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Anglican-Roman Catholic Marriages

In 1984 the Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee of New York issued the following Joint Statement:

ANGLICAN-ROMAN CATHOLIC (NEW YORK) JOINT STATEMENT ON MARRIAGE

The Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee of New York for three years devoted most of its meeting time to producing this joint statement. Issues raised in  ecumenical discussion of mixed marriages are often the same emotion-charged issues which divide the churches. Likewise, mixed couples often live out in their marriages the relationship of their churches. This document is essentially a composite of current Anglican and Roman Catholic views of marriage and directives, as well as joints statements, on ARC marriages. It also includes the specific comments of the New York Committee.
John Borelli
FORUM Editor

 

INTRODUCTION

Christian marriage is the sacred, life-sharing bond in which spouses unite in Christ to live in happiness, grow in holiness and share this happiness and holiness with their children. For the church, Marriage is the natural lifelong union of man and woman created by God and made a Sacrament by Christ. It is the Strength of the Church and the foundation of society.

The Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee of New York wishes to issue the following statement on Christian marriage as an aid to spouses and clergy concerned with the marriages of Anglicans and Roman-Catholics. The statement will considers doctrinal tenets, procedural norms, preparatory guides and a suggested joint ceremony composed according to present ecumenical and liturgical realities. It is our hope in issuing this joint statement, that it will be helpful and instructive to Anglicans and Roman Catholics. The suggested joint ceremony composed according to present ecumenical and liturgical realities.

It is our hope in issuing this joint statement, that it will be helpful and instructive to Anglicans and Roman Catholics planning to marry each other, to their clergy and to laity and clergy engaged in ecumenical dialogue.

Finally, in releasing this document, the ARC-NY Committee wishes to assure those who are united in or plan to be united in an Anglican-Roman Catholic marriage, of our prayer for God's richest sacramental blessings of happiness and holiness in their union with Christ, Our Lord and Savior. We encourage then to see in their marriage a special vocation to aspire to all the positive aspects developed in Anglican-Roman Catholic relations as set forth in the official documents of this dialogue.

 

OUR JOINT STATEMENT ON MARRIAGE

Anglicans (Episcopalians) and Roman Catholics are in basic agreement regarding the theology of marriage and its practical application to mixed marriages, as stated by The Commission on the Theology of Marriage and its Application to Mixed Marriages. This agreement includes the fundamental nature of marriage and its divinely given purposes and ideals.

First, we see marriage as grounded by the Creator in the nature order as a life-long covenant uniting the spouses in a life-sharing union of personal love. By their mutual consent to this enduring covenant, they are the ministers of their own marriage. Essential to their covenant is the openness to God's gift of children in the sacredness of family life.

As a sacrament, marriage is a sign of the union of man and woman in Christ and reflects the loving union of Christ and His Church. Christ is enduringly present to the sacramental marriage, dispensing his graces for the deepening of conjugal love and for the fulfillment of the couples' responsibilities to each other, to their children, to the church and to society. Thus the Sacrament of Matrimony is a source of sanctification and eternal salvation for the spouses and for their family.

Finally, both Anglicans Roman Catholics affirm the permanence of marriage. We believe that the sacramental bond of marriage is by nature an enduring union of love and a lifelong pursuit of personal happiness, Christian holiness and family stability.

Anglicans and Roman Catholics hold in highest esteem the sacred dignity and unity of all Christian marriages. In the marriages between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, both churches are anxious to assist in achieving the happiness and holiness of the spouses and their families. This assistance concentrates on helping them to maintain their respective church traditions, while sharing the rich heritage of apostolic faith in marital union and family life. In the providence of God, this domestic peace will help to enhance the close relations of the Episcopal and Roman Catholic Churches and give to society a much needed witness of harmony and healing.

 

DOCUMENTATION

Roman Catholics are referred to the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. (48):
HOLINESS OF MARRIAGE AND THE FAMILY
48. The intimate partnership of life and the love which constitutes the married state has been established by the creator and endowed by him with it own proper laws: it is rooted in the contract of its partners, that is, in their irrevocable personal consent. It is an institution confirmed by the divine law and receiving it stability, even in the eyes of society, from the human act by which the partners mutually surrender themselves to each other; for the good of the partners, of the children, and of society this scared bond no longer depends on human decision alone. For God himself is the author of marriage and has endowed it with various benefited and with various ends in view: all of these have a very important bearing on the continuation of the human race, on the personal development and the eternal destine of every member of the family, on the dignity, stability, peace, and prosperity of the family and of the whole human race. By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory. Thus the man and woman, who "are no longer two but on"(Mt. 19:6), help and serve each other by their marriage partnership; they become conscious of their unity and experience it more deeply from day to day. The intimate union of marriage, as a mutual giving of two persons, and the good of the children demand total fidelity from the spouses and require an unbreakable unity between them.

