The recent Boris Johnson marriage caused a stir. So here I’ll outline why things can be quite peculiar at times, and probably need reforming.
Part 1 – the first marriages
John is born to Lutheran parents, and baptised in a Lutheran church. His parents move to a Methodist church when he is 6 months old.
Paul is born to Catholic parents, and baptised in a Catholic church. His parents move to the same Methodist church when he is 6 months old.
Jane and Mary are born to Methodist parents and baptised in that same church.
The four children (and It) grow up together.
John and Jane get married to each other in the Methodist church.
Paul and Mary get married to each other in the Methodist church.
John and Jane’s marriage is valid in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Neither was required to observe the correct canonical form, as both were non-Catholics.
Paul and Mary’s marriage is invalid in the eyes of the Catholic Church, because Paul is a baptised Catholic and was therefore required to observe the correct canonical form and be married in the Catholic Church or get the necessary permission to get married elsewhere. They unknowingly live in sin.
Both couples get divorced and then all four convert to Catholicism.
John and Jane are not free to remarry as they are validly married to each other.
Paul and Mary may now marry whomever they please because their marriage to each other was invalid and easily declared null and void.
Part 2 – the second marriages
Mary, Paul, Robert, and Martha are all practicing Catholics in the local Catholic parish in communion with Rome. All are free to marry without impediments (see above for Mary and Paul).
Mary marries Robert in the local Catholic church. Robert’s brother, a Catholic deacon, officiates at the ceremony. The marriage is valid. A deacon is permitted to perform this role. The ministers of the sacrament are the couple getting married, and the deacon witnesses the sacrament, which he may do.
Martha marries Paul in the local Catholic church. Martha’s brother, a Catholic deacon, officiates at the ceremony. The marriage is, however, invalid, because, at his baptism as a baby, Paul was enrolled in one of the Byzantine Catholic Churches in communion with Rome because his father was a member of that Church sui iuris. The minister of the sacrament of matrimony must therefore be a Catholic priest. A deacon cannot perform this role. The marriage is thus invalid and so Paul and Martha unknowingly live in sin.
Part 3 – bad luck, but fun anyway
Paul has had bad luck. He has attempted two marriages, both of which were invalid. He was also invalidly confirmed, or not really confirmed, when he underwent what looked like the sacrament of confirmation after he converted from Methodism to Catholicism. His “confirmation” after his conversion was not a real sacrament because he had received the sacrament of confirmation as a baby, immediately after being baptised, as is Byzantine Catholic practice, and it can only be received once. But he didn’t remember, so nobody knew. Three failed or pseudo sacraments. He is only aware that one was invalid, but they’re accumulating without his knowledge.
Paul’s sister Patsy was born 18 months after him, and so she was baptised in the Methodist church. She never joins the mainstream Catholic Church, but instead gets ordained with the independent Roman Catholic Womenpriests organisation.
Robert dies, probably from COVID-19 but this is not certain. Now they are all free to marry. Mary is free to marry. Martha, even though she thinks she is married to Paul, is really free to marry. And Patsy is free to marry. Paul can validly marry Mary or Martha (he tried both before but it never took), but not his sister, Fr Patsy.
But they come up with a plan. Paul marries both Mary and Martha, while Patsy marries both Mary and Martha. Patsy officiates at all the marriages, even her own. Don’t try this at home, because it might not be legal in your country. It might soon be legal in mine. As for sacramental validity, feel free to give your opinions in the comments. Perhaps Paul has failed again to get it right.
Bonus question: Should Paul ask to be ordained a deaconess?