The Pope marries a couple on the papal airplane. Hmmm.

From Father Z’s Blog:

I fairly dread papal trips these days. You never know what is going on happen on the papal airplane. Will there be another presser in which the Holy Father will says something like, “Who am I to judge?” That was a gift – now perpetually taken out of context and abused – that keeps on giving.

I read at Crux that the Holy Father married (witnessed the marriage) of a steward and stewardess on the papal airplane – during the flight.

Paula Podest, 39, and Carlos Ciufardi, 41, have been together for over ten years. They met in the air, where she was his boss as a flight attendant for LATAM, Chile’s flagship airline.
They have been civilly married since 2010. Days before they were scheduled to have their church wedding, an earthquake destroyed the church where they were supposed to marry.  [According to the Daily Mail, that was 8 years ago.  8 years… and they haven’t married in church?  I suppose they had marriage prep.  Also, in the case of an earthquake, the church building isn’t a sine qua non for getting married.  It is sad that they couldn’t get marriage in that church, but… marriage is the really important part of the equation, not the building or photos.]
On Thursday, as they were posing with Francis and the rest of the crew for the official picture, Francis asked them if they were married in the Church. They told him no, and the pontiff immediately took charge, asking them if they wanted him to marry them, and they agreed.

The newlyweds shared the conversation they had with the pontiff with the journalists, with Podest acknowledging that she was “still in shock,” so he did most of the talking, even though, from what they told journalists, “she’s still the boss in the house,” as she was at the airline when they met.
“It was historic,” the pope told them. “Never has a pope married a couple on a plane.”
“He asked us if we were married, I said no because of the earthquake, and he said, ‘well, I’ll marry you’,” according to Ciufardi.
The spouses asked the pontiff if he was certain about marrying them on the plane, asking him “are you sure?”

When the pope asked for a witness, they tapped the CEO of the airline, and to make sure there was no doubt over the validity of the sacrament, the pope “asked the cardinals who were with him” to draft the license, which they did. The document is handmade, signed by one of the cardinals, also a witness.
“He held our hands, blessed the rings, and he married us in the name of God,” Ciufardi said.
“What he said to us is very important: ‘This is the sacrament the world needs, the sacrament of marriage. Hopefully, this will motivate couples around the world to get married’,” Ciufardi said.
Speaking about the rings, Francis said that they shouldn’t be either too tight, because “they would be a torture,” or too loose, or else they might risk misplacing them.

These days there are controversies over the meaning of marriage.  These days, fewer and fewer couples are marrying.

For example, if a couple who are in an adulterous relationship because at least on party divorced his true spouse and then civilly marries another woman – without the church giving a declaration of nullity concerning his first, true marriage, can that remarried, adulterous couple be admitted to Holy Communion, even though they haven’t made any commitment to live chaste lives? Some say, “Yes!”, and, by doing so, they call into question the very meaning of matrimony and also the Eucharist.

At the very least, they make a mockery of matrimony, trivialize it.

I trust that this well-intentioned gesture by Pope Francis isn’t taken merely to be some sort of stunt, which the badly-motivated will utilize to trivialize the sacrament of matrimony even more than is is being trivialized today.

Another thing: may this couple stay together!  It would be… not so great were they to split up after this rather dramatic aerial display.  Headline: Papal midair marriage crashes!

I can’t say that I like the whole airplane thing.   The Pope makes his calls.  Who am I to judge?

Can we put sentimentality aside for a moment?   Gestures like this have consequences.  This wasn’t some odd priest on an airplane, it was the Vicar of Christ.

Again, this is all very huggy and warm and fuzzy.  But let’s think about this.

I wasn’t there, of course, but I think it could have been a good idea to make sure they knew what matrimony is really all about.   That’s what marriage preparation is for.  They’ve been civilly but not sacramentally married for 8 years.   All this time they didn’t seek the sacrament?  What’s that about?   Maybe the Pope got their story.

When a priest marries a couple, he should be reasonably sure that they know what they are getting into.  He can be fairly sure if they had some kind of marriage prep, done by himself or by another priest, etc.  You have to know before you witness the marriage of couple – if they are going to enter into this sacramental bond – whether or not they have the right intentions.   Does the couple – I’m speaking generically now – any couple – intend to remain together for life?   Do they intend for their bond to be exclusive?   Do they intend to accept the gift of children?

Also, the sacrament of matrimony is one of the “sacraments of the living”.  It should be received in the state of grace, after a good examination of conscience and confession.   Not by “surprise”, as it were.

