MARRIAGE IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
MARRIAGE PREPARATION POLICY OF THE DIOCESE OF NASHVILLE
The choice to marry is one of life’s most momentous decisions. Marriage is a serious and sacred commitment which calls a couple to each other in the most profound and permanent way. Through it husband and wife are called to draw closer to God, to the Church, and to each other. They work at loving one another as God has loved them. As a married couple, they become a visible sign and reminder of Christ’s sacrificial love for all people.
The Church believes that every couple entering marriage has a right to the pursuit of happiness. The Church holds up to all men and women the ideal of Christian marriage B permanent, exclusive, and open to children — and assists an awareness of the many social, emotional, and financial pressures exerted on marriages today.
Thus, it is with a spirit of deep hope and concern for building lasting marriages which are characterized by maturity, faith, love, and social responsibility that this policy has been promulgated for the Diocese of Nashville.
Specific questions concerning this policy may be asked of your parish priest/deacon or referred to:
Engaged Couple Formation
2800 McGavock Pike
Nashville, TN 37214
MARRIAGE PREPARATION PROCEDURE
A couple desiring to be married is expected to notify the parish clergy at least FOUR MONTHS prior to the proposed date for the wedding. This interval allows sufficient time to prepare well for such a sacred vocational decision.
When two Catholics marry, the wedding ordinarily takes place in the parish church of either party with the clergy of the parish assisting in the preparation and the witnessing of the marriage. Permission, and possibly delegation, of the parish priest is needed if some other Catholic clergy is to serve in this capacity.
In interritual marriages permission may be requested for the wedding to take place in a non-Catholic church witnessed by that minister. Permission is obtained through the clergy of the Catholic party.
The requirement to participate in a marriage preparation program fully applies to all marriages involving Catholics.
At the beginning of the four month preparation period the couple and the clergy should decide which marriage preparation program is most suitable. If a serious reason makes it advisable, the clergy may tell the couple that no definite date may be set for the wedding until the completion of the marriage preparation program and the resolution of the difficulty.
It is strongly recommended that Catholics who are to be married approach the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist in support of a more fruitfully celebration of marriage.
MARRIAGE PREPARATION PROGRAMS
Participation in a marriage preparation program is a requirement in the Diocese of Nashville. All programs include reflection on the nature and sacramentality of marriage, married love, family life, marital responsibilities, communications, and other practical considerations. These are the approved options:
PARISH – BASED PROGRAMS
A Sponsor Couple: a series of three or more sessions with a trained married couple in their home.
Parish Team: some parishes within the diocese have developed a series of sessions led by a team of married couples and clergy from the parish. If such a program is available in your parish, the clergy will give you further information.
The Engaged Couples’ Retreat: is a one-day retreat led by married couples. The retreat offers time away from normal routines and busy schedules to pray, reflect and rediscover the presence of God in our lives. At the retreat engaged couples have the opportunity to explore those aspects of marriage named above with other engaged couples and married couples. Registration forms are available from parish clergy or through the Diocese of Nashville website.
MARRIAGE OF MINORS
Generally marriages between teenagers are to be discouraged since the probability of permanence in such marriages is greatly reduced. If either party is not yet 20 years old, consideration for marriage in the Church will be given only after consultation with parents and, if the priest/deacon believes it necessary, with a professional counselor. Rarely, if ever, will permission be given for marriage in the Church for anyone seventeen or under.
PREGNANCY BEFORE MARRIAGE
When pregnancy occurs outside of marriage, it is a time of great stress and turmoil for the parties and their families. The Church views such situations with compassion and concern. However, marriage should not automatically be presumed to be the appropriate solution in these cases. The priest/deacon may offer counsel regarding other morally acceptable alternatives. Pregnancy does not diminish the need for the preparation required by this policy. Indeed, it is even more vital to the marriage that established procedures be followed.
VALIDATION OF MARRIAGE
If a Catholic marries but not in accordance with the laws of the Church, a validation by the Church might be possible after the couple completes an appropriate preparation as outlined by the priest/deacon.
REASONS FOR DELAY OF MARRIAGE
Marriage is recognized by the Church as a natural right. A priest/deacon may not lightly refuse to witness the marriage of a parishioner who is free to marry in the Church. For a serious and just cause, the priest/deacon may recommend a delay. Just cause would include but not be limited to the following:
- Serious lack of maturity as assessed by the priest/deacon, after consultation with parents and through pre-marriage counseling. Lack of readiness may include immaturity, chemical dependency, a history of social or interpersonal problems.
- Non-practice of the Catholic faith by the Catholic party or parties with no demonstration of an intention of returning to the practice of the faith.
- Substantial lack of appreciation for the spiritual and sacramental aspects of marriage.
- Refusal to complete an approved marriage preparation program or premarital counseling, if this is required.
If a delay is recommended, the couple may appeal this decision in written form through the Chancellor of the Diocese of Nashville, 2800 McGavock Pike, Nashville, TN 37214.