Rorate Caeli

Raising children outside the Church is now "pastoral"

By Catholic News Service

LONDON (CNS) -- Church leaders have told the British government that members of the royal family who marry Catholics under recently passed legislation will not be obliged to bring up their children in the Catholic faith.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness, speaking on behalf of the government, said he had been assured personally by Msgr. Marcus Stock, general secretary of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, that the canonical requirement of Catholics to raise their children in the faith was not always binding. 

"I have the specific consent of Msgr. Stock to say that he was speaking on behalf of Archbishop (Vincent) Nichols (of Westminster) as president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and can inform the House that the view taken by the Catholic Church in England and Wales is that, in the instance of mixed marriages, the approach of the Catholic Church is pastoral," he said.

"It will always look to provide guidance that supports and strengthens the unity and indissolubility of the marriage," Lord Wallace said.

"In this context the Catholic Church expects Catholic spouses to sincerely undertake to do all that they can to raise children in the Catholic Church," he continued. "Where it has not been possible for the child of a mixed marriage to be brought up as a Catholic, the Catholic parent does not fall subject to the censure of canon law."

The remarks were made during the third reading debate of the Succession to the Crown Bill in the House of Lords April 22.

For the first time in more than 300 years, legislation would allow British monarchs to marry Catholics. The sections of the 1701 Act of Settlement that insist on the sovereign being a member of the Church of England will, however, remain in place.

The bill will also end the rule of male primogeniture and permit female first-borns to have the right of succession over any young brothers.

The bill means that if the child of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, due in July, is a girl, she will have the right to rule ahead of any younger brothers -- and will also be free to marry a Catholic.

Some members of the House of Lords were deeply concerned that the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church compelled a Catholic spouse to raise his or her offspring as Catholics.

Canon 1125 requires that in a mixed marriage the Catholic "is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power in order that all the children be baptized and brought up in the Catholic Church."

Lord Cormack attempted to introduce an amendment April 22 to put beyond doubt the requirement that the sovereign be a Protestant and in communion with the Church of England. This was withdrawn after Lord Wallace revealed the assurances of the Catholic hierarchy.

The bill passed third reading, meaning it has passed through both Houses of Parliament and requires only Royal Assent before it becomes law later this year.


  1. If one subscribes to the Catholic Faith as the one true Faith then what is the meaning of permitting one's child to be raised in a faith other than that of the Catholic Church? It would be vicariously if not effectively an act of apostasy would it not? What manner of Catholic churchmen would countenance apostasy as a 'pastoral' response?

  2. There can't be one set of laws in the Church for princes and another set of laws for commoners. All are equal in God's eyes, and under Canon Law, all are equal. Me thinks the Monsignor is wrong.

  3. When one religion is as good as another, who needs the Catholic Faith to gain eternal life?

    This is entirely consistent both with the current doctrinal chaos of the Catholic Church generally, and the slavish adherence to the Anglican Establishment by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales in particular.

    Another reason why one may legitimately ask, "How in God's name did Vincent Nichols ever make Bishop, let alone Archbishop?"

    Benedict Carter

  4. I don't know what language the British government speaks, but it is certainly not English.

    "Promise to do all in his or her power" doesn't mean "ignore". It means precisely what it says.

    It's the same situation with our Sunday Mass obligations. If one is involved in a car crash on the way to Mass and has to be taken to hospital, one isn't in a state of mortal sin because one hasn't attended mass. It was not in ones power to go to mass that day.

    In the case of marrying a non-Catholic, if the Catholic has to sign a prenuptial contract that one has to abdicate if one raises a child Catholic, one must abdicate. To do otherwise would be to not "promise to do all in his or her power".

  5. Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster is a dud... I saw a picture of him receiving a blessing from a Hindu priest and I believe the article where i saw the picture mentioned he gave offerings to their gods... Not the greatest authority in ecumenism or inter religious dialogue?

