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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Sacramental Theology (Marriage)

by Catherine Frakas 28 Mar 2001

Sacramental Theology (Marriage) QUESTION from A. Basto on January 10, 2003 I have a theoric question of Sacramental Theology which is troubling my mind for almost a month. The question is as follows:
Is a marriage convenant contracted in the presence of the Church between a person who is not Christian and a person holding full communion with Our Mother Church a Sacrament?
I am very curious about your answer to the above question. You see, I am not worried here with the practical aspects surrouding the granting of a dispensation by the Diocesan Bishop.
Let us assume that the dispensation was granted in accordance with Canon Law, that the catholic party made in good faith the promises required by canon law in such cases (of remaining catholic, raising the kids catholic, etc) and that the non-baptized party was informed of that and promised to cooperate.
Then, let us assume that the marriage contract was celebrated in a legitimate cerimony in the presence of the Church minister and that the parties exchanged the marital vows.
Let us assume that we have all the objective and subjective elements for a valid and legal marriage convenant, recognized as such by the Church.
Are we able say that this marriage, with the appropriate canonical dispensation, but which has been celebrated with one party that has not received baptism, is a Sacrament? Or is it just a valid and lawful marriage recognized as such by the Church law, without however being a Sacrament?
The problem of the possibility of this marriage being subject to dissolution is not my main concern here. What I wonder is about the possibility of someone who has not received the Sacrament of Chistian initiation taking part in another Sacrament.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on January 16, 2003 Dear Mr. Basto:
Your question involves highly technical and nuanced issues of Canon Law. So before I answer I must say that I am not a Canon Lawyer and my answer should not be considered authoritative. There are some things that one can obvious know from Canon Law, but some of these questions, like this one, are highly nuanced and technical as to be dangerous for a non-canon lawyer to try to answer definitively.
With that said, I have spend a couple hours researching this question and the best thing I can find is only a few references alluding to the question.
So, I think, based on what I have read, that the Marriage between a Catholic and a non-baptized person (when a dispensation has been granted by a bishop) is valid, but non-sacramental.
Without the bishop's dispensation, it is certain, that the marriage is invalid.
But the nature of your question is that call canical requirements are met to allow a Catholic to marry a non-baptized person.
Under that scenereo I believe the marriage is NOT sacramental, but it IS valid.
It cannot be Sacramantal because Sacraments cannot be given or received by a non-batpized person.
Since this disparity of cult as it technically called, can since it is not truly Sacramental, in theory, be dissolved according to Petrine (Privilege of the Faith) under very limited and strict sets of circumstances.
So the bottomline, from my understanding and barring correction from a Canon Lawyer or someone who really knows, a Marriage of a Catholic with a non-baptized person is valid IF the Bishop gives a dispenation, but it is not Sacramental.
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