Enter your email address to receive updates by email:

subscribe in a reader like my facebook page follow me on twitter Image Map
Podcast Message Line: 512-222-3389
Logos Catholic Bible Software

« Genesis One Redux | Main | A Day Of Penance »

January 19, 2007



From what you posted, it is not clear whether all is well. It says they're not practicing Catholics. If they are lapsed but not formally defected Catholics, then isn't there still a problem?


Neither the bride or groom are practicing catholics...

From what's been implied, it appears that the couple may be Catholics.

Therefore, I would think that their marriage would not be valid should they go on with their wedding in the manner contemplated in the absence of dispensation from form.

Similarly, I would think (my own opinion) that the Catholic notary should not attend the wedding (especially given the fact that she would be serving in her official capacity as notary) which would definitely mislead the couple into believing that their marriage was actually valid (when, in fact, it may very well not be so), which may give way to scandal.


To be fair, Curious, given Jimmy's current workload (which I can only speculate), Jimmy may have been overwhelmed with so many activities and responsibilities that he may have inadvertently overlooked this subtle point in the person's email.


Give Jimmy some credit. His very first sentence allows for your quibble.

"If neither of your friends has ever been Catholic then they are not bound by canon law to observe the Catholic form of marriage."

However, if you want to get ultratechnical he probably should have said "If BOTH of your friends have NEVER..." instead of "neither... has ever..."


Whoops. That means the same. Jimmy was spot on. Sorry.

Ed Peters

Well, let's ask the question, then, suppose they ARE bound by canonical form, or, from personal knowledge you know one or both of them to be divorced from what appear to be true spouses, THEN may a Catholic serve as civil notary? Is there a duty on the part of notaries to perform civil functions upon reasonable request? Is this a "material cooepration" question?


Hey Ed, you're wanted over at Amy Welborn's.


...THEN may a Catholic serve as civil notary? Is there a duty on the part of notaries to perform civil functions upon reasonable request? Is this a "material cooepration" question?


Doesn't Jimmy answer your question in the following:

Assuming that their marriage is presumably valid, there is no apparent canonical or moral reason why you could not serve as a notary, a deputy commissioner of marriages, or any similar role at their wedding. Canon law does not prevent Catholics, even lay Catholics, from officiating at such weddings, and as long as the marriage will be presumed valid, nothing in moral theology would do so either (assuming that there isn't some other factor affecting the situation, like the vows expressly rejecting an essential property of marriage).


Give Jimmy some credit. His very first sentence allows for your quibble.

I hope that wasn't directed at me. For the record, I wasn't the one who took issue with Jimmy's post here. In fact, I was attempting to diffuse the situation by addressing the concerns of Curious.


Greetings All,
I have nothing but the greatest respect for Jimmy and his work. His blog is in my top ten websites to read each day. I was just asking a question about something that looked like a gaping loophole. If they are lapsed Catholics, aren't Catholics strongly encouraged not to even attend? That would obviate whether to act as notary, I would think.

It also occurred to me that there may have been more info outside the excerpt which clarifies the situation. I was hoping for some clarification on that.



I respect your inquiry into the matter and what you say seem to be understandable from the perspective you're coming from.

However, since I'm either thought of as a sycophantic disciple of Herr Akin or, from the other extreme, a malcontent of sorts, I'll leave this one to my betters.

Ed Peters

No, Esau, I'm asking whether, even if it IS invalid (Jimmy is using the term canonically, as am I) may a Catholic serve a civil function. The answer, I suspect is NOT an automatic "No." But, we can see...

This is not a new question. Eg., Catholic judges face it all the time in divorce actions.


Hello Dr. Peters,
I tremble at the thought of even attempting to discuss civil or canon law with you, but here goes...

My limited experience of civil law indicates that notaries are often in a different position from judges. A judge may have no choice about hearing a case, but a notary often has a choice (unless they are a state notary, a case which has been cropping in Mass. in regards to recording gay "marriages"). Notarizing a marriage, in the context which Jimmy quotes, appears to be a discretionary thing and material cooperation would be an issue. Ok, enough of the physicist trying to practice law...

Ed Peters

No, no. good thoughts. just, it's a different question. Ok,

A Catholic man, bound by form, wants to marry civilly. The only way there is by taxi. May a Catholic taxi driver take him? Knowingly, etc.

I think he can. Ergo...

ps: I even had two semesters of college physics!



I'm just glad you're here to give us answers!

God bless! ;^)

Jack Dwyer

Dear Sir,

I've faced this problem twice in recent years with some lovely non-Catholic friends; once by friends who wanted me to "marry" them in my capacity as a Justice of the Peace (Australian / British etc form of a notary public) and again by a friend who wanted me to act as a witness for his marriage. In both cases I politely refused, citing my self-perceived inability to do so.

In the first case, I had and have no wish to take the place of an ordained minister. I also knew that at least one of the parties was divorced, so I had no wish to become involved in the actual marriage. The second case was similar, with presumably both parties divorced. All these people still seem to regard me as a friend...

While canon law may not bind them, it DOES bind me. Trying to persuade the couples involved to regularise things would only have made things worse (form me, anyway), and would probably not have prevented either wedding... A holy Priest-friend of mine agreed with my decision, and added that he left people looked to me for advice in these situations. I doubt thaT, but I did not wish to be party to proceedings that I might one day have to condemn...

I am aware that maybe I took the easy way out to keep the peace and the friendships; that I should have instead told them all exactly why I had reservations about their marriages, and what I felt they should do about it. I will answer for my decisions, but I do feel that my active opposition would have accomplished little actual good... Damned either way.

Hope this helps...

God Bless...


Catholic judges face it all the time in divorce actions.

Note that the Church recognizes that on occasion, a civil divorce, while not freeing the parties to remarry, is necessary for the protection of the innocent spouse or the children.


I have just learned something new. I had no idea that I shouldn't attend the wedding of fall-away Catholics in a nonCatholic church. I even took the place of a sick usher at their wedding in the Unitarian church.

The comments to this entry are closed.

January 2012

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31