Sunday, July 8, 2012

Christian Marriage: All or Nothing?

In my last post, I discussed the Orthodox approach to marriage and remarriage, and once again referred to my proposal for a possible way the two might be reconciled. My "solution" hinges on the possibility that the West's "all or nothing" idea regarding a marriage between two Christians being either the Sacrament or "nothing at all" (a mere "putative" marriage, not even a natural marriage) being non-dogmatic, merely a canonical situation.

I can't say for sure whether such a concession is possible. Maybe that is a dogma. However, I think the problems with a situation like that can be demonstrated by a hypothetical (that in history has probably often not been merely hypothetical.)

Let's say there is a Catholic couple. Let's call then Newt and Mrs. Newt (this isn't based on anyone in particular; any resemblance is coincidental). They married in the Catholic Church, and have been married for 15 years. Then Newt has an affair with another woman. Let's call her Callista. Then, Newt manages to obtain an annulment from Mrs. Newt, and then marries Callista in the Catholic Church also!

Now, from the "all or nothing" perspective, what happened was this: Newt and Mrs. Newt were never really married in any objective sense, so they were basically just fornicating all along (albeit unintentionally). And so, regardless of what he might be subjectively guilty of, Newt never really committed any objective adultery, as there was no real marriage to commit adultery against in the first place. And hence him marrying his (non-)mistress has to be considered, objectively, a better situation than the objective fornication with his first (non-)wife ever was.

Yeah. That's a realistic assessment of the relational and spiritual dynamics of the situation. Suuuuuure. (Rolls eyes.)

The "Orthodox" approach, on the other hand, would say this: the first marriage was a real marriage (whether it was actually the Sacrament or just a natural marriage or sacramental is something the West is likely more concerned about than the East). Newt and Mrs. Newt weren't just fornicating, and Newt really did commit adultery. However, on this account, the marriage is dissolved (more for the sake of Mrs. Newt than for Newt). If Newt remarries, it is penitential in tone, an attempt to bring good out of a bad situation. And some churches would certainly not let Newt marry the very woman he committed adultery with. In fact, some (like the Copts) would only allow remarriage for the "victimized" party, with participation in adultery being an impediment to any future marriages for the party at fault.

Now, which of these claims would you rather make if you were a priest who had to lay it all out to Mrs. Newt?? The "there never was a marriage, so there never was adultery" one where she was actually just fornicating and Newt gets to marry his mistress afterward no-questions-asked? Or the "Newt is guilty of breaking up a real marriage, and either does penance, or is under an impediment to future marriages on account of the adultery" one? To me, it's pretty obvious which of these interpretations is more just to the victimized party, not to mention less delusional about the reality of what happened, and less delusional about the prospects of a marriage to a former mistress...

31 comments:

Some Random Guy said...

So you're now suggesting that a valid, consummated, sacramental marriage is dissoluble? Let's just be clear on that...

A Sinner said...

No...

I think you've entirely missed the point.

My point isn't to question the idea of the annulment, or the need for one before a remarriage exactly because the Sacrament is indissoluble.

The question here is over whether the annulment means "actually, nothing at all really happened!" (the current Western attitude)...or whether marriages found to have not met the requirements for the Sacrament should, nevertheless, be considered true natural marriages given that they looked like a duck and quacked like a duck and had no purely natural impediment.

Richard M. Sawicki said...

I have always tried to explain annulments to people in this way:

"Far from saying that a marriage 'never took place', it says that a marriage did take place, but that one of the parties entered into it either fraudulently, or lacking one or more of the necessary qualifications or conditions necessary for validity, thereby rendering the marriage contract 'null and void', and freeing the wronged party to marry again."

Not the best explanation perhaps (and certainly not a spiritual, theological, or, dare I say it, "pastoral" one), but one that expresses the essence of what an annulment is. (I think, yes...?)

Gaudete in Domino Semper!

A Sinner said...

Well, an annulment means the Sacrament was null and void. Does it mean that there was never ANY sort of marriage though?

I don't know. Under the "all or nothing" perspective where Christians either contract the Sacrament or Nothing-At-All...that's the answer.

But Orthodox practice (as well as this sort of basic common sense) would suggest to me that, even if it was not the Sacrament, it might still be a natural marriage.

It makes sense that the Church could establish impediments to the Sacrament. It is less clear why the mere presence of impediments to the Sacrament would prevent a NATURAL marriage from still occurring if there were no natural impediments (the only natural "impediments" being: same sex, ancestor-descendent incest, brother-sister incest, or an ongoing prior marriage), except under the assumption that Christians can only contract the Sacrament or Nothing-At-All.

Nick said...

The fundamental problem with talking about Annulments in the context of Eastern Orthodoxy is that EO have no parallel category for Annulment, so all you can have is a marriage as long as the ceremony takes place. So if Bob is truly married to Anne, if Bob goes through a wedding ceremony with Amanda, the EO would have to consider that valid. Yeah, that's a bit extreme of an example, but the point is that regardless of how one feels about Annulments, the category must be recognized as valid or the EO is in a serious bind. So it doesn't matter how long Bob&Anne's "marriage" lasted or how elegant the ceremony or how many kids they ended up having, the Marriage was never valid.

Now any view that allows Divorce of a Sacramental Marriage is flatly against Scripture and Unanimous Consent of the Fathers. The EO know this but ignore it, and that's not right. There's no excuse to go in that direction for them.

It is just as absurd to suggest only the innocent party can remarry, for (1) there often isn't an innocent party and both husband and wife shared in the blame of the break up, and (2) it makes no sense to say the now unmarried 'guilty' person is incapable of getting married. Worse yet, if adultery could cause a divorce, indeed if it was the only thing that could cause a divorce, then adultery would be implicitly encouraged to get out of a troubled marriage.

What you seem to be saying is that in the case of purely innocent intentions, a long and fruitful but invalid marriage should have counted for something. There is merit to that objection, but there is no good solution. Without the category of Annulment, you're forced to accept Polygamy. This isn't the first time Catholics have thought about this, and we've all witnessed the scandal shock when Tribunals declare Nullity on a once vibrant 'marriage' that lasted 25 years and had 5 children and makes the whole Catholic position look like a farce. But the Church has also said that sort of scenario should be extreme rarity in reality, and that the Church is cracking down on liberal Tribunals that are effectively granting Catholic divorce when in reality there are no truly reasonable grounds to declare the marriage invalid. The only exception, though significant, is the fact so many Catholics today have been divorced and got remarried on their own terms outside the Church so that investigating into Validity/Nullity is an open and shut case even if the effective cohabitation lasted 20 years.

IF I understood the gist of your post, you are right about the potential for scandal, but the alternatives you present are simply unacceptable and in some sense a confusing of categories.

Nick said...

Here is what happens when you take the EO route to this situation, the following quote is from the official Russian Orthodox teaching on Divorce/Remarriage from a post I made:

In 1918, in its Decision on the Grounds for the Dissolution of the Marriage Sanctified by the Church, the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, recognised as valid, besides adultery and a new marriage of one of the party, such grounds as a spouse’s falling away from Orthodoxy, perversion, impotence which had set in before marriage or was self-inflicted, contraction of leper or syphilis, prolonged disappearance, conviction with disfranchisement, encroachment on the life or health of the spouse, love affair with a daughter in law, profiting from marriage, profiting by the spouse’s indecencies, incurable mental disease and malevolent abandonment of the spouse. At present, added to this list of the grounds for divorce are chronic alcoholism or drug-addiction and abortion without the husband’s consent.
... if a divorce is an accomplished fact, especially when spouses live separately, the restoration of the family is considered impossible and a church divorce may be given if the pastor deigns to concede the request.


