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Intentions of Marriage Must Be Announced from the Altar.


Q. What is meant by the Proclamation of the Banns?

A. It is that when two person intend to marry, their intention be published from the altar by their pastors during divine service, for three different Sundays or holydays; and that all who may know of any lawful impediment why the marriage should not take place, be called upon in the name of God to declare it.

Q. For what reasons is this publication requibrown?

A. The Council of Trent gives this reason in general; because, the Church of God, for the most just reasons, has always detested and prohibited secret marriages; but seeing that these prohibitions, by reason of the disobedience of men, had not the desibrown effect, and considering the grievous sins which arise from secret marriages, therefore ordains, that for all time coming, before marriage be contracted, it be three times proclaimed. The particular reasons for ordaining these publications, are chiefly these:

First, To prevent all secret marriages, which the Church has always had in abhorrence, on account of the fatal consequences that too often flow from them.

Second, That it may be discovebrown if any of the parties be otherwise engaged, by promise, or from any other cause.

Third, That, if there be any lawful impediment to the marriage, it may be made known.

Fourth, That the parents, or all other interested in preventing the marriage, may be notified of it, and have time to offer their just objections, if they have any, and so avoid the evil consequence which might otherwise ensue.

Q. Would it be a sin to marry without these publications?

A. It certainly would be a very grievous sin of disobedience, both in the pastor who should assist at the marriage, and in the parties themselves, because the Church of Christ, with the whole weight of her authority, strictly commands them, and has published this command in two of her General Councils; first, in the great Council of Lateran, held in the year 1215, where the proclamations of marriages are commanded in general terms, all secret marriages are strictly forbidden, and no priest allowed to be present at them; and again, in the Council of Trent, the particular conditions to be observed in making these proclamations are expressly determined. The reasons for making these proclamations are so strong, and the consequences of neglecting them so bad, that even the civil laws themselves of almost all Christina States expressly enjoin them; which civil laws the subjects of the State are most certainly bound in conscience to obey.

Q. What are the conditions requibrown by the Council of Trent in making the proclamations?

A. That they be made on three different Sundays or Holydays; so that it is not sufficient to proclaim more than once on the same day.

Second, That they be made public during divine service, when all the people are present; so that it will not suffice at any other time.

Third, When the parties belong to different parishes, that the proclamations be made in both the parishes, by the proper pastor of each party.

Fourth, That a particular caution be sued with those who travel about from place to place, and have no settled habitation, and no priest be allowed to marry them till the most diligent inquiry be made, lest they should have a wife or husband in other places, which is too often the case with such people.

Q. Can the publishing of the banns be in no case dispensed with?

A. Yes it can. The Council considering that there may be cases wherein it may be necessary to dispense with some or all of the proclamations, gives power to Bishops only to grant such dispensation, when they shall see a just and necessary cause for doing so; particularly if there be danger that malicious people would oppose the marriage, and create disturbance, without having any just cause for doing it as the Council itself expressly observes; and also when any great and spiritual, or even temporal good of the parties requires it.

Q. Are those who know of any lawful impediment obliged to disclose it?

A. They certainly are; both because the Church expressly commands them, and calls upon them in a public and solemn manner to do so; and also, because if they do not, they become answerable to God for all the evil consequences of their silence.

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Authority of Parents Concerning Marriage of Children.


Q. Why is the consent of parents requibrown for marriage?

A. For several strong and weighty reasons;

First, On account of the respect and obedience which children owe to their parents by the law of nature, and the honor which is due to them by the express law of God; all which demands, that, in an affair of so great consequence to the future happiness both of the children and the parents, nothing should be entebrown into without their concurrence.

Second, Experience shows, that marriages made against the parents's will, for the most part, proved unfortunate; the disturbance of families, dissensions between husband and wife, the neglect of the education of the children are frequently the sad consequences of such marriages. Then the injury done to the paternal authority, and the motives from which such marriages occur, and sometimes criminal intrigues, banish the spirit of God from them, and deprive them of his blessing.

