You may remember my post from about a week ago, Just thinking, in which I mused about the possibility of doing a Catholic Topic of the Week. Well, I got one response with a question to consider. So because of that and just because I like the idea myself, here is the first Catholic Topic of the Week.
The question I received had to do with marriage and had multiple layers. I will take each apart one at a time. Also, don't forget that I don't necessarily know what I am talking about. I will provide references where I find them and I welcome further comments if you have more information to add than what I could find. So here goes ...
First, I was asked about deacons being able to perform a marriage. Actually the deacon is the first witness of the marriage, as would be the priest if the priest were the person presiding. The couple actually marries each other. The bride and groom are receiving the sacrament of matrimony and therefore "perform" the marriage together. Remember also that the marriage, to be valid, has two parts. First they give their consent to marry and express their vows to each other in the Church and, second, they consummate the marriage act together. Therefore, whoever presides is there as the first witness. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) at 1623 and 1630, plus the paragraphs around those all deal with marriage as well.
But the real answer to the question was about the deacon presiding at the celebration. The simple answer is yes. Deacons are ordained clergy. I think we sometimes forget this and only think of them as men who are their to help the priest in our parish church. But they are ordained clergy who profess obedience to the Bishop during their ordination just like a priest does when he is ordained. Deacons have roles in the church that also include sacramental roles. CCC1630 refers to both Priests and Deacons as ministers of the sacrament of marriage. Deacons can also baptize and preside at funerals. Deacons also preside at a Liturgy of the Word service if a priest is not around. Each year the priests in our diocese take a retreat together for a few days. During those days the deacons will preside at a Liturgy of the Word/Communion Service during the times when daily Mass is usually held. Communion is distributed if there is some already blessed in the Tabernacle, since the priest (or bishop) is the only person that can do the Eucharistic celebration. The one Catholic wedding that I have attended at which a deacon presided, there was no distribution of communion. So they had the Liturgy of the Word and the marriage ceremony and then the final blessings. There are a multitude of reasons why a couple may choose to get married without a Mass, but that can be a whole other topic. For more about deacons, I found an FAQ on the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops website. Check it our here.
The second part of the question was where a couple can get married according to the Catholic Church. Does it have to be in the Catholic Church? Can it be outside, on the beach maybe, or even in another church? First about outside weddings. The Catholic Church teaches us that marriage is a sacrament that should typically be held as part of the Mass. CCC1621 has a great way of describing this (definitely go read that if you have a chance). A Mass is almost always held in the holy space of the Church. Therefore it stands to reason that you would get married in the Church as well. I happened to come across a short article on this very issue recently, which can explain things much better than I can and I highly recommend reading it. It can be found here: "Catholics Don't Get Married at the Beach!".
The issue of getting married in a church that's not a Catholic Church is a little more difficult to answer. Essentially the answer is yes, you can, but there is a but. My understanding is that a couple getting married in which one person is Catholic and the other is not, can get married in a non-Catholic Church with the consent of the bishop. Ah, I just found the answer!! Thanks to the book Fr. Frank gave Chris and I as a wedding gift, I have found that according to Canon Law 1118: "It [the marriage] can be celebrated in another church or oratory with the permission of the local ordinary or pastor." That's about all I know on this topic.
I think that about exhausts all my knowledge and I believe I managed an answer to all parts of the question that was posed. I would love to hear more comments or additional information anyone has to add on any of my statements. And if I got something totally wrong, please let me know that too.
Oh, and other topics for next week?? Let me know!!