See what happened here? Divorce can happen for any number of things, and divorce can be recognized as "accomplished fact" simply by the spouses living separately. This is ridiculous and is a slippery slope.

A Sinner said...

"that EO have no parallel category for Annulment,"

That's not quite true. The EO I have talked to recognize "annulment" in the sense that sometimes a true impediment is found to have been present. There is incest, of course, and what if the priest was not really a priest, etc.

It's true, the emphasize the dissolution, but they are not beyond understanding that sometimes a marriage simply didn't take place in any sense.

"so all you can have is a marriage as long as the ceremony takes place."

Not exactly. But they would say (and I highly sympathize) that the concept of a "putative marriage" for something that otherwise looked like a duck and quacked like a duck and which everyone thought was a duck all along...is mental gymnastics, and puts all marriages on "shaky" grounds of uncertainty.

"the category must be recognized as valid or the EO is in a serious bind."

Well, I've never suggested it wasn't.

"So it doesn't matter how long Bob & Anne's "marriage" lasted or how elegant the ceremony or how many kids they ended up having, the Marriage was never valid."

If the first marriage was truly the Sacrament this is true. If it's determined that it wasn't, the natural dissolution of the natural first marriage (if we assume the theory that it could still be that rather than "nothing") might make room for the second. Of course, without Church dispensation/annulment, the second marriage could not be a Sacrament until that was cleared up.

"Now any view that allows Divorce of a Sacramental Marriage is flatly against Scripture and Unanimous Consent of the Fathers. The EO know this but ignore it, and that's not right. There's no excuse to go in that direction for them."

No one is suggesting allowing divorce of a Sacramental marriage here. I'm not saying we go in that direction for them.

But, given that Catholics divorcing and remarry ("with annulment") is now MORE common than the practice of remarriage among the Orthodox...I think you're being a little hysterical. If our remarriages can be "annulments," so can theirs be equivalent. It's not that they necessarily object to so much as they idea that the first marriage was "nothing at all."

A Sinner said...

"It is just as absurd to suggest only the innocent party can remarry"

If that's the discipline of a church, that's the discipline. It's not absurd.

"it makes no sense to say the now unmarried 'guilty' person is incapable of getting married."

Well, prior MURDER of a spouse is an impediment to subsequent marriage in the Catholic tradition. It can be dispensed, of course, as could a hypothetical impediment incurred for adultery. But in itself the Church can establish whatever impediments it wants to, and I think prior infidelity would be a pretty good impediment to establish, requiring penance to have it lifted/dispensed at least.

"if adultery could cause a divorce"

No one is saying adultery can dissolve a Sacramental marriage here. It's like you didn't even read what I said.

"a long and fruitful but invalid marriage should have counted for something"

Yes, I'm suggesting it could be recognized as a natural marriage even if not a Sacrament.

"There is merit to that objection, but there is no good solution. Without the category of Annulment, you're forced to accept Polygamy."

I never said to not have the category of annulment though. The annulment would be the recognition that the first marriage was not a Sacrament.

It may, nevertheless, though...possibly have been a natural marriage under this perspective. That's the point of the "All or Nothing" title; the problems with the current Western idea that when two Christians marry it is either the Sacrament or Nothing-At-All not even a natural marriage.

But "merely" natural marriages CAN be dissolved, especially "in favor of the faith."


"This isn't the first time Catholics have thought about this, and we've all witnessed the scandal shock when Tribunals declare Nullity on a once vibrant 'marriage' that lasted 25 years and had 5 children and makes the whole Catholic position look like a farce."

It might not look like so much of a farce if all the Tribunal was saying was that the marriage WAS NOT A SACRAMENT, rather than that it didn't exist at all (not even as a natural marriage).

The first idea is reasonable enough given that the Church gets to define the Sacrament. The second idea is what makes people incredulous given that there was clearly a marriage for 25 years by all natural standards or definitions.

"Nullity is an open and shut case even if the effective cohabitation lasted 20 years."

Yes, in Defect of Form cases the fact that it wasn't the Sacrament is clear enough.

However, the whole point of this post is that just because it wasn't the Sacrament, doesn't mean it was merely "cohabitation." It may be possible, in dialogue with Eastern understanding, for the West to recognize a natural marriage in it even if not the Sacrament.

A Sinner said...

"See what happened here? Divorce can happen for any number of things, and divorce can be recognized as 'accomplished fact' simply by the spouses living separately. This is ridiculous and is a slippery slope."

I see no problem with the list of reasons as long as it is understood with the caveat that the marriage is assumed to have not been the Sacrament.

No Tribunal process is required by Faith. If the bishop chooses to recognize nullity, then it is null. If it "really" isn't in the eyes of God, at that point the responsibility will lay with the bishop and not the parties themselves (unless they were deceptive).

Once we recognize a marriage isn't the Sacrament, then we have two options: we can try to save and convalidate the natural marriage that might exist (so that it does then become the Sacrament). Or we can recognize its dissolution (especially in favor of another attempt at a Sacramental marriage).

The Orthodox list seems to be a pretty good list for when the latter course of action should be taken rather than the former.

Nick said...

Hello,

Let me try to summarize things to keep things brief:

(1) I'm not aware of anyplace where the EO have a formally stated notion of Annulment, even if they informally realize that if Bob is married to Anne then he cannot also get simultaneously married to Amanda.

(2) The issue of a marriage looking and quacking like a duck is the heart of this post, as far as I understand it. This is where it is extremely important that there is a solid basis for declaring Nullity and why I pointed out the way Annulments are handed out left and right today is extremely scandalous and contrary to tradition and the will of the Holy Father. The impression given off today is that as soon as a marriage turns sour the Tribunal is to look at whatever kinds of excuses can be made under SPECIFICALLY the 'too immature to consent to marriage' clause.

(3) The solution you propose is that other than a blatant defect of form, upon consenting the marriage is at least a natural one if the conditions for a Sacramental are not met. But the problem here is that the very consenting being given at that time is precisely for a Sacramental marriage, along with the conditions that go along with it, so the very *intention* of the bride and groom is to not consent to a natural but rather Sacramental marriage. It would be akin to a Priest intending the Sacrament of the Eucharist but some defect downgrading it to a semi-transubstantiation of not quite bread and not quite Jesus' Body. A natural marriage between Christians is a self-contradiction as it tries to be of the world for those consecrated to be apart from the world.

(4) I see no reason why the invisible-and-automatic downgrade to a natural marriage does not suffer from the same problem you're raise for the current state of things. The picture we'd see today is that EVERY TIME a Catholic marriage goes sour, then you must say the marriage never was Sacramental in the first place, even though all outward appearances made it so, and this becomes even more of an embarrassment than liberal tribunals handing out Annulments left and right.

(5) About a guilty party not being able to remarry, I agree it can only be on the disciplinary level. My point was specifically that when speaking of marriage itself, especially Sacramental Marriage itself, logically if one (even guilty) is not united to another then there is no rational grounds that this party cannot unite. I mentioned this to show why divorce based on adultery is not a good reason.

(6) You said: "I see no problem with the list of reasons as long as it is understood with the caveat that the marriage is assumed to have not been the Sacrament."
I see what you're saying, but the EO are in fact applying that list to what they consider a Sacramental marriage.

