Marriage Policy

Preface

Preparation for Marriage

Civil Requirements for Marriage

Catholic Church Requirements for Marriage

Interfaith and Interdenominational Marriages

Guidelines for Receiving Holy Communion

Teen Marriages

Places and Times of Marriage

Wedding Pictures at Catholic Churches

Witnesses for Marriage

Special Situations

Preface

The following guidelines on marriage policy within the Archdiocese of Santa Fe are a revision of norms issued the Spring of 1987.

The revised guidelines reflect the general requirements of the Catholic Church's 1983 Code of Canon Law and adopted policy and directives of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe with respect to marriage over the last eight years.

The policy set forth within seeks the best possible pastoral care for the bride and groom as well as the needs of the Catholic Community. Good sound marriage do not happen; they are created and sustained by the partnership of husband, wife and God. The policy of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe for marriage seeks careful and sound preparation of couples for entering marital life.

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Preparation for Marriage

The teaching and discipline of the Catholic Church on marriage is that the matrimonial covenant, by which a man and woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children. Baptized persons, whether Catholic or another Christian Church, who marry according to norm of law create a covenant that is a sacrament whose properties are unity and indissolubility.

Unbaptized persons when contracting a marriage enter a permanent bond which only ends with the death of one of the partners. This is established by natural law.

All persons who are not prohibited by the ecclesiastical law can contract a marriage. Marriage in which one of the partners is Catholic are regulated by church law. Marriages involving a Catholic spouse must be celebrated in the presence of a Catholic priest or deacon and two witnesses unless previously dispensed by the Archbishop's delegate.

Marriage enjoys the favor of the law in the Catholic Church: therefore, when two people, who are free to marry, contract marriage in accord with norm of law, the validity of that marriage is upheld until the contrary is proven.

In situations where a civil divorce, dissolution, or civil annulment has taken place, no second marriage may take place in the Catholic Church until the person's freedom to again enter marriage is established through Catholic Church procedures. For information on this matter, please contact your parish office or the Tribunal Office of Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

Marriage in the Catholic Church is not viewed as simply a legal act; rather, marriage is a sacred event whereby groom and bride call upon God, in the presence of the Catholic community, to witness and consecrate their love for each other. Preparation for marriage is formation of self to assume and fulfill the rights and obligations of husband and wife.

In the Archdiocese of Santa Fe a four to six month time of marriage preparation is recommended for those who have completed their eighteenth birthday and have not been civilly united.

It is recommended that couples contact the parish priest at the time that they decide to marry to make preliminary inquiries as to the dates, existing marriage preparation programs, and requirements which must be fulfilled.

Information on existing programs for preparation is available at your parish of the Chancery office.

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Civil Requirements for Marriage

Marriages which take place in the Catholic Church in New Mexico must fulfill the requirements of the civil laws of the state of New Mexico. At present there are two requirements.

A civil marriage license. The license is effective for an indefinite period of time. If one or both of the parties are below the age of eighteen, parental consent is required.

A blood test administered within New Mexico is required by the State of New Mexico. check the County Clerk's Office for exception.

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Catholic Church Requirements for Marriage

In addition to the civil license for marriage, the following church documents are required and placed in a pre-nuptial file before marriage is celebrated or authorized in the Catholic Church.

  1. Bride and Groom's forms to establish freedom to marry (Questionnaire).
  2. To witness forms for each party which attest to the freedom of the parties to marry (Affidavit of Free Status for Marriage).
  3. Newly issued copies of baptismal certificates "with all notations" if one or both are baptized. The Catholic Church recognizes and accepts the baptismal certificates of many Christian and Orthodox Churches.
  4. A certificate of participation in a marriage preparation program of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.
  5. A dispensation from Mixed Religion or Disparity of Worship, etc., if required for a particular marriage.
  6. Any reports or evaluations of the witnessing priest or deacon, if applicable.
  7. In situations of a second marriage or a con validation, the following documents are also required:

    1. if the previous spouse is deceased, a copy of the death certificate is to be inserted in the pre-nuptial papers.
    2. if a prior marriage received a dissolution or declaration of nullity, the proper information is to be inserted in the pre-nuptial file.
    3. if the parties were civilly married, a copy of the civil record of the marriage is to be included for con validation.
  8. Delegation for visiting priest or deacon to witness a marriage in church of celebration.
  9. If a marriage involving at least one Catholic takes place before a minister of a Church or an ecclesial community which is not Catholic, a dispensation from canonical form is required for the Catholic party.

