My baptized son or daughter is not going to Mass anymore, is living with their partner and is looking to get married civilly rather than in the Catholic Church. Is it ok to let them do this or should I be encouraging them to get married in Church?
There are a number of issues present here. First, Catholics are required to marry in the Church in order for their marriage to be considered valid. (Code of Canon Law, Canon 1108). This law is in place because of the significant difference between God’s understanding of marriage and our cultural perspectives of marriage. When couples marry outside the Church there is usually little to no preparation done with them. Getting married in the Church provides a privileged opportunity for the Church’s ministers to help couples assess their suitability and readiness for marriage. Second, there have been many independent studies conducted of couples who cohabitate before marriage and there is overwhelming evidence that shows that the longer a couple lives together before getting married the greater the likelihood is for divorce.
The best thing that a parent can do in this case is talk with them about God’s understanding of marriage and how it differs greatly from the civil understanding of marriage. The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is an unbreakable sacramental covenant between a baptized man and woman that is ordered towards the procreation and education of children and the ultimate good of the spouses: eternal salvation in heaven. Marriage from a civil standpoint is merely a contract between anyone (male or female doesn’t matter, baptism doesn’t matter) that is ordered towards the feelings and happiness of the spouses (has nothing to do with having children or getting your spouse to heaven). Keep praying for your children that God may put someone in their lives who will bring them back to cultivating a loving relationship with Jesus Christ in the Church. Who knows, maybe your son or daughter’s future spouse may teach them about God and encourage them to have the marriage validated in the Church at a later date.
"Building our Catholic faith one question at a time."