  6. The Duchess must be expecting a girl then.

  7. What a contrast between Msgr Stock undermining Tradition on the one hand, and St Simon Stock of Brown Scapular propagation on the other hand nourishing it.
    How long will it be before we are told that belief in the Real Presence is a pastoral matter?

  8. No, it would not be "an act of apostasy". Those who formulated the canon were aware that there could be circumstances in which the view of the Catholic parent could not prevail and specific drafted the canon accordingly. Had they, or the Supreme Pontiff, wished to include some form of censure they could easily have done so. They did n't. So why should you?

  9. "pastoral" may be variously translated as: I can't be bothered trying to uphold the teachings of the Church, I don't want to uphold those teachings, I wish to undermine those teachings under the guise of charity. Take your pick. It is not always the welfare of the lambs which motivates the shepherd and some apparent shepherds are of course actual wolves.

  10. This is no surprise. Archbishop Nichols is merely continuing the work of his immediate predecessors, ie the dissolution of the Catholic faith in England and Wales.

  11. Are the wolves baring their teeth?

  12. Well, Liam, didn't Vatican II state that one can be be saved even through Islam!

  13. One needs surely to take seriously the nature of marriage. A Catholic marrying a non-Catholic is required in Westminster diocese to make a declaration that he/she will do all he/she can "within the unity" of the marriage to bring up children as Catholics. The key phrase was explained to me as meaning it is for the two of us together as a married couple to decide what we think is right for our children, not for the Catholic to impose conditions on the other. Whether this is pastoral or not, it seems right and proper.

  14. that's why mixed marriages shouldn't be allowed except for grave reasons as was before....

  15. Liam Ronan: On one hand, you are right; but on the other - ad impossibilia nemo tenetur, nobody is held to the impossible. If a Catholic parent is absolutely unable to raise his or her children as Catholics, even if he/she is separated from the non-Catholic spouse (because who said that the children will then be left with the Catholic parent) - what else does he/she to do rather than pray to St. Monica for a later conversion? An obvious solution is, of course, NOT TO MARRY non-Catholics. But you know that there can be different situations.

  16. Liam Ronan: On one hand, you are right, but on the other, well, ad impossibilia nemo tenetur, nobody is held to the impossible. If a Catholic parent has absolutely no way to raise his or her kids as Catholics, even if he/she separates from the non-Catholic spouse (because who said that children will be left with him/her in that case) - what else does this poor soul have to do rather than pray to St. Monica for a later conversion of the kids and maybe the wife/husband too? An obvious solution is, of course, not to marry non-Catholics, but, again, you know, there can be different situations...

  17. "What manner of Catholic churchmen would countenance apostasy as a 'pastoral' response?"

    These days they're usually called Bishops and Cardinals.

    But then again, we plebs exaggerate things, because as ++ Dolan of NY, recently stated, there is no crisis.

    Move along folks, there's nothing to see.

  18. The first commandment is to love God as he revealed himself through Christ and as Christ loved us. All human laws are subjected to the love of God including marriage. In other words we cannot love in truth our fellow human beings without first loving in truth God. This brings about the Pauline privilege: a spouse can separate if the children cannot be raised in the catholic faith. Not the opposite as politically held by the British episcopate. The sanctity of marriage does not exist outside catholic norms.

  19. Sounds like a shrewd maneuver on behalf of the Faith, to me. "Clever as serpents", and learning from the "sons of mammon."

    This is like something the old school Jesuits would've done.

    Christus Vincit!

  20. I have two reactions: 1) Insofar as this concerns the British monarchy, who cares? 2) Insofar as this concerns the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, again, who cares? The one institution is no more Catholic than the other.

