise creates a moral obligation, and one can’t get out of it just by looking for murkiness in the depths of one’s subconscious. I consider an act to be free even if one feels morally obliged to do it (e.g. because you knocked the girl up or your parents betrothed you years ago). Motive matters to me not at all; one may freely and validly marry for any number of reasons.

    The conditions for nullity must be narrow and objective or there is no such thing as marriage.

  26. Bonald:

    The conditions for nullity must be narrow and objective or there is no such thing as marriage.

    Well, again, you are conflating two things.

    The conditions for sacramental validity are what they are. If those conditions are not present at the time of the wedding, the marriage is, ontologically, sacramentally, nonexistent.

    The conditions for making a juridical finding of nullity – basically a legal permission slip for a priest to preside at a ‘new’ wedding to another person – are part of canon law, and in theory can be pretty much anything the Church decides to do or not do. Nullity is a legal finding under canon law. It has no sacramental effect whatsoever.

    I agree with you that the conditions for making a juridical finding of nullity should be narrow, clear, and objective.

    But your (apparent) conclusion that juridical procedures have any effect whatsoever on the existence of marriage (or a particular marriage) — that …

    …[t]he conditions for nullity must be narrow and objective or there is no such thing as marriage.

    … is disastrously wrong.

  27. Mr. Zippy,

    Though it is not true in the literal sense, it is true in a figurative sense.

    If we consider a world where Holy Mother Church changes the conditions for a juridical finding of nullity of marriage such that they are broad and subjective and a wink-and-nod rubber stamp on divorce-on-demand, we see a world where the masses do not think the Church believes what she professes about the indissolubility of the sacrament and a world where the masses believe the Church’s teaching to have changed and Her indefectibility to be a lie[*]. In short, a world where sacramental marriage is a meaningless laughing stock because it is indistinguishable in the popular mind from the temporary contractual affair that civil marriage has become – a world where one could say after a sense that there is “no such thing as marriage”, even though sacramental marriage would still technically exist.

    * And if Her indefectibility were a lie, our Lord would be a liar, and thus not God, and so on. Hence secularism and the degradation of the popular concept of what constitutes a marriage and what a marriage entails necessarily are two battalions of the same army.

  28. Peasant:
    My hypothesis, which Bonald rejects, is that we are pretty much already in that world: that, as a number of high ranking princes of the Church have also suggested, a large proportion of modern Catholic marriages are in fact invalid because of defective consent; and that the problem is getting worse, because modern people reject the traditional (that is, true) understanding of marriage.

    That doesn’t mean it is impossible to marry validly though. You just have to do it with eyes open, knowing what you are doing, and with a spouse who is the same. Marrying ‘out of cult’ has alway been a dangerous proposition, and it is now far moreso because large numbers of ‘cultural Catholics’ are de-facto ‘out of cult’ but without any of the safeguards (e.g. requirement for a dispensation from the Bishop, which usually includes signing various consents e.g. that children will be raised Catholic) which are required when marrying (e.g.) a protestant.

  29. Bonald:
    By the way, and this does pertain to sacramental validity, I should emphasize that I do very much agree with this:

    I consider an act to be free even if one feels morally obliged to do it (e.g. because you knocked the girl up or your parents betrothed you years ago). Motive matters to me not at all; one may freely and validly marry for any number of reasons.

    “Feeling pressured” to make a choice doesn’t imply that the choice wasn’t made. Absent literal coercion (guns, jails, torture and such, or the immediate threat thereof) it doesn’t matter why the person chose as they did. It only matters that they chose as they did.

  30. Zippy wrote, “Absent literal coercion (guns, jails, torture and such, or the immediate threat thereof) it doesn’t matter why the person chose as they did. It only matters that they chose as they did.”
    But there is such a thing as facility and circumvention, where one party is “facile” by reason of youth, old age, sickness, weakness of intellect or the like and the other “circumvents” them by acquiring and exploiting a dominance over them. Where there is facility, circumvention and lesion, this has always been held to nullify consent. Even “pressure and importunity” may be enough, if the other party is facile enough, incapable, for example, of managing themselves and their affairs. Not in “leal poustie,” [legitima potestate] as we say in Scotland

  31. A compromise I could live with would be to say that marriage vows that are consentual by my strict definition but not by Zippy or Michael Paterson-Seymour’s more expansive definition are contractually but not sacramentally valid. That is, the bride and groom are bound by the vows they freely made and kinda-sorta meant, but because of the defect of form they received no sacramental graces to aid them (something the Church is always willing to help them with whenever they feel like retaking their vows in full earnest).

    I doubt there would be any takers for this. I never liked the two-tier idea of marriage to begin with, and Paterson-Seymour keeps telling me that my position doesn’t even make sense as contract law. And, of course, for the vast majority of Catholics, it’s the get-out-of-jail card that they’re most interested in keeping.

