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Couples do not have a right to a Catholic wedding, says Pope

By on Monday, 24 January 2011

Pope Benedict XVI pictured during a meeting with members of the Roman Rota (Photo: CNS)

Pope Benedict XVI pictured during a meeting with members of the Roman Rota (Photo: CNS)

Men and women have a natural right to marry, but that does not mean they have a right to a Catholic wedding, Pope Benedict XVI has said.

The Pope said that marriage for the Catholic Church was a sacrament that is witnessed by a priest or deacon, but performed by the couple who pledge their union will be forever and that they will be open to having and educating children.

Pope Benedict made his comments during a meeting with members of the Roman Rota, a Vatican-based tribunal that deals mainly with marriage cases.

The Pope said: “The right to contract marriage presupposes that one is able to and intends to truly celebrate it, that is, in the truth of its essence as taught by the Church.”

He said that because the Church had a very specific religious understanding of what marriage is, “no one can claim the right to a marriage ceremony” in the Church.

In his annual meeting with the tribunal officials, Pope Benedict said he wanted to focus on the legal or juridical aspect of Catholic marriage preparation programmes, because too often engaged couples – and even those preparing them for marriage – consider the courses simply a bureaucratic hurdle to overcome before the wedding.

“In fact, often it is assumed that the priest must act with largesse, since the natural right of persons to marry is at stake,” the Pope said, but for the Catholic Church, there exists only one kind of marriage – sacramental – and the right of Catholic couples to celebrate the sacrament can be exercised only if they fully understand what they are doing.

Pope Benedict said anyone involved in marriage preparation programs, but especially the priest or other pastoral worker conducting the obligatory pre-marriage interviews with the potential bride and groom, had an obligation to ensure there is nothing standing in the way of a valid and licit celebration of the sacrament. For the marriage to be valid, the couple must understand the commitment being undertaken, he said.

Pastoral workers and marriage tribunal officials together “must work to interrupt to the extent possible the vicious cycle frequently noted of too easily allowing couples to marry without adequate preparation” and “the sometimes equally easy judicial declaration” that a marriage is invalid, the Pope said. Both approaches give people a sense that the Catholic Church no longer sees marriage as truly being binding forever, he said.

  • Anonymous

    Nice to see that the pop is admitting that the ownership of the idea of marriage is one not owned by the Church and that everyone has the right to marry. I see this as in interesting insight into his point of view on this.
    As far as gay marriage, why couldn’t the pope accept, or support gay secular marriage in the same way he appears here to be supporting secular marriage for some and Church marriage for others?

  • Anonymous

    Just to note that very few are asking for Catholic gay marriage, obviously that is not going to happen any time soon, rather a support, or a lack of protest against a system of gay secular marriage.

  • Michael Aaron

    What was revealed is so true. The Pope is so right in saying that priests, etc. should not be afraid to tell a couple they cannot marry if in view of the sacramental nature of marriage they cannot fulfill the obligations of which having children and bringing them up in the Catholic faith is tantamount. There are too many “bureacratic” marriages happening, and equally the opposite – divorces,etc.

    As a side note I respectfully disagree with paulsays. The Pope says nothing of that sort. As it was always what the Pope just said how marriage was in the Church. It is the couple that weds and the Priest that blesses/witnesses it. Paulsays forgets that God said to Adam and Eve go forth and multiply as part of their marriage “obligations”. As feminisms cannot be happy but distort gender and cannot accept that sex is complementary rather than equal and opposing, so is marriage a uniquely creationist vow. Marriage in the sense and in all sense for this matter will always be between a man and woman. I see where you go then that secular marriage or civil marriage is totally something else with another purpose not as it is seen. But no, the Pope is not admitting anything that as if he had withheld.


  • MathGirl

    Choosing the gay lifestyle goes against the Church’s teachings and should not be supported in any way.

  • Micah Newman

    I don’t think you understood a word of this article, paulsays.

