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Document Details :
Title: Der empfang des Ehesakramentes - bewußter Glaubensakt oder automatische Folge der Taufe?
Subtitle: Zum Konzept einer Stufung des Ehesakramentes
Author(s): DEMEL, Sabine
Journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Volume: 5 Issue: 1 Date: 1999
The reception of the sacrament of marriage – conscious act of faith or automatic consequence of baptism
According to the teaching of the Catholic Church there can be no valid (church) marriage between Christians which is not at the same time a sacrament (c. 1055 §2 CIC). On this principle each Christian couple in the Catholic Church faces the alternative either of having an ecclesiastically valid and at the same time sacramental marriage or of contracting a marriage that is not sacramental and therefore not valid from the church viewpoint (cc. 1055 §2 together with c. 1108 §1 and c. 1117 CIC). This alternative may seem questionable enough, but even more so is the fact that the ecclesiastical validity of marriage between Christians and its sacramentality can arise in very different ways. While for example a “normal” Catholic couple receives the sacrament of marriage only in and through a wedding ceremony in a Catholic Church, with a Catholic couple formally lapsed from the Church the act of marriage according to secular law is the sacramentally foundational act! In the end it becomes clear here that the reception of the sacrament of marriage is more the automatic consequence of baptism than a conscious act of faith.
It was the recognition of this that formed as it were the practical starting-point for raising the possibility of a reform of the existing teaching about the criteria for a marriage both ecclesiastically valid and also sacramental. The theoretical principle derived from church teaching about the many classes and levels of membership of the Church (cf. LG 8,2; cc. 96; 204f.; 842 §2 CIC) and the relationship between the order of creation and the order of redemption. What has emerged is a suggestion that in the future there should be a recognition of two stages in the sacrament of marriage: an incipiently sacramental and a fully sacramental form. To the extent that the meaning of marriage within the order of creation - unity and indissolubility - is affirmed, marriage is an incipiently sacramental sign of the love of God for men, and this incipiently sacramental form of marriage arises by a wedding in accordance with secular law. If the persons marrying also declare their faith in Jesus Christ in word and deed, their marriage is a fully sacramental sign of the steadfast love of God for men as revealed in the union of Jesus Christ and his Church. In the Catholic understanding this fully sacramental marriage can be received only in the religious act of a church wedding.
With such a two-stage sacrament of marriage, simply to be baptised would no longer be the criterion for the reception of the sacrament of marriage in the full sense - the individual’s corresponding disposition of faith would also be necessary. Moreover the full form of the marriage sacrament would no longer arise as hitherto for one couple in a secular and for another couple in a church wedding, since for all Christian couples there would only be the wedding in the Catholic Church. This in turn could lead to some significant changes in pastoral practice and canon law judgements.