Friday, July 10, 2015


Here it is. Discuss:

Changing the procedure
The Supreme Court’s decision redefining the institution of civil marriage has no bearing on the Catholic Church’s sacramental system. Like baptism and Holy Eucharist, Holy Matrimony is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. According to scripture, tradition and natural law, the sacrament of marriage is between one man and one woman for a lifetime for the procreation of children and the unity of the husband and wife in forming a Christian family.
What the Supreme Court’s decision unfortunately has accomplished is the further polarizing of the civil understanding of marriage from its religious meaning discovered in natural law. The Catholic Church requires that the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony be acknowledged by the state, thus we have cooperated with civil authorities to assure this through civil marriage licenses required for church weddings which the Catholic clergy sign after the ceremony.
With this very grave threat to religious liberty fomented by the Supreme Court’s recent edict and the possible interference of the judicial system into the life and sacramental practices of the Catholic Church, as acknowledged by the dissenting Supreme Court justices, it is my hope that our American bishops will propose that the clergy no longer act as an agent of the state in terms of signing the civil marriage license. A civil magistrate should sign for the purposes of assuring civil benefits to Catholics who then, after the license is signed by a civil magistrate, can have their civil marriage sacramentalized by the Catholic Church’s Nuptial Liturgy.
-- Father Allan J. McDonald
Pastor, St. Joseph Church

Read more here:


Anonymous said...

Nobody cares anymore what the Church or any individual priest has to say regarding marriage.

The whole world has witnessed the complete silence from Francis.

If he doesn't care enough to say anything why should you?

Who are you to judge.....isn't that right. Why are you obsessing about doctrine and rules.......isn't that what he is saying. Didn't he just say he intends to make what is filthy into something understood as good, that's a paraphrase but it's basically what he said.

When he returns to Rome and places that blasphemous Communist crucifix on Our Lady's altar in St. Mary Major will that be enough for you to realize good Father that we hard being lead by someone who isn't a Catholic?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Your proposal seems to accomplish the same thing you lament - the separation of the civil understanding of marriage from its religious meaning.

Other than your hope that by not signing the marriage certificate the Church will be protected from "possible interference," what might be the benefits of the procedure you propose? And what might be the unintended consequences?

gob said...

Part of the problem: Priests and other (male) "celibates" really believe that they know about marriage and what it's for and how it works. They do not know. It may not be possible for them to know.

Tom Makin said...

I agree with Father McDonald on this one. As a church we really need to stop aiding and abetting a civil establishment so clearly biased against Catholics. I really wish our Bishops would do more than just talk about this. Do something concrete that makes people sit up and say, " whoa, no doubt where they stand on this or that....." On the home front, my Pastor, while stating disagreement with the SCOTUS ruling, watered his statement down with some sort of kumbaya closing comment that left me very disappointed.

Anonymous said...

If the priest is an agent of the state in the marriage then the priest would be compelled to perform an act as publican and not as a private person. He would be required to perform marriages for those couples whose coupling he finds objectionable. The priest would not want to be compelled to perform the duty and as an agent of the state could be sued. Will the Military Chaplains be required to perform same-sex "marriages," or face court-martial?

The Greek said...

Why does gob put the word 'celibates' in quotation marks? Is he unable to understand some people really can be celibate?

Anonymous said...

gob, priests may have shortcomings in imagining how a typical day in a married life works but not on what it's about and its purpose. since it's natural law, i don't think you need to have any qualification to see the problem with same sex marriage.

Paul said...

No one ever said this would be easy going. Maybe we're about to be tested in the fire as the hammer comes down.

Perhaps all those prideful permissives will be an unwitting catalyst in getting more souls to Heaven.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Former PI: LITIGATION! What other reason!

rcg said...

I think FrAJM is right concerning litigation. The government has forced Catholic elementary schools to display placards about birth control and women's services because they have taken public funding. I think the Church made significant efforts in the USA to calm fears that Catholics were a Fifth column awaiting orders from the Pope. This acknowledgment, although in place for other reasons, went a long way towards that effort. However, the government in the USA ignores marriage as important and provides welfare support and recognizes property rights and even insurance claims without it. In some populations the rate of births outside of wedlock exceeds 50%, so the government effectively treats marriage as an anachronism. Since we are not supporting anything important to the government, why bother with it? I think the legal shortcut marriage provides to ensure mutual financial support is important and should be presented, signed by a magistrate, before allowing a wedding in the Church to show the firmness of commitment. But I would like to see the clergy separate themselves from the legal action.

