Interim Report on Marriage
The joint international commission for dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of India
The Commission in its first meeting held at Sophia Center, Kottayam, from Oct. 22 to 25, 1989 had set up a sub-commission to study the issue of marriages between the members of the Catholic Church and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. The sub-commission presented its study report to the commission in its second meeting held at Spirituality Center, Manganam, Kottayam from 9th - 12th Dec. 1990. Having discussed the report, the Commission agreed upon the following points:
Both our churches affirm their common loyalty to the Catholic and Apostolic Tradition. This living tradition is always an open, growing and dynamic reality, with both a universally common core and specific ways of understanding, expression and practice which have become part of the reality of the Church for Christians living in various localities.
In the matter of Matrimony as a Christian Sacrament, while we recognize that the historical record is not always clear, and that some of the present practices and beliefs are the result of long developments which are not uniform in all localities, we agree, along with all ancient churches that Matrimony is a Holy Sacramental Mystery of the Church; the Church itself is the great Sacramental Mystery of Christ's Incarnation. While our practices vary, even within one Church, in regard to the Sacrament of Matrimony, we confess that it is the Church which administers all sacramental mysteries enabling the faithful to share in the mystery of the Kingdom of God.
The man-woman relationship is integral to the original Creation (Gen 1:26-28). Our Lord himself taught us that in the beginning the twain were one and that it is ultimately God who joins together man and woman in marriage to become one flesh (Mt 19:4-6). Christian marriage derives its meaning from the great mystery of the union of Christ with his bride, the Church (Eph 5:22-32).
We agree that the marriage between Christians is a Sacrament, is for life and is indissoluble. Differences of practice prevail among our various traditions in relation to the impediments to marriage, declaration of the nullity of marriage and separation of married couples. These differences need to be further studied by the sub-commission to see to what extent, if any, they affect marriages between Catholics and Orthodox.
We recognize that the mutual consent of the marriage partners is a constitutive element in the Sacrament of Matrimony. However, the expression of that mutual consent seems to take different forms in the canonical practices of our ecclesial traditions.
We are also agreed that the Eucharist is the crown of all sacramental mysteries. Hence in Christian married life the communion of husband and wife in the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ is of central importance.
Our two churches are not now in Eucharistic communion with each other. This situation makes it difficult for members of the two different churches to be united in matrimony and to continue in one Eucharistic Fellowship. The Roman Catholic Church has special provisions for "mixed marriages" and for pastoral care of the "mixed" married couple and their children. The Malankara Orthodox Church does not now permit its members to continue in that Church after marrying someone not in that Communion. Each church justifies its present practice on theological and canonical grounds.
The Commission, based on the report of the sub-commission, discussed various possibilities of finding a mutually acceptable interim arrangement for marriages between members of the two churches until Eucharistic communion is restored between them. The discussion led to the elaboration of certain principles, on the basis of which the sub-commission should make further studies and bring specific proposals to the next meeting of the commission.
The main principles are the followings:
Marriages between members of two churches not in Eucharistic communion with each other are not normal, and should be allowed only in exceptional circumstances, and be treated as special cases.
The two churches recognize two fundamental considerations for making interim provisions in such marriages:
The Church has a God-given responsibility to be faithful to the Apostolic tradition it has inherited, and to maintain it in its integrity without compromise;
The Church has also a similarly God - given responsibility for the pastoral nurture and care of its members through Word and Sacrament, and to provide for their spiritual growth and general welfare.
When these considerations seem to come in conflict with each other in some cases, special measures have to be devised.
In devising any interim measures, not only should the two principles be held in view; it should be recognized that the Malankara Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church hold in common a very large area of the Christian faith and tradition. Arrangements made between these churches may or may not be applicable in the case of other churches.
There are differences of practice even within the Roman Catholic Church.
This interim report is submitted to our respective authorities; a further report with specific proposals will be prepared by the sub-commission in order to be considered by the next plenary meeting of the Commission.
(Information Service 77 (1991/II) 104-105)