A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Whew: British Royals won't have to raise papist princelings

The latest from Catholic News Service:

LONDON (CNS) -- Church leaders have told the British government that members of the royal family who marry Catholics under recently passed legislation will not be obliged to bring up their children in the Catholic faith.Lord Wallace of Tankerness, speaking on behalf of the government, said he had been assured personally by Msgr. Marcus Stock, general secretary of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, that the canonical requirement of Catholics to raise their children in the faith was not always binding."I have the specific consent of Msgr. Stock to say that he was speaking on behalf of Archbishop (Vincent) Nichols (of Westminster) as president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and can inform the House that the view taken by the Catholic Church in England and Wales is that, in the instance of mixed marriages, the approach of the Catholic Church is pastoral," he said.

Do we all get that "pastoral" out? I'm not in a "mixed marriage" (and the kid does First Holy Communion this Sunday, white dress and all, so we're clearly the real deal). But I didn't know how negotiable this pledge to raise the kids Catholic was today. Times change. I wonder how flexible we can be on other things.In any event, the real reason I posted this is because I couldn't resist a story that cites Lord Wallace of Tankerness.

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

I think the change is that the non-Catholic party no longer has to agree that the children will be raised as Catholics. However, the Catholic party has to promise to do all in his/her power to raise the children as Catholics and the non-Catholic party has to be informed of that promise before the wedding (but doesn't have to agree).As I understand it, the Catholic party has to make a good faith effort when the time comes, but not to the extent of causing the marriage to break up. I think that is all that that statement is saying. I don't think it is saying that the Catholic party can agree before the wedding that the children will be raised as Anglicans.

In Vaticanese: "pastoral" (1) = socially acceptable violation of unpopular law "pastoral" (2m) = after you've lost a battle, acting like it was a draw.

What prompted this story, David? Seems to come out of nowhere. Is one of those royals about to strengthen the Windsor gene pool by marrying outside the faith?

I disagree with Ann's definition. Mine is.. pastoral means= if your 'connected' they will find a way foward. Say hello to Rudy Guiliani, Joe Montana, Ted Kennedy. .

Congratulations to your daughter, David. (Check out the Wiki entries for Tankerness and Baron Wallace. We Orcadians take pride in our Viking forebears.) (I'm dreading the finale of "Vikings": can't bear to think of Ragnar in the snakepit.)

ED ==Yes, that is a third meaning. What a useful word!(But I have to admit that there are some cases when a priest seems damned if he does approve and damned if he doesn't. Sigh.)

Here is Canon 1125 wih my bracketed insertionsCan. 1125 The local ordinary can grant a permission of this kind [for a mixed marriage] if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions have been fulfilled:1/ the Catholic party [only] 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 so that all offspring are baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church;2/ the other party is to be informed at an appropriate time about the promises which the Catholic party is to make, in such a way that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and obligation of the Catholic party;3/ both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of marriage which neither of the contracting parties is to exclude.I think it is "pastoral" in that it allows a couple to get married without have settled between them whether their children will be raised as Catholics. Unless they already have children, , they may well have a year or more to resolve that between themselves. The Church requires only that the Catholic party do what is possible - it doesn't say that if the non-Catholic party still doesn't agree you must get a divorce and try to get custody of the kids so you can raise them as Catholics.

In 18th century colonial Maryland, Catholics were allowed to marry Anglicans without necessarily promising to raise the children Catholic. So clearly there are precedents.

What is remarkable is that this clarification is needed. Is there a general perception that the practice is anything other than what the bishops conference told Lord Wallace, pursuant to the canon law that John Hayes cited? I wonder what the law was before 1983, when the current Code was promulgated?

A wonderful priest I know remarked that in his half century plus of ministry the greatest source of converts by far was mixed marriages.Interesting that the impetus was apparently in the case of royal marriages. I enjoyed Ann and Ed's definitions of pastoral. Shades of "as we always taught" come to mind as flexible language may often be useful.David, Happy First Communion to Stella. May it be a special day for all.

Tankerness is, according to Wikipedia, on a peninsula in Scotland and looks typically non-Highlands Scot. I don't know why this reassures me.

I'm still waiting for the answer to Jean Raber's question, since I don't follow the Royals. Why this story?

I find it hard to believe that this is still a matter of concern within mixed-faith/faith-non faith couples.

I'll be deep in the cold, cold ground 'fore I have a Romish king o'er me!