Rood Screen said...

It's good that you've voiced your opinion, which contributes to the public discussion we need to have on this peculiar phenomenon. As for the content of the letter, I think I would tend to share the observations and questions of Fr. Kavanaugh. And I really think the worst that could happen to dioceses and parishes would be a loss of tax-exempt status, although that could mean the loss of a quarter or so of parish donations.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

And how, legally, does our not signing marriage certificates protect us from LITIGATION?

And is not your suggestion a further distancing of the civil and religious aspects or marriage?

And what might be some of the other consequences of this suggested change? Have you looked into the canonical questions?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

PI, father Dominic legg op can answer all your legal queries. Civil law as distanced itself from natural law thus our canon law concerning civil marriages needs reform. I raise the issue only the bishops and pope can reform

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Well, I don't know Fr. Dominic Legg, OP. Apparently, you have come to a clear understanding of how this protects us legally, so why not share what you have learned?

The canonical questions can't be dismissed as "thus our canon law concerning civil marriage needs reform."

You raise issues, but offer no reason why the pope and bishops should pay you any attention...

George said...

Fr. Kavanaugh:

"Your proposal seems to accomplish the same thing you lament - the separation of the civil understanding of marriage from its religious meaning."

That is Father Mcdonald's point. The Supreme Court decision has confirmed and sanctioned nationwide what was occurring piece-meal in state legislatures and the judiciary. Civil law no longer corresponds to the Church's understanding of what marriage should be as given to us by God. Since the Supreme Court, by its decision, has untethered the law of the state from the law of God, it is now up to the Church to respond by actualizing the separation. I don't know how this will work out in the end. Even now, if there are a two people who are members of a church and the priest or pastor refuses to marry them, there is nothing to prevent them from going out and being wedded by a civil magistrate. They will be married for legal purposes but not in the eyes of the Church. Not a good situation to be sure, but the Church simply cannot sanction and sanctify every civil "marriage".

Ticked-Off Tridentine said...

Not to belabor an old point, but Pope Francis has spoken many times against same-sex marriage. We've all seen the quotes posted here.
Why are political conservatives so bent on bearing false witness against him? Probably to undermine his credibility and authority.
He embarrasses conservative Catholics by showing that they just sit in a different part of the cafeteria.

Anonymous said...

I also agree with Fr McDonald on this. He makes a clear cut statement in his letter. The legal requirement to have a marriage registered has nothing to do with the Sacrament of Marriage and is a requirement of the state rather than the Church. I imagine the Church has merely co-operated with the State to make things easier for a Catholic couple. In France, for example, the couple have to go through the civil ceremony first before attending church for the Sacrament.

Separating the civil requirement from the Sacrament of Marriage I do believe would mean that the state would not be able to legally compel a priest to take part in a sacrament where the two homosexual people involved were living in a state of mortal sin, according to Church teaching.

In fact, I would like to see the state try to impose such a requirement on an imam at a local mosque and see how far they would get.


Anonymous said...

Here is the situation in France:

The civil service: In France, the only legally recognised wedding is a civil ceremony which is held at the town hall closest to either one of the couple’s place of residence. An application should turned into the town hall anything up to 12 months before the desired wedding date. The mayor’s office will then reply confirming the date and alloted time for your wedding. The number of people invited to the civil ceremony depends on the number of seats available, big families can overflow outside into the corridor. Generally however only close family and friends participate in the civil ceremony.

The religious ceremony: Catholicism is the number one religion in France. Even if a family are not particularly big church goers, they will more often than not expect their children to have a church ceremony to accompany the civil ceremony. It is common to have different witnesses for the civil and religious ceremonies depending on their religious persuasion.

So if this happens in France obviously the Church has made an allowance under canon law re civil marriages and now that there is a law change in the US, I would imagine the US bishops would be given the same allowance under canon law.


Anonymous said...

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh: So do you have a proposal to protect the Church from intrusion by the state regarding same-sex marriage, since you obviously object to Fr. McDonald's suggestion? Do you really believe that some litigants somewhere won't sue to force priests to officiate at same-sex weddings?

