Saturday 18 July 2015

Core Values

I was reading a letter to a British "Agony Uncle" from an English culturally Christian widower who wants to marry a Muslim lady in the Middle East he met over the internet. She wants to stay Muslim, but although she wants him to stay Christian, and they want to have children, they for some reason think they can't get married. How-do-we-raise-the-children doesn't seem to be the problem, for he talks only about not wanting the children to be born out of wedlock.

It all seems very odd to me. I don't know where she's from, but in the UK there is no ban on Christian men marrying Muslim women, or even on Muslim men marrying Christian women, which I suspect may be less of a problem in the Middle East.

The "Agony Uncle", being unusually thick, suggested that the cultural Christian Englishman become a Muslim. I would love to know what he would say to a Protestant pal whose Polish girlfriend's family was having kittens because he wasn't a Catholic. "So just become a Catholic, what's the big deal?" is not what I would say, and I am a Catholic. Of course, being a Catholic, I don't think the way to enter married life is by telling huge public lies about what you believe.

Marriage is tough enough without people with conflicting values entering into them. Romeo and Juliet were so much the same that it was actually stupid that their fathers didn't get along. They were around the same age, they were the same religion, they were the same colour, the same nationality,  the same social class, they spoke the same language and they were from the same town. Shakespeare's point was how stupid and petty their fathers' feud was, not that thwarting your parents' hopes for your future marriage is incredibly noble. There was absolutely no reason for Romeo and Juliet not to have gotten married; they would have been fine. Even dull.

It is an ENTIRELY different play from West Side Story, which was about poor white native-born Americans and Puerto Rican immigrants disputing over a slum.  Incidentally, the most hilarious line in West Side Story is Bernardo's dismissal of Tony's citizenship, Tony being "really a Polack."*

Although just a throwaway line, it does suggest that Maria and Tony had something other than love-at-first-sight in common, which is that they shared the same religion. In the film they basically get married in that dress shop. Although illicit, I would argue with a canon lawyer that the marriage was valid. Okay, it's not entirely a desert island scenario. But the intent was there. It was almost certainly consummated, too.

Romeo and Juliet, who were upper-class teenagers, and Maria and Tony, who were just nice half-educated working-class Catholics, shared CORE VALUES. I am not sure the English widower of the letter and his online Middle Eastern Muslim sweetheart also share core values. He doesn't seem to think his Christianity is a core value (style over substance is how he put it), and certainly neither does the Agony Uncle. However, it would seem that his sweetie considers being Muslim one of her core values, which makes me wonder why she wants to marry a Christian Englishman. Maybe it isn't Islam but her family--which she will be able to bring to the UK, incidentally, if she marries this man--that is the core value, and they are shouting, "Nae Christians!!!"

I am no fan of mixed marriage, but the contemporary Roman Catholic Church in Canada sure seems to be, and it was with great shock that I discovered that mixed marriage was NOT considered some kind of ideal.

When I was in my early twenties, the significance that you needed a dispensation to marry a non-Catholic Christian and TWO dispensations to marry a non-Christian was lost on me. It never occurred to me to ask "A dispensation from what?" So imagine my shock and horror when I, engaged to a Protestant, discovered in an old book--written by Father Robert J Fox, I believe--that there is a Church law that Catholics must not marry non-Catholics. That's what the dispensation is from, and the reason for the dispensation is supposed to be the assumption that the Catholic party is so head-over-heels, he or she will stop going to Church if she isn't allowed to marry his or her non-Catholic sweetie.

Well, I'll be. I was very troubled by this, as I certainly loved my faith more than the guy, but I thought my faith exulted in Catholics marrying non-Catholics, for it was an outward sign of growing Christian Unity, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah.  I wonder how many guys signing off on those dispensations were born from mixed marriages because if there is anything I--a veteran now of two marriages--can think of more challenging to a Catholic's faith, it's marrying a non-Catholic.

