Marriage (Catholic Church)
Marriage in the Catholic Church, also called matrimony, is a "covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring. [It] has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptised.". Matrimony, from the Latin mater, "mother," and monium, "-mony" (status) is the creation of the status of mother. In the Roman Rite, it is ordinarily celebrated in a Nuptial Mass.
On the exact definition of each of these steps hinge all the arguments and technical points involved in annulments, and annulment disputes (e.g., one of the most famous, that of Henry VIII). Catholic Canon law regulates the celebration of marriage in canons 1055–1065.
Marriages between Catholics and non-Catholics were historically viewed as "mixed marriage", and were opposed by the Catholic Church, as they were looked upon as degrading the holy character of matrimony. However, such restrictions were gradually loosened over the past century.
Marriages are often celebrated on Saturdays before nightfall during the spring or summer. According to marriage-related liturgical norms and canon laws, they are usually not celebrated on Sunday (unless it is during the afternoon), and are not generally celebrated on other solemnities or major feast days. They are normally not to be celebrated on Ash Wednesday or during Holy Week from Palm Sunday through Wednesday. They are also discouraged during the final two weeks of Lent and Advent, and are strongly discouraged during the last week of those two seasons and during the eight days that follow Easter and Christmas (their Octaves). They are not celebrated at all during the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday), during Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day, and on January 1 (St. Mary's principal feast), and are also not done during the day preceding Christmas Day and the day preceding January 1.
History of marriage in the Catholic Church 
Marriage is recognized in the New Testament scriptures, in the words of Jesus and of Saint Paul regarding the sacred and divine state of marriage. Jesus forbade divorce and stated that in the state of marriage "the two become one flesh". Saint Paul wrote one of the most often quoted descriptions of the proper behavior of spouses in the ideal sacramental marriage in the New Testament book of Ephesians, Chapter 5, referencing the words of Jesus. Many theologians and early Church fathers have observed that the first recorded miracle of Jesus is at a wedding feast, thus, many believe, signifying his approval of the institution of marriage as well as his recognition of the importance of the public celebration of a wedding.
At the time of Christ marriage was considered a necessary passage into adulthood. However, the Church introduced the notion into the ancient world that the celibate unmarried state was preferable and more holy. As a result of directly challenging the social norms regarding marriage and the buying and selling of women into marriage, and particularly in defending the right of women to choose to remain unmarried virgins for the sake of Christ, there were many virgin martyrs in the first few centuries of the Catholic Church. The stories associated with these virgin martyrs often make it clear that they were martyred for their refusal to marry, not necessarily simply their belief in Jesus Christ.
Although the Church supported marriage, a preference for the celibate state came from the example of Jesus, the concern about the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God as supported by Jesus and early followers such as Saint Paul, and the exhortation by Jesus to avoid 'earthly ties'. Some of Paul's words (1Cor. 7:1-7) are seen suggesting that marriage be used only as a last resort by those Christians that found it too difficult to remain chaste, not having the gift of celibacy. As a consequence, to a significant degree first-century Christians placed less value on the family and saw celibacy (not marrying) and freedom from family ties as a preferable state.
From the early Christian era (30 to 325 CE), marriage was thought of as primarily a private matter, with no uniform religious or other ceremony being required. However, bishop Ignatius of Antioch writing around 110 to bishop Polycarp of Smyrna exhorts, "[I]t becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God, and not after their own lust."
Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, believed that marriage was a sacrament, and wrote: "the first natural bond of human society is man and wife." However, there was also an apocalyptic dimension in his teaching, and he was clear that if everybody stopped marrying and having children that would be an admirable thing; it would mean that the Kingdom of God would return all the sooner and the world would come to an end. Other Church Fathers were more negative about the married state.
Jerome wrote: "It is not disparaging wedlock to prefer virginity. No one can make a comparison between two things if one is good and the other evil." (Letter 22). However, he affirms Genesis 1:28 and Hebrews 13:4 and distinguishes himself from the disparage of marriage by Marcion and Manichæus, and the error of Tatian who thought all intercourse to be impure, and explains, "while we honour marriage we prefer virginity which is the offspring of marriage."
