Skip to comments.ASK FATHER: Secret marriage to avoid … government.
Posted on 01/10/2014 3:25:02 AM PST by markomalley
From a reader:
My __ year old father and his woman friend would like to get married but not go through the government with a marriage lisence. Are there any patriotic priests who would help them? I found protestant pastors but as they are Catholic they would appreciate the sanctity of a Catholic church .dad is a widower and she is a widow both had long happy marriages.
The Church teaches that marriage is not just an agreement between two people, but is a public covenant. The Church has long cooperated with civil governments with regards to marriage, since marriage between one man and one woman is something that is to be valued both by the Church and the State.
In some places, the State has moved to distance itself from the Church and has ceased that cooperation. In France and Mexico, for example, the State does not recognize marriages celebrated in the Church as having any civil effect. In the United Kingdom, the State did not recognize Catholic marriages until 1836. The faithful in these places would need to exchange matrimonial consent twice once for civil effect, and once in the Church truly to marry each other.
For now, these United States and the Catholic Church are still cooperating in the sphere of marriage, though as state after state changes the definition of marriage to include agreements that are NOT marriage, the time may come soon when that cooperation will have to cease. But for now the state authorizes priests and deacons to act in two capacities at a wedding. First, they act in their religious role as official witnesses of the Church to the exchange of matrimonial consent. Second, they act as agents of the State officiating at a wedding of two persons.
That said, the Church reserves the right to permit the celebration of secret marriages or clandestine marriages, that is to say, marriages that are not recognized by the State in certain circumstances. Canons 1130 1133 of the Latin Code (and can. 840 of the Eastern Code) provide the parameters.
A secret marriage can only be permitted by the local ordinary (i.e., the diocesan bishop, vicar general, or an episcopal vicar), the parties involved must observe secrecy (only the priest, the couple, and two witnesses should be present at the wedding), and the marriage is recorded only in a special register in the secret archives of the diocesan curia.
But Father! But Father!, you are probably saying by now, Why would anyone enter into a clansted clantstine secret marriage? You surely hate Vatican II.
Some reasons for secret marriages would include situations where the state law on marriage is unjust or contrary to natural law (e.g., in places where it was once illegal for a man and woman of different races to marry, or a free person to marry a slave, etc.). For example, when in its fourth term the Obama Administration makes it illegal to marry a Catholic, we will have more clandestine marriages. The local ordinary will have to see if the reasons for a marriage without a state license are justifiable.
These days there are two reasons normally given for wanting a secret marriage. First, one or both parties are undocumented immigrants and, next, one or both parties are senior citizens and concerned that marriage would affect a pension payment.
There may, possibly but only possibly be some justification for granting permission in the first situation, especially if there are children involved. I am not convinced that our current immigration laws in these USA are that unjust. In the second case, I do not see a justification for permitting a secret marriage. The terms of the pension are normally clear. To marry without a civil license merely to circumvent the pension contract is pretty dodgy.
The Church should be very careful in permitting secret marriages, because doing so puts the priest or deacon who officiates at such a wedding in danger of civil prosecution. A priest or deacon who officiated at such a wedding without permission of the local ordinary would acting illicitly, and be subject to civil and ecclesiastical penalties. It would also cast aspersion on the character of the other priests who are obeying both the civil and ecclesiastical law.
16. Yet, owing to the efforts of the archenemy of mankind, there are persons who, thanklessly casting away so many other blessings of redemption, despise also or utterly ignore the restoration of marriage to its original perfection. It is a reproach to some of the ancients that they showed themselves the enemies of marriage in many ways; but in our own age, much more pernicious is the sin of those who would fain pervert utterly the nature of marriage, perfect though it is, and complete in all its details and parts. The chief reason why they act in this way is because very many, imbued with the maxims of a false philosophy and corrupted in morals, judge nothing so unbearable as submission and obedience; and strive with all their might to bring about that not only individual men, but families, also -- indeed, human society itself -- may in haughty pride despise the sovereignty of God.
23. Let no one, then, be deceived by the distinction which some civil jurists have so strongly insisted upon -- the distinction, namely, by virtue of which they sever the matrimonial contract from the sacrament, with intent to hand over the contract to the power and will of the rulers of the State, while reserving questions concerning the sacrament of the Church. A distinction, or rather severance, of this kind cannot be approved; for certain it is that in Christian marriage the contract is inseparable from the sacrament, and that, for this reason, the contract cannot be true and legitimate without being a sacrament as well. For Christ our Lord added to marriage the dignity of a sacrament; but marriage is the contract itself, whenever that contract is lawfully concluded.
