- Now the talking really begins
Pope Francis wanted frankness and openness and that is what he got. But there is also the sense that the real debate in the Church about marriage and families is only just starting
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Anne Inman’s article “High and Sacred Calling” (The Tablet, 26 July) highlights a situation which appears to have been largely ignored. Ten years ago our late parish priest appealed for a couple to help with the parish marriage preparations. My husband, an Anglican who regularly attended Mass with me, and myself, a Catholic, volunteered and for the next five years we presented an afternoon programme which encompassed money management, wider family relationships, dealing with disagreements by compromising and the importance of spending quality time together.
The large majority of the couples were, in Catholic terms, “mixed”, with partners everything from members of other Christian denominations to non-believers, so we spoke of the importance of understanding each others’ beliefs and accepting that the latter should support their Catholic partners in their religious observances. We took it “as read “ that there would be no disagreements, on that score, in the Catholic households. We emphasised the importance of intimacy and I spoke of the Church’s teaching on Natural Family Planning and gave them a leaflet accordingly; the problem was that most of these couples were already living together (Catholics included) and some had children, so the phrases “stable door” and “horses bolting” sprang to mind! We emphasised the absolute importance of being open to children.
Our parish priest asked us to deal with the situations in marriage of which he had no experience and he felt that our long-standing “mixed marriage” would be a help; he dealt with the theological side of the sacrament. The reality today is that a greater proportion of marriages in Catholic Churches are “mixed”; from my experience the children of these unions are no more likely to lapse than those from Catholic ones and so the marriage preparation is just as important. Times have changed, and no longer are mixed marriage ceremonies held in the sacristy without bells, music or flowers and frowned upon; let us hope that Anne Inman’s call for those engaged in marriage preperation to reflect the range of circumstances of the couples coming forward will be heeded.
Gail Brown, Kidderminster, Worcs