His support for celibacy includes his reasoning from First Corinthians 7: "It is good, he says, for a man not to touch a woman. If it is good not to touch a woman, it is bad to touch one: for there is no opposite to goodness but badness. But if it be bad and the evil is pardoned, the reason for the concession is to prevent worse evil."
Jerome also surmises, "If we are to pray always, it follows that we must never be in the bondage of wedlock, for as often as I render my wife her due, I cannot pray. The difference, then, between marriage and virginity is as great as that between not sinning and doing well; nay rather, to speak less harshly, as great as between good and better..." "Now a priest must always offer sacrifices for the people: he must therefore always pray. And if he must always pray, he must always be released from the duties of marriage."
In referring to Genesis chapter 2, Jerome further argued, "that while Scripture on the first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth days relates that, having finished the works of each, God saw that it was good, on the second day it omitted this altogether, leaving us to understand that two is not a good number because it destroys unity, and prefigures the marriage compact." 
Similarly, Tertullian argued that a second marriage, involving someone freed from the first by the death of a spouse, "will have to be termed no other than a species of fornication," partly based on the reasoning that such involves desiring to marry a women out of sexual ardor.
Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage said that the first commandment given to men was to increase and multiply, but now that the earth was full there was no need to continue this process of multiplication. Augustine corrected this thinking and declared marriage good, "Therefore marriage and fornication are not two evils, whereof the second is worse: but marriage and continence are two goods, whereof the second is better." 
While esteeming celibacy, the Church also recognized that only a select few would accept this teaching of a celibate state of life, which Jesus had predicted, and sought to elevate the understanding of the marital state to a more noble and holy sacramental enterprise. The Council of Florence, in the Decree for the Armenians, had already declared: "The seventh sacrament is matrimony, which is a figure of the union of Christ, and the Church, according to the words of the Apostle. Innocent IV, in the profession of faith prescribed for the Waldensians (18 December 1208), includes matrimony among the sacraments (Denzinger-Bannwart, "Enchiridion", n. 424) 
The early Church recognized matrimony as one of the seven sacraments, but did not consider them equal in importance. The sacraments necessary for initiation into the Church or for priestly ordination (Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders) were developed very early in Church history and were given a higher value and attention than some of the other sacraments because they were necessary for membership and also because they put an indelible mark on the soul. The sacrament of Eucharist was ritualized with the Last Supper and was celebrated from the earliest Church history. The rites for the lesser sacraments of Penance, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction developed over a longer time. Matrimony, for most of Church history, was a sacrament celebrated (as in the Judaic tradition) without clergy and was done according to local customs. The first available written detailed account of a Christian wedding in the West dates from the 9th century and appears to be identical to the old nuptial service of Ancient Rome.
With few local exceptions, until 1545, Catholic marriages in Europe were by mutual consent, declaration of intention to marry and upon the subsequent physical union of the parties. The couple would promise verbally to each other that they would be married to each other; the presence of a priest or witnesses was not required. This promise was known as the "verbum." If freely given and made in the present tense (e.g., "I marry you"), it was unquestionably binding; if made in the future tense ("I will marry you"), it would constitute a betrothal. One of the functions of churches from the Middle Ages was to register marriages, which was not obligatory. There was no state involvement in marriage and personal status, with these issues being adjudicated in ecclesiastical courts. During the Middle Ages marriages were arranged, sometimes as early as birth, and these early pledges to marry were often used to ensure treaties between different royal families, nobles, and heirs of fiefdoms. The church resisted these imposed unions, and increased the number of causes for nullification of these arrangements. As Christianity spread during the Roman period and the Middle Ages, the idea of free choice in selecting marriage partners increased and spread with it.
It was not until the sixteenth century, when the Protestant Reformation challenged the seven sacraments, including Matrimony, that the Church officially named the sacraments for the first time in Canon Law at the Council of Trent in 1547. Prior to that time the seven sacraments, including the sacrament of Matrimony were accepted as part of the apostolic oral and written tradition without controversy or debate. The Seventh Session of the Council of Trent stated that the seven sacraments were not new doctrine, but the Council saw a need to put information into the official Canon, "adhering to the doctrine of the holy Scriptures, to the apostolic traditions, and to the consent of other councils and of the Fathers."