I personally don't think that Christian clergy should allow themselves to be used as (as Fr Z puts it) …agents of the State officiating at a wedding of two persons as it can generate the possibility of a conflict of interest, particularly when the State attempts to redefine the sacrament.
I would be interested in hearing your opinions on this.
MARRIAGE CELEBRATED SECRETLY
Can. 1130 For a grave and urgent cause, the local ordinary can permit a marriage to be celebrated secretly.
Can. 1131 Permission to celebrate a marriage secretly entails the following:
1/ the investigations which must be conducted before the marriage are done secretly;
2/ the local ordinary, the one assisting, the witnesses, and the spouses observe secrecy about the marriage celebrated.
Can. 1132 The obligation of observing the secrecy mentioned in ⇒ can. 1131, n. 2 ceases on the part of the local ordinary if grave scandal or grave harm to the holiness of marriage is imminent due to the observance of the secret; this is to be made known to the parties before the celebration of the marriage.
Can. 1133 A marriage celebrated secretly is to be noted only in a special register to be kept in the secret archive of the curia.
And Can 840 of the CCEO:
§1. Permission for a secret marriage can be granted by the local hierarch for a serious and urgent reason and also includes the grave obligation of observing secrecy on the part of the local hierarch, the pastor, the priest who was granted the faculty of blessing the marriage, witnesses, and the one spouse if the other does not consent to revealing it.
§2. The obligation of observing secrecy ceases on the part of the local hierarch if serious scandal or serious harm to the sanctity of marriage is threatened by the observance of secrecy.
§3. A marriage which is secretly celebrated is to be recorded only in the special register which is to be kept in the secret archive of the eparchial curia unless a most grave reason prevents it.
I simply don't accept this argument from the article. This nation recognizes common law marriage, so a minister declaring someone married is really no different. Additionally, there is free exercise of religion that would allow a church only marriage. Whether that couple then goes ahead and also gets a state license is up to them.
I do agree that a minister would have to have a substantial reason not to require a couple to make their marriage civil/legal.
I do think the anti-marriage pension laws (and tax laws?) make a "church only wedding in the eyes of God" a real cause for reflection on the part of ministers.
It’s interesting that he talks about elderly people and pensions. He talks about a “pension contract.”
But there are ways that the government penalizes marriage. Obamacare contains the biggest penalties for marriage ever. I think people have the right to divorce to avoid those—thus converting their marriage into a clandestine marriage. And no priest or secret diocesan archives would be involved!
While I agree that it would be a serious stretch to say that it would be a stretch to say that a minister would be in trouble for performing a religious ceremony of any kind, I will point out that common-law marriage is not universally accepted throughout this country. For example, in my state (MD), common-law marriage is not recognized with the exception of couple who were "common law married" in other states and subsequently moved to Maryland.
On a tangent, it is also interesting that ministers are not explicitly listed as authorized officials who can perform marriage ceremonies. It is implied (Forms of religious ceremonies. -- This section does not affect the right of any religious denomination to perform a marriage ceremony in accordance with the rules and customs of the denomination. Md. FAMILY LAW Code Ann. § 2-406 (g)). Compare that to, for example, Minnesota: Civil marriages may be solemnized throughout the state by an individual who has attained the age of 21 years and is a judge of a court of record, a retired judge of a court of record, a court administrator, a retired court administrator with the approval of the chief judge of the judicial district, a former court commissioner who is employed by the court system or is acting pursuant to an order of the chief judge of the commissioner's judicial district, the residential school administrators of the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf and the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind, a licensed or ordained minister of any religious denomination, or by any mode recognized in section 517.18. (517.04 Persons Authorized to Perform Civil Marriages))
Interesting little detail (that I hadn't noticed before).
An example that I've seen is where a widow may be entitled to a pension from her deceased spouse's work, but if she remarries, she loses that pension. Such a thing happened to my Aunt who was entitled to my Uncle's AF pension upon his death. When she married after his death, she lost that pension. When her second husband died, she was again eligible.
This all makes more sense when you look at the Catholic Church in the U.S. as a state "church" -- similar to what you'd find in many communist countries in Asia -- rather than a real religious institution.
