Vatican: Catholic Marriages Only Valid When Performed by Catholic Priests

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The Roman Catholic Congregation of the Council, the department of the Roman Curia responsible for matters involving priests and deacons (thus the later name "Sacred Congregation for the Clergy"), publishes the decree Ne temere.

This establishes that marriages of Catholics are valid only when done under the auspices of a qualified Catholic priest and with at least two witnesses present.

The most immediate and practical effect of Ne temere is that individual Catholic priests become the absolute and even arbitrary authorities over marriages. In most cases, non-Catholics can only marry Catholics if they promise to raise and educate their future children as Catholics. Sometimes, non-Catholics must convert to Catholicism entirely. Without this agreement, no Catholic priest will perform the marriage.

Ne temere will come under extensive criticism across Europe because this is a time when personal liberties are generally growing, not shrinking. Ne temere comes into conflict with local secular laws which are opening up to make mixed marriages and civil marriages easier to obtain. The fact that canon law will declare invalid some marriages which are accepted as legitimate by secular law will create significant legal difficulties for some.

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