Sunday, January 23, 2011

Marrying in Church is a right only for those who believe in Christian marriage, says Pope

Marrying in Church is a right only for those who believe in Christian marriage, says Pope in his address to the Rota.
Asia News has the fullest account of what the Pope has said that I've found so far.
I think most of the people I marry I am bit unsure about, most are living together, most only partially believe in God, most are going to contracepting and will continue, few really understand much about self giving love, few do more than come to Mass occassionally.

Am I to refuse to marry them and alienate them from the Church?


alban said...

Dear Father Blake, I have the distinct impression that your question is rhetorical. The way in which it is phrased would indicate that your practice is to be pastoral in approach towards those wishing to celebrate the sacrament of matrimony. I am confident that you also issue a gentle, but firm, challenge to be faithful to Christ and thus to His teachings.

I supect that there have been more than a few couples who have found their way back to Holy Mother Church by your pastoral sensitivity in this regard. I cannot imagine any being further alientated. May our good and gracious God continue to shower you with His grace and guidance.

berenike said...

It might not alienate them from the Church. And if they are in any case only sort of hanging in there, a wee shock might be good. I wonder whether a couple of reality checks of this kind wouldn't have done me a lot of good in my later yoof - I'd have avoided many sins if people hadn't been so nice all the time, I think.

I've often wondered about this sort of thing, but I don't know what the answer is, for all sorts of reasons.

Gregory the Eremite said...

"Am I to refuse to marry them and alienate them from the Church?"

Are not these couples already alienated from the Church? Would a refusal to marry them (without further conversion) alienate them further or would it have the effect of forcing them to a true point of decision?

What is your bishop's approach to this matter?

Richard said...

Interesting - from the linked article this is in the context of reducing annulments.

Presumably the more people are instructed in the fundamentals of Christian marriage, the less likly they are to be able to claim later that they did not have the proper intent.

louella said...

agree with berenike.... a little shock can be a good thing. If we are always indulged and mollycoddled....we can end up taking the Church and our Faith for granted... and even disrespecting it.

I think the Holy Father is correcting a presumptious attitude that will make people sit up and think about what they really believe. And it will make them respect the Church a bit more.

Dilly said...

I read this mainly as a pre-emptive strike against the "human right" now being demanded by gay-rights campaigners to be "married" in a church - not partnershipped in a civil ceremony. Persecution of elderly B&B'ers will be nothing compared to the cases against C of E vicars and RC priests who refuse to comply with this, once it has been achieved through legislation, or more likely via the European court of Human Wrongs.

It is a hard call for you to have to pass judgement on a couple's intentions. My parents married in 1942 as my father was about to be shipped overseas to fight. No 6 month preparation course for them - and had they chosen to get an annulment later, it could have been argued that their state of mind was compromised.

PIUSXXX said...

"few really understand much about self giving love" How can you possibly know this? You really are worse than the Pharisees, Father. p.s. You would'nt last a week in our parish.

Fr Ray Blake said...


I think that is very easy to judge, for example if they appear more concerned about their own individual happiness rather than their prospective spouse's, if they seem more concerned about career than a family, etc.

Invariably couples today are the product of divorces or some other form of childhood abuse. There are men who have never seen a loving, committed father or husband in action and women who do are the daughters of mothers who simply do not know how to share.

One of the main concerns of many secular marriage counsellors is the immaturity of the love of those whose marriages fail.

PIUSXXX said...

"I think that is very easy to judge"....I'm sure you do.

Pablo the Mexican said...

PIUSXXX said...
"few really understand much about self giving love" How can you possibly know this? You really are worse than the Pharisees, Father. p.s. You wouldn’t last a week in our parish..."

A whole lot more Respect for the Padre, Pius.

You wouldn’t last a week in our parish..."

Charity apparently is on hiatus in your Parish.

Are you a Third Order of the SSPX?

That would explain your Elitists’ attitude.

Saint Pius X would knock you on your behind for that remark.

He was a tough guy, and did not tolerate fools.

I am a Cristero, and don’t tolerate them either.


Anita Moore said...

