ASK FATHER: Same-sex confusion, false understanding of marriage, and nullity

From a reader…

This may be more of a canon law question (and therefore not necessarily your expertise), but I was rueing the number of Catholics rejoicing with the recent SSM ruling, and it strike me, if they are married, is it possible the marriages are in fact null because of their support for SSM? My understanding that part of the requirement is understanding the nature of marriage, if you support it, do you really understand it? Anyway, a hypothetical really, but thought it could be a thought provoking proposition (and one where I would benefit from more learned individuals).

Hypothetical situations are generally not the most helpful ones for understanding canon law. The law is designed for real situations, and takes into consideration the complexity of the human person. Each of us, and each marriage situation is unique. Though the law speaks in generalities, it does so with the understanding that it is going to be applied in specific, real situations.

The understanding of marriage that’s required for positing a valid act of consent is pretty basic. Can. 1096 establishes that matrimonial consent requires that the parties “be at least not ignorant of the fact that marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman, order to the procreation of children through some form of sexual cooperation.”

A case might be made that a certain hypothetical person lacked sufficient understanding of marriage because he lacked the understanding that it must be between a man and a woman, and that he thought it could be contracted by any two persons, regardless of sex.

Proving that would be difficult.

The whole situation brings to light the need to pray for – and to teach! – a better understanding of marriage among our children.

Unless the next generation gets this right, our society will head down a very dark alley.

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16 Responses to ASK FATHER: Same-sex confusion, false understanding of marriage, and nullity

  1. Alanmac says:

    One of the four sins that cry to heaven is sodomy. If a Roman Catholic is aware of this, then same sex marriage would not even be a question. Catechism is the answer to resolving most homosexual situations.

  2. excalibur says:

    And what will ‘Catholic’ Fordham U. do? When it has congratulated the Theology Chair on his irregular ‘marriage’, in an Episcopal church, ‘marriage’ to another man.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/deaconsbench/2015/07/chairman-of-fordhams-theology-department-marries-another-man/

    UPDATED: Aleteia’s John Burger got this response from Fordham:

    “While Catholic teachings do not support same-sex marriage, we wish Professor Hornbeck and his spouse a rich life filled with many blessings on the occasion of their wedding in the Episcopal Church,” said Bob Howe, Fordham’s senior director of communications. “Professor Hornbeck is a member of the Fordham community, and like all University employees, students and alumni, is entitled to human dignity without regard to race, creed, gender, and sexual orientation.”

    (Emphasis added)

    Link to the announcement in the New York Times

  3. anilwang says:

    Just a point of reference. Baptists have a false understanding of baptism. Not only do they only baptise adults, they also “rebaptize” and think that baptism by immersion is valid because baptism is only an optional symbol that does nothing to original sin.

    Yet the baptism of Baptists are valid because they use the Trinitarian formula and have faith in Jesus, even though they have a different understanding of who Jesus is (e.g. Jesus is a lawyer that saves you if you fulfill the “personal Lord and Savior” clause only once in your life; he doesn’t santify you to bring you up to him but stoops down and loves you as a sinner; and Jesus is neo-Manichean since he’s offended if you even believe he works through matter since all that really counts is the “spirit”).

  4. mikeinmo says:

    It is amazing to me that those of a liberal bent see nothing wrong with a heterosexual couple living together without being married. They will say that the marriage certificate is “just a piece of paper” and means nothing. These same people, on the other hand, think it is NECESSARY for a homosexual couple to be able to “marry”, if they so choose. That is the mindset of the open minded, intellectually dishonest, “kumbaya” liberal today. God forgive us.

  5. Father P says:

    As far as Catholics supporting the SCOTUS decision. I have noticed on many blogs (and in my own mind) wanting to lump them all together and sadly most of the time it ends with a “kill them all the Lord will know his own” rhetoric (or at least excommunicate them, deny them communion, annul their marriages). But I have found just from my sample of “Facebook” friends that they probably fall into one of 3 categories.
    1. Those who actually support same gender MARRIAGE and reject completely the Church’s teaching
    2. Those who don’t care one way or the other but are going along with the culture. The “it was fine with them before, its fine now”
    3. Those who support same gender civil “marriage” because they have been formed culturally and even religiously that there is “marriage” and there is MARRIAGE. “Marriage” is what the state does and MARRIAGE being the Sacrament. They are happy and supportive that same gender couples have all the legal and civil rights and protections (no one talks about obligations anymore do they?) that a “marriage” offers even though they understand that these couples will be no more MARRIED than a couple where there is a “marriage” after a “divorce”. To them support for same gender “marriage” is not seen as support for same gender MARRIAGE.
    (I know all the natural law arguments why divorce/remarriage is one thing and same gender relationships are another but to most of my friends and parishioners that is an argument far removed from their frame of reference for reality)

  6. Phil_NL says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t what the parties believe about marriage in general be irrelevant when the validity of their marriage is concerned? What they believe about their own marriage is something I can see being relevant, but not if they subscribe to politically-correct-but-theologically-utterly-incorrect tripe.

    Example: If a man and a woman marry, all Catholic i’s dotted and t’s crossed, except for the fact they believe that their neighbours Sarah and Betty are also married, that would not make their own marriage invalid. They know exactly what they went in to, only choose to hold to some silly opinions. Could either spouse claim that the consent was absent? As they are man and woman, they consented to exactly what was required of them.
    But if a man and a woman marry, but believe that marriage is not permanent, or can be polygamous, and that this leeway potentially applies to their own bond, did they actually intend to marry in the Church’s eyes? Or even as a matter of natural law? Probably not. They consented to B, while it should have been A.

