I was wondering if, given the circumstances and churches not allowing\ marriages to take place, if the Church permits a civil legal marriage to afford the couple the legal rights of a married couple and hold off on a valid sacramental marriage until this all passes assuming they live a brother and sister in the meantime?
GUEST PRIEST RESPONSE: Fr. Tim Ferguson
Canon 1116 talks about the Extraordinary Canonical Form of marriage (not marriage using the Extraordinary Form of the Ritual, i.e. the ritual in use in 1962). This canon states that Catholics without recourse to a legitimate marriage officiant (a priest, deacon, or bishop with the proper authority) who are in danger of death, or in a situation where “it is prudently foreseen that the situation will continue for a month,” can validly and licitly contract marriage before witnesses only.
In many places right now, it could be prudently foreseen that the current situation – the lack of the public celebration of the sacraments – might continue for a month.
Thus, if John and Susie are itching to get married, and Father Cyril is unable to officiate at that wedding, from the Church’s perspective, they could enter into a valid, binding, sacramental, canonical marriage in the presence of witnesses alone. And as a valid, binding, sacramental, canonical marriage, they would not be expected to live as brother and sister – they would have every right to enjoy the goods of marriage.
Now, civil law is another matter – but if John and Susie can’t get hitched by Father Cyril, but Judge Fontaine is willing and able to do it with two witnesses, that wedding would be considered canonical valid and sacramental.
It would be worthwhile, in such a situation, to contact the local chancery and ask, flat out, will the diocese be permitting the public celebration of marriages on May 18, 2020. If the answer is absolutely yes, then you have to wait. If the answer is absolutely no, then you can feel free to call Judge Fontaine.
If the answer is, well, we’re not sure, we have to wait and see… then that pesky “prudence” comes in to play.