Council ‘Votum’ On Matrimony

This is the text of the summary issued by the council press office of the council votum (suggestions for canonical legislation) on matrimony.

The Commission for the Discipline of the Sacraments had prepared a schema on marriage in 1963, in the period between the first and second session of the council, summarizing and synthesizing the studies on this point carried out by the Preparatory commission. In January 1964, the Coordinating Commission decided to reduce and transform the schema into a simple presentation of suggestions, containing clear directives for a reform of canon law on marriage along the lines of pastoral exigencies. It must be borne in mind that, although this does not take up the question of marriage as a sacrament in explicit terms, the topic is discussed in the schema on the Church, in the one on the apostolate of the laity and also in the schema on the Church in the modern world.

The text now presented to the Fathers, compressed into a little more than two pages, is subdivided into five paragraphs, which are in turn divided into three parts.

Part I recalls a certain number of fundamental principles, such as the sacred character of marriage considered in its entirety, the holiness of marriage contracted between two baptized persons as members of Christ whose union is in close relationship with that of Christ and His Church, the competence of the Church for the safeguarding of the integrity of the sacrament of Matrimony and, consequently, her right to legislate in this connection.

The second part contains directives for the revision of canon law in view of the special needs of our times. The proposition underlines the new conditions which have been created, e.g., by the phenomenon of emigration and the creation of new states. Legislation concerning impediments is to be simplified, e.g., the suppression of all impediments known as “minor.” Among these are consanguinity in the third degree of the collateral line, affinity in the second degree of the collateral line, spiritual relationship arising from being sponsor for Baptism or Confirmation.

As regards the impediments of mixed religion (between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic) and disparity of worship (between a Catholic and an unbaptized person) the future legislation shall be guided by the provisions of the council concerning ecumenism.

Steps shall likewise be taken to simplify the formalities hitherto required for the celebration of marriage in the presence of a priest duly authorized to bless the marriage. There shall also be a closer control in the part of the bishop over the cases involving marriage contracted with what is known as the “extraordinary form,” that is to say, in cases when the presence of a priest is impossible.

Lastly, steps shall be taken to simplify the procedure in marriage cases and provisions must be made to assure the selection of competent judges as well as the gratuitous services of a lawyer.

In the last part, the proposition mentions preparation for marriage as a serious duty for pastors of souls. Whenever necessary, pastors shall seek out the collaboration of other priests or competent lay people — men and women — for instruction and preparation in view of marriage. They shall endeavor to come to know the fiancés through personal contacts in order to strengthen them in Christian faith and life.

Pastors shall likewise observe scrupulously the rules governing the prenuptial investigation and shall never permit the celebration of the sacrament of Matrimony if they are not fully convinced of the free consent of the parties. Finally, they shall see to it that the marriage ceremony reflects the profound significance of the sacrament and that those assisting at the ceremony have the opportunity to participate actively in the liturgy.

Pastors of souls must continue their attentive interest even after marriage, assisting the newlyweds to live in the fullness of the grace of the sacrament their life as two in one, and counseling them on the new problems which will arise in the education of their children.

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