When is a Catholic not a Catholic? (marriage laws)

How long does someone have to be away from the Church for the Church’s marriage laws to not apply to them? Do they simply have to stop attending Mass and/or to start attending a non-Catholic service to be no longer considered Catholic? Do the Church’s laws no longer apply the minute they no longer consider themselves Catholic or are they permanent or what?

The question regards a friend of mine who is confirmed but who has chosen to leave the Church and join a non-Christian cult (the Hare Krishnas) and is living with them full-time in their temple. I just found out that she is getting married to a man there now. She has been away from the Church only about a year. Would this marriage be valid or if she comes to her senses and leaves the cult, would she then be free to marry since the Church’s laws state that Catholics must marry within the Church for their marriage to even be valid or is she now considered outside the Church and therefore the Church’s marriage requirements no longer apply to her?

I would not attend her wedding regardless because I don’t believe it is right to attend a non-Catholic service except for grave reasons as decided by the local bishop (as per the 1917 CIC). But I want to know whether or not she would be able to obtain a (valid) annulment if she ever gets divorced, comes back to the Church and wants to marry a Catholic.

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10 comments on “When is a Catholic not a Catholic? (marriage laws)

  1. A. Matrimonial precepts as to intent, fidelity and lifelong commitment are PRESUMED to be binding on any marriage, even between two Abos jumping over a log to “mark” said commitment, out in the bush. Thus, prot, jew, atheist, pagan, etc. marriages are to be considered real, binding and lifelong. It was ever thus before the annulment factory lawyers hijacked the process. Anyone who was married outside the church was presumed married and obligated and that was that, period, fini. Don’t let the un-Catholic liberal notions of “annulment experts” on EWTN or in most dioceses influence your judgment. This is VERY serious stuff.

    As for your friend, she is ( wittingly or not ) in a state of apostasy. It is impossible to argue otherwise, unless there were objective proof of her being coerced through mortal threat, blackmail, induced drug addiction, etc. to enter this pagan cult.

    In other words, this is a young woman in very, very deep trouble. I’d suggest you consult a good cult rescue expert and, if that works, get her to a deeply orthodox priest ( ideally, a Traditionalist fro m among the various Trad organizations ) and, until, pray regularly for the salvation of her soul. I am not suggesting that she is beyond all help and hope of salvation, but she has made that VERY, VERY difficult for herself already. Usually, only a professional cult rescue expert can get these very sad cases out of danger. All the talk, tears and pleas in the world are useless.

    • Well, my question was because a Catholic cannot validly marry outside the Church without a dispensation from the bishop.

      Two people jumping over a broom can be a wedding if the intent is there because that’s fine for a natural marriage. Even for two baptized people, they can get married before a Protestant minister or a judge or whatever and it’s even sacramental. But even if two Catholics stands before a judge or Elvis or whatever, their marriage will not only be illicit, it will be invalid because Catholics are strictly bound to follow the Church’s marriage laws so a Catholic cannot get married without having a Catholic wedding. It would be invalid due to defect of form.

      Exceptions include that if both parties are unbaptized and one wishes to come to the Faith but is impeded by the other, then the marriage can be dissolved. This is the Pauline privilege.

      In addition, if one party to the marriage is baptized and the other is not, and the unbaptized person refuses to let the baptized person practice the Faith, then the marriage can be dissolved by the Holy See. This is the Petrine privilege.

      Natural marriages are dissoluble under certain circumstances, sacramental marriages are dissoluble only by death. But when a Catholic marries outside the Church, the result is neither a natural marriage nor a sacramental marriage, indeed no marriage at all takes place.

      That’s why my question regarded at what point is a Catholic no longer a Catholic? By being away from the Church for a while or by formal heresy (say, someone decides to become a Baptist instead) or by apostasy (someone decides to become a Buddhist or Moslem)? I would think that it would take more than simply being lapsed to make the Church’s laws no longer apply and likewise material heretics should still be considered Catholics as far as the Church’s laws go.

      Then, of course, what determines what is heresy and what is apostasy? If a famous talk show host abandons the Catholic Faith for Mormonism, is that heresy or apostasy? Is it not apostasy until they reject the title “Christian?” My friend has rejected the exclusivity of Christ and says that Jesus is just another manifestation of God, she’ll quote the Gospel and compare it to something something in the Hindu scriptures or the words of some guru and say, “See, it’s all the same message.” It’s the “All roads lead to God” delusion and she tried to use things like “Nostra Aetate” to justify going to both Mass and chanting “Hare Krishna” with her fellow cultists.

      I don’t know about cult extraction. I mean, I say the Hare Krishnas are a cult but I don’t necessarily think they are dangerous in the sense that they’ll all drink cyanide-laced Kool Aid (or Flavor Aide, technically) or mutilate themselves and commit suicide to board a UFO. It just seems more serious now that she’s actually moved into the temple ashram in another state rather than just meeting at someone’s house. But it’s not like she’s not allowed outside, she still is working part-time and she’s allowed to use the computer. I honestly don’t know that much about the Hare Krishnas except they sometimes give away food at their restaurants and sell flowers and beads. I know they’re off of the Hindus, of course, and that they’re mostly disillusioned white people rebelling against their Christian upbringing (although by pictures, it seems there are more Indians now).