Jim Pauwels, before Canon 2319 was abrogated by Paul Vi in 1970, Catholics who baptised or had their children educated in a non-CathoIic religion were excommunicated. Paul's "Matrimonia Mixta" established the provisions later codified in the Canon I quoted above. "Canon 2319, 1:"Catholics are under an excommunication latae sententiae reserved to the Ordinary:(1) who contract marriage before a non-Catholic minister contrary to canon 1063, 1, 1:(2) who contract marriage with an explicit or implicit agreement that all children or any child be educated outside the Catholic Church;(3) who knowingly presume to present their children to non-Catholic ministers to be baptized;(4) who, being parents or taking their place, knowingly present their children to be educated or trained in a non-Catholic religion."My recollection is that the non-Catholic partner had to make a commitment before the priest prior to the marriage that all hildren would be raised as Catholics. I think it had to be in writing but I may be wrong about that.Matrimonia Mixta is here includes this credit to Vatican II:"Accordingly, in order that ecclesiastical discipline on mixed marriages be more perfectly formulated and that, without violating divine law, canon law should have regard for the differing circumstances of married couples, in accordance with the mind of the Second Vatican Council expressed especially in the decree Unitatis Redintegratio(7) and in the declaration Dignitatis Humanae,(8) and also in careful consideration of the wishes expressed in the Synod of Bishops, we, by our own authority, and after mature deliberation, establish and decree the following norms:"

Jean Raber, it came up because they are changing the law to allow women to succeed to their parent's throne an monarchs to marry Catholics."The remarks were made during the third reading debate of the Succession to the Crown Bill in the House of Lords April 22.For the first time in more than 300 years, legislation would allow British monarchs to marry Catholics. The sections of the 1701 Act of Settlement that insist on the sovereign being a member of the Church of England will, however, remain in place.The bill will also end the rule of male primogeniture and permit female first-borns to have the right of succession over any young brothers.The bill means that if the child of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, due in July, is a girl, she will have the right to rule ahead of any younger brothers -- and will also be free to marry a Catholic.Some members of the House of Lords were deeply concerned that the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church compelled a Catholic spouse to raise his or her offspring as Catholics.Canon 1125 requires that in a mixed marriage the Catholic "is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power in order that all the children be baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church."Lord Cormack attempted to introduce an amendment April 22 to put beyond doubt the requirement that the sovereign be a Protestant and in communion with the Church of England. This was withdrawn after Lord Wallace revealed the assurances of the Catholic hierarchy.

Gerelyn: "Lord Wallace of Tankerness" has Viking ancestry? Sounds rather Anthony Trollope-ish to me.

Ann Oliver - love your definitions!

Dan --Stick around the Church for a while and you'll find some strange definitions on your own ;-)

Hi, Angela:Trollope's name contains the good old Norse word, "troll." (He was a descendant of Normans/Norsemen/Vikings.) (His great books are available at bargain prices on Amazon for Kindle. I guess the Barchester Chronicles are my favorites.)

Thanks, John Hayes. I heard about the new primogeniture rule, but didn't realize that it was attached to an "it's OK to marry RC's now" clause. Very interesting.

John Hayes,I think the promise by the non-Catholic party had to be in writing. Least ways, my Southern Baptist father reportedly signed something before marrying my mother in 1939. Part of the instructions were that there was to be no undue publicity for the union (no newspaper notices anywhere) and the wedding could not take place in the sanctuary. Because of all the restrictions, they got married at my non-Catholic uncle's house, with a Jesuit presiding. Multiple permissions sought and received for various reasons, among them the service had to conclude by 5PM. The priest was addressed as "Mr." by my uncle, which caused static with the Catholics in attendance. From all the family stories later, wish I could have been in a corner somewhere.We've come a long way, with much more to go...

Suppose, in the current climate, the young royals are raised neither as Catholic nor as Anglican, nor, for that matter, as Methodists or other Dissenters. Does that raise the possibility that the Head of the Church of England might not be a Christian believer of any sort?Gerelyn -- if you like Trollope's Barchester novels, you'll love his Parliamentary novels, one of whose main protagonists, the ambitious and highly likeable and attractive Phineas Finn is an Irish Catholic (though we never see him anywhere near a church). As for the Trollopian sound of "Tankerness," that's right on. In chap. iv of Phineas Redux, Trollope gives us an account of an electoral campaign in Tankerville (though it's in England, not Scotland). Incidentally, if you have an ipod or other such mp3 player, you can download free readings of all his Barchester and Parliamentary, and many other novels, from Readings are by amateurs, some very good, some less so. I'm one of them, but I won't try to guess which category I fall into (though I'm afraid I know).

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment