Ecumenical XIX (Contra Novatores 16 cent.)


Clandestinity Invalidating Matrimony *


[From Session XXIX Chap. (1) “Tametsi” on the reformation of matrimony]


990 Although it is not to be doubted that clandestine marriages made with the free consent of the contracting parties, are valid and true marriages, so long as the Church has not declared them invalid; and consequently that they are justly to be condemned, as the holy Synod condemns those with anathema, who deny that they are true and valid, and those also who falsely affirm that marriages contracted by minors without the consent of parents are invalid, and that parents can make them sanctioned or void, nevertheless the holy Church of God for very just reasons has always detested and forbidden them. But while the holy Synod recognizes that those prohibitions by reason of man’s disobedience are no longer of any use, and considers the grave sins which have their origin in such clandes tine marriage, especially, indeed, the sins of those who remain in the state of damnation, after abandoning the first wife, with whom they made a secret contract, while they publicly contract another, and live with her in continual adultery, since the Church, which does not judge what is hidden, cannot correct this evil, unless a more efficacious remedy be applied, therefore by continuing in the footsteps of the holy Lateran Council [IV] proclaimed under INNOCENT III, it commands that in the future, before a marriage is contracted, public announcement be made three times on three consecutive feast days in the Church during the celebration of the Masses, by the proper pastor of the contracting parties between whom the marriage is to be contracted; after these publications have been made, if no legitimate impediment is put in the way, one can proceed with the celebration of the marriage in the open church, where the parish priest, after the man and woman have been questioned, and their mutual consent has been ascertained, shall either say: “I join you together in matrimony, in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” or use other words, according to the accepted rite of each province.


991 But if at some time there should be a probable suspicion that a marriage m can be maliciously hindered, if so many publications precede it, then either one publication only may be made, or the marriage may be celebrated at once in the presence of the parish priest and of two or three witnesses; then before its consummation the publications should be made in the church, so that, if any impediments exist, they may the more easily be detected, unless the ordinary himself may judge it advisable that the publications be dispensed with, which the holy Synod leaves to his prudence and judgment.


992 Those who shall attempt to contract marriage otherwise than in the presence of the parish priest, or of another priest with the authorization of the parish priest or the ordinary, in the presence of two or three witnesses, the holy Synod renders absolutely incapable of thus contracting marriage, and declares that contracts of this kind are invalid and nil, inasmuch as by the present decree it invalidates and annuls them.