The Pope marries a couple on the papal airplane. Hmmm.

I fairly dread papal trips these days. You never know what is going to happen on the papal airplane. Will there be another presser in which the Holy Father will say something like, “Who am I to judge?” That was a gift – now perpetually taken out of context and abused – that keeps on giving.

I read at Crux that the Holy Father married (witnessed the marriage) of a steward and stewardess on the papal airplane – during the flight.

Paula Podest, 39, and Carlos Ciufardi, 41, have been together for over ten years. They met in the air, where she was his boss as a flight attendant for LATAM, Chile’s flagship airline.
They have been civilly married since 2010. Days before they were scheduled to have their church wedding, an earthquake destroyed the church where they were supposed to marry.  [According to the Daily Mail, that was 8 years ago.  8 years… and they haven’t married in church?  I suppose they had marriage prep.  Also, in the case of an earthquake, the church building isn’t a sine qua non for getting married.  It is sad that they couldn’t get marriage in that church, but… marriage is the really important part of the equation, not the building or photos.]
On Thursday, as they were posing with Francis and the rest of the crew for the official picture, Francis asked them if they were married in the Church. They told him no, and the pontiff immediately took charge, asking them if they wanted him to marry them, and they agreed.

The newlyweds shared the conversation they had with the pontiff with the journalists, with Podest acknowledging that she was “still in shock,” so he did most of the talking, even though, from what they told journalists, “she’s still the boss in the house,” as she was at the airline when they met.
“It was historic,” the pope told them. “Never has a pope married a couple on a plane.”
“He asked us if we were married, I said no because of the earthquake, and he said, ‘well, I’ll marry you’,” according to Ciufardi.
The spouses asked the pontiff if he was certain about marrying them on the plane, asking him “are you sure?”

When the pope asked for a witness, they tapped the CEO of the airline, and to make sure there was no doubt over the validity of the sacrament, the pope “asked the cardinals who were with him” to draft the license, which they did. The document is handmade, signed by one of the cardinals, also a witness.
“He held our hands, blessed the rings, and he married us in the name of God,” Ciufardi said.
“What he said to us is very important: ‘This is the sacrament the world needs, the sacrament of marriage. Hopefully, this will motivate couples around the world to get married’,” Ciufardi said.
Speaking about the rings, Francis said that they shouldn’t be either too tight, because “they would be a torture,” or too loose, or else they might risk misplacing them.

These days there are controversies over the meaning of marriage.  These days, fewer and fewer couples are marrying.

For example, if a couple who are in an adulterous relationship because at least on party divorced his true spouse and then civilly marries another woman – without the church giving a declaration of nullity concerning his first, true marriage, can that remarried, adulterous couple be admitted to Holy Communion, even though they haven’t made any commitment to live chaste lives? Some say, “Yes!”, and, by doing so, they call into question the very meaning of matrimony and also the Eucharist.

At the very least, they make a mockery of matrimony, trivialize it.

I trust that this well-intentioned gesture by Pope Francis isn’t taken merely to be some sort of stunt, which the badly-motivated will utilize to trivialize the sacrament of matrimony even more than is is being trivialized today.

Another thing: may this couple stay together!  It would be… not so great were they to split up after this rather dramatic aerial display.  Headline: Papal midair marriage crashes!

I can’t say that I like the whole airplane thing.   The Pope makes his calls.  Who am I to judge?

Can we put sentimentality aside for a moment?   Gestures like this have consequences.  This wasn’t some odd priest on an airplane, it was the Vicar of Christ.

Again, this is all very huggy and warm and fuzzy.  But let’s think about this.

I wasn’t there, of course, but I think it could have been a good idea to make sure they knew what matrimony is really all about.   That’s what marriage preparation is for.  They’ve been civilly but not sacramentally married for 8 years.   All this time they didn’t seek the sacrament?  What’s that about?   Maybe the Pope got their story.

When a priest marries a couple, he should be reasonably sure that they know what they are getting into.  He can be fairly sure if they had some kind of marriage prep, done by himself or by another priest, etc.  You have to know before you witness the marriage of couple – if they are going to enter into this sacramental bond – whether or not they have the right intentions.   Does the couple – I’m speaking generically now – any couple – intend to remain together for life?   Do they intend for their bond to be exclusive?   Do they intend to accept the gift of children?

Also, the sacrament of matrimony is one of the “sacraments of the living”.  It should be received in the state of grace, after a good examination of conscience and confession.   Not by “surprise”, as it were.

Moreover, you have to ascertain if they are both free to marry, having no previous bond that the Church had to examine.  I imagine that, before tying their knot the Holy Father asked them about these things.  Right?   He was a diocesan bishop.  He knows about these things.

The Pope can dispense immediately anything that can be dispensed.  But if there is a previous bond… nope.  And an airplane isn’t the place to deal with Pauline or Petrine Privilege.   Get that wrong when you are Pope and problems result.

Sure, this on-the-spot – well…it was “on-the-spot” only relatively speaking – marriage took care of one instance of a couple living together. There are a lot more out there.

I wonder if the on-the-spot thing won’t spur odd situations:

“The Pope married someone on an airplane!   Why won’t you, Father, marry us right now here at the zoo?”

