IS PROTESTANT MARRIAGE A VALID SACRAMENT? NOT NECESSARILY!
Note: this is a summary of the thread plus an important clarification.
§1. The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized.
§2. For this reason, a valid matrimonial contract cannot exist between the baptized without it being by that fact a sacrament.
There are four types of types of valid marriages that can exist:
- Non-sacramental marriages between unbaptized persons
- Non-sacramental marriages between a baptized person and an unbaptized person
- Sacramental marriages (i.e., between two baptized persons) that are unconsummated
- Sacramental marriages (i.e., between two baptized persons) that are consummated
Only the last kind cannot be dissolved. Any kind can be annulled.
To be a Sacrament, both have to be baptized since only the Baptized can receive other Sacraments. That is why when a Catholic married a non-Christian, a dispensation is required for the Church to accept the natural marriage as valid, but it is never a Sacrament.
If both parties are Protestants, they’re not bound to the canonical form. They would be married in the eyes of the Catholic Church because the man and woman are the ministers of the sacrament, not the Priest. Even if the protestant ecclesial communities do not view marriage as a sacrament, that is not relevant to effectively being a sacrament in God’s eyes.
BUT the protestant marriage is:
a) Invalid: if there are any of the nullification causes for a Catholic marriage, like not believing in marriage for life (openness to divorce), not wanting kids, hiding something important that would prevent the other party from marrying (e.g. not virgin, drug addiction, alcoholism), etc. Considering most protestants accept re-marriage, their marriages are null.
b) Ineffective: the fiancé in mortal sin does not receive the grace of state of the sacrament until recovering Grace through confession or a perfect act of contrition (which, at least for Catholics, includes the desire to confess ASAP). Considering most protestants accept contraception (which is abortifacient or abortive and is objectively a mortal sin) and that they don’t have confession to re-gain Grace, many of their marriages are useless in the sense that they don’t convey grace.
REQUIREMENTS FOR CATHOLICS
Catholics are subject to Canon Law: it requires the presence of a priest (with certain exceptions) with jurisdiction to witness the vows. If they marry in a Protestant ceremony without proper dispensation, the marriage is invalid. Dispensation is not granted if both don’t accept to raise the children in the Catholic faith.
For example: Can. 1086 §1. A marriage between two persons, one of whom has been baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it and has not defected from it by a formal act and the other of whom is not baptized, is invalid. (emphasis mine)
A fallen away Catholic is not a protestant, regardless of what he professes, unless and until he formally defects from the Church.
Since the 1983 code of canon law, it has been possible for a formally defected Catholic to subsequently marry validly without the approval of the Catholic Church. Howerver this is ending now that the canons that allowed this have been changed and will be effective about Christmas 2010. See the moto proprio Omnium in Mentem.
To formally defect is not the same as lapsed, for one must have:
a) the internal decision to leave the Catholic Church;
b) the realization and external manifestation of that decision; and
c) the reception of that decision by the competent ecclesiastical authority.
From the above: “It remains clear, in any event, that the sacramental bond of belonging to the Body of Christ that is the Church, conferred by the baptismal character, is an ontological and permanent bond which is not lost by reason of any act or fact of defection.”
Blessings in JMJ
f.nazar at gmail.com