  • Anonymous

    A common fallacy to be observed in critiques and, more generally, in the thinking of critics of Catholicism is the erroneous/prejudicial identification of the Papacy – and, even more journalistically lazily, ‘the(sic) Vatican’ – as the arbiter of what the Church believes, rather than what it in fact is, which is the custodian and defender of what She believes. For example, with regard to the article above, what the Holy Father has said about the sacrament of marriage and what the Church understands as a ‘natural right’ in respect of this sacrament, is not ‘his point of view’; nor is there in it any expression of what he (to adapt your term) “could(-)… accept” as compared, presumably, to that which some other hypothetical Pope might be hypothetically-minded to accept.

    May I suggest that you read the article again, but this time with the intention of doing so disinterestedly (to counteract any susceptibility to biases which may be leading you to selectively induce what you might be pre-determined to extrapolate from it).

    Secondly, and more importantly, may I further suggest that you read in The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1999):
    a) Reader’s Guide to Themes in the Catechism (p.711-778), where you will find sexuality and marriage (section 22) discussed in the context of a moral framework as distinct from a code of consumer ethics.
    b) in Part Two, The Celebration of the Christian Mystery – Section Two, the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church, Chapter Three, Article 7: The Sacrament of Matrimony (paras 1601- 1666).

    I realize there is a good deal to take into consideration here, but if your question is serious these are the serious issues you must address in order properly to appreciate the answer and, unless you are merely being flippant, I am sure you would rather make the effort to find out why the Church believes as She does for yourself. (In other words, I have been willing to take your question, and by extension you, seriously on the assumption that you are prepared to take the rational understanding of the church’s teaching equally seriously.)

  • MBinSTL

    EDITOR, please make a correction :: through dispensation for disparity of cult, a baptized Catholic and non-baptized spouse can validly and licitly marry in the Catholic Church — the resulting union is canonically regular and is blessed by the Church. However, it’s **not** a sacramental marriage as such can only be effected between two baptized parties (all else being equal).

    This is where the “Petrine” (not “Pauline”) privilege can come into play. If a couple in a canonically regular non-sacramental marriage were to divorce and the Catholic spouse wished to re-marry, but this time to a baptized person, the Holy Father can be petitioned to dissolve (not dispense from!) the non-sacramental marriage “in favor of the Faith.” There is no guarantee the privilege will be granted, but if it is the Catholic party would be free to enter a sacramental marriage. The same privilege could be requested for a man wishing to enter the priesthood, or a man/woman wishing to enter religious life (though ONLY in the cases of canonically regular non-sacramental marriages .. just making that clear).

    I realize the above statements are a mouthful, however the article’s insistence that “but for the Catholic Church there exists only one kind of marriage” is incorrect per plain fact of Canon Law and Church praxis (i.e. the “Petrine Privilege”).

  • Bluewarrior1988

    The homosexual rights movement is all about swift, incremental change. First by changing laws, then hearts and minds if possible. We’ve gone from the 1980′s call for respect and tolerance of homosexuals as human beings (which is quite reasonable) to aggressive legislation/indoctrination that directs society to embrace, support and acquiesce to every demand made by the homosexual movement. In fact to disagree with the agenda is now called hate speech.

    Civil partnerships were meant to be a secular solution, but now they aren’t good enough; we must have homosexual marriage, adoption of children by homosexual couples (never mind if it’s not in the best interest of the children)–poster seen in local NHS surgery “Ollie wants two mums”. You must allow homosexual couples to share a bed in your home if you want to run a B&B. Not to mention turning a blind eye to public ‘cottaging’ and ‘doggers’ in order to be sensitive. Marriage both civilly and religiously has been recognized for several thousand years as being a complimentary union between men and women in part for the purpose of procreating and raising children. Yet the homosexual movement has now become arrogant enough to attempt to highjack the bedrock of Western Civilization after only about 10-15 years of having any real voice.

    So when you say very few are asking for Catholic gay marriage, what you really mean is that they can’t call for Catholic gay marriage until they sort out the civil gay marriage piece first.

