As courts and legislatures re-define marriage in opposition to the Roman Catholic definition of marriage is it still appropriate for the Church to permit her priests and deacons to function as agents of the state for the execution of a state marriage license whose definition is profoundly in opposition to the Catholic understanding of marriage?
I believe it is time to end my functioning as an officiant for state marriage licenses.
In many nations couples who desire to execute a state marriage license do so solely through the auspices of the state: A state agent alone has responsibility for the execution of a civil marriage license; a minister of the Church officiates the sacrament of marriage but serves no civil function for the state. This allows the state to recognize whatever it wishes in whatever manner the state deems appropriate and the Church to celebrate her sacrament of marriage without confusion as to the nature of marriage as an indissoluble union between one man and one woman marked by permanence, fidelity and with openness to children.
As it is now, when I execute a state marriage license I execute a state license for a state institution whose definition the Church does not accept nor endorse. It is time for the Church to end the practice of providing her priests and deacons as agents for the execution of state marriage licenses. Let the state and its agents execute state marriage licenses and let the Church and her ministers witness her marriage sacrament. When Church ministers execute state licenses are they not implicitly endorsing the state’s definition of marriage? In my opinion the Church should only provide her ministers as witnesses for her sacrament of marriage and let the state by its agents license whatever it wishes to license.
Father John Spiegel
Pastor, St. Mary Parish, Iowa City