Ed Peters on Card. Kasper on Pope saying half of marriages are not valid

The distinguished canonist Ed Peters writes about the reckless comments made by Card. Walter Kasper the other day at Fordham University.  My emphases and comments.

Even if the pope said it, it was reckless to repeat it

Cardinal Kasper, in a lengthy interview that shows no let-up in his push to change Church discipline on marriage said, among other things, I’ve spoken to the pope himself about this, and he said he believes that 50 percent of marriages are not valid.[?!?]

I am stunned at the pastoral recklessness of such an assertion. Simply stunned. [As we all should be!]

Suppose the cardinal had claimed that “50 percent of ordinations are not valid”. [!] Would not such a claim, coming from an internationally-renowned prelate and attributed to a pope, have a shattering effect on the morale of deacons, priests, and bishops around the world? Would not especially those clergy laboring under vocational difficulties immediately conclude that their difficulties were the consequence of having been invalidly ordained, whereupon most of them would just give up? And would not those preparing for holy orders be paralyzed with fear over proceeding to ordination until whatever is behind such a massive invalidity rate were discovered and remedied? Of course they would.

Well, if tossing out a comment to clergy alleging rampant invalidity of holy orders would be pastorally unthinkable, by what right does the cardinal casually tell laity that 50% of their marriages are invalid—even if the pope did say it? Does turmoil among married persons in the wake of such a remark not matter to any except those who suffer it? As I said, I am stunned that such a remark was made, [IN PUBLIC!  Sometimes priests will kick ideas around in private as they discuss problems today, but that doesn’t mean they a) think everything they kick around and b) would be so abysmally dumb as to repeat the conversation from their pulpits on Sunday.] even if it was a mere repetition of another’s views.

But, no matter who said it—and I have no patience left for this string of ‘guess-what-the-pope-supposedly-told-me’ disclosures—let me outline several reasons why the claim that ‘half of all marriages are null’ is not just reckless, it’s also wrong.

I preface my remarks thus: I worked in diocesan tribunals for more than 10 years and concluded that hundreds of the marriage cases I saw therein were canonically null; I have been married for nearly 30 years; and I have seen, in my own family and among my closest friends, dozens of successful and failed marriages, some of those latter being canonically null, others just ruined. In short, my perspectives here are at least as professionally credentialed and as personally experienced as anyone else’s. [Haudquaquam dubitandum’st.]

1. Marriage is, before anything else, a natural contract. Any claim, therefore, about “marriage”—including the shocking claim that half of all marriages are invalid—must be true about marriage as entered into by the great majority of the world’s population; that, or it must be abandoned. So, does Cdl. Kasper really think that half of the marriages around the world are invalid? If not, he should never have expressed himself so.

2. But perhaps the prelate only had in mind sacramental marriages (marriages entered into by two baptized persons) when he asserted that half of all marriages are null. But, if sacramental marriage perfects natural marriage and if grace builds on nature, what would make Christian marriage less stable than natural marriage?

Actually, a few things come to mind.

Some Catholic marriages are invalid for reasons having nothing to do with natural law, because they were, say, entered into by boys under age 16 contrary to Canon 1084 or by renegade priests contrary to Canon 1087. But those invalid marriages represent a proverbial drop in the bucket of invalid unions; their presence hardly allows one to claim that half of all marriages among the baptized, or even among Catholics, are invalid.

Admittedly one source of canonical nullity has no foundation whatsoever in natural law, yet accounts for thousands of invalid marriages among Catholics: what I have described as the outdated requirement of canonical form. But, while this requirement allows tens of thousands of Catholics to walk away from ‘marriages’ that we would require Protestants (and indeed all non-Catholics) to honor, violation of form does not occur in numbers that would make half of all marriages, even among Catholics, let alone among Protestants, to say nothing of non-Christians, invalid. Not even close.

Or perhaps Cdl. Kasper wants to take on the “automatic sacramentality” point of Church teaching on marriage (see 1983 CIC 1055), and from there tease out a contractual invalidity argument for any sacramentum fidei attentatum sine fide, but I’ve seen nothing so complex offered yet.

Well, there is much more to say, but keeping in mind that this is only a blog post, let me conclude by reminding all that a long, long, tradition of Church teaching recognizes humans’ natural capacity for marriage, reminds Christians that the grace of matrimony adds to the stability of marriage, and presumes the validity of all marriages unless and until it is proven otherwise.

In short, the validity of marriage far exceeds the odds one enjoys in a coin toss.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. mrshopey says:

    I am thankful that Dr. Peters said something. I have been the recipient of this bad, careless talking. I wouldn’t even consider it advice because I wasn’t looking for any – just a comment on how easy my marriage could be annulled.
    They don’t know how damaging those remarks can be and I appreciate him comparing it to priests – valid ordination – and the morale it kills.
    On bad day, as all marriages will have bad days, I turn to what a priest said to undo this; we are assumed validly married PERIOD.
    We do not need to be given, even the illusion, of an easy eject button.
    Lord help us.

  2. Siculum says:

    I totally, completely get why Father Z and Ed Peters are responding this way, but I will give you only one possible reason why one could possibly imagine that many marriages today are invalid. Fifty percent? I don’t know. Maybe even higher.

    While the trend may be slowly turning around, we all know that the statistics for contraceptive use are high among married Catholics of childbearing age. Not the oft-reported 98%, but high nonetheless. While this is a sinful behavior, is it not widely known that many couples, even those who go through some form of pre-Cana, are in fact knowingly not open to new life, and are therefore living in sterile unions? In a sterile union, the couple block God’s life-giving power of the marital act, and are misusing what He designed marriage for.

    Put another way: Is it not true that couples who marry with the intent and plan to contracept or sterilize themselves are not getting married for the right reasons? And are not those marriages thereby invalid in the eyes of the Church?

  3. anna 6 says:

    Dr. Peters’ critical analysis of C. Kasper is excellent and most helpful, however, it was the pope who “allegedly” made the comment!

  4. Iacobus M says:

    Wow – there are an awful lot of loose lips in Rome these days. Do these guys ever consider the impact of their public statements?

  5. J_Cathelineau says:

    The problem is that pope Francis really said it. And in public. It was on the infamous flight back from Rio. The same day of the “Who am I to judge” thing. And then he cited Card Quarracino, his predecessor in Buenos Aires, as the very author of the phrase. And subsequently he said that the Rota is not enough to cope with the situation. Not a brilliant day for the Catholic Church that was, but believe me, in Bergoglios mind that is a whole exposition of a previously conceived plan. And that is why he mentioned Kasper as “a very good theologian” in one of his first public speeches. Nothing is spontaneous here.

