Thursday, April 24, 2008

Law Enforcement

I had a couple yesterday come to see me, he was a Muslim and an illegal immigrant, she a Catholic from Eastern Europe. They had been married in an Islamic ceremony, she wanted a Catholic marriage, because she wanted to receive the sacraments.

The law is that the registrar from whom a certificate must be obtained in order for a priest to marry them, has to report illegal immigrants to the authorities, so they can be deported.

In a legal marriage the priest also acts as a civil servant, acting as a registrar, doing something contrary to the law presumably would create problems for him aqnd for the Church.

The Church teaches all people have a right to marry, what would you do?

44 comments:

Volpius Leonius said...

Aren't they already married as far the Church is concerned?

All other things aside, I would marry them and not tell the State, it's not the Church's role to act as an administator or spy for the State.

My ancestors had to be married in secret because the State had outlawed Catholicism not so long ago. I imagine the true Catholics in China also do this kind of thing.

God's laws are above man's laws, not to marry them if they are not already considered married by the Church would make you an accessory to any sins of fornication they will commit in the future, I don't really see what choice you have.

If I was to marry I wouldn't want the State to know for the simple fact that married people are discriminated against in this country by the Government.

bernadette said...

Marry them of course. The registrar must do whatever he/she thinks best with regard to reporting him. I`d also ask the groom if he`d like to join an RCIA course.

Ma Tucker said...

Glad I'm not a priest Father. Vopius, it is just that a country control its borders. This man has shown no respect for due process in this regard. Not only that he is a follower of Islam and that is somewhat problematic given the climate we live in. Further, a marriage document from a Catholic priest issued in the UK carries rights and privileges respected by the State - a very different situation than outlawed Catholicism. This is not an easy situation at all. As I say, glad I'm not you Fr.

Fr Steven Fisher said...

If the marriage is valid (in the eyes of the state) couldn't one celebrate a convalidation, thus there would be no need to get the state involved? Of course there may be more to the case than you have mentioned here.

Ottaviani said...

Could I humbly recommend that we first start with why mixed marriages are bad and should be discouraged at every opportunity? Especially marriages to adherents of the religion of "peace"?

Ttony said...

They are probably already married so a conditional celebration of the sacrament of marriage would place you under no obligation to inform the Registrar, because all you are doing is ensuring that the religious, and not the secular, elements of the marriage ceremony have been completed properly.

Fr PF said...

What about applying for a "Sanatio in radice"? If it can be granted (and I really don't know if it can in the case of an Islamic marriage which is , on this occasion, not recognised by the civil law), then no ceremony is necessary.

LF said...

I certainly wouldn't report anyone to the authorities just because they were an illegal immigrant. Does the Catholic Church regard that as a sin even? If you're worried about getting into trouble, simply refuse to marry them.

gemoftheocean said...

Legally, they would already be married according to the state. It seems to me that regardless of his status as far as being in the country, there would still be a disparity of cult issue, and a dispensation would normally be required for that. [And before marrying them, that should go through the proper church channels.)

I bet if you asked Fr. Boyle or one of the other canon lawyers they could give you some pointers.

You'd record it in your church records (assuming the dispensation was granted) but I don't especially see where the state would have to be told anything.

Even if the couple were to divorce later (and it's a matter of dividing up property) they already (presumably) have the "paper trail" vis-a-vis where they were married initially. So that part's covered.

ffn said...

I don't think they are married in the eyes of the Church,she would need a dispensation from Disparity of Cult.I would not risk the fine or possible jail sentence for breaking the law re Marriage.

Simon Platt said...

Dear Father

You were asked:

"Aren't they already married as far the Church is concerned?"

But surely there's a defect of cult? This this presumably is why the catholic party seeks marriage.

What would I do? I don't know - sorry - but I would counsel caution.

I assume you won't fuss over any nonsense about being "an accessory to sins of fornication".

Simon.

Jamie said...

Maybe explain to her that she is now excommunicated for participating in the religious ceremonies of a false religion and hope that you can somehow bring her and her pagan husband back to the Church.

As for telling the state - you should report him - he is an illegal immigrant and while the Church is not subservient to the state, we are obliged to follow the law of the land when it does not defy the law of the Church or the law of God. If you can find a law of either the Church or God that allows for you to remain silent - say nothing, but I can not think of anything that means it would be morally wrong to report him.

