Can I perform a civil marriage for a former Catholic?

I have been asked to perform a civil marriage ceremony for a friend, who was baptized Catholic as an infant. I am a notary. Can I do this?

If she is asking you to do this for her in your capacity as a friend, no, you cannot. Catholics, including lapsed and former Catholics, are bound by Catholic marital law, and so another Catholic may not facilitate their marriage outside the Church by presiding at a civil service. That said, if she approaches you as a member of the public, in your capacity as a notary, you may not have the freedom to refuse her. These days, civil servants and other public officials do not have the freedom they once had to pick and choose the marriages at which they preside.

I can only recommend that you reconsider presiding at any civil marriages whatsoever. Then you can simply tell your friend, “I’m so sorry, but I do not witness civil marriages” and then refer your friend to another notary who does preside at civil marriages.

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