Our community decided in 2008 that the mission of our parish was life-long learning. Everything we do centers around teaching the depth and richness of the Roman Catholic Faith. Our weekly 3-Minute Catechesis is read from the Ambo prior to Mass beginning. A written copy is made available in our weekly bulletin along with additional information for those who want to learn more. Visit us online at www.risensaviorcc.org for more information.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Marriage and the Catholic Church, Part 5

When it comes to marriage, you may be surprised to learn that the Catholic Church begins with the presumption that all marriages are valid in the eyes of God. The Church considers the marriages of any man and woman – be they Baptist, Muslim, or even non-believers – to be binding, and a divorce in those cases would also require Church annulment. But…why would someone of another faith (or no faith) seek a Church annulment? This usually occurs when a Catholic is involved. Perhaps the Catholic is engaged to a non-denominational Christian who was previously married. When the couple approaches the Catholic Church for marriage, one of the first questions they will be asked is “Have you ever previously been married, or attempted marriage, even a civil marriage?” If the answer is yes, then the question of annulment must be explored. The response from the couple is usually something like, “But the marriage didn’t take place in the Catholic Church!” Just as the Catholic Church recognizes the validity of Presbyterian, Methodist, and Lutheran baptism, so the Church presumes that a marriage is valid until proven otherwise.

When a couple separates and divorces, and then begins the annulment process, the Church looks at the marriage in detail. If it is determined that something essential was missing from the couple’s relationship at the time of consent, then the Church issues a declaration of nullity, and both are free to marry again in the Catholic Church.

What are grounds for annulment in the Church? The most common reasons are lack of due discretion and no intention to have children, be faithful, or remain together until death. More specifically, a couple may marry quickly because of pregnancy, only to realize later the lack of wisdom in that decision. Or one spouse brings an addiction to alcohol or drugs into the marriage. Or a person, unfaithful during dating and engagement, continues the infidelity after marriage. In cases like these, the tribunal, the Church court, may decide that something prevented the consent to marriage from being sound or binding.

Does annulment mean that children born during the marriage are now considered illegitimate? Absolutely not. The parents presumably entered into a valid marriage. Children from that union are, therefore, their legitimate offspring. Legitimate means “legal.” The civil divorce and the Church annulment do not alter this situation.

You cannot “buy” an annulment. Those seeking an annulment may be asked to help with part of the expenses because maintaining a tribunal, with a professional staff, is expensive. But no one is denied an annulment because of an inability to pay.

So ends our series of 3-Minute Catechesis on Marriage and Annulment. For more information, contact a priest or deacon!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Marriage and the Catholic Church, Part 4

Most couples enter into marriage with good intentions. In an ideal world, a couple who marries shares the same values, has excellent communication and conflict resolution skills, and agrees on the handling of finances. But the world we live in is often far from ideal. There are many things that are unknown at the time of the wedding that eventually come out – things that, had they been known at the beginning, would have led the couple down separate paths.

Deciding to divorce is not easy, and couples who are discerning separation often seek pastoral guidance in making the choice. Good people often find themselves in bad marriages and have to determine a course of action. When a couple makes that painful decision to end their marriage, the first step is filing for divorce. This does not happen in Church – it happens in a court of law. A divorce, which is granted for a variety of reasons, legally dissolves a civilly-recognized marriage.

A common misunderstanding is that a Church annulment is a “Catholic divorce.” This simply isn’t true. While a divorce ends the legally-contracted marriage, a Church annulment is a decree that a marriage was invalid from the beginning. What would make a marriage invalid? There are many reasons. It may be that one of the spouses doesn’t see the value in being faithful or independently decides not to have children. Or you discover that the person you have married is actually a close biological relative, or that your spouse is already legally married to someone else, a practice known as bigamy.

A Church annulment contends that an important element was missing at the time of consent, even if it wasn’t apparent then. So an annulled marriage is one in which a covenant never actually existed because it couldn’t, under the circumstances. This would be akin to receiving a diploma when you hadn’t completed the requirements for graduation. You may have walked across the stage and received a certificate, but you didn’t actually graduate, and so the diploma is not valid.

The annulment process ordinarily begins after a legal divorce has been granted and finalized. It is important to know that following divorce, a person may continue to receive the sacraments, including Eucharist. However, the Church requires that before one of the couple remarries, an annulment is granted. This can take some time, but it also offers an opportunity for reflection and healing.