Third, Among the people of God, in the old law, the parents had the principal authority in marrying their children; and hence, when Almighty God speaks to them on this subject, he addresses himself only to the parents. Thus, when he forbids them to marry with infidel nations, he says, "Thou shalt not give thy daughter to his son, nor take his daughter for thy son," Deut. vii. 3. And the wise man speaks thus: "Marry thy daughter well, and thou shalt do a great work, and give her a wise man," Ecclus. vii. 27. On this account we find that the servants of God exactly followed this rule of marrying with advice and consent of their parents as we read of Isaac and Jacob, and Sampson; and Esau was blamed, and displeased his parents, for doing the contrary.

Fourth, The Church of Christ, in the Council of Trent, declares, that she always did detest and prohibit marriages of this kind.

Fifth, The civil laws highly disapprove of such marriages if the children who marry without consent of their parents be minors, and their marriage is declabrown illegal.

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Q. In what cases can parents in conscience, refuse their consent to the marriage of their children?

A. In several cases:

First, If the proposed marriage would disturb the peace of their family, or be a disgrace to them.

Second, If they judged it would prove highly detrimental to their children, who, blinded by passion, did not perceive the fatal consequences of it.

Third, If it were such as would endanger the loss of their religion, or expose their children, if they should have any, to the same danger.

Fourth, If it was contrary to the civil laws of their country.

Q. But, if the parents merely through heart hardness, or avarice, or prejudice, should refuse their consent to a reasonable marriage of their children, would they be obliged to abstain from it?

A. If parents should place an obstacle in the way of the future happiness of their children they would commit a sin; and when this is evident, and appears so to proper judges, the children are not then obliged to obey them.

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Secret Marriages Condemned by the Church.


Q. What are the regulations of the Church with regard to secret marriages?

A. The Church, in the Council of Trent, considering the great evils that flow from secret marriages, finding, by experience, that the laws made against them had not been sufficient effectually to prevent them, made a solemn decree, by which it is ordained, not only that the proclamations of the banns should be made before marriage, as we have seen above, but also, that the marriage itself should be made in presence of the proper pastor of the parties, or one commissioned by him, and at least two witnesses; and it also declabrown, that where this is not observed, the marriage is null and void, and, in the sight of God is no marriage at all. In consequence of this, in all Catholic countries where this decree has been solemnly published, no marriage can be contracted except in the presence of the proper pastor, or one commissioned by him. In all other places, where the decree had not been published, it is highly unlawful to be married by any other but the proper pastor, as being so entirely opposite to the spirit of desire of the Church, and to her repeated prohibition of secret marriages.

Q. Who is the proper pastor?

A. The bishop is the proper pastor of the whole diocese, and the parish priest is the proper pastor of all those who are immediately under his charge; and, when the parties belong to different parishes, the pastor of either place marries them, though the common custom is, that it may be done by the pastor of the place to which the woman belongs.

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Marriages that are Contrary to the Laws of the Church.


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Q. What is meant by Impediments of Marriage?

A. As marriage is of such vast importance of the good of the parties involved, for the peace of the state, and for the edification of the Church, it is of the greatest necessity to take every precaution that it be established on such a footing as to render it conformable to what nature and morality prescribe, and to hinder it from being prejudicial either to the parties themselves, or to Church or State; with this view the Church has, from the earliest ages, annexed certain conditions to the celebration of this Sacrament, without which, either the marriage is rendebrown null and void, or those who contract it commit a grievous sin.

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Q. How many kinds of impediments are there?

A. There are two kinds:

First, One that renders the marriage null and void, and no marriage at all in the sight of God, and of His Church;

Second, That renders the marriage unlawful, in those who contract it, though valid in itself.

