What is marriage?
Marriage is an institution going back to early civilizations.
In many societies it was a civil rather than a religious ceremony. The essential element has always been the contract agreed between the couple.
How did the Church become involved in the marriage ceremony?
In the early days of the Church, Christians married in the same way as everyone else, according to local custom. There was no Christian marriage service.
Over time, the celebration of a civil marriage in the home was often blessed by the local bishop or priest. Once Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire, the marriage service gradually moved from the home to the door of the local church. Eventually the whole ceremony came to be conducted inside the church, the local priest acting in a civil as well as a religious role, providing proper legal records.
What was once a private arrangement between families and/or a couple is now regulated by church and civil law throughout the world.
What is the Church of Ireland’s teaching on marriage?
The Church of Ireland teaches that “marriage is in its purpose a union permanent and lifelong, for better or worse, till death do them part, of one man with one woman to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort whicb the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.“ (Canon 31).
What about marriage with people who are not members of the Church of Ireland?
The Church of Ireland position is that one party to the marriage within the Church of Ireland has to be a member of the Church of Ireland, or a church in communion with it. This applies equally to any minister invited to preside, who must have the permission of the rector of the parish. There is no specific religious requirement for the second party to the marriage; all are welcome, provided they are content to be married according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of Ireland.
What about marriage with a Roman Catholic?
The last few decades have seen dramatic changes in inter–church relations, and one of the most visible effects has been the attitude of both churches to inter–church marriages. The strictness of the Roman Catholic Ne Temere decree has been replaced by the much more liberal Matrimonia Mixa.
Roman Catholic Canon Law requires that when a Roman Catholic marries a member of the Church of Ireland they need to obtain a “Permission” to marry a baptized member of another Christian church. To obtain this Permission, the Roman Catholic partner has to promise “to do what you can within the unity of your partnership to have all the children of your marriage baptized and brought up in the (Roman) Catholic faith.” No written or verbal consent is required from the Church of Ireland partner but they have to be made aware of the obligation of the Roman Catholic partner. However, the Irish Roman Catholic Bishops’ Directory on Mixed Marriages recognizes that “the religious upbringing of children is the joint responsibility of both parents, (and that) the obligations of the Catholic party do not, and cannot, cancel out … the conscientious duty of the other party.“
When the marriage is to take place in a Church of Ireland church, a further “Dispensation from Canonical Form” is required. It should be noted that the Permission and the Dispensation from Form are not required for the legality of the marriage in a Church of Ireland church. They are necessary to enable the Roman Catholic partner to remain in good standing with his/her church.
What about cohabitation?
What we now call cohabitation was considered acceptable for much of Christian history before ceremonial marriage became the norm in the nineteenth century. It is, once again, a social reality to which the church’s previous attitude is currently being debated. The bottom line in any view of cohabitation has to be the intention of the couple to lifelong loyalty and faithfulness within their relationship.
What about marriage preparation?
It is advisable that as much notice as possible should be given to the minister of the parish to allow sufficient time for adequate pastoral preparation before marriage. Marriage preparation is strongly recommended and is provided by most dioceses. In some, experienced marriage counsellors provide a one–to–one marriage preparation session with the couple. In others, marriage preparation is provided in a group setting. There are also special courses for inter–church couples. It is essential, especially in inter–church marriages, to discuss in good time all the implications of marriage with each other and with the clergy.
What is the Church of Ireland position on the remarriage of divorcees?
Legislation to permit the remarriage of divorcees in church was passed by the General Synod in 1996. While stressing that the lifelong nature of Christian marriage remains the ideal, the Church of Ireland seeks to show compassion and understanding to those whose marriages have broken down. Through a private service of preparation, which divorced couples must attend before their wedding day, the Church mediates God’s welcome and forgiveness. Clergy are first required to seek the bishop’s opinion before agreeing to celebrate any such marriage. Clergy who, in conscience, feel they cannot solemnise the marriage shall refer the couple to the archdeacon.
Is it possible to have a service in church after a civil marriage?
Because the Church of Ireland recognises the validity of civil marriages, couples are often encouraged to take part in a service of prayer and dedication following their civil ceremony. In this service husband and wife recall their marriage vows and dedicate to God their life together, asking his blessing upon their union.
The above information: ©2009 APCK, Church of Ireland House, Dublin 6