(7) You said: "Once we recognize a marriage isn't the Sacrament, then we have two options: we can try to save and convalidate the natural marriage that might exist (so that it does then become the Sacrament). Or we can recognize its dissolution (especially in favor of another attempt at a Sacramental marriage)."
I'm not sure what you are saying here by "we can try to save it". Does the Sacramental Marriage auto-downgrade when things go sour, or does it auto-downgrade at the time of the vows?

A Sinner said...

"I'm not aware of anyplace where the EO have a formally stated notion of Annulment, even if they informally realize that if Bob is married to Anne then he cannot also get simultaneously married to Amanda."

Or, for example, if two Orthodox don't marry in a church, they'll know it's not the Sacrament.

"But the problem here is that the very consenting being given at that time is precisely for a Sacramental marriage, along with the conditions that go along with it, so the very *intention* of the bride and groom is to not consent to a natural but rather Sacramental marriage."

I disagree.

It seems to me, the Sacraments "signify the reality." So, the basis of baptism is a physical washing to accomplish a spiritual washing. The basis of communion is physical eating to accomplish spiritual nutrition etc.

And the natural sign which is the basis of a Sacramental marriage...is a natural marriage.

If a priest withholds intent or doesn't use the proper Form or whatever in the eucharist, it won't be supernatural food, but it will STILL be natural food. Likewise if there is some impediment to validity in a baptism; it then won't accomplish the spiritual washing, but it will still accomplish the natural washing assumably.

Since the natural "sign" that is invoked to signify the reality in the Sacrament of Matrimony is a natural marriage, one could possibly assume that even if the supernatural reality was not effected, the natural phenomenon which was supposed to form the basis of it might still be effected.

"A natural marriage between Christians is a self-contradiction as it tries to be of the world for those consecrated to be apart from the world."

No, that's like saying that Christians can't eat anything other than the eucharist, or bathe at any point other than baptism. Obviously a Christian can confect a natural marriage with a non-Christians, so it's not like is impossible for a Christian to do so.

"invisible-and-automatic downgrade to a natural marriage"

It's not a "downgrade." A natural marriage was always going to be the symbolic the basis, the matter, for the Sacramental marriage, just like natural food is the matter for our Supernatural Eating in the Eucharist.

If the eucharist is not consecrated validly, however, we wouldn't say it "downgraded automatically" to natural food, because natural food was simply what it was all along without the Sacrament.

"then you must say the marriage never was Sacramental in the first place, even though all outward appearances made it so,"

But Sacraments are not of outward appearance. The natural marriage was what was externally "obvious." The Sacrament is a spiritual reality that (like the eucharist, like the effects of baptism) we cannot see. As such, determining that the Sacrament did not occur (without trying to deny that a natural marriage did)...would make me and others a lot less incredulous.

To me, the current situation of denying that ANYTHING happened whatsoever is like denying not only that a baptism was valid, but rather denying that any water was poured over the person AT ALL (even though everyone saw that it was).

What I propose is that we admit the water was poured over them, but say, "Yet, there was a defect in form or intent which nevertheless rendered that natural washing NOT a spiritual washing."

A Sinner said...

"I see what you're saying, but the EO are in fact applying that list to what they consider a Sacramental marriage."

The East does not make the Sacrament/sacramental distinction as strictly, however. For example, they sometimes speak loosely of monastic tonsure as a "sacrament" when in western terminology we'd call that a sacramental.

As such, if we made the "concessions" I describe here, they might be willing to say, "Okay, according the strict Western definition of 'Sacrament,' those marriages were not the Sacrament (even if it was a true natural marriage and even something like a sacramental)"

"I'm not sure what you are saying here by 'we can try to save it.' Does the Sacramental Marriage auto-downgrade when things go sour, or does it auto-downgrade at the time of the vows?"

Again, I object to the "auto-downgrade" language. The Sacrament is always accomplished THROUGH the sign of a natural marriage, just like the supernatural washing of baptism is accomplished THROUGH a a natural washing (which might still happen even when the sacrament was invalid for some other reason).

However, the invalidity of the Sacrament happens at the start. That's what an annulment means: it NEVER was the Sacrament. Once the Sacrament was validly effected, it could never downgrade or dissolve until death.

However, just because the Sacrament was invalid "the first time around"...doesn't mean convalidation isn't possible that WOULD accomplish the Sacrament. Obviously, Catholic couples who realize they had an impediment (or who married outside the Church) currently do this all the time when the impediment ceases or is dispensed.

And I'm just saying basically the same thing. In these "putative" marriages, there are two options when things go sour: try to fix the situation, deal with the impediments, and convalidate the marriage. Or, accepting that it was invalid (say, for Defect of Form), and realizing the union is probably not for the best, let the two move on, and thank Providence for preventing them all along from getting "trapped" in a valid Sacrament.

Those are the two options under the current situation. I'm just saying, perhaps we could replace this concept of "putative marriage" (which looks and quacks like one) with perhaps the idea of a true natural marriage.

Nick said...

(1) You said: >>It seems to me, the Sacraments "signify the reality." So, the basis of baptism is a physical washing to accomplish a spiritual washing. The basis of communion is physical eating to accomplish spiritual nutrition etc. And the natural sign which is the basis of a Sacramental marriage...is a natural marriage.>>

The issue here is that the washing and food are already pre-existing realities, where as marriage is not a pre-existing reality at that point. So you'd have to argue that a natural marriage would have to be effected first, prior to approaching the Altar. At that point it would be no different than pagans who marry and then enter the Church and thus make their marriage Sacramental.

I actually just looked up this point on the Catholic Encyclopedia and it pointed to the Syllabus of Errors by Bl Pius IX, two of the condemned propositions being:

66. The Sacrament of Marriage is only a something accessory to the contract and separate from it, and the sacrament itself consists in the nuptial benediction alone.

73. In force of a merely civil contract there may exist between Christians a real marriage, and it is false to say either that the marriage contract between Christians is always a sacrament, or that there is no contract if the sacrament be excluded.


So the Church has condemned the very idea that a natural marriage can be entered into and exist between Christians. On this point I'd like a more concrete answer here than just because the Church says so. I'm interested in why.


You said:>>Since the natural "sign" that is invoked to signify the reality in the Sacrament of Matrimony is a natural marriage, one could possibly assume that even if the supernatural reality was not effected, the natural phenomenon which was supposed to form the basis of it might still be effected.>>

I don't think it is accurate to claim a natural sign is invoked here since Marriage (in any sense) is not a present reality at that time. It would have to be similar to Holy Orders where no pre-existing natural ordination sign exists.


You said: >>If the eucharist is not consecrated validly, however, we wouldn't say it "downgraded automatically" to natural food, because natural food was simply what it was all along without the Sacrament.>>

But we would say nothing AT ALL happened at the non-valid consecreation of bread; the bread remained what it was. Since there is no pre-existing Marriage then it cannot remain what it was. The couple remains distinct individuals. So what would have to happen is either (a) the Christian couple somehow intentionally enter into a natural marriage beforehand, or (b) at the time of the Sacramental vows at the Altar something did happen, a Marriage took place, but it 'fell short' somehow and only resulted in a natural Marriage.

Nick said...