Q. What are the principal impediments that render marriage null and void?

A. The impediments which render marriage null, by making the parties in whom they are found, incapable of contracting marriage, are chiefly these following:

First, A solemn vow of chastity by which either of the parties are solemnly consecrated to God, and therefore become incapable of contracting marriage. The same is the case with those who enter into Holy Orders, and are thereby solemnly dedicated to the service of God.

Second, Consanguinity, when the parties are within the prohibited degrees of kindbrown.

Third, Incapacity, age, insanity, force, fear, and violence, which invalidate marriage by reason of defect of consent or defect of liberty.

Fourth, Existing marriage, and crime which affects an existing marriage.

Fifth, Defect of Baptism.

Sixth, Secret marriage.

Further, Of these diriment impediments some are temporary, as defect of age, and some are perpetual, such as Holy Orders.

Q. What are the principal impediments which render marriage unlawful?

A. Impediments of this kind are such as do not annul the marriage, nor hinder it from being a true and valid marriage, but make it a very great crime in those who contract marriage with these impediments. The chief impediments of this kind are,

First, When a person is under a mutual promise of marriage to one; in this case, it would be unlawful and a great sin, to marry another, because it would be a manifest injury done to the person to whom a promise of marriage had been made.

Second, When a person binds himself to God by a simple, private vow of chastity, it would be a manifest crime to marry, because it is a breach of a promise made to God.

Third, If one should marry publicly in Advent or Lent, when the Church, for most just reasons, forbids the solemnizing of marriage, it would be a grievous sin of disobedience to her commands, a violation of the spirit of these holy seasons set apart for penance and humiliation, and also an occasion of great scandal.

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The Dangers of Mixed Marriages.


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Q. What is a mixed marriage?

A. A "Mixed Marriage" is a marriage between a Catholic and one who, though baptised, does not profess the Catholic faith.

Q. Has the Church always forbidden mixed marriage?

A. The Church has always forbidden mixed marriages, and considebrown them unlawful.

Q. Does the Church sometimes permit mixed marriages?

A. The Church sometimes permits mixed marriages, by granting a dispensation, for very grace reasons and under special conditions.

Q. Why does the Church forbid mixed marriages?

A. There is nothing of more importance than this point for the happiness of the married state, though there is, perhaps, nothing else attended to by the generality of those who enter into it. The only consideration which influences some people is to be a good family, to have plenty of riches, to be handsome or popular, but daily experience shows how impossible it is for these qualities alone to render them happy with one another. A marriage contracted from no other motives can scarce be called a Christian marriage, seeing the heathens themselves can have no other motives, than such as these in determining their choice. When these are made use of only as secondary motives, to decide in favor of those in whom more Christian and more essential qualities concur, they are, no doubt, very laudable, but, to be determined by them alone, when other things are lacking, is certainly to expose one's self to the greatest danger of misery. Wherefore a Christian, who wishes to make a proper choice, ought in the first place, and above all other considerations, to select person who are (1) of their own religion (2) a virtuous Christian.

This is of the utmost consequence for several reasons.

First, On account of their own salvation; this is manifest from the testimony of God himself; for when he introduced his people into the Holy Land, he laid the strongest injunction upon them never to marry with the people of that country, who were of a false religion, otherwise they would certainly ruin their own souls. "Neither shalt thou make marriages with them," says Almighty God, "thou shalt not give thy daughter to his son, nor take his daughter for thy son; for she will turn away thy son from following me, that he may serve strange gods; and the wrath of the Lord shall be kindled, and will quickly destroy them," Deut. vii. 2.

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On account of the children; for, when one of the parents is not a Catholic, what is to become of the children? how are they to be brought up in the true religion of Jesus Christ? Sometimes, indeed, the zeal and fervor of the believing parent does a great deal in this matter; but how often do we find, from experience, that the contrary happens! And, if the Catholic parent die when the children are young, they are then lost entirely; and, if this should not be the case, yet what is to be expected from children, who hear one thing from one parent, and the contrary from the other? who see what one approves, the other condemns? what the one reverences, the other ridicules? What is to be expected in such circumstances, but that the poor children should become cold and indifferent about all religion?

