I minister in the poorest town in Indiana. We have a wonderful woman who is in RCIA to join the Church.
She's been married 5 times.
The Amoris Laetitia debate taking place about whether the divorced and remarried without an annulment while the first spouse is still living...this debate seems MUCH less important than what I'd like to discuss below.
First of all, I'm not a canon lawyer, but (I think I'm right in saying this) there are essentially 2 levels to marriage. First of all, a marriage even of the unbaptized can be VALID because we currently consider the consent of the couple to be what typically makes it valid.
LEVEL 2: In addition to a marriage being valid, it can ALSO be sacramental if it is between 2 baptized persons
The discussion we need to be having, in my mind, is "has the state of marriage OUTSIDE the Church changed so drastically as to warrant us reexamining what makes a marriage valid? Also, has the state of marriage changed so drastically OUTSIDE the Church as to warrant us examining what makes a marriage sacramental?"
1) you don't even have to be baptized to have a valid marriage. Two people, not baptized, who get married at the courthouse - we presume that is a valid marriage (not sacramental, but valid, thus needing to go through the annulment process if they have remarried and wish to join the Church)
2) We automatically say that two baptized people who exchange consent are presumed to be sacramentally married.
Said negatively - the only marriage we know, ON THE SURFACE, is not even a valid marriage is when a Catholic gets married OUTSIDE the Church without the Church's permission. ALL OTHER MARRIAGES ARE PRESUMED VALID, AND NEED TO AT LEAST BEGIN THE ANNULMENT JOURNEY
But, in my mind, the entire landscape has changed, punctuated by our nation's embrace of same-sex marriage.
Here's what I'd like to throw out there: I am proposing, for arguments sake, that we say for a marriage to be valid, you need to either be married
1) In the Catholic Church or
2) In a Church that is on our approved list of churches that we believe do adequate marriage preparation/formation etc. AND have the SAME understanding of what marriage is that we as Catholics do. Perhaps, like we did with baptism, we get together with other Christian denominations and issue some kind of joint statement on what we all believe about marriage, and the groups that don't sign on - getting married in their Church is not sacramental nor valid.
3) You receive proper permission from your bishop to marry a non-baptized person or some Christian that isn't on the list of approved Christian denominations.
Here's why I say this:
1) Our secular society literally has enshrined and recognizes marriage to be something that people of the same sex can enter into
2) Some denominations are literally preaching that two people of the same sex can "marry" each other.
We have, as a Catholic Church, done something similar with baptism. We don't recognize other Christian denominations' baptisms, unless they meet criteria that we have laid out and are on our "approved list of Christian denominations that properly confer baptism"
As an example, we accept Lutheran baptisms, but not Mormon baptisms
I'm just wondering whether we set some new standards about what we accept as marriage, given the shifting landscape outside the Church.
I have had people tell me they don't remember their marriage very much because they were both high when they walked into the courthouse to get married. Is that marriage? Now some will say "this stuff will get uncovered during an investigation for an annulment, and perhaps it would be declared null" but I'm saying it seems ridiculous at this point to think of these marriages as marriages - it seems off, in my mind, to even presume that these things are valid marriages
People might also just say, "you just don't want to work with your parishioner to get 5 annulment processes going" but I would say that situations like these are becoming more normal. This situation that I describe is, sadly, not nearly the exception anymore.
I have a town FULL of poor people who have been married multiple times and who would be interested in the Church but even being gently led through the marriage regularization process of the Church just seems to crush so many of them.
In the Amoris debate, again, everyone is upset and arguing about Catholics who have remarried without an annulment. I think the far more important question that can be tackled is
"Does the absolute implosion of what marriage has come to be in Western civilization warrant a redrawing of the lines for the Church's laws on marriage (not on who can receive Communion but on which and what types of marriages we recognize)"