You said: >>To me, the current situation of denying that ANYTHING happened whatsoever is like denying not only that a baptism was valid, but rather denying that any water was poured over the person AT ALL (even though everyone saw that it was).>>

But you're not being careful when you frame it this way. Three things are required for validity, form, matter, and intent; you already know that. So we cannot just assume something happened just because they went through the motions and had it recorded in the newspaper. If there was a genuine defect, then we have to say NOTHING happened aside from a nice show. Even a natural marriage can be invalid if it has defects, so you would have to make a case that a given defect in Sacramental form would not be an invalidating defect for natural form. I think though that if you try to make such an argument it will come down to a defect in Intention, which is the heart of the Annulment scandal.


You said:>>Those are the two options under the current situation. I'm just saying, perhaps we could replace this concept of "putative marriage" (which looks and quacks like one) with perhaps the idea of a true natural marriage.>>

But my question is how does this in any way take away from the scandal of Catholics 'divorcing'? How does what you propose not reduce down into every time a Catholic Marriage goes sour the Tribunal's "solution" is declare it a natural marriage and get divorced from there? I see the criticism and mockery even worse then now, because the Church will extolling the indissolubility of (Sacramental) Marriage while simultaneously letting whoever wants to divorce get divorced by simply finding an excuse to declare the marriage to be merely natural. Please address this if you're too tired to address anything else.

A Sinner said...

"The issue here is that the washing and food are already pre-existing realities, where as marriage is not a pre-existing reality at that point."

No. The washing in baptism is NOT a "pre-existing reality." It happens at the SAME moment as the baptism. And in the eucharist, if we speak of the "eating" rather than the "food"...the natural eating only happens at the exact same moment as the spiritual eating, and it is in fact the one which accomplishes the other. The contraction of the natural marriage would be the external sign effecting, at the same moment, the Sacrament of Matrimony.

"it pointed to the Syllabus of Errors by Bl Pius IX"

Well, the Syllabus is known to be problematic in general after Vatican II. Suffice it to say, it is not considered dogmatic and largely seems to deal with historically contingent political concerns.

"The Sacrament of Marriage is only a something accessory to the contract and separate from it"

I'm not saying that, though. When the Sacrament DOES exist, it is not at all "separate from" the natural marriage, anymore than the spiritual eating is separate from the natural eating when we receive communion.

"and the sacrament itself consists in the nuptial benediction alone."

I'm certainly not saying that! It's not the nuptial blessing which is the Sacrament, the Sacrament is the marriage, just like baptism IS the washing and communion IS the eating.

"In force of a merely civil contract there may exist between Christians a real marriage and it is false to say either that the marriage contract between Christians is always a sacrament, or that there is no contract if the sacrament be excluded."

I'll admit this is not the traditional Western view, so it's not surprising Pius mentioned it in his syllabus (which also had screeds against free speech and stuff like that).

I even admitted Ott considers this dogma. But is it? I don't know.

What I'm saying is THIS is what needs to be re-examined re: relations with the East. I suspect we might find that our understanding is merely a canonical situation, not a "de fide" reality.

"since Marriage (in any sense) is not a present reality at that time."

Like I said above with communion and baptism, the natural sign (eating, washing) happens cotemperously with the Sacrament, because the natural sign is what effects it.

Now, a natural marriage between a man and woman is simply a declaration of lifelong commitment to mutual rights over each other's bodies. If two Christians do this AND fulfill all the other requirements of the Church, then this marriage is a Sacrament. But if all that's missing is the Church elements, but not the natural elements, I don't see why that would invalidate even the natural marriage.

A Sinner said...

"Three things are required for validity, form, matter, and intent; you already know that. So we cannot just assume something happened just because they went through the motions and had it recorded in the newspaper."

Three things are required for the validity of a SACRAMENT.

They are not required for the existence of the "matter."

If someone has water poured over them, we can't know with the certainty of faith that it was the Sacrament of Baptism, because maybe form or intent was lacking.

But we can definitely know that, at least, the natural washing occurred.

Likewise, if a couple marries, it's pretty obvious if they've married on the natural level. Something else may be invalidating the Sacrament, but the natural sign that would have accomplished it is pretty obvious, and might still occur even if the Sacrament doesn't (just like the washing might still occur even if the baptism didn't).

"If there was a genuine defect, then we have to say NOTHING happened aside from a nice show."

That is the traditional Western opinion.

The East finds this absurd, and I am questioning it here. That's the whole point of this post: that the "all or nothing" idea needs to be re-examined re: Christian marriages.

"Even a natural marriage can be invalid if it has defects, so you would have to make a case that a given defect in Sacramental form would not be an invalidating defect for natural form."

True enough. Incest, same-sex, lack of any consent, prior undissolved marriage...would all invalidate even a natural marriage.

However, one assumes, various canonical impediments like lack of witnesses or lack of a priest...would not. They'd invalidate the Sacrament, but they are not intrinsic to the natural form.

It's interesting, in canon law, that in the section about the Pauline privilege, canon law even speaks of the situation of a pagan who was polygamous and had multiple spouses before becoming Christian. It calls them all "wives" and makes no effort to deny that they really were, or that only the first one was anything but a concubine. So sometimes even the Vatican doesn't insist on the linguistic precision conservative lay Catholic inquisitors do.

A Sinner said...

"But my question is how does this in any way take away from the scandal of Catholics 'divorcing'?"

It's not necessarily designed to address that. Obviously, Catholics have become too much like The World. We should expect Catholic divorces/annulments to be rare, and would hope that even in cases where there was an impediment to the Sacrament, they try to salvage things and convalidate rather than simply divorcing.

HOWEVER. I would say that one way it addresses the scandal is through the "penance" concept. Under the "nothing happened! It was just a good show!" annulment concept, we really can't even speak of objective adultery, and the person is free to remarry in a celebratory manner because, heck, "nothing happened" the first time, so why not?

Recognizing that there was at least a natural marriage, however, forces us to recognize that something happened, something bad, something tragic, something the result of human sinfulness. A real relationship, a real marriage (even if not the Sacrament) was destroyed. And this "penitential" aspect is emphasized in Orthodox remarriages.

In fact, I'd even support an "impediment of adultery" as I said to force at least the guilty party in adultery cases...to do real substantial penance before remarrying. Remarriage, even after annulment, should not be a "scott-free" or "get out of jail free" sort of situation. Recognizing it wasn't the Sacrament shouldn't be taken as meaning "So...everything is now fine and dandy again!!"

It is this very attitude, caused by the "nothing happened!" stance, which causes the Orthodox to think it's absurd that we think THEY'RE the "licentious" ones in their remarriages, whereas really it is the Catholic "nothing happened!" idea which "let's people off the hook" in such situations.

"How does what you propose not reduce down into every time a Catholic Marriage goes sour the Tribunal's 'solution' is declare it a natural marriage and get divorced from there"

Well, most marriages seeking an annulment ARE annulled now anyway. So the rate of annulments being granted (and whether it accurately reflects the situation or not) is a totally separate question. My hypothetical doesn't touch THAT issue at all (which does need to be dealt with).

What it does do, however, is add a little realism regarding what transpired rather than this sense of delusional "nothing happened at all!" blank-slate denial.

"I see the criticism and mockery even worse then now, because the Church will extolling the indissolubility of (Sacramental) Marriage while simultaneously letting whoever wants to divorce get divorced by simply finding an excuse to declare the marriage to be merely natural."

Ummm...it ALREADY is in that situation, if you replace "merely natural" with "merely putative."

My hypothetical doesn't effect the problem of tribunals handing out annulments like candy one way or another. Finding a marriage "putative" is just as easy as finding it "natural."