Christ our lord has abundantly blessed this love, which is rich in its various features, coming as it does from the spring of divine love and modeled on Christ’s own union with the Church. Just as of old God encountered his people with a covenant of love and fidelity, so our Saviour, the spouse of the Church, now encounters Christian spouses through the sacrament of marriage. He abides with them in order that by their mutual self-giving spouses will love each other with enduring fidelity, as he loved the Church and delivered himself for it. Authentic married love is caught up into divine love and is directed and enriched by the redemptive power of Christ and the salvific action of the Church, with the result that the spouses are effectively led to God and are helped and strengthened in their lofty role as fathers and mothers. Spouses, therefore, are fortified and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and dignity of their state by a special sacrament; fulfilling their conjugal and family role by virtue of this sacrament, spouses are penetrated with the spirit of Christ and their whole life is suffused by faith, hope, and charity; thus they increasingly further their own perfection and their mutual sanctification, and together they render glory to God.

Inspired by the example and family prayer of their parents, children, and in fact everyone living under the family roof, will more easily set out upon the path of a truly human training, of salvation, and of holiness. As for the spouses, when they are given the dignity and role of fatherhood and motherhood, they will eagerly carry out their duties of education, especially religious education, which primarily devolves on them.

Children as living members of the family contribute in their own way to the sanctification of their parents. With sentiments of gratitude, affection and trust, they will repay their parents for the benefits given to them and will come to their assistance as devoted children, in times of hardship and the loneliness of old age. Widowhood, accepted courageously as a continuation of the calling to marriage, will be honored by all. Families will generously share their spiritual treasures with other families. The Christian family springs from marriage, which is an image and a sharing in the partnership of love between Christ and the Church; it will show forth to all men Christ’s living presence in the world and the authentic nature of the church by the love and generous fruitfulness of the spouses, by their unity and fidelity, and by the loving ways in which all members of the family cooperate with each other.

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Anglicans are referred to the following excerpts taken from the Prayer Book Studies and Constitution and Canons:

Christian marriage is “the creation of a new family within the larger family of mankind, of which the Christian community is part. It is the highest expression of love between man and woman, and the Church has always recognized in all legitimate expressions of love a sacramental sign of the love of God for man, and more specifically, of Christ's love for the Church. Marriage is a solemn commitment by two persons to follow a new way of life and therefore, a marriage between two Christians is renewed commitment by them to ground their new life together in the life of Christ.”
Prayer Book Studies #24, P4

“Holy matrimony is physical and spiritual union of man and woman entered into within the community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind and will, and with intent that it be lifelong."
Constitution and Canon (I, 17,2B)

“Considered as a formal bond between two persons, marriage is their life-long undertaking to love one another in all the circumstances and vicissitudes of human life and to remain faithful to one another; as the creation of a new family marriage is a commitment to show forth the meaning of love to the larger community in which the new family makes it home, and to bring up a new generation of Christians in the knowledge and love of God.”
Prayer Book Studies,#24 P4

"An undertaking of such of such far-reaching consequences needs for its fulfillment all the strength and support the Church can give it. It needs grace, the power of the love of Christ, not only at the beginning but throughout the life of marriage."
Prayer Book Studies #24, P4

1.    The priest of the Anglican and Roman Catholic Church where the marriage ceremony is to be celebrated, should immediately contact the priest of the other Church. Together, the two priests should plan preparations for the marriage including investigations, joint instructions, ecclesial permissions and dispensations, the recording of the marriage, the wedding ceremony and the clergy participation in it.
2.    Both priests should complete the marriage preparation according to practice of their churches (sacramental certificates, proof of freedom to marry, Prematrimonial Investigation Forms, Declaration of Consent, catechetical and sacramental instructions etc.).