Moreover, you have to ascertain if they are both free to marry, having no previous bond that the Church had to examine.  I imagine that, before tying their knot the Holy Father asked them about these things.  Right?   He was a diocesan bishop.  He knows about these things.

The Pope can dispense immediately anything that can be dispensed.  But if there is a previous bond… nope.  And an airplane isn’t the place to deal with Pauline or Petrine Privilege.   Get that wrong when you are Pope and problems result.

Sure, this on-the-spot – well…it was “on-the-spot” only relatively speaking – marriage took care of one instance of a couple living together. There are a lot more out there.

I wonder if the on-the-spot thing won’t spur odd situations:

“The Pope married someone on an airplane!   Why won’t you, Father, marry us right now here at the zoo?”

What do you want to bet that sort of thing will pop up for priests after this?

I hope that this no doubt well-intentioned gesture by the Holy Father won’t also wind up being one of those gifts that keep on giving, but not in a good way.

Anyway, I wish that couple a holy and happy life.

Please share!
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12 Responses to The Pope marries a couple on the papal airplane. Hmmm.

  1. Mary Salmond says:

    Fr. Z: anymore young adults, unless completely orthodox, think very little of tradition, rubrics, preparation! The parents probably are submissive recipients of the wedding couple’s receipts because they’re probably glad the couple actually wants to marry. The millennials I’ve heard about live together for a couple years and then unceremoniously marry in a 10 minute event for $10,000 and more. Fr. Z, hope you have better luck with those young adults in your congregation. I agreed with your article. It had all the things that need to be done, I just wish it could happen this way. Many couple marry outside the church because they don’t want to go through the uncomfortable part, since they’ve been living in sin for years.


  2. Toad says:

    Who are we to judge? Well, anyone who fancies doing so, it seems. Not only Father Z.

    ”When a priest marries a couple, he should be reasonably sure that they know what they are getting into. ”
    Nobody can be ever reasonably sure of anything they are getting into – from the very moment they are born. Certainly not marriage.


  3. johnhenrycn says:

    Sigh. Quite the showman, is our Dear Leader:


  4. JabbaPapa says:

    Interesting points, mmvc, although doctrinally, Marriage remains a Sacrament between two Baptised spouses (the Ministers of the Sacrament) — so that even some marriages that have not been canonically witnessed before a proper Ministerial Witness (deacon or priest, Bishop or Pope), and so by the Church, are doctrinally recognised as existing de facto : which is precisely why some “non-Catholic” marriages are recognised by the Church as being both valid and licit.

    This is particularly pertinent to this story given that they were civilly married for 8 years.

    Furthermore, in precisely these sorts of matters, the Sovereignty of the Roman Pontiff (whoever he may be) simply cannot be contested.

    Also, I think that Marriage is far more deeply trivialised by those who think that it needs to be some sort of lavish ceremony in a beautiful church with a costly marriage reception later with many gifts and much partying than by those marrying in this sort of very simple manner (Popes and journalists on aeroplanes withstanding, obviously), as a Sacrament before God and His Church.


  5. JabbaPapa says:

    Furthermore, in precisely these sorts of matters, the Sovereignty of the Roman Pontiff (whoever he may be) simply cannot be contested.

    Nor BTW that of any Patriarch, Western or Eastern.


  6. Mary Salmond says:

    Mmvc: read the suggested articles discussing Canon law. Both good.
    My contention is the Pope, whoever he is, has to remain steadfast to the right of center, because once the information trickles down to the laity, it is SO watered down. In light of Vatican ii, the interpretation was so open (and perhaps ambiguous) that the laity got the watered down version from the flower children bishops and priests. And now we see the results in Catholic culture and society. After JP ii, Catholics weren’t ready for a stricter, hardliner like Pope Benedict. And we’re back to the flower children mentality.


  7. mmvc says:

    This Lifesite news report confirms that the mile-high-wedding wasn’t as spontaneous as initially suggested:

    JP, canonical issues aside, I think that traditional church or chapel wedding ceremonies, lavish or otherwise, with or without follow-up receptions, gifts etc, are far more dignified than headline grabbing novelties such as this one.

    Fr Z’s ‘huggy and warm and fuzzy’ and Mary’s ‘flower children mentality’ are spot on!

    Having said that, may God bless this couple and their children!


  8. Toad says:

    Does any of this whining really matter? The Pope married a couple. He’s entitled to do that, apparently. Part of his job.
    Whereabouts the marriage takes place is unimportant, also apparently.
    Everything else is beside the point. And silly.


  9. JabbaPapa says:

    I agree, toad.


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