Nick said...

(1) I should have said the water rather than the washing is a pre-existing reality. The point is that the comparison to bread and water doesn't seem to work since the bread and water are then combined with something (here a formula and ritual) as these Sacraments take place. Since there is no natural marriage existing, then there is nothing to combine with when the Sacrament takes place, similar to Holy Orders. When the couple says "I do," how are you distinguishing the effecting of the Sacrament with the effecting of natural marriage? How do you know a Sacramental rather than a merely natural Marriage took place?

(2) I deny the Syllabus (properly understood) is problematic, but that's for a different time.

(3) The problem with the EO is a de fide reality in so far as divorce among Christians is spoken of within EO without even the distinction you're trying to make. And your thesis, as I see it, ultimately reduces down to saying there is no such thing as an indissoluble marriage, since there's ultimately an escape clause. Our Lord's prohibitions against hold no force. Either Our Lord really came to condemn and stop divorce in order to signify permanence and perseverance or He really didn't mind if Christians divorced, so long as they did Penance. What the EO are saying, and you seem to be suggesting, is that any notion of Permanance can be swept under the rug as long as Penance is emphasized.

(4) You said: >>But if all that's missing is the Church elements, but not the natural elements, I don't see why that would invalidate even the natural marriage.>>

I'm saying the Church elements and natural elements largely overlap such that I don't see how you can make a definitive distinction of which type of Marriage took place at the Catholic Altar. The two most common grounds for declaring Nullity are (a) getting married in an unapproved fashion and (b) a lack of sufficient mental capability to make such a big decision. Yet these two elements apply just as much to the Sacrament as it does to the natural. In a natural marriage each couple is not free to get married however they want, it must be done in some formalized manner within the culture, and in natural marriage the couples need a certain level of consent. So if a Catholic couple is standing at the Altar, fulfills all the Church AND natural elements EXCEPT proper consent, then I see no reason why improper consent prevents the Sacrament but validates the natural marriage.

(5) You said: >>But we can definitely know that, at least, the natural washing occurred.>>

But it isn't a natural washing, it's a washing within a religious context, just as the wedding ceremony is in a religious context and cannot be a natural ceremony. Further, you can just as easily point to the NATURAL element of a wedding ceremony and say a natural ceremony took place, but that says nothing definitive about whether even a natural marriage took place.

(6) You said: >>Something else may be invalidating the Sacrament, but the natural sign that would have accomplished it is pretty obvious, and might still occur even if the Sacrament doesn't>>

I don't think a good case can be made of something that invalidates the Sacrament but allows the natural marriage to be valid.

Nick said...

(7) You said: >>That is the traditional Western opinion. The East finds this absurd, and I am questioning it here.>>

The traditional Western opinion is that if something invalidates it invalidates, be it natural or Sacramental. That the East finds it absurd shows a deficiency on their end. And I don't think the East would ever buy into the notion that two Christians at the Altar could somehow effect a natural marriage while something invalidates the Sacramental. That view I don't think would ever fly in their mind, and thus Christian divorce, the severing of a Sacramental Marriage, will remain their method. I don't see how that allows Catholics or EO to get closer.

(8) You said: >>However, one assumes, various canonical impediments like lack of witnesses or lack of a priest...would not. They'd invalidate the Sacrament, but they are not intrinsic to the natural form.>>

Two things here: (a) even the natural form must follow some structure, even if its purely culturally conditioned, since marriage is also a public institution, and (b) it is absurd to suggest a Catholic bound by Christ's law and New Covenant can somehow circumvent His methods for doing things, meaning for a Catholic there would be no such thing as purely natural elements as far as something like form is concerned (which would be a form of the Liberal heresy of privatizing one's faith). The result would be just what you were trying to avoid and the Church condemns, namely separating the Sacrament from the Vows. Natural marriage cannot be abstracted from the cultural norms and context, as even the State can set natural parameters.

(9) You said: >>It's not necessarily designed to address that.>>

That's the impression I got this whole time: it's a scandal to suggest that nothing happened so it's better to go with natural divorce. If Annulments were rare, then I think your overall theme would lose a lot of steam, especially in so far as the EO are concerned. If Annulment was a rarity, people would realize there had to be dang good basis for saying the marriage didn't happen, and with rarity comes no raised eyebrows from the EO and Protestants.

(10) You said: >>I would say that one way it addresses the scandal is through the "penance" concept. Under the "nothing happened! It was just a good show!" annulment concept, we really can't even speak of objective adultery, and the person is free to remarry in a celebratory manner because, heck, "nothing happened" the first time, so why not?>>

Adultery is NOT taking place, that's a problematic theme I see peppered throughout your comments. If a husband doesn't come home on Monday and the wife assumes he died and she gets married at the Altar on Tuesday to a new man and they consummate until Wednesday when the original husband comes home that afternoon, then that wasn't adultery nor fornication. The couple acted in good faith. Just as it isn't the sin of impersonating a priest if someone thinks themself validly ordained but a sufficient ground was shown that he wasn't ordained. Now if a couple got married on their own terms and conditions, made sarcastic vows, and then slept together, that would be fornication. If a tribunal declares a marriage invalid but the couple continues to share the bed, that would be fornication.

The whole reason why marriage is presumed valid unless shown otherwise is because it isn't a complex Sacrament, it has to be basic enough for the average uneducated 14 year old from the jungle to be capable of passing the requirements.

Nick said...

3 of 3



(11) You said: >>Recognizing that there was at least a natural marriage, however, forces us to recognize that something happened, something bad, something tragic, something the result of human sinfulness.>>

No, that misses the whole point behind Annulment. An Annulment does not mean something sinful happened. If something sinful happens, then the person had sufficient knowledge and acted upon it, thus sinning. Your statement only works if you're assuming Annulment is 'Catholic back-door divorce'.

(12) You said: "A real relationship, a real marriage (even if not the Sacrament) was destroyed. And this penitential aspect is emphasized in Orthodox remarriages."

No, that's totally confusing categories. If a couple suffers a mental disorder and commits to marriage and lives together, sure there is a relationship, but not a marriage, so a marriage isn't "destroyed" nor is there anything "penitential" about declaring it Null.


(14) You said: >>Remarriage, even after annulment, should not be a "scott-free" or "get out of jail free" sort of situation.>>

This is totally off base. You're confusing abuse of the Annulment process, using it as a back door to get out of a bad marriage, with genuine reasons for considering natural AND Sacramental marriages to have a DEFECT and thus invalidity. If two young children are forced into a marriage, they are not getting of "scott-free" nor are they doing anything shameful to have it Annulled. An Annulment is supposed to be a morally NEUTRAL litmus test for validity, it is not a "get out of jail" free card for when you find yourself (legitimately) in jail.

(15) You said: >>It is this very attitude, caused by the "nothing happened!" stance, which causes the Orthodox to think it's absurd that we think THEY'RE the "licentious" ones in their remarriages, whereas really it is the Catholic "nothing happened!" idea which "let's people off the hook" in such situations.>>

This comment is totally self-refuting though, for rampant abuse in so far as declaring Nullity is only made worse by trying to use the excuse of "well to get out of this marriage lets just say only a natural marriage happened". Heck, why would the adulterous Christian husband worry about Penance after the divorce, since he can still go off and enter into a natural marriage and ignore the Church impediments.