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Interfaith & Interdenominational Marriages

Many call such marriages "mixed marriages." The term is used for a marriage between a Catholic and a member of a church or ecclesial community which is not in full communion with the Catholic Church. To celebrate such marriages in the Catholic Church, the following items are required in addition to those mentioned above.

  1. The Catholic party must declare his or her intention to practice their faith and to do all in his or her power to have all the children baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church.
  2. The other party is to be informed of these promises which the Catholic party has to make.
  3. Both parties are to be instructed on the essential ends and properties of marriage, which are to not be excluded by either party.

Because of problems concerning Eucharistic sharing which may arise from the presence of witnesses and guests from other ecclesial communities and beliefs, a mixed marriage celebrated according to the Catholic form ordinarily takes place outside the Eucharistic liturgy. For a just cause, however, permission may be given by the Archbishop to celebrate the Eucharist.

In the latter case, the decision on whether or not a non-Catholic party of the marriage may be admitted to Eucharistic communion is to be made by the Archbishop in keeping with the general norms in the Code of Canon Law and the Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism (1993).

With reference to the marriage ceremony, Catholic Church law does not permit two religious ceremonies; nor is it permitted to have a religious celebration in which a Catholic and a non-Catholic minister, assisting together but following their respective rituals, ask for consent of the parties.

It is permitted, and encouraged where possible, for the Catholic and non-Catholic minister to assist at the ceremony. If the Catholic ritual is to be used, the Catholic minister must ask for and receive the consent of the bride and groom. If the non-Catholic minister is to ask for and receive the consent, a dispensation from canonical form must be obtained.

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Guidelines for Receiving Holy Communion

The following guidelines were published by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops on November 25, 1986 for all the dioceses of the United States

For  Catholics

Catholics fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when they receive Holy Communion in fulfillment of Christ's command to eat His Body and drink His Blood. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, communicants should be not conscious of grave sin, have fasted for an hour, and seek to live in charity and love with their neighbors. Persons conscious of grave sin must first be reconciled with God and the Church through the sacrament of Penance. A frequent reception of the sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.

For Other Christians

We welcome to this celebration of the Eucharist those Christians who are not fully united with us. It is a consequence of the sad divisions in Christianity that we cannot extend to them a general invitation to receive Communion. Catholics believe that the Eucharist is an action of the celebrating community signifying a oneness in faith, life, and worship of the community. Reception of the Eucharist by Christians not fully united with us would imply a oneness which does not yet exist, and for which we must all pray.

For Those Not Receiving Communion

Those not receiving sacramental Communion are encouraged to express in their hearts a prayerful desire for unity with the Lord Jesus with one another.

For Non-Christians

We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus. While we cannot extend to them an invitation to receive Communion, we do invite them to be united with us in prayer.

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Teen Marriages

The following marriage policy for Catholics within the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is applicable to all marriages in which one or both of the parties have not yet completed their eighteenth birthday and desire to marry within the Catholic Church.

The pastoral experience of the Church in recent years has noted little success in the area of teen marriages. Therefore it is strongly recommended that teenagers be discouraged from attempting marriage and that such marriages only be allowed with the permission of the Chancery.

In situations where parties civilly attempted marriage or where they have cohabited and now wish to con validate their union, this policy is applicable if one or both have not yet completed their twentieth birthday.

The criteria used by the Chancery in the considering of such permission is as follows:

  1. a marriage preparation time of six months is required during which time the following steps are mandatory.
  2. before marriage preparation begins, a pre-marriage evaluation is to be conducted by the pastor with the parents of both parties. The focus of this evaluation is to center upon the readiness of the parties to marry, their maturity, and their freedom to give marital consent. The written report is to be maintained in the pre-nuptial file.
  3. if the preliminary evaluation in number two is favorable, the following steps may be implemented:

    1. each couple is required to participate in a pre-marriage program such as an Engaged Encounter, or any other pre-marriage program authorized by the priest or deacon who will officiate at the proposed wedding. A written self-evaluation of the program by both the prospective groom and bride is required. These evaluations are also to be maintained in the pre-nuptial file.
    2. a written evaluation by the officiating priest or deacon which addresses itself to the practice of the faith by the parties, their maturity and freedom, as well as the priest's or deacon's own effort at pastoral preparation or the parties is to be included in the pre-nuptial papers.
    3. parents or legal guardians of both parties are to give written consent for the proposed marriage along with their estimation as to why they believe the union will succeed.
    4. the necessary documents, i.e., civil marriage license, recent copies of the baptismal certificates, and the pre-nuptial papers for the groom and bride are to be collected and signed.

