From a reader:
I was recently asked to officiate a wedding ceremony for a couple of friends of mine. I am a Notary Public living in the state of Florida so I am legally permitted to perform such a ceremony. However, what restrictions, if any, are placed upon me as a Catholic lay person performing a ceremony for two non-practicing Catholics?
Canonically, am I allowed to perform the ceremony or not? Any guidance would be appreciated.
There is no canonical penalty for a layperson officiating at an invalid wedding.
When a person has a civil obligation to do so (e.g. the only judge in town) she should feel no compunction about in fulfilling her civic obligation. If two strangers approach a civil official and ask him to officiate at their wedding, he is under no obligation, canonically, to inquire whether or not they are Catholic, whether or not are free to marry according to ecclesiastical law, etc. In fact, there could be civil penalties for doing so.
That said, when the couple asks the civil official specifically out of friendship or blood relationship – knowing that the civil official is Catholic who knows their status with the Church – then we are wandering onto more complicated moral terrain.
There is a strong possibility of giving scandal.
Provided there are other reasonable and available alternatives (other judges, notaries, etc.), I think it could be a good decision to refuse to witness the marriage.
To repeat: There is no canonical penalty envisioned.