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Anon - I cannot predict the future. I have already stated on this blog that I expect challenges to be made, but that I also expect that, given the cases I cited, churches will not be forced to act against their doctrine.

Bishops and priests sign legal documents all the time. Should we cease signing all legal documents, by which actions we become, in varying ways, agents of the state?

We cannot simply remove ourselves from any interface with the legal system because there might be some chance that, by our involvement, we place ourselves in the position of being sued for one reason or another. We take reasonable care to protect ourselves, and that's all we can do.

If we send two Catholics to the local magistrate for a civil ceremony, are we not encouraging or even requiring them to engage in a process that the Church does not recognize as sacramentally valid? Can we do that?

In cases where, say, one of the couple is being deployed and we are asked to do a "quickie" wedding for the couple, we can't comply. We also can't send them to the magistrate for the civil marriage, expecting that, at some time down the road, they'll come back to the Church for a sacramental ceremony.

I know this is done in other countries. Shouldn't, though, the sacramental marriage of two Catholic be done before the civil ceremony? And are we able to witness a marriage without a marriage license in hand?

I agree, it's complicated. And I don't see how Fr. McDonald's suggestion solves the problem.

Rood Screen said...


Where do you (and others) get this silly idea that hostile Catholics will sue their priest for not officiating at their unnatural weddings? Have Catholics otherwise ineligible to celebrate matrimony ever succeeded with similar lawsuits? The whole thing seems like a fictional problem.

The real issue is that marriage is for procreation, not for official recognition of perverse friendships.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Please inform us PI of any of the other 6 sacraments do you have to sign a civil license????

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Good Father - There are none, obviously. Please re-read my post in which I make reference to other legal documents that we sign.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The other things you might sign you do not sign for sacramental purposes. Let's stick with marriage as a sacrament.

Anonymous said...


Look up "Roman Catholic Womenpriests" and "Catholics for a Free Choice" for examples of self-identifying Catholics who challenge and lobby for a change in Catholic doctrine. Add to that the history of the Civil Rights era, when a great deal of change was catalyzed deliberately and consciously by lawsuits. Consider next that the biggest, richest, most centrally-controlled institution in America that is by its very nature opposed to and incompatible with same-sex marriage, on moral as well as doctrinal grounds, is the Catholic Church; the fact that in terms of membership this institution numbers in the tens of millions in the United States; the fact that the governor of Idaho last fall ordered ministers/owners of wedding chapels who refuse to marry same-sex couples to quit refusing; and the text of the single paragraph the Court wrote on religious freedom in the Obergdefell opinion, and the possibility of a lawsuit doesn't look very silly, at least to me. To show that the state doesn't mind regulating religious practice (and that the Supreme Court sometimes lets it), you can also look up the cases of Pierce v. Society of Sisters, Gobitas, Braunfeld v. Brown, Sherbert v. Verner, and Employment Division v. Smith. Nothing silly about it.

Additionally, gay rights is a cause celebre right now and the tide of American culture seems to be on its side, which distinguishes it from other groups who may want to have their priest do something he can't. (I haven't seen any big news stories of the "divorced, infertile, and underage Catholics for marriage" movement since . . . ever.) Apparently such lawsuits haven't succeeded; I have no idea if these groups have tried suing and I doubt you have either. I imagine with a billion Catholics there _have_ been suits brought or threatened about lots of things, but probably not by such a rising tide of a major socio-cultural movement as the LGBQT movement. If I were an LGBQT activist who identified as Catholic who was hostile to Catholic doctrine--especially if I identified as Catholic--I would be bringing such a suit right now, so I won't be at all surprised to see one soon.

I may be wrong--time will tell--but in light of everything I've listed above, "wrong" certainly doesn't mean "silly."

Rood Screen said...

Marriage is unique in that the Church recognizes it as a God-given state, even just in its natural, non-sacramental form. This reality makes it distinct from the other sacraments.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh,

My above reply to Dialogue also in part answers you. To re-cap, the LGBQT movement is a large one and a media darling, the Church is large, rich (read: deep pockets), the same-sex marriage movement has just won the biggest victory in history, and lawsuits have a long history of being the means by which movements promote their agendas. The fact that marriage is an area in which both the Church and state are involved, unlike any other sacrament (or at least in a way unlike every other sacrament) means that the state has a much bigger foot in the door.

