Can a priest refuse matrimony?

Can a priest refuse (or delay) to witness a marriage? For example, if in his marriage-prep meetings with them he has come to the conclusion that they are not ready to make a permanent commitment to each other, or they would not be open to life?

Theoretically, yes. Practically, the couple usually goes to the next priest until they get a yes.

Can. 1077 §1. In a special case, the local ordinary can prohibit marriage for his own subjects residing anywhere and for all actually present in his own territory but only for a time, for a grave cause, and for as long as the cause continues.

§2. Only the supreme authority of the Church can add a nullifying clause to a prohibition.

See here for a commentary.

When I was a single mother, I went to my priest to get my son baptized. He asked me to wait a few months to make sure that I was asking for what I really wanted and for the right reasons. I waited and turned back to the Church (at least I started heading back in the right direction). Even though there is a part of me that believes that people should be baptized as soon as they “boo,” I appreciate the idea that the priest cared enough about the sacrament that he wanted to do his best to make sure that it wasn’t being taken for granted.

My point is that although people might go to another priest to get the answer they want, I hope that the couple takes a good, long look at why the priest would say no. It would probably save them from trouble down the road.

Apparently yes. I heard a story from a couple on EWTN radio today who were turned down by 3 different Priests. The Priest(s) told them they must live separately and stop having premarital “relations” (which they had been engaging in) for a number of months and go to confession before he would perform the wedding.

As I recall both your examples would be adequate cause to declare a marriage invalid. A priest not only can, but probably must, refuse to be a party to an invalid sacrament.

It could be because the living arrangement is considered to constitute an impediment to free consent. If the priest has serious reason to believe an attempt at marriage would not be valid, he couldn’t witness the vows.

Catholics who are free to marry have a right to marry each other. If a couple believes a priest to be in error in coming to the conclusion they would not be making a valid attempt at marriage or is otherwise putting unreasonable barriers to their marriage, they ought to contact their chancery office and get the issues sorted out.

From what I understood the issue was not “an impediment to free consent”, as both parties seriously wanted to get married. The biggest issue seemed to be, dare I say it, fornication! :eek:

The Priest simply required them to fullfill certain conditions berfore he would perform the ceremony.

I make a partial retraction, EasterJoy! :slight_smile:

It’s possible the bride was pregnant at the time (I’m not sure. I’d have to listen to the show again).If that’s the case, then your claim of an “an impediment to free consent” is quite valid.

However, regardless of the reason for the first refusal, they were told what they needed to do to get married in a Catholic Church.

In any case, they were originally refused by 3 Catholic Priests.

On a side note… They got married in a Methodist Church, eventually got everything straightened out, and they are back home. :thumbsup:

Sadly, this happened to a family member. The marriage only lasted about four years. Fortunately they received an annulment. Both parties have moved on with their lives, and a much stronger (nearly 20 years strong) marriage was the result.

There are reasons for a priest to refuse a marriage. Top on the list is that if the couple expresses that they don;t want children, assuming they aare capable. Also if there is any indication that they do not intend to stay maaried for life. The purpose of marriage prep is for the priest or deacon to assess the seriousness of the commitment.

Seems to me Commitment is part of the theme in the marriage prep course.

Yes the priest has a right to refuse their marriage and further-more he might even require the couple to re-take the marriage course over again.

Like any other Sacrament, if the couple are properly prepared, ask at a reasonable time, and are not impeded by law, they have a right to the Sacrament of Marriage, and the priest cannot refuse or delay them.

So the short answer is no, he cannot.

However, to take your own 2 examples (no permanent commitment, not open to life), yes he could delay the sacrament. The reason is important: not because the priest himself “feels” that they shouldn’t get married (or not at this time) but because they are not prepared to commit themselves to the sacrament. In both of those examples, the priest not only can delay, but has an obligation to do so.

A pastor can’t delay or refuse marriage for any “personal” reasons he might have–for example, if he feels they aren’t compatible or if he thinks it just “won’t work out” or if the families aren’t supportive of the marriage. The reason itself has to be something found in canon law–either because there is some impediment or because they haven’t met some requirement. But the priest himself cannot add any impediments or requirements other than what’s in the law.

I guess that my wife and I are an exception to some of these issues.

We lived together for 2+ years before getting married in the Church.

There were no issues with the priest at all.

That was 28 yesrs ago, and we are stronger Catholics than ever now!

Thank goodness we had no issues!


PS It seems that everyone that we have ever known have now been divorced!

Is this really true? Thank goodness you had no issues? What if the priest had spoken up and given you issues…don’t you think that possibly it could have helped you live a better life then and not stayed outside of the state of grace for so long? Remember, sin causes damage whether we are culpable or not… it harmful whether we realize it or not…

I think its good to keep in mind the bigger picture.

Is this really true? Thank goodness you had no issues? What if the priest had spoken up and given you issues…don’t you think that possibly it could have helped you live a better life then and not stayed outside of the state of grace for so long? Remember, sin causes damage whether we are culpable or not… it harmful whether we realize it or not…

I think its good to keep in mind the bigger picture.

I am very surprised by such a judgemental and negative response.

Of course this is true, I am not a liar.

There is no ‘what if’ to discuss, as we both knew the priest very well.

Assuming that we have stayed outside a state of grace for so long is another incorrect assumption.

This is a very disappointing response.

I wasn’t saying you were lying, I was asking if the statement “that goodness we had no issues” was true.

It was NOT a judgemental response…I in no way said you were going to hell for anything, nor did I question your hearts in the process. In fact, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt and being overly generous in suggesting that possibly you could have seen the truth earlier at the time. The hard facts is that you weren’t given any issues. If you were there could have/might have been a conversion sooner than 2 years of living together. Less sin, less scandal, less harm to souls.

All of the above answers are good. I know of two situations where a priest has declined to witness the Sacrament of Matrimony.
In the first, he didn’t think the 17 year-old girl and 18 year-old boy were mature enough to make such a lifelong commitment. One child later, and he was proven right.
In the other situation, the priest simply decided not to do marriages any more. The bishop was understanding of couples in the parish and readily approved weddings in neighboring parishes.
That priest is gone now.

I’ve known a priest who declined to marry a couple. They made a fuss, he stood his ground, they got another priest to marry them, and then they promptly got divorced.

There are several red flags that can pop up in one’s discernment to the marriage vocation. Having the priest not willing to marry you is one of them.

There is a couple in my church who had their wedding stopped at the altar.

He is Byzantine Rite and she is Latin Rite. His priest came in and stopped the wedding because it was not taking place in the Byzantine church as it should have been.

After a quick consultation, the wedding was moved to the Byzantine church and they’ve been married for over 50 years.:thumbsup:

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