Q: A Catholic bride and Methodist Groom are seeking marriage. The priest has denied allowing them to be married within the Mass and has assigned a Deacon to perform the rite outside of Mass. They have requested a priest and a Mass, as both parties have large numbers of Catholics in their families. Is it permissible for the priest to deny them the celebration of a Mass and ask a Deacon to fill in instead? They feel that since they both aren’t Catholic, that the priest is “ducking out” of his responsibilities to witness a sacramental marriage. Any help is appreciated.
A: The revised Rite of Marriage is still not available in English, but when it comes out, it will have an expanded introduction. The introduction is technically “in force” – even though we don’t have it in English yet. The translations I’m giving you below are not official.
- from Paragraph 29: “with due regard both for the necessities of pastoral care and for the way in which the prospective spouses and those present participate in the life of the Church, the pastor should decide whether it would be preferable to propose that Marriage be celebrated within or without Mass.” It cites canon 1115, which doesn’t shed much light on this particular question.
- from Paragraph 36: “If a Marriage takes place between a Catholic and a baptized non-Catholic, the rite for celebrating Marriage without Mass (nos. 79-117) should be used. If, however, the situation warrants it, the rite for celebrating Marriage within Mass (nos. 45-78) may be used, with the consent of the local Ordinary.”
The way I read it, the priest is within his rights. Nonetheless, a wedding without mass by a deacon is just as much a sacrament as a wedding with mass by a priest. The couple give the sacrament to each other. The priest or deacon is the Church’s official witness.
If the couple were in my parish, I’d probably agree that mass would be a good idea. But I don’t know all that this priest is dealing with. He might really be stressed to the max and unable to provide extra services on weekends. Just hard to know.