by Angelica Brice, Columnist
A Catholic couple wants to be married in the chapel of the Catholic college where they met, went to daily Mass together, and were engaged in. Is this possible?
When deciding where they might want to be married, many couples consider chapels and churches that have had meaning to their faith journeys and relationship. However, there is much more to a wedding location than simply the couple’s wishes, and while their interests are important, canon law must be consulted to be sure they have a valid marriage.
First, we must understand what is required concerning a location for a Catholic marriage. The rules regarding the celebration of Holy Matrimony are referred to as canonical form and are outlined in canon 1108. According to canon 1108.1, the proper place for a marriage is the parish church of current residence and registration of either the bride or the groom.
As per canon 530, a pastor is responsible for all sacramental activity in his parish. Therefore, the most correct place for a couple to be married is in the parish they currently reside in. If a couple wanted to be married elsewhere, they would need to apply for permission from their pastors, their bishop, and the bishop and pastor of the church they wanted to be married in.
Now we may apply these principles to the chapels on Catholic college campuses. When Catholic colleges and universities are founded, they are either established as their own parish, called a University Parish, or they are put under the jurisdiction of an existing local parish. If the school is its own parish the chaplain assumes the power of a pastor and thus the ability to marry the students and alumni of the school by his own authority. If the campus is under the local parish, the chaplain defers to that pastor for issues such as weddings on its campus and requires the express permission of that local pastor to marry anyone on the school campus. Most Catholic colleges are not University Parishes, thus a couple looking to be married in a chapel of their alma mater must consult not only the chaplain there but also the pastor of the parish their college belongs to.
Most Catholic colleges and universities post information about marriage in their campus chapels. For example, The Catholic University of America’s information on this subject may be found here: http://policies.cua.edu/facilities/weddingsfull.cfm. If the school is not a University Parish, the website will inform the couple of the local parish authority it is under. Next, permission would need to be obtained from the couple’s own pastor, their bishop, the pastor of the parish their college is in, that diocese’ bishop, and the chaplain of their college. The two most important pieces of that process are the initial letter of permission from the couple’s local pastor for them to marry outside their parish and the letter of permission from the pastor the college is under to the chaplain to celebrate the wedding for this couple. This sounds like a rather daunting process, but most pastors and bishops are open to the requests of couples provided they have good reason for the request and are willing to abide by the expectations set by the church they desire to be married in. If a valid reason were put forth and all approved, then the couple would need to begin working with their college chaplain to determine any special regulations concerning marriage on the campus.
It can seem a great spot of trouble to have to obtain permission from so many people just to be married where a couple may desire. However, there are both practical and spiritual reasons for these steps. Practically, a pastor is responsible for his parishioners, so he must stay informed of the state of his flock to best serve them. Additionally, proper documentation of the wedding must be kept by the appropriate authorities including the pastor. Spiritually, a parish is designed to be a spiritual home in which all major steps of life are celebrated from birth to death including marriage, and thus adequate reason must be provided to the appropriate authorities for why a couple wishes to celebrate such an important moment of their lives apart from their spiritual family.
Marriage is perhaps the most complicated sacrament and its regulations must be taken seriously to ensure a valid sacrament takes place. For more information, please consult the Code of Cannon Law, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/_INDEX.HTM, your local bishop, or any of a vast number of websites designed to explain canon law to those of us who do not hold degrees in the subject. Some of my personal favorites include http://canonlawmadeeasy.com/ and http://www.canonlaw.info/masterpage1983.htm.