The Church has consistently, since its beginnings, taken the position that a valid marriage is indissoluble. There is no divorce in the Catholic Church. But there are annulments, which can only be granted by Church bishops. This has led to many schisms, most notably that of Henry VIII of England, who was denied an annulment in 1527, and responded by forming the Church of England, declaring himself the head of the Church, and granting his own annulment. Pope Clement VII excommunicated him in 1533 and Paul III excommunicated him in 1538.
Conditions for a Valid Sacramental Marriage 
The Catholic Church also has requirements before Catholics can be considered validly married in the eyes of the Church. A valid Catholic marriage results from four elements: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they freely exchange their consent; (3) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; and (4) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister. Exceptions to the last requirement must be approved by church authority. The Church provides classes several months before marriage to help the participants inform their consent. During or before this time, the would-be spouses are confirmed, if they have not previously received confirmation and it can be done without grave inconvenience (Canon 1065).
In addition to meeting the criteria for a valid Catholic marriage, the Catholic must seek permission from the local bishop to marry a non-Catholic. If the person is a non-Catholic Christian, this permission is called a "permission to enter into a mixed marriage." If the person is a non-Christian, the permission is called a "dispensation from disparity of cult." Those helping to prepare the couple for marriage can assist with the permission process.
The Church prefers that marriages between Catholics, or between Catholics and other Christians, be celebrated in the parish church of one of the spouses. Only the local bishop can permit a marriage to be celebrated in another suitable place.
The Catholic Church has further requirements for the form of vows, called the "canonical form". The canonical form of marriage must be followed (unless dispensed). The requirement for a canonical form of marriage began due to the reforms of the Council of Trent. With the decree Tametsi of 11 November 1563. Ne Temere promulgated by Pius X, August 2, 1907 added (and continues to enforce) further specifications.
Freedom to marry 
The participants in a marriage contract must be free to marry, and to marry each other. That is, they must be an unmarried man and woman, with no impediments as set out by Canon law.
- Antecedent and perpetual impotence
- Consanguinity to the fourth collateral line (1st cousin), including legal adoption to the second collateral line
- Affinity (relationship by marriage, e.g. a brother-in-law) in the direct line
- Prior bond (the bond of a prior marriage, even if not consumated)
- Holy Orders (Permission to marry is only given to those ordained clergy who have been fully laicized (relieved of active ministry, and then dismissed from the clerical state, a process which is begun by the (arch-)diocese or religious order community and is finally granted by the Roman Curia at the Vatican subject to papal approval: either the Congregation for Bishops- if the cleric was a bishop, the Congregation for the Clergy- if the cleric was a secular, or diocesan, priest or deacon, or the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life- for those clergy who are members of religious orders or secular institutes or other, unvowed societies. Laicization is given only for serious reasons for deacons, for grave reasons for priests, and very rarely for prelates. However, permanent deacons who are widowed have received permission from their pastors and dioceses and the Vatican to marry after ordination without having to leave the clerical state, probably to better support their families. A transitional deacon seminarian, in a similar manner to other seminarians who leave the program of formation prior to priestly ordination, may be allowed to marry after a period of time and start a family, and, with the permission of the ordinary and the Vatican and the permission of his supervisor- his pastor or former religious superior- may continue to function as a secular, non-religious deacon)
- Perpetual vows of chastity in a religious institute (It is harder to be excused from permanent, solemn vows as a religious than it is from the novitiate or from preliminary, initial vows, especially if the religious is ordained; it requires the permission of the local and regional religious superior, the knowledge of the local ordinary, and the permission- subject to final papal approval- of the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life).