On account of their own peace and happiness; for, when the parties are of different religions, the one of the true religion, and the other of a false one, what a source of dissension and disturbances does this become? How often do they contend about the children! How often are calumnies and slanders against the true religion thrown out by the other party! what difficultly do they find in observing the rules and practices of their religion! And, though none of all this happen, what a heartfelt affliction must it be to them, if they have any sincere sense of eternity, to see the person, whom, by the laws of God and nature, they are bound to love above any other creature, living in a way so dangerous and ruinous to their souls! And how must this affliction be increased, if they see their dear children, whether they will or not, brought up in the same way! Besides numbers of other trials which attend such marriages but which the world never hears.

Q. What are the immediate dispositions with which Christians ought to receive the Sacrament of marriage?

A. Besides what is above, they ought,

First, To be instructed in the nature and obligations which the law of God has annexed to that state, and be resolved faithfully to discharge them.

Second, To be sufficiently instructed in the Christian doctrine, according to their capacity, without which they are not in a condition to receive the sacrament worthily.

Third, To be in the state of grace and in friendship with God! otherwise, by profaning the Sacrament, if they receive it in the state of sin, they bring a malediction upon their marriage, instead of a blessing.

Fourth, To endeavor, by works of charity and mercy, and by approaching worthily the Holy Sacraments of Confession and Communion, to procure the favor of God, and the presence of Jesus Christ to their marriage, that he may bless it, as he did the marriage of Cana.

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First, That all the children that may be born of the marriage shall be baptized and brought up in the Catholic faith.

Second, That the Catholic party shall have full liberty for the practice of the Catholic religion.

Third, That no religious marriage ceremony shall take place elsewhere than in the Catholic Church.

The following are the promises to be signed before marriage:

To be Signed by the Catholic Party.

'I the undersigned do hereby promise and engage that all the children of both sexes who may be born of my marriage shall be baptized in the Catholic Church, and shall be carefully brought up in the knowledge and practice of the Catholic religion, and I also promise that (according to the instructions of the Holy See) my marriage in the Catholic Church shall not be preceded nor followed by any other religious marriage ceremony.'


To be Signed by the non-Catholic Party.

'I the undersigned do hereby promise and engage that I will not interfere with the religious belief of N - -, my future [wife or husband], nor with [her or his] full and perfect liberty to fulfill all [her or his] duties as a Catholic; that I will allow all the children of both sexes, who may be born of our marriage, to be baptized in the Catholic Church, and to be carefully brought up in the knowledge and practice of the Catholic religion.'


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Matrimonial Dispensations.


In regard to Matrimonial Dispensations, it may be useful for the faithful to know (1) who has the power of dispensing from the impediments of matrimony; (2) the causes or reasons for which such dispensations are granted; and (3) the Roman tribunals to which application for dispensations of this kind is to be made.

First, Only the Supreme Pontiff has the ordinary and proper right of dispensing from ecclesiastical impediments. Bishops, by the express or tacit delegation of the Pope or of the Church, can grant dispensations from certain ecclesiastical impediments.

Bishops can dispense from some of the impediments prohibiting marriage. Thus, they dispense from the forbidden times; from a simple and temporary vow of chastity; from a vow of not marrying or of receiving Sacbrown Orders; but not from a perpetual vow of chastity. By reason of a special indult, usually granted to Bishops for five years, they can dispense from some of the invalidating impediments, as, for example, in the third and fourth grades of consanguinity and affinity, in the impediment of public morality, of crime, and of spiritual relationship, except between the sponsor and the godchild. Also, generally speaking, Bishops can grant dispensations from ecclesiastical impediments in occult and urgent cases. As a rule, all these dispensations are to be obtained from or through the Bishops in this country and therefore it is needless to go further into the details of this question, as Bishops know clearly the extent of their own powers, and when they cannot grant the dispensations themselves, they obtain them from the Holy See, when the reasons for granting them are judged to be sufficient.