  • Anonymous

    The Church would not be facilitating the gay ‘lifestyle’ (whatever that is); it would be putting aside objections against secular gay marriage. After all if God does not recognise secular marriage, then surely it is none of the Church’s business to have an opinion on a ceremony it does not accept between hetrosexuals.

  • An

    The Homosexual Civil Partnership has never defined the Act as “marriage”. Two men or two women can never be married!

  • Anonymous

    Yes, as the law stands. The point I am making is that since 1836 in England the law has been that a marriage can take place by a registrar rather than through a Church. Therefore from a legal perspective marriage is not anymore ‘owned’ by a religious organisation.

    France, a more religious country than the UK, has a long tradition of keeping Church and State separated from each other. It also has made the difference between a state marriage and the religious sacrament of marriage. It is because of this that marriage takes part in two stages; firstly the legal signing of documents that occurs at a state office and then secondly if wanted a religious ceremony that carries no legal importance.

    Those advocating gay marriage do not seek to interfere or dilute the religious sacrament of marriage, they instead want to join the partner they love in a state legal joining. The Church advocates personal responsibility, so if what they are doing turns out to be immoral then let them be judged. The Church has no legal power in the separate institution of state marriage so for what reason they have an official opinion I cannot understand.

    This is why it was one of the first countries to make gay marriage legal. As a country it is certainly no more liberal than Britain; but it has made clear the difference between Church and state marriage – that they are two separate institutions.

    My point is that the Church should rescind the false ownership of a concept that had been around before its foundation and in many other cultures for millennia. Marriage as a Catholic sacrament, yes, but marriage as a union between two consenting adults, no.

  • Anonymous

    The most recent catecism talks about Catholics needing to give love and support to homosexuals. It does have a problem with the ‘unatural’ act of gay sex.

    In order to show compassion and respect, as is asked of us, would it not be right to allow homosexuals in their choice to make a decision to marry, as being a secular marriage would have nothing to do with the Church.

    Also it is good to remember that many that object to gay marriage, or the homosexual ‘lifestyle’ – (read orietntation), object on the grounds of ‘family value’. Surely it is the case however that undesirable stereotypes of homosexuals, such as sexual promiscuity and multiple sexual partners would be something that marriage would help to solve.

    It would surely in fact be the case that gay marriage would uphold family values, by fostering long-term loving partners, would it not?

    Would you also not agree that one of

  • Anonymous

    ‘Civil partnerships were meant to be a secular solution’
    I would remind you that marriage as a legal institution is secular and entirely sepate from religious marriage, which in the case of Catholics is a sacrement.

    ‘never mind if it’s not in the best interest of the children’
    As far a homosexual couples adopting in adoption I beleive there id no room for political correctness, as I beleive the emphasis must be on creating the best environemnt for the child, rather than distrobuting children around couples that want them. You would think then that I would object; howver, I do not based on the fact that multiple studies have shown that there is no discernable difference in the care or outcome of being brought up by homosexual adoptive parents.
    In fact if you imagine the trouble gay parents have to go through to adopt, in terms of religious disapproval and public reaction, thay certainly will have perservered and therefore are likely to make the most loving parents.

    ‘highjack the bedrock of Western Civilization after only about 10-15 years of having any real voice’
    Also let me remind you that homosexuality is hardly a new phenomonen, and one of the reasons they have been suppressed in their voice has been religion. Britain has had many monarchs suspected of being gay including Edward II, Richard II, Richard the Lionheart, William Rufus, Anne, Mary and Edward II. Also in terms of the origins of Western Civilization consider that both the Romans and Greek accepted homosexuality in their societies to a greater extent than Britain did 50 years ago, and that was over 2000 years ago. Also in many oriental cultures through the centuries it was perfecly accepted to be gay.
    You can hardly argue that the bedrock of Western Civiliastion has been hijacked, when at western civilization’s origins began with a society accepting of homosexuals.

  • Anonymous

    Also if in refering to doggers you mean the act of ‘dogging’, you should know that it is not a homosexual practise.