    I’d say the question of understanding is related to understanding the obligations, the commitments you undertake by marriage. Not if you follow doctrine on whether other situations are sinful, admissible, etc.

  7. frjim4321 says:

    It could be argued that if two baptized parties exchanged valid consent but were not in the “state of grace” at the time of consent, the marriage could be nonsacramental. But it would still be valid. Once the parties returned to the state of grace the bond would become sacramental.

    Even a grave sin would not render a marriage bond invalid after the fact.

  8. mburn16 says:

    sigh. I have the misfortune at the moment of belonging to a parish where the director of family ministry has just published a letter in the bulletin that is apparently quite supportive of the SCOTUS decision. Sadly, that means I’ll be writing to the Priest (not for the first time regarding this…er…column) if I don’t hear the opposite viewpoint expressed in the homily tomorrow. The sufferings of one unwilling to pack his bags for a new congregation…

  9. Supertradmum says:

    Maybe we orthodox Catholics should start using the term Matrimony…..to indicate the real deal, as, like the God’s rainbow, the word marriage has been hijacked.

  10. Mike says:

    I know all the natural law arguments why divorce/remarriage is one thing and same gender relationships are another but to most of my friends and parishioners that is an argument far removed from their frame of reference for reality

    Frames of reference are malformed because of habitual errant conflation of the concepts of gender and sex.

    One wonders on what basis genuine interaction can take place in a context that tacitly (contra the Holy Father) accepts so-called gender theory. If I don’t accept and affirm you first as man or woman, what common frame of reference can there possibly be?

  11. Imrahil says:

    Rev’d dear Fr Jim,

    although Matrimony is not a characterizing sacrament, still, by the same logic Confirmation would be “non-sacramental” if received in state of grave sin*, when it takes its full effect only after that has been mended.

    [*Or at least in a state “hardened in grave sin” – theologians treat it as an allowed opinion, or more than that, that Confirmation itself extraordinarily leads to the remitting of the sins when that is possible. Having myself received Confirmation during my time of shirking the Confessional, not without guilt on my part but not, I might say, due to contempt of the Sacrament or to perceiving myself sinless, nor in violation of a rule actually enforced in the parish that all confirmands have to confess (though such a rule would of course have been quite good), that is a matter of somewhat personal interest to me… but that was an aside.]

    In any case, the practical rules are rather easy. In essence, of course, sacramental marriage is something quite more than natural marriage, though it includes it; in practice, however, sacramental marriage is but the outcome when two people marry validly who are validly baptized.

    Generally,

    I’m inclined to assent to the dear Phil_NL. But in any case, the idea of a person understanding and accepting indissolubility, and at the same time not understanding or accepting opposite sexuality as part of what marriage consists of, seems to be largely merely-theoretical.

  12. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    “This may be more of a canon law question (and therefore not necessarily your expertise) …” Chuckle chuckle. I wish I knew as much liturgical law as Fr. Z knows canon law.

  13. JabbaPapa says:

    is it possible the marriages are in fact null because of their support for SSM? My understanding that part of the requirement is understanding the nature of marriage, if you support it, do you really understand it?

    First, that’s only possibly a question IF this support existed in the spouses during the Rite.

    Second, such false beliefs cannot automatically nullify Holy Matrimony — none other than sinners receive this Sacrament, and its Grace is Efficient as a means towards Salvation.

    Only if it can be demonstrated that one, or the other, or both of the spouses did not intend what the Church intends during the Rite in a Church Court (which is most certainly NOT some kind of automatic source of instant annulment), could the marriage be annulled.

  14. OlderCatholic says:

    Perhaps Catholics who support same sex civil marriage simply do not believe that it is possible or appropriate for the Church to impose her views of marriage on a diverse secular society. That is my own view.

    After all, the Church teaches that remarriage after divorce is adultery, but the Church does not seek to make such remarriages illegal according to State law.

  15. Mike says:

    After all, the Church teaches that remarriage after divorce is adultery, but the Church does not seek to make such remarriages illegal according to State law.

    For many decades — at least until recently — the institutional church in these USA has more or less steadily deemphasized personal sanctification in favor of a statist, increasingly secularized “social gospel,” even as it ironically bewailed (and ham-fistedly tried to swim against the tide of) the collapse of our families and communities. Meanwhile, of late, AmChurch’s vocal opposition to abortion has been muddled by “seamless garment” claptrap. Little wonder that the intrinsic evil of divorce in society, and the immense personal and family damage it wreaks in society, to say nothing of our obligation to support just laws that eschew the evil of easy sundering of marriage, have got lost in the messaging.

    Until we realize how urgently we must clean up our own shortcomings in order that ourselves and our families may be sanctified, we will never properly regard our neighbor or our obligation to him. In the meantime, coming to terms with the ever-more-snarled issues attendant to marriage and family is going to be a more formidable task than almost any of us can possibly fathom. Only prayer, fasting, the pursuit of holiness, and the practice of Spirit-infused authentic witness will open ourselves and our nation to the redemption for which Our Lord died and which is still held out to us if we will but detach ourselves from the lies and conceits of this world — before it is too late for each and all of us.