Interesting hypothetical that I couldn’t readily come up with an answer to.
Yesterday, Joseph married Dennis in Corvallis, Oregon. In 2018, they divorce. Joseph stops dating men and starts becoming interested in women. In 2021, Joseph begins dating Catherine. She knows he had been married and is accepting of Joseph having same-sex attraction but believes he will be faithful regardless. She’s Catholic and wants to marry in the Church. This will be her first marriage. Is Joseph allowed to marry Catherine without an annulment?
This may be easier to answer than I think, but I assume (perhaps wrongly):
A Catholic must obtain an annulment for even a civil marriage in order to marry sacramentally.
The Church does not recognize gay marriages but does recognize the existence of a civil marriage even where it does not consider that marriage to be legitimate.
Gay people may marry in the Church provided it is to someone of the opposite sex. (yes, this seems silly to point out, but it may need to be stated)
The marriage between Joseph and Dennis was not a valid marriage in the eyes of the Church. Therefore, while a priest might have certain misgivings about Joseph marrying Catherine because of Joseph’s proclivities, the marriage is not barred.
Since there’s not such thing as a valid homosexual marriage (it is literally impossible), a person who “marries” someone of the same sex would technically not be barred from entering into an actual marriage with someone of the opposite gender. I honestly don’t think they’d even have to go through the annulment process since there is absolutely no way that the homosexual “marriage” could be valid. That said, it’d probably raise some red flags for the presiding priest…
There would likely be a need for significant pastoral counselling of the couple. Is Joseph REALLY interested in women, or is he just wanting to marry because it’s “the thing to do”? What are his real motives here? Is he capable of giving himself fully to Catherine as her husband? Is she aware of his past? Has he really “turned around”? Is she able to accept him, with his flaws? What was the reason that he married Dennis in the first place?
I know of at least a couple of men who self-identified as gay and then married women. Consequently, it’s not impossible. However, I do think it’s a situation that needs to be handled with extreme delicacy.
I’m sorry to derail but I would love to be enlightened as to what Catholics make of this.
If the secular marriage that married Adam and Steve together is not a marriage, are you not also forced to concede that Mary and John the Atheists who marry in the same registry office with the same “rite” are not married either since the organization that did both views both as having equal weight?
Two people of the same gender can never be validly married. It is not possible.
Two atheists getting married before a justice of the peace (presuming they are unbpatized) would still be validly married.
No annulment proceedings would be necessary in the OP’s hypothetical scenario. There is no need to investigate the validity of a “marriage” that on its face can never under any circumstances possibly be valid.
No, we are not forced to concede that. There is no such thing as homosexual marriage. There is such a thing as marriage, between a man and a woman.
Two men who attempt to get married, whether it is in a civil registry office or in a Catholic church (God forbid) ARE NOT married. They may think they are, and they may try to act like they are, but they are not.
On the other hand, a man and a woman who get married, even if it is under civil authorities, have entered into natural marriage. This marriage can absolutely be valid.
What makes a valid marriage extends far beyond the rite under which the marriage is conducted (or lack there of, as in the case of the registry office…). The Church has always recognized the existence of natural marriage which, while not being sacramental, still retains the potential to be valid (lifelong and life-giving being the two major points here).
While a homosexual “marriage” may be entered into with the intent of being life-long, it can never be entered into with the intent of being life-giving. Therefore, it can never be a valid marriage.
Objection? Oh, heavens no I’m not looking for another 70 page long argument about gay marriage here. I was just curious as to what distinction (if any) Catholics might make when it comes to secular marriages radical changes in the definition of what constitutes marriage and the requirements for entering into it (seeing as life-giving is no longer a requirement).
Thank you for all for your quick responses! They’re appreciated
Assume (because this is hypothetical) that Joseph at one point identified as gay and now identifies as straight, and that Catherine’s okay with who he is and who he was. I have known gay men who 10 years later marry and settle down, as I’ve known men who divorce their wives and start relationships with other men. So it’s in the realm of possibility.
I’m more interested in how the Church would handle it. It may very well come up in the future. This question in particular:
The Church does recognize the legality of a civil marriage. If one spouse cheats on the other it’s considered adultery regardless of where the marriage is contracted. In the case of two non-Catholics, it’s not an invalid marriage because the couple isn’t under Canon Law, while in the case of at least one Catholic it is a legal but invalidly-contracted marriage because of the expectation that Catholics marry Sacramentally. Wherever contracted, marriage is a marriage.