What do you want to bet that sort of thing will pop up for priests after this?

I hope that this no doubt well-intentioned gesture by the Holy Father won’t also wind up being one of those gifts that keep on giving, but not in a good way.

Anyway, I wish that couple a holy and happy life.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. RAve says:

    “Civilly married, in love, and you want to get married in the Church? Great! – come to Las Vegas’s newest resort, Vaticana!, and get married in our replica Sistine Chapel. No reservations necessary!”

    Every priest is now going to get pressured to just “wing” this sacrament.

  2. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    I certainly hope we are spared any future scandal of finding out one of these two people is civilly divorced without an annulment.

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  4. Benedict Joseph says:

    Why would anyone believe this to be anything other than another hyperbolic display engineered for ideological purpose, bolstered by a counterintuitive comic/dramatic script?
    Spontaneous? Perhaps. But the office has the advantage of always providing a theatre, sound system and abundant lighting.
    Who is the star?
    It is supposed to be Jesus Christ. The script – Holy Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the perennial Magisterium of the Church.
    Credibility has been long spent. Relevancy and mercy are easily counterfeited as has been amply demonstrated.
    Why do I think that the couple would not find it terribly difficult, given their professions, to find a reasonable flight to Rome to be married by the Holy Father after a prudent judgement could be made about their situation?
    That would not do. No.
    Lights, camera, action.
    For what purpose?

  5. FrAnt says:

    Why should I even try? Maybe the Pope could jump out of the plane and the 5 of them (bride, groom, witnesses, and pope) could parachute to St. Peter’s square. Because you know, others might think marriage is cool and decide to celebrate the sacrament.
    Maybe a priest could dress up like a 16-year-old and hoverboard around the church with virtual reality glasses on while saying the Eucharistic Prayer. That sound cool.
    I’m supposed to encourage vocations to the Catholic priesthood when we have a pope, cardinals, and their minions acting like Protestants.

  6. Sawyer says:

    I got that sinking feeling in my stomach when I read the Crux story. Pope Francis has a pastor’s heart and a shepherd’s heart; I wish he had a canonist’s and theologian’s mind and the responsible sense of a wise administrator as well. As you point out, there is much of great importance, both for the couple and for ramifications in the Church, that might have been (probably was?) neglected in this impromptu decision.

    There are couples and families who are turned off by the Church’s aversion to celebrating matrimony in venues other than a church. How will the pope’s example affect priests and bishops who refuse to celebrate matrimony at a beach or in a park?

    On the other hand, I think of Gospel stories such as the call of Matthew or about Zacchaeus, and I recall that Christ’s spontaneous recognition, affirmation and call of such people were life-changing moments of conversion for them. Perhaps this is a Zacchaeus moment for the airplane couple.

  7. How romantic. *eye roll

  8. Curate says:

    Firstly, yes, I also wish the couple a holy life together and pray that they are disposed to receive this sacramental grace.
    There were two things I thought of:
    1) Asking a couple out of the blue “were you married in the Church?” seems strange. Unless a couple explicitly tells me they were not married in the Church, I would never have known, and very likely wouldn’t have just randomly asked them that. Even if Pope Francis “got their story,” that anyone would’ve been speaking about this in order for him to get the story seems altogether fishy. Perhaps I’m overthinking it, but was this whole thing set up?
    2) I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for when couples come to me saying, “Well the Pope married those people on the plane! Why can’t you just witness our wedding outside on the beach?”

  9. rdb says:

    A Pope on a plane throws priests under the bus. Rare is the parish priest who has not been asked to witness a marriage on the beach, in the backyard, or some other “meaningful” place. Now a priest will be considered rude, mean, and unFrancis like if we only celebrate weddings in churches or Catholic chapels.

  10. ChrisP says:

    I am of the opinion this was another crafted stunt at 38,000 ft. This happened around the same time media were reporting PF was backing Bishop Barros who stands accused of hiding sexual abuse crimes. Barros is a major divisive figure and was appointed by PF:

    The Political Pope and Dictator Pope books both highlight that PF is, unfortunately, a politician first and Pope second……who still hasn’t gone back to Argentina.

    This latest stunt is just another diversion and reckless act that pours further coals on the smouldering fire that threatens to burn all before it.

    [I think it was a well-motivated, spontaneous gesture of good will. They should have then sat down and had a few more minutes to think about it. But I believe it was well-intentioned.]

  11. Fr_Andrew says:

    There is one small other detail, Father : Confession.

    These people have been living in sin for 8 years. While it is good to remove them from this situation, and, presuming that everything else is still settled and there are no problems, they are still receiving a Sacrament.

    Reception of a Sacrament of the Living requires the State of Grace, else it is a sacrilege. [But valid.]

    While I don’t want to know whether they confessed first, something with the abruptness suggests that probably wasn’t done. [I don’t know the details. Did the Holy Father speak to them separately for a while? I don’t know. Perhaps the PRESS OFFICE can tell us.]

    I shall assume the best, however, and suppose (having myself, heard a confession on a plane) that this was done, other wise it might be a real big “lío”.

