Jul 22, 2006

Marriage P_r_e_p_a_r _a __t___i __o__n

The Colorado Springs diocese insists that engaged couples tell the priest one year in advance that they want to be married. During that year couples pray, attend classes, meet with the pastor, are trained in natural family planning--good activities to increase the success rate of marriages and avoid divorces.

One parish in the Colorado Springs diocese has published a 15-page guide that shows the year's activities:
Overview of the Marriage Preparation Process
1. Establish freedom to marry (pp. 3-5)
2. Begin the minimum six month preparation period (pp.5-6)
3. Paperwork (baptismal certificates, MA, MB forms, Covenant with the Parish,
dispensations, delegation,) (p.6)
4. Tentatively reserve the church (rehearsal and wedding time) (p.6)
5. FOCCUS inventory (p.6)
6. Engaged Couples Weekend (p.6)
7. Natural Family Planning (NFP) (p.7)
8. Meetings with FOCCUS couple (pp.6-7)
9. Formal Questions of the Pastor for both the bride and the groom (p.7)
10. Meetings with the Pastor (p.8)
11. Wedding planning session with the Pastor and Wedding Coordinator (p.8)
12. Payment Due to the Parish to lock in the firm date (p.8)
13. Rehearsal (p.8)
14. Wedding (pp.8-11)
15. Checklist (p.12)
16. Contact Information (p.13)
17. Covenant with the Parish (p.14)
I have several reservations about the lengthy time of one year required for couples to prepare for marriage. My first concern is an apparent conflict with the current Code of Canon Law. The oldest priests' magazine in the U.S. is Homiletic & Pastoral Review (HPR) that had an article back in the 1970s on Church-required long engagement periods (at that time from 3 to 6 months). I remember the article aroused a lot of interest and argument.

Fr. (Robert?) Kruse from Kansas City, MO argued strenuously in HPR that long waiting periods required by the Church for marriage were forbidden by Canon Law (the old one). [The current Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church became effective in 1983, and is a revision of the Codex juris canonici promulgated in 1917.]

Fr. Kruse
reminded readers that Canon Law provided for marriages of Pacific islanders who were often without a priest for up to six months or more. The provision was that if a priest was not expected to visit the island for more than a reasonable amount of time, the couple could administer the sacrament to each other in a public ceremony. When the priest returned to the island, the marriage would be solemnized, blessed, and recorded.

In this regard, the current 1983 Code of Canon Law is similar to the 1917 edition. The length of time that a person must wait for a priest to officially witness a marriage is dealt with in Can. 1116, Sec. 1:
If one who is competent to assist, cannot be present or be approached without grave inconvenience, those who intend to enter a true marriage can validly and lawfully contract in the presence of witnesses only:
  1. in danger of death;
  2. apart from danger of death, provided it is prudently foreseen that this state of affairs will continue for a month.
Thus, Canon Law does not require an extended wait time to marry. One month is considered the maximum time to wait for a priest-witness. The above mentioned canon is prudent in allowing a man and a woman to be validly and lawfully married without a priest, but in the presence of witnesses (family, friends, civil authority) if the couple must wait more than a month.

My second reservation to an extended wait time for marriage is that even good couples trying to maintain the virtue of chastity will likely fail. How easy it is to say--we are going to be married and we simply can't wait THAT LONG! If the couple begins to sleep together (or maybe already are), then how do they respond to the NFP program? Seems like the bride would think--"I don't want to walk down the aisle while pregnant." So she may choose to practice NFP before marriage, or maybe she thinks that she'll continue with her current birth control method and wait to try NFP later. Or maybe she and her fiancee will decide on a civil marriage 'cause it's faster and cheaper. An extended wait time for marriage is a can of worms, and I haven't even gotten halfway to the bottom of the can.

It is the American Bishops that have decided to implement extended wait times to eliminate bad marriages and divorce. I think there is an alternative to a long marriage prep time that will virtually guarantee at least a 90 percent chance of a successful marriage. See future posts.


TM Lutas said...

Due to US legal requirements, we filed the paperwork on our civil marriage in January. We agreed to disregard that date as it was a bureaucratically imposed event. Our true marriage was arranged one week after Easter and is the day that we celebrate our anniversary. The preparation that we underwent was not extensive but enough to determine that we truly needed to be careful and to deeply engage with each other to form the bond that a longer courtship might have provided.

Our solution was simple. We simply neglected to have a TV. For well over a year we talked to each other about everything and anything and with love and understanding deepened our relationship in a way that is quite uncommon these days.

Talking to one another, concentrating on the priority of coming to a lasting understanding with your better half, this is something that can be done prior to or after the ceremony. It is not impossible to do in the modern world but it sure helps if you get rid of some modern distractions in the beginning.

M. Alexander said...

I agree w/ you and hate to se N?FP- catholic birth control imposed. Why not devote that time to teaching the value of generosity and openness to children? I do wonder at the current theory of short engagements. Traditionally weren't engagements of several years while the husband worked and saved to buy a house? I wonder if a current lack of self control and lack of chaperonage the real problems?

Dust I Am said...

Perhaps a little bit of distraction while you were dating might have been good. Either that, or keep the time you were together at less than about four hours. I found that if we were together for more than four hours while dating, the temptations became quite strong.

Dust I Am said...
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