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Baltimore Catechism (1891)
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A. Persons are lawfully married when they comply with all the laws of God and of the Church relating to marriage. To marry unlawfully is a mortal sin, and it deprives the souls of the grace of the Sacrament.
A. Marriage was first instituted in the Garden of Eden, when God created Adam and Eve and made them husband and wife, but it was not then a Sacrament, for their union did not confer any special grace.
A. The exact time at which the contract of marriages was raised to the dignity of a Sacrament is not known, but the fact that it was thus raised is certain from passages in the New Testament and from the constant teaching of the Church ever since the time of the apostles. Our Lord did not merely add grace to the contract, but He made the very contract a Sacrament, so that Christians cannot make this contract without receiving the Sacrament.
A. The outward sign in the Sacrament of matrimony is the mutual consent of the persons, expressed by words or signs in accordance with the laws of the Church. The whole essence of the marriage contract consists in the surrender by the persons of their bodies to each other and in declaring by word or sign that they make this surrender and take each other for husband and wife now and for life.
A. All marriages before the coming of Christ were not unlawful and invalid. They were both lawful and valid when the persons contracting them followed the dictates of their conscience and the laws of God as they knew them; but such marriages were only contracts. Through their evil inclinations many forgot or neglected the true character of marriage till Our Lord restored it to its former unity and purity.
A. By impediments to marriage we mean certain restrictions, imposed by the law of God or of the Church, that render the marriage invalid or unlawful when they are violated in entering into it. These restrictions regard age, health, relationship, intention, religion and other matters affecting the good of the Sacrament.
A. The Church can dispense from or remove the impediments to marriage that arise from its own laws; but it cannot dispense from impediments that arise from the laws of God and nature. Every lawmaker can change or excuse from the laws made by himself or his equals, but he cannot, of his own authority, change or excuse from laws made by a higher power.
A. That the Church may grant dispensations from the impediments to marriage or from other laws, there must be a good and urgent reason for granting such dispensations. The Church does not grant dispensations without cause and merely to satisfy the wishes of those who ask for them.
A. Persons who are about to get married should give their pastor timely notice of their intention, make known to him privately whatever they suspect might be an impediment to the marriage, and make sure of all arrangements before inviting their friends.
A. At least three weeks notice of marriage should be given to the priest, because, according to the laws of the Church, the names of the persons about to get married must be announced and their intended marriage published at the principal Mass in their parish for three successive Sundays.
A. The banns of matrimony are published in the Church that any person who might know of any impediment to the marriage may have an opportunity to declare it privately to the priest before the marriage takes place and thus prevent an invalid or unlawful marriage. Persons who know of such impediments and fail to declare them in due time are guilty of sin
A. Persons arranging for their marriage should make known to the priest whether both are Christians and Catholics; whether either has been solemnly engaged to another person; whether they have ever made any vow to God with regard to chastity or the like; whether they are related and in what degree; whether either was ever married to any member of the other's family and whether either was ever godparent in baptism for the other.
A. They must also make known whether either was married before and what proof can be given of the death of the former husband or wife; whether they really intend to get married, and do so of their own will; whether they are of lawful age; whether they are sound in body or suffering from any deformity that might prevent their marriage, and lastly, whether they live in the parish in which they ask to be married, and if so, how long they have lived in it.
A. That persons may do their duty in the marriage state, it is particularly necessary that they should be well instructed, before entering it, in the truths and duties of their religion for how will they teach their children these things if they are ignorant of them themselves?
A. 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 Iives 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.
A. The Church sometimes, for very good reasons, does allow husband and wife to separate and live apart; but that is not dissolving the bond of marriage, or divorce as it is called, for though separated they are still husband and wife, and neither can marry again till the other dies.
A. The Church has never allowed Catholics once really married to separate and marry again, but it has sometimes declared persons apparently married free to marry again, because their first marriage was null; that is, no marriage on account of some impediment not discovered till after the ceremony.