  32. Bonald,

    I don’t think such a compromise is necessary – the current de jure state of affairs, wherein the tribunal merely finds that it cannot determine with moral certainty whether one or both party’s claims of feigned consent are true absent objective evidence and thus cannot declare the putative marriage to be null and void with moral certainty (thus leaving neither party free to marry, unless one of them dies) is fine and should be restored to the de facto practice as well.

    I don’t see any light between this and what you propose (nor, truth be told, can I see any light between this and Zippy’s position), but I have neither real philosophical training nor an ear for subtlety so perhaps I am missing something.

  33. I wholeheartedly agree with the 5:01pm, today, comment by Zippy.

    I am standing by waiting for the decision from the second instance court in my wife’s second try at nullity, more than twenty years after her first and after more than twenty years of unrepentant adultery openly accepted and encouraged by every bishop and Catholic parish they have attended. I will be flabbergasted if she does not have her through her smooth lies and well rehearsed but untrue story.

    Some people very close to us asked me to have their testimony allowed because they have first hand knowledge of my darling’s dealings and her deceit, particularly her self-deceit, to the point where she authentically believes her long repeated lies are true. I have said the very same thing to the earlier instance court. I have refused because she has threatened them harm before and has delivered.

    People simply do not comprehend what is going on and believe that a person like myself, who has faithfully observed our vows, would be deceitful toward the Church proceedings. But they hold that someone like my wife, who has crushed every commandment to dust, save my execution, which she would do if she could get away with it and has done so in front of our children(both sets), giving them a clear view of how the Church behaves towards those who openly mock their vows. I have been told that my children are still Catholic because of my marital faithfulness, by most of them. I have asked them to remain Catholic, as it was my mother’s wish and they each knew of her devotion to them and to the Catholic Church.

    The damage being done to marriage is catastrophic and beyond measure. No marriage is beyond the reach of the “right” tribunal. People underestimate the “solidarity” many canonists feel with “those poor souls who “find themselves” in irregular situations” and the open hostility they harbor for those of us who face them down. I believe the large majority of bishops feel like they do. I am a stranger in the Catholic Church. It has mortally wounded my soul and is openly abusive to our marriage and our children and grandchildren.

    I speak from more than two decades of experience.

    At our son’s wedding in the Cathedral in Raleigh, N.C., communion was given, with the foreknowledge of BISHOP BURBIDGE, to my wife and her lover, who openly act as spouses. The bishop was fully informed. I walked out of the wedding and drove back to New York. I wrote to CARDINAL DOLAN, who supported, in his written reply to me, the sacrilege that took place.

    This is routine. These bishops are fully corrupted. Francis knows this and supports them.

    The evil throughout the hierarchy is beyond description and belief.

  34. Ah, well, I thought form was consent + context (witnesses + liturgical form if Catholic) and matter was the couple themselves. But I defer to your superior knowledge of sacramentology.

    But I thought unauthorized marriages to Protestant spouses, while illicit, were still regarded as valid?

  35. Proph:

    But I thought unauthorized marriages to Protestant spouses, while illicit, were still regarded as valid?

    I thought invalid, but anyone who needs to know should check with a more authoritative source than me. The number of disparity-of-cult weddings presided over by Catholic priests using proper form but lacking a dispensation probably isn’t that large, intuitively, so it is probably an edge case.

  36. Zippy & Prof
    Under both the 1983 Code, marriage between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic is “forbidden” (illicit) can 1124. Marriage with a non-baptized person is invalid can 1086. The provisions of the 1917 Code were the same.

    Your notion of a marriage that is “contractually but not sacramentally valid” runs up against can 1055 (2) “a valid matrimonial contract cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament.”
    Of course, there can be a valid contract (unilateral or bilateral) to marry in the future, but Can 1062 (2) provides that no action ad factum præstandum can be raised and the only remedy is a reparation of damages.
    Under the pre-Tridentine law, in accordance with a response given to the bishop of Le Mans by Pope Gregory IX in 1234,”He who has pledged his faith to marry a woman, and afterwards has intercourse with her, although he marry another in face of the church and cohabit with her, is bound to return to the former woman. For although the first marriage appear merely presumable, yet against a presumption of this kind no evidence can be admitted. From which it follows that the marriage, which in fact came after, is not regarded as a genuine one, or indeed as any marriage at all.” [Decretales Gregorii IX c 30 X. IV. 1 usually cited as IV. 1. c XXX] The presumption was of a tacit consent at the time of the copula. Indeed, the bulk of medieval annulments were on the ground of “pre-contract,” the first “spouse” being, conveniently, dead. It remained the law of Scotland until 1940 and actions for declarator of marriage were still being brought in the 1980s, but the promise had to be proved by writ or oath of the promiser.

  37. So Proph had the right understanding then.

  38. […] Their understanding of marriage has been formed by de-facto practice. They may (or may not) be aware of the explicit rules; but they’ve been taught not to take them […]

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