  21. I think that the canon of the Church is not so absolute:
    1° in antiquity, Christian women (Saint Helena, etc.) married pagans, without any promise of Catholic education of the children; at this time, the marriage was still valid for the Church law between a baptized person and a pagan;
    2° Rome granted Henrietta-Maria of France (and maybe Catherine of Braganza) a dispensation, that her children had to be raised in the catholic faith only until the age of 14 (sic).
    3° Leo XIII granted a dispensation to princess Marie d'Orléans (1865-1909) to marry prince Valdemar of Danemark (son of Christian IX): only the daughters were to be raised as catholics.

  22. No surprises, it’s Vincent Nichols, well-known former Catholic, if his actions are anything to go by. Sorry to put it like that, but what other inference can be drawn ? Don’t bother to write to him, he doesn’t reply.

  23. If this is what the bishops said and intended, they are in error. Canon 1125 remains in force and cannot be altered – or diminished - by any bishop.
    Permission for a mixed marriage is required, and can only be given after the Catholic party has understood and agreed to, the intent of the canon, and, the non-Catholic party has understood, accepted, and implicitly consented to, the other party’s commitment. If not then the permission should not be granted

    This is a vitally important area since it has been one of the major reasons for the decline in Catholic numbers during the last forty years, in the Western Church.

    ps, In the event any bishop should read this comment, it is not a complaint, justified or otherwise, it is a valid, though conditional, criticism.

  24. Let me understand the logic:

    1. We have created Anglicanorum Coetibus to bring Anglicans into the true faith and away from their Protestant errors. It is possible we might do so as well with the Lutherans in a Lutheranorum Coetibus, yet...

    2. We constantly strive for ecumenical dialogue and have abdicated virtually all measures of proselytizing amongst not only Protestants but Jews, Muslims, Hindus and virtually every other religion.

    3. The Holy Father spoke the other day of finding Jesus fully and truly only in the Catholic Church, yet...

    4. The bishops conference of England and Wales says the royals are not obliged to raise the children of Catholics in the Catholic Church, a perennial command of the Church since the advent of canon law. Another here pointed out exemptions for royals of the past, but that appears to be specific examples of specific exemptions. This situation seems to be a blanket exemption of the entire law. The exception does not prove the rule.

    I believe this is an excellent example of two things: the fruits of Lumen Gentium, Gaudium et Spes, and Unitatis Redintegratio; and that Vatican II cannot be considered dogmatic in any sense of the Catholic definition because its "pastoral" explications contradict Catholic doctrine.

    The doubtful law is no law.

    If parts of the Council are doubtful, because "pastoralism" has replaced dogma, then the whole of the Council must be seen as doubtful. As an analogy, like the Body of Christ cannot be divided amongst the species (see the heresy of ultraquism), an ecumenical council cannot be divided along the lines of individual documents. If a single document has a doubtful character, then the whole body of work of an ecumenical council is doubtful. The parts cannot be greater than the whole.

    The recent actions of the Church only serve to demonstrate this logical, doctrinal contradiction.

  25. @Hughie and @oleg-michael...Unless the marriage is forced upon the Catholic party then it is a free choice of the Catholic party to enter into a marriage which the Catholic party knows well in advance will require forfeiture of a Catholic upbringing for any offspring. That seems like a deliberate, free, and pre-meditated rejection of the True Faith to me.
    Apostasy at best.

  26. I suggest what the the Reverend Father Stock proposes be dubbed "The Rumplestiltskin Exception".

  27. as if a catholic monarch actually means anything today?

    i suppose we could all sigh and say we'll we finally picked up where bonnie prince charlie left off, and maybe some orange extremists in northern ireland might be in a strange place declaring their loyalty to the now catholic crown, but in terms of the governance of isles, it would mean very little.

    unless of course, this is one step closer to establishing the emirate of britannia. given the political climate of europe someone is bound to ask why should the monarch only be christian? why not muslim?

  28. The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales issued a document, circa 2003, which stated that one could fulfil one's Sunday/Holyday Duty by attendance at your local CofE, Methodist or Free Church chapel should you live an unreasonable distance from a Mass.

    Long distant travel to a TLM looked upon as lunatic, I suppose.