  6. jhayes says:

    Cardinal Kasper is not revealing anything new. The Pope himself made the comment about 50% of marriages being invalid in his in-flight interview returning from the WYD (he attributed it to his predecessor as bishop of his diocese)

    However, Cardinal Kasper says he does not question the indissolubility of valid marriages:

    Kasper: The first marriage is indissoluble because marriage is not only a promise between the two partners; it’s God’s promise too, and what God does is done for all time. Therefore the bond of marriage remains. Of course, Christians who leave their first marriage have failed. That’s clear. The problem is when there is no way out of such a situation. If we look to God’s activity in salvation history, we see that God gives his people a new chance. That’s mercy. God’s love does not end because a human being has failed—if he repents. God provides a new chance—not by cancelling the demands of justice: God does not justify the sin. But he justifies the sinner. Many of my critics do not understand that distinction. They think, well, we want to justify their sin. No, nobody wants that. But God justifies the sinner who converts. This distinction appears already in Augustine.

    I do not deny that the bond of marriage remains. But the fathers of the church had a wonderful image: If there is a shipwreck, you don’t get a new ship to save you, but you get a plank so that you can survive. That’s the mercy of God—to give us a plank so we can survive. That’s my approach to the problem. I respect those who have a different position, but on the other hand, they must see what the concrete situation is today. How can we help the people who struggle in these situations? I know such people—often women. They are very engaged in parish life; they do all they can for their children. I know a woman who prepared her daughter for First Communion. The parish priest said the girl can go to Holy Communion, but not mama. I told the pope about this, and he said, “No, that’s impossible.”

    The second marriage, of course, is not a marriage in our Christian sense. And I would be against celebrating it in church. But there are elements of a marriage. I would compare this to the way the Catholic Church views other churches. The Catholic Church is the true church of Christ, but there are other churches that have elements of the true church, and we recognize those elements. In a similar way, we can say, the true marriage is the sacramental marriage. And the second is not a marriage in the same sense, but there are elements of it—the partners take care of one another, they are exclusively bound to one another, there is an intention of permanence, they care of children, they lead a life of prayer, and so on. It’s not the best situation. It’s the best possible situation….

    CWL: Is it fair to say that your critics think this is a disagreement about the indissolubility of marriage, but you’re saying that the disagreement, such as it is, is about the purpose of the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist?

    Kasper: In no way do I deny the indissolubility of a sacramental marriage. That would be stupid. We must enforce it, and help people to understand it and to live it out. That’s a task for the church.

  7. Anna 6, we are not bound to heed every alleged whisper of the pope as though it were Divine Revelation shouted down from Heaven itself. Even actual whispers of the pope expounding on doctrine in his capacity as a theologian and not as pope, in such informal circumstances as the writing of books, or homilies, or private conversations, or talks, etc, are of little authority.

  8. David Meyer says:

    Could someone enlighten me on something? If a Catholic who is “remarried” repents and informs the priest that they will not engage in the marital act with the person they were “remarried” to, then can they receive communion?

  9. Clinton says:

    I am amazed at Cardinal Kasper’s lack of discretion. Even if the Holy Father said
    anything even remotely like what His Eminence attributed to him, it was amazingly
    tactless to publicly repeat a private conversation. (If such a conversation even happened
    the way Cardinal Kasper described).

    His Eminence just made his superior’s life more difficult (never a good move), and all but
    hung a sign around his own neck saying “I’m an irresponsible gossip– speak with me at
    your own risk”.

  10. jhayes says:

    Put another way: Is it not true that couples who marry with the intent and plan to contracept or sterilize themselves are not getting married for the right reasons? And are not those marriages thereby invalid in the eyes of the Church?

    As I understand it, the marriage is not invalid unless they reject the possibility of having even one child at some time. This does not affect the fact that the Church teaches that artificial contraception is sinful for married couples

  11. Sonshine135 says:

    To say that 50% or half are simply invalid seems like a rather broad brush. Even if a large percentage are not valid, it doesn’t mean they couldn’t be made valid in the future. The comment is uncharitable at best and hopeless at worst. I agree it would be best if people kept private conversations or speculations private.

  12. Luvadoxi says:

    Siculum–I hope that’s not true. My husband and I were married as Lutherans, 40 years ago, and I was very much into “the 2 of us are a family” and not really wanting children any time soon. We used contraception because I’d never heard anything about it being wrong. We eventually had 2 children. I became Catholic 10 years ago. So….I’ve been told my marriage is valid. Is this not true?

  13. aviva meriam says:

    OK…. I have two (admittedly stupid) questions:
    1. Why is it so difficult for these prelates to understand that careless comments spoken in a casual but public format frequently does enormous damage? Don’t the prelates understand how quickly comments made with the BEST of intentions and with careful thought (which does not apply in this situation) can be misrepresented, misreported, misunderstood and misapplied in today’s environment?
    2. Why does this stuff seem to happen (disproportionately) at Fordham?

    Thank you Prof. Peters for all you do

  14. BLB Oregon says:

    I would say it is demoralizing, except that everyone already knows that roughly half of all Catholic marriages end in divorce. Especially if one considers the Catholic marriages that suffer from defect in form, 50% is not a shocking estimate of those marriages in which failure followed because the parties are not properly disposed on their wedding day or the union lacks some essential element. It may be shocking for someone to flatly state that we have an elephant in the room, but it needs to be said. We can object strenuously if they say the poor animal ought to be shot because it is easier than any way of getting it outside alive, but we shouldn’t take them to task for simply saying that the animal is there and needs to be removed.

    Does the explanation that marriages fail for the lack of a true sacramental foundation really add to the demoralization of what we already know? Is there not hope in the thought that these divorces were not unfortunate accidents, unpreventable bolts out of the blue, but most instead had to do with the failure to enter into marriage with full appreciation of its duties and an intention that rests on the foundation of a well-informed conscience?

    I read him to be referring to the Lord’s saying: “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery.” The evangelist wrote “causes her,” not “tempts her.” The Lord says this because a divorced woman had no choice to support herself except to find another man. She is in adultery, but he does not put the culpability on her. The cardinal’s stated concern is that couples are being allowed to marry in the Church even though a conscientious evaluation of the couple could have revealed that these attempts are invalid. This is not just paperwork. A large fraction of objectively invalid marriages are going to end in strife and then in abandonment and divorce. With the unilateral no-fault divorce laws that are in place, there is nothing that a Catholic with the right intention can do about it. Citizens of most countries have utterly lost the power to deny divorce to a spouse who decides to abandon their marriage. From this situation follows not only divorce but scandal and hopelessness concerning whether the Catholic view of marriage is realistic.

    The Church is seeing many Catholics abandoned by spouses who married with the wrong intention. The abandoned spouses’ choices are to struggle to raise their families alone or to remarry and commit adultery. Once they have children in the second family, they themselves are forced to choose between adultery and abandonment of their children. He is not saying that this means the Church ought to allow divorce or presume to dissolve that which is indissoluble. He is saying that this is happening because the Church is allowing couples to marry without ensuring that they are not ignorant of the duties of marriage or unwilling to take those duties seriously for life.

    He raises the possibility of taking something akin to the Orthodox position, on the grounds that their practice was not renounced by Council of Trent even though they were aware of the practice and were condemning the position of Luther. I do not expect the Magesterium to go in that direction. Still, I don’t think it strays into the unspeakable. These are the kinds of things that the princes of the Church have the office to consider among themselves.

  15. Robbie says:

    Cardinal Kasper and Cardinal Maradiaga, for that matter, are not doing Pope Francis any favors. Having said that, it’s prudent to take what they say very seriously. Kasper is regarded as Francis’ theologian and Maradiaga is the head of gang of eight Cardinals. None of this means the Pope agrees with them, but they’re two people who are very close to him.

  16. MikeM says:

    If any share of marriages close to that number were invalid, it seems that that could only be because society has become confused about what marriage is. And, if that’s the case, it seems like a pretty solid argument against the kind of changes that Kasper is advocating.

  17. dans0622 says:

    Siculum: that’s a precise and intricate area you’re getting into. Two remarks: first, the law of the Church doesn’t have much to say about what “the right reasons” for marriage are. Jacob wanted to marry Rachel because she looked better than Leah. No problem. Second, yes, many couples marry with the idea that they will at least “postpone” children for a time. Some do this through sinful means. The important question remains, however: did the Parties exchange the “right to the body”, and are merely not exercising that right, or did they not exchange the right? In the vast majority of cases I have seen, the couples do not say that they excluded the good of children even while most of them do admit to delaying the exercise of that right. No, they don’t use that language but that’s what they mean.
    Using my mind-reading abilities, I doubt the possible exclusion of the good of children is the reason why Card. Kasper thinks 50% of marriages are invalid.

  18. LeeF says:

    The closer to the truth any such number is for invalid marriages, then the greater the failure of the Church with pre-Cana programs and allowing marriages between persons who are not really believing active members.

  19. jhayes says:

    Here is what Pope Francis said in his press conference on the plane back from the WYD.

    We are on the path for a more profound pastoral care of marriage. And, this is a problem for all, because there are so many, right? For instance, I’ll tell you of just one, Cardinal Quarracino, my predecessor, said that for him half of all marriages are null. That’s what he said. Why? Because they are married without maturity, they get married without realizing that it’s for an entire lifetime, or they are married because socially they must get married.

    And in this also pastoral care of marriage is a factor. And also the judicial problem of the nullity of marriage, that must be revisited, because the ecclesiastical courts aren’t enough for this.

  20. Sonshine135 says:

    @BLB Oregon. I was considering posting something similar to what you said here, but a marriage being valid and a marriage ending in divorce is apples and oranges. Plenty of valid marriages end in divorce. Consequently, I believe a lot of invalid and valid marriages could be saved and made valid if people started to seek out marriage and their partner with a little more humility.

  21. LeeF says:

    There is perhaps a positive quality to these types of remarks, reckless though they be. Which is that if the Synod really does not come close to condoning all that the liberals hope for in regards to remarriage and reception of communion, then it will not be able to be said that there was not a thorough examination/discussion of all sides of the issue. Considered but rejected will give the lie to any subsequent charges by the whiny left that the cardinals did not truly address the issue.

  22. J_Cathelineau says:

    Here is the Pope remark, it was on that plane back from Rio:
    (…)”We are moving towards a somewhat deeper pastoral care of marriage. And this is a problem for everyone, because there are so many of them, no? For example, I will only mention one: Cardinal Quarracino, my predecessor, used to say that as far as he was concerned, half of all marriages are null. But why did he say this? Because people get married lacking maturity, they get married without realizing that it is a life-long commitment, they get married because society tells them they have to get married. And this is where the pastoral care of marriage also comes in. And then there is the legal problem of matrimonial nullity, this has to be reviewed, because ecclesiastical tribunals are not sufficient for this. It is complex, the problem of the pastoral care of marriage”


  23. Pingback: We are witnessing the Church at war with itself – UPDATED | A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics

  24. PA mom says:

    The Cardinal does not hold a very high opinion of the laity, now does he?

  25. Marcus de Alameda says:

    Card. Kasper might find his profile on the cover of the esteemed Rolling Stone in the future.

  26. Bosco says:

    “Even a fool, if he will hold his peace shall be counted wise: and if he close his lips, a man of understanding. ” – Proverbs 17:28

  27. pmullane says:

    So Cardinal kasper thinks that the ‘pastoral’ way of strengthening marriage (and therefore married people and therefore the world) is to a) introduce the possibility that one can abandon a valid marriage, enter into a second marriage, and face (at worst) token rebuke from the church, and full access to the sacraments; then to b) suggest that half of Catholic marriages are not valid anyway. I can certainly see these factors strengthening the resolve of the Catholic man whose attractive young secretary has been showing him attention recently. Thanks Cardinal Kasper, your ‘pastoral’ approach is a gift!

  28. MrTipsNZ says:

    Aside from this silliness, have just discovered Kasper voted in the 2013 conclave despite being 80. So did Poletto from Turin (80), Iniguez from Guadalajara (80).

    Ed Peters correctly shows that electing Cardinals are required to be under 80 years of age.

    May God have mercy on Kasper’s soul if he continues in this arrogant fashion. We must pray for him.

  29. Andkaras says:

    While I totally respect Dr Peters and appreciate all he does in service to the church and realizing that he probably had a hand in my own annulment process , I must point out that while a priest receives at least 6 years of solid formation ,Catholic marriage has received on average ,6 months of once a week visits with a couple chosen most likely by the pastor of the parish . This couple may even be admittedly or obviously using contraception. The whole world may still oblivious to this fact but artificial contraception is a deal breaker where marriage is concerned whether sacramental or natural. Now I do not claim to follow Card. Kaspar on facebook .I do feel in my own estimation that 50% is being generous. One cannot attempt to enter into this particular sacramental state if Both are not fully formed aware and informed by the Church which has the responsibility to administer these things to couples seeking a true union. The Church also has the right to refuse to administer the sacrament to those she deem unprepared to receive. I believe the best action for the coming counsil to take will be to issue new guidelines based on “Love and Responsibility” and Theology of the Body”, A rousing discussion about the attributes of the Holy Trinity a’la Frank Sheed and oh yes the scriptures themselves .I myself am going to start thumping a couple of those books myself to any cleric I come across. we have far too few discussions about it even on this ,my favorite blog.

  30. Athelstan says:


    While this is a sinful behavior, is it not widely known that many couples, even those who go through some form of pre-Cana, are in fact knowingly not open to new life, and are therefore living in sterile unions?

    If we’re going to travel down this channel, then I think we must apply the rules of channel: that is, the ones governing what can result in a canonical judgment of nullity.

    It is indeed true that clear, convincing evidence that one or both spouses entered into marriage with a determined opposition to having *any* children, especially if it was to the point of expressed intent of disposing of any unintended pregnancy through abortion or adoption, can result in an annulment. But that is different from a general intent of not desiring children right away, or for some lengthy period of time, no matter how intensely they might be contracepting. Evidence of contraceptive use is not sufficient by itself for ruling a marriage invalid.

    I actually agree that an unsettling large share of marriages in the U.S. (and likely Europe) likely *do* fit under a rubric of arguable invalidity. But I still doubt it is anything like 50%, regardless of how high the divorce rate is, and Cardinal Kasper has no business speculating on it in public.

  31. Athelstan says:


    Catholic marriage has received on average ,6 months of once a week visits with a couple chosen most likely by the pastor of the parish.

    If you’re relying on a marriage prep program for your, er, marriage preparation, you’ve already lost the battle. Being prepared for marriage is something that should be happening from the moment of birth, primarily by your parents.

    And much of which is innate – marriage is a natural institution, and humans are made for marriage, however damaged they might be by original sin.

    While there’s no doubt that modern society has made it harder to have right formation for a successful marriage, by and large, I’m not quite so ready to let couples off the hook.

  32. ppb says:

    During the press conference on the return flight from World Youth Day last summer, Pope Francis made the following comment:

    “…Cardinal Quarracino, my predecessor, used to say that as far as he was concerned, half of all marriages are null. But why did he say this? Because people get married lacking maturity, they get married without realizing that it is a life-long commitment, they get married because society tells them they have to get married.”

    I took it as a wry remark that recognized the fact that many people don’t take their marriage vows seriously and highlighted one of many problems related to marriage that needs to be considered, not as a particular push for the idea of allowing Communion for the divorced and remarried. Perhaps Cardinal Kasper is attempting to get more mileage out of the idea than the Holy Father intended. In any case, I don’t see how relaxing the Church’s discipline would do anything but make the problem even worse.

  33. Andkaras says:

    Athelstan, I am not willing to let them off the hook either . I do believe in a mysterious grace that accompanies the sacrament ,and because of my own particular experience,have come to know of other couples who have gradually come to know of the churches teaching, some with spouses who were extremely opposed. Many of us faced agonizing decisions, like being able to receive Holy communion if the spouse was not on board. And also the heart breaking realization the many of our pastors were ill equipped to council or guide us.It is truly heartbreaking to hear a woman say something like “My husband would leave me if I suggested that we refrain for about a week every month to practice NFP .In what way does this image the union of Christ and His bride the church?We do need clear guidelines from the Vatican ,about 40 years ago. Couples should be encouraged to go through a discernment process just like Priests. Questionnaires that present what if scenarios too .With hard questions like”How would you handle a situation where your spouses health were at stake and it was necessary to refrain from the conjugal act for an extended period of time?” I think that the answer some would give might put the prospective spouse off the Idea of marriage altogether. Some I have spoken to ,who initially wanted to postpone children ,turned it into a childless marriage.

  34. tzard says:

    Cardinal Kasper makes me very angry. How dare he presume that my marriage is invalid – or any marriage.

    What the HELL is he talking about?

    If the Church by default doesn’t believe marriage vows publicly made, then what use are they? He seems to think that sacraments are somehow conditional to being proven later. Are my baptismal promises useless now?

    I think there’s a larger heresy somewhere deep within this mentality, other than the obvious issues about divorce. I can’t put it into words right now, I need to think about it.

  35. anna 6 says:

    Good work ppd!

  36. Robbie says:

    Just to add another thought or two, I think it was a mistake for Cardinal Kasper to make these comments in public because no context was given about the Pope’s comments. As another noted, was he speaking about the fact many are immature when they marry or other reasons? We just don’t know.

    Also, Cardinal Kasper noted Francis will appoint 40% of the College of Cardinals and will use those appointments to shape and continue the process he’s started. Well, we’ll leave that for another day, but is Kasper suggesting, as Father Zuhlsdorf has, Francis might well retire at or around 80? If he were to serve as pontiff for 15 years (when he’s 91), it would seem to me he appoint more than 40% right?

  37. ppb says:

    I think jhayes posted an excerpt from the plane interview before I did; the comment just hadn’t appeared yet at the time I posted.

  38. Ben Kenobi says:

    Two things. One, Kasper might as well question whether anyone is validly married. The sacraments inculcate the virtues to one who receives them. This is why deprivation of a sacrament is so serious. Is a marriage invalid if those who entered it were ‘immature’? What exactly does immature mean? I have heard that word bandied about endlessly. To me, it seems like a get out of jail free card that if you are young you can ‘excuse yourself’ from the promises made when you grow old and tired of keeping those promises. The sacrament of marriage requires commitment. It requires effort on your part to work towards a greater union between yourself and your wife or your husband. It is not built together all in one day! The Church teaches that even if one enters into marriage without full reckoning of it, that the Church and Christ himself will help you learn to be a better husband or a better wife.

    Two, there are very serious and real cases where it is invalid, but as Father Z said, these are rare. In telling Catholics that ’50 percent are invalid’, this encourages the ones who are in an unhappy bond to look for that get out of jail free card. Is formation not as good as it ought to be? Absolutely. Is this true of marriage as it is of confirmation? Absolutely. But there’s a difference between ignorance and lack of correct understanding and invalidity which is a whole different ball of wax.

    Half the issues in America would go away if wives went back to their husbands and vice versa. If they really and truly believed that their wife is and remains their wife and their husband is and remains their husbands. God will help you find your way! Trust him!

  39. The Cobbler says:

    I’m under the impression that technically, the graces that should make sacramental marriage more stable rather than less wouldn’t come into play in the first place if the marriage wasn’t valid.

    As regards elephants in rooms, it’s one thing to point them out clearly and direct people as to how to keep themselves safe until it can be extricated, and another thing simply to claim in the context of discussing feeding animals to have heard bestial trumpetting in the house on average every other night. Unless, of course, you *want* people trampling each other to death trying to escape, that is.

    I’ll admit I do wonder a little what percentage Pope Francis thinks are invalid of the marriages His Holiness blesses? Maybe somebody should give him a phone call and ask.

    Or maybe instead we should have some kind of censure for claiming to have heard stuff from the Pope in a personal conversation. (Or, you know, taking something where the Pope discussed a problem and mentioned somebody else’s assessment and later talking as though that was the Pope’s own assessment instead.) It seems it would cut down on a lot of rumours and gossip. Or maybe not censure so much as… it isn’t important that it be punishment — it’s important that it be impossible to ignore or spin. Something like, say, the Pope blessing flyswatters and giving them to an appointed member of each parish in the world to (gently!) slap anyone who commits such an inanity. That could address a lot of other problems too, I suspect. (Note: I’m not seriously suggesting the flyswatter-slapping thing. But what we need has to be equally absurd, equally harmless, and likewise officially directed at unnecessarily dumb things being said or done in the Catholic Church.)

  40. gretta says:

    A marriage has to be entered into with the couple intending it to be permanent. At least within the United States, if you ask the question “If your spouse is abusive, has an affair, or becomes an alcoholic, do you have the right to a divorce?” how many people do you think would answer “yes”? If proven, that in and of itself is an intention against permanence and can render the marriage null.

