Getting Into Marriage

My examination of a marriage case study.  

When considering the very interesting case study, it is important to examine the proposed marriage from two different viewpoints.  The first is the licitness and validity of the marriage; that is, can the two persons described in the marriage case study get married licitly and validly.  The second aspect that is important to consider is the prudence of such a union.  Even should two persons be able to get married licitly and validly, pastoral care requires priests/deacons to help the couple carefully discern God’s will for them and if their marriage is within His will.

This approach is solidly found within Canon Law.  The first part, examining whether two persons can licitly and validly marry is found in Canon 1058 which states, “All persons who are not prohibited by law can contract marriage.”[1]  It is important to come from this viewpoint, namely, that marriage is allowed unless prohibited.  It is easy to think that one must appeal to the Church for permission to marry, but as Canon 1058 states, that is not the case.  However, Canon 1066 and 1067 do require the diligent examination of a potential marriage to ensure that the marriage is both licit and valid.  The examination includes not only an examination of Canon Law, but also those norms established by national conferences of bishops.  For the purposes of this case study, the norms of the USCCB will be used.

As for the second aspect of this case study, pastoral care, is found in Canon 1063 which states, “Pastors of souls are obligated to take care that their ecclesiastical community offers the Christian faithful the assistance by which the matrimonial state is preserved in a Christian spirit and advances in perfection.”[2]  Specifically, this Canon lists that pastors are obligated to preach and teach about the meaning of marriage,[3] personally prepare those who intend to marry so that the “spouses [are disposed] to the holiness and duties of their new state,”[4] have a fruitful liturgical celebration of the marriage so as to demonstrate the “mystery of the unity and fruitful love between Christ and the Church”,[5] and help those already in the married state.[6] Since modernity does not hold marriage in high esteem and often holds it to be something contrary to what it truly is, preparation for marriage is very important and the use of prudence by pastors of souls should not be undervalued.

Since this marriage is between a Catholic and non-Catholic, unbaptized person, Canon 1059 must also be factored in.  This Canon dictates that “Even if only one party is Catholic, the marriage of Catholics is governed not only by divine law but also by canon law.”[7]  Therefore, this marriage case study does fall within Canon Law, and the validity and licitness of the marriage can be determined by this same law.  The specific issues of this case study will now be examined.

Is Age an Issue?

The two parties have a significant disparity of age; the man is 46 while the woman only 19.  Even though this age disparity should be considered in regards to pastoral care, Canon Law does not prohibit marriage due to this disparity.  Canons 1083 explains a woman must be 14 and a man 16 to validly enter marriage.[8]  Clearly, the two here meet that requirement.  Canon 1084 further allows a higher age to be set by conferences of bishops,[9] but the USCCB has not done so at this time.[10] While age disparity is not an impediment to marriage in this case, prudence does require the pastor to work closely with the couple to ensure both are mature enough for the marriage especially the younger party.  Further, careful consideration of the age disparity’s impact (including, but not limited to the generational gap, cultural stigma, etc.) on the conjugal life should be discussed with the couple.

Are there any dispensations and/or permissions needed?

The proposed marriage is affected by a diriment impediment specifically Canon 1086 which states, “A marriage between two persons, one of whom has been baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it, and the other of whom is not baptized, is invalid.”[11]  For the propose marriage to be valid and licit, Canons 1125 and 1126 must be considered.  With permission of the local ordinary, the couple can be granted a dispensation and marry.  However, the local ordinary should only grant permission for a just and reasonable cause.[12]  Prudently speaking, with the myriad of concerns found in this case study, it seems that a just and reasonable cause for the dispensation is lacking; therefore, the marriage would be prohibited.

If the local ordinary did discern there existed a just and reasonable cause for the marriage, the Catholic party would still need to “declare that he…is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his…power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church.”[13] This promise would also need to be shared with the non-Catholic party in “such a way that it is certain that…she is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party.”[14]  Further, both parties are to be “instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude.”[15]  The unity and indissolubility of marriage should be discussed along with the emphasis of the marital essential to “fruitfulness” and the fact that the marriage will be non-sacramental.  While this last part seems harsh, it is important since the couple will not have the same sacramental graces that are available to sacramentally married couples.  Further, since the non-Catholic party is being introduced to the Church, this is a good opportunity to evangelize the non-Catholic party by sharing God’s Truth and seeking to bring her into the faith.

Can the wedding take place on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception?

Yes, however, scheduling within a Catholic Church might pose difficult.  Since the couple intends to marry in a hotel, this difficulty is not present.  See below for further discussion on the location.

Can marriages take place outside a sacred place?

A dispensation from canonical form can be granted according to Canon 1115.  Such a dispensation would allow the couple to get married in the hotel as they desire.  Canon 1118.3 speaks directly to this when it says, “A marriage between a Catholic party and a non-baptized party can be celebrated in a church or in another suitable place.”[16]  As a matter of prudence, this might be allowed for the reason of the non-Catholic party’s anti-Catholic family.  However, one should rightly ask, to what degree does the family harbor anti-Catholic feelings? And, will a marriage within a Catholic Church increase those anti-Catholic feelings?  If the family has a slight dislike of Catholicism due to unfamiliarity with her teachings or due to some other non-serious issue, it would perhaps be most prudent to marry the couple within a Catholic Church not only so as to witness to the couple, but so as to share the Gospel truths with the woman’s family.  If the family firmly hates the Catholic faith, and so too does the non-Catholic party, it would be imprudent in the first place to even grant a dispensation for a disparity of cult since the non-Catholic party would likely actively work against the promises that the Catholic party makes.