PeterHWright said...

I would telephone the Bishop (or the Vicar General, or whoever) and ask him what I should do.

Jamie said...

Oh - and volpius leonius: if the Church already considers them married, they do not need to be married by the Church - they would need a blessing (which would presumably include the revoking of her excommunication for participating in a false religion's ceremony) - but not the sacrament of marriage.

For that matter, does the Church recognize a pagan marriage? I thought you had to have two baptised people for a marriage to be valid - obviously the illegal immigrant muslim in this case is not baptised.

Volpius Leonius said...

ma tucker it is not the Church's responsibility to protect a countries borders that is the secular governments responsibility.

Also you are forgetting the wife in all this.

The salvation of souls is the highest law and overrules all others.

So the solution is quite simple, will marrying them help to save at least one of their souls, if you think yes than it must be done.
--------------------------

No Ottavani we can't, a discussion on mixed marriage is not relevant and does not help the situation as they are already married, and Father Blake telling her not to marry Muslims will not help the situation.

------------------------------

michael petek said...

If she's married in an Islamic ceremony the marriage is invalid in the eyes of God by defect of form, since a Catholic can marry only in Church. I have to differ from what Father Fisher says about this. They are not married even in the eyes of the State, since Muslim marriage ceremonies are not recognised in English law.

If she wants to marry an unbaptised person in Church she has to get a dispensation from the Church, otherwise the marriage is invalid.

Before giving such a dispensation I would make it clear to the Muslim that he must intend to contract an exclusive and permanent union. The fact that Muslims believe that marriage is dissoluble and can be polygamous might otherwise induce a defect of consent.

Volpius Leonius is wrong on this point in particular: If the law says that you as a minister of religion have to notify the State of the marriage, then you have to do it - British immigration law is not contrary to divine law in what it prescribes concerning foreigners who are here illegally.

Volpius Leonius said...

Anyway Father the solution for you if you are actually unsure of what to do and weren't just putting this here for discussion would be to ask the Bishop I would think.

jamie said...

michael petek: You have spoken well and spoken in charity - well done.

francis said...

Check with both a Canon Lawyer & a solicitor. Do't take any notice of any well intentioned advice from anyone else.

As you know UK Law on marriages was recently tightened up to try to avoid immigrants gaining entry & work permits through cynically contacting a bogus marriage.

Folks across the pond may remember the film "Green Card".

Fr Ray Blake said...

This is a complex issue:
1. They have married outside of the Church for a Catholic, the marriage is invalid, this is a serious sin and prevents her from receiving the sacraments.
2. She needs therefore to be reconciled, which can only happen a) if they separate b) if they live as brother and sister c) if the marry according to the Rites of the Church.
3. If I marry them I lay myself open to some kind of legal sanction.
4. The Church (and the European Court of Human Rites) teaches all human beings have right to marry.
5. The law denies them this right and is therefore unjust.
THE DILEMMA I am required by the State to implement an unjust law and by the Church to celebrate its Rites for those not prevented Canonically from receiving them.

In this particular case there was a previous marriage which creates difficulties, but it raises interesting problems.
Even though they are apparentally invalidly married according to the letter of the Church's law, one could argue the contrary because of the moral difficuties; the possible imprisonment or death, for the illegal immigrant.

Fr Ray Blake said...

This is a complex issue:
1. They have married outside of the Church for a Catholic, the marriage is invalid, this is a serious sin and prevents her from receiving the sacraments.
2. She needs therefore to be reconciled, which can only happen a) if they separate b) if they live as brother and sister c) if the marry according to the Rites of the Church.
3. If I marry them I lay myself open to some kind of legal sanction.
4. The Church (and the European Court of Human Rites) teaches all human beings have right to marry.
5. The law denies them this right and is therefore unjust.
THE DILEMMA I am required by the State to implement an unjust law and by the Church to celebrate its Rites for those not prevented Canonically from receiving them.

In this particular case there was a previous marriage which creates difficulties, but it raises interesting problems.
Even though they are apparentally invalidly married according to the letter of the Church's law, one could argue the contrary because of the moral difficuties; the possible imprisonment or death, for the illegal immigrant.

Volpius Leonius said...