    Also, marriage is sacramental. But at least in some parts of the country and with some other Christian denominations, while they may baptize using a Trinitarian formula they actively and vehemently deny the very existence of sacraments, and would never acknowledge that they would be entering into one themselves – both in marrying in their church or even in marrying a Catholic. Those marriages where one of the couple actively denies the existence of a sacrament are presumed sacramental, as are all marriages entered into by two baptized Christians, even if they have never darkened the door of a church, any church, since their baptism.

    Which leads to…what does one do with a presumed valid marriage that was entered into by virtue of a common law marriage (not too common in most states, but in those that recognize them, it is considered a valid marriage that requires a civil divorce)? Is that sacramental, where there has been no formal exchange of consent? And how many baptized christians get married in the wedding chapels in Vegas, or on a whim by a justice of the peace, or on the beach with the official having gotten their “religious credentials” out of the back of Rolling Stone magazine? These are all presumed sacramental. This presumption is true regardless of what venue was chosen for the wedding – church, field, beach, bar, hot air balloon, Vegas wedding chapel, etc. and regardless of the type of officiant – clergy, JP, judge, Buddhist monk, wiccan priestess, secular humanist, etc.

    And while the Catholic Church can require premarital preparation and at least 4-6 months between announcement and wedding, there is nothing the Church can do to in any way ensure the validity, stability, and health of the marriages of baptized non-Catholics -or even that we agree on what the fundamental definition of marriage is. It would be interesting to know the percentages of the cases before the Church’s marriage tribunals where the marriages took place between two baptized protestants – many of whom believe absolutely that one can obtain a scriptural divorce and then have the freedom to remarry based on one spouse committing adultery. We used to be pretty sure that we could all agree that the fundamental nature of marriage was that it was between one man and one woman. What if the person seeking an annulment absolutely believes that the definition of marriage is that it is a union of “two consenting adults?”

    Just a couple of years ago there was a popular pop song that extolled the virtues of getting married when a couple was, and I quote, “looking for something dumb to do.” One line in it after the suggested drunken visit to the wedding chapel was “if we wake up and we want to break up, that’s cool.” This is what the popular culture is feeding our young people about marriage. As BLB Oregon said, the elephant is clearly in the room and it is a really complicated question. And when you consider all of the presumed sacramental marriages out there that the Catholic Church has no control over or influence on whatsoever, I don’t find Cardinal Kasper’s comments surprising or offensive. Sad and depressing…yes. But not surprising.

  41. Bosco says:

    If I may say frankly, and if you will kindly indulge this comment and my sentiments, Father Z., I am extraordinarily tense (not unmanned or unnerved) by the state of the Catholic Church over this past year or more since Francis’s election to the papacy. I could go on and cite all the instances that are grievously disturbing, the now daily palpable sense that something is horribly awry ( I believe the Masked Chicken alluded to this sense a few days ago) while so many hold everything is just peaches and cream.

    My mind returns again and again to a certain passage in Scripture that seems apropos to the moment, but who am I to judge?

    “The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
    For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.” – 2 Thessalonians 2: 9 – 12 –

  42. Mike says:

    This whole discussion–not on this blog–of these cardinals is going to end up really wounding the Church. We need to pray.

  43. Polycarpio says:

    Forget the cardinal vs. cardinal frenzy for a minute. Isn’t it good to know what percentage of marriages that Catholics have undertaken are considered suspect for whatever reason (because they followed a divorce without an annulment, because they were undertaken among two baptized but not in the Church, etc.)? All this talk about a crisis requiring the Synod to act and so forth would benefit from a dosage of facts. We’re adults. We can handle it, can’t we? Isn’t there a source for a real answer to this question so that we don’t have to add this layer of arguing over statistics to the ever more heated debate on this issue?

  44. jm says:

    “Even if the Holy Father said anything even remotely like what His Eminence attributed to him, it was amazingly tactless to publicly repeat a private conversation…”

    Amazing. Kasper is viewed as the problem and not Pope Francis! Anyway, if Catholic doctrine on marriage means 50 percent of marriages are invalid, then really, what is the point in any sacrament at all. Vows mean nothing, ceremonies mean nothing. Sorry, if you were a little immature, than Ooops! we will just forget everything. And they expect to be able to maintain the sacredness of marriage! Gay marriage is not the big threat apparently, but silly clerics watering down everything to appear relevant. Why not just say pretty much everyone is going to Heaven. Oh, they already have… What a shame all round, with these pseudo-Modernist leading us. The Poe is the pope, but that doesn’t mean he is making good decisions.

  45. donato2 says:

    If you are in one of these 50% of marriages that are not valid due to immaturity or whatever, but you are faithful to and happy with your putative spouse, are you fornicating?

  46. Supertradmum says:

    How sad that a cardinal underestimates the goodness of people. Why cause upset when the situation is one which needs grace and diplomacy of words. Cardinals and bishops need to be more professional, I think.

    And, immaturity is not grounds for annulment, according to some texts by canon lawyers I have seen. Not understanding a commitment is different than immaturity. People in years past married much younger and were not fully ‘mature” even in the modern sense of the word. Many friends tell me their great-grandparents were married at 16 and 18, for example.

    People grow up even in marriage.

  47. Cosmos says:

    The Cardinals comments were not careless. He is clearly setting the stage for the Synod.

  48. Catholicman44455 says:

    I don’t think 50 percent is far off. So many people these days aren’t adequately disposed for marriage because of immaturity, personal emotional and psychological issues, a misunderstanding or lack of knowledge of what marriage really is, misunderstanding of true love or are inacapable of truly loving in a healthy manner for a number of reasons. Many people are desperate, addicted to the person or to sex, feel pressure to marry so they settle, etc. So there is a lack of understanding or a lack of adequate freedom to enter marriage in many cases. This is the result of our secular, increasingly godless culture and the increase in divorce, dysfunctional families, children born out of wedlock, loss of dignity of marriage, etc. so more people are growing up in that environment and are dysfunctional and have emotional issues and lack of true understanding.

    I realize the Church may be granting too many annulments, but over 80 percent of annulmnent requests were granted in the US over the last several years, so that may show there is a high number of marriages that aren’t valid.

  49. lana says:

    Our Lady said at Fatima: “Many marriages are not of God and do not please God.”

  50. Pope Francis told me that 50% of the things people say he told them in private were made up.

  51. Phil_NL says:

    Let me be one of the few odd ones out, and respectfully disagree with our host and the esteemed Dr Peters on the contents of these remarks (on the form, well, that would leave something to be desired, as udusl, sadly).

    I have argued here before that many marriages, of the natural kind, are nowadays nothing of the sort and therefore shouldn’t be recognized as such. I would put the percentage well above 50 is some countries, even.

