Civil wedding services secondary to sacramental marriage

Re: “Should the Church abandon civil marriage?” (News Analysis, Nov. 16).

Helen Alvaré’s concerns about separating sacramental from civil marriage are really not warranted. Any Catholic couple wanting to wed must have a church wedding, preceded by proper Catholic marriage preparation, if the couple wishes to continue receiving all the other sacraments.

A church wedding bestows true sacramental marriage and permits licit marital relations. A civil ceremony by itself merely formalizes fornication. Such a civil service with a state marriage license can be obtained any time after a church wedding — and at minimal cost — to qualify for joint tax returns, etc.

This process would be much like getting a driver’s license, for government purposes only, but it could never be considered a replacement for sacramental marriage. 

Gary Yarbrough, Parsons, Kansas

Marriage laws

Re: “Should the Church abandon civil marriage?” (News Analysis, Nov. 16).

I think churches made a mistake when they did not require their people to wed under conventional marriage laws (where available). I think this because, in essence, by not requiring conventional marriages, churches tacitly endorsed the state’s “no fault” divorce laws. Such tacit endorsements were/are a mistake — a pretty bad one in my estimation. Churches could have taken a stand against “no fault” divorce by requiring conventional marriages, at least for those marriages performed under the churches’ roofs and/or by the churches’ ministers.

Jennifer Johnson, via online comment

Roman Curia

Re: “Cardinal Burke removed” (In Brief, Nov. 23).

The American media often do not understand the workings of the Vatican. This was shown in the reporting about Cardinal Raymond L. Burke. He was not removed because he disagreed with Pope Francis at the synod. Actually, Cardinal Burke had spoken of his transfer a few weeks earlier. Rather, the move is related to Pope Francis’ stated plans to change up annulment proceedings to make them more accessible to the poor and needy. In particular, he wants proceedings to be simpler and cost-free.

Apparently, after Pope Francis discussed his plans with Cardinal Burke, they both agreed that Cardinal Burke was not the one to change up that office. The move is not out of spite. The pope is looking for a person to do the job he wants done.

Francis M. Day, via email

Papal criticism

Re: “Evaluating aftershocks” (Spectator, Nov. 23).

While one should always pray for the Holy Father and support him, I don’t think it’s out of line to note that this wasn’t the media’s sensationalism that caused the problem. There were clear choices made by the pope and his advisers that caused a lot of the problems. It isn’t being rebellious to point that out. That polarization is due to conscious choices.

Kevin Tierney, via online comment


Re: “Divorced, remarried” (Letters to the Editor, Oct. 26).

When a priest marries a couple, he performs both a sacramental marriage, as ordained, and a civil ceremony, as he also holds a municipal/state license. An annulment only invalidates the former, based on an impediment or state of mind at time of marriage and/or less than a full understanding or acceptance of Church doctrine (indissolubility, openness to life, intention of faithfulness, good of the spouse).

An annulment does not make one’s children illegitimate in the eyes of the Church. The writer also commented that couples beyond child-rearing age should not be expected to have procreation as a goal. The Church recognizes sterility, and even allows persons of child-bearing age who are infertile to marry.

Canons 1055-1165 of the Code of Canon Law are short and informative, and available online.

Kathleen A. Bernadette, Darien, Connecticut
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