"If the law says that you as a minister of religion have to notify the State of the marriage, then you have to do it - British immigration law is not contrary to divine law in what it prescribes concerning foreigners who are here illegally."

But the law demanding that the Church must reveal it's marriage records to the State is. Who is married in the Church and who is not is none of the States business, it is between the couple, the Church and God.

If the couple wish to also enter into a civil marriage to benefit from what little protection the law offers married couples these days then that is up to them to arrange, the State wants separation of Church and State, it should work both ways not just in the States favour to the detriment of the Church and of souls.

If a Priest does the marriage and then the man is deported and the marriage fails because of this enforced separation brought about by the Priest informing on the groom would you say that would be pleasing to God?

I think not.

gemoftheocean said...

Whoa, Fr. Sparky, you're just now mentioning there was a previous marriage?! His, hers, or both?

Multiply by force 2,000! on degree of difficulty. The disparity of cult pales by comparision... if it was his prior marriage to another Muslim, then isn't there an "in favor of the faith" "out" - If it was him and a baptized Christian...oh, brother....

IF her and another Christian, no fun trying to track all that down in presumably another country. Pray for a defect of form. Her and a non-Christian ... pray she wasn't given a dispensation to marry him in the first place.

I'll have a whiskey and schwepps on your behalf.

As regards illegal aliens, can't [generally] stand them ... *unless* it's one of those under threat of persecution/death things. But you're quite right in saying the salvation of souls comes first before any such situation.

I shall pray for you that you may get good advise and council in the process. You're a good priest who knows the salvation of souls is number one...and that's what counts most of all.

gemoftheocean said...

And here is a quick link for you on all the canon law that applies to marriage.

link.

Terry Nelson said...

I would marry them privately... like Romeo and Juliet.

michael petek said...

What are you on about, Volpius Leonius?

Of course the Church should reveal its marriage records to the State, and to anyone who wants to see them.

The sacraments are not celebrated in secret, but at ceremonies which must be open to the public. This is no less true of marriage which has a social and public significance so that society has a right to know who is married and who isn't.

Father says his dilemma is that he is required by the State to implement an unjust law and by the Church to celebrate its Rites for those not prevented Canonically from receiving them.

It seems that, canonically, the couple are prevented from marrying since she has no dispensation yet to marry a Muslim.

Unless the groom would be in danger of his life if deported to a Muslim country I don't see that there is any dilemma on this point. It is not contrary to divine law for the State to deport a foreign national.

Since the bride is Polish, maybe the couple could go and live in Poland.

George said...

Whatever happens, God has placed them in the right hands.

Your a good man, Charlie Brown, I mean, Fr. Ray.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Michael,
I did not say she is Polish.

Jamie said...

How can anyone suggest Father marry them privately or at all? The woman is excommunicated - she is not ALLOWED to receive the sacrament of marriage and Father would be wrong to allow it. I think (in light of the previous marriage as well) that the solution is two fold:

1) explain the situation and the difficulties of it to the couple - she needs to know what her juridicial situation is; then, if they agree,
2) go to the Bishop and try to get things sorted out legally

As for the illegal immigration, I think a canon lawyer would need to be asked - someone who has studied the law in the UK to see whether or not it is a just law - thereby requiring obedience by the priest.

The upside to the situation? It presents an excellent opportunity to bring the Muslim man in to the faith.

This is, indeed, a difficult situation for you Father - I will keep you in my prayers!

bernadette said...

The previous marriage is what creates the difficulty. If it was hers as a Catholic, this is a bigger problem. If it was his.. well its perfectly allowable in Islam. I`d be interested to know how open he is to converting. If he`s prepared to marry outside Islam(very serious apostasy) and risk death for that alone, then he might not be that serious about Islam. Then you can see about an annulment for her (if it is her) and re-direct them to live celibately while its all being sorted out.

(Francis - we are all assuming Fr IS intending to base his decision on his Bishops' advise and not on the ramblings of our personal opinions. He's using his dilemma as a discussion spring-board, not a court of canon law. Good idea, too. I`ve learned a lot)

Volpius Leonius said...

"Of course the Church should reveal its marriage records to the State, and to anyone who wants to see them."