    The primary argument for this is that, for it even to be a natural marriage as understood throughout the ages, marriage is supposed to be permanent. Yet one can say that for several decades, the formula “till death do us part” has simply been shorthand for “till death or the divorce lawer pays a visit, whoever comes first”. Most marriages are between participnts firmly rooted in this culture, and can be said to lack the vital characteristic of permanency – even intended permanency, as both parties maintain the option of divorce, and might very well not have gone through with the marriage if that option was off the table.

    Now it would be exceedingly difficult to detrrmine which marriages are and which aren’t, if viewed through this lens, but that difficulty doesn’t remove the problem.

    I wouldn’t be suprised if, some day in the future, the Church would recognize, for canonical purposes, only those marriages conducted between 2 catholics (and acvording to the prescribed form).

  52. Phil_NL says:

    With apologies for the greater than usual number of typos in the above, a tablet doesn’t really lend itself for writing more than a few lines.

  53. mrshopey says:

    Regarding natural marriages. The Church should still view natural marriages as valid if only for the reason when people take vows you take THEM at their word if only for the vow sake. If they were to start changing the vows, then you could assume that, to include “until something goes wrong or someone better comes along”. If you start treating people like they are adults, they are responsible, they can say things that have meaning, then they will rise to it.

    On another note, it seems during the Cardinals talk he made the comment that the Church wasn’t against birth control. It also seems he didn’t want to explain himself either, clarify what he meant for those trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    This is a repeat of H.V., or so it seems because the wrong messages are getting center stage with no correction.

    Also, priests pick up on these careless, yes CARE LESS because not enough CARE and CONCERN went into what he said, comments and they apply them as was in my case.
    If what Dr. Peters pointed out a long time ago re clandestine marriages and the reason why we do not acknowledge marriages of Catholics who marry outside of the Church, then it needs to be changed to include the indissolubility of marriages.

    Why is he not being uninvited across the US from talking?

  54. Suburbanbanshee says:

    A marriage can contain tons of grounds for invalidity, because people in love can be fatheads, without actually being invalid — because unless it is something actively wrong, the couple sticking with the marriage is more important than grounds in the background. People can grow out of being immature or of having incorrect ideas about marriage.

  55. mrshopey says:

    Also, the title of his book is Mercy. Mercy can only be given, extended, to those who have done something wrong, sinned, indebted to someone. It is not mercy to change the definition of things nor to suddenly consider adults incapable of entering a marriage for life. That is what the culture says.
    It is not mercy to suddenly claim the Church isn’t against birth control.
    Christ did not finish elevating marriage by saying, Heck, Moses knew y’all had hardened your hearts and allowed divorce. I am removing marriage from the table all together because being God, I can see how bad things can get. So y’all can’t enter into it anyway.

    You don’t bring about holiness by promoting the least common denominator. You set the bar, assume people are validly married, and help them.

    What I have seen, a trend, is those in troubled marriages being left to the popular counselors for the only help with priests washing their hands of that mess without even the little bit of bread of “I am going to pray for you and my door is always open”. They just shuffle you to the counselors office and we know that the majority if not more support separation and divorce as a solution to problems.

    The problem, from where I sit, has not JUST been with people in general. We didn’t get here on our own.
    If a priest stepped up in a troubled marriage and said yes it does matter, yes I am going to help you no matter what because this is important, taking their vows seriously, then I think we would start to see a change.
    We are at a severe disadvantage because marriages will go through bad times.
    I do wonder if those in the priesthood, going through difficult times, received the same neglect from their superiors/brothers and it is being passed on.
    It has to go beyond just adding it to the prayers of the faithful one Sunday a year. That is, if you want it to change.
    Changing the meaning of something will never be merciful in my book.

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  57. Imrahil says:

    I don’t buy the reasoning of Cardinal Quarracino, presented by the dear jhayes above.

    However… I think the number of 50% is actually too small – meaning marriages that are invalid and not those that can be proven to be such (which is a difference).

    Which does not mean that the one ultimate antidote would be a lengthy catechetic programm. Marriage is, indeed, natural in the first place; those willing to marry must not be deprived of it or unduly forced to postponement. And besides, catechesis is not able to hinder what seems to me the reason, except by making the act of marrying an undesirable labor. (Which it should not be; marriage sometimes is, but I appeal to the common sense of all mankind that treats a wedding as a joyous and desirable occasion).

    Think of a prospective husband who says: “well, I love my wife and I seriously wish to stay with her for my whole life, but of course, if it doesn’t work we’ll separate, what else could we do? what? remarriage? do you think I am an” insert-expletive “bigot? Of course I would remarry in such a case! but may God prevent that to happen!”

    If I am informed correctly, this intention invalidates marriage. Of course these husbands would say and sign everything they are told to do so, because “it’s what you do for your marriage” and “after all, he’s the pastor, he must say that and ask that, but you can’t take that – I mean: really – seriously”.

    Now it’s one thing to say that this intention deserves to be punished at least by not getting the better off it (the ability to remarry that is), and also that this sort of lack of intention cannot usually be proven (and if the witness of the party involved would suffice, it would mean a high danger to simply give uncheckable false-witness in one’s own favor). But invalid, yes, that is.

    Why do I speak as much about this specific sort of lack of intention?

    Because I believe that it has all the looks of being widespread among the Catholic Sunday churchgoers (perhaps excepting those who appear in Church otherwise still) and general for the rest of the population. Now a bit more than 10% of Catholics appear in Church on Sunday, but all want their decent Church wedding (as they should!) when they are about to get married.

  58. frjim4321 says:

    Very big weekend at the parish – and hectic – but I will read this more thoroughly before offering my own impressions.

    Meanwhile, I’m chewing on this: If this cardinal is correct, and I’m not saying yet that I agree, are we on the verge of adopting a paradoxical “licit but invalid” type of marriage?

    We are living in fascinating times!

  59. pseudomodo says:

    90% of what Cardinal Kasper says is not valid.

  60. Magash says:

    I have to agree with Phil_NL. There was a time in western civilization when everyone who aspired to the institution of marriage, even those who “only” aspired to a natural marriage, because they were unbaptized, or where not practicing Christians, agreed what marriage is. Now someone in many U.S. states aspire to a relationship which they themselves declare is equivalent to the relationship between two people of the same sex who intend to engage in a semi-exclusive sexual relations calls it marriage. If this is the relationship that they claim to be entering are they entering into a valid marriage. I expect not.
    mrshopey, people have been writing their own vows in secular and non-Catholic Christian marriages for decades. Many do not include the “until death do us part” part.
    I must disagree with the learned Dr. Peters on this. First there is no reason to expect that the Cardinal or the Holy Father was speaking of only Catholic Marriages. A large portion of the marriages dealt with by the tribunals are marriages between individuals who were not Catholic at the time of the marriage, or even the time of the divorce. That being the case I believe that the concept of 50% of marriages being invalid if these marriages are included is not unreasonable.
    We would not expect anyone to accidentally consecrate a host or to be ordained, yet we expect people who have no intention to engage in the performance of a sacrament to create a sacramental marriage. I am speaking here of non-Catholic baptized Christians. Those who do not believe marriage is a sacrament, believe that same sex couples should be granted the same privilege that they have to marry (and have the innate ability to do so). I don’t know what institution they think they are entering, but it is not marriage as understood by the Church.
    So put together these invalid natural marriages might easily be more than 50%.
    Note this validity of the statement does not, in my mind, mean that Dr. Peters is wrong about the fact that Cardinal Kasper crossed the line in revealing his private conversation with the Pope.