  • Anonymous

    Just to be clear, with reference to your statement – “The most recent catecism…”:

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church published in English in 1999 (the edition to which I referred above) is the official edition following publication of the Editio Typica” (first English edition published May 1994; revised edition, with amendments, first published 1999; it has been reprinted – not re-published – since then). This is the official Catechism of the Catholic Church, not to be confused with the ubiquitous pocket paperbacks/pamphlets that use the word catechism in their titles.

    The official ‘vademecum’ concise form of this is the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2005), published in English in 2006 by the Incorporated Catholic Truth Society.

    God bless.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the information. The catechism I own, and was referencing is the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church you talked about. It is interesting and readable.
    Obviously, I just disagree with it in certain areas, as always with the Church it lacks about 50 years behind the accepted morality of society, but I have no doubt it will change.

  • Anonymous

    comment now posted in correct spot

  • Anonymous

    Now your mixing issues; I never said homosexuality is a new phenomonen; I said that after 10-15 years of having a real voice [meaning a movement that has gained momentum in political and social discourse], the movement it is arrogant to hijack the instituion of marriage [which even from the secular standpoint has been the public declaration of a man and woman to commit to each other ultimately in part to procreate offspring]. Your list of historical events and attitudes offers not one period in 2,000 years where a Western society has defined marriage as a union of two members of the same sex.

    On the subject of ‘dogging’ you are correct that it’s not exclusively a homosexual practice; I had in mind an article that appreared in the Telegraph on 26 November 2010 that used the phrase ‘gay doggers’.

  • stark61555

    But what happens when the couple finds they cannot have children? What happens when their union does not produce children?

  • Anonymous

    As far as being accepted by the majority of the public I would say that 10-15 years is a fair estimation. As far as having a voice in a political sense I would point out the work of people such as Harvey Milk the American politician in the 70s, and also to cultural figures in the 80′s such as David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Boy George and others, which opened up the ideas of a more diverse range of human sexuality to the general public.

  • Anonymous

    ‘Your list of historical events and attitudes offers not one period in 2,000 years where a Western society has defined marriage as a union of two members of the same sex.’

    Various types of same-sex marriages have existed throughout history.

    In so as far as Western civilisation is concerned same-sex marriages occured in the Roman Empire, and were the same in ceremony and significance to hetrosexual marriage. These gay marriages continued until the adoption of Christianity as the religion of the Romans.

    So really, Christians have no right to complain, it was the Church that hijacked the idea of marriage as a union of two lovers regardless of sexuality, into a procreational union – which excluded homosexuals.

  • Anonymous

    “So really, Christians have no right to complain, it was the Church that hijacked the idea of marriage as a union of two lovers regardless of sexuality, into a procreational union – which excluded homosexuals.”

    Oh please, that’s one of the silliest comments I’ve ever seen posted and it’s not worthy of a philosophical response.

  • Martincspencer

    Interesting point of view by the Pope.

  • Annegwells

    I agree with the Pope. Marriage should be taken seriously by the man and the woman. It shouldn’t be considered a game which is simply stopped when it’s no longer challenging.

  • Anonymous

    I fail to see how exactly my comment is silly. Did you read my entire comment, rather than just the last paragraph?

    I am pointing to firm historical evidence of marriages of a homosexual nature, in Western civilisation prior to the foundation of the Church. Therefore, it was the Church that redefined marriage in narrower terms than before, rather than the perception that today’s movement is trying to expand the definition.

    In reply to my first comment, you complained that I had not shown evidence of a period during the last 2000 years in which western society defined marriage as a union between members of the same sex – I then found information to the contrary and you are unwilling to take it seriously.

    Surely the reason you are not making an intelligent response to my comment, (of which there would be many), is that my revelation has challenged your cosy conception of marriage as always having being between and man and a woman?

  • Anonymous

    Is this question rhetorical? If not… how about fostering, or adoption, or children’s care, or loving each other all the more devotedly while carrying their shared cross in imitation of Christ.