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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Why did the Catholic Church flip-flop on weddings?

Over at the National Catholic Register, Patti Armstrong writes an article asking clergy and laity whether or not Catholics should attend a wedding outside the Catholic Church between a baptized Catholic and a non-Catholic. 

The reason behind the debate is because the Code of Canon Law states: “Only those marriages are valid which are contracted before the local [bishop], pastor or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them who assist, and before two witnesses” (1108 §1).Canon law does not prohibit Catholics from attending invalid weddings, Father Pacwa [EWTN] explained, but he said that Catholics must discern carefully. “Every situation will call upon our reserves of prayer, discernment and evaluation,” he said. “And a good confession before making any decision is always a good idea.”According to him, maintaining peace within families is very important, but there is also the question of motive: “Are they trying to put me in an uncomfortable position to prove their point? Or do they simply not see that there is an issue at stake?”
Many opinions are given...but little Catholic documentation. 

I'd like to share the clear teachings the Church once held and taught to Catholics on the subject of 'mixed marriages', weddings outside the Church and Catholics assisting or participating in such marriages. 

I've mentioned many times, that I collect and adore old Catholic books.  These are the sort of books that weigh a ton and were published by the Church for teaching.  One such book is "The Manual of The Holy Catholic Church; Embracing The Beautiful Teachings and The Light From the Altar", published in 1906 by the Catholic Art and Publication Office of Chicago, Ill. published with the approbation of The Most Rev. James Edward Quigley, D.D. Archbishop of Chicago in 1906.  It is this book I am quoting from today (highlights are mine).

"It is frequently asked if it is allowable for Catholics to act as bridesmaids or groomsmen at any marriage, whether in a church or in a private house at which the ceremony is conducted by a Protestant minister, or at a purely civil marriage?    'As to the question, viz., whether Catholics may lawfully act as bridesmaids or grooms at Protestant or civil marriages, we should answer; A Catholic is at liberty to act as official witness to a lawful marriage contract, if the assistance does not imply assent to conditions otherwise forbidden in conscience.  Hence if two persons, who are not baptized, choose to marry before a magistrate, exercising their natural right, which a Catholic reasonably respects, he is at liberty to attest such a marriage by his presence as an official witness, just as he might attest to any other lawful and solemn contract.  Here there is no denial of faith.   No Catholic is, however, at liberty to act as official witness to a marriage unlawful before God, such as the marriage ceremony of a divorced party already rightly married according to Christian or the natural law; or a party that is Catholic and publicly denies his or her faith by neglecting the sacramental rite in favor of a purely civil ceremony before the magistrate, unless there be no priest to perform the rites of the Church; or a party that is leading a scandalous life which would justify the prospect of shame, divorce, or neglect; for though such person may not pretend to any religious convictions, and protest their mere intention to make a natural mutual contract, yet prudence and respect for the moral order should forbid a Catholic to assist at such marriage contracts.   A third principle, already explained in the answer to the question whether a double religious ceremonial is permissible, forbids Catholics to take part in any marriage ceremony which bears the character of religious worship other than that of the Catholic Church.  Hence a Catholic may not lawfully assist at a marriage in a Protestant church which is intended to have a religious aspect." 

I'd like to point out that one type of "unlawful marriage" is (according to another passage in this book there are several different types of "unlawful" marriages) a marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic outside the Church without proper permission.

The part that says "No Catholic, is however, at liberty to act as official witness to a marriage unlawful before God..." begs to be answered (at least in my mind) how could a once considered "unlawful marriage" suddenly become lawful when nothing has changed but the opinion of the Church?  

If God thought these marriages were "unlawful" for centuries and the Church forbid Catholics from participating in them what changed?  Did God change His opinion on what an unlawful marriage is or did the Church change it's opinion thus changing its teaching?  What basis was used to change this point of view?

I guess the question then would be 'what constitutes a witness'?  

Guests at a wedding are witnesses to the ceremony, are they not?

What was once forbidden is now celebrated.  

To see the complete turn around on this Catholic teaching to what is now allowed visit:

Reading all of this brings several questions to my mind...

First, are we better off now having completely turned around the Church's position on mixed marriages and ceremonies than we were decades ago?

How many Catholics attend the weddings of people who are 'remarrying' after a divorce without an annulment? Do they discuss this in Confession with their priest?  If they did...what would he tell them?

And finally, is it any wonder at all, that progressives wrongly believe and hope that one day the Church will change its teachings on gay 'marriage'? 

In Christ,

Julie @ Connecticut Catholic Corner 


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Julie @ Connecticut Catholic Corner

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