ASK FATHER: Marrying first civilly, later sacramentally

From a reader…

I have been married for a few years. When I came to the States a few years ago as an immigrant, I entered on a fiancé visa, and could not work until I was married and obtained a Green Card. My wife and I went to a judge to get married civilly, yet, we remained in separate homes and did not have sexual relations until after we Sacramentally married two months later. Did we do something contrary to Canon Law? I also think in the Marriage registry the Priest put that we lived at the same address even though we were not cohabitating, which would of course be a grave act. Is it the case that Countries like France use this method of a civil marriage followed by a blessing in the Church.

Well done.

Yes, you did everything correctly and commendably.  Especially commendable was your waiting to consummate the relationship until you were well and truly married.

Perhaps after a few years of marriage, you could help prepare couples for the Sacrament of Matrimony at your parish.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Father, Dr. Peters has recently written quite a bit about the folly of divorcing (no pun intended) civil and ecclesiastical recognition of valid marriages. Presuming that both parties were baptized Catholics and apparently well catechized, they knew their civil marriage was no such thing. Is there not an issue with defrauding the state in this way? (I presume the civil “marriage” was not so due to defect of form, separate from any possible defect of consent issue when the primary motivation is citizenship.)

    In any case, it seems worth clarifying for your readers why only the second set of vows was valid. Otherwise, there is the potential for misconstruing which aspect of each exchange vows rendered the contract valid or invalid. Or, worse really, the potential of thinking that the couple was only partially married civilly, then “finished the job” in the church. As a matter of fact, based on this inconclusive snippet, it is possible the writer (who also exhibited an incredible courage and love for Holy Church, Our Lord, and his wife) may be a bit confused about the same.

  2. Vincent says:

    This doesn’t stand in the US, but in the UK there are several issues related to this matter:

    The government decided in its less than infinite wisdom that marriage could be redefined to be between two people (males, females, etc). This renders the state’s understanding of marriage to be completely incorrect. I cannot therefore go to a Church and sign the civil register as though both my sacramental marriage and my ‘state marriage’ amount to the same thing. That being the case, it would actually be better for the Church to deregister churches as places of marriage and send the message that the Church doesn’t accept this nonsense.

    Unfortunately, the law in the UK is that one cannot be married in a Church before being ‘married by the state’ – it has to be done before (or during). So that means that if you don’t recognise state marriage as being marriage (which it isn’t, it is disorientated) you have to have a ‘state marriage’ before you are actually married.

    JABV – in those circumstances, I would say that the ‘first set of vows’ are merely fulfilling the law of the land (rendering to Caesar).

  3. Volanges says:

    I don’t think the man who wrote is confused at all. He entered the country on a fiancé visa. Since it was only the legal marriage that interested immigration, they went ahead and married civilly but knowing that this civil marriage was not valid in the eyes of the Church, the couple refrained from consummating until they’d celebrated their religious marriage, which I can only assume, took a bit longer to prepare for than the civil wedding did. I don’t see how “fraud” could be implied since their intent was indeed to be married, not to have a sham wedding and divorce once the immigration requirements were met.

    This is refreshing. What we usually see is couples asking if they can get married religiously only in order to avoid losing social security which would happen if they married legally. THAT would be fraud.

  4. smcollinsus says:

    JABV, I concur with Fr. Z on this, that the couple were commendable. Every American Catholic must first obtain a marriage license from the government. I seem to remember some sort of oath taken, even though the final witnesses were not there to sign. Every American minister is a de facto civil Justice of the Peace. I think we can all see now that this conflation and compromise is very near to biting the Church in the butt with the same-sex marriage issue. Not all civil laws are automatically just. If a civil marriage will settle a civil matter, then so be it. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and God what is God’s. No, it is not a good situation for a couple to be in. But that is what an out-of-control government sometimes necessitates. I believe it is time for the entire Church to separate from all aspects of the secular government, in order to save us from that government.

  5. I am thinking this will become more and more, if for nothing else than shielding our clerics from spasmodic and demonic attacks by the SSA nazis, common in separating the civil contract part of marriage and the sacramental reality.

    In the US, the clerics act as agents of the state in performing BOTH roles. And, as such, are liable to BOTH sets of laws (civil and church) in discharging said duties. Do you seriously think that the state, under the inducement of the usual pressure groups, will NOT attempt to force the Church to act against its will? Or that the homolobby will say “oh, that’s OK”?

    Neither do I.