    (I note with some irony regarding this story that lío can mean “mess” but also has a slang meaning, according to my Spanish-English dictionary which means “a lover” or “a mistress”)

  12. Ave Crux says:

    This is very troubling for many reasons:

    1) How many people put on the spot that way by the Pope himself and in front of others (and each other!) could have refused even if they had mental reservations about committing to Marriage in the context of the Sacrament without the least warning? Or, from another perspective, who could have refused being the subject of a historical novelty involving Pope Francis even if they had felt ill prepared?

    2) Who knows that after 8 years whether either one of the other may have begun to doubt the relationship? Under the circumstances, surprised that way, no time was taken to examine their dispositions for an instantaneous marriage in the Church, nor even their backgrounds and whether they were actually free to marry, as they said?

    3) Would not this lack of reflection, prudent examination of the candidates and the element of surprise not constitute grounds for an annulment in the future….perhaps a form of pressure, even if well intentioned, by Pope Francis?

    4) Were they even in the state of grace after living together without the benefit of a marriage recognized by the Church, and did they even have an opportunity to go to Confession so they could receive the Sacrament of Matrimony in the state of grace?

    5) Is it permissible to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony when one is not in the state of grace? Did they have true contrition for having lived without the benefit of a sacramental marriage for 8 years without ever taking steps to rectify the irregularity? [One can validly contract marriage and the sacrament of matrimony while not in the state of grace. However, the sacrament, while valid and real, is of little benefit while you are not in the state of grace. When you return to the state of grace it is of magnificent benefit.]

    6) Are they even willing to obey the Church’s teaching on the human life within the context of marriage and accepting all life from God without interfering by the use of artificial contraception or even Natural Family Planning without grave reasons?

    Essentially, I don’t see how this gave good example in any way whatsoever. It just seems to have introduced another element of chaos into the sphere of pastoral praxis with the stamp of approval of the Pope himself.

    [It seems to me that in the moment, it was a gesture of spontaneous good will. But it was the Pope who did it.]

  13. pseudomodo says:

    Why does everything have to happen on an airplane ?

    Is this going to be known as the era of the Avion Popes?

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  15. Ave Crux says:

    Yes, I thought – as Father Andrew confirms above – that receiving the Sacrament of Matrimony without the benefit of a valid Absolution in Confession would be a sacrilege, even if the Sacrament of Matrimony is valid.

    And so we have a Pope who will publicly – at least giving the impression, since the fact that they lived together for 8 years is quite public without the possibility of their making a confession being mentioned at all – plays fast and loose with the Sacraments in the eyes of the entire world by his express intention that it be known.

    He has no trouble bestowing the Sacrament of Matrimony sacrilegiously and yet thinks this is a good example.

    It has been said countless times: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions…”

    No one can be excused on the grounds of good will – just as it is said that the end never justifies the means – for giving scandal using the Sacraments of the Church as a prop.

    And it is undeniable that not a few have been scandalized by such unthinking, precipitous behavior with so serious a thing as the bonds of Holy Matrimony being administered ad hoc on a plane with no proof of proper spiritual or moral preparation. How can this but scandalize rather than edify?

  16. Grant M says:

    It’s the Gretna Greening of the Catholic Church.

  17. FrJsignal says:

    I have already been asked, tonight, by a parishioner, why weddings need to be in churches if the Pope can celebrate them on planes. I had not even seen the news before the question came up!

    [Now we have yet another opportunity to explain why the Church does things in a certain way.]

  18. frjim4321 says:

    When I think of all the time and effort I put into marriage preparation (and annulment work) I can’t help but think this was a trivialization of a sacrament. On the other hand, there could be many facts in this case that we don’t know. Just as there may have been a couple things the previous two popes did that I did like there have been a couple things this one has done that I don’t.

  19. Blas says:

    Do flying companies allow married workers fly the same plane?

  20. The Masked Chicken says:

    The couple had been civilly married for eight years. Obviously, they did not feel any urgency to get married, sacramentally. This, in itself, shows poor formation with regards to the Catholic understanding of marriage (who would want to live in mortal sin?). If they had wanted to be sacramentally married, they would have approached the Pope, not the other way around (talk about putting people on the spot!). They had eight years, about 2900 days, to think about it and repent. They did not. Do they realize the profound difference between a civil marriage and a sacramental marriage? Probably, not.

    This airplane marriage may been seen by many as just sprinkling a little extra Catholic Goodness on an, otherwise, valid and good, “marriage” (see the discussion at the Synod on the Family about the “good” coming from couples who love together). Is conducting this marriage under these conditions truly a pastoral act? Don’t people have a right to know that they are living in sin? Where is the fear of God in all of this? Clearly, the couple did not think they were offending God by not being married in the Church, otherwise, they would have run, crawled, or pleaded to have their marriage ratified by the Church. Perhaps the Pope could have used this as a teaching moment (although, in my opinion, for decorum and so as not to cause scandal, the whole thing should have been done in secret, away from cameras or anyone other than witnesses). As it is, the actions of the moment, improperly explained to the reporters and the rest of the world, does, indeed teach something, but not something either useful or Catholic.

    The Chicken

  21. Ave Crux says:

    @frjim4321: what we don’t know is actually the problem…

    Saint Francis of Assisi (ironically the Pope’s namesake) said that one must avoid even the *appearance* of scandal where concretely none exists; this is in order not to be a stumbling block to anyone.