There are misconceptions about what annulment means for the children of a marriage, and who exactly needs to seek an annulment. Next week, our series will end with a look at these two issues.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Marriage and the Catholic Church, Part 3

We continue our series on Marriage in the Catholic Church, having touched on what the requirements and expectations are for Catholics and non-Catholics who approach the Church asking for marriage. In his April letter, Archbishop Sheehan mentioned “those who have a merely civil union; and those who have a civil union who were married before.” What is a civil union?

The term marriage generally refers to a state-sanctioned union. The phrase legally married can be used to emphasize this point. When a couple is legally married, they have entered into a civil union, which is a contract between the man and the woman. In order to be legally married, the couple begins by obtaining a marriage license from the county clerk’s office. Once the ceremony is over, the license is signed and sent back to the county to be recorded.

Since the 12th century, Marriage or Matrimony has been recognized as a sacrament in the Catholic Church, and has therefore required a Church presence. The Church, taking its view from Jesus Christ and Scripture, regards marriage not as a contract but as a covenant. What’s the difference? The Hebrew word for covenant, berit, means much more than a legal contract. Covenant signifies something that binds one to another forever, an unshakeable bond, like the one God has with us, His people. This stands in stark contrast to a contract, which, when violated, can be remedied through the legal system.

In many jurisdictions, the civil marriage ceremony takes place during the religious marriage ceremony, although they are two distinct entities. In the U.S., the marriage may be officiated by a priest, minister, or religious authority, with the religious authority acting as both a church witness and an agent of the state. So when a couple marries in the Catholic Church, they are joined both civilly and sacramentally.

In some countries, a couple is required to be married by the state before having a religious ceremony. An example of this is the 2007 wedding of basketball player Tony Parker and actress Eva Longoria, who married in Paris. Following the laws of France, Tony and Eva entered into a contract when they wed in a civil ceremony at City Hall, with the mayor officiating. The next day, they entered into a covenant when they married in the Catholic Church.

Once joined as husband and wife, the Marriage Rite of the Catholic Church says, “What God has joined, men must not divide.” So what if the marriage ends in divorce? What does that mean civilly and religiously? Next week, we continue our series by looking at divorce and annulment.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Marriage and the Catholic Church, Part 2

Last week, we established that in order to be married in the Catholic Church, at least one of the couple should actually be a baptized Catholic. While the Catholic party should also be fully initiated, having celebrated 1st Communion and Confirmation, this is not absolutely required. And yet, you may know of a couple that has been denied marriage in the Catholic Church because the Catholic party had not been confirmed. How can that be?

This is what Canon Law has to say about marriage and Confirmation: “If they can do so without serious inconvenience, Catholics who have not yet received the sacrament of confirmation are to receive it before being admitted to marriage.” The law contains that all-important clause, “If they can do so without serious inconvenience.” In other words, Canon Law makes allowances for, as an example, those who live in areas where Confirmations are celebrated infrequently. In areas like ours, however, where Confirmations are celebrated annually, the pastor may insist that you be confirmed before marrying, and that is his prerogative.

What about the other half of the couple? Are there any requirements for the non-Catholic party? If the other party is a baptized Christian but not Catholic, you may marry in the Catholic Church. If the other party has never been baptized in any Christian church, you may marry in the Catholic Church. This means that a Catholic may marry, in the Church, someone who is Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or even someone who doesn’t believe in God. It is important to know that the Catholic Church does not require the non-Catholic to convert to Catholicism.

However, before the mixed couple can marry, the Church must grant a “dispensation” – permission for the marriage – based on canonical reasons. The most common reason is “for the spiritual well being of the Catholic party.” Additionally, the non-Catholic party needs to accept the Catholic understanding of marriage: intending to enter a permanent union and to be faithful. The Catholic Catechism for Adults says that “Married love is ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children.” So the non-Catholic also needs to be open to having children, and understand that the Catholic must promise to intend to continue living the Catholic faith and do “all in (his or her) power” to share the faith with their children by having them baptized and raised as Catholics.

Obviously, this question is not a new one, since St. Paul addresses “mixed marriages” in his first letter to the Corinthians. His view is that “…the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through the brother.”