    The sooner the Church gets out of the business of being agents of the state for marriage, accepting state money for education, or otherwise assisting the state in carrying out its agenda (ie the USCCB should pay attention to the utter destruction of the faith rather than issuing statements of questionable competence on everything from the economy to global warming oops climate change) the better off we will be. Because, if you lie with dogs…don’t be surprised if 1) you get fleas, and 2) the dog asserts its dominance when you aren’t looking.

  6. Gerard Plourde says:

    I think the reader’s situation highlights a very important point – the difference between marriage as society understands and defines it and the Sacrament of Matrimony. We must initially recognize that the state’s intent is not the same as the Church’s (as much as we may wish and pray for it to be otherwise). Marriage for the purposes of the state is a means primarily of ensuring property rights in life and distribution of that property in death. It also seeks to ensure that spouses incapable of supporting themselves and children born of the relationship are supported and cared for so as not to become burdens to the state unnecessarily. The state has at most tangential interest (if any interest at all) in the essential elements that define the Sacrament of Matrimony. As a prime example of this disonnect, the state, like most Protestants and non-Christians who make up the majority of the population of this country (and this world) do not believe marriage to be necessarily a lifetime commitment. If things get too difficult there it provides the escape hatch of divorce. Again, this process is geard primarily to the distribution of property and ensuring the financial support of any children who may have resulted from the marriage. In contrast, Catholics see the union of husband and wife to be a divinely ordained participation in God’s act of creation and are certainly bound by the laws of the Church and her teachings regarding God’s plan for us. The reader understood this by acting as he did. He was faced with the conundrum that in order to legally remain in the country he had to comply with the laws of the state. His actions did not defraud the state. If anything, the state’s requirements infringed on his religious rights. The reader did remain faithful to the Churh by employing the principal of double effect – living apart and not consummating the union did not violate any part of the state’s minimal requirements for a marriage. At the same time, he evidenced the regard he held for the actual Sacrament and complied with the teachings of the Church. Like Fr. Z., I applaud his witness.

  7. Phil_NL says:

    Here one continues to see the effects of the different perspective of those in the anglosaxon (and a few other) traditions, where one marriage ceremony is the standard, and religious ministers conduct marriages which have civil effects, on the one side, and those who had some napoleontic influences on the other, where it is customary to have both a civil and a religious marriage.

    In countries where the latter is the case, not only France but for example Belgium and the Netherlands as well, you need to contract a civil marriage for any juridic effect, and if the couple pleases, then it can have a religous ceremony. Both the religious side and the state side do not care one bit about the validity of the other, only about their own procedure. The Church would consider contracting only a civil marriage (and consummating it) to be sinful, the state would consider having the church wedding only a criminal offense. (Yes, here in Holland the priest gets fined for presiding over a marriage when there has been no prior civil marriage, repeat offenses carry 2 months in jail).

    So “defrauding the state” as JABV calls it, is not an issue. The state and the church go their separate ways, each giving their marriages different content, which does not bite at all (all obligations that arise from a civil marriage are financial only). The only thing which is different here from all the Catholic weddings over half of Europe is that the time gap was 2 months here. More often it’s a few hours or at most a day or two.

  8. joecct77 says:

    I’ve seen it happen with military couples when one ois about to be shipped out, particularly into combat. Uncle Sam does not pay benefits to fiancés, so the civil marriage (union?)allows the spouse PX, medical, & life insurance and housing.

  9. JABV says:

    I think it possible I could have been far more clear and zealous in my praise and admiration of the inquirer’s virtuous adherence to sexual morality. To have, in the eyes of society, an acceptable situation in which to live out the marital bond, including the marital embrace, and refraining because of what one knows to be the truth, is a heroic witness to cooperation with the grace of Our Lord to walk the narrow path, so to speak. I give thanks to God that such men and women are in our midst!

    Such praise and admiration notwithstanding, I am not sure any of the generously thoughtful responses thus far have really addressed the point. There are not “civil marriages” and “church marriages,” despite the fact one can become married in, shall we say, vastly different rites depending on the civil or ecclesiastical identity of the witnessing minister. So the couple in question was not married twice in two different ways; they simulated marriage and testified to its reality to certain agents of the state, and later they contracted a presumably valid marriage following the canonical form to which each spouse is bound as baptized Catholics.

    I think it is important to be able to separate the clearly admirable actions of the couple following their civil ceremony from other potential ramifications of the situation. In particular, I still wonder about intentionally simulating marriage (I say “intentionally simulating” because the subsequent continence of the couple makes one think they were aware of not being married) and testifying to the state that marriage took place when it certainly did not.

