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Mathias Log wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a 15-year-old Catholic from Norway and I happen to have a situation I've been attempting to figure out during the past couple days.

Let's say there are three people on an island. This is undiscovered land with no ties to civilization and the rest of the world. They don't know much, but they have Bibles, can read, and view marriage as a simple relationship or covenant between a man, woman, and God, with no government involved, etc.

  • If they get married without a priest, papers, and so on, is the marriage valid in the eyes of God?
  • And if so, does it affect what is recognized as marriage in existing countries?

Biblically, we know of similar incidents; for instance, Isaac and Rebecca needed no paperwork . . . nothing was required and we are told that God does not change.

  • Taking this into account, would this marriage be valid in regards to performance, ceremony, papers, etc.?
  • If this is valid, what's the difference?

I want answers because, if this is correct, anyone who genuinely makes a lifelong commitment with no paperwork or anything could get married validly. (Obviously not considering government issues and such.)

Either way, I'm looking forward to hearing from you and getting some help untying this knot.

God bless!



  { Are these hypothetical marriages valid with respect to their performance, ceremony, and papers? }

Paul replied:

Dear Mati,

Here we must distinguish between whether it is a marriage in the eyes of God, and whether it is recognized by His Mystical Body, the Church.

In the case of the couple on the desert island with no knowledge of Church law and no access to civilization:

  1. if they are not Catholic, their private vows will probably create a marriage.
  2. if they are baptized Catholic but:
    1. are sincerely ignorant of Church law, and
    2. have no access to civilization, . . . . their vows of:
      1. fidelity
      2. permanence, and
      3. openness to children

    might also create a marriage, however, if this couple ever connects with civilization, they would be obliged to convalidate their marriage with a priest or deacon and two witnesses if they are Catholic, or in some other legal public manner if they are not Catholic.

In other words, true ignorance and the inability to effect marriage through the laws of the Church on a secluded island would not keep a couple from entering marriage; however, if a couple is not involuntarily secluded, like virtually all of us, and if they are Catholic, they are obligated to marry in the Church, and, if they are not Catholic, are obligated to marry in some other legal/public manner.

I don't know of any official documents addressing these hypotheticals but that's my very fallible take on what God's will would be.

My colleagues might come up with different responses.



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