Catholics and marriage licenses


No, the Church does NOT need the authority of the state in order for two people to marry validly. However, it does appear to be more prudent to make sure that the couple is married in both the eyes of the Church and the state.

For example, according to the Code of Canon Law, a woman can marry validly once she turns 14 and a man can marry validly when he turns 16 (without parental consent!). In most Western countries, this generally doesn’t happen very often, but the Code governs the universal Church, not just one country or a few countries. The Church does suggest for national bishops’ conferences to encourage people to marry at the recommended age suggested by the state as well.


No. You continue to get this backward.

The Church, in its wisdom, has agreed that they will act as a witness for the state to validate a civil marriage.

The state does NOT forbid a spiritual marriage–it simply does not recognize it.

The Church, as Fr. David has stated, accepts the civil consequences for acting outside of CIVIL rules for the permission they are given. It’s not like the Church is bowing to the state–not at all. They are accepting civil authority (and consequences) to make EVERYONE’S life easier.

And as Fr. Ruggerio spoke about even if the church decided tomorrow to no longer act as a witness for the state, it doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t still either require a state verification ie Civil marriage (to make things easy) or their own form of verification—like a state ID–in order to properly track the sacraments among church members. In either case this still would not work for your friends.


Since you refer to parish registration, I suppose you’re living in the United States? The idea of parish registration doesn’t exist in any other country, but only in the United States. Canonically speaking, parish registration doesn’t actually mean anything. One’s parish is determined by where they live, and the only way to really change parishes is to move.

I realize I wasn’t clear enough earlier. Regarding WHERE Catholics should get married, canon 1115 states that marriages should be celebrated in a parish where either of the spouses has a domicile, quasi-domicile, or month-long residence, or in the parish where they actually reside. Marriages can only be celebrated elsewhere with the permission of the diocesan bishop or the parish priest.

Canon 102.1 clarifies that a Catholic has a domicile if he resides in a parish with the intention of staying there indefinitely, or if he has ALREADY lived there for five full years.

Canon 102.2 states that a person has a quasi-domicile if he has lived in a place for three months, or intends to stay for at least three months.

One month is the bare minimum.

If this situation met the above requirements, then a marriage would have been celebrated validly.


Yes, I’m in the US. Parish is where you are registered.

We traveled 45+ minutes to my husband’s college. He did not live there for 5 years. I had never been there before. We did not live there at any point in time, nor intend to.

That said, although we lived in our apartments for more than a month, our Mass attendance was highly based on work, social outings, and family—so technically we were itinerant.

So perhaps we did break cannon law…but I still don’t think so. He was a pretty solid priest and I doubt he would of done anything wrong.


If you live within the territory of a parish, you are ipso facto a member of the parish regardless of whether you’ve registered there or not.

That’s nothing to worry about because one’s parish doesn’t change unless one moves and lives somewhere else. Where you attend mass is not relevant; some of my friends attend mass at my parish, but actually live in another diocese!


In any case, don’t worry about the validity of your marriage. Canon law kind of gives you the “benefit of the doubt”, so a marriage is presumed valid until the contrary is proven.


Registration has nothing to do with anything. Parish membership is by territory.

In any case, I’m sure that whatever priest officiated at your marriage knew what sort of permission or delegation he needed, and he followed canon law to get it.

This sort of thing is done all the time, so long as it’s done for legitimate reasons.

What you describe about your own marriage is just a situation where someone needed delegation and obtained it.

That’s a far cry from asking for a free-lancing priest who is going to ignore canon law.


No. It isn’t. That is a common misconception. The same canon law applies universally; parish membership is determined by residence. Registration has no effect in the law. None whatsoever. It is irrelevant as far as canon law is concerned.

Please note my earlier comment. I’m sure that whatever permission or delegation the priest needed, he obtained it. It’s a simple thing that happens all the time.


Please don’t even go that far. Given that they were married by a priest, the “benefit of the doubt” is that whatever delegation or permission he needed, he obtained it. And I don’t think the other member is worried about the validity anyway.


What they are doing is not “loving their country”.
You love your country, you follow its reasonable rules. Just like if you love your parents, you follow their reasonable rules.

You are not building any sympathy for your friends by constantly going on about what “good people” they are because their behavior is showing the opposite. They think they are special and don’t have to follow the rules, and then you expect us all to support that. This is exactly the attitude that is causing a lot of trouble on many levels in the USA right now.
Your friends are not special.


I never asked anyone to ignore canon law. It’s not canon law for a couple to have to get a license. What I am asking for on behave of my friends should not be so threatening to you. You sound so angry with me and you don’t know me or my friends but have this anger towards us that shows so clearly in practically every post. I never suggested anyone break the rules of our Holy Church. Making couples get permission from the state to marry ( a marriage license) is not canon law. You’d think we could have a semi grown up conversation about this without people becoming so defensive. You’d think I was asking around for a priest to preside over my friends doggy wedding.

FrDavid96, I’m sure you are a wonderful priest (irl). I would never ask you or any priest to break or bend a rule of the church. But Is it so very wrong for me or others, to be asking these questions? I think it’s absurd that a priest can be charged a felony for delivering a sacrament without state paperwork! This is just more evident to me than ever that something is wrong here and I hope it changes soon for the good of the Church.


They are living their lives in a way that should not threaten you so. They are not breaking any laws. If you can’t take my word for it, that’s to bad.

The point of my posting here was not to try and build “sympathy” for my friend. ( I guess I’m not so good at that, lol) It was merely her situation that opened my eyes to this issue and I am curious to see what other Catholics think.


This issue is silly beyond belief. If they can’t get married in the US, they should go to their own country to get married. End of story


They are not breaking laws perhaps, yet they have chosen to not be bound by any.

And then the debate starts about changing Church laws for a family that chooses not to be bound by any laws to begin with. For a sacrament that is binding.


What church “laws” would they be breaking if they marry without a marriage license?


The Church thinks otherwise.

Under some conditions, yes, and rightly so. Since you are unable to divulge the actual conditions of your friends that prevents the state for giving them a license, we are unable to pass judgment on the priest’s decision not to marry them.

I’m sure that under conditions of total anarchy or under a grossly illegitimate government so that there is no legitimate authority, the Church would grant the marriage without need of a government license. But that is not the case in the US. I frankly cannot imagine what conditions could possibly fulfill everything you have said about them, so I have to wonder is your reluctance to give the details because of your concern for the privacy of your friends, or is it that you suspect that we will not agree with some of the judgments you have given us on the strength of your word?


Again I will say; The family in question are not law breakers. In fact they happen to be sticklers to that detail.


In no state can I find a legitimate driver’s license that requires less documentation than a marriage license.

Unless they are exempt from that rule, too.


These are “Americans”. They are just “Americans” who believe they can remove themselves from society (and pay no taxes) by not requiring anything of the government. They reject their citizenship and refuse to get basic documents for their children. They cannot legally, drive (which they do), vote, hold office, attend public schools, hold a job, use public facilities, go to a legitimate doctor or hospital, get married, get a passport, etc. It is a fringe of a fringe of a fringe group in the US who are (usually Protestant) and believe that families (although typically men) have a sovereign right to be their own government.


Please do not call other posters hypocrites.

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