A Catholic lady got married to an ECWA man without the permission of the Local Ordinary.
Question 4: A Catholic lady got married to an Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) man some three years ago, without the permission of the Local Ordinary. Now she wants to return to the Catholic Church in order to resume the reception of Holy Communion. The husband has no problem with that. What is the way forward?
Answer 4: According to Can. 1055, §1, marriage is a covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring, has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament between the baptized. The Catholic woman and the ECWA man established the matrimonial covenant in the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA). Both of them are baptized and as such according to this canon, this marriage has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.
In the eye of the Church as stated in Can. 1124: “without express permission of the competent authority, a marriage is prohibited between two baptized persons of whom one is baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it after baptism and the other of whom is enrolled in a Church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the Catholic Church”. Secondly, the law in Can. 1125 permits the local ordinary to grant a permission of this kind if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions have been fulfilled:
1/ the Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;
2/ the other party is to be informed at an appropriate time about the promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party;
3/ both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude.
Following the stipulation in Can. 1124, the Catholic party needed permission to contract the marriage which she did not ask for. As she did not ask for permission to get married to the ECWA man, her marriage is not lawful. Not only that he did not ask for permission for the lawfulness of this marriage, she did not also ask for dispensation from the canonical form for the validity of the marriage. When a permission for mixed marriage is given, the Church expects the marriage to be celebrated in the parish church. With dispensation from the canonical form, the marriage can be celebrated in a Church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the Catholic Church or any other suitable place.
This marriage is not lawful because a marriage is prohibited between two baptized persons of whom one is baptized in the Catholic Church or received into it after baptism and the other of whom is enrolled in a Church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the Catholic Church without express permission. And secondly, the marriage is not valid because it lacks canonical form since it involves a Catholic party and was celebrated in ECWA without dispensation from the canonical form by the local ordinary.
The Catholic party did not do all this before the celebration of her marriage with ECWA man in the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA). She also has lived for three years in this marriage while still remembering her catholic root. This is attributed to the fact that she has refused ECWA to rebaptise her, which is why the authorities of the ECWA refuse to admit her to their communion. In the main time, the Catholic party has indicated interest to return to the Communion, while still being married to the ECWA partner. The partner has no problem with this but not indicated interest in converting to the Catholic Church. She wants to retain her full communion with the Catholic Church.
The Way Forward:
Under simple validation, Can. 1160 is to be invoked, if the ECWA partner can accept to have a catholic marriage. Then, the Parish Priest can allow the marriage anew with canonical form.
Under Retroactive validation, Can. 1161 §1. is also to be invoked in this case. It states: «the radical sanation of an invalid marriage is its convalidation without the renewal of consent, which is granted by competent authority and entails the dispensation from an impediment, if there is one, and from canonical form, if it was not observed, and the retroactivity of canonical effects». In the marriage in question, the canonical form was not observed so the competent authority can grant radical sanatio to this marriage. Who is the competent authority. Can. 1165 mentions the Apostolic See and the diocesan bishop as the competent authority. For the diocesan bishop, Can. 1165 § 2 says that he can grant a radical sanation in individual cases even if there are several reasons for nullity in the same marriage, after the conditions mentioned in can. 1125 for the sanation of a mixed marriage have been fulfilled. The marriage in question is a mixed marriage because it involves a Catholic party and a non-Catholic baptized party thought without express permission from the competent authority and without dispensation from the canonical form. The conditions (declaration of being prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith and promise to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church) mentioned in Can. 1125 as can see in the actions of the Catholic party are being manifested for the years of this marriage. And there is no prove or whatsoever the consent is lacking in either or both of the parties which can stop the radical sanatio not to be given according to Can. 1162 §1. Concerning the fulfillment of the conditions in Can. 1125, the diocesan bishop himself or through the parish priest of where the Catholic party has a domicile or quasi-domicile can determine how to investigate this.