I was discussing with a friend yesterday about civil marriages. She believes that the Catholic Church does not recognize the validity of civil marriages (as in, a man and woman married by the law) because it brings into the marriage characteristics that can hurt or destroy it (such as prenups, divorce, etc).
My first question is this: Are civil marriages recognized by the Church? If so, under what conditions, and if not, why?
This brings up a more troubling thought I had, and thus my second question: If civil marriages actually WEREN'T valid in the eyes of the Church, what does this imply about intercourse within the marriage? Is the couple guilty of fornication or something similar?
Please help, because I am very concerned for my loved ones who have been married in civil marriages.