Why should the Church do this? It would actually be a crime against the data protection laws in the UK for the Church to reveal its marriage records to anyone who happens to want to see them for whatever reason.

"The sacraments are not celebrated in secret,"

They can be and in fact have been in many instances throughout the history of the Church.

"but at ceremonies which must be open to the public."

There is no law that says the sacraments must be open to the public, consider for example Priests who say private Masses.

"This is no less true of marriage which has a social and public significance so that society has a right to know who is married and who isn't."

This is false, "society" has no such right. This same argument could be applied to confessions, you could say society has a right to know if someone confesses to been a serial killer to a priest in confession, but the Church says no. And yet the killer may go on to kill again to the detriment of the community or as you term it society. Souls are more important even than human lives, they are certainly more important than immigration laws.

Another thing to consider that is relevant to this discussion is the tradition, now no longer practiced in the UK of the law of sanctury with regards to criminals who are in a Catholic church. This practice is most ancient and serves to show just how the Church in a Catholic country would interact with the secular authorities.

This law was passed to allow criminals to freely attend Mass without fear of been arrested. See how salvation of souls is higher than secular laws. This has always been the Catholic teaching.

"It seems that, canonically, the couple are prevented from marrying since she has no dispensation yet to marry a Muslim."

Do you think the dispensation will not be granted? Catholics marry Muslims all the time so I would say it almost certainly will be as long as the groom makes the necessary promises concerning the Faith with regards to his wife and any future children.

And if the groom is willing to make these promises then I think its safe to say he won't be going on jihad any time soon as such men would never agree to a Catholic wedding in the first place.

George said...

Islamic men are free to marry outside the their religion. This is not apostasy, or in any other way illegal, in their religion.

Father,

After a very long time in the Muslim country I currently call home, I've finally found a Catholic priest to baptize a former-Muslim friend of mine. It will require an 8-hour drive, but Deo gratias!

I love the fact no matter how dark these days are in the post-Vatican II Church, God still provides for us.


Regarding your decision...

My priest in the USA once gave a series of sermons on the Ignatian method of decision-making.

I found this on an Episcopal website, but it looks faithful to the Ignatian method:

http://www.episcopal-dwtx.org/spiritlife/disc-ignatian.htm

michael petek said...

I stand corrected, Father - she's from Eastern Europe without further specification.

Bernadette, it's not impermissible in Islam for a Muslim man to marry a Christian or a Jewish woman, though a Muslim woman may marry only another Muslim.

Jamie, canon law is the internal law of the Church and is not a critical norm for the immigration laws of the State.

But Canon 1130 allows the local Ordinary to permit a marriage to be celebrated in secret if there is a grave and urgent reason, eg the marriage of a couple already living together and publicly accepted as husband and wife (Canon Law, Letter and Spirit, Canon Law Society, #2285)

I can foresee a particular problem which might stand in the way of a dispensation for the woman to marry a Muslim. It is that any children they might have together would under Islamic law be considered as Muslims for having a Muslim father, and that status would be recognised in the civil laws of a Muslim country if the couple were to live in one.

Therefore, they could easily be put in danger of their lives if, having been raised as Christians, they continued to live as Christians after coming of age of criminal responsibility according to Islamic law.

They could be considered as apostates from Islam and put to death.

That, and the pressure on a Christian to convert to Islam inherent in such an environment puts a serious question mark over the likelihood that the conditions of Canon 1125 would be complied with in regard to the Catholic spouse's faith and the prospect hat the children would be raised as Catholics.

michael petek said...

Volpius, Leonius, I must beg to differ with you again.

(1) Marriage records are a matter of public interest, since it is important that the true status of couples who present themselves to the public or to the authorities as married can be verified. This pertains especially to the civil authorities, because they have a right to know who is entitled to the legal and fiscal benefits of marriage, and who is not.

As for the Data Protection Act, this does not apply to paper records but only to information electronically stored.

(2) In all respects but sacramental confession the teaching and worship of the Church do not take place in secret. For reasons of the personal safety of worshippers it often has to be conducted clandestinely, but it is not meant to be.

Jesus said at His trial that He always taught in the synagogue and the Temple where the people gathered, and had said nothing in secret. The Christian way of life is meant for everyone, not just a select few, therefore the whole world has to be shown the right way to serve God. We are, after all, not Freemasons.