    It’s quite clear that we could not possibly know any of the facts that are pertinent and necessary to make this anything other than a gravely serious lack of sound judgment and inappropriate administration of a Sacrament. Pope Francis certainly knew this and certainly hasn’t supplied the missing facts to dispel the concerns and confusion which his own actions have given rise to on a grand scale… Something by his own admission he wanted to be widely published.

    No, instead, he is content to throw yet another grenade onto the Pastoral field of operation for his priests and Bishops to deal with.

    He’s following his own advice… “Go out and make a mess!”

  22. APX says:

    Is this going to be known as the era of the Avion Popes?
    The Avion Papacy? Where is our modern day St. Catherine of Siena?

  23. Aquinas Gal says:

    I used to dread papal airplane trips because of what the pope might say.
    Now I dread them also because of what he might do!

  24. Suburbanbanshee says:

    1 answer – “Do I look like the Pope? Heh, maybe he can dispense himself, but my bishop can’t, and neither can I.”

    Complicated answer- Explain the meaning of consecrated ground in relation to fallen nature. Or explain how church weddings protect the rights of the bride and groom.

    Really complicated answer – Chapels of ease at the beach, so people can have their stupid beach weddings and still be married in church. (Bonus points for naming them after Our Lady Star of the Sea.)

  25. Suburbanbanshee says:

    If we lived in an unfallen world, and if all unfallen humans had done their job of taming the earth, all of nature would be a consecrated part of God’s cosmic temple.

    But Adam and Eve messed that up, so pretending that nature is unfallen, consecrated, and tamed is a lie. A pretty, utopian lie, which is why it is so appealing.

  26. Akita says:

    Another cause for sorrow in the demolition of the sacraments. Appearances count. God gave us senses to discern. This is the trivialization of a sacrament. Many priests will suffer on account of this. It’s possible this was done in malice.

    [Unlikely. He did something spur of the moment. Probably without thinking it through.]

  27. Geoffrey says:

    If this report is accurate, I am pleasantly surprised that Pope “Francis asked them if they were married in the Church”. How many clergy would just ignore a couple’s irregular situation?

    The only really troubling aspect would be that of not going to Confession before receiving this Sacrament.

  28. The Masked Chicken says:

    “Is this going to be known as the era of the Avion Popes?
    The Avion Papacy? Where is our modern day St. Catherine of Siena?”

    Well, that won’t be me. Everyone knows that chickens can’t fly. St. Chicken of Delta. Not quite the sound I was going for. St. Chicken of United? Better.

    So, what is the Papal airline? I mean, if poverty is a virtue, why not do penance by flying commercial? Now, that is a flight I would love to see.

    Come to think about it, all we need is a secular Dominican flight attendant. St. Catherine was a, what we now call, secular or lay Dominican. Of course, St. Catherine would never be caught in modern day flight attendant dress.

    The Chicken

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  29. Ave Crux says:

    @Akita: unlike some other members of the hierarchy who shall remain unamed for the sake of this post, I have said many times in discussion with others, and still believe, that Pope Francis does not do any of this out of malice (i.e. an intentional desire to bring harm to the Church and souls).

    I believe he is out of touch with the reality of what he is doing in the order of destruction vs. his personal vision of “reform”, acting on his own deformed sense of what the Church should be and do, and determined to bring that about by imposing it on the Church “for our own good”.

    This is a form of delusion and a staggering disregard for the Church’s 2,000 years of traditions, constant teaching, praxis and magisterium…. and for all his predecessors, including those who immediately preceded him.

    Objectively, the recklessness of his actions and pronouncements, and the harm they are doing to the Church cannot be denied by any honest observer.

    However, I don’t believe it can be attributed to malice with the intent to harm; but rather a grandiose usurpation of authority to do, say, and act upon personal opinion about what is best for the Church and for souls to an extent which is not rightful or proper to any Pope.

    I believe God has permitted this so as to give the people…that is, Catholics in name only…the Pope they have wanted for decades.

    Essentially God has abandoned the *visible* Church to the will of the people and it will bring about a great winnowing in its ranks, for the errors and the erring will no longer remain hidden.

    Pope Leo XIII, Popes Pius IX, X, XI and XII all wrote magnificent encyclicals decrying these errors and warning the faithful about them. These are encyclicals which should be read by every faithful, concerned Catholic; especially those with families and children to be protected and educated against these errors.

    As a consequence of this winnowing, ranks will be drawn up and sides will be taken by the Faithful in a final, decisive battle which will be settled only when God finally intervenes.

    Until then, may God and the Blessed Virgin keep us faithful to the end, and may He grant us the extraordinary wisdom and union with Him needed in such times.

  30. SenexCalvus says:

    The Pope used the Power of the Keys to heal and sanctify a relationship between a man and a woman in need of God’s forgiveness and grace. [Is that so?]
    To effect such healings is the sole reason why Christ conferred upon a mere man the power to loose and bind. If a sinful person can be recreated in Christ through Baptism or Penance, surely a couple can be brought into right relationship with God through the mediation of His priest, even on a plane? Had Pope St. John Paul II done the same thing, accounts in the media would have brought tears to my eyes. [Read what you wrote again. Now try to imagine John Paul doing that.]
    The truth is the truth, regardless of who does it. The Pope acted in the Person of Christ. To argue otherwise is tamtamount to questioning the veracity of the ‘pericope adulterae’. [Out of your depth.]

