Question about Marriage

Kind of an odd question:

Why is Marriage a Sacrament, when non Sacramental marriages are valid?


How are non Sacramental marriages valid, when there is no priest/bishop present for God to make the couple one?

Thanks in advance and God bless.

Christ raised the dignity of the natural institution of marriage to a sacrament between Christians. Marriage is a natural institution that predates Christianity.

I know that Marriage predated Christianity, but isn’t that because everything (especially the Old Law) was merely a shadow of what was to come?

Marriage predates the Fall. God created man and woman and put them in a natural state of marriage. Since this preceeded the Fall we know that God intended marriage not simply as a means of grace but as part of the natural order. Christ raised it to a sacrament to provide mankind graces ontop of the natural good from marriage.

Could you further elaborate? Like for example, if both Sacramental and Natural Marriage are valid, what makes Sacramental Marriage better?

[quote=Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent]Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification (Catechismus concil. Trident., n. 4

In a marriage, the sacrament is an aid to the couple in persevering in their commitment to one another. This aid is not present in a valid civil marriage.

I do not know if you are aware that you are speaking of two distinct elements… as with many things in life secular values do not always translate to Biblical values and vice versa.

While civil unions are valid in the various nations that uphold them, they are not valid in the eyes of the Church. As of today’s standards, in the US, almost anything can be a valid civil union (heterosexual, homosexual, self, animal, thing–while the law of the land may still not accept animals and other “elementals” as a legal union… the future may dispose of all restrictions altogether)–one must only check with the local governance or appeal it if not fully satisfied by the list of “accepted” partnering.

Not so with the Catholic Church. As that old Hebrew Franks commercial, she answers to a Higher Authority; the Sacramental Marriage is composed of only one man and one woman. The difference between civil and Church wedding is that the Sacrament takes into consideration Christ’s Command that the Sacrament of Marriage is for Life (till death do part) and it is one man in a Sacred Union with one woman–the Sacred part is God: every Catholic marriage comprises the husband who takes the wife in Holy Matrimony under the Vows set by Christ: one man, one woman, for life.

A civil union sets no boundaries, no goals, no expectations; it used to be “I pronounce you man and wife,” but it has been modified into some sort of unisexual theme so as to embrace tout est permise.

Maran atha!


Because during a Sacramental Marriage the couple is changed ontologically. At their essence.

Not so during a Natural Marriage.

Think of it this way: what happens during the sacraments of initiation is that the universe is changed FOREVER. What existed 5 seconds prior, exists no more.

So, for example, when a baby is baptized an indelible mark is placed upon the soul.
As Fr. Vincent Serpa says: if we could look into what happens to the soul at baptism, it would make nuclear fission look like child’s play.

Similarly at ordination. What exists 5 seconds prior, exists no more. The man who is ordained is changed FOREVER, ontologically, at his very soul. He is now a priest. 5 seconds ago, he wasn’t.

And that’s what happens at marriage. There is a change so magnificent between the couple it cannot be ended by a mere legal declaration (i.e. divorce).

A priest is not the minister of the sacrament of Matrimony; it is the spouses who are the ministers. CCC 1623 In the Latin Church, it is ordinarily understood that **the spouses, as ministers of Christ’s grace, mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony **by expressing their consent before the Church. In the Eastern liturgies the minister of this sacrament (which is called “Crowning”) is the priest or bishop who, after receiving the mutual consent of the spouses, successively crowns the bridegroom and the bride as a sign of the marriage covenant.
It’s good to read the subsequent paragraphs also.

Umm… no. I don’t think that’s correct.

Not so during a Natural Marriage.

The difference between a valid natural marriage and a valid sacramental marriage is that the latter is a source of grace for the couple, not that they’re changed ontologically.

Think of it this way: what happens during the sacraments of initiation is that the universe is changed FOREVER. What existed 5 seconds prior, exists no more.

Yes – baptism is permanent and unchanging.

Similarly at ordination. What exists 5 seconds prior, exists no more. The man who is ordained is changed FOREVER, ontologically, at his very soul. He is now a priest. 5 seconds ago, he wasn’t.

Yes – ontological change.

And that’s what happens at marriage.

No, because marriage lasts only “until death do us part.” Widows and widowers aren’t changed back, ontologically speaking, to their pre-marriage self. And, of course, widows and widowers are able to enter into marriage again.

It’s not an ontological change that one experiences at marriage, so much that it is a vocation that is grace-filled, and which images the relationship of Christ to His bride, the Church… :thumbsup:

Ummmm…valid marriage exists between a man and a woman who were free to contract a marriage between each other at the time of the ceremony. A sacramental marriage exists between a baptised man and a baptised woman, otherwise it’s a natural marriage. In both cases it exists until the death of one of the spouses.

