Friend Marriage Question

So, my friend who is Catholic and her bf who is also Catholic told me they got married a few months ago “through the city” because of medical benefits. Now she finds herself in a situation where she sees it is not a healthy relationship for either of them. Now they want out! How is this “marriage” viewed through the Church’s eyes? and Would it be right for them to leave each other after making this “commitment” so to speak??

Thanks in advance

They need to speak to a priest both for advice and for Confession as Catholics in a civil marriage without dispensation are committing fornication. It’s sad that ‘convenience’ motivates their choices. However their marriage wasn’t valid.

Canon 1108.1 Only those marriages are valid which are contracted in the presence of the local Ordinary or parish priest or of the priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who, in the presence of two witnesses, assists, in accordance however with the rules set out in the following canons, and without prejudice to the exceptions mentioned in cann. 144, 1112.1, 1116 and 1127.2-3. [Code of Canon Law]

A valid Catholic marriage results from four elements: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they freely exchange their consent; (3) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; and (4) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister. Exceptions to the last requirement must be approved by church authority.

I am not an American and know nothing of your welfare system I cannot even begin to understand how a civil marriage increased their access to any benefits!

If they are both validly baptised Latin (Roman) Catholics then their marriage is invalid on one ground at least - defect of form (based on the assumption they were not granted dispensation from canonical form). While it is for the Tribunal to investigate the marriage, I would suggest their understanding of marriage is defective and I wonder if there is a lack of valid consent.

As no marriage at all. This is invalid.

They should either divorce civilly and seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation for entering into this sham marriage or they should approach their priest about convalidating their marriage (making it valid) and living out their marriage vows in the Church.

If it is already in a death spiral, perhaps they were not nearly mature enought to embark on marriage.

They might be wise to end it, and reflect on how circumventing the Church is a BAD idea.

At any rate, they should not be having sexual relations and should both go to Confession.

I may misunderstand the teaching, and I don’t think most people who marry civilly see the difference between a civil marriage and a marriage in the Church, but wouldn’t fornication presume that they are engaging in the marital act? Is it still fornication if it’s simply a piece of paper (okay, and most likely living together)?

I understand that, in most cases, the civil marriage seems to couples to be just as good as a marriage in the Church, so this discrepancy is probably a non-issue.

On that note, to the OP, I think it really depends on what the marriage consists of. Regardless, she should talk to a priest.

There are a few scenarios where it definitely could benefit someone financially.

For example if one of them is in the military the other would get substantial benefits but only as a spouse.

There could be some other benefits related to being married in college. In most cases, single students would have their parents’ income considered in financial aid and other types of assistance decisions. But, if married, then they are no longer considered to be dependents of their parents, which might open up more aid.

Or one of them might have a good job with full medical benefits. The other could only access those as a spouse.

Hard to tell from the information given.

If they’d married in the Catholic Church wouldn’t they have gained the same financial benefits. Not good grounds for marrying, I know, but can these benefits only become available if by civil marriage. Or, would it be reasonable to suspect this couple married civilly to gain these benefits whereas if during preparation for Catholic marriage it became obvious to the priest they were marrying for these reasons he would put a stop to the marriage.

It does not make what they did right - but some jobs offer health insurance to the employee and the spouse and children - so basically the job pays for part of the insurance and the employee pays for part of it - it is much cheaper to do it that way - otherwise it is very hard to get any health insurance and you hope you don’t get sick because we have no socialized health care in the US - yet. That is a whole other discussion - so yes some people get married for health benefits which in and of itself could render a marriage invalid as it is definetly the wrong reason to get married.

I hope I cleared up that question for you Matthew

To the OP - I am guessing your friends friend is employed by a place that does not offer health benefits or is only working part time.

It’s still a sin to contract an invalid civil marriage when our obligation is to marry through the church and follow all the requirements set forth by her. Fornication could be another sin on top of that and should be confessed if present as well as cohabitation which often provides the opportunity for scandal.

if either is Catholic and they did not follow canon law form for marriage, they are not married at all, no matter what the civil authority says. they will have do deal with the civil law situation through those channels to dissolve the civil bond. Should either ever wish to marry again they will have to go through the lack of form process before they are formally declared free to marry, and in the circumstances will almost certainly be required to go through some counselling as part of their marriage preparation to see if the apparent lack of maturity has been remedied by that time. I don’t know where they reside as OP does not say, but if they went through a form of marriage with intent to commit fraud to obtain medical or other benefits they should also address that issue and remedy the situation.

What they did was very wrong. I presume just getting married would have enabled them to get these benefits. So, although the completely wrong reason to marry, Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist marriage would have met their ends. I ask because the OP sort of suggests that civil marriage was their choice of wedding to get the benefits. Clearly they have an extremely defective view of marriage.


Yes. If they’d married in the Church they would have the same benefits. The difference being, the Church requires you to go through at least 6 months of marriage preparation, etc, and to be married civilly basically requires a pulse.

Who knows why they ran down to the courthouse, but obviously it was a big mistake from day one.

:rotfl: I have said it before and I will say it again. Why is it that we as an ecclesiastical community require a two year formation for a Secular order which is a life long promise but only a six month formation for a lifelong vow and then wonder why the divorce rate is so high? I digress from the topic. Sorry.

Demonstrating my ignorance but I honestly don’t know what Secular Order you refer to.

Third Order Franciscans, Opus Dei, etc., where lay men and women can be associated without being a vowed religious or priest.

Thanks, I get it now: third orders. Just to clarify aren’t Opus Dei a personal prelature rather than a third order?

Yes, the Franciscans are called the Secular Franciscan Order. The abbreviation after their name is SFO after profession. There are Third Order Regulars that live in community but that is a bit dfferent. It all goes back to the combining of the different branches.

Thanks for the replies, wasn’t able to check the forum yesterday…

The couple in mind got married civilly because one had a job with benefits and the other didn’t have a job at all. The one that didn’t had been sick and needed to see a doctor. Unfortunately, they chose this route.

Follow up question: So I take it the Church does not recognize this marriage. Since they both want out, what if either of them starts dating before going through this civil process of separation/divorce? With the exception that it was a sin to be “married” outside the Church, how would the Church view that?

They both sound very immature.

They made a promise of marriage only a few months ago and now one of them already has their eye on someone else and wants to date before they have even settled their situation?

STUPID. Capital S. These people need to get their butts to confession and spend a good amount of time contemplating the error of their ways, not dating other people.

The Church would view them as possibly having impediments to valid marriage based on the cavalier way they are treating the situation.

They need to separate and live ALONE and spend some time maturing in their faith and emotionally.


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