(Incidentally, I went exclusively to ordinary Mass before I met B.A, and now I go almost exclusively to the Traditional Latin Mass. Currently, former Anglo-Catholic B.A. reads me the Anglican Coverdale Psalms before bed. Guess who has the most religious influence in my house?)

However, there are Catholics whose core values do not include agreement on religious matters in the home, and therefore these Catholics will probably be happier in mixed marriages than Catholics who thrive on agreement in religious matters in the home. I also know Catholics Who Really Care who are married to Protestants Who Don't Really Care, and they seem happy.

My home-point is that you cannot be happy married to someone if your Core Values conflict. "The kids should be Catholic" as a core value is always going to conflict with "The kids should be something else", and so if you strongly believe your kids should be Catholic, you must not marry a man who strongly believes they should be something else.

One of the least-thought-out things the contemporary Church did to Catholics entering a mixed marriage was drop the insistence that the non-Catholic party swear to help raise the kids Catholic. Apparently it was decided that error does indeed have rights, and that it was unfair to the non-Catholic party to have to swear the same oath as his/her Catholic intended. Well, hell. That is a stroke against Christian Unity right there. Nothing like the non-Catholic party turning to the Catholic, when all is said and done, and saying, "Well, YOU swore to raise the kids Catholic, but I didn't, and I that means I can thwart you every step of the way."

Not that I'm bitter.

Another thing the Church could do, since I'm on a roll here, is take very seriously the possibility that a devout Catholic is being pressured into marriage with a non-Catholic. Why would a devout Catholic want to marry a non-Catholic anyway, the savvy priest should ask himself. Marriage is hard enough--Catholicism is hard enough these days--without marrying someone who doesn't believe what Catholics believe about marriage, sexuality and family life. So why....?  When asking the question about free will, the priest should be dead serious, and treat the question seriously, like there's a real possibility the bride/groom thinks the groom/bride will commit suicide/murder if she/he doesn't marry him/her.

However, if the Catholic party is a cultural Catholic, tra la, and only darkens the door of the church so that he/she can get married in it, then the disparity is not such a big deal. Possibly his/her real core values are vegetarianism and being kind to animals, and these are shared by his/her post-Protestant lover. If so, terrific, and maybe their shared love for creation will lead them together to a greater appreciation for the Author of Creation.

Oh, and all this to say, don't be so tough on the Catholic guys you know from your parishes or FSSP missions. Yes, you may find them disappointing right now, but after awhile, you may grow to cherish them. After all, many of them share your core values.

*As this is, in North America, considered a terrible racial slur, imagine my shock when I discovered that the Polish word for a Pole is, in fact, "Polak." Unfortunately for my giggling Inner Child, I have few opportunities to use it, because if you say someone is one, you have to put it in the Instrumental Case, i.e. Adam jest polakiem.


  1. Wait. What? TWO dispensations to marry a non-Christian (by which I assume you mean a non-baptised person)?

    My baptised Catholic friend is marrying a non-baptised Baptist. She received her dispensation from the archdiocese the other day. My understanding was that if one wants to marry a non-baptised person, one must seek a dispensation to marry. She's done that and received it, and so is permitted to marry the non-baptised soi-disant Christian man in a Catholic ceremony held at a non-denom chapel that's part of a wedding function place.

    Is there a canonical difference between someone who is not baptised (like an atheist or a Protestant who's never been baptised due to the no-infant-baptism-and-never-got-around-to-it-later thing) and someone who is, say, a Hindu or something? I would have assumed there isn't, but perhaps I'm wrong. Well, she would have explained her whole situation in the letter to the archbishop, so I assume she's received all the permission she needs.

    Anyway, my understanding is that a Muslim man can marry a non-Muslim woman, but that a Muslim woman MUST marry a Muslim man.

  2. No, by non-Christian, I mean someone who doesn't accept Jesus as Lord. A Baptist, however unbaptised, presumably has accepted Jesus as Lord or he isn't a Baptist. But as for the details, I guess you'll have to ask a canon lawyer.