“In France and Mexico, for example, the State does not recognize marriages celebrated in the Church as having any civil effect.”
I wonder if this is true in other Euro countries too. I was reading up on the remaining (but not ruling) European royalty and I noticed that all of them who got married did so twice, once at the City Hall and once in Church. I never understood why you’d do that (not as a regular thing anyway). So thanks for posting this, because it answered my question!
Why not get married in the church on Saturday,then get a civil divorce on Monday? Happens all the time.
The would still be married in the eyes of the church, but
single in the eyes of the law.
I predict the opposite will happen. As Medicade will confiscate house and other assets upon death, many ‘medicade brides’ will marry an old guy just to keep government from taking the house/farm.
“Now, since the family and human society at large spring from marriage, these men will on no account allow matrimony to be the subject of the jurisdiction of the Church. Nay, they endeavor to deprive it of all holiness, and so bring it within the contracted sphere of those rights which, having been instituted by man, are ruled and administered by the civil jurisprudence of the community. Wherefore it necessarily follows that they attribute all power over marriage to civil rulers, and allow none whatever to the Church; and, when the Church exercises any such power, they think that she acts either by favor of the civil authority or to its injury. Now is the time, they say, for the heads of the State to vindicate their rights unflinchingly, and to do their best to settle all that relates to marriage according as to them seems good.”
Doesn’t look like Pope Leo was a fan of the state being involved.
To the state in the modern era, marriage is simply whatever judges, pols, or the voting majority thinks it is at any one time. Hard to say what the state will define as marriage in another 130 years.
And let’s hear from the deacons on line here too.
I see the redemption of marriage as exclusively a religious sacrament to be essential to people of Catholic and Orthodox faith in the future.
Western nations have systematically eroded these sacraments wherever they could for a century now, and unless the church recovers sole authority over marriage and the other sacraments, the next targeted sacrament is extreme unction and burial, as well as the absolution of the dead.
That is, the state killing people with euthanasia, while keeping them out of reach of their final sacrament and Viaticum, by killing them in secret and harvesting their organs before destroying their remains without notice to family or clergy.
If you think about it, the theft of the rite of marriage by the state came into being with bribery. That is, to encourage marriage and offspring with support from the state. But over time, it has become a devil’s deal, the sacrament perverted to evil ends.
For the church to recover the sacrament, it must do something very unusual. It must reject recognizing marriages unless they are sanctified in a church that embraces the traditional definition of marriage. Even Jewish or Islamic marriages could be acceptable, as long as that faith followed the traditional rules.
Agreement to these parameters could be reached between the Catholic and Orthodox churches, cutting the state out of the deal entirely. While not forbidding those married in a traditional wedding from also getting a secular license, such a license would mean nothing to the church.
Marriage only happens in church. Anything else is just civil union.
I am a Lutheran pastor, and I agree with Fr. Zuhlsdorf. Marriage is a PUBLIC event. It has a social dimension.
As a pastor, when I perform marriages, I am, to an extent, acting as an agent of the state, which has authorized me to do so. This is not a problem, as long as I am not required by the government to do something contrary to God's Word--e.g., hypothetically, to perform a homosexual "marriage," which I would never do, even upon threat of imprisonment.
And to the main point of the article: It is wrong, it is sinful, to live together outside of marriage or to have a "secret" marriage, in order to gain a financial advantage. It is breaking the Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Commandments (and that's just in the Second Table of the Law).
Should a Christian Obtain a State Marriage License?
Daily, Christians stand before God and “these witnesses” and enter into a contract with the state in which they live. This process is commonly known as the institution of marriage. Marriage was ordained by God as one of His first acts after creating the world, beasts, and mankind. God was very specific in His instructions concerning the sanctity of marriage and His order for the family. Somehow we have missed the boat and have given that which is holy unto dogs.
I am amazed that pastors, during the course of a marriage ceremony, have the audacity to utter the words “Now, by the power vested in me by the State of _____, I now pronounce you man and wife.” Insofar as I am aware there is no state in the United States of America that actually requires a pastor obtain a license to preach the gospel. However, many willingly bow the knee to Baal in every area of their ministry; hence it is not surprising, although it is heartbreaking, that pastors willingly surrender the sacred covenant of marriage to the state in which they pastor. It is a sad commentary on just how far the church has been willing to compromise and capitulate in matters regarding rendering unto Caesar and forgetting that God is due allegiance first and foremost.