    Regarding my questioning of the inquirer’s understanding (and my parenthetical remark above), I again certainly did not intend offense or an undermining of the continence practiced before the actual marriage. However, it is easier to understand why one would testify falsely to the state that one was married if one presumed that civil and ecclesiastical marriage are different things. The inquirer’s possible misunderstanding in this manner would remove the question of willful false testimony to the state of one’s marital status.

    For those interested in more about civil and ecclesiastical cooperation regarding marriage, I suggest Dr. Peters’ excellent blog. His blog, to my knowledge, is not infallible, but it is reasoned on a superb level.

  10. Daniel W says:

    Dr Peters’ has argument has some merit, but his comparison of same-sex marriage with the recognition of divorce is not quite valid. The state allowing divorce is not the same as the denial of the permanence of marriage. The Catholic Church itself allows that marriages, even sacramental, can sometimes be dissolved. Therefore states that allow divorce are not directly denying the permanence of marriage, any more than the Catholic Church denies the permanence of marriage by allowing the dissolution of some marriages under some circumstances.

    Defining same-sex relationships as marriage, however, is a direct denial of the essential purpose of procreation. The equivalent to this in terms of permanence would be defining marriage as, say, a year long commitment that only lasts a year.

    A couple in such a state would be required to go through a ceremony every year to remain registered as married. Now, in terms of ensuring the civil effects of marriage, it might make sense for a Catholic couple to go through a ceremony to register a civil “marriage” each year. However, I am not sure it would be wise for the Church to insist that priests be part of such a system.

    A priest certifying a couple as married in a state where the essential purpose of procreation is directly denied makes as much sense as a priest assisting year after year at the ceremony whereby a couple enters into a year-long ” marriage” for a year.

    Regardless, I understand the couple who recently decided to seek a civil divorce when the state where they lived decided to deny the essential link to procreation in marriage, to make it clear such a “marriage” is not marriage. (I would certainly not ask a priest to assist at the ceremony each year in a state where marriages were defined as year long commitments).

  11. cwillia1 says:

    I disagree with Ed Peters position on priests acting as agents of the state in marriages. And I disagree with his position regarding the requirement that Catholics marry before a priest. The policy should be that civil marriage is nothing. That marriages of Catholics before a priest are sacramental and are recorded in parish registers. That cohabitations of non-Catholics may or may not be marriages (sacramental or natural) and that this question is addressed when a non-Catholic enters the Church.

  12. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear JAVB,

    You are using the word, “marriage,” as a univocal concept, meaning only one thing – the Catholic sacramental union of husband and wife. The author of the note to Fr. Z realizes, perhaps, that there are equivocal definitions at work. Civil marriage just happens to use the same word, marriage, to denote an entirely different concept. It is an unfortunate use of language, but the government can choose any linguistic markers for the ceremony it chooses. It just happened to choose the word, marriage. It is an activity that, when completed, confers the rights of the activity. These pertain, primarily, to property rights, but has no ability to provide permission to enjoy the marital right. As such, the civil ceremony does not touch on Catholic matters and is a definitional activity required by the state for their adjudication of property, etc. In a perfectly just society, there would only be Catholics and only sacramental marriages, but because of Original sin, the State has not seen fit to understand marriage properly and resorted to its own ceremony.

    As a matter of fact, there was no sham marriage prior to the religious marriage. There, simply, was a different application of ceremony, with, unfortunately, the same name applied to it. That is not the problem of the two getting civilly married. They did what the state asked and are allowed, therefore, what the state has a right to give. The State, simply, does not have the right to give permission for the conjugal union. It does have a right to grant the ability to file a single tax return.

    The problem is in language use, not morality. There is no moral prohibition against expressing one’s love and commitment to one’s (future spouse) in public before a state official. That does not, normally, make the marriage sacramental. It isn’t even considered a licit or valid vow before the Church, because vows must be received according to the mode of the permitter and, at this time, marriage vows, for Catholics in the Catholic Church, require proper form.

    Could such a civil ceremony, actually, make a marriage? Technically, it could. If, God forbid, you lived in a country with no priests (say, they were all taken by space aliens), you could get married in front of witnesses and a justice-of-the-peace and it would be a valid sacramental marriage under Can. 1116:

    “Can. 1116 §1. If a person competent to assist according to the norm of law cannot be present or approached without grave inconvenience, those who intend to enter into a true marriage can contract it validly and licitly before witnesses only:

    1/ in danger of death;

    2/ outside the danger of death provided that it is prudently foreseen that the situation will continue for a month.”

