One of the grounds for nullity is "Insufficient Use of Reason" according to Archiodiocese of Atlanta.

...or black-out states (caused by alcoholic intoxication, drug use, or seizure disorder)...

Now, if a couple gets married and one of them is intoxicated to the state that meets the criteria for invalidity. Is this marriage invalid in the eyes of God even if the couple believe they got married and stay together for the rest of life?

Or if a couple gets married because they are expecting a baby. They might claim they aren't marrying freely but for the sake of a child, or under the social pressure they choose it. Does this make the wedding vows invalid in the eyes of God even though they end up living together for the rest of their life?

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    It sounds like you're asking whether a marriage is valid if it's invalid (i.e. if it meets the grounds for invalidity), which makes no sense. What am I missing? – Matt Gutting Sep 6 '17 at 15:12
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    The link to the Atlanta diocese is full of ideas for couples seeking an annulment. But OP is asking about couples who stay together, and presumably have no intention of seeking an annulment. It isn't necessarily the same thing. – davidlol Sep 6 '17 at 17:16
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    The question presupposes a distinction between "invalid" and "invalid in the eyes ofGod." I'm not aware of any such distinction (and it seems other commenters aren't either), so it would be good to clarify what you have in mind. In general, I believe that whatever God thinks is the case is really the case; that is, I see no difference between God's opinion and reality. – Andreas Blass Sep 6 '17 at 19:03
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    That's trivial. If the bishop agrees the marriage was invalid, then it's invalid. I don't think there's an "invalid in the eyes of God" separate from "invalid in the eyes of the Church". Certainly not for marriages entered into in the Catholic Church. – Matt Gutting Sep 6 '17 at 19:14
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    There are thousands of marriages that could be annulled according to the definition but because couples don't seek an annulment it will never be. Does it mean these marriages are valid? – Grasper Sep 6 '17 at 19:19

To say that a marriage is invalid is to say that there was an obstacle (technically, an impediment) which prevents the couple from actually being married (not just from "being married in the eyes of the Church"). Some of these obstacles are matters of divine law—for example, canon 1091 section 1:

In the direct line of consanguinity marriage is invalid between all ancestors and descendants, both legitimate and natural.

This is a statement given by God (Deuteronomy 23:1). As such, it is part of the natural law, binding on all people.

There are other impediments which are purely ecclesiastical in nature. In other words, they were created specifically by the Church, not by God. For example, canon 1083 section 1:

A man before he has completed his sixteenth year of age and a woman before she has completed her fourteenth year of age cannot enter into a valid marriage.

God never specified exact ages before which a man or a woman couldn't marry (although it is clear that one can't get married at an arbitrarily young age). But the Church has decided that sixteen and fourteen years are reasonable age limits, and legislated accordingly.

Impediments which are matters of divine law are applicable to all people, whether Catholic or not—a marriage between a non-Christian man and his mother would still be invalid. But what about impediments that are ecclesiastical?

It seems unfair to apply rules that were specifically created by the Catholic Church to those outside the Church; and indeed, though the impediments of divine origin are binding on those outside the Church, they are so not because they are canon law, but because they are natural law. The Church just has specific implementations of them in canon law.

For a couple outside the Church, then, as long as a marriage is performed in accordance with natural law, and with the law of the land, it is a naturally valid marriage. In this case it is possible that the couple are subject to some ecclesiastical impediment, but still naturally validly married.

In the case of a marriage involving at least one Catholic, however, the case is different. God has given the Church authority to make these laws and to bind them on all Catholics. Thus, if the couple have ignored an impediment listed in canon law, their marriages are in fact invalid.

On the other hand, as canon law (1060) states:

Marriage possesses the favor of law; therefore, in a case of doubt, the validity of a marriage must be upheld until the contrary is proven.

In other words, if no one is asked whether a given marriage is invalid, or if an investigation is ongoing into its validity, it is presumed valid unless proved otherwise. This means that there may be some marriages which are presumed valid but are in fact invalid. The reverse, however, is not the case, at least for a Catholic marriage: there are no marriages which are in fact valid ("in God's eyes") though found invalid (by a marriage tribunal).

To address a couple of comments: If the diocesan marriage tribunal determines that a marriage is invalid, but the couple does not accept the decree of nullity, the marriage is still invalid, as stated above. And (again as stated above) if the validity of the marriage is never investigated—if the couple does not seek an annulment—it is still possible for the marriage to be invalid: but the Church is under the obligation to treat it as valid.

  • Thanks! This answers my question. I was trying to understand Pope's Francis reasoning behind his Amoris Laetitia, where he says(not directly): "acts, such as adultery, can be permitted and even willed by God". But from your answer above I can see that these acts in the eyes of God might not be adulterous because the first marriages were not valid. lifesitenews.com/news/… – Grasper Sep 6 '17 at 23:31
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    @Grasper If the Pope said (even indirectly) that any sinful act can be willed by God, he would be committing heresy. But that's matter for another question. – Matt Gutting Sep 7 '17 at 12:04
  • @KorvinStarmast Yeah that makes more sense. I was trying to preserve the wording of the previous statement, but I agree it's not quite accurate. Thanks! – Matt Gutting Sep 7 '17 at 13:22
  • @MattGutting Glad to be of help. Nice answer. – KorvinStarmast Sep 7 '17 at 15:33
  • @MattGutting Good answer. But it isn't correct that there cannot be a marriage hold invalid by tribunal but in fact valid. We try to have highest certainty before making a decision, but human tribunals will make mistakes. The tribunals don't decide with infallible authority. – K-HB Feb 18 '19 at 19:33

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