EWTN.com - Death of Spouse: "Death of Spouse
The newspapers have carried the story of a missing person whose remains have just been discovered. He was declared dead by a civil court a few months earlier. I was wondering if Canon law follows civil law and would permit a Catholic to remarry after a civil court declared the spouse dead ? I was told that after the sinking of the Titanic most of those missing were declared dead and there families were permitted to administer their estates in a rather short time. Would the same civil ruling aply to the spouse in order for her to remarry?
Answer by Rev. Mark J. Gantley, JCL on 10/10/2008:
Canon law has a specific procedure for situations of a presumed death of a spouse in situations where the death is somewhat ambiguous. I would think that, in such a process, the findings of a civil court might be strong evidence and perhaps fully probative for the canonical process."