      I always do pray for her conversion, every day. I want her to move back here and come back to the Church, I miss her very much. I don’t want to see her end up in a bad situation where she’s married to someone for a year and then leaves but is stuck til death do them part.

  2. (I haven’t used this site since the switch to WordPress, I can’t edit a post)

    The third paragraph should read:

    “Both natural and sacramental marriages are generally indissoluble except by death. However, exceptions include that if both parties are unbaptized (natural marriage) and one wishes to come to the Faith but is impeded by the other, then the marriage can be dissolved. This is the Pauline privilege.”

  3. I come back to my original argument, and for a specific reason. Until she is out of that cult and deprogrammed, nothing short of a spectacular delivery in the middle of the night by a battalion of angels, depositing her on the doorstep of her former parish priest, is going to make one bit of difference.

    She can certainly, once her mind and emotions are back in working order, receive absolution for apostasy, illicit marriage and anything else she may have done, as well. But while she’s incarcerated by those mind-control freaks, that’s going to be a little difficult, wouldn’t you say?

    So, instead of just saying prayers for her, and discussing the fine points of marital law on an internet site, I’d really think it would help HER if you and anyone else who cares about her man up, pony up some dough, find a professional deprogramming service and get her the hell outta there!

    She is enslaved and if it is at all possible to free her, THAT is the first obligation of charity in a very real, very dangerous and, from the stories I’ve heard and read, very remediable situation. Right now, my friend, it really is up to you and her other friends and family members.

    She is no longer capable of rescuing herself.

    It also is a prescription of our Faith: “Set the captives free.”

  4. Oh, ANY group that exercises cultic mind control is EXTREMELY dangerous.

    Research it.

  5. The only solution is for her to *want* to leave. Kidnapping is not going to solve anything. In order for her to want to leave she needs the grace of conversion. In order for her to gain that grace from God, someone must be praying for her. Prayer and reasonable discussion, not violence, is the only way to bring her back to the Church.

    With regards to the question of marriage, it is really broader than this situation as I see Catholics getting married outside the Church and becoming Protestants. Are such people validly married or not?

    I was able to track down the relevant canon:

    “§1. Only those marriages are valid which are contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who assist, and before two witnesses according to the rules expressed in the following canons…” ~ Can. 1108, S1

    “The form established above must be observed if at least one of the parties contracting marriage was baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it and has not defected from it by a formal act…” ~ Can. 1117

    What exactly constitutes a “formal act” of defection from the Catholic Church? I was also able to find the relevant document: www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/intrptxt/documents/rc_pc_intrptxt_doc_20060313_actus-formalis_en.html

    One important aspect of this is that individuals are bound to these canons until the time when they submit a formal written statement of intent to dissolve their bonds with the Catholic Church — a formal act of heresy or apostasy and its reception by the competent local authority. Simply ceasing to attend Mass or attending a non-Catholic, even non-Christian religious service regularly and even personally intending to separate oneself from the Catholic Church and submit to a false religion is not enough. The Church still has jurisdiction over an individual until they accept a written decree formally dissolving their allegiance to the Church and abandoning the Catholic Faith.

    I am assuming that she never did such a thing. This would mean that any marriage she attempts to contract outside of the Church would be invalid. Which means that if she converts following an attempted marriage, there is nothing stopping her from leaving her alleged “husband” (assuming, of course, he does not also want to convert and re-marry her again). So then, she would be free to marry because her marriage outside the Church would have been invalid due to defect of form.

  6. Well, I tried. At least have SOMEBODY try to convince her to talk with a deprogramer or a psychologist trained in these cases. This is no place for well intentioned amateurs. This girl is in enormous trouble and her life is already being destroyed.

    And “kidnapping”? What do you think has already happened to her?

    Please think hard about this. I’m not saying prayer won’t help in some way. It might. But some things need some guts and elbow grease to put those graces into operation, too.

  7. I haven’t read all the posts, so if I am repeating information sorry.

    The latest Church law is this:

    1. Baptized Catholics (as opposed to baptized non-Catholics) can’t get married outside the Church without a dispensation. (The rationale for how this affects the marriages officiated by the SSPX et al is different).
    2. A dispensation can be sought from the local ordinary.

    Whether or not they have ‘apostatized’ does not bear on the situation.

    The canons concerning the ‘formal act’ have been recinded in … I believe 2007-9 timeframe by Pope Benedict XVI.

  8. As stated, apostasy is remediable.

    Howsomever, “habeas corpus” has its own bearing: The apostate must physically present himself in the confessional.

    A bit of a trick if you’re wearing saffron robes, hustling travelers at the airport all day and then go home every night to a pagan concentration camp.

  9. In the Church’s eyes your friend is still a baptized Catholic and hence any marriage she attempts to contract out side of the Church would be invalid.

    If she ever does get out, returns to the Church, and civilly divorces her husband, the Church would grant her an annulment due to defect of form if she sought one.

    However, future prospects for marriage within the Church are probably the least of her problems at the moment. Even Hindus I know view the Hare Krishnas as a mind-control cult. I tend to agree with gpmtrad that cult-rescuers/deprogrammers are what she needs – along with much, much prayer of course.

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