To the question "have these couples not already alienated themselves from the Church" I would add these: (1) do they not compound their guilt by adding the sacrament of Matrimony into the mix? and (2) would marrying them in the Church serve to confirm them in their sinful ways by making it appear that the Church sanctions their wrong course of conduct?

justin said...

The thing is Father, if they really are as you say they are, then they're not exactly 'practicing' the faith anyway are they? So how exactly will they be alienated, when they, through their own actions already are.

justin said...

As an addendum - marriage is a calling, like the priesthood, etc.

Not everyone has a true and genuine call to the priesthood and religious life, and similarly not everyone has a genuine vocation to marriage. Society expects that people get married and is invariably seen as a rite of passage of some sort.

The Church should do more to correct this mis-representation of the marital vocation. All are called to chastity. Some are called to marriage.

Many people speak of finding the 'right' wife or husband, as if marriage is an expectation. Maybe the even more fundamental question is whether so many people are meant to be married in the first place.

Local parishes should do more to help individuals discern their calling to marriage, much in the same way that they have priesthood/religious life discernment days, so too the married life.

Being unmarried does not excuse the Christian of the call to chastity, which is a universal call.

misericordia said...

Priests have consciences too and also human rights, which entitle them not to act against their own consciences. If a priest should doubt a couple's belief in the sanctity of marriage, as taught by the Church, he should be free to discourage them from taking such a step.

There are so many options as to where a marriage can be celebrated nowadays, from Registry Offices to hotels;even beaches on Bali. I do not really understand why a couple who are not committed to Catholic teachings on marriage would insist on a wedding in a Catholic Church and they should not expect a priest to compromise his beliefs.

Natasa said...

I find this very similar to the question whether babies whose parents are not practicing their faith should be baptised.
Anyone can fall away from the faith in some point in life (and come back) but to baptise a child/marry a couple when there is evidence that it is just something done without conviction,a nice tradition, an expectation from family or whatever reason, then we end up having a church full of people who have nothing to do with it in reality.

I was not baptised as a child because my parents were in a civil marriage. My mum wanted it but the priest said no. I'm glad the priest made that decision because I was not raised in faith, far from it.

I know a number of people who think that Christianity is a joke but nevertheless got married in church (and got the children baptised) becaue it's a tradition and a church provides a nice setting, a bit more meaningful than a registry office. I've heard that many times.

Being a bit more demanding wouldn't hurt. The church needs to grow a spine once again and learn to say no when there is reason to do so.

Pablo the Mexican said...


Hopefully you have been baptized.


universal doctor said...

For my part, I would rather be judged wanting on this earth and have the opportunity to amend and atone for my sins, than only realize my deficiencies when I am judged by the Almighty.
It might also be an idea for an orthodox centralised marriage preparation service to exist ("Marriage Care" is a shocking disgrace which does scandal to the faith). One must attempt every avenue.
I would be tempted to agree that to deny the sacrament to those who do not take it seriously, or who are consciously in breach of the Church's teaching, or blatantly disregard it, might be more charitable. All of us need a wake-up call every now and then.
If the Sunday obligation is not observed, if contraception is a part of their "lifestyle choice", there is a heck of a lot of work to be done. There needs to be a renewed sense of self-sacrifice, which is so lacking in this vale of tears. The sacrament of marriage is not a "right", nor is the gift of children.

Fr Marcus said...

Yes, but I expect few bishops would back priests if they refused to marry those living together or contracepting.

Richard Reeves said...

Fr Blake, I always remember our Canon Law lecturer Monsignor Cousins saying "Marriage enjoys the favour of the law". That is, if there is no impediment then the couple are free to marry in the Church.

Fr Ray Blake said...

And it is natural right of a couple who are free to marry.

Manuel said...

arundinem quassatam non confringet,
et linum fumigans non extinguet

Just another mad Catholic said...

If I were a Priest then for the first marriage prep I'd take the potnetial groom and show him the first 10-20 miniutes of the NEW star trek film.

The first 11 miniutes to show the Correct atittude of Marriage where Lt Commander Geroge Kirk Sacrifices his own life to protect those of his Wife and (literally) newborn child.

