Marriage validity question...

A close relative got married this past summer on a beach in California. The wedding was officiated by a Catholic priest. The relative is a Confirmed Catholic (but not a strict one). She married a Catholic (unknown whether he is Confirmed or not) who was previously divorced. As far as we know, no special permission was granted for the wedding to take place outside of a church.

Assuming that her new husband did not get an annulment for the divorce (and the officiating priest overlooked this matter), what is the status of the marriage?

You are making many assumptions. A Catholic priest presided over the marriage. Therefore, in charity you should not put forth the speculation that it is invalid.

The couple need not share details of nullity and permissions for the location of the marriage with you. The priest does all of the preparation and performs a premarital investigation regarding freedom to marry. A dispensation is not needed for an outdoor wedding, merely permission from the Bishop which the priest can obtain. Some bishops do not allow this, but some do.

Frankly, why are you presuming all of these uncharitable things about this couple?

One would have to make a lot of assumptions to answer that question. Why assume special permission was not granted? Why assume the husband did not receive an annulment?

And why assume a Catholic priest would ignore both God’s law and the Church’s laws?

Uncharitable? The charity is in being concerned for the couple’s eternal salvation.

For instance, I understand that “the couple need not share details of nullity and permissions for the location of the marriage.” They also need not get married. They could just live in sin, and burn in Hell, as many do. But, in charity, I still care for, and pray for, those souls.

Is there anyone who can help me with my actual question:

Assuming that her new husband did not get an annulment for the divorce (and the officiating priest overlooked this matter), what is the status of the marriage?

Assuming no annulment has taken place, then it is assumed that he is still married under his first marriage until an annulment can prove otherwise. However, since a priest officiated the wedding, I would assume that all the correct measures were taken to have a valid wedding unless later information could prove otherwise. Basically, the innocent until proven guilty approach.

If a priest officiated you can’t make the assumption that the new husband lacked an annulment. A Catholic priest will not marry a couple unless they are free to marry in the eyes of the Church.

OK! First of all, it is most unlikely that any wedding on a beach would be permitted by the Catholic Church. Marriage is a sacrament, and as such, should be celebrated in a church. If no permission was granted for the wedding to take place outside of a church, then the marriage is invalid.

The spouse was previously divorced, so if he did not get a declaration of nullity, the marriage is invalid.

Further, no faithful Catholic priest would officiate at a wedding like that! Unfortunately, however, it is very possible for Catholic priests who have left the Church to be willing to officiate at an invalid marriage ceremony - one of my nephews got one to officiate at his second “marriage” - he had been married in the Church and divorced with no annulment. Needless to say, when I became aware of what was planned, I did not attend.

Assuming that the situation was as the OP says, then that marriage is invalid and the couple is living in sin. Pray for them.

This is not correct. There are bishops that will permit marriages in such locations.

This is also not correct. If the priest officiated the wedding at the beach wiithout the bishop’s permission, the wedding is illicit but VALID.

This is also misleading. Since we know nothing of the baptisal satus of the first spouse, or where they married, we can make no such proclamation that a decree of nullty was necessary. There could have been either a dissolution of the bond via Petrine Privilege OR there could have been a Lack of Form case, or there could have been a Ligamen case-- all of which are not decrees of nullity but render the person free to marry. Also, sometimes Lack of Form is handled at the local priest leve, not the diocesan tribunal level. So we may not presume there either.

We have no reason to assume any of those things.

Again, you are assuming things that you have no first-hand knowledge of.

CCC 2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury.278 He becomes guilty:

  • of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

  • of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;279

  • of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

This is why we do not want to make assumptions about other people’s situations. We do not wish to commit the sin of rash judgment. If a priest officiated the wedding ceremony, there is no reason to think that everything necessary was not done to ensure a valid celebration of the sacrament.

Don’t worry, Joe, their reputation remains intact and they will not suffer unjust injury thanks to total anonymity. Nobody here knows who I am, much less who my “close relative” is. Likewise, I am not guilty of rash judgment, detraction, or calumny.

I mean, really… Are we prohibited from entertaining hypotheticals?

Is it so hard to believe that a Catholic priest would officiate a wedding without confirming the marital status of each spouse? I think there is plenty of reason to believe, especially these days, that a priest might not have done what he was supposed to do. Visit any parish in my local diocese and on a good day you’ll only get the typical (but shamelessly arrogant) liturgical abuses. Then there’s the constant disregard of Canon Law. Every now and then our presumed innocent priests throw in a good, sexy (but just plain perverted) scandal - you know, just to keep things interesting. (Yes, this has happened several times in our diocese in the past five or six years.) If a priest would conduct a beach wedding without the explicit permission from his Bishop, then why assume that he followed procedure regarding a spouse’s previous divorce?

Anyway, I think the exchange here has answered my question. Thanks, and Merry Christmas.

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