  31. Volanges says:

    The article I read said that they approached him and asked him to “bless their marriage”. That’s when he asked if they were married in the Church and they explained about the earthquake. Obviously when they asked him for this blessing, marriage or a convalidation was not what they had in mind since they appeared quite surprised when he asked them if they wanted to get married then and there.

  32. Grant M says:

    This could become a habit: Flight Attendant: “Holy Father, I’m not baptised or confirmed yet.” Pope grabs a bottle of mineral water and a sachet of olive oil from the trolley. In a minute the thing is done.

  33. Fr. Kelly says:

    This may not have been as impromptu as the initial reports have indicated.
    LifeSiteNews is reporting that the couple is quoted in the December 19 El Mercurio (a Chilean Paper) that they have been assigned to work the Pope’s flight and that they hope to ask him to marry them. If this is so, and these Italian flight attendants are being quoted in the Chilean paper, I cannot imagine that his Holiness’ advance planners can have missed it.

    [Apparently the whole thing was a set up.]

  34. APX says:

    Beach weddings sound romantic and wonderful, but the reality is quite different. My brother and his wife had one. The days leading up to it were ridiculously hot so everyone got sunburned and looked like lobsters. The day of the wedding was windy, and since beaches are public places that can’t be closed off, you can’t control whose in the background of your photos…including overweight men in speedos during that “you may now kiss the bride” moment as my brother and his wife discovered when they got their photos proofs to look at. And then there is sand that gets everywhere.

  35. Michael Haz says:

    Was the papal aricraft flying ad orientem or do we not know?

  36. Imrahil says:

    Dear Blas,

    setting the fact that they weren’t actually married and the general problem of treating civilly married people as married aside for a moment,

    why for all things in the world shouldn’t they?

    Dear Ave Crux,

    It has been said countless times: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions…”

    It has, but not originally by Catholics, not in the majority by Catholics, and not by Catholics who knew what they said. “That is precisely the one thing it can’t be paved with”, as Chesterton observed.


    despite all the other criticism of the Holy Father, I don’t have them here. That was, despite some problems, rather a good thing to do. And perhaps precisely because of some of the grounds why he should not have done it, according to this here.

    So, problems first.
    1. We don’t know whether they Confessed. If they didn’t, there’s at least the fact that even a married outside the state of grace makes lawful intercourse out of the fornication – though one wouldn’t be allowed to commit sacrilege for whatever good ends. Also, the Pope might have thought that they are not, at least not for the things he knew about, in subjective mortal sin – after all, the fact that they were scheduled for marriage in Church and, because the Church building collapsed, remained unmarried (with civil marriage) for eight years, speaks for a certain… to use the official word which is also the point here… ignorance.

    2. The making sure there are no problems. As a Pope, he can dispense from the formalities, of course, but at least he should be morally certain that they are free to marry each other. I hope he, at least, asked them. I don’t think why in that situation he couldn’t take them at their word.

    3. Would not this lack of reflection, prudent examination of the candidates and the element of surprise not constitute grounds for an annulment in the future….perhaps a form of pressure, even if well intentioned, by Pope Francis?

    Good point, to which I can only say: not in a tribunal-as-it-should-be. After all, they did say “yes” and the Pope did not have a rifle in his hand.

    Good points about this:

    1. Can we put sentimentality aside for a moment? […] Again, this is all very huggy and warm and fuzzy.

    Well, no it’s not. Actually, what the Pope did here was putting sentimentality aside for the moment. Sure, they did get a bit of “hey that was the Pope” feeling. But think what he did. He, no doubt, got that they were “married” (in inverted commas) and, just for some reason, asked whether they were actually married (“married in Church”). They said no. Now the Pope said: “Here’s a problem; let’s fix it. And let’s fix it at once.”

    This, even though it’s the Pope, is precisely the contrary of the mega-celebration-is-everything attitude about marriage. A rather needed contrary.

    I don’t grudge people their parties, I like them myself, but the World does need the quite Christian message: “hey you there, if a man and a woman want to sleep with each other, that’s (exceptions excepted) perfectly fine, but they need that marriage thing over with.” That so-called civil marriages need, if possible, to be turned into actual marriages is an a fortiori.

    2. When a priest marries a couple, he should be reasonably sure that they know what they are getting into.  He can be fairly sure if they had some kind of marriage prep, done by himself or by another priest, etc.  You have to know before you witness the marriage of couple – if they are going to enter into this sacramental bond – whether or not they have the right intentions.   Does the couple – I’m speaking generically now – any couple – intend to remain together for life?   Do they intend for their bond to be exclusive?   Do they intend to accept the gift of children?

    Let’s do a good distinction. First, yes, he has to make sure they know what they’re getting into. Which is why, to my knowledge, the ritual at least asks the things in detail, and they have to say “yes” to them.

