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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. 1. What is the banns of marriage? I sometime come across such a reference when reading older Catholic material. Its mention seems to have disappeared from Catholic writings.

A. 1. The banns of marriage were traditional ecclesiastical announcements of the names of the persons who were planning on getting married in the Catholic Church. These announcements also included the date of when the couples planned on getting married. The purpose of the banns of marriage was to discover any impediments to a proposed marriage. If someone knew something that could prevent a marriage from proceeding, such as the bride or groom to be were already married elsewhere, that person was required to report it to the priest of the parish where the couple planned on getting married.

These announcements were made in the parish where the couple planned on getting married and in the parish of every community where they lived for at least six months since their birth. Nowadays, such announcements could involve at least ten parishes and multiple countries.

In the case of mixed marriages, publications of the banns was forbidden. In the United States it was tolerated by a decree of the Congregation of the Propaganda (3 July, 1847) providing there was no mention of the religious persuasion of the non-Catholic party.

The method of publication consisted of the parish priest, or his vicar / curate, announcing verbally, usually before or after the sermon, for each party of the marriage to take place, their baptismal and family names, the names of their parents, their place of birth or residence, their age, and their marital status. They also indicated if this was the first, second, or third announcement, and whether there will be a dispensation from further publications.

The entire system of publishing banns was abrogated in the 1983 code. Nowadays, the process of examinating candidates for marriage and the publishing of banns is left to the local Conference of Bishops.

Code of Canon Law # 1067 "The conference of bishops is to establish norms about the examination of spouses and about the marriage banns or other opportune means to accomplish the investigations necessary before marriage. After these norms have been diligently observed, the pastor can proceed to assist at the marriage."

In some parishes, marriage banns are still published in one form or another. Pastorally, this is a good practice even though it is no longer required in Canada and the United States.

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