Private masses are not an exception to this, as they are not celebrated under seal of secrecy.

(3) Confession is different. The supreme law of the Church is the salvtion of souls, and where this depends on a full and frank disclosure of the penitent's innermost secrets it is right that he be guaranteed unconditional confidentiality so that he is uninhibited in making his confession.

In Imperial Russia the Spiritual Regulation of Peter the Great (in force 1721-1917) required priests to notify the police of any sedition they heard in a sacramental confession. How a devout Christian Emperor like Nicholas II could sleep at night with a provision like that on his statute book is beyond me!

(4) Sanctuary: At common law the procedure was that an asylum seeker was to confess his sins, surrender his weapons, and be placed under the supervision of the head of the church or abbey where he had fled. He then had forty days to make one of two choices: surrender to secular authorities and stand trial for the crimes against him, or confess his guilt and be sent into exile (abjure the realm), by the shortest route and never return without the King's permission. Anyone who did come back could be executed by the law and/or excommunicated by the Church.

If the suspect chose to confess his guilt and abjure, he would do so in a public ceremony, usually at the gate of the church grounds. He would surrender his worldly goods to the church, and his landed property to the Crown. The Coroner would then choose a port city from which the fugitive should leave England (though the fugitive himself sometimes had this privilege). The fugitive would set out barefooted and bareheaded, carrying a wooden cross-staff as a symbol of his protection under the church. Theoretically he would stay to the main highway, reach the port and take the first ship out of England. In practice, however, the fugitive could get a safe distance away, abandon the cross-staff and take off and start a new life.

(5) Dispensation: I don't know whether the dispensation will be granted or not, only that I anticipate a problem or two in a Catholic woman marrying a Muslim man.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

I would marry them and then report them.

Simple. Fulfill both the divine law and the civil law. There is no conflict here at all.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

I would also strongly advise that woman not to follow her husband into exile. Without the protection of British law in whatever godforsaken Islamic hellhole her husband comes from, I can imagine that life with his Islamic relatives might not be what she fondly imagines it would be. I think the old rules of the CHurch ought to be reinstated and mixed marriages such as this be at least strongly discouraged.

A Catholic woman marrying a Muslim man is only asking for a great deal of misery.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

"I certainly wouldn't report anyone to the authorities just because they were an illegal immigrant. Does the Catholic Church regard that as a sin even?"

Catholicism certainly does not. The Catholic Church teaches that the state has the right to appropriately defend and control its borders.

Although I cannot speak for that weird chimera of Marxism and paganism that is taught in our Catholic churches these days. Novusordoism certainly seems to teach that it is.

Viking Daughter said...

This is one of my main objections on Catholic/Christian women marrying outside of their faith.

First of all I believe that the Catholic/Christian clergy have a responsibility to stop marrying Christian women to Muslim men.

I speak from experience. I married a Muslim in the U.S. in a Christian ceremony, witnessed by my Catholic father. Never, ever in an Islamic wedding.

Fast forward 20 years later. I am in his country and filed for divorce. My original marriage was null and void, I had to endure Islamic law. You don't want to know what I went through.

Secondly, he has every legal and moral right to marry 4 wives without my permission. This is totally against Christian/Catholic doctrine.

She must convert to ''his'' religion to have any chance of child custody upon divorce.

There is no such thing as community property under Islamic law. She will walk out with basically nothing.

Muslim men can marry Christian and Jewish women, but the women cannot. The children 'must' be raised Muslim.

I am speaking out on this very firmly. Cardinal Ruini is the only Catholic clergy I've seen speak out. I applaud him.

Please Father, and all clergy reading. Either speak out on this subject, or please stop marrying Christian women to Muslim men unless he studies and converts to the Christian faith.

It's your Christain duty.

berenike said...

Mmm. This might sound cynical, but the chances of the marriage working out are pretty slim. I only have anecdotal evidence, and perhaps people just don't mention the marriages between European women and muslim men from the areas of muslimdom, but they have all ended up a mess. And if she isn't married in canon law, then it'll be one less hassle to sort out if/when it all goes pear-shaped.

That is terribly cynical, isn't it? I'm not saying it's what you should do, I am glad I am not in your shoes, but my tuppence worth.

bernadette said...