  29. Infant Babtism (New Form of the Roman Rite)

    You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God's commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?

    Parents: We do.

    Then the celebrant turns to the godparents and addresses them in these or similar words:

    Are you ready to help the parents of this child in their duty as Christian parents?

    Godparents: We do.

    The Celebrant continues:

    N., the Christian community welcomes you with great joy. in its name I claim you for Christ our Savior by the sign of his cross. I now trace the cross on your forehead, and invite your parents (and godparents) to do the same.

    This promise forced me to an FSSP parish becouse once my good NO priest asked me if I took my vow to raise my Children in ze Catholic faith seriously. I realized, I could not face Christ on the Day of Babtism with a straight face expecting to enter heaven without having given them pure Catholic Milk.

  30. Sixupman
    “one could fulfil one's Sunday/Holyday Duty by attendance at your local CofE, Methodist or Free Church chapel”

    You raise a good point.

    Once again the bishops are wrong, as I am sure you agree!
    Under these circumstances you are excused your duty, just as you would be if you had a bad cold, or were a crew member of a nuclear submarine in the south Atlantic or whatever.
    Attending a Protestant, therefore heretical, ecclesiastic gathering, has no relevance and might well be considered as of dubious appropriateness in any case.

    Reading the Mass from your missal, until you can sort out some travel arrangements, would be far more appropriate

  31. How could you marry a man or woman that would insist that your children be placed in spiritual danger. Don't marry such a person, find a proper parent for your future children. You can't claim to love your spouse while commiting spiritual violence to the children you bear.

  32. V'got chips, v'got coka cola, big screen and convenience fodder, my belly is full, goverment protects me from terrorists. What more can I wish for! Hoorey, hoorey, hoorey!

  33. "Well, Liam, didn't Vatican II state that one can be be saved even through Islam!"

    No, Vatican II did not state that.

  34. I should think that a bit of history is necessary to clear up first what is left unsaid in the Catholic News Agency article, presumably because they are assuming the reader is familiar with the Catholic and Protestant history regarding the Protestant Reformation and the ensuing wars of religion, and second because most of the commenters seem to be taking this doctrinally, in an absolutist manner, and not pastorally, as it is intended. After the Protestant Reformation, it was a crime to be a priest in England. Catholics were taxed and prevented from holding public office. With the Irish revolts in the 18th and 19th centuries some of these harshly antagonistic and repressive measures began to be relaxed. There, still remains, however, laws forbidding the Prime Minister, if not the House of Lords to be Catholic. As you can imagine, for someone in the House of Lords considering running for Prime Minister, might be considered "ineligible" if his spouse or children were Catholics considering members of the peerage are potential candidates as monarchs should the opportunity present itself. As a concession, for the smallest minority of persons, that is those Catholics of the House of Lords potentially eligible as candidates for the highest office of the land, to assuage any fears that there would be a "Catholic" resurgence in "Protestant" England, the hierarchy has said they may be released from such obligation if they have done everything they can to raise their children in the faith, IF a conflict of law arising regarding the Catholic and high office. This is a tempest in a teapot folks. Considering whole congregations have left the Church of England and high ranking bishops and many priests are coming into full communion with the Catholic Church, it is a way of assuaging fears of proselytization while assuring Catholics they may remain Catholic and raise their children as Catholics unless under threat from penalty of law.

  35. The consideration for exemption from the Canon law is that the child belongs to royalty. How can it be justified by Catholic hierarchy ?

  36. As a Catholic who married a nonCatholic nearly 12 years ago, I was told the exact same thing by the priest of my rural Colorado parish who officiated our ceremony--mainly that I was required to do all in my power to raise the children Catholic. This was clarified to me that it did not include nagging my husband or otherwise engaging in sin to get my way. I don't know anything about this bishop, but it seems to me in this case he didn't do anything wrong.

  37. Key phrase is "all within your power". If you marry the future monarch it will not be within your power to ensure your children are Catholic.


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