A. By bearing with each other's weaknesses we mean that the husband and wife must be patient with each other's faults, bad habits or dispositions, pardon them easily, and aid each other in overcoming them.
A. In receiving the Sacrament of matrimony we are bound to comply with whatever laws of the Church concern Matrimony; such as laws forbidding solemn marriage in Lent and Advent; or marriage with relatives or with persons of a different religion, and in general all laws that refer to any impediment to marriage.
A. Persons may be related in four ways. When they are related by blood their relationship is called consanguinity; when they are related by marriage it is called affinity; when they are related by being god-parents in Baptism or Confirmation, it is called spiritual affinity; when they are related by adoption, it is called legal affinity.
A. By laws concerning the civil effects of the marriage contract we mean laws with regard to the property or debts of the husband and wife, the inheritance of their children, or whatever pertains to their temporal affairs. All persons are bound to obey the laws of their country when these laws are not opposed to the laws of God.
A. The Church forbids the marriage of Catholics with persons who have a different religion, or no religion at all, because such marriages generally lead to indifference, loss of faith, and to the neglect of the religious education of the children.
A. The marriages of Catholics with persons of a different religion are called mixed marriages. The Church permits them by dispensation only under certain conditions and for urgent reasons; chiefly to prevent a greater evil.
The marriage ceremony must not be repeated before a heretical minister. Without these promises, the Church will not consent to a mixed marriage, and if the Church does not consent the marriage is unlawful.
A. Catholics who marry before a Protestant minister incur excommunication; that is, a censure of the Church or spiritual penalty which prevents them from receiving the Sacrament of Penance till the priest who hears their confession gets special faculties or permission from the bishop; because by such a marriage they make profession of a false religion in acknowledging as a priest one who has neither sacred power nor authority.
A. The Church shows its displeasure at mixed marriages by the coldness with which it sanctions them, prohibiting all religious ceremony at them by forbidding the priest to use any sacred vestments, holy water or blessing of the ring at such marriages; by prohibiting them also from taking place in the Church or even in the sacristy. On the other hand, the Church shows its joy and approval at a true Catholic marriage by the Nuptial Mass and solemn ceremonies.
A. The Church does not seek to make converts by its laws concerning mixed marriages, but seeks only to keep its children from losing their faith and becoming perverts by constant company with persons not Catholics. The Church does not wish persons to become Catholics merely for the sake of marrying Catholics. Such conversions are, as a rule, not sincere, do no good, but rather make such converts hypocrites and guilty of greater sins, especially sins of sacrilege.
A. Marriages are entered into hastily when persons do not sufficiently consider and investigate the character, habits and dispositions of the one they intend to marry. It is wise to look for lasting qualities and solid virtues in a life-long companion and not to be carried away with characteristics that please only for a time.
A. Motives for marriage are worthy when persons enter it for the sake of doing God's will and fulfilling the end for which He instituted the Sacrament. Whatever is opposed to the true object of the Sacrament and the sanctification of the husband and wife must be an unworthy motive.
A. Christians should prepare for a holy and happy marriage by receiving the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist; by begging God to grant them a pure intention and to direct their choice; and by seeking the advice of their parents and the blessing of their pastors.
A. Parents may be guilty of great injustice to their children in case of marriage by seeking the gratification of their own aims and desires, rather than the good of their children, and thus for selfish and unreasonable motives forcing their children to marry persons they dislike or preventing them from marrying the persons chosen by the dictates of their conscience, or compelling them to marry when they have no vocation for such a life or no true knowledge of its obligations.
A. They who attend a marriage ceremony in the Church must never forget the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and that all laughing, talking, or irreverence is forbidden then as at other times. Women must never enter into the presence of the Blessed Sacrament with uncovered heads, and their dress must be in keeping with the strict modesty that Our Lord's presence demands, no matter what worldly vanity or social manners may require.
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