Your idea that signing _any_ legal document makes you an agent of the state is absurd. Read up on agency law.

Your idea about "sending" two Catholics to the magistrate is a straw man. You don't have to "send" them anywhere, and they're free to go to the magistrate whether you "send" them or not. If you want to split hairs, then there's a difference between "I cannot marry you" and "I cannot marry you so I encourage you to go down to the magistrate and he'll marry you." I also suggest you brush up on formal versus material cooperation with sin.

Your protestations about "interference from the legal system" are are likewise a straw man. In plenty of circumstances I'm fine with the legal system interfering with what priests do, such as in the case of them engaging in sex abuse, absconding with parish funds, or driving recklessly. I'm talking here about a very specific type of interference, and one which is very likely to happen given everything I've written in this and the immediately preceding post.

Marriage is different from any other sacrament in that 1) it involves state regulation and 2) it involves the possibly conflicting interests of two persons, both, neither, or only one of whom may be Catholic (and that's not counting children of such a marriage). For these reasons marriage is heavily regulated by both the Church and the state, and since the interests of Church and state aren't identical, it is a prime source of legal, social, and cultural conflict between the two. Given that America is such a litigious country (Tocqueville was remarking on the interaction of lawsuits and politics in America nearly two centuries ago, for Pete's sake, and the trend has grown by orders of magnitude since then) it seems to me almost inevitable that priests are going to have a legal gun put to their heads over this.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Good Father - By bringing the question of LITIGATION into the discussion, you have moved far, far afield from sticking with marriage as a sacrament.

Anon - I know that "I cannot marry you" and "I send you to the magistrate" are different. That is why I said, " We also can't send them to the magistrate for the civil marriage.." See that word "send" there? I suggest you work on your reading and comprehension skills.

Also, Fr. McDonald brought interference from the legal system into the discussion, not I. In fact, that is the whole basis for his suggestion regarding priests not signing marriage licenses. Again, your reading and comprehension skills need attention.

Anonymous said...

Fr Kavanaugh, how can you explain the situation in France then where the civil ceremony must come first? For that matter, why can't Catholics marry in Church first and then go to the court for the civil ceremony?

I also understand if you are a non-Italian and you want to marry in Italy you have to go through a civil ceremony in your home country first before the Church will marry you in Italy.

So I don't think your argument holds water.


Anonymous said...

Fr, Kavanagh,

Yeah, I noticed you used the word "send." That's why I discussed it in such detail and quoted, no less than three times, your use of it. But at any rate, you and I are in agreement on one point: each of us believes the other needs to work on his language and comprehension skills. Either that or you're deliberately being obfuscatory. Whichever is the case with you, there's no pint in trying to discuss the issue with you further. Have a nice day.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Anon - You said, "Your idea about "sending" two Catholics to the magistrate is a straw man. You don't have to "send" them anywhere, and they're free to go to the magistrate whether you "send" them or not."

They are entirely free, but a priest cannot send them to the magistrate. We are not allowed to do this.

That's all I said. No obfuscation whatsoever. You simply read more into the statement than is plainly there.

Jan - I don't know anything about the situation in other countries as far as church marriage and civil marriage are concerned.

My argument is not that it can't be done. My argument is 1) separating the ecclesial and the civil aspects of the marriage does exactly what Good Father McDonald says he wants to avoid - the further polarization of Church and State in this regard; and 2) it does not provide protection from potential LITIGATION as Good Father McDonald wants to believe; and 3) that there is something unique about signing a marriage license in terms of putting the Church in a position of having to follow civil law when our doctrine does not allow this.

George said...

Fr. Kavanaugh:
"separating the ecclesial and the civil aspects of the marriage does exactly what Good Father McDonald says he wants to avoid - the further polarization of Church and State in this regard;"

It's not the Church which is bringing about this further polarization, It is the the dictatorship of relativism which is being imposed by an increasingly secular humanist society that we operate in, and the judical tyranny being imposed on us by the courts. It is my belief that doing what Fr Mcdonald calls for would put the Church in a much better position versus any potential future litigation. Yes, nothing can obviate some potential future legal action.Would it not be better for the Church however, if she could argue her position solely from a religious freedom perspective? How this will work out in the end I do not know. It may be that nothing we do will save us from the interposition of the state into the affairs of the Church. There is always hope however....and the power of prayer.

