Dear father Angelo,
We’re a couple, both of us divorced without the cancellation from “Sacra Rota”, and we have the intention to get married again only in the civil rite, for obvious reasons. Does the Church acknowledge in any way the civil ceremony or does it consider it invalid anyway?
In other words, does the Church consider living together in a civil marriage the same as being sacramentally married ?
Thanks for your kind availability,
The answer from father Angelo
1. Living together and getting married in a civil ceremony isn’t the same thing.
With a civil marriage, there is the willingness to bond for life. However, in cohabitation, there is no sign of it.
2. Nonetheless, even if a marriage between two baptized persons celebrated only in a civil ceremony is canonically null, this doesn’t put on the same level a married couple to one that is unmarried but cohabiting.
In civil marriage there still are a set of obligations before society, as well as rights and duties.
3. This substantial difference can be also proved by the fact that if you two can obtain a declaration of annulment and therefore ask a sanatio in radice (retroactive remediation) of your civil marriage, this will become a valid sacrament through the intervention of the bishop. The sanatio in radice isn’t possible for a couple that’s merely living together because at the root there’s no obligation at all.
4. In my opinion, you should do things in order: first of all, see whether an annulment of the previous marriages is possible (you’ll obtain the judgment within a year); then celebrate your marriage as a sacrament.
In this way, you’ll receive a lot of grace, connected to the sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion; you also won’t embarrass any guest or family member because it will surely be a well-made thing.
I bless you and I will pray to Our Lord for you.