Post by Andy.III
It is not that church marriages are recognized as legal but rather that the
ministers are authorized to perform a legal marriage. A minister who has not
been so authorized couldn't perform a marriage that would be recognized by the
state as legal even if it were performed at the main alter in St. Patrick's
cathedral - or such is my understanding. Notice that all relifious marriages
include the words " by the power invested in me by the state of ___, I now
pronounce you.. "
"Extremism in the destruction of intolerance is NOT a vice"
That's what I meant: it simply came out wrong. The point here (which
many people miss) is that in North America, you can have a
one-size-fits-all wedding ceremony -- but only if it's performed by a
cleric (not a judge, since the church will not recognize the validity
of civil marriages: I guess you might call this a double standard).
In other words, a priest/minister/rabbi not only serves as the chief
witness to a marriage, whose validity is recognized by the religious
community, but also is authorized by the state to serve as a LEGAL
witness to the said marriage ("Do you take this person to be your
LAWFULLY wedded spouse?"). Of course, some states require additional
witnesses to sign documents, during/after the religious ceremony.
A number of Europeans seem to have difficulty in understanding this --
i.e. the fact that American clerics carry some civil authority
(indicating a degree of respect for organized religion, in the United
States and Canada: indeed, a certificate of baptism/circumcision can
serve as a birth certificate in most places, if the latter gets lost),
which theirs (by and large) do not.
Similarly, many Americans don't realize the extent to which church and
state are separated, in most countries of Europe -- for which one
usually needs to undergo two weddings (civil and religious) in order
to satisfy both (the state does not recognize the legality of
religious marriages any more than the church recognizes the validity
of civil marriages: I had quite a time explaining to one friend, in
particular, that Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde of Belgium
could theoretically have eloped to any place in the world for a
Catholic wedding, in which case the Church would (presumably)
recognize the validity of their marriage. But if they failed to
undergo a civil ceremony at home, then the marriage would be deemed
illegal by Belgian state law -- in which case their children would be
deemed illegitimate, with no succession rights. Of course, I realize
that they could have married civilly in Belgium and religiously
anywhere, in which case their children would be deemed legitimate by
both the church and state; but if they failed to receive the requisite
consent of his sovereign father, King Albert II, then Elisabeth and
Gabriel would be considered bastards for the purpose of succession).
As such, some run into trouble when getting married abroad -- as they
find themselves having to do the same thing: after all, it wouldn't
make sense to authorize (say) an Italian priest to serve as a legal
witness to a marriage involving Americans -- anymore than it would to
authorize an American judge to serve as a legal witness to a marriage
One option for such a hypothetical American couple, then, is to first
marry civilly in the United States -- and then travel to Italy for the
church wedding. Another, of course, is to undergo the civil ceremony
in some U.S. embassy (presumably in Rome) -- and afterward, head to
the church for the religious ceremony.
And I suppose one could theoretically have the opposite scenario --
whereby an Italian couple first marries in a civil wedding (since it's
required by the law of their country) in their hometown, and then
travels to America for the church ceremony (entirely optional, since
religion is a purely private matter and such weddings are conducted
exclusively for spiritual reasons).
Fortunately, the Church (Catholic or otherwise) does not care in the
least as to the geographical location of the religious wedding, or the
nationality of the cleric who presides over the said ceremony.