That said, I’d think that there’s room for considering a marriage to be not recognized if, for example, the spouses marry below the age of consent - something that doesn’t happen in the US but may be a concern elsewhere in the world. So if a Somali woman who is given as a child bride at the age of 9 escapes that arrangement and wants to marry when she’s in her 20’s, would the Church compel her to go through an annulment, or would it consider prima facie that no valid marriage could have been contracted with a 9-year-old?
Somalia is not the US and child marriage is not consenting civil marriage between two men or two women. Still, would the Church look at Joseph and say “We don’t recognize your first marriage because of defect of gender?” and that’s that? Or would it say “We recognize that you had a marriage recognized as legal by state Law/contracted by a minister of a separate Church, but even though we do not recognize such a marriage as valid we insist you obtain an annulment.”? I’m actually inclined to think the latter because it’s an expectation of Catherine as a Catholic not to marry a man who is currently married to anyone, even invalidly.
Similarly to how several noted, there’s no such thing as “gay marriage”, and it’s likely that when gay marriage (or “marriage equality” as it’s now being called) is legal across the US at least some states will call it “civil union” rather than “civil marriage”. If it’s not called a marriage when it’s pronounced, would the Church never consider it a marriage?
Side note one, since I’m thinking of the extension to straight couples, how does the Church treat common-law spouses who wish to enter into a Sacramental marriage with someone else? I know this is kind of a moot point since there’s no jurisdiction (at least in the US) contracting a common-law marriage.
Side note two, how would the Church treat marriages that contracted illegally? For example, if officiant is not a licensed minister and cannot validly perform a marriage (even if that marriage could be performed legally by a licensed minister), would that couple be considered married? Or does there need to be a marriage contract in order to have something to annul?
None of this is a serious question at this point, I’m just having a gedenken.
Active thread! Four more responses between starting and finishing my last post.
As of right now, I’m inclined to think:
If there’s a marriage certificate, there must be an annulment, even if that certified marriage is on the face invalid (between cousins, below age of consent, same-sex, multiple person).
The annulment process would be much easier on a prima facie invalid marriage. It may be as simple as noting two "M"s or two "F"s in the gender column of the certificate, and having a Writ of Divorce on-hand.
The Writ of Divorce is needed because a minister of the Church (priest or deacon) cannot perform a valid marriage without a marriage license, and that license cannot be granted by civil authorities without a Writ of Divorce. At least for now … maybe in 10 years that’ll be the new civil rights movement, for multiple-spouse-marriages.
dshix responded to NekoNecro’s extension that not recognizing a civil marriage because it is same-sex would logically require the Church to not recognize an opposite-sex civil marriage. I concur with dshix that the objection isn’t to civil marriage itself but to a civil marriage that is fundamentally invalid under Canon Law. I think where dshix and I differ would be whether the Church would require an annulment (I think so) or not (I gather this is the prevailing thought in this thread right now). Remember that annulment is a declaration that something previously declared as existing (a marriage between two persons, in this case of the same gender) did not actually exist, which is precisely what the Church teaches in the first place.
I think we can say “the Church doesn’t consider two men or two women as capable of being married” and leave it at that. That’s sufficient for me - Sacramental marriage is between a man and a woman, that’s an identity. The State may declare what it wishes and that makes it true in the eyes of the State but not in the eyes of the Church.
The Church presumes the validity of a marriage until proven otherwise. That’s what the annulment process is for: to investigate the circumstances and see if a valid marriage was entered into.
When involving a man and a woman, there is the possibility for validity. I cannot say what would be done in the case of 9 year old Somalian child brides. But since marriage between a man and a woman is possible, at the very least, I would think they would need to show the age of the bride at the time of the wedding. That would involve an “investigation” of sorts, even if not full-blown annulment proceedings. It is the same for “lack of form” cases where a Catholic gets married outside of a Catholic Church without the proper dispensation.
Marriage between those of the same gender is impossible. It never has been possible and never will be possible. Thus, there is not and never will be any presumption of validity. There cannot be. Thus, there is no need for an investigation of any sort.
At most, there might be some paperwork required to verify that the same-sex legal “marriage” has ended. That would only be because getting married in the Catholic Church is also getting married legally. But that would just be a logistical thing.
A marriage between two people of the same gender is no more possible – ontologically speaking – than the Japanese guy a few years back who “married” a video game character or the guy a few weeks ago in Florida petitioning to marry his “porn-filled computer.” Even if there were a legal marriage certificate, such a certificate would be completely meaningless in terms of Church law. It is impossible. No investigation is necessary.
That’s right. In the case of a civil marriage between a man and woman, the marriage is considered valid until proven to have been null from the beginning. In the case of a same sex marriage, no marriage could have taken place because there was no proper matter for marriage–a sexually complementary couple. So to pursue an annulment would be pointless. The presumed marriage is already null from the outset.