  61. THREEHEARTS says:

    This could be true but be careful. Is any sacrament other than the three living giving ones baptism, confession and the last rites, valid if we are not in a state of grace? The Church teaches that those sacramental graces received in a state of grave and mortal sin are put aside until we go to confession. I never have been comfortable with the time delay, on many occasions between the end of life and the lack of sanctifying grace. Could just be a very long period when a person without grace could completely abandon God. The best book to understand One the Pope is, “The Catholic Doctrine of Grace” by Fr Joyce SJ. There is a very interesting Chapter on the status and results of a man without grace. Two the best thing about Cardinal Kaspar is he is old and forgetful. It is a case perhaps to say out of a very deep charity, “Father forgive him, he does not know what he is doing”. If Father you feel this is a very bad ad hominem remark delete the last two sentences.

  62. Michael_Thoma says:

    One reason for invalidity, along with the already mentioned problems, at least in areas with multiple Catholic Churches (such as the USA, Canada, UK, India, etc) where the Latin Church is the Majority is that Latin pastors in general do not know how to approach the Easterners who request marriage. Latin pastors usually treat Easterners like Latins, but Canonically there are problems with this approach in regard to dispensations, form, impediments, and who can officiate. While the Easterners continue to diligently cross the T’s and dot the I’s, many Latin clergy continue to ignore it, I hope out of lack of knowledge and not any other reason.

  63. BLB Oregon says:

    Sonshine135 says:

    8 May 2014 at 1:11 pm

    –Sonshine135 to @BLB Oregon. I was considering posting something similar to what you said here, but a marriage being valid and a marriage ending in divorce is apples and oranges. Plenty of valid marriages end in divorce. Consequently, I believe a lot of invalid and valid marriages could be saved and made valid if people started to seek out marriage and their partner with a little more humility.–

    Yes. The issue is that the orchard is not being tended so as to bear good fruit. Too many trees are put into the ground even though they’re dead even as they’re planted. Others, though not dead from the start, are planted in a way that stunts the tree and robs it of fruitfulness. There is much suffering as a result and a great deal of scandal. Yes, the growing conditions are very hard, but when an orchard is being husbanded so that it fails in its raison d’être on such a regular basis, something has to change.

    I do not write this to lay blame, but to recognize that there is a reason that the Holy Father might not elect to keep silent about this.

    After all, Pope Pius XI the wrote this: “But the first and most natural place where the flowers of the sanctuary should almost spontaneously grow and bloom, remains always the truly and deeply Christian family. Most of the saintly bishops and priests whose “praise the Church declares,” owe the beginning of their vocation and their holiness to example and teaching of a father strong in faith and manly virtues, of a pure and devoted mother, and of a family in which the love of God and neighbor, joined with simplicity of life, has reigned supreme. To this ordinary rule of divine Providence exceptions are rare and only serve to prove the rule…

    “…The lack of vocations in families of the middle and upper classes may be partly explained by the dissipations of modern life, the seductions, which especially in the larger cities, prematurely awaken the passions of youth; the schools in many places which scarcely conduce to the development of vocations. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that such a scarcity reveals a deplorable falling off of faith in the families themselves…”

    If these issues of spiritually crippled, invalid and abandoned marriages and the rearing of the children of Catholics in homes outside of the marriages of their parents are not addressed, how can the scarcity of holy men for the priesthood not go on? Where will the holy men and women for the religious life come from?

  64. Phil_NL says:


    I fear we’ve seen so many examples were the letters spell “A” but instead “Z” is intended, that even George Orwell would be amazed. The time we could take people at their word, and it has been rightly noted that those words may often be lacking to begin with, is long gone.
    “Till death, the divorce lawer, or a tastier piece of flesh comes along” will never score high as a text for weddings, but it is often exactly what is intended. And regularly without any malice, I believe – people have simply come to expect this, and accept it as normal.

    Magash then adds the problem (if I may summarize) that if people believe they enter into the exact same marriage as a homosexual couple, how can they intend to enter into a natuaral marriage, which the Church would define as the preserve of a union between a man and a woman? Someone has to be inconsistent to square that circle.


    Good points, as usual. I would opine that it is indeed wrong to hinder couples who wish to marry by undue and prolonged preparation requirements. And I agree (as I think you imply) that preparation, of any kind, will not be a failsafe against a non-permanent intention.

    Then we are left with the issue of how to treat marriages of which we cannot prove the intention. The only way, crooked as it may be, is to make assumptions. Right now the assumption is that, if form is met (which for Catholics can be a serious hurdle, but is less than an anthill for non-Catholics) the marriage is assumed valid. I would expect the Church to move to the opposite assumption : all marriage not celebrated true to Catholic form is invalid. And all marriages celebrated with the Church are assumed valid. If a Catholic would marry, with a Catholic wedding, he or she should take responsibility himself/herself to figure out what that means. If he doesn’t, as the French say, “tant pis – tough luck.

    Or, to stick to latin, we might need a variation on “caveat emptor”…..

  65. dans0622 says:

    Not many people really think that two guys or gals who “marry” actually do marry in the same what that he/she did with his/her own spouse. Certainly, I have yet to see a case where a person claimed his marriage is invalid because of his own ignorance that marriage is a heterosexual partnership (cf. cc. 1055, 1096).

  66. Cordelio says:

    Dear Imrahil,

    Since one can intend to administer a sacrament without believing in the effects of the sacrament, at all, I don’t think a party to marriage erroneously believing that he could remarry with his spouse still living would suffice to invalidate the marriage. The Eastern Orthodox accept the possibility of divorce and remarriage – does that mean that none of their first marriages are valid? According to your reasoning, I think it would.

  67. doncamillo says:

    I’d have a question for Cardinal Kasper and his like: “If you are aware that 50% of [sacramental] marriages are not valid, what did you do to prevent such sacrileges and the following nightmarish events?”
    Because it’s been my experience that bishops like Kasper are the ones who always favor the maximum “broadmindedness” when someone evidently unprepared comes asking for marriage in the Church; it’s not infrequent that priest refusing the sacrament of marriage are harshly rebuked by their bishops, because refusing the sacrament “the Church wouldn’t appear a loving mother”.
    In Italy we have a saying: “Chi è causa del suo mal, pianga se stesso”; that is: “Cry for yourself, you who are causing your own pain”.