(16) You said: >>What it does do, however, is add a little realism regarding what transpired rather than this sense of delusional "nothing happened at all!" blank-slate denial.>>

If NOTHING happened even on the natural level then nothing happened. What your logic forces is that even if there is defect in natural elements, so long as the couple lives together in a sexual relationship we should consider it valid. You might as well say all couples who are cohabiting are in a real sense married, so they should all get divorced and do penance (if Catholic) when they break up.

A Sinner said...

"the bread and water are then combined with something (here a formula and ritual) as these Sacraments take place."

Right, it is only an analogy I was making. Obviously, as you point out, even a natural marriage has its own matter and form already, so nothing additional will be combined except the fact of the party's baptism and their getting married according to the requirements of the Church.

The Sacrament is a subset of marriages, with a "higher standard" as it were. But I don't see why, if that higher standard isn't met, the lower standard might not still be.

"How do you know a Sacramental rather than a merely natural Marriage took place?"

If it took place according to the requirements of the Church and between two baptized parties, it was the Sacrament.

"The problem with the EO is a de fide reality in so far as divorce among Christians is spoken of within EO without even the distinction you're trying to make."

Right, that's what this solution seeks to rectify.

"And your thesis, as I see it, ultimately reduces down to saying there is no such thing as an indissoluble marriage, since there's ultimately an escape clause."

I don't see how this is any more true for my thesis than for the "putative marriage" thesis. All I'm doing is swapping the concept "natural marriage" for "putative marriage."

"Either Our Lord really came to condemn and stop divorce in order to signify permanence and perseverance or He really didn't mind if Christians divorced, so long as they did Penance."

And yet, natural marriages of Christians (say, where one party is unbaptized) ARE dissolvable and dissolved frequently.

"What the EO are saying, and you seem to be suggesting, is that any notion of Permanance can be swept under the rug as long as Penance is emphasized."

And what the Catholic practice re: Annulments is saying, is that permanence can bet swept under the rug even WITHOUT penance.

Again, I don't know why you see my thesis as changing anything regarding attitudes towards marriage on our end. All I'm doing is swapping the concept "putative marriage" with "natural marriage."

"I'm saying the Church elements and natural elements largely overlap such that I don't see how you can make a definitive distinction of which type of Marriage took place at the Catholic Altar."

It didn't necessarily take place at the Catholic altar. For example, what if two Catholics marry outside the Church without dispensation?

Currently, the West would say, "Nothing at all happened!" I'm saying, maybe a natural marriage still occurred rather than just a "putative" one.

This might also open the door for simplifying things with the Protestants. Currently, the Church doesn't hold them to the canonical requirements of the Church, so their marriages are assumed Sacramental.

Under my proposal, we could perhaps stop recognizing Protestant marriages as the Sacrament from that point forward (this would require a canonical change), under the assumption that they'd still be natural marriages.

A Sinner said...

"Yet these two elements apply just as much to the Sacrament as it does to the natural."

No, the "fashion" element does NOT apply to the natural as it does to the Sacrament.

Again, consider two Catholics marrying outside the Church. I understand why this wouldn't be the Sacrament. I don't understand why it wouldn't still be a natural marriage.

As for consent, I understand what you're saying. It may be that lack of consent invalidating the Sacrament would also be of the sort that invalidates the natural. Then again, maybe the "standard" is set higher for the Sacrament by canon law, such that the "level" of mental commitment wouldn't be enough for the Sacrament but still might be enough for the natural marriage. I don't know. This is one of those things the Vatican would have to investigate in any reformulation here.

"But it isn't a natural washing, it's a washing within a religious context"

Right, but even if it's not a baptism...water still flowed over the head.

Even if it wasn't communion, you still ate something that assumably provides some natural nutrition to your body, etc.

"I don't think a good case can be made of something that invalidates the Sacrament but allows the natural marriage to be valid."

Again, it could be as simple as marrying outside the Church.

"The traditional Western opinion is that if something invalidates it invalidates, be it natural or Sacramental. That the East finds it absurd shows a deficiency on their end."

No. I think many people wonder why, if two Catholics marry outside the Church, that invalidates even a natural marriage. Obviously it's not the Sacrament, but what is missing that would prevent it from being a natural marriage?

"That view I don't think would ever fly in their mind"

Well, you can't know what would be achieved in ecumenical "negotiations." But, I'd say, it doesn't even really have to "fly" in their minds as long as they accept it flies in ours. Like I said, they don't make the Sacrament/sacramental distinction so strictly, so they might be willing to say, "Well, this doesn't change how we think or speak of it, but if you want to say the first marriage wasn't The Sacrament in your stricter Western sense, fine, as long you admit it was for us still a sacrament in our looser definition [ie, what the West calls a sacramental]"

"even the natural form must follow some structure, even if its purely culturally conditioned, since marriage is also a public institution"

Yes and no. Exchange of consent is generally considered enough, and even between Christians "secret" marriages (ie, in the presence of no one) were at one time recognized. So it seems the requirements for a natural marriage are rather minimal.

"it is absurd to suggest a Catholic bound by Christ's law and New Covenant can somehow circumvent His methods for doing things"

I'm not saying it wouldn't be sinful to marry outside the Church. It would be, and there would be an obligation to convalidate as soon as possible. But does that mean no natural marriage even took place at all? I don't know, I think it's debatable.

A Sinner said...

"If Annulments were rare, then I think your overall theme would lose a lot of steam, especially in so far as the EO are concerned. If Annulment was a rarity, people would realize there had to be dang good basis for saying the marriage didn't happen, and with rarity comes no raised eyebrows from the EO and Protestants."

That doesn't really help the EO, though.

My point here is to reconcile with them in a manner that doesn't just involve saying "You're wrong on this point and must change!" The Pope has spoken of dealing with things in this manner too, I'm just offering a concrete theoretical framework for how it could be done, how the two sides could "both be right" with only minor concessions from each not touching on the substance of either's praxis.

"Adultery is NOT taking place, that's a problematic theme I see peppered throughout your comments. If a husband doesn't come home on Monday and the wife assumes he died and she gets married at the Altar on Tuesday to a new man and they consummate until Wednesday when the original husband comes home that afternoon, then that wasn't adultery nor fornication. The couple acted in good faith."

There may not be subjective culpability, but it remains an objectively problematic act of the sort one could not do on purpose.

"Just as it isn't the sin of impersonating a priest if someone thinks themself validly ordained but a sufficient ground was shown that he wasn't ordained."

Right. But if this person then desecrated the "eucharist" they "consecrated"...it would not be objective sacrilege. They might be guilty of the sin subjectively, because they THOUGHT they were doing it. But since the whole consecration was invalid, there would have been no real desecration (which might have real effects regarding whether a church needed to be reconsecrated, etc, which can happen in the case of objective sacrilege.)

"If a tribunal declares a marriage invalid but the couple continues to share the bed, that would be fornication."

Okay. So a Catholic couple who knows they aren't supposed to marry outside the Church gets married by a justice of the peace. You're telling me that they are then just fornicating, and that if one of them cheats it isn't adultery.

I think this is the view most people raise their eyebrows at. Maybe this isn't the Sacrament, but if it looks and quacks like a marriage, calling an act of cheating on it (whatever "it" is) not adultery...strikes most people as disingenuous.

A Sinner said...

"No, that misses the whole point behind Annulment. An Annulment does not mean something sinful happened. If something sinful happens, then the person had sufficient knowledge and acted upon it, thus sinning. Your statement only works if you're assuming Annulment is 'Catholic back-door divorce'."

