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Feathers are being ruffled around the Interwebs over what sounds like a surprising piece of news: ‘FRANCIS PERMITS LAY PEOPLE TO PRESIDE OVER CATHOLIC WEDDINGS?’ blares one headline.
Except: This is not new. It’s been part of canon law for quite some time, long before Francis. But the circumstances are strictly limited.
From the Code of Canon Law:
Can. 1112 §1. Where there is a lack of priests and deacons, the diocesan bishop can delegate lay persons to assist at marriages, with the previous favorable vote of the conference of bishops and after he has obtained the permission of the Holy See.
Can. 1113 Before special delegation is granted, all those things which the law has established to prove free status are to be fulfilled. Can. 1114 The person assisting at marriage acts illicitly unless the person has made certain of the free status of the contracting parties according to the norm of law and, if possible, of the permission of the pastor whenever the person assists in virtue of general delegation. Can. 1115 Marriages are to be celebrated in a parish where either of the contracting parties has a domicile, quasidomicile, or month long residence or, if it concerns transients, in the parish where they actually reside. With the permission of the proper ordinary or proper pastor, marriages can be celebrated elsewhere. Can. 1116 §1. If a person competent to assist according to the norm of law cannot be present or approached without grave inconvenience, those who intend to enter into a true marriage can contract it validly and licitly before witnesses only: 1/ in danger of death; 2/ outside the danger of death provided that it is prudently foreseen that the situation will continue for a month. 2. In either case, if some other priest or deacon who can be present is available, he must be called and be present at the celebration of the marriage together with the witnesses, without prejudice to the validity of the marriage before witnesses only.
- 2. A suitable lay person is to be selected, who is capable of giving instruction to those preparing to be married and able to perform the matrimonial liturgy properly.
Move along. Nothing to see here.