Anonymous said...

Already talk next year, with the 2016 legislative session, that there will be legislation in the Georgia General Assembly to protect clergy from being forced to perform same-sex ceremonies. Maybe too legislation will be needed to say liberal local governments can't take away tax exemptions of churches who don't perform such weddings. You never know what a liberal enclave like Atlanta or Decatur might try!

Though not Jewish, I was reading Atlanta Jewish Times at our local library yesterday, and there were articles concerning rabbis who have performed such weddings elsewhere (Reform and Conservative ones). And the Anti-Defamation League shows it is getting far beyond its mission when it endorsed the Supreme Court decision. We can't even get Martin Luther King's church up here in Atlanta to condemn same-sex marriages---, unfortunately, many black clergy are buying into the heritical mish-mash of that being a "civil right."

Finally, should any disciplinary action be taken against Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who authored this bad decision? He is to blame...perhaps ahead of time, bishops should have warned him about the peril to his soul of destroying centuries of traditional thinking on marriage---I am not holding my breath he will be denied the sacraments up in DC where he lives....

Can any

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

George - First, I never hear anyone who has agreed with or benefitted from the decision of a judge or panel of judges accuse the judge or panel of "judicial tyranny." Decisions are only labeled tyrannical when they are decisions with which one disagrees.

I will give great credit to the person who, upon hearing the decision of a judge or panel of judges, says, "I agree with this decision 100% and it will benefit me and the people I love. However, it is an act of judicial tyranny (or judicial activism) and must be overturned by the legislature immediately!" Until then . . .

I have asked Good Father McDonald to explain how, according to the law, not signing marriage licenses will prevent LITIGATION against the Church. Maybe you can coax an answer out of him.

George said...

There are just court decisions and unjust ones. Those that are unjust are those that do not conform to God's law and justice. It has nothing to do with whether or not I agree, disagree, or benefit from it. I don't see how anyone can take the position that judicial tyranny cannot happen. One could quibble with the term as it applies to courts operating under dictatorial regimes, since in that case they are under the direction of whomever is in control of the government.

Anonymous 2 said...

“Decisions are only labeled tyrannical when they are decisions with which one disagrees.”

Good point. Similarly, lawyers are typically regarded with disfavor – except one’s own lawyer, of course.

George said...



There are a number of court decisions I agree with, and some I disagree with. No one can expect every court decision to go their way.

However, Roe v. Wade, Doe vs. Bolton and Obergefell v. Hodges for example, I regard as judical tyranny.

I disagreed with the recent Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act but I don't see that decision as being opposed to God's law although some may characterize it as being tyrannical in nature.

Anonymous 2 said...


I don’t think Father Kavanaugh’s point was that judicial decisions are labeled as judicial tyranny (or activism) whenever you disagree with them, but that they are so labeled if and only if you disagree with them. In other words disagreeing with them is necessary but may be insufficient for labeling them as such. His proposed test was to see whether someone would label a judicial decision as judicial tyranny (or activism) if it is a decision one agrees with. And that does indeed seem unlikely.

I think his basic point is that the use of the label gets in the way of and short circuits clear thinking about the issues, as labels that are intended pejoratively generally tend to do.

George said...


From one standpoint you can characterize a court decision as exhibiting activism,true. In the Roe Vs Wade decision for instance, terms such as "penumbra" an "emanation" are evidence of an over active judicial imagination and an extra-constitutional expansiveness which I believe would shock the framers. No, I use the term tyranny because in case after case the court makes no allowance for anything but the complete, unfettered right and access to abortion. Even the most minimal of meaningful restrictions by the states are denied and overturned. As Byron White wrote in dissent of Roe:"As an exercise of raw judicial power, the Court perhaps has authority to do what it does today; but, in my view, its judgment is an improvident and extravagant exercise of the power of judicial review that the Constitution extends to this Court.
I'm afraid we have now seen this judicial excess again in Obergefell v. Hodges.

By the way, even though I disagreed with the recent decision on the Affordable Care Act, I do agree that there should be affordable medical care which is available to all. I just don't believe the ACA is the best way to achieve that goal.

The Greek said...

Speaking of the Supreme Court...

'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, and against the worldly governors, the princes of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness, which are in the high places.'