Is Marriage by Justice of the Peace Acceptable without formal Dispensation?


I was reading an online article on marriage written by Fr. William Saunders regarding the need to be married in the church. He makes reference to the Justice of the Peace and I beleve makes the claim that marriage by a JOTP is NOT valid without formal DISPENSATION prior to civil marriage.

Well, my daughter was recently married by a JOTP, and a local Catholic priest said it was ok without formal dispensation. Both she and her husband are Catholic, both baptised, and the reason they married first with the JOTP was because the church’s calendar was full, they had to go through pre-cana, and in order for her to be able to live with him in military housing, they needed to be married as he had just been accepted into the Green Beret medic program.

I have read the Cannon Law and the Catechism and I do not see any specific formal guidance on this other than the Cannons on mixed marriages, which this is not.

Can you help? Can you point me to the specific Catholic law on this? Was this local priest correct?

I am very concerned about this. They DO plan to marry in the Church at some point, maybe December, but that’s not definitive.

Thank you.

While I understand why your daughter did what she did, it still does not change the rules of the Church. Catholics are bound to be married in the Church or receive a dispensation to be married elsewhere. It is *extremely *rare for two Catholics to be dispensed to be married by a JP so I doubt she could have obtained a dispensation.

This requirement (called canonical form) began at the Council at Trent (Session 24, Chapter 1) and today is codified in the Code of Canon Law:

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…

Her marriage is not considered valid by the Church. She and her husband need to exchange their vows according to the Catholic Rite in order for the marriage to be validated.

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