No, something bad still happened. THIS is the delusion this post is trying to address.

Obviously, for some reason, the marriage broke down. This is the result of sin.

That the marriage wasn't the Sacrament doesn't effect this. Even if it is just a "putative" marriage rather than a natural marriage it DOESN'T effect this fact.

Because as I've pointed out: even if there is nullity, there are still two routes that could be taken: the route of rectifying the situation and convalidating, or the route of "moving on" to new attempts at marriage with new people.

The fact that the latter is chosen rather than the former is a tragedy, a result of human sinfulness, and deserves a spirit of penance.

"If two young children are forced into a marriage, they are not getting of 'scott-free' nor are they doing anything shameful to have it Annulled."

I'm not saying there is always personal culpability. I have to presume this marriage never "quacked like a duck" in the first place. In this case it sounds like there would have been no Sacrament OR natural marriage, since children can't consent to either.

"well to get out of this marriage lets just say only a natural marriage happened"

Again, I don't see why this is ANY worse than saying "only a 'putative' marriage happened." They are functionally equivalent in this regard.

"Heck, why would the adulterous Christian husband worry about Penance after the divorce, since he can still go off and enter into a natural marriage and ignore the Church impediments."

Well, it would be a sin to do so, for one.

"If NOTHING happened even on the natural level then nothing happened. What your logic forces is that even if there is defect in natural elements, so long as the couple lives together in a sexual relationship we should consider it valid."

No, there still might be cases where NEITHER a natural NOR a Sacramental marriage took place.

But I'm saying there may be SOME cases where the latter does not take place but the former still does.

Nick said...

>>I don't see how this is any more true for my thesis than for the "putative marriage" thesis. All I'm doing is swapping the concept "natural marriage" for "putative marriage.">>

Because in what you're espousing, if a Christian couple wants to divorce, they can. The current system can at least find the Sacramental Marriage valid and thus binding forever. Divorce doesn't happen between Christians.

>>And yet, natural marriages of Christians (say, where one party is unbaptized) ARE dissolvable and dissolved frequently.>>

Only under certain conditions, i.e. Pauline Privilege, including the Christian party not being able to initiate the divorce by not wanting to live with a Christian. This is still a pretty rigid standard and doesn't reflect the fullness of the Sacrament.


>>And what the Catholic practice re: Annulments is saying, is that permanence can bet swept under the rug even WITHOUT penance.>>

Penance is only for sin. An Annulment doesn't necessitate sinful motives nor is it intrinsically bad (if not evil) where as divorce is intrinsically bad (if not evil).


>>It didn't necessarily take place at the Catholic altar. For example, what if two Catholics marry outside the Church without dispensation?>>

Yes, but I'd say a good number would be taking place at the Catholic Altar.
As to your example, if two Catholics marry outside the Church, reason shows a person isn't free to effect marriage however they chose, for that would radically individual marriage such that marriage and divorce could be taking place multiple times throughout the week, even every time someone got a new girlfriend. Thus one is no more free to disregard his own church affiliation's standards as he is free to disregard cultural standards - remember that Natural Marriage is not an abstraction but tied to societal norms. God's Divinely revealed laws are just as true as God's Naturally revealed ones, so it's absurd to say you're free to disregard one set in favor of the other, particularly the higher in favor of the lower.


>>No, the "fashion" element does NOT apply to the natural as it does to the Sacrament.>>

Natural Marriage has to be somewhat governed by society; people are not free to engage in marriage as they please as if Form was absolutely irrelevant. In fact, abstracting Natural Marriage so that it is independent of any Form, it could be said a marriage happens as soon as a couple fall in love, even have sex, and even eliminate the category of fornication all together since it would become a de facto consummation of marriage. Natural Marriage abstracted could take place without regard to age, bloodline, and even be done over texting. The absurdities could be multiplied if it's said Natural Marriage requires no Form.

Nick said...

>>Okay. So a Catholic couple who knows they aren't supposed to marry outside the Church gets married by a justice of the peace. You're telling me that they are then just fornicating, and that if one of them cheats it isn't adultery.>>

Yes. Why not? Why avoid getting married properly unless one is more interested in other motives like money or sex or wanting to bend the rules to suit their needs? The effect is making marriage a personal preference rather than a part of unchangeable Natural Law. If that seems unfair to you, then what is stopping a boyfriend and girlfriend (both unbaptized) from declaring their true love at prom and having sex that night and it not counting towards a marriage?


>>I think this is the view most people raise their eyebrows at. Maybe this isn't the Sacrament, but if it looks and quacks like a marriage, calling an act of cheating on it (whatever "it" is) not adultery...strikes most people as disingenuous.>>

It should only strike someone as weird if they're not aware that a Sacrament can be invalid. And it should only strike them as scandalous if it is a regular occurrence


>>No, something bad still happened. THIS is the delusion this post is trying to address.>>

Something tragic/bad happened, but that's not the same as saying something sinful happened. Unless something sinful happened, which requires the agent to know better, there can be no Penance.

>>Obviously, for some reason, the marriage broke down. This is the result of sin.>>

A marriage "breaking down" isn't a ground for Annulment.


Rather than repeating ourselves, I think the two questions/issues I need clarified in my own head are:

(1) What are the requirements for a valid natural marriage, specifically in regards to Form (e.g. some public act, some civil rules and regulations, some cultural ceremony)?

(2) What are the 'mechanics' behind what makes a Sacramental Marriage a Sacramental rather than Natural. In both the couple is supposed to engage in some solemn form of "I do" as the heart of the Marriage. So it would seem as if the indelible mark of Baptism creates a sort of glue that hardens the "I do" so that it's permanent and thus signifies Christ's marriage to the Church. This would explain why it would be impossible to say a purely natural "I do".

A Sinner said...

"Because in what you're espousing, if a Christian couple wants to divorce, they can."

No. Only if it is determined that they did not contract the Sacrament. Which is exactly how it works now!

The only difference is that we'd speak of a natural marriage being dissolved rather than a "putative" marriage with a civil divorce "but in reality, simply nothing happened at all."

"The current system can at least find the Sacramental Marriage valid and thus binding forever."

My system could find this too! I don't see why you think it wouldn't. My thesis doesn't touch on THIS aspect of it at all.

"Divorce doesn't happen between Christians."

Except something that looks and quacks like a divorce (and which even includes civil divorce) does, through the mental gymnastics of saying, "But, really, nothing at all happened."

This doesn't convince the world we are different from them, it just convinces the world we formulate a desired outcome and then frame things so that "by definition" they fit that outcome, even though there is no practical difference.

"An Annulment doesn't necessitate sinful motives nor is it intrinsically bad (if not evil) where as divorce is intrinsically bad (if not evil)."

An annulment may be of the sort (like two people forced to marry, children, incest, etc) where even the natural marriage is invalidated. Annulling this may even be morally necessary, fair enough.

Annulments, however, where everything was there that would have been necessary for a natural marriage (if they weren't Christian) and where they and everybody else considered them married for years (until, "Surprise! Turns out it was nothing!") represent the breakdown of a relationship if the choice is made to "move on" rather than fix things and convalidate. This is a situation requiring, at the very least, a penitential spirit.

"Yes, but I'd say a good number would be taking place at the Catholic Altar."

I don't know. More and more lapsed Catholics marry outside the Church. It used to be a formal act of apostasy could excuse you from the Catholic requirements for Form, but not everyone formally apostasizes and recently that rule was changed anyway.