    This is true since the couple, themselves, effect the marriage, not the justice-of-the-peace, who may be present to help them through the vows. Normally, since priests are available and there is no danger of death, the civil ceremony splits off from Catholic rights by virtue of a lack of proper form I to its own little bubble of civil rights.

    In my opinion, this couple did nothing wrong and did not engage in a sham Catholic marriage, because the civil marriage was properly understood by the couple not to be a Catholic marriage. The opinion of the state is irrelevant. The opinion of other people is irrelevant. This, technically, in language use falls under the category of broad mental reservation. The couple did what the State asked. There was no false swearing. It is not their fault that the State doesn’t realize that what they are doing is not marriage. The Stats could have known, if they bothered to rightly think about the matter and that is the exact definition of a broad mental reservation – an ambiguous statement that one party understands differently than the other, but which the misunderstanding party could understand correctly with some thought. No attempt is made to hide essential facts.

    The Chicken

  13. kimberley jean says:

    JABV, the State does not care if the marriage is consummated or not. These people did nothing wrong.

  14. dans0622 says:

    JABV: you raise interesting points. I don’t think it is obvious that this couple intentionally simulated. I had to go through a similar process and in looking back on what I was intending when I contracted a civil marriage, I can state with certainty that I wanted to be married. That’s why I was there and obeyed the secular law. I did not exclude marriage from my external expression of consent (i.e, simulate). It wouldn’t have made sense to simulate.
    The State considered me to be married, according to its own law. I considered myself to be married in accord with the law of the State. That means something since the secular authority does have legitimate power. Nevertheless, I referred to the other party as “my unlawfully wedded wife” until (a few days later) we were able to marry in accord with the laws of the Church. While the State required nothing further of me, I knew I had to express my consent before the Church; until then, the Church would not consider me to be married. Neither did I…but not because I simulated and deceived the State. I did not yet express my consent in the proper form.

  15. JABV says:

    To all who have graciously given their time to further question and debate the questions I have posed, I am sincerely grateful! What wonderful folks must be around to discuss such nuances willingly.

    At the risk of making this all about my (thus far) contrary thoughts, I would like to offer just a few directed responses. (I should also note the importance of avoiding the folly described in this comic: “Someone is wrong on the internet”)

    @Daniel, I might clarify that the only situation in which a sacramental marriage may be dissolved is before such a marriage is consummated; such a dissolution may only be executed by the Holy Father, cf. canons 1141-1142. The Petrine and Pauline Privileges provide for some dissolution of valid marriages involving at least one un-baptised person (such marriages not being sacramental by definition).

    @cwillia, though we may be testing the limits of comboxes for such technical discussion, I note as a matter of interest that Dr. Peters’ position “regarding the requirement that Catholics marry before a priest” seems to be (I cannot claim to represent a man’s position!) that such a requirement is possibly worthy of revision! Perhaps this is what you meant to say you disagreed with. In any event, it is the Church that requires baptised Catholics to marry according to a certain form.

    Finally, @Chicken, might I say it is a pleasure to engage with you, having read your comments on this site for years. You have more influence than you think! Ultimately, I think you are correct that our problem is largely linguistic, and I credit your perspective in this way. Allow me to state, however, that I have certainly *not* intended to use the word marriage to refer to the Catholic, sacramental union of man and wife; indeed, it is crucial to my perspective to recognize that marriage is an aspect of the natural law, truly present in and out of Christendom, that Our Lord elevated to the dignity of a sacrament when validly confected between baptised persons. As such, while I dearly appreciate your careful unpacking of the linguistic situation, I must say I am surprised that one would dismiss potential pitfalls by claiming, “The opinion of the state is irrelevant. The opinion of other people is irrelevant.” After all, why do we then care what the state says about same-sex “marriage”? How do we argue that the Church is authoritative on the matter of marriage while simultaneously claiming that the state’s opinion is irrelevant? Indeed, to a larger extent, how do we defend the authority of the Church to teach about reality (“visible and invisible”), such as the Real Presence of Our Blessed Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament, without asserting that the topics at hand are not merely matters of opinion or some type of appropriate differentiation of use of a single word?

    Let me close this response with two important notes.
    1) I continue to strive not to express any “judgment” of the couple in Father’s post (after all, “who am I…” :) ). I remain adoring of any expression of chastity in a world that hates such a virtue!