What needs to be done, if anything, regarding the woman’s tubal ligation? Can they get married?

This is a difficult topic, but one that must be handled with the utmost care since those who “suffer from a grave defect of discretion of judgment concerning the essential matrimonial rights and duties”[17] are incapable of matrimonial consent.  Without true consent, a true marriage cannot occur.  Firstly, the priest or deacon preparing the couple should clearly teach that “marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation.”[18]  This includes a great deal of content that cannot be dealt with in length here, but any preparation should at least include the following: that contraception is intrinsically evil and a mortal sin; that children are a blessing from Divine Providence; and that natural means exist in accord with natural and Divine law which allow spacing between births.

Since “error concerning the person renders a marriage invalid”[19] and since the person’s sexuality is part of them intrinsically, careful consideration should be given to the woman’s tubal ligation.  For example, did she do this out of ignorance or malice?  If ignorance, can she or is she willing to seek medical advice about a possible reversal? (Not all tubal ligations are permanent; further consultation of faithful Catholic medical doctors might bear more fruit than approaching secular medical doctors who likely are opposed to the Church’s teachings on life.)  If malice, is it “directly and principally intended”[20] towards her future spouse? For example, did he express a strong desire for children, and she then went to get the tubal ligation?

If these questions can be resolved in a satisfactory manner, the priest/deacon will then need to discuss with the non-Catholic party the requirement of them to alert their future spouse of their known and intentional sterility.  To not do so would render the marriage invalid due to Canon 1098 which states that those who “enter into a marriage deceived by malice, perpetrated to obtain consent, concerning some quality of the other partner which by its very nature can gravely disturb the partnership of conjugal life”[21] do so invalidly.  Since she seeks to hide her unnatural sterility from her spouse, and since children are a natural end of marriage, such a deception would “gravely disturb the partnership of conjugal life.”[22]  If she informs her future spouse and he still consents to marrying her given that knowledge, such a marriage would be valid (given that other aforementioned considerations like the disparity of cult have been overcome).  In regards to her tubal ligation, sterility does not prevent the marriage,[23] but her deception or malice towards Divine Providence’s plan for marriage (i.e. children) could make the marriage invalid.

Perhaps the above considerations of her tubal ligation can be succinctly covered under Canon 1101 which states, “If…either or both of the parties by a positive act of the will exclude marriage, or some essential property of marriage, the party contracts invalidly.”[24]  For the non-Catholic party to marry validly, she would have to inform her future husband of her tubal ligation and, even though she is most likely sterile, be open to the procreative property of marriage which is essential to marriage.  A lack of either of those would render the marriage invalid.

What paperwork needs to be filled out?

A great deal of paperwork would need to be filled out specifically the aforementioned dispensations (sent to the local Ordinary).  Canon 1121.3 would require the “local ordinary who granted the dispensation…to take care that the dispensation and the celebration are inscribed in the marriage registers of both the curia and proper parish of the Catholic party.”[25]  The marriage should also be noted “in the baptismal registers in which the baptism of the spouses has been recorded.”[26]  This might require sending these to another parish other than the one in which the Catholic currently resides.[27]


The proposed marriage case study is a difficult case indeed.  Many impediments (disparity of cult, departure from canonical form) would need to have dispensations attained from the local ordinary prior to the marriage.  Even more difficult, the preparer would need to diligently examine the couple’s intent for the marriage to ensure that full consent to what marriage truly is exists.  However difficult this might be, it does provide the preparer an opportunity to share the Love of God and His Truth with the couple.  This does not mean simply ignoring the concerning aspects already discussed, but instead in means to share the Truth with them that they might know the truth and be set free (cf. John 8:32)  Perhaps sharing God’s Love means that it would indeed be best for both parties to not enter into marriage, and the Church should prudently discern the case before allowing dispensations especially the dispensation of disparity of cult in this particular case.

[1] Canon 1058

[2] Canon 1063

[3] Canon 1063 1°

[4] Canon 1063 2°

[5] Canon 1063 3°

[6] Canon 1063 4°

[7] Canon 1059

[8] Canon 1083

[9] Canon 1084

[10] Peters, Edward. “Too Young to Marry.”  2013. Retrieved at

[11] Canon 1086

[12] Canon 1086

[13] Canon 1086 1°

[14] Canon 1086 2°

[15] Canon 1086 3°

[16] Canon 1118 3

[17] Canon 1095 2°

[18] Canon 1096.1

[19] Canon 1097.1

[20] Canon 1097.2

[21] Canon 1098

[22] Canon 1098

[23] Canon 1084.3

[24] Canon 1101.2

[25] Canon 1121.3

[26] Canon 1122.1

[27] Canon 1122.2

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