  68. Phil_NL says:


    I cannot speak for Imrahil, but I would indeed accept that (Eastern Orthodox marriages not being natural marriages, in general) as the logical conclusion.

    Why would that be so odd? It is they who came up with this innovation (apologies for the horror that word tends to produce among Orthodox, but there’s no other term for it, given the fact that at one point, second marriages while the first dpouse was still living were an absolute no-no). Innovations can have consequences, including loosing what you once had – i.e. valid marriages.

    Also, as I see it, this issue involves whether marriages are natural marriages. Whether they are a sacrament as well is another matter.

  69. Cordelio says:

    Dear Phil,

    In case there is any confusion, when I said Imrahil’s reasoning would lead to the conclusion that no first marriages between Eastern Orthodox are valid, I intended to refer only to sacramental validity.

    Looking into the Catholic Encyclopedia, one reads: But a consent in marriage qualified by conditions such as to avoid procreation or birth of children, to have other wives or husbands — conditions excluding conjugal fidelity, denying the sacrament or perpetuity of the marriage bond — is a radically vitiated consent, and consequently of no value. Thus: “I marry, but you must avoid having children”; or, “I marry you until I find someone to suit me better.” The condition must be actual, predominant in the will of one or both, denying perpetual union or interchange of conjugal rights, or at least limiting them, to make the marriage null and void (Decretals, IV, tit. v, 7).

    Interestingly, on the subject of whether a natural marriage would result between Christians determined to exclude sacramental marriages, the entry states:

    Again, Christian marriage being a sacrament as well as a contract, can matrimonial consent be such as to exclude the sacrament and intend only the contract? Christian marriage being essentially a sacrament, as we have seen, any condition made to exclude the sacrament from the contract would nullify the latter.

    While the first quote would seem to support Imrahil’s contention – and my conclusion drawn from it – the second would seem to imply that not even natural marriages are formed. That seems like an absurd conclusion, and I suspect that the answer lies in there being a difference between attaching an express condition to consent (i.e., trying to change what you are consenting to) and having a defective understanding of what the sacrament of marriage entails.

    Confusing – although I bet someone has addressed this very question with some degree of authority at some point.

  70. mrshopey says:

    I think this canon supports your conclusion that they have done most of this to themselves:
    “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.”

  71. Joe in Canada says:

    Cordelio: the Eastern Churches that allow remarriage after divorce also believe that the Priest is the minister of the Sacrament, not the couple, so in a sense it doesn’t matter what they believe about it.

    Sacraments are valid if we are in a state of sin. A priest who is ordained in a state of sin still performs the sacraments which a priest can perform validly. He who eats the Body of the Lord unworthily eats to his condemnation, because he is still receiving the Body of the Lord.

  72. Phil_NL says:


    As I read your quotes, I frankly fail to see the problem : lack of intended permanence makes the marriage null (doesn’t say whether natural or sacramental marriage is meant, but it seems safe to assume it applies to both), lack of sacramental intention does the same. So no marriage, natural or otherwise.

    Now up to some decades (well, a small century perhaps by now, if memory serves) ago, this would have been a fairly academic discussion. Nowadays, it doesn’t touch on a few marriages (out of all those seen by someone as a marriage) but on a big chunk, if not the vast majority.
    It seems we need to coin a new term for “marriages-that-the-contracting-parties-see-as-marriage-but-are-not-meeting-the-threshold-of-natural-marriage”.

    Maybe we should call them “contract marriages”, as that is their crucial element, and like a contract, they can be dissolved if the legal i’s are dotted.

  73. Imrahil says:

    Dear Phil_NL,

    thank you for your friendly words! The suggestion to assume validity until proven otherwise for Catholics and invalidity if suggested with at least some foundation for the rest is an interesting idea, and might solve the problem of “canonical form” which, other than Dr Peters, I still think necessary.

    (Why? Because the alternative to canonical form is not the registrar or some non-Catholic Church etc – this would be a possible-to-suggest “valid but illicit” widening of canonical form, not the abolishing of it. The alternative to canonical form is an unmarried man saying to his sweetheart “I marry thee”, she answering “I give myself in marriage to thee”, whereupon the two are instantly a married couple – with, need I say it, all rights of married couples. St. Thomas reminds us that the words must be in present tense, not future tense, or otherwise they’ll only be engaged.)

    Dear Mrs Hopey,

    there would be no violation of can. 1066 involved if the reason for invalidity is unprovable to the ministerial witness, which would be true for a hidden intention.

    Dear Cordelio (and Phil_NL, again),

    one thing is clear from the onset in any case. There is no such thing as a natural but not sacramental marriage among two validly baptized persons (can. 1055 § 2). Hence, for nearly all our practical purposes, we need not distinguish between natural and sacramental marriage.

    (Yes, natural marriage is also indissoluble in nature, see St. Thomas, S. th. supp. 67 I. The Pope may apparently make the exception here to dissolve them, Privilegium petrinum, and some are immediately dissolved by, legitimate, entering a new marriage by order of St. Paul still directly applicable today, but these are details.)

    Otherwise, you raise an interesting point, though. The Eastern Orthodox don’t know that marriage is really indissoluble – and my secularly-influenced example, we might say, doesn’t either. That is a problem of course, but is it invalidating? (The Protestants don’t believe it to be a sacrament. But they are not excluding sacramentality, hence, at least on that ground, their marriages are valid.)

    If so, has contrary to their own aspirations marriage disappeared from their midst*? If not, are they – when once become Catholic, or so – to be hold to a standard they never dreamt of subscribing to? Or, echoing the words of Cardinal Kasper, have they perhaps something as akin to marriage as an “ecclesial community” in the sense of Vatican II is to a true Church?

    [*Note that this would not mean they live in concubinage in the sense of subjective sin. They obviously believe themselves married; the objective nature of the thing (sacramentology and canon law) and the subjective qualification of their acts (moral theology) must be firmly distinguished.]

    Thank God I don’t need to know all answers nor solve all problems.

  74. Cordelio says:

    Dear Imrahil and Phil,

    Another interesting angle to consider of this question which thankfully none of us has to answer – at least in the English-speaking world, it is my understanding that conditional baptism was administered in the case of most converts from protestantism unless there were grounds to for certainty that baptism had been properly administered previously. The novus ordo practice in connection with RCIA is typically not to conditionally baptize converts from protestantism – even in some cases where the convert him- or herself has significant and well-grounded doubts about the rite of baptism originally employed.

    According to the older practice, where husband and wife converted and were conditionally baptized, there would be a convalidation (usually done quietly) in front of witnesses – which makes sense since, if the conditional baptism were actually necessary for either spouse, then they did not have a sacramental marriage, either.

    I do not have any evidence for what the practice was with converts from Eastern Orthodoxy. I would not think conditional baptism would normally have been administered in their case unless there was some positive grounds for doubt. If it was not, would there normally have been convalidation? – again I doubt it, but it would be interesting to know.

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