  4. Pregnancy is not an acceptable reason for an exception to the above requirements. If an exception is judged warranted, it is the responsibility of the officiating priest or deacon to request the exception in writing to the Archbishop's delegate for the matter.

  5. In those situations where the officiating priest or deacon is willing to witness the marriage, the completed pre-nuptial papers with copies are to be submitted to the Chancery office for review and the granting of the permission for the teenage marriage by the Archbishop or his delegate and the copies of those papers retained by the Chancery for safe keeping.

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Places and Times of Marriage

The ordinary place of marriage for Catholics is their parish church where they live or another Catholic church or chapel. Permission will not be given for churches or chapels which do not belong to the Catholic Church or where the sacred liturgy is not regularly celebrated. While such churches are often very beautiful and historically important, Catholic marriage is a community celebration which should take place in the parish church.

It is the policy of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to leave to the pastor of the church the determination as to when marriage is to be celebrated in his parish so as not to be in conflict with other parochial functions. The following conditions must also be observed:

  1. nuptial masses are not to be celebrated on Sundays or Holy Days.
  2. a wedding may not be scheduled within two hours of the start of a regularly scheduled Saturday afternoon or evening parish mass, and the wedding must be scheduled so as not to interfere with the scheduled time for the sacrament of Reconciliation.

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Wedding Pictures at Catholic Churches

Photographers are asked to limit themselves in taking pictures in the church after the wedding ceremony from twenty to thirty minutes. The time limit is important so as not to interfere with other scheduled services.

Photographers are requested not to move any of the sanctuary or altar furnishings, for example, candles, prayer books, kneelers, and the altar itself.

Photographers should always check with the presider (priest or deacon) before the wedding ceremony for any special instructions. Individual Catholic churches have additional regulations due to the local custom and traditions.

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Witnesses for Marriage

Within the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, there are not restrictions on adults serving as witnesses at Catholic weddings. Non-Catholics may serve as witnesses and attendants at Catholic ceremonies. Catholics, with the approval of their pastor, may serve as witnesses and attendants in authorized and legitimate non-Catholic wedding rituals.

It is highly recommended that witnesses be men and women who will take a personal interest in the spouses and aid them by advice to live the marriage vows. It is further strongly recommended that witnesses be practicing Christians whose own style of life can be an example to the new spouses. The number of attendants is a wedding party is to be determined at the parish level, taking into account the size of the church and accepted practice in that parish.

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Special Situations

Canon 1071 sets forth certain situations in which priests and deacons must seek the permission of the Archbishop to witness a particular marriage:

  1. the marriage of transients;
  2. a marriage which cannot be recognized or celebrated in accord with the norm
    of civil law;
  3. a marriage of a person who is bound by natural obligation toward another party
    or toward children, arising from a prior union;
  4. a marriage of a person who has notoriously rejected the Catholic faith;
  5. a marriage of a person who is bound by censure;
  6. a marriage of a minor child whose parents are unaware of it or are reasonably
    opposed to it;
  7. a marriage entered by means of proxy, mentioned in canon 1105 §2.

If the priest or deacon has reservations concerning the advisability of the couple to enter marriage, he should consult with the Chancery office before proceeding to witness or postpone the wedding.

Con validation of unauthorized attempts at marriage before a civil magistrate or non-Catholic minister is also a special situation. Marriage preparation in each case will be individually considered by the priest or deacon. Other requirements in this policy must be fulfilled.

Pastors, priests and deacons are not to witness within their parish, the marriages of non-parishioners without the prior consultation of the pastor of the bride and groom.

In situations where one or both of the parties are not free under Catholic Church law to enter marriage, it is forbidden for a Catholic priest or deacon to witness their marriage. The clergyman's civil power to witness marriage may not be used in this situation. It is also forbidden for such marriages to take place within a Catholic Church or Chapel.

Special pastoral care by priests and deacons is required in instances where abuse of substances, i.e., alcohol and/or drugs, has affected individuals or family relationships. Pastors should work with couples to reduce the possibility that this illness will harm the marriage.

The marriage ceremony may be celebrated in either the parish church of the bride or the groom.

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Very Rev. Oscar Coelho, J.C.L.
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