    2) I think my point comes down to these important questions.
    a) Do I believe that marriage is an objective reality, a relationship between souls that either exists or does not exist, and cannot exist in degrees or types?
    b) Do I believe that the Church must proclaim objective reality to the world, insisting upon, e.g., the Real Presence even as society ridicules such notions?
    c) Do I believe that testifying to the state contrary to one’s own acknowledgement of reality is moral?
    d) Do I believe that I may testify falsely to the state regarding the status of the couple in question, and I must not testify falsely regarding the marital status of homosexual couples?
    e) Do I believe that my indifference regarding the state’s recognition of the marital status of the couple in question has no effect on my arguments that the state ought not recognize homosexual wedding vows as constituting marriage?

    Once again, a sincere thanks to all who have engaged my rather imperfect communication and understanding!

  16. Daniel W says:

    dans and jabv

    Great discussion about what is happening at a civil ceremony.
    (We went through the civil ceremony after our Church wedding, and I used the perfect tense “I have taken” and the judge did not seem to have a problem)

    The contraction of a marriage is a process. The current liturgy still incorporates aspects of the process (the presentation of the bride to the groom – basically the “offer”), the exchange of rings (similar to betrothal), the declarations of intention (the Catholic version of a pre-nup), and the manifestation of consent (marriage) – the completion of the process (consummation), thankfully occurs at a separate “ceremony” without the need of witnesses that it has occurred (as has been required in some cultures and times).

    Today, the Church considers the civil ceremony to be a legitimate part of the “process” in countries where her weddings are not accepted, just as she has accepted other legitimate processes for the contraction of marriage in the past.

  17. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear JABV,

    You wrote:

    “As such, while I dearly appreciate your careful unpacking of the linguistic situation, I must say I am surprised that one would dismiss potential pitfalls by claiming, “The opinion of the state is irrelevant. The opinion of other people is irrelevant.” After all, why do we then care what the state says about same-sex “marriage”? How do we argue that the Church is authoritative on the matter of marriage while simultaneously claiming that the state’s opinion is irrelevant?”

    Perhaps, I should have been more detailed. The State’s opinion as to what constitutes a sacramental marriage is irrelevant; so is the opinion of other people. It is only the Church who has that authority.

    As a matter of fact, why should I care about the what the State’s opinion is about same-sex marriage, except insofar as it is my moral duty to pronounce it wrong, if it disagrees with the Church? The State can only give what it has the authority to give and the State does not and never had the ability to define sacramental marriage or so-called marriages that defy the natural law. Technically, the State has the authority to define consequences based on certain actions, but the actions need not correspond to any, actual, concrete reality. For instance, I do not own a car, but I have a driver’s license. Because I have a driver’s license, I must have car insurance, except, I have no car to insure. I must comply with the law in order to keep my driver’s license, even though their definition of consequences (loss of license) does not have any correspondence with reality. It is irrationality on their part, but there is no absolute prohibition against making arbitrary laws, provided they are not immoral. If I comply with the law, I get the benefits.

    The State has the right to say that if you go before a justice-of the-peace and profess certain things, then you get the following benefits, insofar as they are authorized to give those benefits. They do not have the right to confer permission for the conjugal union to take place between baptized individuals, however, so, in that case, their opinion as to your rights to engage in the marital act is irrelevant – it is worth no more than the opinion of the Mad Hatter, because they are not authorized by God to give that permission. That many deluded people think they have that right does not make it so. The only relevant opinion is from one whose opinion has been made relevant by God – namely, the Catholic Church’s opinion. The State only has “power,” to define marriage (as opposed to the consequences of some made-up ceremony) because people pretend that they do. The State has the natural right to regulate certain aspects of relational behavior between members of the State, so, after the civil ceremony, they can confer certain rights, but the right to call oneself sacramentally married is not one of them. I am, of course, speaking about marriage between Catholic parties. Marriage between atheists is a different matter, in that the State may recognize so-called, “natural,” marriages, which are marriages in nature, but not religion, but, again, it is not, technically, the State who gives that definition of marriage, but Nature.