3.    Premarital instructions should be emphasized for the couple in keeping with the practice of each church (Catholic Pre Cana, Anglican Pre-marital Instructions etc.). In addition, it is strongly urged that joint instruction be given the couple by the Anglican and Roman Catholic priests.
4.    Each priest should ensure that the couple has a proper understanding if marriage as a mutual consent to a permanent covenant in which life is shared spiritually, materially and sexually -a covenant of unity and exclusiveness, a covenant open to the gift of children and the role of parenthood.
5.    The priest should determine that each party is consenting to this marriage free from misunderstanding of the nature marriage and free from coercion, mental reservations, fraud or mistake in the identity of partner.
6.    If for any reason a priest of one church (Anglican or Roman Catholic) refuses to marry a couple and they approach a priest of the other church for the marriage, it is strongly suggested that the latter contact the former priest for discussion and clarification.
7.    Special instructions should be given by the priest in the basic traditions of their churches to ensure a mutual ecclesial understanding. The partners should be encouraged to continue to grow in the religious faith and practice of their respective churches, to support each other in this and to share their Christian heritage with each other and their children.
8.    Responsible Parenthood is an essential area of premarital instructions. While both churches are committed to responsible parenthood, there are differences in their respective teachings. Both Anglican and Roman Catholic priests in giving premarital instructions on this should be consistent to their own Church’s teaching and cognizant of the other’s.
9.    The parties should be fully aware of what the expectation of both Churches is.  The Roman Catholic party is asked by the Roman Catholic Church to promise to do what he or she can to see that the children of this marriage will be baptized and educated in the Roman Catholic Church. This in no way abrogates the responsibility of the Anglican party towards the Christian education of their children. Therefore, sensitive and honest discussion, which is regarded as a matter of great difficulty of conscience for both parties is not only necessary, it is vital for the integrity of a marriage of Christians of these two Churches.
10.    Witnesses of an Anglican-Roman Catholic marriage are not required to be a member of either church.

SPECIFIC PROCEDURES FOR ANLIGICAN-ROMAN CATHOLIC MARRIAGES

1.    The Roman Catholic priest will apply for either of the following dispensations:

a.     Dispensation for Roman Catholic to marry an Anglican with a Roman Catholic Priest officiating.
b.    Dispensation for a Roman Catholic to marry an Anglican with an Anglican priest presiding.

2.    The Anglican priest, provided that the prior conditions of Canon 17 on holy Matrimony of the Anglican Church have been complied with, will require from the parties their signatures to the Declaration of Intention:

“We A.B. and C.D., desiring to receive the blessing of holy Matrimony in the Church, do solemnly declare that we hold marriage to be a lifelong union of husband and wife as it is set forth in the liturgical forms authorized by this church.  We believe it is for the purpose of mutual fellowship, encouragement, and understanding, for the procreation (if it may be) of children, and their physical and spiritual nurture, and for the safeguarding and benefit of society, and we do engage ourselves, so far as in us lies, to make our utmost effort to establish this relationship and to seek Gods help thereto.”
3.    During the marriage ceremony, the presiding priest receives the marriage vows and pronounces the nuptial blessing according to the rite of his church.  The assistant priest may offer additional prayers and blessings, read the scriptures or preach, within the framework of the particular rite.
4.    The celebration of the wedding within the Eucharist is not recommended due to the current restriction on intercommunion and the consequent suggestion of disunity.
5.    When the marriage is celebrated in an Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic priest has the obligation of recording the marriage in the usual manner.

SUGGESTED PARTICIPATION IN THE ANGLICAN OR ROMAN CATHOLIC WEDDING

The suggestions given below apply to a non-eucharistic Anglican or Roman-Catholic Wedding ceremony.  The parts marked with asterisks may be performed by the assisting Anglican/ Roman Catholic priest.

THE ANGLICAN MARRIAGE CEREMONY
1.    Entrance of Roman Catholic and Anglican Clergy
2.    The greeting and Charge*
3.    The Declaration of Consent*
4.    Prayer*
5.    Readings*
6.    Homily*
7.    Rite of Marriage
8.    The Prayers, beginning with the Lord’s Prayer*
9.    Final Blessing*

THE ROMAN CATHOLIC MARRIAGE CEREMONY
1.    Entrance of Roman Catholic and Episcopal Clergy
2.    Greeting
3.    Prayer
4.    Readings*
5.    Homily*
6.    Rite of Marriage
7.    Invitatory
8.    Petitions*
9.    Nuptial Blessing
10.    Lord’s Prayer*
11.    Concluding Blessing*

CONCLUSION 
The Anglican-Roman Catholic Committee of New York is happy to offer this statement on marriage for the assistance of Episcopal and Roman Catholic clergy and laity.  We are mindful that until the advent if the ardently awaited full union between our two churches, it is preferred that Anglican and Roman Catholics marry within their own churches in order to share their specific faith traditions with each other and their children. However, the increasing number of marriages between Anglican and Roman Catholics indicates the need for the foregoing statement.  It is our prayerful hope that the partners of these marriages will grow in fidelity to their own heritages and in reverence for each other’s while providing their children with clear and vibrant religious convictions. We encourage them to celebrate their conjugal union and their family life in Jesus Christ through mutual faith, hope and love, enhanced by prayer and enriched by the Holy Scriptures. Finally, we ask the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to bless these Anglican-Roman-Catholic marriages with true peace, happiness and holiness.

February 1, 1984

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