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Civil Marriage
Question from Erica on 9/18/2004:

A question for Robert J. Flummerfelt,J.C.L.

In your response to Kitty, your answer was:"Since you and your husband were married as non-Catholics in a civil ceremony BEFORE your reception into full communion with the Catholic Church, then you satisfied form for your faith. Your marriage is valid and you may receive Holy Communion".However, based on her question I got the impression that she is married only in a civil ceremony, not in the Church.Hence, I believed she is not living as "brother and sister", but having intimacy with her husband. I got confused with your response, since I thought that you can recieve communion if you are single or married in the Church, in both cases not living in mortal sin. Are you saying she can receive communion even if she is not marry in the Church?She married before coming to the Church, but it was a civil marriage, not sacramental. Civil marriages are inventions of society,I though God and the Church only recognize sacrametal marriages. Can you please clarify your response? Erica

Answer by Robert J. Flummerfelt, J.C.L. on 9/18/2004:

Hi Erica,

Thanks for your email. I got the same impression that she was only married civilly and that is okay. Remember, at the time of her civil ceremony she and her groom were NON-CATHOLIC, therefore they were NOT BOUND TO MARRY IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

If two baptized Protestant Christians marry before a Justice of the Peace, their marriage is VALID and SACRAMENTAL. We Catholics recognize it as such. Since Protestant churches permit their members to marry civilly, we recognize it as such. Also out of ecumenical sensitivity for other churches or ecclesial communities [Protestants] to legislate for themselves, since these Protestant churches say these marriages are valid, SO DOES THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

Remember, in order for a marriage to be sacramental between two non-Catholics who are Protestant it does not have to be in church; rather it simply has to be between two BAPTIZED PEOPLE.

When Orthodox Christians marry, their marriages need to be before a priest.

And, if two non-baptized individuals marry in a civil ceremony, we recognize that too as VALID, though since neither party was baptized, the marriage is not sacramental but it is a NATURAL BOND.

Don't forget, people have a NATURAL LAW right to MARRY. The difference is that the Catholic Church requires a little bit more of its members before they can validly marry than do Protestant churches [ecclesial communities].

Hope this helps.

Peace, Bob

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