    It is a regrettable misunderstanding (begging our reverend host’s pardon) that the witnessing priest has to be sure about their intentions. The priest does not marry them (save colloquially), they marry each other. This is not “the bishop raising the worthy the Order of Deaconate”, this is “the priest acting as a notary, and afterwards giving a blessing”. The fact that this misunderstanding is out there is all the more reason to combat it.

    Marriage preparation is good in so far as it is helpful and freely willed by the spouses. But a Catholic of good standing has the right that his “yes” is taken as a “yes”, at least after due warning. It is for the time afterwards to enforce against his will what he rashly but willingly entered into.

    3. Every priest is now going to get pressured to just “wing” this sacrament.

    The Pope has supreme jurisdiction; he has it for use. When priests may feel the need to explain that a priest cannot do any thing the Pope can, that, as the saying goes, it is not allowed for Jove what is allowed for the oxen, it’s all for the better.

    Now a priest will be considered rude, mean, and unFrancis like if we only celebrate weddings in churches or Catholic chapels.

    They are anyway. The additional argument “But Pope Francis” with the nice rebuke “but he’s the Pope; oh, write to him, I’d be quite willing to witness your marriage on the beach if you show me a dispensation signed by the Holy Father himself” cannot possibly do anything to alter the situation.

    4. Why do I think that the couple would not find it terribly difficult, given their professions, to find a reasonable flight to Rome to be married by the Holy Father after a prudent judgement could be made about their situation?

    They wouldn’t; but why would the Holy Father marry them, of all people, in a ceremony in the Sistine Chapel or the Vatican Basilica? That would be “lights, camera and action”. Even with their parish priest back in Chile would be “lights, camera and action”. This way, they get a certain “hey this was the Pope” out of it, but it was more like “fifteen minutes of getting something done that really needed getting done” (with due witnesses and all).

  37. Ave Crux says:

    @Imrahil: you have gone through a great deal of effort to explain why you personally have no problem with what the Holy Father did and why you think it was a good thing.

    However, absolutely none of your points are based upon what the objective teaching and practice of the Church is in this matter, nor what the Church requires for the proper administration of Her Sacraments.

    In fact, nothing in your reply is based on reason itself, only on your subjective personal opinion and sentiments which are actually contrary to reason when one considers the Church’s teaching and specified requirements for a Sacrament which is actually one of a juridical nature for the good of society and those who are wed; all of which you set aside in favor of completely subjective circumstances, which can’t possibly be clarified, and completely subjective suppositions as concerns their moral and spiritual preparedness for the Sacrament, as though their failure to seek a marriage in the Church for eight years is of little or no significance.

    Your reply is a prime example of exactly what is afflicting the Church (and the entire human race) today and why it’s falling into total disorder and chaos.

    The New Mass is now captive to whim and fancy, the Sacraments are captive to whim and fancy, the moral teaching of the Church is now subject to whim and fancy, and the Pope is leading the way like a Pied Piper.

    Everything is about “feel good”, not self-denial, self control, submission of the mind and will to the authority of the Church, profound reverence for the Sacraments and guidance of the Church concerning the place, circumstances and requirements for their administration, and so on.

    No, we’ve become like a bunch of children who get whatever they want, however they want it, whenever they want it – even bending God’s will to our will – and deem it good that it is so; not lamentable, as one ought.

    UPDATE: an article published by the Associated Press today shows that the couple indeed had no intention of asking the Pope to marry them.

    The now-“husband” declares they were only going to seek a blessing, and that the Pope himself suggested he marry them “to motivate others”, saying how “historic” it would be since “there has never before been a Pope who married someone aboard a plane.” (pressure, anyone?)

    The whole thing is an outrage against right reason, the mind of the Church, and the sacrality of the Sacraments and Marriage itself, not to mention one’s basic Sensus Catholicus.'s-airborne-nuptials

  38. Ave Crux says:

    “An unnamed vicar general has commented on Pope Francis’ marriage on an airplane,

    ‘If he were a priest in my diocese I would ensure he was suspended, and at his age retired from a public liturgical or pastoral function.’

    Talking to Father Ray Blake (January 19), the vicar general said that he expects that Francis will find followers, priests or deacons, who will marry couples who turn up at their front door, without paperwork, such as proof of freedom to marry, or even of baptism, and without much, if any preparation.”

    And another reverberation of confusion and disorder resulting from Pope Francis’ novelties.

  39. Imrahil says:

    Dear Ave Crux,

    I did not say it was a good thing, that is in all respects. As it were, I mentioned the problems.

    I did not say either that it was all about feeling good. In fact, I see a clear indication that the Pope – if one is critical one might say “this time” – is not about feeling-good, but about getting the situation in order.

    I did, though, say or intend that when one is the Pope, one has full jurisdiction and may, perhaps, do something off-procedure that is not wrong.

    I am quite aware of the requirements of the Sacraments. My point was precisely that we have to consider what requirements of the Sacraments are and – indeed – what aren’t. A requirement of the Sacrament of Matrimony is that the couple is not bound by another marriage, or a vow, intends to live a Christian marriage with all it implies (openness to life, rearing the children in the Catholic faith, and so forth). There are things, however, that are not a requirement to Christian marriage, even though they may be helpful in general, such has having passed through marriage preparation, having a passed through so and so much time of dating and engagement, having secured a position in life, being able to prove that one has enough self-denial and sacrifice and so forth within oneself, and so on.