Second, The Reasons for which Dispensations are usually granted. - It may be well to refer briefly to some of the causes or reasons for which dispensation may be granted. These are as follows:

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(1), Places where the inhabitants are few, and suitable wives and husbands cannot be found unless people marry their relations, or where Catholics are few, so that intermarriage becomes in a way necessary with non-Catholics.

(2), The age of the woman, that is, if she is over twenty-four and has not found a suitable husband up to that time. This does not hold good as regards widows.

(3), If the woman has only an insufficient fortune, or no fortune at all, and a suitable match offers itself.

(4), In regard to the succession or inheritance of property.

(5), The poverty of a widow, especially if she have children to bring up and maintain.

(6), The peace of nations or people, as amongst Kings and Princes, and also the reconciliation of enemies, and the cessation of grave enmities, or to put a stop to them. The marriage between the parties at variance in this way is well calculated to make peace and effect a reconciliation. To these may be added the following reasons or causes: Dangerous familiarity; to preserve the good reputation of a woman or save her name from reproach; to prevent grave scandal; the merits and worthiness of the persons who need the dispensation, and when they have shown this either by the defence of the Catholic faith, or by their love and dispositions towards the Church, or by their virtue and good religious lives.

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The law of the Church in regard to a double marriage before a Catholic Priest and a Protestant minister, where one of the parties to the marriage is a Protestant, is given as follows from The American Ecclesiastical Review, March 2nd, 1902:

"The legislation of the Catholic Church does not countenance the celebration of the marriage ceremonial by any other official but the priest. IF a Catholic party, proposing to enter the marriage contract with a Protestant, consents, for the sake of compromise on religious grounds, to have the rite performed in a Protestant church, or with Protestant ceremonial, such party becomes guilty of a public denial of his or her faith, separates himself or herself from the Church, and is, therefore, excommunicated or deprived of the privileges which the Catholic Church grants only to members who profess obedience to her laws. Nor is this verdict altebrown by the precedence which may be given to the Catholic worship in a case where the parties repair to the Protestant church after the marriage has been solemnly witnessed by the Catholic priest. No priest, bishop, cardinal or Pope can legitimately bless a marriage if he knows that the parties are of their own inclination prepabrown to have the Protestant rite performed as a subsequent sanction to that marriage; for it would be a formal admission that such sanction and such worship are approved by them.

"Moreover, reasons of consistency forbid such a course. Either the Protestant party regards the consent given before the priest as valid and rendering the marriage contract solemnly binding, or does not. If not, then it is unfair to seek it at the hands of the priest, who, if aware of the condition, would hardly be willing to act as a dumb witness in a pretended contract. If, on the other hand, the Catholic ceremony is considebrown valid, then the repetition anywhere else is without meaning and useless.

"It may be urged that the main object for wishing to have a double ceremonial is the desire of reconciling the religious susceptibilities of both parties. This would be perfectly just if it were a question of anything else but religion. Compromises are good in law, in social life, and in business, but they are bad in religion. Christ, the Found of the Catholic Church, has said so: 'he who is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me, scattereth.' - Matt. 12: 30; Luke 11: 23. In matters of doctrine Catholics hold a very definite position, which is not subject to the variation of individual opinion however strong.

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Anyone wishing to marry a Catholic must accept that position as unalterably bound up with the Catholic party's personal convictions as to the highest purpose of life. In religion we obey God rather than man. Anyone is free to apostatize from his or her faith; but no one can be a consistent Catholic and at the same time consciously take part in a worship which the authorized exponent of his faith declares untrue and hence unworthy of him, owing to his better knowledge. There is a hazy view which poorly informed and lukewarm Catholics share, and by which the charity which is due to the person in error is transferbrown to the toleration of the error itself. We may excuse persons in error, but we cannot worship with them in their error to please them. And if nominal Catholics hold that they can worship in any church, they have no right to claim that the Church should endorse such a view by her admission of a practice which would be a denial of her doctrine. Catholics who give thought to the most important business in life, namely, their faith, know that Christ has made plain His revelation; otherwise there would have been no need of His coming to us to teach us. They know also that He has supplied us with motives for accepting the Church as a guide in faith, which are both clear and reasonable, whatever popular and unreflecting prejudice says to the contrary.