In order for you to completely understand the sin of surrendering the God-ordained and instituted act of marriage (and that marriage is a God-given right) it is needful for you to understand the legal ramifications of entering into a license agreement with the state and further the history of marriage licenses in America.
To understand the full impact of obtaining a marriage license one must understand the definition of the word license. Black’s Law Dictionary defines license as “The permission by competent authority to do an act which without such permission would be illegal.” A more expanded definition comes from the Law.com dictionary which states:
What is a “license”?
n. governmental permission to perform a particular act (like getting married), conduct a particular business or occupation, operate machinery or vehicles after proving ability to do so safely, or use property for a certain purpose.
n. the certificate that proves one has been granted authority to do something under governmental license.
n. a private grant of right to use real property for a particular purpose, such as putting on a concert.
n. a private grant of the right to use some intellectual property such as a patent or musical composition.
v. to grant permission by governmental authority or private agreement.
As you can see from the foregoing definitions, the granting of a marriage license by the state carries with it several legal implications and assumptions. First, the government assumes it has the right to regulate and license that which is a God-given right. It does not! Secondly, why on earth would a Bible-believing Christian seek governmental permission to enter into that which God ordained and blessed? When you seek a license, you enter into a contract with the government; thus your marriage becomes a three-sided agreement—you, your spouse and the state—thereby leaving very little room for God in the equation. By seeking the permission of the state to marry, you are, in essence, implying that marriage is an institution of the state and not of God, which is wrong. The state cannot grant the right to marry; it is a God-given right, and it is a holy and precious thing in His sight. Thirdly, your marriage license extends to the fruit of the marriage (i.e. your children). Your children are a gift and heritage from the Lord and He has instructed YOU to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Nowhere in His instructions for the family did God ever include the government in the rearing of children. There is a great deal of case law that confirms the fact that a marriage license extends to the offspring of the marriage. The license agreement is a contract; and the government will hold you to it at any time they so desire and in arbitrary and capricious manners that defy any notion of fairness and justice.
It is important that we recognize the history of marriage licenses. In colonial America there was no requirement to obtain a marriage license. It was absolutely unheard of. The only requirements in those days was you had to obtain your parents’ permission and had to post a notice of the marriage 5-15 days before the ceremony. With rare exceptions the state no longer requires that you have parental permission to get married. In most cases they do not require it for one to have an abortion, but they demand that you seek their permission to marry. Why do you suppose that is?
The license grants control; and our government is ever expanding its tentacles of control. If they control the family, they pretty much control it all.
Many of our founding fathers, including George Washington, were married without a license. From the outset of our country all of the states had laws forbidding interracial marriage. In the mid-1800’s some states began to permit interracial marriage, provided the parties obtained a license from that state. This was a defining moment, as the enactment of laws that granted permission to do that which was otherwise illegal is a cornerstone in our modern-day marriage license disaster.
In reading Black’s Law Dictionary definition of “marriage license” one finds the all too revealing historical perspective of the enactment of the marriage license laws. Blacks contains the original definition of marriage license which is “A license or permission granted by public authority to persons who intend to intermarry.” And as a flood begins with one drop of rain, thus the deluge of laws concerning marriage licenses. In 1923, the government established the Uniform Marriage License Act; and by 1929 every state had adopted laws concerning marriage license. And so it goes today.
The government is attempting, quite successfully I might add thanks to pastors and couples who willingly give that which belongs to God to the state by entering into the marriage contract with them, to control and regulate that which is created and ordained by God.
What should we do, you ask? I firmly believe that a marriage license is wrong and that it is a sin to surrender the God-ordained covenant agreement of marriage to the state. I suggest you utilize a marriage covenant or use the family Bible marriage page. Make sure the covenant is signed by the pastor performing the ceremony and two witnesses. If you choose to use your Bible as your record of marriage, make sure it is also signed by the pastor and two witnesses. You can record the covenant at your local courthouse as an official document and, after having obtained a certified copy of the document, you may utilize it to change names on records, etc. There have been incidents of elected officials balking at the thought of recording marriage covenants; but I have yet to find an instance where, when confronted by the law, they refused to comply. I pray you will be obedient to our Lord in the sacred covenant of marriage.