    As for Muslims, there seems to be as many kinds of Muslims as there are Christians, any they seem to all say "Islam is what we say it is", so I guess it depends on who you ask. But I have read something like that myself.

    1. By the way, what are the core values that they share? Do you know if they are committed to the Gospel of Life, and having lots of little babies, or if they are more into animal rights, or are both dedicated to rock climbing, or what?

  3. There is a canonical difference between a baptized Catholic marrying a baptized non-Catholic v. a baptized Catholic marrying a non-baptized person, because reception of every sacrament except for baptism requires that you have been baptized. The sacrament of matrimony is when a (to quote the Baltimore Catechism :) 'baptized man and a baptized woman bind themselves . . . etc.'

    A Catholic can marry a non-baptized person, but they only enter into a natural marriage and do not receive the sacrament of matrimony. I'm not sure if you need two dispensations or not, but it is definitely (or at least was) looked upon as more serious by the Church to marry a non-baptized person than a non-Catholic one. (I think perhaps at least in part that it can be fairly safely assumed that usually someone who is non-baptized does not even believe in Christ/their core values are probably going to be further from Catholicism than a baptized Christian's will be, if you are generalizing?)

    I'm not a cannon lawyer, but a member of my family married a non-baptized person in a Korean ceremony a few years back (with a dispensation and permission from the priest to not have a Catholic ceremony), so I've done a lot of research on it, out of curiosity. :)

    1. Sorry, just realized I totally misread the comment! :P

  4. I know that my fiance agreed to raise our kids Catholic... it this not still an obligation, then?

  5. I am glad that he agreed to raise your kids Catholic. I don't know if this changes from country to country, but in Canada the Church no longer requires the non-Catholic part to take a binding oath. Only the Catholic party has to take the binding oath. Which becomes very tricky if your non-Catholic spouse decides he/she doesn't want to play ball, and you start to have screaming fights about where the kids will be baptized and where they will go to church (or if they will go to church). Better to make it absolutely clear to the non-Catholic party that this is a non-negotiable BEFORE the wedding. However, that's up to the Catholic party because the Church is not going to take sides. Anyway, it's certainly an obligation on the CATHOLIC.

    1. Expat Housewife21 July 2015 at 04:19

      This is also true for getting married in the UK. I had to promise to raise the kids Catholic. The priest looked at my fiancé with an intense gaze, but did not ask him to promise this. The fiancé did promise regardless. I think it helped that I made it absolutely clear beforehand that this issue was non negotiable. The Catholic entering a mixed marriage must know where they stand and be firm. The church is a bit too flexible these days, imho, and that does not help us.

  6. I am glad that he agreed to raise your kids Catholic. I don't know if this changes from country to country, but in Canada the Church no longer requires the non-Catholic part to take a binding oath. Only the Catholic party has to take the binding oath. Which becomes very tricky if your non-Catholic spouse decides he/she doesn't want to play ball, and you start to have screaming fights about where the kids will be baptized and where they will go to church (or if they will go to church). Better to make it absolutely clear to the non-Catholic party that this is a non-negotiable BEFORE the wedding. However, that's up to the Catholic party because the Church is not going to take sides. Anyway, it's certainly an obligation on the CATHOLIC.

  7. Well, the requirement isn't actually anymore for the non-baptized part to take an oath. They have to be informed of the promise of the baptized part to do as much as possible to raise eventual children in the Catholic Faith.

    I think I'll simply paste the relevant canons:

    Canon 1124 Without the express permission of the competent authority, marriage is prohibited between two baptised persons, one of whom was baptised in the catholic Church or received into it after baptism and has not defected from it by a formal act, the other of whom belongs to a Church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the catholic Church.

    Canon 1125 The local Ordinary can grant this permission if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions are fulfilled:

    Canon 1125.1 the catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith, and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power in order that all the children be baptised and brought up in the catholic Church;

    Canon 1125.2 the other party is to be informed in good time of these promises to be made by the catholic party, so that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and of the obligation of the catholic party.

