Are all baptized Catholics permanently bound by Canon Law?

Hi everyone, I was wondering if you could help me with a question I have:

Are all persons, who have been baptized as (Latin-Rite) Catholics, permanently bound to the rules and restrictions of Canon Law?

By extension: Would a formal or informal apostate from the Catholic Faith be bound by Canon Law? Would a Catholic who has been excommunicated also be bound? Would a Catholic in a state of mortal sin be bound by Canon Law?

Applied Example: A baptized informal apostate from the Catholic Faith attempts to enter into a Natural Marriage with a lapsed (non-practicing) Catholic; according to Canon Law, all marriages between Catholics that do not follow the appropriate form are not valid (with a priest or other appointed representative of The Church, except in cases of life-or-death emergency or when the priest is expected to be unavailable for a long period of time (I believe more than a month)). Does their informal apostasy and/or lapsing cause them to no longer be bound by Canon Law in this respect, rendering their marriage valid?

Thanks in advance for any help I could receive on this topic.

Simple answer - YES.

Thanks for your help :thumbsup:
Yes to my main question, you mean?
Is there a more complex/nuanced answer?

Yes they are always bound by Canon Law.

So, no in your example the individuals do not contract a valid marriage.

Gratias tibi, 1ke :slight_smile:

I have a question about this. Is this something unchangeable or is this just the current discipline?

Current discipline. Until 2009, for example, baptised Catholics who made an act of ‘formal defection’ from the Church (there was some debate about what exactly constituted a ‘formal defection’) were not bound by some of the Canon law relating to marriage. In 2009 the Canon which permitted this was amended and now all baptised Catholics are bound to abide by Canon law re marriage.

Anyone baptized in the Catholic Church is bound by the Code of Canon Law. The licity is completely controlled by Canon Law: however, their validity is not always constrained by the Code of Canon Law (CCL). The CCL really focuses on ordinary cases, it is very generic with extraordinary cases but it recognizes them.
Now to understand the validity of a sacrament you must look at the basic theology of the specific sacrament. For example in the case of marriage between two Catholics you will see that in some extraordinary conditions a natural marriage is also a sacramental marriage. You mentioned an informal apostate and a non-practicing one, so you are looking at a non ordinary marriage attempt by two Catholics, and your information is not sufficient. There are a ton of cases where I could say that they are not in a valid marriage but there are also some cases where the marriage could be valid. Just think at the extraordinary case of two Christians that do not know that they are Catholics because they have been raised in a different denomination, they choose to get married with the clear belief that their marriage is sacramental and they attempted to administer the sacrament to each other.

Would still not be valid.

What are you talking about? It would not be licit but you have to prove that it would not be valid.

I think you have to be careful here to make a distinction between Canon Law which reflects legislated discipline, a changeable thing for the Church and her people, and Canon Law which merely reiterates the Divine Law given by God.

All human beings are always and everywhere subject to Divine Law, Natural Law, Moral Law. Take, for example, this canon on Baptism:

Can. 849 Baptism, the gateway to the sacraments, is necessary for salva-tion, either by actual reception or at least by desire. By it people are freed from sins, are born again as children of God and, made like to Christ by an indelible character, are incorporated into the Church. It is validly conferred only by a washing in real water with the proper form of words.

Nothing in this canon is discipline, it cannot be dispensed or changed. Christ instituted this sacrament and the Church is only interpreting here the Law given by Him.

But yes, baptized Catholics are always bound by Canon Law and non-Catholics, in general, cannot be bound by its disciplines.

What are you talking about? It would not be licit but you have to prove that it would not be valid.

Marriages are putatively valid. If a tribunal investigated your hypothetical marriage and found one or both of the parties to be baptized Catholics, then it would easily rule the marriage invalid due to lack of canonical form.

Thanks for all your responses!

The marriage example was really just an attempt to put my main question (are all baptized Catholics bound by Canon Law) in concrete terms; but for the sake of argument, let’s say, to make it easier:

Two lapsed but baptized non-practicing Latin-Rite Catholics, not fully believing in Catholic teaching nor really considering themselves Catholic (hence, informal apostasy), in a state of mortal sin, in a situation where a priest is easily available, without the knowledge that Canon law considers an attempt at marriage invalid if its form does not follow what Canon law dictates (no priest present); but with full intent and knowledge of the permanence of marriage create between themselves a marriage contract and marriage vows. No witnesses. Let’s further say an attempt to ‘consummate’ the marriage follows the creation and signage of the marriage contract.

Please keep in mind this is a hypothetical example to illustrate the main question…so don’t worry about it too much :thumbsup:

Here you are mixing ordinary with extraordinary. What about Ecclesia Supplet and Deus Providet (CCL192.2 and CCL 144.1)? I do not think that things are as simple as you wish to make them, there is much more to be considered.

The bottom line is that if they know that they have been baptized as Catholics and there is the possibility of obeying the CCL, then they must obey the CCL or their marriage is not valid.

Thanks Cristiano, for your input.

In this example, we will say they know they are baptized as Catholics, but have in mind positively false information that the Church considers marriage (even in non-extenuating circumstances) to be valid without needing a representative of The Church or witnesses.
[Assume they don’t realize the serious mental inconsistancy of wanting their marriage to be considered valid by the Church yet remaining informal apostates/lapsed/non-practicing/unbelieving]

Are you trying to say that if a tribunal found that it was doubtful that either of the hypothetical married persons were Catholics, then it would refuse to issue a declaration of nullity? I do not understand your direction.

As long as they choose to accept the authority of the church, yes they would be bound. If they do not accept the authority of the church, then nothing the church does or doesn’t do should matter to them.

No I am simply saying that in some extraordinary situation a marriage is valid even if it does not follow the ordinary directions of the CCL. I am saying that because I know of priests that were debating that and the final decision was made by the bishop to go for a sanatio in radice instead of relying on ecclesia supplet.

Can. 1108 §1. Only those marriages are valid which are contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assist, and before two witnesses according to the rules expressed in the following canons and without prejudice to the exceptions mentioned in cann. ⇒ 144, ⇒ 1112, §1, ⇒ 1116, and ⇒ 1127, §§1-2.

None of the criteria in the canons mentioned as exceptions is met in the scenario presented.

If you want to assert that it **would **be valid, you would need to present a canon specifying such.

It is not valid.

You can present scenarios all day long, it does not matter.

Two Catholics must marry each other in the Catholic form for the marriage to be valid. When a Catholic marries a non-Catholic he/she may contract marriage outside form validly, but only by dispensation of the bishop.

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