Thursday, November 12, 2009

Radio Replies First Volume: Mixed Marriages

1266. I am interested in your moral theology concerning those who contract marriage. Why does the Catholic Church forbid mixed marriages?

For many reasons. Marriage is a Sacrament, and those who desire to receive that Sacrament should be duly and validly baptized Christians. The Church, however, has no certainty that any non-Catholic has ever been validly baptized at all. Again, it is a sacrilege to receive a Sacrament while one is in a state of grave sin. The Catholic party prepares by a good confession, while the non-Catholic more often than not gives no thought whatever to the matter. Then, too, any children of the marriage have the bad example of one of the parents who never fulfills Catholic duties, even if the poor children be brought up as Catholics at all. The Catholic party is constantly subject to discouragement in the practice of his or her religion, and is even exposed to the danger of a complete loss of faith and of salvation in the end. Nor are mixed marriages, as a rule, in the interests of the parties themselves from the point of view of mutual happiness. Marriage is difficult enough in any case when the first glow of love begins to settle down to the realities of life. It is vastly more difficult when the Protestant does not understand Catholic ways, has no sympathy at all with the Catholic party on the most vital of all matters — religion, and even resents the claims of the Catholic Church. Mutual misunderstandings result, and the Protestant, not making the Catholic as happy as he expected, does not make himself as happy as he dreamed.

1267. I have heard that the Church openly forbids mixed marriages, but secretly fosters them to secure the control of the children.

That is not true. The Catholic Church has never fostered mixed marriages, and barely tolerates them when she can do nothing else.

1268. Why should religion come before marriage?

Because marriage is not the most important thing in life, whereas religion is.

1269. Where does the Bible forbid mixed marriages?

It would not matter if the Bible did not forbid them. Not every detail of Christian practice is there. Christ gave the Church the power to make such legislation as she might think necessary at various times. However that God does not approve mixed marriages between people with the true religion and people without it is clear from Scripture. In the Old Testament He strictly forbade the Jews to marry outside the true religion. "If you embrace the errors of these nations that dwell among you, and make marriages with them, and join friendships . . . they shall be a pit and a snare in your way, and a stumbling block in your side .. . till He take you and destroy you from this land which He hath given you." Josh 23:13-14. St. Paul, writing to Christians, says that a widow is free to marry, "but," he adds, "let her marry in the Lord." 1 Cor 7:39. In dealing with marriage in general, he writes to the Ephesians, "But I speak in Christ and in the Church." Eph 5:32. He gives the solemn warning as regards marriage with unbelievers, "How knowest thou, 0 wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? Or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" 1 Cor 7:16.

1270. Catholic men know that Protestant wives are best. Why prevent them from having the best wives?

Good Catholic men who desire to marry Protestant women never think of them as Protestants except to wish that they had been Catholics. They do all in their power to persuade them to become Catholics. They love them at times for their character, or because they have happened to meet them at the psychological moment when they were romantically inclined. Or even at times they only think they love. There are many explanations, but never yet has a Catholic man loved and wanted a girl precisely because she is a Protestant. He may love her. He has never loved her Protestantism.

1271. Why do Catholic women make such bad wives for Protestant husbands? They seem so proud and selfish.

Good Catholic women often make bad wives for Protestant husbands. But it is not because they are proud and selfish. Their religion teaches them humility and self-denial. But the same religion teaches that a Catholic may not give way one jot or tittle in matters of Catholic obligations. The deepest thing in man is his religious conviction. If two people marry and have no religious sympathy, are alien to each other on that point, then each will say and do a dozen things daily that will disgust and further alienate the other. The Protestant party has not the same principles nor the same rigid conviction as the Catholic. He makes concessions and expects the Catholic to do the same. Very often the Catholic cannot and is accused of pride and selfishness. Peace goes and the Protestant is sorry he ever married a Catholic. It all comes from the difference in religion. I would advise every Protestant man who is determined never to become a Catholic to choose a wife from among his fellow Protestants. A Catholic wife is suitable for a Catholic but often makes a bad wife for a Protestant.

1272. If a Protestant marries a Catholic will the Catholic Church recognise that marriage at all?

Yes, provided it takes place according to Catholic rites.

1273. Marriage is a contract between the parties themselves. Why should they have to be married in the Catholic Church?

Marriage is a public as well as a private contract, and society rightly insists upon public conditions for validity. And since marriage is also a Christian Sacrament committed to the care of the Church, the Church reasonably and properly lays down the conditions for the lawful and valid reception of that Sacrament.

1274. Catholics cannot attend a Protestant Church. How can the Protestant marry in the Catholic Church?

To be married by a Priest is not against the principles of a Protestant who says that one religion is as good as another; but it is against the principles of a Catholic to be married by a Protestant minister. If it were against the principles of some given Protestant, he should stick to his principles and refuse to be married in a Catholic Church. But in this case both parties would refuse, and the marriage would be cancelled.