    Canon 1125.3 both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage, which are not to be excluded by either contractant.

    Canon 1126 It is for the Episcopal Conference to prescribe the manner in which these declarations and promises, which are always required, are to be made, and to determine how they are to be established in the external forum, and how the non-catholic party is to be informed of them.

    Canon 1127.1 The provisions of canon 1108 are to be observed in regard to the form to be used in a mixed marriage. If, however, the catholic party contracts marriage with a non-catholic party of oriental rite, the canonical form of celebration is to be observed for lawfulness only; for validity, however, the intervention of a sacred minister is required, while observing the other requirements of law.

    Canon 1127.2 If there are grave difficulties in the way of observing the canonical form, the local Ordinary of the catholic party has the right to dispense from it in individual cases, having however consulted the Ordinary of the place of the celebration of the marriage; for validity, however, some public form of celebration is required. It is for the Episcopal Conference to establish norms whereby this dispensation may be granted in a uniform manner.

    Canon 1127.3 It is forbidden to have, either before or after the canonical celebration in accordance with 1127.1, another religious celebration of the same marriage for the purpose of giving or renewing matrimonial consent. Likewise, there is not to be a religious celebration in which the catholic assistant and a non-catholic minister, each performing his own rite, ask for the consent of the parties.

    Canon 1128 Local Ordinaries and other pastors of souls are to see to it that the catholic spouse and the children born of a mixed marriage are not without the spiritual help needed to fulfil their obligations; they are also to assist the spouses to foster the unity of conjugal and family life.

    Canon 1129 The provisions of cann. 1127 and 1128 are to be applied also to marriages which are impeded by the impediment of disparity of worship mentioned in canon 1086.1.

  8. I am a canon lawyer, and the qualification for being baptized actually is being baptized (i.e., with water, using the Trinitarian formula), and not just belonging to a community that has baptism as part of its normal practice or tradition. Canonically, Julia's friend at this point would be marrying an unbaptized person.

    For a Catholic to marry a baptized non-Catholic, only permission from the proper authority is needed for the marriage to be licit. On the other hand, a Catholic does need a dispensation to marry non-baptized person, or else the marriage is invalid. So if Julia's friend did get an actual dispensation (and not just merely "permission to enter into a mixed marriage," then probably the situation was indeed fully explained to the archdiocese.

    The second dispensation involved was probably a "dispensation of canonical form," which means that the friend was allowed to be married in a non-Catholic ceremony.

    But of course, this is just my speculating in very general abstract terms, as I don't know anyone directly involved in the situation.

  9. Unmarried, Catholic and single is a dealbreaker, that's a given. He must be a man too. Just sayin', in light of recent laws. ;-) Can you give any advice on how to figure out what your important dealbreakers really are, especially if you haven't been around the block and back? I get confused by this, how do I know what I can and cannot abide?


    1. Sinéad, "dealbreaker" is slang for whatever it is that makes you conclude that there is no point to having a romantic relationship. For huge numbers of men, that means the woman not believing in sex before marriage. Therefore, the first dealbreaker for you is going to be a guy's reluctance to date a woman who doesn't believe in sex before marriage. When it comes to the 10% of men remaining, I think the first one should be "He makes me feel bad or uncomfortable."

    2. After that is everything else gravy? I understand what a dealbreaker means, I am just not sure how to know when I'm being stupid picky/this is truly non-negotiable. How to decide? Thanks for putting the fada on the e in my name! :-)

    3. I dated a guy who I fought with a lot over stuff that seemed really stupid/picky: should I take Tylenol when I have a headache; should I treat myself to a $0.69 sundae from McDonald's while on a road trip; should I pay more for a haircut that doesn't drive me crazy, or less because I'm being too vain. A counselor finally clued me in that the guy was controlling...he was nitpicking at me, and I wasn't giving in. But just as important was the fact that we simply were never able to work anything out; we could never settle any argument to our mutual satisfaction. It seems like couples should be able to compromise or come to a solution that is agreeable to both of them, and when that is impossible then sometimes one person gets more their way and other times the other person does. In our case, it was all or nothing, and some of the things we fought over HAD to be resolved for the sake of any children we might have (should our children's medical care include Tylenol, for example).