    You see, there are three hierarchical levels of laws: Divine Laws, given by God, Natural Laws, given through secondary causes, by God, and Positive Laws, given by man acting in concert with correct reason (and, therefore, in accord with Divine and Natrual Law). The definition of marriage resides within the top two tiers of laws. God defines marriage either directly in consort with the couple – a sacramental marriage or through secondary causes through Nature. The State does not get to define marriage, only the consequences that flow from a sacramental or natural union. The State is not authorized to define marriage, so their opinion of what constitutes a marriage, to the extend that it deviates from Divine or Natural Law is irrelevant and no one can be bound to that opinion. Should the State create the oxymoron of a same-sex marriage, I am not bound to recognize it as a valid exercise of authority (indeed, I must not). That some people are afraid to challenge the notion or even, sadly, support the insanity, is a consequence of the weakening of human nature by the Fall. It is sad, but that does not change the fact that the State does not define marriage – it merely recognizes it and applies civil consequences to the state-of-affairs. The ceremony before a justice-of-the-peace satisfies the requirement for a natural marriage, which the State then recognizes, but the ceremony (or something equivalent) conferring the natural marriage on the couple exists prior to the State. The State does not get to define what marriage is, only note that it has taken place.

    Perhaps, this flies in the face if current legal theory. I can’t say, but it necessarily follows that if the State can define marriage, through its own authority, any way it wants to, then the Law of Non-contradiction will, surely, eventually, be violated and marriage will exist within layers of contradictions. That is why marriage definitionality (yes, I know that’s not a word) can never be given to mere, fallible men. God and Nature are both infallible in their consistencies. Not so, with men.

    To summarize, after the civil ceremony, the couple in the post were naturally married, but not sacramentally married and because of their baptism, marital relations would have been mortally sinful. They did the right thing.

    The Chicken

  18. JesusFreak84 says:

    Another example of playing the American government’s game and getting their piece of paper before actually being married: my best friend was getting married just after she’d have to apply for all of her state medical licensing and etc.; since changing that information after marrying would’ve been VERY difficult, and after consulting with the priest who was to marry her and her betrothed, they got the government paper from the Justice of the Peace so she could legally change her name, but they continued to live apart and as brother and sister until they were actually married.

  19. SoliDeogloria says:

    My wife entered on a K-1 Fiancee Visa two years ago. As a matter of fact, we had considered doing the civil marriage first. What the immigrant is facing is that once he/she is approved for the visa and enters the country, he/she only has 90 days to get married and file for “adjustment of status”. This may seem like plenty of time; however, there is always the possibility that the person entering the country on the fiance(e) visa can be rejected at the border. Therefore, a lot of planning for the wedding has to be done at the last minute after the person enters the country. After the wedding, there is a lot of paperwork to be filed for adjustment of status. It is definitely easier to have a civil marriage first and get all the paperwork done so that one can devote time to planning for a church wedding.

    My wife and I chose to do the church wedding and have the priest sign the marriage certificate. We managed to get everything done (including the adjustment of status) within 2 1/2 months, but I was fortunate to have flexible work hours in order to devote the time to getting everything done. It was a very hectic time! I can imagine it would be much more stressful for a couple one of whom is working a normal job.

    We have been happily married now for two years and have a son who will turn one this week. I admire the couple who asked the initial question and I can completely sympathize regarding their situation.

    Regarding the requirement to have a green card to work, one can apply for an employment authorization card when filing for adjustment of status. This card allows you to work until the green card comes (which also gives work authorization). My wife got hers within two months and it made her eligible to work for four months before the green card came.

  20. Volanges says:

    The Masked Chicken, what you are failing to take into consideration is the fact that the State does not confer marriage, sacramental or otherwise, on anybody. The couple confer marriage on each other. Therefore, as long as there are no impediments, baptized non-Catholic couples or a Catholic marrying a baptized non-Catholic with a dispensation from form, do indeed contract a valid, sacramental marriage if they marry civilly.

  21. johnmann says:

    This points to a potential problem with Dr. Peter’s desire to abolish canonical form. If Catholics aren’t bound by canonical form for valid marriage, the initial civil marriage becomes a valid sacramental marriage (assuming all other criteria are met) and any subsequent “marriage” is invalid. One solution would be for the state to recognize Catholic marriages as civil marriages as can be done currently in the US. Another would be for the state to modify its civil marriages so as to make them invalid. I.e., offer civil unions with prenuptial clauses that render them invalid as marriages. This is the more difficult but possibly the best possible solution, at least for Catholics. It cleanly demarcates civil unions and marriage. On the other hand, then the Church would not be able to recognize all those civil unions which it previously recognized as marriages and chances are non-Catholics, and particularly non-Christians, would be merely cohabitating under non-marriage civil unions.

  22. JABV says:

    Dear Chicken, thank you so much for your reply of two days ago, in case you check this thread again! I think I understand your position far more fully now. I don’t think I had sought to understand you well enough before! This has been a wonderful exchange for clarifying my thinking. I do not think my questions have changed, but I have learned a little more.

Comments are closed.