Roman Catholic Church ‘to tolerate’ virtual marriages

THE Roman Catholic Church will tolerate virtual marriages for civil unions if these will be allowed by the State.

This was according to Msgr. Joseph Tan, media liaison of the Archdiocese of Cebu, when sought for comment on proposed House Bill (HB) 7042 that seeks to amend Articles 2, 3, 6, and 10 of the country’s Family Code.

“It the bill is passed, the (Catholic) church cannot do anything about it except to say that the church will not allow marriages of this kind to happen in the church,” Tan said.

Kabayan Party-list Rep. Ron Salo filed HB 7042 on Tuesday, June 30, 2020.

He proposed that the legal meaning of presence or personal appearance as an important requisite for the validity of marriage be liberally construed to include virtual presence or presence through video conferencing, especially amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

This means that in a virtual marriage, the couple to be wed will be together in the same location, but their presence before the solemnizing officer can be remote or virtual.

Salo noted how the pandemic had caused postponements and cancellations of wedding ceremonies in the country due to the prohibition on mass gatherings.

He said the essence of marriage is the personal appearance of the parties before the solemnizing officer and their declaration that they willingly and freely accept and take each other as husband and wife.

He said the Family Code took effect in 1988 when virtual presence was just a “figment of the imagination” and that its provisions may have already been overtaken by advancements in technology.

He also said virtual marriages between Filipinos abroad may be solemnized by the consul-general, consul or vice-consul of the Philippines. It may also be officiated by religious leaders such as priests, pastors, and the like, even though they are based in the Philippines.

Important aspect

However, Tan, on behalf of the Catholic Church, said it is not a question of advancement of technology or a question on the Covid-19 crisis.

He said weddings can still be done physically though these are reduced to the most basic and essential parts and elements requiring only the priest, the couple getting married and the principal witnesses, in view of the health risks.

He also said a sacramental marriage is the most important aspect of marriage for baptized Catholics, which only the Catholic Church can give.

He said sacraments such as marriage, baptism and confession and others cannot be celebrated virtually as they are “personalized invitational encounters,” which virtual celebrations may not be able to communicate.

“Civil marriages and all those other marriages may not have the sacramental effect simply because they do not adhere to the Theology of the Sacraments,” he said.

He said several masses are being celebrated and aired online, but these are not supposed to be valid masses. He said these are just supposed to fill the hunger and longing of the Catholic faithful while they cannot physically go to churches yet.

“They are not a substitute because in the first place, the church lifted the mass obligation since we have no moral capacity to go to church,” he said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

“In fact, the Holy Father (Pope Francis) stopped the airing of masses on Vatican TV after Italy opened its churches to the public,” he added. (WBS)


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