…I thought it was understood that for Sacramental Marriage to take place the couple would have to have been Catholics (though it has been relaxed to: at least one of the two)–has any Priest in any Catholic parish ever consented to Celebrate a wedding between non-Baptized or unbelievers?

The basic/major difference (Sacrament vs. civil) is that the Sacrament takes place between a man and a woman under Christ (hint: the union in Christ is Holy and indissoluble) while any one licensed by the state can perform a civil union between two patties (soon, may-be between any parties); in the civil union there is no Sacramental nature since nonce of the participants is seeking to live a Sacrament under God; thusly, it is understood that the parties concerned need not be Baptized, believe in God, nor enter into a vocation that would require them to be open to Life nor live in monogamy.

…and while I concur with you that it is expected that both parties be competent and willing when entering into the marital union, I must clarify that only the Sacramental has the element of ‘till death’ since a civil union can be undone every time one or both parties desire to “move on.” Can you imagine the Church relaxing the requirements so that every few years/months Catholics could redefine who their “soul mates” are?

Maran atha!


That is not correct. Perhaps you are confused on sacramental marriage and the the rites for the Sacrament of Matrimony?

Marriage between two baptized people, is by it’s very nature, sacramental. There is no requirement that either person be Catholic. This is seen in canons 1055 & 1060.

Can. 1055 §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.

Can. 1060 Marriage possesses the favor of law; therefore, in a case of doubt, the validity of a marriage must be upheld until the contrary is proven.

(emphasis added)

The requirement to be married before a member of the Catholic Clergy is only binding on Catholics. It sounds like you are only distinguishing between a marriage in the canonical form and civil marriage as it applies to Catholics. The Church recognizes the marriage between a baptized Presbyterian and a Baptist as being sacramental, even if those two faith traditions do not. It does not matter if it is performed before a minister or a justice of the peace.

I can guarantee you that civil marriages are considered quite valid. My wife and I were married before either of us became Catholic. I was baptized and she was not, so it was considered a natural marriage for the first 6 years. She was then baptized in the Catholic Church at which point it automatically became a sacramental marriage. Not because she became Catholic, but by her baptism.

This is the reason that so many people have issues when they try to convert and join the Catholic Church and most RCIA classes have at least one or two people that are divorced and remarried and thus need to investigate a first marriage before being received.

Some others have given you some good answers.

The major differences comes from the graces one receives through the sacraments. By God’s design mankind is made to form covenant relationships and it is why mankind has had marriage as a natural part of being human since the very creation. Marriage in either the form of natural marriage or sacramental marriage is a gift of self for the good of the other and for the building of families. In natural marriage the gift of self is between the two spouses.

The difference in sacramental marriage is that we are opened to the graces of God in our marriage. One might say that the gift of self ends up being between both spouses and between the couple and God. As one of the sacraments of vocation it also provides us a means of grace to evangelize the world through our marriage. This may be in the form of teaching our children or it providing a moral load stone for society. Those graces also can strengthen us to live our vacation to marriage as a means towards greater union with Christ. Like all sacraments, the graces are ordered to help us toward living a life in God.

Now one might say, but many Christian marriages (Catholic and otherwise) have problems so where are those graces? Graces are gift freely given by God, but that does not mean everyone accepts and makes use of those graces. Many, if not most, people forget that a sacramental marriage includes three people; husband, wife, and God. If we only see marriage as something between husband and wife then we will never reap the full benefits of those graces. it took me a long time to realize that when going through rough patches that I need to trust in the Lord and realize that trials and tribulations strengthen me for what he calls me for. Does that mean my wife and I are perfect about making use of those graces? No, far from it, but the willingness to listen to God in our marriage has certainly made a big difference compared to the first 6 - 8 years of our marriage.

You’re correct. For a Catholic priest to be able to celebrate a wedding, at least one of the persons to be married must be Catholic.

I suppose that, if he wanted to, a Catholic priest could celebrate the wedding of two non-Catholics, and that wedding would be civilly valid… but oh boy, would he be in for a stern talking-to from his bishop! :wink:

Thank you for the information–I am not versed in much of formal Catholic Teaching; though I agree with you that that is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, I do not comprehend how this would apply to those outside the Church who do not consider marriage to be a Sacrament. I speak of all those who while professing to being Christians do not consider the vows of matrimony binding (in spite of Christ’s declarations). I’ve known of even religious leaders (pastors) that have divorced and remarried several times (coincidentally, ditto with Baptism–many do not consider Baptism to be a Sacrament so they ignore St. Paul when he states that, for the Believers, there is but One Baptism, One Gospel, One Spirit, One Faith).

Comparing civil marriage with non-binding Sacramental marriage is like comparing seedless green grapes with seedless green grapes of the same species and family; though I could be totally wrong! :o:o:o

Maran atha!


Hi, Gorgias!

Thanks! I needed that! :rotfl::rotfl::rotfl:

Maran atha!


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