Reading of Banns

What ever happened to Catholic marriage?

Before Vatican II if you wanted to get married, you went to a priest, he explained the rights and duties of marriage and published the banns over three Sundays. Then you could get married. Every family had an uncle or aunt that had separated and maybe even divorced, but they remained chaste because they still considered themselves to be married. Those that did remarry knew they were automatically excommunicated and not eligible for the sacraments.

By the time that I got married in 1971 we had to go through a pre-Cana course. It seemed like it cost like $25.00, took one night a week for several weeks and was a complete waste of time. The diocese instituted age limits and the counselling requirements so Catholics would be better equipped to stay in their marriage. So what did we get?

Well, the divorce rate for Catholics went from being lower than the general population to just about the same as the general population.

Annulments in the U.S. went from 338 in 1965 to 4,000 in 1968, to 60,000 in 1984 with the 60,000 holding steady since 1984. Incidently, 90% of all anulments worldwide are granted in the U.S. Add to these numbers the unknown number of remarriages that are using the “spirit of Vatican II” inspired **The Internal Forum Solution. **[FONT=Arial]This nifty idea lets the parish priest marry divorced Catholics if their conscience tells them that they not sinning, then the priest can marry them. Hard to believe? Then try this link, it’ll give you the full scoop on this neat little deal.

So where are we? We have gone from a Church that said marriage is forever, to a Church that says marriage is forever, maybe, er sorta. Ask yourself, how can we believe that the annulment tribunals find so many marriages null when the people had to go through counselling before marriage, have the wedding in the Church, and witnessed by a priest or deacon, and that the marriage never occured?

I am told that it is near impossible to get married in my diocese faster that 6 months after your first meeting with the priest. Pre-Vatican II it could be done in 3 weeks. The big difference I see is that then we KNEW that our vow was forever and not conditional.

I would have to agree with you. DW and I got married in 78. We were 30 and 27 respectively. We went through Pre Cana and everyone was much younger than us. Even the married couples were younger than us. But we’re still plugging along 28 going on 29 years later. To this day, I fail to see the relevance of Pre Cana to us. My diocese has a six month wait minimum as well. But both DW and I grew up in HMC before V II. I have to believe there is a correlation there.


I am hoping that you will give me the benefit of the doubt that I am not trying to start an argument, or be argumentative in any way.

But it seems that you are blaming the Second Vatican Council for the divorce rate in this country, especially among Catholics. (I’m not saying this is your intention.)

I’m also wondering if SSPX or FSSP, or other Traditional Catholic communities have returned to the Reading of Banns, as you have not made that clear.

Marriage, the family, Traditional Values in this country have been decaying horribly for the past 80 yrs. or so. From what I have read we can probably, or maybe, thank Ms. Sanger and her organisation for the beginnings of the weakening of the family.

What do you think?

The purpose of the Reading of Banns is to give people an opportunity to come forward with any information as to why the parties are not eligible to be married.

It makes sense in a small geographic community or a closely knit ethnic group where people know each others business. In a widespread group like modern traditional communities, it is less practical as the people come from an hour radius and its unlikely that they know enough about the parties to object.

my point, kielbasi, is that if a return to the Traditional Mass is the precedent to a return to Traditional Catholic Values, wouldn’t this just be one of the first steps of a mile long journey?

Sue and I were 24 & 23 I think. Pre-Cana was brand new in the diocese so hopefully it has gotten better, but I have my doubts. We had discussed, before we ever met with a priest, that since I was Catholic, there would be no divorce in our future. Whatever difficulties would come up, we would just have to deal with them. Although she was protestant at the time, she agreed fully. A vow is forever and not conditional. I just think that is something we have lost along the way.

I had to go in and edit. I have to tell you this story. My grandparents had been married for 56 years when my grandmother died. He stayed single for many years until after he was 80 years old. Somehow he ran into an old flame at some function. The lady was about the same age as grandpa and had never married. Anyway, they dated for a few months and decided get married. The parish priest told them they would have to go through pre-Cana and learn life skills and acceptable birth control methods. Grandpa absolutely refused to do it. He had the priest call the bishop for a waiver and word came back “no exceptions.” Luckily, Grandpa had a priest who was a good friend and pastor of the Old Cathedral downtown. He knew better than ask. He just read the banns for three weeks and then married them.

This thread really puzzles me. My wife and I have been married now for 45 years. Married just before Vaticaqn II. We had been graduates of Catholic schools and took no instructions whatsoever. It took three weeks to publish the banns, which by the way still happens in my parish. An event happened along about that same time in this country called “No Fault Divorce.” Divorce got really easy to get. For a few years the number of people seeking a divorce including Catholics accelerated rapidly. The Bishops decided that a longer period of preparation and “cooling off time” before the wedding might help to stem the tide of divorce which was thought to be more likely in hasty marriages. Of course it never really panned out. The other problem which is possibly more significant was that after Vatican II the number of mixed marriages also sky rocketed. My parents. a Catholic and a Lutheran could be married only in the rectory never in a Catholic Church. So the stigma of dating outside the Faith and having to be married in a very modest ceremony both went away. Even the concept of marrying only in ones ethnic group went out the window. German folk who married Irish were somehow considered a little strange by their relatives and friends. I know as I was one of those mavericks. My Dad told my Mother after meeting my intended, " Well she seems like a nice girl, but why would he want to marry someone who is Irish." What happens in Hollywood has become the “standard” for our nation. A stable marriage is no longer a sign of being good people. Blaming it all on the Council is an easy reassuring explanation for those who are dubious about its validity. But I believe that this Country went through a tremendous change in culture in about the same time period. I am not any happier that you guys about some of the changes, but…well?