These marriages of lapsed Catholics outside the Church thus cannot be considered the Sacrament under current rules. And I think it would be stupid to change the rules so that such people were essentially treated like Protestants and dispensed from canonical form so that their marriages WERE Sacraments (why "trap" people in something they don't even believe in at the time?)

At the same time, I'm hesitant to say these marriages of lapsed Catholics before, say, a justice of the peace...are then "nothing at all," when they really do intend to contract a marriage, and have no apparent natural impediments to doing so. I don't see why this wouldn't still be a natural marriage other than the idea that for Christians marriage is "all or nothing."

"reason shows a person isn't free to effect marriage however they chose"

Well, effecting marriage, as I said, actually is rather free (for non-Christians at least, and even Christians at one point).

The real question is more along the lines of what is sufficient to constitute a true divorce or dissolution. That may be more socially regulated/limited.

A Sinner said...

"Thus one is no more free to disregard his own church affiliation's standards as he is free to disregard cultural standards - remember that Natural Marriage is not an abstraction but tied to societal norms."

Not exactly. A (non-Christian) man and a woman who are not currently married (and who aren't impotent, etc) are free to do so by exchanging consent with each other. The Church does not believe "society" or the mere civil law can stop this. Something like age may psychological affect whether consent can be given, but otherwise it's possible.

"God's Divinely revealed laws are just as true as God's Naturally revealed ones, so it's absurd to say you're free to disregard one set in favor of the other, particularly the higher in favor of the lower."

This isn't about saying anyone is free to disregard laws. Catholics deliberately marrying outside the Church would still be a sin. But that's a different question from whether the potential natural marriage would be invalidated.

"it could be said a marriage happens as soon as a couple fall in love, even have sex, and even eliminate the category of fornication all together since it would become a de facto consummation of marriage."

No, there has to be a mutual exchange of consent to marry, which does always imply permanence of exclusivity at its beginning even if it later breaks down. But a marriage imagined as temporary from the start would not be valid even naturally.

"Natural Marriage abstracted could take place without regard to age, bloodline, and even be done over texting."

I never said there is no form. But generally it is not as socially contingent as you're making it out to be.

"Why avoid getting married properly unless one is more interested in other motives like money or sex or wanting to bend the rules to suit their needs?"

Maybe because neither has been a practicing Catholic for some time and simply has no interest or notion of having a Catholic wedding. Why would non-believers bother to go through pre-cana and stuff just because their parents had them baptized as infants?

"what is stopping a boyfriend and girlfriend (both unbaptized) from declaring their true love at prom and having sex that night and it not counting towards a marriage?"

Under purely natural law, it could be, if by "declaring their true love" you mean that they exchange consent (assuming they are psychologically capable) to marriage, to a life of exclusivity with each other.

This wouldn't be a valid civil marriage, but as far as I understand it could well be a natural marriage (even if society would later approve its dissolution no-questions-asked). This is sort of a "Romeo and Juliet" situation, if they weren't Christian.

A Sinner said...

"It should only strike someone as weird if they're not aware that a Sacrament can be invalid."

Again, though, this thesis doesn't question that the Sacrament could be invalid, it questions whether that means there was "no marriage at all of any sort whatsoever."

Because generally society IS recognizing such unions as marriages by social/natural standards, even if they have no authority to speak regarding the Sacrament.

"What are the requirements for a valid natural marriage, specifically in regards to Form (e.g. some public act, some civil rules and regulations, some cultural ceremony)?"

I'm pretty sure I've read in Catholic sources that, all other things being equal, a natural marriage between two unbaptized parties is effected merely by the exchange of consent to, as Catholic Encyclopedia puts it, "mutual rights of sexual intercourse, life in common, and an enduring union."

For example, look at the New Advent article on the contract of Betrothal: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02537c.htm

Now, it speaks mainly of betrothal between Christians, but the important point remains the same: betrothal differs from marriage, essentially, only in that betrothal is a promise of future marriage, whereas marriage refers to the present moment onward.

However, betrothal is able to be contracted between two parties simply by exchanging mutual consent.

So, though the Church adds other requirements for Sacramental marriage, it would seem that natural marriage in itself can be contracted (like betrothal) simply by an agreement between two capable parties.

"it would seem as if the indelible mark of Baptism creates a sort of glue that hardens the "I do" so that it's permanent and thus signifies Christ's marriage to the Church. This would explain why it would be impossible to say a purely natural 'I do'."

You could be right. Certainly this conclusion has long been the teaching in the West. And I'm not saying it's absolutely wrong. It could be dogmatic, and if so I accept it. I am not arguing from a place of absolute conviction here so much as a devil's advocate.

However, given Eastern practice and what even the current Pope has said about ecumenism and recognizing Eastern theology as non-heretical (it is certainly not realistic to expect them to simply renounce their practice and teaching here and say, "You were right, we were wrong"...that's just not going to happen) it seems to me that this is something that does need to be investigated further by the Vatican's theologians, and that discovering that the "all or nothing" idea was a Western canonical invention rather than doctrinal, and that Christians can be in marriages (even with each other) that don't reach the level of the Sacrament but nevertheless are still the natural contract...would be a potentially promising path towards reconciling our position with that of the East.

It would involve each of us making a minor concession: they would admit that their dissolved marriage were not supposed to be the Sacrament in the strict Western sense of "Sacrament," that an implicit annulment by the bishop was involved. And we would admit that nevertheless it wasn't (necessarily) as if "nothing" had happened in the first case, but possibly a true natural (although not Sacramental, in our strict western sense) marriage had truly broken down and was being dissolved "in favor of the Faith" as it were.

Robert said...

Since part of what both natural and sacramental marriages do is provide a non-sinful outlet for sex, perhaps we could look at this debate in that way. Under the current canonical system, two lapsed catholics who get married by a justice of the peace will sin in EVERY sexual encounter they committ AFTER the ceremony. Whereas in a similar situation two non-baptized persons would not (necessarily) sin in their sexual encounters with each other.

This situation even has difficulties ad intra for Latin Catholics and their lapsed peers. Re-admitting two formerly lapsed Catholics, who were civilly married, would be made more difficult when the pastor says, “Oh, by the way I know you've been committed to each other for X number of years and raised X kids... but each and every sexual encounter you had was at least venially sinful, so you have to repent of all of it.”

A Sinner's framework for marriage would solve these issues. Lapsed Catholics would contract merely natural marriages and when reconciled with the Church they would need only to repent of the “getting married outside of the Church” and not every sexual encounter they had while (naturally) married.

Picard said...

I know, it is not the point the Sinner pointed to (and it was discussed above, I realize) - but this notwithstanding I would also like to stree that a main problem is the inflationary granting of annulments.

That´s horrible. A "catholic divorce". Espec. in the from the 70ies to the 90ies and esp. in the US we had this kind of "catholic-easy-divorce".

It was an abuse of power but also was and still is the problem of some weak cc. in the new Code.

Archbif. Lef. critisized it sharply. And the sspx then put up their own annulment-"courts".

When I first heard about I was troubled and thought that this were really kind of schismatic spirit.

But as I investigated deeper I found it more than justified and got for contrary more and more troubled about/re the "cheap&easy get-your-catholic-divorce praxis of granting annulments, esp. in the US (and Germany). This is the scandal.

But well, Sinner wanted to discuss some other aspect, I know. But there is of course some relation here.