The next 10 minuitess to show the difference between someone raised in a loving environment and one raised in an abusive home.

I'd then tell him that if by the end of the prep that if he isn'tt prepared to immiate Chirst and Geroge Kirk by giving up his life for his spouse then I would refuse to mary him and his wife.

Sharon said...

If a couple, who are living together and contracepting, choose a nuptual Mass
would you give them Holy Communion as a pastoral gesture?

Anonymous said...

One of elements of marriage is “...the procreation and upbringing of children”. If the couple are using contraceptives, they cannot fulfil that part of the marriage covenant and their marriage would not be valid. It is incumbent on the priest to make sure the couple know what is necessary for the sacrament of marriage and the consequences of their actions.

Deacon Sean said...

In English, Canon 1060 reads "Marriage possesses the favor of the law; therefore, in a case of doubt, the validity of a marriage must be upheld until the contrary is proven."

If one reads the whole sentence, it seems clear that this should not be understood to say if there is no impediment that a couple has a right to marry. It means that for a couple that is married, the marriage is considered valid until proven otherwise.

If you want a canon to say folks have a right to get married, Can. 1060 does not fit the bill.

Ma Tucker said...

"Am I to refuse to marry them and alienate them from the Church?"

I read the Pope's piece and what he is asking very reasonably is that you ensure as far a possible that the prospective spouses understand and accept the nature of Christian marriage before you permit them to marry in Church.

If you are reasonably certain that the couple neither have nor wish to have a Christian view of marriage and you go ahead and "marry" them then are you not simulating a sacrament? If so, how could this ever be pastoral?

Anonymous said...

I hope it is rhetorical Fr.
I ask have they not already alienated themselves from the Church. Are they rightly disposed to receive the sacrament have they confessed their sins? What about Father your obedience too the Holy Father? Mind I can see your local ordinary when he receives a complaint about your refusal.

mcgod in aus said...

Any contact with Our Lord, however brief, surely is an opportunity for God to offer His grace. Jesus must have met thousands in his short lifetime, not all committed immediately to Him, if at all (remember the crowd shouted "Crucify Him"). Accepting a couple for marriage in the church is like holding out a friendly hand in the dark, someone will take it. refusal seems to me to be refusing the opportunity. Jesus was most criticised when he deliberately hung around with the public sinners! Congratulations Fr Blake on your approach let's hope the practice spreads. McGod in Aus.

berenike said...

Justin: the "vocation to marriage" is written into human nature.

Richard is right, isn't he? Though (not that it's any of my business, obviously) I do wonder the things you wonder in your post.

A Priest said...

I really don’t see that the Pope is saying anything new.

In the Catholic Rite of Marriage the Priest/Deacon/Bishop asks:

1. “Are you ready freely & without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?”

2. “Are you ready to love and honour each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?”

3. “Are you ready to accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?”

I think these three questions provide a short definition of what the Catholic Church understands by Marriage.

And in the Information for Marriage Form, both the bride and the groom have to sign, with a priest as witness, a declaration stating “It is my intention to enter into marriage in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church”.

The fact that either of them (or indeed both of them) may have engaged in sinful behaviour in the past and are now asking to enter into marriage in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church should be a cause of rejoicing for any Father who sees the return of a Prodigal Son or Daughter.

Natasa said...

Saint Michael,

yes, I have been baptised (and more). I managed to find my way home to the church at one point in my life. God has been good to me.

georgem said...

Start proper catechesis with children now in school and the problem will be resolved.
In the meantime, perhaps one has to accept that the motive of the couple is to adhere to the Catholic Faith whatever they might have done in the past.
In a way one cannot pass judgement on them without passing judgement on the parents, teachers and priests whose responsibility it was
to bring them fully into the Faith.
But I do think the Pope was casting his eye further afield in this instance.

zyxw said...

Reply to A Priest:

Those 3 'questions' were not in the Old Rite of Marriage. Presumably they were not considered necessary then.

Unknown said...

As I Gynaecologist working in a "Catholic" country, I am sorry to have to report
that I have come across only two women in 22 years of practice who have chosen to limit their family size in a manner consistent with Church teaching.

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