My parish always publishes banns in the church bulletin before any weddings that are being held in the parish. They also publish the time of the wedding ceremony. In fact, on a humourous note, there was an elderly lady who passed away last year. She always looked at the bulletin to see when there was a wedding. She showed up at every wedding, whether or not she knew the couple getting married.

I agree. I believe it is more cultural than anything else.

However, the annulment figured appal me. Seriously, what are grounds for your annulment to be denyed these days? Is there set criteria?


I’m all Italian. But not a fighter.

I loved your response above. You raise questions that I’ve only voiced once and was ‘smacked down’ as they say…

My parish still publishes banns for three weeks prior to marriage.

As far as the number of annulments granted, I have a question - while the vast majority of annulments are granted to US Catholics, is it possible that in Europe and elsewhere, divorced Catholics just don’t bother applying for annulments and either remarry outside the Church or just leave the Church? I really don’t know the answer, but maybe someone out there does.

From what I understand, many in Europe do not practice their faith. Perhaps US Catholics apply for more annulments because they are attempting to practice the faith after failed marriages. (I’m not arguing regarding the ease of obtaining a divorce. I agree with you - they are way too easy and frequent.) I do know a few people, however, who have failed marriages in their pasts and eventually returned to practicing their faith.

So maybe its a culture problem.

In '91, my fiance had to drag me to our first pre-cana meeting. The priest, who must have sensed my unwillingness to be there, started us off with the Catholic teaching that a husband and wife are not to withhold the “marriage act” from each other.

From then on I was more interested in what he had to say.

You are very close to my parent’s generation . My mother and father were married in the sacristy of St. Alphonsus Church in New Orleans in 1947. My paternal grandfather was raised Catholic but married my grandmother who was divorced and Protestant. Back in the 20’s this automatically excommunicated him. I could regale you with stories of my Irish great aunt who was a friend of my French great aunt on my father’s side and how we only met on All Saint’s Day in the cemetaries of New Orleans. It’s true.

My father when he married my mother in 1947 had to swear he would raise his children Catholic. This he did. And he worked two jobs to put my brother,sister, and myself through Catholic school in New Orleans (both grade school and high school). My father was faithful to his vows. I can’t tell you how many 6 am Tridentine Masses my father took this altar boy to.

And after V II, my father attended Mass with us. My mother never asked my father to convert and we kids deferred to our mother. . But in the end, in 1996 when my father passed away, he was buried within the rites of HMC.

Yes, I would have liked to see my father join HMC. But the stronger message is that my father gave his word to my mother and to God back in 47. That’s the lesson I draw.

DW and I have been married for 28 going on 29 years. I take my vows to her as seriously as my father did to my mother. She takes her vows to me as seriously as her parents.

At what point do we take our faith seriously?

For all of you attributing the increase in divorce to the surrounding culture, I full agree with you. I am trying to raise some slightly different points. I’ll try to state what I am asking again.

At what point does “till death do us part” become inoperative? At Vatican II, the definiton of marriage was expanded to include human fulfillment as part of the marriage. That is all well and good, but did it also make our wedding vows conditional on the marriage being a sucess? I think most of the Catholics of my age realized that our vow was forever. If, God forbid, my wife and I should separate, it does not release me from my vow of one wife.

And that ties in to the pre-Cana classes. The counselling obviously doesn’t work based on the number of divorces and annulments, so why don’t the bishops scrap it and go back to the priest qualifying the couple (able to contract marriage) and explicitly teaching the couple their vows are explicit and permanent. “Ya, you can get a divorce, but you will never be able to remarry until your spouse dies.” If the young couple had that pounded into their heads, maybe they would take a little more care in their choices than they are today.

And that leads me to what I would call a real problem. The number of annulments. Annulments apparently used to be tough to get, now, since they have grown in number by some 15,000% in the last 40 years, they must be somewhat easier to receive. And at least some of them are between two Catholics, married in a Catholic Church, after weeks of interviews and counselling, and later the Church Tribunal says there was something wrong with the way the wedding was conducted or the people involved, so there never was a marriage. Something is wrong when I can’t assure my daughter or son that if they get married in the Church it will be done properly and forever. If a Catholic wedding never ocurred in a Catholic Church, then the Church ought to reexamine and replace what they are doing. Annulments should be returned to being hard to get and the Church ought to be helping people uphold their vows, not helping them break their vows.

This is an interesting article to add to the discussion:


That is interesting, the reasons they have listed surprise me. It does appear a bit easier to get an annulment these days. Although being a convert I’m not familiar with the annulment process but I can say it sure seems as though people in general do not take marriage vows seriously. Perhaps it’s also due to the fact that theres this trend now to be married in other places besides an actual Church. I work in the school district and I’ve met more young teachers who have been married in huge fancy ballrooms and hotels who cater to these types of weddings, then in a Church. God is not part of the equation at all. Rather sad actually.

I recently belonged to a wedding forum where I was banned for talking about my Faith. Can you believe a wedding forum where you can’t discuss religion?? They are out there, believe me. And so many couples getting “married” with no regard to what marriage truly means, only that they know they “want to be together”. It’s truly very sad.


Perhaps in America the word commitment has a new meaning.
It may mean that in America most marriages do not exist.

Oh I can believe it Liza and it doesn’t surprise me. There are plenty of secular weddings out there. I don’t hold it against people for not practicing the same faith as me but they miss so much by not including God and the Church. I really don’t like these modern weddings. My niece was married this way, outside a church, and it was hard to go and bring my daughters I have to tell you. As dearly as I love my niece with all my heart at the same time I didn’t want my daughters to see that something like that could even be an option. We went of course but I felt bad that she didn’t choose to be married in a Church. Deep down inside I felt the “ceremony” was a mockery of something very sacred. It was a bit hard to take.

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