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Index > Interconfessional Dialogues > M-RC > Dublin Rep. 1976 | CONT. > sec. 4
 
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Christian Home and Family: Inter-church Marriages - sec. 4
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4. CHRISTIAN HOME AND FAMILY: INTER-CHURCH MARRIAGES

   35. The consultation returned to one aspect of this topic at its Venice meeting in 1974, when it discussed a survey it had commissioned from Mons. Purdy of "Discussions between the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian Churches on Marriage and the Problems of Mixed Marriages" since 1967. This dealt most fully with the Roman Catholic/Anglican dialogue but also surveyed discussions with the World Council of Churches, Lutherans, Reformed, Methodists, Old Catholics and Orthodox. It also described "changes in legislation and discipline and other official pronouncements which have occurred within the field, and their repercussions on dialogue".

   36. The drafters of the fourth section of the Denver Report, which dealt with the theme of Christian Home and Family, thought it relevant to their particular task to conclude by laying stress on the need for greater Roman Catholic/Methodist collaboration and for better exchange of information among local churches. In matters which come home so closely to the faithful in everyday life this emphasis is clearly right.

   37. Australian Roman Catholic/Methodist dialogue, having produced as its first fruit a joint statement on baptism 1972-3, turned its attention immediately to the theme of Christian marriage: its meaning and pastoral implications. A statement of 1973-4 dealt

a) with marriage in general, starting from a firm basis in scripture;
b) with mixed marriages;
c) with some practical recommendations.

   The Australian statement thus took very seriously the practical implications of that joint pastoral care which was recommended by Matrimonia Mixta and is coming to be seen more and more widely as the most fruitful approach to a problem for which, in a divided church, no perfect solution exists.

   38. Since the Denver Report on Christian Home and Family, nothing has occurred that would lead us to qualify the statement that our Churches find "much ground for agreement" about marriage and family life, nor to amend in any significant way the terms in which this agreement is spelled out16.

   39. It has, however, become increasingly clear that this view that we have in common concerning the sanctity of marriage and its place as the God-given context for sexual relationships, development of family life and basis for stable human society, is being severely challenged and widely disregarded. This widespread rejection of the Christian understanding and practice of marriage serves to emphasize that what differences remain between us (e.g. on the possibility of divorce and re-marriage, and on ways of regulating conception) are far outweighed by what we hold in common, and to remind us that however important it may be to try and settle our differences it is imperative that we witness together to the centrality of marriage in God's purpose for human community. Such common witness must be seen not as an attempt to hide our disagreements for the sake of ecumenical goodwill but as an urgent necessity if the world at large is to be influenced at all by the ideal and practice of Christian marriage.

   40. This same realistic assessment of the widespread disregard of the meaning of marriage must be brought to bear on any consideration of interchurch marriages. These are often spoken of as posing a "problem" in terms of doctrine, ecclesiastical polity and pastoral care. They are in fact a problem to those marrying only if they belong to the small minority within a minority, that is those who are not only church members but also take the responsibilities of membership seriously. Consequently those who do belong to different churches and who seek guidance concerning inter-church marriage should be welcomed for their faithful concern and not chided for posing a problem, especially since they can hardly be held responsible for the division between our churches which is the underlying cause of the problem. Again, this is not to advocate a disregarding of the difficulties nor a weakening of discipline concerning marriage. It is to urge that what we already hold in common should be used as a basis for marriage and family life that reflects the will of God in Christ for human society.

   41. As we have noted earlier, the problem of mixed marriages has been treated, always simultaneously with a joint exploration of the theology of marriage, at various levels in dialogue between the Catholic Church and other confessional families notably at international level with the Anglican Communion and in a tripartite consultation with the Lutheran World Federation and the World Reformed Alliance. In the former instance a report has been completed and in the latter it is nearing completion.

   42. The Denver Report made alternative recommendations either for a special working party to perform this same task for Roman Catholics and Methodists or "that the World Methodist Council consider the possibility of joining in dialogue in progress on this subject between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Federation of the Reformed Churches"17.

   43. It is now too late for the second alternative, and it seems likely that much treading of the same ground would be avoided if, when the two reports referred to become available, our consultation were to turn its attention to a comparative study of them. This could be of value not simply to our own growth in understanding but to the ecumenical dialogue at large: our discussions in this field have generally revealed a calm approach and a positive emphasis which is not always easily achieved.




 

ENDNOTES



  1. Proceedings, 70-71, pp. 53-4.

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  2. Ibid., § 74, p. 54.

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