    It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that the minister of the Sacrament is the husband towards his wife and vice versa, and that the priest acts as (qualified) witness. He is, of course, also the pastor who will pastorally counsel the bridespeople. As a witness, he need not nor should he witness anything which he knows is no Christian marriage anyway. But – and this is a much overlooked but, but a quite inescapable one – the ultimate decision whether they are ready and worthy is with the bridespeople themselves (where for “worthy”, the state of grace suffices). Even though Matrimony also has the aspect of a public call, we are, again, not talking about Holy Orders (where the bishop is to check whether the candidates are ready and worthy).

    To put it in more brief, there is nothing – nothing – in the Catholic faith (though there is very much in the things called civic decency or suchlike – that would be incapable with a Gretna Green marriage. Would that we were back in the times where people eloped to Gretna Green, because they did not dare live in pseudo-marriage! (It goes without saying that people afterwards must be held to comply with their Gretna Green marriage.)

    Anyway, there is much I might blame myself with, but I can sincerely say that being a reasonless sentimentalist modernist without regard for the objective teaching of the Church, and so forth, is not among them.

    — What concerns the unnamed vicar general, what he says is quite accurate, but only because it has an “if the Pope were a priest in my diocese” in it. The point is he’s not; he is the Pope; apart from counteracting God’s law he can do anything he likes and/or sees fit.

  40. jhayes says:

    Crux has confirmed that there were two witnesses to the wedding (a Cardinal and the CEO of the airline) and that there was a formal marriage license drafted by the Cardinals who accompanied Francis on the plane.

    When the pope asked for a witness, they tapped the CEO of the airline, and to make sure there was no doubt over the validity of the sacrament, the pope “asked the cardinals who were with him” to draft the license, which they did. The document is handmade, signed by one of the cardinals, also a witness.

    The article includes a photo of the marriage license

  41. TonyO says:

    Imrahil, most of what you said, up to a point, was very well said. Up to the point where you said

    the ultimate decision whether they are ready and worthy is with the bridespeople themselves (where for “worthy”, the state of grace suffices)

    The Church has always held otherwise. The Church has insisted that her OWN rules on what constitutes proper matter controls, not what a couple feel about it. So, not only must the couple be a man and a woman, neither of whom are married, and both of the age of consent, not constrained by coercion, there are other conditions: that both have the mental capacity for marital consent (if one is mentally incapable of knowing what marriage is or incapable of giving consent); that the man is not known to be impotent; that they are not too closely related to each other (both by blood and by other relationships – in the Eastern Rite, a god-father cannot marry a god-daughter). And, of course, the intentions toward permanence, fidelity, and openness to children. And a priest has the innate authority to decide whether what he sees and hears from them constitutes sufficient evidence – for his purposes – as to whether they have the requisite intentions of permanence, fidelity, and openness to children, or even sufficient capacity to understand marriage itself. A priest is not required to go ahead “against his better judgment” if he deems their behavior is inconsistent with an intention toward permanence but they say “oh, yes, we intend permanence, so go ahead now and put on your stole and perform the ceremony”. Or the other conditions, both those that are discretionary judgment calls and those that are ‘matters of fact’ but have to be determined by sometimes imperfect evidence.

    I would say that a priest is not permitted to simply make up his own standards on whether they are properly disposed to receive the sacrament.

    About the Avion Couple, I would be seriously worried about 2 things if I were either one of the two who “married” or one of the Vatican officials trying to sort this out. First: “all proper” according to whose rules? Which civil jurisdiction and which diocesan jurisdiction has authority over a ceremony on an airplane passing between and over (possibly several) countries?

    I don’t know all the proper rules, but as I understand it, depending on the CIVIL laws of a given jurisdiction, the CATHOLIC rules say that a valid marriage first requires that the wedding satisfy civil requirements, which can be as fundamental as having an officiant who is an authorized officiant according to civil law, and could be as abstruse as that the ceremony occur during certain hours of the day (trying to prevent the marriage of drunken louts?) One can easily imagine that Pope Francis is not an authorized officiant because he was not REGISTERED to be one in that civil jurisdiction. Some places are sticky about who is an authorized officiant, some not. In some places “local law” of the Church requires that the religious ceremony be civilly licit in order to be religiously licit. Did Pope Francis abide by the local law governing the airplane?

    Secondly, on what basis would the “marriage certificate” made up on the spot be thought to be “proper”, and “proper” with regard to which jurisdiction? Normally, civil jurisdictions require a marriage certificate that follows a specific format. (In some places they may even require a specific form of vows, but let’s not go there just now). Were the cardinals who wrote it doing so for CIVIL authorities, or ecclesiastical? And why are there only 4 signatures – presumably the husband, the wife, the celebrant, and one witness. Where’s the second witness?