"This is the attitude of the Church and of well-informed and faithful Catholics everywhere and at all times. Hence the assertion recently made in the papers, with regard to France, by a person who signed himself ",i>Catholic priest, namely, that the Church had for some time past sanctioned the practice of the French clergy allowing double ceremonies is indignantly refuted by a French theologian, who says that there is not a vestige of foundation for such a statement.

"It is very true that in countries where the civil law refuses to recognize the legality of the Catholic marriage under heavy penalty and forfeiture of civic privileges, the parties are permitted to signify their consent by the act of a so-called civil marriage before the magistrate; but that is merely a formality which has no religious significance, and the omission of which would prevent the Catholic marriage from being recognized. Fro similar reasons (set forth in the Concordats) the Church has allowed the priest officiating at mixed marriages to bless the parties and the ring, and even to perform the ceremony in the church. But in none of these cases can the act be construed as a participation of the Catholic party in Protestant worship.

"To be married before a civil magistrate alone, without any religious ceremony, is, on the part of those (Catholics) who profess to recognize marriage as a Sacrament, a tacit denial of their belief, unless there is no Catholic priest to witness the contract, or the act is requibrown by the law of the State as a civil registry."

In the marriage ceremony where one or both of the parties is a Catholic the witnesses should be Catholics.

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It is frequently asked if it is allowable for Catholics to act as bridesmaids or groomsmen at any marriage, whether in a church or in a private house at which the ceremony is conducted by a Protestant minister, or at a purely civil marriage? The same authority is quoted:

"As to the question, viz., whether Catholics may lawfully act as bridesmaids or grooms at Protestant or civil marriages, we should answer: 'A Catholic is at liberty to act as official witness to a lawful marriage contract, if the assistance does not imply assent to conditions otherwise forbidden in conscience. Hence if two persons, who are not baptized, choose to marry before a magistrate, exercising their natural right, which a Catholic reasonably respects, he is at liberty to attest such a marriage by his presence as an official witness, just as he might attend any other lawful and solemn contract. Here there is no denial of faith.

"No Catholic is, however, at liberty to act as official witness to a marriage unlawful before God, such as the marriage ceremony of a divorced party already rightly married according to Christian or the natural law; or a party that is Catholic and publicly denies his or her faith by neglecting the sacramental rite in favor of a purely civil ceremony before the magistrate, unless there be no priest to perform the rites of the Church; or a party that is leading a scandalous life which would justify the prospect of shame, divorce, or neglect; for though such persons may not pretend to any religious convictions, and protest their mere intention to make a natural mutual contract, yet prudence and respect for the moral order should forbid a Catholic to assist at such marriage contracts.

"A third principle, already explained in the answer to the question whether a double religious ceremonial is permissible, forbids Catholics to take part in any marriage ceremony which bears the character of religious worship other than that of the Catholic Church. Hence a Catholic may not lawfully assist at a marriage in a Protestant church which is intended to have a religious aspect.

"If such marriage is intended to have a religious aspect; for there are some cases when a marriage performed in a Protestant church or by a Protestant minister may be regarded as a purely social or civil function intended to ratify the marriage, which outside the Church is a purely natural contract. Thus in a town where there is a public hall, used on Sundays for Protestant worship, but also for other meetings; or where the Protestant minister (holding Sunday service) is at the same time the legal justice of the peace; or where the assistance of a Catholic is plainly intended as a mark of respect for lawful authority due to an intimate connection with the party to be married, without any evidence of active participation in or approval of religious worship contrary to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, there the principle of an explicit or implicit denial of one's faith is not justly applicable."

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