Same sex witnesses & vowsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Catholic : One Thread
Upon meeting with our priest for the second time, we found out that we could not have same sex witnesses. We were terribly upset by this as our witnesses are very special to us and we do not have people of the opposite sex that mean as much to us. Is this normal that our priest would refuse? If so, why?
Similarly, we are not permitted to write our own vows. They must chosen from a book that the priest gave us. This makes this part of the Catholic ceremony meaningless to us. We would have hoped that we could have made it more meaningful, after all, it is OUR day. Is this normal?
-- Wondering (existential_Karma@yahoo.ca), February 13, 2005
On your first question, though it is obviously traditional have a male and a female witness, I'm not sure it is required. Canon law reads ...
Canon 1108 §1 "Only those marriages are valid which are contracted in the presence of the local Ordinary or parish priest or of the priest or deacon delegated by either of them, who, in the presence of two witnesses, assists, in accordance however with the rules set out in the following canons, and without prejudice to the exceptions mentioned in canon 144, 1112 §1, 1116 and 1127 §23."
There is no mention here of the sex of the witnesses. Assuming you are providing all the facts (your two witnesses of the same sex are not a "same sex couple"), perhaps this could be allowed. Maybe one of our contributing priests knows the answer to this. I don't.
On your second question, the validity of a marriage depends on, among other things, the precise wording of the vows. In order to be validly married, your mutual vows must express not just love and commitment and subjective feelings for each other (all of which can be present without marriage), but specific elements which objectively constitute a valid marriage. If one such element is omitted or improperly worded, the marriage could be de facto invalid due to lack of canonical form. Therefore, for your protection, the Church provides forms of the vows that are confirmed as canonically correct and complete. If you were purchasing a home or starting a business, surely you would not attempt to write your own contract. In fact, if you did so, the other party would surely not accept it, at least not before careful review by experts, precisely because one wrongly worded phrase could invalidate the whole contract. Surely then in forming the most important contract of your life, one which will be binding until death, you would want to ensure that it is done properly, free of any impediment to the desired effect.
-- Paul M. (PaulCyp@cox.net), February 13, 2005.
Paul M. is correct. I will however correct part of what he said - marriage is NOT a contract, but a covenant.
The sex of the witnesses does not matter, but if they are a couple, this could be an issue. I have assisted at a marriage where both witnesses were women. The witnesses do not even have to be part of the 'wedding party' as long as they are in the church and witness the marriage; the 'best man' and 'maid of honour' can be two totally different people.
You may compose your own vows, but they must contain the necessary elements for validity, and then be approved by your bishop. Most, if not all, bishops have absolutely no interest in spending their time going over proposed vows to guarantee validity, and thus leave a standing order with their priests that they will not permit it.
-- Fr. Paul (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 13, 2005.
Yes, I have been to weddings with same gender witnesses as well.
I have also seen the couple to be married make statements just before the vows, and then the priest goes on in canonical form.
-- brian (email@example.com), February 14, 2005.
We would have hoped that we could have made it more meaningful, after all, it is OUR day.
You would be better off focusing on the fact that you are starting your LIFETIME together...that's what marriage is about. It is NOT about "OUR day". Too many people focus too much on the wedding day. Remember, that day will come and go, but the lifetime will go on...
-- Mike (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 15, 2005.