CONCLUSION: FURTHER OUTLOOK AND TASKS
Looking back over the course of our discussion as reflected in the
present document, one may summarize matters as follows: starting
from an examination of marriage as a human reality, we immediately
encountered two questions that are fundamental for the theology
of marriage, two questions whose importance became more and more
apparent to us as we went along and to which we therefore felt bound
to dedicate particular attention, i.e., the problems of the "sacramentality"
and the "indissolubility" of marriage. The result of our
work is therefore primarily of a theological nature, and we are
convinced that it is fundamental for all further dialogue between
our Churches in matters of marriage and mixed marriages. Even though
it did not prove possible to obtain a complete consensus on all
points, we did discover or work out agreements that have brought
us decisively closer to a common understanding of marriage and also
have a positive effect on the problem of mixed marriages. Undoubtedly,
however, it is not the aim of an interconfessional dialogue like
our own to heap up a mere series of theological agreements. It will
be just as important for our Churches to translate on a broad basis
theological convergences into the practical life of the Churches.
In this sense we should like to place particular emphasis on the
The particular nature of Christian marriage should be clearly stressed
in the doctrine and the preaching of our Churches and an appropriate
liturgical form of contracting marriage should be preserved.
The Lutheran and Reformed Churches must use the possibility of re-marrying
divorcees in such a manner that this will not obscure their basic
conviction and their witness that marriage is of lifelong duration.
Given the prospect of a theological rapprochement, our Churches
should endeavor, especially in the field of the problems of mixed
marriages, to abandon the mutual mistrust which still often prevails;
as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, moreover, every attempt
should be made -albeit without interfering with the pastoral responsibility
of the competent authorities - to ensure that the possibilities
opened by the Apostolic Letter Matrimonia Mixta in connection with
mixed marriages between Catholics and Lutherans or Reformed will
be fully utilized in all countries and not merely applied in a restrictive
The Lutheran and Reformed members of our Commission felt that there
were two questions that they had specially to formulate for their
Given the theological agreements that have already been obtained,
would it not be desirable to examine very seriously in each country
whether a mixed marriage celebrated by a Lutheran or Reformed
pastor could not be recognized as valid by the Catholic Church
even in the absence of dispensation from canonical form, especially
since this would correspond to the practice of the Lutheran and
Reformed Churches? When examining this question, the non-Catholic
members stressed it should be borne in mind that the Catholic
Church in its relationship with the Orthodox Church does not make
the dispensation from canonical form necessary for validity in
the event of a mixed marriage, and this notwithstanding the fact
that there are still serious differences between the way in which
the two Churches understand marriage.
b) Moreover, would it not be desirable to examine whether the
obligation of the Catholic partner of a mixed marriage to baptize
and educate his children in the Catholic faith could not be safeguarded
in a more pastoral and also more ecumenical manner than by exacting
a formal promise? In this connection the non-Catholic members
drew particular attention to the suggestion for an alternative
made in the report of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on
the theology of marriage with special reference to mixed marriages
(cf. No: 71)1.
The Catholic members of the Commission showed great understanding
for these requests, and stressed their hope that such steps would
eventually be taken. But they did feel that the present state of
the dialogue could not yet justify these steps, which both sides
Quite apart from the ethical questions closely connected with marriage,
insufficient consideration had yet been given, above all, to the
nature and the intention of the canonical form of contracting marriage.
But both sides were convinced that the theological agreements attained
in the course of the dialogue were of decisive importance for the
treatment of these questions, and, indeed, formed a fundamental
condition for tackling them.
Over and above this, the results of our dialogue make it possible
to tackle jointly a number of questions that our Commission encountered
in the course of its work and which should therefore become the
subject of further discussions between our Churches; they include:
The religious function of Canon Law.
The problem of Christian ethics (justification and sanctification;
law and grace).
The concept of man underlying marriage.
The understanding of revelation and the role of Holy Scripture as
a binding witness.
The relationship between sociological facts and Christian norms.
[Information Service 36 (1978/I) 15-32]
"It would be
for the Church to require of the Roman Catholic parish priest
responsible for the marriage a written assurance to his bishop
that he had duly put the Roman Catholic partner in mind of his
obligations concerning the baptism and upbringing of the children
and, according to opportunity, satisfied himself that the other
partner knew what these obligations were. He would not be empowered
to exact a promise in the matter from either partner, though
he might well ask formally if the obligations were understood.
The bishop, if satisfied in other respects, might then issue
a dispensation for the marriage on the strength of his assurance.
Such a procedure would be more consistent than the present one
with the spirit of Vatican II documents on ecumenical relations
and religious liberty, and would, it is believed, earn more
respect and so command more attention, from the non-Roman Catholic
partner as well as from the Catholic."
On this point one
of the Catholic members, Msgr. Jozef Tomko, who already in the
course of the discussion had disagreed in some respects with
both proposals, has still some reserves. Being in fact unable
to be present at the last session of the meeting because of
another engagement, he wrote a letter to Msgr. Charles Moeller,
in which he said that he could not share the hope expressed
by the Catholic members. In particular he stressed that, in
his opinion, it is by ius divinum that certainty is required
that the Catholic side truly accepts the obligations; that is
why the bishop cannot proceed without this certainty.