1275. What would the Catholic Church do to a Catholic who marries in the Protestant Church?

The Catholic Church regards her as a lapsed Catholic. While still obliged to attend Mass, she is not allowed to receive the Sacraments. Individual Catholics would be obliged to treat her kindly and with charity. She would not therefore be treated badly personally or insulted. It is a matter for her own soul. She cuts herself off from the grace of God, and forfeits her right to the spiritual privileges of her religion.

1276. I have known Priests to worry Catholics who have married outside the Catholic Church.

A Priest has the obligation to try to save souls, and he has to inspire Catholics to observe the laws of their Church. If a Catholic is living as the Catholic conscience forbids, a Priest would be little like Christ if he simply left that soul to perish. And after all, the Priest would find it much more pleasant to sit at home enjoying a quiet book and allowing his flock to go its own way. But what sort of a shepherd would he be? You should admire the Priest who is a man of duty.

1277. Would the Catholic Church recognize a marriage between a Catholic and a Protestant in a Registry Office?

From the aspect of civil law the parties would contract certain civil obligations. But before God and in conscience the marriage would not be valid, and the Catholic party would be living in a sinful alliance, violating her conscience. She would be deprived of the Sacraments of the Church until she repented and had her marriage rectified according to the laws of the Church.

1278. You dare to say that no marriage outside the Church is a true marriage, that the Catholic party is living in sin, and that the children are not acceptable in decent society?

You make one mistake. The Catholic Church does not say that the children are not acceptable in decent society. Civil society is regulated by civil law, and a marriage legal in civil law obtains legal effects. Children of such a marriage are legitimate and acceptable in civil society. But while the marriage is regarded as legal by society, it is not valid in conscience for a Catholic, and such a person lives in sin. A marriage which civil law regards as valid need not necessarily be valid in God's sight. No state on earth could force me to say that a definite civil law is infallibly the law of God, and no state could possibly prove such a claim to infallibility.

1279. By a recent law, made by men in 1908, your Church makes it a sin for a Catholic to marry in a Protestant Church.

It has always been a sin for a Catholic to marry in a Protestant Church. But in Australia, prior to April 19th, 1908, such marriages, though sinful, were regarded as valid by the Catholic Church. Since 1908 such marriages are invalid. If a Catholic wishes to contract a valid marriage now, he must do so in the Catholic Church. This law is not a new law. Wherever the Church was solidly established, the Church applied this law. And the law was applied to Australia on April 19th, 1908, by what is known as the Ne Temere Decree. As for its being a man-made law, you forget that Christ commissioned His Church to legislate for the well-being of the Sacraments, and of those who would receive them. If the state can say, "Unless you come before my Registrar, your marriage will be regarded as null and void," so the Catholic Church can say, "Unless your marriage comes before my official minister, as far as I am concerned, I shall consider it no marriage." And God sanctions the view of the Church in this matter rather than any legislation of the state. Christ elevated the natural contract of matrimony to the dignity of a Sacrament, and it is as much a Sacrament as Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, or any other. And as such it belongs to the Church.

1280. Why come between two lovers? God says love one another as I have loved you.

That we must love as God has loved us shows at once that not any kind of love is lawfully indulged. Christ never loved us so as to break God's laws because of us. Such love would be unlawful. God and conscience come first always. No human love can come before one's love for God, and he who loves God observes the laws of His religion.

1281. Civil law says that the marriage of a Catholic and a Protestant in a Protestant Church is valid. Why don't you acknowledge the law of the land?

The state holds the marriage to be valid in state law. And all Catholics hold the marriage to be civilly legal. But the state says nothing whatever about God's view of the matter, and the Catholic Church declares the marriage null and void before God, and therefore in conscience. Even after that declaration, if the parties do not get a civil divorce, they cannot marry other people without bigamy in civil law. So you see that civil law is not affected as such.

1282. I mean, why don't you acknowledge civil law as binding before God and in conscience.

We acknowledge that in the case of each and every law which does not conflict with the law of Christ. In the matter of marriage there are laws which conflict with the law of Christ, and these state laws are not valid before God. As I have said, if every state law is necessarily the law of God, then you claim infallibility for the state, an infallibility you deny to the Catholic Church with scorn on the principle that there is no infallible body of men on earth.

1283. Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's!

A state law opposed to the law of God is not rightly the thing of Caesar, and in so far as it is thus opposed to the law of God, it is to be ignored. Obedience must be rendered to God rather than to the State.

1284. How can the Catholic Church hope to win the confidence and respect of non-Catholics?

She does not hope to do so if it means watering down Christian obligations. Christ could have kept many of His Jewish followers by saying that He did not mean His words, "The bread which I shall give is My flesh." The Jews said, "This is a hard saying. Who can accept it?" But Christ let them go rather than keep them by mitigating His doctrine. The Catholic Church does likewise. If men say, "This is a hard saying," the Church will never mitigate Christian obligations in order to win them. She is here to accommodate men to Christian teaching, not to accommodate Christian ideals to the moods of men.

1285. If two married Protestants both become Catholics, have they to be married again in the Catholic Church?

No. They were both Protestants at the time of their marriage, and the Catholic Church declares such marriages to be binding before God. The law of the Church in this matter extends to marriages in which at least one of the parties is a Catholic.

1286. If two Protestants, married in a Protestant Church, get a divorce, could one of the parties marry a Catholic in the Catholic Church provided he or she becomes a Catholic?

No. The marriage of two Protestants in a Protestant Church is valid before God, and nothing can dissolve that marriage except the death of one of the parties. Divorce does not give even such Protestants the right to marry again while both parties are still living. And becoming a Catholic has no effect upon the validity of such a marriage.

1287. If a Catholic did marry outside the Catholic Church, would Christ cast a stain upon little children held up by Him to he the essence of goodness and innocence?

Christ would cast no stain upon them. Nor does the Catholic Church. Their goodness and innocence are not affected. But note this. The state says, "Unless you observe my laws your marriage will not be lawful wedlock, and your children will be illegitimate." On your principle, the state has no right to cast such a slur on innocent little children, and has no right to lay down any conditions of marriage, but must sanction promiscuous cohabitation as being quite all right.

1288. Tell me plainly. Are the children of a mixed marriage outside the Catholic Church illegitimate?

This means that, while the civil legitimacy of such children remains unaffected, the refusal of the Catholic party to comply with the marriage laws of the Catholic Church deprives the children of religious recognition and privileges. Such recognition and privileges are reserved by Canon Law for those children only who are born of the marriages of Catholics celebrated according to Catholic requirements. No one can reasonably object to that.

1289. Can the child of a mixed marriage outside the Church go to heaven?

If the child is brought up as a Protestant it has the same chance as any Protestant in similar circumstances from other points of view. If brought up as a Catholic, it has the additional helps of the Catholic religion just as any other Catholic child, except that it has the bad example of a non-Catholic parent ignoring obligations which the child is taught to be essential, and the weak faith in many cases of a Catholic who thinks so little of her religion as to marry outside the Church.

1290. Why sanction a mixed marriage at all in the Catholic Church? Is the Church afraid of losing the Catholic? Or the money?

It is not a question of the money. If the conditions demanded by the Church are not fulfilled, $100,000 would not secure the marriage according to Catholic rites. Nor is the Church afraid of losing one of her members. She is afraid that one of her members will lose the advantages of the Catholic faith and perhaps her soul. The loss of one person out of 400 millions does not affect the Church very much from the point of view of numbers. But the loss to such a soul will not bear description. The Church sanctions such a marriage when there are reasons grave enough to warrant risking the dangers attached to mixed marriages. But she takes every precaution by exacting promises that the Catholic will be free to practice her religion, that all children will be Catholics, and that the Catholic party will set a good example and do her best to convert the non-Catholic party.

1291. Could the Pope, besides giving a dispensation for a mixed marriage, dispense from the obligation of bringing up the children as Catholics?

No. It is divine law that no Catholic may hand over any child to what he or she knows to be a false religion.

1292. Why must the Protestant promise that all children will be Catholics?

You must try to see this through Catholic eyes. A non-Catholic does not, as a rule, believe that his is the only true religion, and on the principle that one religion is as good as another, his conscience does not forbid that his children should be brought up in the Catholic religion. But a Catholic is in a very different position. He believes that his is the only true religion, and does not believe that one religion is as good as another. Now how can a Catholic in conscience hand over his children to what he knows to be a wrong religion? How say, "I shall have all the benefits of the true religion, but my children won't!" Or, "God will be worshipped by me in the way He commands, but not by my children!" Even God could not authorize a Catholic to cling to the true faith himself, yet deny that faith to his children. Without securing the promises no Catholic could conscientiously enter upon such a marriage.

1293. Should not the children be of the mother's faith?

No. The children must be brought up in the Catholic faith, whether it be the faith of the husband or of the wife. A religion is not true because it is the religion of the wife. If so, then when the wife is Anglican, Anglicanism would be true; when a Christian Scientist, Christian Science would be true; when Catholic, Catholicism would be true! Again, if a man married a Catholic and had three children of the marriage, they would have to be Catholics, and would have the true religion because their mother was a Catholic. If she died, and the man married a Seventh Day Adventist, further children would have to be Seventh Day Adventists, and would have the true religion because their mother was an Adventist. So three children would call the Pope the Vicar of Christ, and the others would call him the Beast and Anti-Christ, and all would be right!

1294. That all must be Catholics is very one-sided in favor of the Catholic Church!

It must seem like that to you, but in reality it is not. Parents co-operate with God in giving existence to children. But why is any man at all created? That he may save his soul and attain heaven. Marriage therefore has as its chief purpose the creating and training of children for their eternal destiny. And religion is therefore all important. Now the Catholic believes that there is but one true religion. It does not matter whether others agree or not. And he believes that all other religions are wrong. Again it does not matter whether others agree or not. That is the Catholic conscience. It follows that no Catholic can in conscience consent to hand over his children to what he believes to be a false religion. Nor can a Catholic say, "Give me the girls and you take the boys." The soul of a boy is just as dear to God as the soul of a girl. There can be no compromise. As for the one-sidedness, look at things this way. The Protestant who believes that one religion is as good as another need not mind if the children are brought up as Catholics. He does not violate his conscience and does not ask the Catholic to violate hers. They are square. The fact that the Catholic Church feels bound in conscience to demand all the children shows that she is conscious of having the truth and being the true Church. The fact that Protestants do not demand the children shows that they are not really conscious of possessing the truth.

1295. If a Catholic cannot sign away the children, how can a Protestant do so?

If a Protestant wants to marry a Catholic, and his conscience does not protest against it, he may sign the promise in regard to the children. But if the Protestant really believed the Catholic faith to be evil, and that his personal religion was the only true religion, then he has no right to promise that any of his children will be Catholics. He should abandon the marriage rather than thus violate his conscience. He should demand that the children be brought up in his faith. But then of course a dead-lock would result. He would have to refuse compromise, and as the Catholic is also obliged to refuse marriage unless the written promise is given, the marriage would be cancelled. It is better to part with a human being than to part with loyalty to conscience in so grave a matter.

1296. Why must the promise be made in writing? Surely you can take a man's word for it!

In many cases, yes. But sad experience has shown that some were not in good faith, and even granting good faith at the time there is no guarantee that such dispositions will persevere. Human nature is mutable. Why does the law of the land demand both signatures for the marriage itself in writing? Surely at the moment of marriage both are in good faith? The promise concerning the children is just as important as the marriage itself. On that promise the eternal welfare of the children may depend, surely a great responsibility. All serious contracts demand permanent signed records, and as no one resents them in other matters, so no one should resent them in this. Death could carry off the Catholic partner, and it may be very necessary to have written records of the promise. And if a man really intends to grant such a condition he should not mind putting his signature to it.

1297. Why are not mixed marriages celebrated before the Altar?

Marriage is a Sacrament and a very holy rite. The normal subject is a Catholic only. When non-Catholics present themselves as partners in the marriage ceremony, the Church does not grant the full privileges which are the right of Catholics only. The marriage is valid, of course, even though celebrated elsewhere than before the altar.

1298. If this restriction were abolished there would be fewer marriages outside the Church.

The number of marriages outside the Church might be diminished, but the number of mixed marriages might greatly increase. By this law the mind of the Church is kept constantly before Catholics, and they do not think lightly of entering upon such alliances. If a Catholic would marry outside the Church because of such a law, she has little love for her religion, and would not be much of a Catholic whatever concessions were made in her favor.

1299. The law will not prevent mixed marriages. They will always be.

That may be so. But the law diminishes their number. The Church cannot accept mixed marriages as the normal thing, and she would not be wise to treat them as normal.

1300. Is it fair to mar the happiness of a young couple?

Is it fair to ask the Church to admit to her Sacraments those of any religion or of no religion? People who are complete strangers to her cannot expect her to make as much of them as of those who are her own children. The parties do not resent their exclusion from the Altar nearly so much as the Church resents mixed marriages.

1301. Why such lack of respect for the non-Catholic and the guests?

The law is not prompted by lack of respect for the non-Catholic party or for the guests. It is prompted by respect for religious rites and for the worship of God. The non-Catholic has no more right to intimate Catholic religious practices than an unnaturalized citizen to all the civic rights of true subjects. The non-Catholic party may be as good as gold. But that is not the point. The point is that she is not a Catholic, and the Church is quite within her rights in saying how far she will admit non-Catholics to a participation in her privileges, even as a club is within its rights in saying how far non-members may participate in its privileges. But such restrictions as regards non-members cannot be construed as an insult. The Catholic Church is not bound to manifest equal approval of Catholic marriages and of mixed marriages alike.

1302. Would Christ be so intolerant?

He would sanction all prudent measures for the good of souls. In the Old Law God gave drastic laws and penalties affecting those of the true religion who tried to contract mixed marriages, and the Catholic Church is but similarly zealous for the true religion of Christ.

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