Thankyou for the correction with regard to males marrying outside Islam. my ignorance.. The Koran says, chapt 16, 68: God has given you wives from among yourselves and through your wives, sons and grandchildren.

A Catholic friend of mine married a Muslim man and emigrated to Bahrain. A condition of the marriage was that she converted to Islam, because, he said, he would be cast out by his family for marrying a Christian. (?)

bernadette again said...

.. also, (sorry, hair-splitting)
just noticed this: 2:221 of the Koran: You shall not wed pagan women unless they embrace the Faith... These call you to the fire, but God calls you, by his will, to paradise."

SO, IF the Muslim groom is fully intending to respect his wife's Catholicism, how serious a Muslim is he ?

(My husband has just taken a yoghurt out of the fridge and said, rather unhelpfully, "maybe he`s a Muller-light")

But you know, he might have a point.

neprimerimye said...

Writing as an atheist, who will in the future be marrying a Roman Catholic, I'm surprised that some of the comments on this thread have been allowed to stand gven that they are, at best, borderline racist in their views. Not a view that a church that proclaims itself to be universal can ever entertain as valid, I would have thought.

Your dilemma is, however, a genuine one. That is to say if you first place the facts of the case before the couple concerned and allow them the choice as to what they wish to do. Only then will your dilemma become a matter of practical choice for you.

Assuming they were to decide to marry according to the rites of your church it is clear that you must chose between obeying the laws of the land and reporting that one or more of the parties concerned lacks the legal right of residence in Britain or you must marry them and follow the dictates of your concsience. That said you could refer the matter to your Bishop and leave the decision to his authority and his conscience.

In any case you are not required to report the residencial status of the parties concerned to the state. That is surely the job of the registrar whose duty it is to ensure that the parties concerned have the legal right to marry. For you the matter to be decided is as to whether or not they have the right to marry according to the rites of your church.

Should the parties concerned choose to marry, both in your rite and according to civil law then they will potentially have a problem. I would suggest that if you were to marry them it would be only right and proper of you to assist them in staying in this country, especially if there is a possibility of them being persecuted in their country of origin due to their taking part in a Christian marriage. Feel free to cntact me, via my blog, if you need help in that respect as I can easily refer you to folks with expertise in such matters based in Brighton.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Neprimerimye,
Perhaps I am not as sensitive as you, or I might have missed something, but I can't see anything racist here.
There are always problems in a marriage, if the couple do not share faith, or for that matter any other deep seated convictions, even purely cultural ones.

--
You say: In any case you are not required to report the residencial status of the parties concerned to the state.

Not true, a circular was sent by Registrar General, requiring clergy to do so.
The law requires us, in exchange for legal recognition of Catholic marriages, to act within the law.

--
You say: That said you could refer the matter to your Bishop and leave the decision to his authority and his conscience.
Obviously I would inform him but this is a matter of my conscience.

Catholic clergy aren't members of the Labour Party who abrogate their conscience to their superiors!

Red Maria said...

I think you have missed something, Father, such as the evident relish some people show for you acting as a state grass so as to expedite the deportation of a pair of illegal immigrants. Christian charity is wholly absent in such comments. Then there are the remarks about mixed marriages and the supposed horrors of Moslem families which the flighty flibbertigibbet obviously didn't consider before she got married. Silly her!

...

There are plenty of examples of successful marriages where the couple do not share religious or other deep seated convictions. Mr and Mrs Nat Hentoff, to pick one at random, have managed successfully to navigate the challenges of her pro-choice convictions and his pro-life ones. Equally, there are many Roman Catholic couples who have found their shared religion no insurance against divorce.

...

I wonder whether this is the first time such a case has come to light. It casts more light on the inhumane asylum and immigration laws as well as the state's interference in church affairs. I think the bishops should make a fuss about this. Priests should not be put in such intolerable positions.

...

The most important thing is that the woman is reconciled to the church and able to receive the sacraments. It is unjust and oppressive that for this to happen her immigration status could be revealed to the authorities. I would seek the advice of a canon lawyer in the first instance. I would also recommend that either you or she contact Tony Greenstein at the Brighton and Hove Unemployed Workers Centre, who would offer sympathetic and confidential legal advice - I'm fairly certain this would be for free - and would probably be willing to mount a campaign in her defence if necessary.