  10. Sponsa Christi, thanks for your comment. I told her she would need a dispensation to marry a non-baptised person. The two of them spoke to the priest who will do their wedding (he is her parish priest as well.) I helped her to compose the letter requesting the dispensation. She says they have received it (well, the archdiocese sent it to the priest.)

    The second dispensation you mentioned -- dispensation from canonical form -- would not have been applied for since their ceremony will be a Catholic nuptial service (not a Mass, seeing as he isn't a Catholic.) I thought that they'd need another dispensation to have the Catholic ceremony in an appropriate location that's not a Catholic church, but my understanding is that permission to do that is granted automatically once the dispensation to marry a non-baptised person has been given. So she has the go ahead to marry her non-baptised fiancé in a Catholic ceremony in a non-Catholic chapel.

  11. Forgive my potential ignorance, but the non-Catholic party I believe still has to swear to not interfere with the other parent raising the children Catholic (or the practice of the Catholic spouse's religion generally.) He is no longer obligated to actively contribute, but he is in no wise permitted by his oath to interfere in their religious education. Of course, in practice, I am aware it is a sad fact that many Protestant spouses honor this more in the breach (this has happened to my family, after the Catholic mother died.)

    1. I don't think this is true anymore, at least not in Canada. Or at least not in Canada in the 1990s! I would be delighted if they brought that back. However, i fear they have not.

  12. Hmm, where I'm from, they must both agree to raise the children Catholic and if one of them is not Catholic, they must not interfere.

    Regarding deal breakers, I think these should be the utmost non negotiables. For me, alcoholism and smoking, physical abuse.
    I had a very serious boyfriend who would declare new non negotiables every week! On one of our first two dates, he said thanksgiving with his family every year. I thought, no big deal, as. Christmas is the big one for my family, so score. But then we had to discuss, if we end up with five kids and can't afford to fly everyone to Pennsylvania for thanksgiving, are we doing it anyway? What if I'm pregnant and can't fly? Are you going alone, even if I'm due on turkey day? In the end, that's a silly value to call a non negotiable.
    Once, I did a perfect imitation of Janice from FRIENDS, "I looooove youuuuu Chandler Bing!" Complete with her grating laugh, and he declared it a non negotiable that I NEVER do that again!
    Now, say, "wow, that is annoying. I'm okay if I never d hear that imitation again." But to threaten ending the relationship over it shows 1) he had no idea what really mattered. 2) he never really liked me in the first place!

  13. I don't understand the theology of it* (... as in, how is a not-minister-nor-matter-of-the-sacrament necessary...) but the consensus on the point is quite clear: unless the Law on canonical form of marriage between Catholic and baptised is changed, canonical form is required for validity where not impossible — and the form is further complicated in marriages between Catholics of different Rite: the wedding must be in one Rite or the other, and the spouse of the other rite needs a dispensation! ((You and I, Seraphic, know of one Question of Nullity that resolved on this issue! But no names here unless our friend volunteers))

    * : at a guess, the Church cooperates in all valid sacraments, and can herself give notice that, in some circumstance, She won't cooperate? But this would raise more/worse questions than it resolves...

  14. I certainly can't remember being taught in Catholic school that Catholics are expected to marry Catholics. (Maybe one teacher in an off the cuff remark in grade 7). I wonder how many people view dating as a bit separate from the faith, because there are so many inter-faith marriages. It's more of a "I'll date and marry whoever, and deal with the religious side later". I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this, but I guess I mean to say that parishes are not considered prime dating pools; or at least there needs to be far more emphasis on the difficulties of inter-faith marriages (whether baptised or not). Teaching catechism, I got to see how much this affects the religious upbringing of the children.


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