    And even if the Pope has the authority to dispense from the local law of the local diocese which had proper jurisdiction over the ceremony, DID HE IN FACT SO DISPENSE? This may be a technical matter of canon law, but there is at least a logical distinction between saying the pope CAN dispense, and saying the pope DID dispense. If the dispensing of local law (to the extent it can be dispensed from) requires an actual positive and overt act to dispense (such as, just for example, written notice to the ordinary BEFORE the fact) and not merely the implicit behavior of proceeding without following the local law, then possibly the ceremony was not valid because it did not have proper dispensation.

    Given the fact that Pope Francis and others in his circle have repeatedly shown patent disregard for law, the “assurances” of the officials that all the “proper” things were done is simply not reassuring.

    What a scandal.

  42. Imrahil says:

    Dear TonyO,

    I think that simply boils down that you misunderstood me – forgive me if I gave occasion for that – – or that you assume one specific premise which is not obvious at all. F

    I didn’t deny and never dreamt of denying that, of course, there is an objective standard of what the Sacraments, and this one specifically, consist of, and that, of course, the Church does have authority in teaching about it.

    What I did say is that for the question whether the couple does intend all that, ultimately the bridespeople have to be taken at their word except they speak obvious nonsense.

    So, the whole difference boils down to:

    Example 1:
    Couple: “Father, we want to marry.”
    Priest: “Do you intend that marriage to be for life, and do you intend to stick to that even if (God forbid) your spouse wouldn’t?”
    C: “Well, if it really comes to that, who in all the world would do such a thing?”

    -> Priest shouldn’t witness the marriage.

    Example 2:
    C: “Father, we want to marry.”
    P: “Do you intend that marriage to be for life, and do you intend to stick to that even if (God forbid) your spouse wouldn’t?”
    C: “Do you think that, while just so short before marriage, we would think about separation? Anyway, why?”
    P: “Because that belongs to the things necessary for you to marry validly according to Catholic teaching.
    C: “If that is so, then… hm… yes. After all, we really want to get married.”
    P: “Are you sure.”
    C: “Yes.”
    P: “I repeat, are you really sure? If you sign this here, you expressly state that you really will marry each other for life. You must hold to your word, and you will be held to your word.”
    C: “Yes, we agree to do so, and may God help us.”

    -> Priest must witness their marriage (provided, of course, that the other things are in order as well.)

    Thus, in brief:

    And a priest has the innate authority to decide whether what he sees and hears from them constitutes sufficient evidence – for his purposes – as to whether they have the requisite intentions of permanence, fidelity, and openness to children, or even sufficient capacity to understand marriage itself.

    No, that is not the case, because it poses the wrong question. The bridespeople do not have to “prove their case, with evidence”. If the priest could at most speculate on a hidden obstacle and they deny it exists, they are – frankly: obviously – to be assumed innocent until proven guilty. Your premise apparently is that the authority of the Church to teach about marriage means the authority of the priest to prevent a marriage because of a suspicion; this is not at all the case.

    Note: Originally (and as still treated e. g. by St. Thomas), people not bound by marriage could validly (though not necessarily licitly) marry their sweetheart by saying “I marry thee”, “and I marry thee”, marriage complete, possibly followed by immediate intercourse. Now this posed a couple of problems in proving that such a marriage had taken place; hence, the Council of Trent invented the thing called “requirement of form”. But the purpose of the Council was strictly to make marriages a more certainly provable matter, it had nothing to do with giving the priest who acts as qualified witness (note: witness!) discretionary power to judge whether the marriage should take place.



    It is also true that the Church, by her right to obedience she justly claims, has forbidden a certain exceptional amount of marriages not directly forbidden in Divine Law (such as that of first cousins), even on pain of invalidity. Sure.

    But the point here is that that these laws are for the exceptions, that the law-giver when he enacts such a law must be justified in morality to do so, and that such exceptions do not hold unless there is actually a law that says so. (Also on an side, I’m told that in practice, most don’t even get the idea to act against it, or apply for dispensations which are rather liberally given.)

    To resort to an analogy, in the field of public law, assume (as most would, though whether that is of natural law or just of the positive law of almost all modern states) it is a general (but not exceptionless) right of a man to leave one’s country if one sees fit. Now take a state that says “young men that have not yet fulfilled their conscription duty are not to leave the country until they have, except with consent of the draft office”. This state obviously enacts a just law, for a specific and in its nature exceptional just reason, by his claim of obedience. (The assumption being that the draft office readily grants such requests if it doesn’t think the future conscript is going to shirk.) It would, however, be quite wrong to deduce that a State who said “no man is to leave the country unless the responsible administrative official sees fit to allow it” still kept to the premise we assumed above as hypothesis.

  43. Imrahil says:

    As concerns the question “did he in fact so dispense”,

    I agree that “he can dispense” and “he did dispense” have, as you put it, an “at least logical distinction”. But if the Pope does something which obvious requires a dispensation (such as, here, from the rules that marriages have to be in a Church or chapel, that they have to bring baptism certificates, and that the marriage has to be announced on some previous Sunday in their home church), then that dispensation is obviously implied. If the dispensation by any other Church dignitary would be required to be in (say) written form, then a dispensation form that rule is also to be implied if the Pope does it.

    (Hence my point above that a certain teaching moment about the difference between what a Pope can and what a parish priest can does belong to the positive sides of this story.)

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