- Disparity of cult (one party not being baptised a Catholic, or at least into one of the Christian denominations; though there are many ceremonies where one party is not a Christian, or does not belong to any denomination; Catholic-Jewish weddings, to give one example, have become much more common, as have those with Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus; if the other party is not a Catholic, it requires the permission of the pastor, and the witnessing priest, deacon, or certified layperson; if the other party is a non-Christian or a member of no denomination, the local ordinary must also give permission; all weddings are inscribed into the parish registry, and cases requiring the ordinary's permission must be recorded at the diocesan headquarters)
- Crimen (one party previously conspiring to marry (upon condition of death of spouse) while still married); also called "conjugicide"
- Underage (at least 16 for males, 14 for females)
Marriage between Catholics and non-Catholics 
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Marriages between Catholics and non-Catholics (including when the latter have been baptised in another Christian church) were viewed as "mixed marriage". From the very beginning of its existence the Catholic Church has been opposed to such unions, as it was looked upon as degrading the holy character of matrimony, involving as it did a communion in sacred things with those outside the fold. The Catholic Church therefore did all in its power to hinder baptised Catholics from contracting marriage with those outside the church, and who did not recognize the sacramental character of the union on which they were entering. Hence arose the impediments to a marriage with a "heretic" (mixta religio) and with an "infidel" (disparitas cultus).
As regards marriage with an "infidel", the early Church did not consider such unions invalid, especially when a person had been converted to the faith after such marriage. It was hoped that the converted wife or husband would be the means of bringing the other party into the Church, or at least safeguarding the Catholic upbringing of the children of the union. This held even for Jews, though the Church was naturally more opposed to wedlock between them and Christians, even than with pagans. By degrees, however, the objection to a marriage between a Catholic and an "infidel" grew stronger as the necessity for such unions decreased, and so in the course of time, more by custom than by positive enactment, the impediment of disparitas cultus making such marriages null and void began to have force.
When the Decretum of Gratian was published in the twelfth century, this impediment became part of canon law. From that time forward, all marriages contracted between Catholics and infidels were held to be invalid unless a dispensation for such union had been obtained from the ecclesiastical authority. Marriages, however, between Catholics and heretics were not subject to the same impediment. They were held as valid, though illicit if a dispensation had not been obtained. The opposition of the Church to such unions is, however very ancient, and early councils, legislated against marriages of this character. Such enactments are found in the fourth century Council of Elvira and of Laodicea. The General Council of Chalcedon prohibited such unions especially between members of the lower ecclesiastical grades and heretical women.
The advent of Protestantism in the sixteenth century renewed the problem of mixed marriages, and caused more stringent legislation. This was emphasized by the impediment of clandestinity enacted by the Council of Trent. By its decree the Council required the contract to be entered into before the parish priest or some other priest delegated by him, and in the presence of two or three witnesses under penalty of invalidity. Marriages otherwise contracted are called clandestine marriages.
The Church did not find it possible, however, to insist on the rigour of this legislation in all countries owing to strong Protestant opposition. As a consequence Pope Benedict XIV issued a declaration concerning marriages in the Netherlands and Belgium (1741), in which he declared mixed unions to be valid, provided they were according to the civil laws. A similar declaration was made concerning mixed marriages in Ireland by Pope Pius, in 1785, and gradually the "Benedictine dispensation" was extended to various localities. Pius VI allowed mixed marriages in Austria to take place in the presence of a priest, provided no religious solemnity was employed, and with the omission of public banns, as evidence of the unwillingness of the Church to sanction such unions.
In 1869, the Congregation of the Propaganda further permitted such marriages but only under condition of grave necessity fearing the faithful "expose themselves to the grave dangers inherent in these unions". Bishops were to warn Catholics against such marriages and not to grant dispensations for them except for weighty reasons and not at the mere will of the petitioner. Ne temere went into effect in April, 1908. By this decree all marriages everywhere in the Latin Church between Catholics and non-Catholics are invalid unless they take place in the presence of an accredited priest and two witnesses.
