Requested Clarification of BetrayedCatholics Application of Canon 1094 in Light of Its Exception of Canon 1098

I was quite enjoying my respite from publishing on CatholicEclipsed, but I am afraid something has happened that has forced me from my cryogenically induced coma to write to you today.

You see, Teresa Benns of BetrayedCatholics has written an article, “What does the Church really teach about: woes today,” which seems to be so unthinkingly wrong and scandalous as to cause my wife to quite literally gasp and exclaim, “Oh my goodness!”

The remarks in question are as follows:

“Those already praying at home who now are seeking release from marital situations or suffering from anxiety about the validity of their marriages will be surprised to learn that they are not considered validly married under Canon Law if they were married by a Traditional or Novus Ordo minister whom they believed to be true priests, but who in fact had no jurisdiction over them and could not validly witness the marriage. This is stated in Can. 1094: “Those marriages only are valid which are contracted either before a pastor or the local ordinary or a priest delegated by either and at least two witnesses…” 

Further on, she writes: 

“Those truly unable to remain in marriages apparently invalid under Can. 1094 may today consider themselves free to leave or divorce civilly, if married in the Novus Ordo or by a Traditionalist cleric.”

This is so bizarre a conclusion based upon Canon. 1094 that I am hard pressed to conceive of a motivation founded in anything reasonable or Catholic. For a Catholic blogger to say that a man and woman who exchange vows in good faith before a non-Catholic minister do not actually marry validly and are thus free to divorce civilly is as unconscionable as it is un-Catholic.

And it must be kept in mind that, just as any Novus Ordo wedding requires at least two witnesses, the requirement of Canon 1094 is always met, but more on that in a moment.

Perhaps in my simplicity (I am no canon lawyer), I am misunderstanding what Teresa Benns is claiming here. I ask her to clarify publicly what she means by the above statements, and the justification for these in law and religion on her website or in the comments here–Teresa Benns, you are always welcome.

On which point of welcome and good will, this post has nothing to do with launching a vendetta against Teresa. I am argumentative by temperament, but I am never quarrelsome. I love Teresa, and I would have enjoyed a long and friendly and cooperative relationship in the spirit and fight for authentic Catholicism with her for many years; but, alas, differences of understanding of Church teaching and law have made that impossible. But what is at stake at present is beyond any dispute between CatholicEclipsed or BetrayedCatholics. What is at stake is the destruction of families and the commission of sacrilege:

BC. 1027. The evils that follow divorce so commonly claimed by those outside the true Church and granted by civil authority are very many; but chiefly: 
   1. A disregard for the sacred character of the Sacrament and for the spiritual welfare of the children;
   2. The loss of the true idea of home and family followed by bad morals and sinful living.

BC. 1024. Divorce granted by courts of justice or by any human power does not break the bond of marriage, and one who makes use of such a divorce to marry again while the former husband or wife lives commits a sacrilege and lives in the sin of adultery. A civil divorce may give a sufficient reason for the persons to live apart and it may determine their rights with regard to support, the control of the children and other temporal things, but it has no effect whatever upon the bond and spiritual nature of the Sacrament.

Let me offer an alternative interpretation of Canon 1094, not based upon my own reading, but rather in light of the exception which just follows the ellipsis Benns ends her citation with, which is so helpful and illuminating during this time of Apostasy and necessarily remaining home. It goes like this:

Canon 1094: Only those marriages are valid that are contracted in the presence of the pastor, or the local Ordinary, or a priest delegated by either, and two witnesses, according to the rules expressed in the canons that follow, with due regard for the exceptions mentioned in Canons 1098…, (emphasis added). 

Canon 1098: If the pastor or Ordinary or delegated priest who assists at marriage according to the norm of Canons 1095 and 1096 cannot be had or cannot be present without grave inconvenience:

1.°: In danger of death marriage is contracted validly and licitly in the presence only of witnesses; and outside of danger of death provided it is prudently foreseen that this condition will perdure for one month…

The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on “Moral and Canonical Aspect of Marriage” says the same thing as Canon 1098:

“The marriage law, known by its initial words, “Ne temere”, went into force on Easter Sunday, 18 April, 1908. The principal changes it made in the Church’s matrimonial legislation relate to clandestine marriages (which it makes null and void for all Catholics of the Latin Rite) and to questions incidental thereto. The law enacts that a marriage of Catholics of the Latin Rite is licit and valid only if contracted in the presence of the ordinary, or the parish priest, or a priest delegated by either, and at least two witnesses. Any priest may revalidate a sinful or an invalid marriage of those who, through sickness, are in serious danger of death, unless their case is such as admits of no revalidation — as for instance, if they are in holy orders. Again, in the case of those who live in districts where no priest resides, and who cannot without serious hardship go to one, the new law provides that, if such condition has lasted a month, they may marry without a priest, but in the presence of two witnesses, the record of their marriage being properly made as prescribed,” (Emphasis added). 

As Home Alone Catholics, this should be very consoling for those would like to marry or have married without a Catholic priest–unless you are the few likely among us who exchanged vows before an actual Catholic priest. We have certitude that the Church teaches that vows exchanged before two witnesses, where there are no impediments to the Sacrament of Matrimony, is lawfully and validly done.

I understand that there are difficult unions out there, that married people today are very much tried by fire, from infidelity, impurity, poverty, and so many numerous and nameless vices. The demonic forces converge and conspire against the family such that, next to the Hierarchical Church, the Divine institution of the Family is on the verge of near extinction. So few marriages actually exist as holy unions of husband and wife and children, not so much through impediments to Matrimony, but through divorce and remarriage. Man and woman marry, then divorce, then remarry, sometimes multiple times, and in the wake of which there are countless children who will never know normal, happy home life. It is, next to the death of God, the saddest thing in the world, because it is the death of childhood, which is the most beautiful and purest thing in the world, and the whole point and purpose of Matrimony.

And BetrayedCatholics is only making it worse by promoting divorce.

I cannot understand why Benns would say marriages officiated by non-Catholic ministers are invalid. I ask Teresa again to support this seemingly outlandish claim with sources in authentic Catholic teaching. For the love of God, for the love of men and women validly and licitly held fast in matrimonial bonds, do not armchair-theologian this one. Please. Don’t. For the love of the children.