Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Policies of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane Regarding the Celebration of Marriage

the Inland Register

(From the Jan. 18, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

The following provides a summary of the policies of the Diocese of Spokane regarding the celebration of Marriage. This summary includes material found in the Rite of Marriage, the Code of Canon Law, the Diocesan Policy for Marriage Preparation, and the faculties of the priests and deacons of the Diocese.

1. The celebration of Marriage in Catholic tradition is a sacred action within the community of faith. The parish church is the sacred space appropriate to the establishment of this holy covenant. All parishes, but especially those which have a significant number of marriages, shall have guidelines regarding the time, decorum, ministries, music, etc. for the liturgy to assist the couple in the preparation of these sacred rites. Catholic marriage is never a private event and always is celebrated in the context of the faith of the worshiping community.

2. The requirements of the diocesan policy for marriage preparation are to be observed. That policy in ordinary circumstances requires four months of preparation, encourages use of one of the available inventory instruments, and provides guidance about situations involving special circumstances.

The Church’s teaching articulated by Pope John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio (#68) reminds pastors that because this sacrament is rooted in the economy of creation, the Church also admits to the celebration of marriage even those who are “imperfectly disposed” and who may seek marriage in the Church for motives which are “social rather than genuinely religious.” Their right to the sacrament is established by their “right intention,” “to commit by their irrevocable conjugal consent their whole lives in indissoluble love and unconditional fidelity.” Laying down further criteria concerning “the level of faith” would involve the “risk of making unfounded and discriminatory judgments.”

3. The pastoral minister preparing the couple for marriage will complete a prenuptial investigation to ascertain the freedom of the parties to marry, the absence or dispensation of impediments, and the capacity and readiness of the couple to enter into the marriage covenant.

In the cases where a previous marriage is not dissolved by death, the prenuptial investigation is not satisfied and no date for marriage shall be set until a declaration of nullity or a statement of freedom to marry is received from the competent tribunal or diocese. A stipulation concerning counseling prior to remarriage is to be observed.

4. In the Diocese of Spokane pastors have the faculty to dispense the impediment of disparity of cult and to permit mixed marriages and grant permission to those bound by natural obligations arising from a previous union. They are responsible to assess that the conditions for granting these dispensations or permissions are fulfilled. (In the case of mixed marriages and for special reasons, a Dispensation from Canonical Form is granted only by the Ordinary. Please consult the Catholic Pastoral Center for information in these circumstances.)

5. By law and by diocesan faculty, pastors and parochial vicars and deacons who are administrators of parishes may validly assist at marriages within the limits of their territory, and may grant delegation to other priests or deacons to do the same.

6. The dignity and sacred nature of marriage makes a Catholic church especially “suitable” for the celebration of marriage. Marriage is to be celebrated in a parish church. With the permission of the pastor, it can be celebrated in another public Catholic chapel. Marriages may not be celebrated in places other than a parish church or public oratory without permission of the Local Ordinary. This permission (and delegation) must be obtained before the minister agrees to assist at the marriage.

7. According to the Rite of Marriage #8, a mixed marriage (between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic) may not be celebrated at Mass without the permission of the Local Ordinary. When the couple requests a Nuptial Mass, the priest may request this permission only after he has considered and explained the many pastoral, ecumenical and liturgical difficulties impeding the proper celebration of the Eucharist. The faith and desire of the Catholic family is itself not a sufficient reason. Pastors or other celebrants may not grant permission for or offer an invitation to intercommunion.

8. A marriage between a Catholic and an non-baptized person may not be celebrated at Mass, in accord with chapter III, nn. 55-66 of the Rite of Marriage.

9. The time of marriage should take into account the liturgical season and the pastoral situation of the faith community. In parishes where significant numbers of marriages are celebrated, local policy must take into account the circumstances of the pastoral life of the parish and its regular Mass schedule. It is always appropriate to celebrate the marriage of two Catholics at regularly scheduled Masses.

– Bishop William S. Skylstad, February 22, 2002

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