Remarriage of widows 
Remarriage is allowed by the Church in case the first spouse has died. Yet there were religious women who also rejected second marriage. One such woman was Marcella of Rome (ca.335 - 410, a widow who became a monacha, after she rejected the proposal of a Roman consul, saying: "If I had wished to marry and not to commit myself to eternal purity, I would search for a husband, not heritage." A similar road was followed by Paula of Rome (347-404), a woman of the aristocracy, who moved to the Holy Land to lead a monastic lifestyle after the death of her husband. Galla (VI. century) became a widow after only one year of marriage, but choose to become a monacha rather than to remarry. This also happened among the Greeks. Olympias (IV-V. century) became a deaconess after having been widowed at a young age and founded a monastery with a rich library next to the Hagia Sophia.
A theological defense of this practice was provided by Tertullian in his "De Monogamia." According to Tertullian's understanding, second marriage should be rejected as an evil. However, Tertullian's opinion never became the official teaching of the Church. Tertullian wrote:
"If you are a digamist, do you baptize? If you are a digamist, do you offer? How much more capital (a crime) is it for a digamist laic to act as a priest, when the priest himself, if he turn digamist, is deprived of the power of acting the priest! “But to necessity,” you say, “indulgence is granted.” No necessity is excusable which is avoidable. In a word, shun to be found guilty of digamy, and you do not expose yourself to the necessity of administering what a digamist may not lawfully administer. God wills us all to be so conditioned, as to be ready at all times and places to undertake (the duties of) His sacraments."
Ministers of matrimony 
Latin rite 
The husband and wife must validly execute the marriage contract. In the Roman Catholic tradition, it is the spouses who are understood to confer marriage on each other. The spouses, as ministers of grace, naturally confer upon each other the sacrament of matrimony, expressing their consent before the church.
This does not eliminate the need for church involvement in the marriage; under normal circumstances, canon law requires the attendance of a priest or deacon and at least two witnesses for validity (see canons 1108–1116).
Eastern Catholic rites 
In Eastern Catholic churches, which follow the Byzantine liturgical tradition (shared with the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches), a priest (never a deacon) is the minister of the sacrament of marriage (see Catechism of the Catholic Church § 1623, 1992 edition) through the act of "crowning" the couple with a pair of crowns while proclaiming them received into the Kingdom of Heaven. The vows are exchanged well beforehand in the Byzantine ritual and are not binding. They are a remnant of the Liturgy of Betrothal which had used to be done in a separate Liturgy. Thus it is known in the East as the Mystery (read: Sacrament) of Crowning as often as it is called matrimony.
Catholic theology teaches that a validly-contracted marriage is accompanied by divine ratification, creating a virtually indissoluble union until the couple consummate, after which the marriage is completely indissoluble. An unconsummated marriage can be dissolved by the Pope, as Vicar of Christ. Once the marriage is consummated, only a separation is possible; the marriage bond cannot be dissolved. Therefore, the term "divorce" has no meaning in the context of Catholic marriage.
A marriage may be somewhat defective and yet still be valid; such a marriage is illicit. A marriage which was sufficiently defective as not to meet the required criteria is invalid, and the participants are considered not to have actually married. However, Canon 1137 states that children born to a "putative" marriage (defined in Canon 1061, sec. 3 as one that is not valid but was entered into in good faith by at least one spouse) are legitimate; therefore, the declaration that a marriage is null does not render the children of that marriage illegitimate.
Declaration of Nullity 
An annulment is a declaration that the marriage was invalid (or null) at the time the vows were exchanged. Thus, an annulment is declared only when an ecclesial tribunal finds a lack of validity in the marriage at the time of the marital contract. Behaviour subsequent to the contract is not directly relevant, except as post facto evidence of the validity or invalidity of the contract. That is, behaviour subsequent to the contract cannot actually change the validity of the contract. For example, a marriage would be invalid if one of the parties, at the time of marriage, did not intend to honour the vow of fidelity. If the spouse did intend to be faithful at the time of the marriage but later committed adultery this does not invalidate the marriage.
Annulment and divorce, therefore, differ both in rationale and effect; an annulment is a finding that a true marriage never existed, whereas a divorce is a dissolution of marriage.
See also 
- Pauline privilege
- Christian views of marriage
- Christian views on divorce
- Annulment (Catholic Church)
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