- The publication of banns is a public announcement in church of an upcoming marriage.
- It enables anyone to raise objections to stop unlawful marriages.
- Banns must be read out loud on 3 Sundays before the wedding.
- The purpose is to allow prayer for the couple and check impediments.
- Traditionally done in both parties’ home parishes before 1983.
What Exactly Are Banns of Marriage??
The publication of banns refers to the longstanding practice in Christian churches of announcing upcoming marriages in order to allow for any legal or canonical objections. Traditionally, the banns would be published in the couple’s local parishes over three Sundays preceding the wedding date.
In the modern Catholic church, banns are still required and involve the public proclamation of the intended marriage in the parishes where the bride and groom reside. The purpose is to enable anyone to raise lawful impediments or reasons why the marriage should not take place according to church law.
What is the Historical Purpose and Origin of Publishing Banns??
The publication of banns dates back many centuries in Christian tradition. In the early medieval church, a couple intending to marry would have their banns called out in the town marketplace or announced after Sunday mass.
The main purposes behind publishing the banns were:
- To allow time for any impediments to the lawful marriage to be discovered and brought forward. This includes issues like existing marriages, vows of celibacy, consanguinity (blood relation), or other barriers.
- To permit the local community to pray for the engaged couple as they prepare to enter into the holy sacrament of matrimony.
- To offer a chance for anyone to raise moral objections if they were aware of problems like infidelity, abuse, or coercion.
By the 12th century, it became standard practice to announce banns over three consecutive Sundays or feast days prior to the wedding. This tradition carried over into modern times across Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and other Christian denominations.
What are the Current Rules and Requirements??
Today, the Catholic Code of Canon Law maintains that banns must be published in advance of weddings. The current norms are:
- The banns are to be published in the parishes where each party resides, as well as where the marriage will take place.
- The proclamation of banns must occur during the celebration of Mass or other communal worship service.
- Banns must be announced on three consecutive Sundays or holy days of obligation prior to the wedding date.
- If requested, the parish priest can grant a dispensation from the publication of banns for a serious reason. This dispels with the requirement.
The purpose behind still publishing the banns is to allow anyone with knowledge of impediments to lawfully and morally object prior to the marriage. This gives one last chance to identify potential issues ahead of the wedding.
How are Banns Traditionally Published and Announced??
The traditional method of publishing banns involved orally proclaiming the upcoming marriage before the congregation during Sunday Mass. Typically, the priest would announce the names of the bride and groom and their hometowns.
“Let it be known that John Smith of Smallville and Jane Doe of Metropolis intend to enter into Holy Matrimony at Saint Ann’s Church on July 1st. If anyone is aware of any lawful impediment to this marriage, they are obliged to make it known to the parish priest.”
This proclamation would be made on three Sundays prior to the wedding date. The banns might also be posted in the weekly church bulletin.
These days, the names are usually not read out loud but instead printed in the bulletin. But the core purpose remains unaltered – to provide public notice and allow objections to unlawful or ill-advised marriages.
How Were Banns Handled Prior to Changes in 1983??
Before reforms to the Code of Canon Law in 1983, the rules for the publication of banns were slightly different:
- Banns had to be published in the home parishes of the bride and groom, even if in different locations.
- The announcements were required on three consecutive Sundays or holy days of obligation.
- If the parties were from different parishes, each had to obtain a certificate of publication from their own parish priest as proof the banns were properly proclaimed.
- Only the parish priest could request a dispensation from the bishop exempting the couple from banns.
The 1983 revisions simplified the law to requiring banns only in the parishes where the parties currently reside. Certificates of publication were abolished. But the essence remains – giving notice and opportunity for impediments.
What Happens If Objections are Raised to the Marriage??
If anyone comes forward during the publication period with lawful objections or impediments to the marriage, the priest is obliged to investigate the matter further. Objections must be based on issues that would render the marriage invalid or forbidden under church laws, such as:
- One party being already married and refusing an annulment.
- Consanguinity between the couple.
- Evidence of coercion or lack of consent.
- Undispensed disparity of worship (Catholic marrying non-baptized person).
- Serious mental illness or psychological issues.
If the objections are found to be valid and a dispensation is not possible, the priest must withhold permission for the marriage to take place. This demonstrates how seriously the publication of banns is taken by the Church.
Can a Priest Grant a Dispensation from Publishing Banns??
According to Canon Law, the parish priest does have authority to dispense with the publication of banns for a just and reasonable cause (Canon 1067). This simply means waiving the requirement upon request.
Some common reasons a dispensation may be granted:
- If announcing the marriage would provoke animosity or violence in certain cultures.
- If a party resides in a location too far away to conveniently publish banns.
- To avoid embarrassment or scandal if one party has been married numerous times before.
- For marriages involving someone who is well-known or a public figure.
The dispensation from banns does not mean the marriage can be secret or private. But it eliminates the need for public proclamations in church. The priest may still investigate privately to check for impediments before granting permission to marry.
Does Publication of Banns Guarantee a Valid Marriage??
It is important to note that simply publishing the banns does not guarantee that a marriage will be recognized as valid in the Catholic church. Banns mainly serve to provide the opportunity for impediments and problems to surface.
However, if crucial impediments do exist and remain undiscovered or undisclosed during the publication period, it does not necessarily validate the marriage. For example, if serious mental illness is discovered after the fact, it can still nullify the marriage.
Banns procedures strive to prevent invalid marriages but cannot always guarantee this perfectly. The dispensation from banns also does not automatically validate a marriage if other barriers exist.
How Do Banns Tie into the Purpose and Theology of Catholic Marriage??
The continuing practice of publishing marriage banns closely reflects the theology and purpose of matrimony as viewed by the Catholic church. Specifically:
- It upholds marriage as a public institution – Banns reaffirm marriage as a communal sacrament blessed by the Church, not just a private contract. The community has the chance to pray for and support the wedding.
- It promotes free, faithful, fruitful unions – By allowing impediments to surface, banns aim to remove barriers to free, faithful and lifelong marriage open to children.
- It reinforces the sanctity of marriage – Publishing banns treats matrimony as a sacred institution that merits thoughtful spiritual preparation, not to be entered lightly.
- It ensures consent and intent – The weeks of public notice provide ample time for reflection on the sincere consent and intent of both parties essential to valid marriage.
Therefore, banns remain a fitting long-held tradition that conveys the deeply sacred meaning of marriage according to Catholic doctrine.
Can Banns Also Be Used for Rites Other Than Marriage??
While publishing banns is most well known regarding marriage, canon law does allow for banns before conferring other rites as well. For instance:
- Ordination – Publication of banns could take place before ordaining someone to the priesthood or diaconate, allowing objections or concerns to be voiced.
- Religious profession – Banns can precede taking final or perpetual religious vows, ensuring freedom and intent.
- Consecrated virginity – Announcing banns prior to consecrating a female virgin could permit impediments to be submitted, according to Canon 656.
- Baptism – Some dioceses still publish banns before performing adult baptisms, especially to investigate marital status.
So historically and today, banns have had value for significant rites beyond matrimony in some cases. But marriage is by far the most ubiquitous sacramental use.
The publication of marriage banns is an age-old tradition in the Catholic and broader Christian tradition that persists to the modern day. It involves announcing upcoming marriages in the couple’s local parishes over three Sundays. Historically, the aims have been to garner public prayer for the engaged couple, check for impediments, and emphasize the sanctity of matrimony. If objections arise, the priest must investigate their validity and lawfulness. Overall, banns uphold Catholic theology of marriage and aim to prevent invalid unions, though limitations exist. The practice endures as a meaningful rite and responsibility for couples and communities.